Call of Duty franchise has been on an annual release cycle for nearly two decades. Narrowing down the seven best multiplayer titles is difficult, but we’ve got our picks for which ones stand the test of time.
CoD is a franchise as storied as any other in the gaming industry. Infinity Ward, Treyarch, Sledgehammer Games, and a small army of supporting studios have all given their best shot year after year, providing us with some of the most iconic multiplayer modes ever.
There have undoubtedly been a few misses along the way, but there are more than a handful of excellent experiences to make up for that, and we’re going to look back at which ones still hold up to this day.
7. Worst: World at War
World at War is a bit of a sleeper pick on any “Best Call of Duty Games” list as it largely flew under the radar compared to the two Modern Warfare entries surrounding it. I think that’s criminal. The story is one of the franchise’s most intense offerings, the multiplayer built on the same addictive loop as Call of Duty 4 before it, and Zombies was an absolute smash success right out of the gate.
From unleashing the terrifying Attack Dogs killstreak to blowing away the undead with your MP40, World at War helped establish the blueprint for what a Treyarch-developed Call of Duty should look like, and I think that’s enough to earn it an early spot on the list.
6. Advanced Warfare
It was easy to dislike Advanced Warfare back in the day. It didn’t feel like traditional Call of Duty. However, it ushered in the jetpack era with a blazing-fast pace of play that many of its successors are still chasing to this day.
This was the first Call of Duty title to truly take advantage of the processing power of Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and it still stands out for its gorgeous visuals. That puts Advanced Warfare over the top of so many other entries for me. From the super-powered EXO abilities to the pristine presentation of every new map, Sledgehammer Games carved out a unique identity for Advanced Warfare and delivered on much of its potential.
5. Modern Warfare Remastered
Call of Duty 4 was the game that sent the franchise into the atmosphere, so it’s astounding that it got even better almost ten years later in the remastered version. New weapons, camos, maps, and vastly superior graphics were the perfect updates to pull things together. This was amplified by the game’s timing.
Modern Warfare Remastered launched alongside Infinite Warfare, which is widely regarded as one of the worst mainline entries in Call of Duty history. Having a familiar fallback that only got better over the year after launch made the experience that much sweeter.
4. Black Ops 4
Black Ops 4 is the most underrated Call of Duty of all time, at least in my humble opinion. I remember putting in endless hours in Multiplayer and loving every minute of it. A rock-solid Multiplayer mode and a refreshing take on Zombies adds up to something greater than its sum.
Specialists gave this game the perfect amount of personality. You could make explosive plays with Ruin’s Grappling Hook & Gravity Slam combo, snipe whole teams with the power of Prophet’s Tempest, or even embrace some of that World at War flavor by breaking out that old-school CoD flavor with Firebreak’s Purifier or Battery’s War Machine.
Combined with the battle-royale thrills of Blackout and that strange-but-awesome Chaos Crew Zombies storyline, it doesn’t get much better than Black Ops 4.
Best Call of Duty Games – Honorable Mention: Warzone
I didn’t want to chunk Warzone onto this list, as it has the unique advantage of being an amalgam of the other games. The first WZ cycle saw an adaptation from Modern Warfare (2019) to Black Ops Cold War and ended with Vanguard.
While it’s some of Call of Duty’s finest work, the list is healthier when comparing the traditional Multiplayer modes against themselves rather than the grand expectations of a Battle Royale. Still, Verdansk is only rivaled by Fortnite’s original map in terms of popularity, so it’s safe to say all of the various studios involved in making that game managed to get things right.
3. Modern Warfare 2
No list of this kind would be complete without Modern Warfare 2. Call of Duty was already blowing up, but this game cemented its place in the true mainstream. An improved variation of CoD 4’s killstreak concepts, the addition of Pro perks, and a maximalist design forced the entire world to pay attention to the series.
So many of Call of Duty’s important cultural moments originate in Modern Warfare 2. 1v1’s on Rust, insane Intervention trick shots accompanied by MLG horns, and the longevity of gaming organizations like OpTic Gaming and FaZe Clan are undeniable proof of this game’s quality and impact.
2. Black Ops 2
There are so many good things to say about Black Ops 2’s multiplayer that it’s hard to know where to start. That’s a testament to how well the entire machine worked together. Excellent camos, stunning design, and the arrival of League Play all juiced up this game’s strengths. Who didn’t love gunning down enemies with the M8A1 or the MSMC?
Raid, Express, Standoff, and Slums are the highlights in a map pool that has arguably gone unmatched over the last ten years. My only justification for not slotting it in at number one is that its younger brother managed to retain that same spirit in a way that has aged with a little more grace than Black Ops 2’s now-dated mechanics.
1. Best: Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3 represents the series’ peak for me. Jetpacks were an incredibly divisive addition to the series, but Treyarch rose to the occasion. Not only did they bring back all of the design concepts that made Black Ops 2 such a gem, but they elevated them to stunning heights.
We had maps like Fringe, Redwood, Evac, and Stronghold anchoring so many amazing matches of Hardpoint, Search & Destroy, Capture The Flag, and so much more. Black Ops 2’s beloved M8 made a return, the VMP set a new standard for utility submachine guns, and the explosive pace of play set in Advanced Warfare was refined into a more controlled chaos.
The only serious mark against the game is the loot-crate rewards mechanic, but so many games adopted that kind of system in 2015-16 that it’s easy to chalk it up as a product of the time. When I think back on which games make my heart feel full, it’s hard to overlook this absolute juggernaut.