Call of Duty Games in Order: History of the Biggest Franchise

by Fabio

In this article, we are going over all the Call of Duty games in order, from the first title in 2003 to the most recent release of 2019. The franchise has managed to establish itself at the forefront of the shooter genre and has become a respectable part of esports. Over the years, the games have evolved, but the old ones still remain classics to this day.

How Many Call of Duty Games Are There?

Activision have released a total of 16 Call of Duty games in the last 17 years. We’re not counting mobile titles or mini-games. Apart from 2004, the year after the first COD release, a new game has been pushed out annually. Because of this, the games have sometimes been underwhelming. But Call of Duty has largely produced quality titles, some of them being amongst the greatest classics of the first-person shooter genre. 

Call of Duty Games in Order

To understand the development process and way of thinking behind COD, one needs to see all of the Call of Duty games in order. While the series started out with revolutionary titles, the WW2 setting became old quickly. So Activision invented new storylines and new campaigns to keep the franchise fresh. So far, the approach has worked well. COD titles are still among the highest grossing computer games in the world. Here, we provide a list of Call of Duty games that were published to PC or console. The Call of Duty timeline can be split into a few distinct eras. 

Call of Duty 1 – 3

When COD was first released, it sent shockwaves through the shooter scene. The game was beautifully realized, the atmosphere was incredibly realistic, and the campaign sent the player through multiple countries. For 2003, this was a breakthrough achievement. 

So when Call of Duty 2 (2005) came around the corner, expectations were set pretty high. The game managed to build upon the predecessor in terms of scale, as the campaign featured battlegrounds on different continents. About 8% of the development budget went into voice recordings for the characters. This shines through in the gripping single player mode. 

For a game released in 2005, the graphics are stunning!
For a game released in 2005, the graphics are stunning! (via GameStop)

COD 3 (2006) was the first title to not have a PC release. The game was delivered to the PlayStation 2 and 3, Xbox and Xbox 360, to mediocre reviews. With these games, the World War II setting had arguably run its course and the games were starting to get stale. So for the next installment, Activision radically changed their approach. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Series

In order to understand the Call of Duty games in order, one has to take a good look at the Modern Warfare titles. In the top Call of Duty games lists, you’ll usually find those games at the very top. 

Modern Warfare (2007) was a breakthrough game. When the title was released, fans were skeptical about the departure from the World War II era. The setting might have become repetitive, but MW took a giant leap forward and placed the story into a distant future. Gamers were afraid that this might have been one step too far, but Modern Warfare managed to create a tight atmosphere and authentic campaign. It didn’t feel at all like a far-fetched Sci-Fi episode. 

In 2008, COD: World at War was released. The game was a mixed bag for most fans. Its return to the WW2 setting, albeit in the pacific, was met with positive reactions. Especially the introduction of a coop-mode gave players more opportunities than ever to experience the game together. However, some felt that World at War was cut in size, as if it were an expansion pack for a fully-realized COD game. Still, the game manages to hold its own. However, it pales in comparison to the following release.

Modern Warfare 2 is the best Call of Duty title released to this day
Modern Warfare 2 is the best Call of Duty title released to this day (via GameStar)

Modern Warfare 2 (2009) had virtually no chance of becoming as great as its predecessor. But still it managed to create an ever better campaign and multiplayer experience. The game is heralded for its thrilling story and weapons improvements. It is rightfully regarded as the best Call of Duty game of all time. 

Black Ops 1, 2 & Modern Warfare 3

From 2010 on, the MW and Black Ops series continued hand-in-hand. Call of Duty: Black Ops takes place in the Cold War, where the CIA carries out a number of clandestine operations. The protagonist, Alex Mason, sifts through his memories as he finds himself locked up in an interrogation room with no recollection of the past. The story features flashbacks into 1961 Cuba, while slowly building up to a massive grand finale in the United States of 1968. Don’t worry, we won’t spoil the plot twist!

After Black Ops, Activision returned to their most critically acclaimed series with Modern Warfare 3 (2011). The game opened to favorable reviews. However, many critics negatively pointed out that the title was sticking to the winning formula of the MW series, while contributing few innovations of its own. 

In order to combat repetition, the developers set out to create a Call of Duty game that was truly unique, all while staying true to its roots and to the things that the fans loved. Black Ops II (2012) featured a split campaign. One part plays out during the Cold War, where Alex Mason once again returns as the leading figure. This section of the story builds Raul Menendez up as a maniacal antagonist. The futuristic part of the campaign sees us taking the place of Mason’s son. In the United States of 2025, he is then sent out to foil the plans of Menendez, who attempts to throw the U.S. into a Cold War with China.

This plot in itself was a drastic departure from previous games, but critics particularly praised the introduction of missions where the player’s choices influenced the outcome. 

The Rest of the Call of Duty Games in Order

From there on, Activision abandoned the Modern Warfare and Black Ops release models. What followed were Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013), Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014) and Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015). The three games received mixed reviews for being too formulaic This foreshadowed a decline for the Call of Duty franchise. 

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016) didn’t resonate with fans, as the publishers themselves admitted. The game’s story was set in the distant future and featured interplanetary combat. When the initial trailer was met with one of the worst like-dislike-ratios ever on YouTube, the developers knew that there was no future for this game. Sales were down by 50% in comparison to Black Ops 3. The developers had expected to create a series of Infinite Warfare games similar to the MW series. That idea was quickly buried. 

Just look at that dislike ratio and try not to cringe!

The community had made their priorities clear. So back to the roots it was for Activision, who promptly followed the game up with a World War II shooter. Call of Duty: WW2 (2017) didn’t exactly reinvent the shooter genre, but it was realistic and flashy enough to satisfy both critics and fans. Reviewers slammed Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 (2018) for not featuring a single-player campaign. In addition to that, the community felt that the microtransactions and map expansion packs were a cheap money-grabbing effort from Activision.

The Latest Call of Duty Game: Modern Warfare

This is the youngest title in the Call of Duty timeline. All of the Call of Duty games in order have led up to this point. After the disappointing Black Ops 4, a lot was riding on this title to finally deliver a convincing and satisfying Call of Duty game again. 

The 2019 Modern Warfare title was a reimagining of the original and iconic 2008 title. Of course, this connection meant that fans and critics would hold it to the standards set by the Modern Warfare series so far. Despite such obstacles, the game delivered on all accounts. The campaign drew connections to the original storyline, but wasn’t a shot-for-shot remake. With improvements to the multiplayer as well, the game was finally viewed as a revitalization of the franchise. We can’t wait to see what’s next for Call of Duty.

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So that’s our list of all Call of Duty games in order. We hope that you liked this article. If so, we recommend checking out the rest of our Bitspawn blog. Have you ever asked yourself “Is Esports a Sport?” or do you want to know more about the history of the best Fortnite player, Bugha? There’s a lot to uncover on our site, so stick around!

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