Call of Duty is one of the biggest video game franchises on the planet, with every year seeing a fresh release in the shooter franchise. All but one has launched with a campaign, and while multiplayer is what many pick up the latest release for, the single-player rollercoaster ride has become one of the most fun six-to-ten hours thrills of the year.
2018’s Black Ops 4 offered plenty of multiplayer fun but unfortunately no campaign means no place on the following list ranking all of the Call of Duty campaigns.
Oh, and there’s a spoiler warning in effect for everything except this year’s Modern Warfare - because of the game’s recent release.
15. Call of Duty: Ghosts
The first Call of Duty title on next-gen systems, Ghosts was a rare misfire for the consistent franchise. Its set-pieces felt like rehashes of what had come before, offering little in the way of nuance throughout the often contrived story.
Telling the tale of South America overrunning the United States with the help of an orbital satellite capable of blowing chunks out of the planet, it just ended up coming across as jingoistic.
On the plus side, Riley the dog was by far the most enjoyable - and adorable - character.
Best moment: As much as we want to give one of Riley’s excellent stealth kills the nudge, the moment where your characters rappel down a skyscraper just about pips the pooch - but he’s still a good boy.
14. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3
A disappointment after Black Ops 2’s solid campaign, Black Ops 3 tells a story that it never really commits to - even opening up all missions for players to pick and choose the order in which to complete them.
A campaign absolutely stuffed with exposition and technobabble, what makes Black Ops 3 more interesting (but not necessarily much better) is that it features a second campaign called “Nightmares” - an alternative version with zombies and other otherworldly monstrosities.
Best moment: Black Ops 3’s tutorial offers a really great set-piece where players battle a terrorist threat on a moving, futuristic train. Unfortunately, the rest of the game struggles to follow.
13. Call of Duty III
Treyarch’s first release in the series, this third mainline instalment apes much of what made Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 2 so good but lacks the same panache.
That said, it offered more of the same for those that wanted it, and the SAS soldiers’ discussions about their French counterparts was a clear highlight - even if the action remains a little derivative.
Best moment: Defending Hill 262 from German tanks remains an emotional moment, the odds continue stacking against the player, crescendoing into a last-ditch rescue from the Canadian Air Force.
12. Call of Duty: World at War
Given the unenviable task of following up Modern Warfare, Treyarch took Call of Duty back to World War II. Rather than solely focusing on the European conflict, World at War shows us the Pacific "theatre of war" and is unrelenting in its depiction.
This 2008 entry features the voice talents of Kiefer Sutherland, as well as Gary Oldman as Viktor Reznov - a role he’d reprise in Black Ops.
Best moment: Early in World at War, players enter an area that appears to have seen some conflict, with bodies strewn about the ground. All of a sudden, the “bodies” spring up and attack, as the Japanese soldiers descend from trees to open fire on your advancing squad.
11. Call of Duty
Where it all began, Call of Duty set a template that the games still follow today - set-pieces, linear corridors and multiple playable characters were all here, all the way back in 2001.
Medal of Honor may have ruled the first-person shooter roost, but the first Call of Duty offered an excellently varied campaign - with the SAS-focused sections sticking out for their impressive restraint.
Best moment: Blowing up a German battleship from the inside out, planting bombs in between fighting what felt like a platoon of soldiers, still gives us goosebumps just thinking about it.
10. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
A game that was begun at Infinity Ward and then finished by multiple studios following the Jason West and Vince Zampella exodus (which led to the formation of Respawn Entertainment), Modern Warfare 3 offers a fun, if familiar campaign, that ably wraps up loose ends.
It’s one of the series’ more bombastic entries, with early missions seeing players battling on the streets of NYC before commandeering a submarine in the Hudson River. It’s pulsating stuff from start to finish.
Best moment: At the campaign’s conclusion, the player controls the legendary Captain John Price - out for revenge after the death of his comrade, John "Soap" MacTavish. He finally catches up with antagonist Vladimir Makarov, before executing him and lighting up a cigar in one of the most memorable endings in the series.
9. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Advanced Warfare may have been new Call of Duty studio Sledgehammer’s first title, but this is as confident a debut as they come.
Giving players exoskeletons capable of dashing and double-jumping refreshed both campaign and multiplayer, and while it may only be referred to in hushed tones thanks to the antagonist being portrayed by now-disgraced actor Kevin Spacey, the campaign was plenty of fun.
