Call of Duty is the third most popular video game franchise in history. Its $17 billion revenue sits behind Mario ($30 billion) and Pokemon ($90 billion). Still, that’s a lot of money.
The franchises’ free-to-play battle royale became the highest-grossing non-mobile 2020 game. Its revenue has been around $1.91bn due to the micro-transaction store. It puts it above the series’ previous winners, Black Ops 4 and WWII, both generating about $1 billion in revenue.
Call of Duty is what you would call a Blockbuster. It’s explosive, simple, repetitive, and offers mindless fun. If you’re a fan of the game, maybe you’ve played some of its titles before. Otherwise, why would you not start now? You’re missing out on the most popular FPS series ever!
That said, let’s check the CoD games and what they added to the franchise and the FPS genre. Bear in mind the series has been releasing a new game every year since the original launch.
Call of Duty Games In Order
The Call of Duty Variety
The original game debuted in 2003. The Infinity Ward first-person shooter came out for Microsoft Windows PC only.
The series started with a World War II single-player campaign. The homonymous game is the first of the 17 titles that create the franchise’s main series or narrative.
Additional 12 or so spinoffs are also part of the series, such as Warzone and available mobile versions.
Some of the CoD titles have single-player campaigns on fictitious conflicts, like CoD: Modern Warfare. Others mix historical events with fictional characters and plots, like the original title.
Likewise, every CoD game includes both a single-player campaign as well as a multiplayer aspect. Many players find the two layers equally important.
However, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is the only title of the main series that came without a single-player experience. Even so, it’s one of the most successful of the series.
That said, 20019’s Modern Warfare was the first CoD to launch with crossplay features. Nowadays, MW, Warzone, and Black Ops Cold War allow you to play with your friends on either platform (PC, Xbox, or PlayStation).
Call of Duty
The game debuted in 2003 for Windows PC only. It delivers a World War II single-player campaign.
Its gameplay was similar to Medal of Honor, albeit it has additional viewpoints and extra scenarios. Notably, the campaign extends across American soldiers, British operatives, and Soviet companions.
Its greatest introduction to the industry was an AI to control allies. Fellow NPCs follow and support the player during the missions. Also, they react to the circumstances and situational changes. It leads to the experience of the war itself instead of playing the classic “lone-wolf” type of game.
Another notable feature was the ability to aim with your iron sights. It was one of the first games to implement aiming.
Call of Duty Classic premiered in November for all available consoles. Players could get it by buying a premium Modern Warfare 2 edition. You could still play it on the Xbox Series S/X as it’s backward compatible.
CoD: Finest Hour is the first console entry of the series. It came out for PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox in 2004. It’s an expansion of the original game with a three-part campaign.
Also, it has a multiplayer mode that supports 16v16 battles. That makes it the first online Call of Duty game.
Call of Duty 2
The second installment of the series has a WW2 single-player campaign as well. This time around, you play as four different soldiers. Particularly, the story has three parts: American, British, and Soviet campaigns. The grand total is 27 missions, which is a bit longer than the first one.
It premiered in October 2005 for Windows PCs. In November, it launched for Xbox 360 as well. Eventually, Activision made ports for mobile phones, pocket PCs, and macOS.
CoD2 adds a health regeneration system, the same most modern games use. If you’re wondering, the screen turns red when you get injured. You’d hear your heart pounding as well. Then, things get back to normal when you rest for a while.
Another new feature is a set of binoculars. You’d need to use them to scout enemies and direct artillery fire.
As for multiplayer, the game features various modes. These include Team Deathmatch, Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, Headquarters, and Capture the Flag. Every PC multiplayer server could hold sixty-four players, which was a great achievement for its time.
Big Red One
Big Red One is a CoD 2 spinoff for PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, and GameCube. The campaign focuses on a single faction and has historical footage to support its narrative. Mark Hamill narrates the cinematics as if you were watching a documentary.
Moreover, various actors from HBO’s Band of Brothers did the voiceovers.
Call of Duty 3
The third part of the WWII conflict came out in 2006. It came out for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360, and Wii. Like the previous title, it has both a single-player arc and a multiplayer mode.
However, the campaign now gives players various choices when it comes to complete missions. Aside from that, the game is similar and runs across four parts (American, British, Canadian, and Polish).
It has a new feature, though. The soldiers can now crouch and prone, both affecting accuracy and stealth. The multiplayer had a wide variety.
Most modes revolve around team battles, with 24 players per team. However, the multiplayer feature was not available for the Nintendo Wii.
