Which Call of Duty is the best Call of Duty? There is no question more vital. It was so important to me that we nail this that I didn't feel comfortable picking on my own, so the other week I made a survey and asked our Twitter (opens in new tab) followers to rank each Call of Duty they've played from one to ten. (PC only, so no Call of Duty 3. What's your issue, Call of Duty 3?)
After that, I used math to assign each game a score. The math is good. The math is wise. And here now we have a ranking—the ranking—of CoDs on PC, starting on the next slide with your pick for the worst of them all.
#10 Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
Ouch. Out of 975 respondents, only eight awarded Call of Duty: Ghosts (opens in new tab) the highest score, while 388 other voters gave it a one out of ten. It was "just trash all around," one survey taker noted. The words "lag" and "boring" came up quite a bit, as did "dog."
Call of Duty: Ghosts: "It's a boring trash dog!"
#9 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
I thought Advanced Warfare (opens in new tab) was, you know, alright. It had more Kevin Spacey than any previous Call of Duty, lots of paranoia, some jetpack thingies. I didn't hate it. But you have spoken: Advanced Warfare is bad. At least when compared to other Call of Dutys.
Some survey-takers didn't like the futuristic theme, while others just didn't like anything about it. It's true that the multiplayer population is fading—I checked in when the last DLC released, and it was pretty quiet (opens in new tab) in there. Probably because most would rather keep playing Black Ops 2, which is better, as this unassailable list proves.
#8 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
Though a couple survey takers had praise for it, Modern Warfare 3 (opens in new tab) is far from your favorite CoD. "The maps were simply god awful, assisting the players who prefer to sit in random corners rather than promoting strategic and skillful play," says one of you. "They literally re-skinned MW2 and re-released it with a sub-par campaign and boring multiplayer," says another.
That seems like a bit of an overstatement, but either way, a lot of 1/10s dragged this one down. It did well in the middle of the scale, though, so outside of those who absolutely hate it, people seem to think that MW3 is extremely "meh."
#7 Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
At the time of writing, Black Ops 2 has the most concurrent players (opens in new tab) of any Call of Duty on Steam, so I was surprised to see it down here. Several respondents didn't like the campaign (me either), and complained that the multiplayer was too geared toward esports. Others, however, said they loved the multiplayer maps and weapon balance, and clearly those people are still playing it. There was a lot of disagreement over this one.
In fact, Black Ops 2 has the most even distribution of scores—nearly the same number of people scored it the lowest as the highest. Meanwhile, some people are like, "This is totally a 5/10 Call of Duty," while others argue, "Are you kidding? This is a 6/10 Call of Duty, and honestly Rob, you disgust me. You always have."
#6 Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
The first Black Ops fared better than its sequel, earning lots of 7s and 8s. People liked the theme, they liked the multiplayer, and—no surprise—they liked the zombies. It had the best zombies, according to one respondent, but otherwise, no one had a lot to say about it. When he reviewed it for us, Tom Francis wasn't quite as fond (opens in new tab) of it.
#5 Call of Duty (2003)
I was surprised it didn't earn more 10s, but it makes sense that the original is sitting in the middle of the list. It's been long enough that we all know we liked Call of Duty, but its best qualities aren't at the surface of our minds. Blurry memories: they're about a 7/10.
Personally, I preferred Medal of Honor: Allied Assault at the time, but CoD proved more popular. It was made under the direction of the same people, namely Vince Zampella and Jason West, who led Infinity Ward until leaving in 2010 (not amiably (opens in new tab)) to make Titanfall. I wonder where Titanfall would rank, were it on this list?
#4 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
Beating Call of Duty by a smidgen is Modern Warfare 2, which did a lot better in the 9s department. I liked MW2 a lot, and maybe that was partially because I was still high on CoD4. It didn't need to change too much, and it didn't. Plus, after World at War, I was happy to get back to the modern stuff. There was a time, yes, when this felt fresh.
Some, however, really did not like Modern Warfare 2. For one thing, it was the first CoD to lack dedicated servers on PC, replacing the old system with IWNET. We haven't had a moddable Call of Duty since, and I think that's to blame for a good portion of the low scores.
#3 Call of Duty 2 (2005)
We're reaching into the hundredths of a point here, because CoD 2 just barely beats MW2 for the number three spot, and the next game on the list likewise barely beats out CoD 2. It's basically a three-way tie. Our survey-takers think these games are pretty good. 7/10! Not bad! Not great, but hey, totally fine! Look, these are just pretty good CoD games, you're saying, and we don't have to make a big deal out of it.
I'm going to attribute CoD 2's victory over the original CoD to a few things. One, CoD 2 was an Xbox 360 launch game, and surely not all of the respondents in my survey were strictly PC gamers, so I'm guessing more people played this one than the original. Two, it introduced regenerating health, which I recall caused some grumpiness back in the day, but which I think is expected now. Three, it was a pretty good game.
#2 Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
World at War barely squeaked into number two, but the numbers don't lie. It is better than Call of Duty 2. I'm sorry if you disagree, but you're simply wrong. And that's a fact.
So why is WaW so liked? A lot of you mentioned the Nazi Zombies. People love Nazi Zombies. Plus, there were mods (opens in new tab)! Those were things Call of Duty games used to have before Modern Warfare 2.
Also, like CoD and CoD 2, it has World War 2 on its side. "Besides the fact I love WWII and history as a whole, I feel World at War had the best atmosphere out of all of the Call of Duty games," said one of you. "The grittiness, the gun play, the gore, the voice actors, the maps, the scenery, it was all perfect. I truly wish Treyarch or at least CoD as a whole would go back to their WWII roots."
While I loved Modern Warfare when it came out, why not hop back to WWII for a change? Like, could we? I wouldn't mind. This was seven years ago and we still haven't gone back. Can we? Please? Let's do it. It's decided, the next Call of Duty after Black Ops 3 will be set during WWII. You heard it here first. (If you check back here in a year and this hasn't happened, it's not because I was wrong, but because you've slipped into an alternate dimension. Things are great in my dimension. Sorry about yours.)
#1 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
We have a winner! CoD 4 gets a solid 8/10, which is apparently as good as it gets.
We all knew the top game would be CoD 4, though. It was a pioneer of multiplayer progression. It wasn't over-complicated. It experimented with linear storytelling in ways we hadn't seen before. It brought us into the modern era when we were tiring of World War 2.
CoD 4 is a very good game, and I played it nearly every night for months. It's also the game I'd draw inspiration from if I were making a new Call of Duty (opens in new tab). Which won't happen, because I don't know how to make games.
Of course, not everyone thinks CoD 4 was the peak of the series—just the 1,000-plus people I polled. Tell us what your least and most favorite CoDs are in the comments. And if you don't say that CoD 4 is the best, a lot of people think you're very wrong, as you can see in the graph below.
#0 Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
Note: This poll was conducted before the release of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and with no hard data we're unsure where our readers would place the game on the list. However, it is infinite—it's right there in the title—and infinity is pretty big, bigger than most things, in fact. So we're putting it here, at the biggest spot on the list—though as a counterbalance, we've ranked it as number zero.
For the record, we sure didn't like it.