Best moment: Attempting to thwart a terror attack on the Golden Gate Bridge, players are tasked with leaping from parked vehicle to parked vehicle, punching and shooting their way across the iconic landmark.
8. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Black Ops 2 achieved what no other Call of Duty title has done in creating a compelling villain. Raul Menendez is brutal, but through flashback sequences we’re shown what made him such a monster. It’s not Naughty Dog level storytelling, but it’s still fascinating.
The narrative here is split between two timelines, one taking place in Vietnam and the other in the 2020s - allowing for varied set pieces like flying a hover jet or battling through Afghanistan on horseback. There are also branching paths, a first for the series.
Best moment: An expedition to Colossus, a utopia in the Cayman Islands, begins with a simple walkthrough before all hell breaks loose - leading to a tense gunfight surrounded by civilians and with hostage lives on the line.
7. Call of Duty 2
Another from the early days, Call of Duty’s first sequel doubles down on the first game’s multiple perspectives, this time offering something from Africa, Russia, and Normandy.
Each of the individual campaigns is packed with personality and a feeling of overwhelming odds, something captured best in the...
Best moment: The capture and holding of Hill 400, a tense mission which involves sniping, survival against increasing numbers of German soldiers as the player’s squad is being battered by artillery and mortar fire.
6. Call of Duty: WWII
Sledgehammer’s second game in the franchise swapped jet packs for the beaches of Normandy, and in doing so offers the best WWII game in the series’ storied history.
It may not tackle some of the horrific subject matter in as much detail as it could (choosing to only offer a short epilogue focusing on the horrors of the Holocaust), but it does justice to the feeling of fighting a war halfway across the world from home.
Best moment: One mission sees players tasked with infiltrating a Nazi building using nothing but your wits and an undercover identity that you’ll need to remember to prevent your cover being blown.
5. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Yes, yes, we all remember the YouTube backlash, but whisper it - Infinite Warfare is wholly deserving of being this high on our list.
Taking the franchise to space, Infinite Warfare offers up multiple side-missions, interstellar dogfights, and some of the series’ most grand action sequences - although casting Kit Harrington as the main villain proved to be a misstep.
Best moment: One of the optional missions players can undertake involves stowing away on an enemy starship, and assassinating a high-ranking official by blowing them out into space after sneaking to their offices.
4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)
2019’s reboot of the Modern Warfare franchise may not be as revolutionary as the first instalment, but offers a great geopolitical thriller strung along by the excellent gunplay we’ve come to know and love.
There’s a focus on shock and awe, here, and while some it feels gratuitous it also hits home with some truly standout sequences - yes, we’re being deliberately vague.
Best moment: We’ll leave this for people to enjoy, but be sure to watch the final cutscene.
3. Call of Duty: Black Ops
Black Ops is by far Treyarch’s finest campaign, and splits itself between conspiracy thriller and war story, while adding in a hefty dose of espionage to the equation, too.
Set during the Cold War, Alex Mason recalls missions from his past while being interrogated by a mysterious voice about a series of numbers. The plot twists and turns in some unexpected ways, offering one of the series’ most enjoyable romps.
Best moment: Breaking out of the labour camp, Vorkuta, egged on by Viktor Reznov (returning from World at War) - before eventually finding out that he’s a figment of Mason’s imagination.
2. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Following up Modern Warfare was tough, but Infinity Ward’s second instalment in the sub-franchise is still excellent, if entirely unbelievable.
There’s a ridiculous twist in the third act that still feels ridiculous, but it did lead to an exciting quest for revenge to finish the campaign.
Best moment: Holding off an invading force while defending a burger restaurant in the US is exactly the kind of kindness we’ve come to expect (and love) from Call of Duty.
1. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Where to start with the best of the best? Modern Warfare turned Call of Duty into a household name overnight with its compelling multiplayer progression system, but the campaign remains worth revisiting over ten years on from the original release.
From the early SAS assault on a ship in the middle of a storm, to the AC-130 mission’s eery quiet spells, to the launching of nuclear warhead, Modern Warfare offers a tight but rollicking campaign from start to finish.
Best moment: The best for last, sneaking through Chernobyl as a young Captain Price is the kind of atmospheric, linear journey that Call of Duty excels at to this day - setting up the events of an incredible trilogy.
Do you agree with our list? Which Call of Duty campaign was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!