Additionally, the multiplayer has Ranked, and Player matches. “Player” was the casual alternative to play around with friends without adding or losing leaderboard points.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Modern Warfare steps away from the WWII conflict to open a new story arc within the franchise. It came out in 2007 for PS3, Xbox 360, and Windows PCs. It then premiered on the Wii as CoD: Modern Warfare – Reflex Edition in 2009.
The new campaign happened in 2011. It follows a fictional conflict between the USA and an unnamed Middle East country. You play as U.S. Marine Force Recon specialists, as well as a British SAS commando. Then, the multiplayer offered the ability to level up your character to unlock new weapons, weapon attachments, and camouflages. Like so, it introduced new multiplayer features like Killstreaks.
The game enjoyed universal acclaim from fans and critics. The story, the gameplay, and the cinematics were significantly better than what previous games had to offer.
Notably, IGN named this game as one of the best titles available for Xbox 360.
Call of Duty: World at War
World at War debuted in 2008 for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and Windows PC. It introduced the Zombies multiplayer game mode, albeit it was a DLC.
Also, it’s the first of the Black Ops story arc, which happens between WWII and the Cold War. In this case, you play as four different characters during WW2.
The gameplay didn’t introduce anything new. However, Treyarch had overhauled the graphical engine to improve visuals and physics.
As for the multiplayer, it’s similar to Modern Warfare with the addition of the Zombies mode.
All in all, the critical reception was very happy. The game felt gruesome, cruel, and realistic. If you’re going to play a classic CoD, try this one.
CoD: World at War – Final Fronts
Final Fronts is a World at War spinoff for PlayStation 2. It has a new single-player campaign across Belgium and Germany. It stands as the last CoD title released for PS2.
A World At War DLC was the first to introduce the popular Zombies mode. It’s a multiplayer mode where the goal is surviving endless zombie hordes.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Now we’re on the sixth entry of the series. It came out for PlayStation 3, Windows PC, and Xbox 360 in 2009.
It follows Modern Warfare’s story, only five years later. Now, in 2016, American soldiers fight against a Russian invasion.
Developers further improved the game engine to deliver real-life visuals and physics. MW 2 received praise for its explosive campaign, many multiplayer modes, and performance.
Yet, the title fell short in terms of innovation and campaign length. It’s probably the title that cemented the idea that every CoD title is the same as the last.
The multiplayer mode was okay, though. It features Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Search & Destroy, Sabotage, Headquarters, Capture the Flag, and Demolition.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Welcome to the franchise’s best-seller, with over 30 million copies sold.
CoD BO is the second part of the Black Ops story arc and the franchise’s seventh game. It came out in 2010 for Windows, Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360.
It also has various DLCs. These bring the Zombies mode, multiplayer maps, and multiplayer modes. The single-player campaign revolves around the Cold War during the Vietnam War. You play mainly as Alex Mason, a USA operative.
Also, the campaign happens in retrospect. As Mason is tied to a chair, a hostile interrogatory takes the game to several missions that Mason has already completed.
As for gameplay, Black Ops introduces the use of melee weapons on top of firearms and grenades.
The multiplñayer is nothing new either. It has the same modes we’ve seen before with the addition of a cooperative zombie mode.
Also, there’s now a currency system that allows players to buy apparel and weapons. Notably, though, you can play zombies online or locally. The online option supports 4 players; the local option supports two players with a split-screen.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
MW3 continues the Modern Warfare arc, and it’s also the last. It came out in 2011 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows, Wii, and Nintendo DS.
The story picks up right where MW2 ended. Russia is currently invading the USA, whereas the heroes are injured and on the run.
There was a legal dispute between Infinity Ward and Activision during the game’s development. Thus, Sledgehammer Games helped develop the game, while Raven Software took care of the multiplayer.
That said, MW3 was the most successful title of the franchise thus far. Activision said it was the biggest launch in the gaming industry to date: it had over $700 million in sales in three days.
As for multiplayer, it includes over 16 maps and various game modes. Notably, there’s a Special Ops game mode you can play either solo or co-op. These missions grant rewards you can then use to buy apparel, camouflage, weapon, and weapon mods for your online character.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Black Ops II debuted in 2012 for Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. It’s the third part of the Black Ops arc.
Now, it wasn’t 2012’s bestseller. The title belongs to Rockstar’s GTA V. However, it did sell more copies than the previous title of the series.
The game presented a couple of new features for the single-player experience. First, there were choices to make, and these choices brought consequences. Additionally, you could choose your weapon loadout before each mission.
