While far from the first FPS series ever, Call of Duty is a titan of the genre that has survived for nearly 20 years. Through many different iterations of a potent formula, players of the last few generations likely have some memory of CoD in mind. Because of this, it can be intimidating to know where to start. Whether you’re a newcomer or returning, this is a massive franchise with footprints in many consoles. And with a new release seemingly always just around the corner, the franchise is getting even more confusing to understand. Thankfully, it’s a fairly linear series with definite points from where you can start.
How Many Call of Duty Games Are In the Series?
There are a total of 22 games in the Call of Duty franchise as of 2022. Of these titles, two are remakes of previous titles, and one is a mobile-exclusive title. The number of fully original titles in the franchise is 17.
Every single main-game title, except for Call of Duty 3, was officially released for the PC. As for the others, things get a bit more complicated.
For console players, the most common console that CoD games released for is the Xbox 360. There are 12 games from the main series on this console, including Black Ops III and earlier.
There are 11 on the Xbox One. At the time of writing, only the most recent three are currently available on the Xbox Series X|S.
Most of these games are also available on the PlayStation. The PlayStation 3 has 11 games playable on the console, and the PS4 has 11 as well.
You can play a surprising amount of the franchise on the Nintendo DS as well.
The games that are not considered part of the mainline franchise include the recent CoD: Modern Warfare Remastered and CoD: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered. Suprisingly, CoD: Modern Warfare (2019) is actually part of the franchise, and is considered to be the 16th game of the series. Modern Warfare II (2022) will be the 18th game of the series.
CoD: Mobile is a relatively simple mobile shooter with CoD aesthetics and level design. Overall, fans claim it’s a good experience. However, this guide will be focusing on the console releases, as this mobile title is not usually considered part of the main franchise.
Which Call of Duty Game Should I Play First?
Call of Duty is designed to be simple-to-play and easy to get into. Because of that, you can play any CoD at any time without much issue. There’s no clear preference on which you should play first. Instead, you’ll likely want to start with whichever game is newest.
The most recent CoD tends to be the best idea for players wanting to get right into multiplayer action. These games have the most active servers and freshest player base, and receive the most support from developers. Right now, this is Vanguard, a game with relatively mixed reviews from players and critics.
In terms of story, Call of Duty has several self-contained story lines throughout the franchise. For instance, the Black Ops storyline is self-contained. Starting at the beginning of any of the series is a safe bet in terms of story and gameplay. We recommend the original Modern Warfare from 2007 for the single-player campaign. Black Ops is another great place to start for players looking to see the best of CoD’s single-player content, especially if you’re looking for games to play; that storyline goes across six entire titles!
Thankfully, even in these old titles, there are multiplayer servers still active. Those old dogs just keep kicking, so you won’t be lacking any multiplayer combat from the PS4 or even PS3 era.
Should You Play Call of Duty Games In Order?
Call of Duty is currently a mix of different stories. While some characters might be brought from one game to another, you will probably not miss too much content in single-player campaigns as a result.
If you want to know the order that the games are released, this is it. This will include the Remastered versions of Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare II.
- CoD (2003; PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
- CoD 2 (2005; PC, Xbox 360)
- CoD 3 (2006; PS2, PS3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360)
- CoD 4: Modern Warfare (2007; PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360)
- CoD: World At War (2008; PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, DS)
- CoD: Modern Warfare 2 (2009; PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
- CoD: Black Ops (2010; PC, PS3, Xbox 360, DS)
- CoD: Modern Warfare 3 (2011; PC, PS3, Wii, Xbox 360, DS)
- CoD: Black Ops II (2012; PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360)
- CoD: Ghosts (2013; PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
- CoD: Advanced Warfare (2014; PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
- CoD: Black Ops III (2015; PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
- CoD: Infinite Warfare (2016; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: Modern Warfare Campaign Remastered (2016; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: WWII (2017; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: Black Ops 4 (2018; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: Modern Warfare (2019) (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: Black Ops Cold War (2020; PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
- CoD: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered (2020; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
- CoD: Vanguard (2021; PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
- CoD: Modern Warfare 2 (Upcoming 2022) (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S)
The following are the general groups of games. These have connected storylines and are the most related to another.
- Original Trilogy (1, 2, 3)
- Modern Warfare (4, MW2, MW3)
- Black Ops (World at War, Black Ops, BLO2, BLO3, BLO4, Black Ops Cold War)
- New Modern Warfare (MW 2019, MW2 2022)
The following games are not interconnected. We’ll be grouping them by what type of war they fall into.
- World War 2 (WWII, Vanguard)
- Modern (Ghosts)
- Futuristic (Advanced Warfare, Infinite Warfare)
Which Call of Duty Game Is Considered Best?
Call of Duty tends to be a relatively highly reviewed series, though the more recent games have suffered on the numbers side. Metacritic has not been kind to this yearly series!
Looking at Activision games on Metacritic, the highest reviewed game is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, with scores of 94 across the two major consoles the game released for. Right after that was its predecessor, Modern Warfare. Both of these games scored in the mid-90s, which is the highest the series has scored. These games are praised for high-octane action in their multiplayer and some of the best single-player campaigns that the franchise has to offer. They still hold up to this day, though with a less dedicated player base than they had 15 years ago.
The lowest that the series has ran into was Nintendo DS ports of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with a 57. Admittedly, none of the DS ports work great, but this one got particular hate for feeling derivative.
In the last decade, Black Ops 4 reaches the highest score, though only with an 85. This is the most likely of the modern games to have an online playerbase, besides Vanguard.
Jason Toro-McCue has committed his schooling to the study of the connection between game design and narrative. When he's not working on this bond through writing articles or guides, he's playing Dungeons & Dragons, or just playing games themselves and looking at the story there.