With these nonlinear features, the game had six different endings. It made the FPS series more complex, and fans received these changes with a smile.
The story follows several characters hunting the world’s most dangerous criminal, Raúl Menéndez. The premise opens 11 missions, each one happening in a different country. As for multiplayer, it has a level-up system with rewards and customization.
Yet, it maintains similar game modes plus some of the most iconic maps of the series, like Nuketown.
On top of that, there are various Zombies modes. These include team battles, co-op survival, and solo survival.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Ghosts is a unique storyline that came out in 2013 for PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, PS4, and Wii U. It was the first CoD title for the newer console generation.
It has a near-future single-player campaign revolving around South American countries like Venezuela. Ghosts are special operatives trying to take down “The Federation,” a massive South American coalition to take down the USA.
The gameplay introduces little features aside from combat dogs. Because of that, Ghosts had nothing new to deliver in terms of innovation. However, it presented new multiplayer game modes.
First, there’s Extinction, a crazy 4-player co-op against an alien invasion. There were four classes to choose from, customizable loud-outs and weapons to unlock. Moreover, Extinction follows a story arc across 6 maps.
Secondly, the multiplayer features a wide array of modes. Blitz, for example, was about two teams protecting a portal at their home base. If the other team captures the portal, they could rush the attack from their own base.
Still, its lack of new features turns Ghost into one of the worst-selling games of the franchise. Also, Extinction debuted as a Gears of Wars competition. Nonetheless, already years behind one of the most popular Xbox series ever.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Advanced Warfare is also a stand-alone FPS game. Sledgehammer Games and High Moon Studios worked together this time around. They released the game in November 2014 for PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, and Windows PC.
Notably, the developers hired Kevin Spacey and Troy Barker to voice the main characters. That said, it also has a near-future story arc that involves space colonies and futuristic combat. In particular, your goal is stopping the Atlas corporation, a multinational power that aims to seize the Government.
Your characters use high-tech gear like exo-suits in combat and energy weapons. On top of that, multiplayer weapons range from Common, Rare, Legendary, and Epic, as if it were an RPG game. Moreover, weapons deliver “Gun Perks,” special advantages to use in combat.
The multiplayer is similar to previous titles. It has a class system with 10 choices: weapons, perks, attachments, scorestreaks, and 13 allocation points. However, you can now upgrade scorestreaks with additional effects and abilities.
Multiplayer weapons have different variants which change the stats. That gives the game about 350 weapons to loot through supply drops.
That said, the game introduces the Exo Survival co-op mode. It puts four players against waves of AI enemies whilst defending locations or collecting intel. The next mode is Exo Zombies, where the undead and the players have high-tech power-ups.
Activision marketed the game as the “new era” for CoD. They believed the RPG elements would create a new path for the series. However, it had a bad reception, so they mostly abandoned these add-ons.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
The next series entry continues the Black Ops arc. It premiered in 2015 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, and Windows PC.
Its setting is a dystopian 2065 future. Society is violently trying to stop the advancement of science and technology.
Black Ops III introduces the ability to play the campaign with 1 additional player, either co-op or split-screen. Additionally, it has a progression system that unlocks gear.
Playing the campaign also unlocks the “Nightmare” mode. It changes the main events to add zombies and supernatural beings.
As for the multiplayer, BO 3 introduces a new movement skill through a high-tech thruster. There’s also the “Specialist” class system. There’re 9 Specialists, each one featuring a special weapon, ability, or both.
As you’d expect, there’s a Zombies mode that takes you to several locations and points in time. The game mode has its own progression system to unlock bonuses and gear.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Infinite Warfare is also a stand-alone title. It came out in 2016 for Ps4, Xbox One, and Windows. Its “Legacy” version bundles CoD 4: Modern Warfare Remastered. The game serves as the first CoD title exclusive for the prior console generation.
Again, a near-future campaign sets a mass-scale conflict between two coalitions to control human colonies across the Solar System.
Gameplay introduces space combat alongside features like zero-gravity, boost packs, and a grappling hook. There’s also aerial combat, so the campaign transitions between sky battles and “boots-on-the-ground” set-pieces.
There’s also a central hub world, the Retribution ship. It allows the player to see their progression, start missions, and go to secondary quests. Additionally, it opens customization and upgrade interfaces.
The multiplayer features a major overhaul to the class system. The new classes are “Combat Rigs.” There’re six Combat Rigs, each one featuring weapons, abilities, and aesthetics. For example, the Phantom rig fills the stealth archetype. That said, there’re 15 different multiplayer modes.
Infinite Warfare was poorly received. In fact, its reveal trailer has the worst like/dislike ratio of the whole franchise. Likewise, the entry’s sales performance was tiny compared to previous iterations.
Call of Duty: WWII
Coming next is WWII, which takes players back to the original game’s historical setting. It’s World at War’s sequel, and it debuted for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PCs in 2017.
Its story arc happens across France, Belgium, and Germany during the last months of the war.
The game introduces the “hit-the-deck” movement. As you sprint, characters can jump forward and lay on the ground to take cover. It’s similar to Black Ops and Black Ops II “dolphin dive” system.
At the same time, players get gear and ammo from AI companions as the story moves forward. The multiplayer aspect has over 10 maps plus various game modes. There’re 1v1 PvP battles as much as team deathmatch brawls.
Lastly, the Zombies Mode has a co-op or solo campaign that adds some elements from Ghost’s Extinction.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Black Ops 4 is the first title of the main series coming out without a single-player campaign. In return, it offers solo missions focusing on multiplayer “Specialists.” These missions happen across the events of Black Ops III and Black Ops II.
Then, the multiplayer mode eliminates the health regeneration system and introduces weapon recoil. That brings a new ballistic system that requires additional skill to master.
Next, the multiplayer has three modes. There’s Blackout, which features the biggest map of the franchise ever. You can play solo or co-op. It’s about landing on the Blackout island to survive as long as you can.
Then there’s the Zombies Mode. It follows the Chaos storyline and the Aether storyline across various missions and scenarios. If you’re wondering, CoD Zombies has an overarching plot.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
The Modern Warfare remake remains strong with constant updates and support. Also, Activision’s hit battle-royale Warzone sprawls from their 2019 title.
It’s currently available for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Windows PC.
As before, it has a single-player campaign in a modern and realistic setting. The plot follows US operatives hunting Russian general Roman Barkov. The campaign focuses on cinematic storytelling, intrigue, and epic narrative.
As for multiplayer, it is the first CoD to offer cross-platform play. Moreover, the character customization transfers over to Warzone. That said, the multiplayer features several maps with a classic 6v6 setting.
There’re many new features, though, like night vision and maps from across the entire franchise. Moreover, you can customize your arsenal better than ever, with the series’ greatest weapon variety.
Lastly, there’s a co-op mode, Special Ops, that continues the main story. A team of 4 players deploys on vast maps to steal enemy plans, tech, info, and gear. There’re 4 Special Ops.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
The latest entry of the series debuted in November 2020 for PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series, and Windows PC.
Its story arc happens right after CoD: Black Ops, but it also has ties with Modern Warfare and Warzone. That makes it the first of the series to connect two of their main running narratives.
The campaign follows a “Bell.” A new characteristic to the franchise is how you can customize “Bell.” You pick your name, place of birth, skin color, gender, military background, and perks.
Similarly, there’re choices to take and consequences that lead to three unique endings. There’s a canon ending, though.
The plot takes you to the Cold War. It focuses on intrigue, mischief, and iconic historical scenarios.
Lastly, the multiplayer offers various modes, co-op special operations, and various maps. It’s as you’d expect, though: 6v6 team battles with customizable loud-outs. And, of course, there’re zombies.
Free battle-royale – Call of Duty: Warzone
Warzone is the most successful CoD title to date. It debuted in March 2020 as a Modern Warfare spinoff for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows PC. Later, it premiered for Xbox Series and PS5 as well.
That said, it offers cross-platform play, as well as cross-platform progression. You can play the game for free without purchasing Modern Warfare. It offers various multiplayer game modes with seasonal updates that introduce new maps, modes, weapons, and features.
The gameplay is similar to other titles in the genre. You parachute down to huge maps that continuously shrink. On the ground, you play with a four-player squad on maps that support up to 150 players.
The game has evolved to add new areas and features to its main map, Verdanks, and additional game modes. Some of these new modes have included Zombies.
For example, a popular mode makes it so players that die become zombies. Then, the zombie player gets to bite other soldiers to turn them over to the undead team.
Free mobile battle-royale – Call of Duty: Mobile
The last title we’re highlighting is their successful mobile battle royale. It supports up to 100 players on various traditional maps like Nuketown. Then, you get to play with the series’ main heroes, like Alex Mason and John Price.
It’s free and available for Android and iOS devices. It debuted in October 2019. Much like Warzone, it has become an industry leader and a full-on eSport.