Best Call of Duty campaigns - Our top picks

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Members of Task Force 141 in a promotional shot from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

There have been nearly 15 mainline Call of Duty games over the last couple of years, after the acclaimed franchise kicked off in fierce competition with Medal Of Honor as what soon became an intense and realistic first-person shooter (FPS) experience. The best Call of Duty campaigns massively contributed to what made the franchise a global success, and arguably the best FPS series ever.

Although the franchise is popularly known for its gruesome multiplayer experience, the campaigns are just as fulfilling and rewarding as well. They are something most players love about the franchise, having carried us through several layers of storytelling from a modern battleground all the way to the days of World War II. So in this article, we'll be listing the best Call of Duty campaigns that you should play.

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Elsewhere, check out our picks of the best Resident Evil DLC for some bonus add-on scares. That's on top of the best Warzone guns, as well as the best Warzone ARs to use.

Here are the best Call of Duty campaigns

Storylines are different for a lot of games in the Call of Duty franchise. As such, we had three criteria in mind: the overall story arc, the memorable missions, and of course the gameplay. The satisfaction players get after completing an intense Call of Duty campaign is unique, so here's our take on the best Call of Duty campaigns.

8. Call of Duty

A warzone by night in Call of Duty (2003)

It’s hard to make a modern-day judgment on the first Call of Duty game, simply because it’s now so incredibly dated. It's still a game that players will recognise as having all of the signs that the franchise has since expanded upon.

Difficult, graphically poor, and clunky are just a few words that come to mind when compared to the sleek, fast-paced CoD of today. However, this is the revolutionary game that started it all, and it has a charm that's often missing from modern triple-A shooters. The age is a barrier, but the campaign is worth one playthrough as the story and intensity still hold up rather well.

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7. Call of Duty: Ghosts

A soldier petting a dog in the Call of Duty: Ghosts campaign

Ghosts has got to be the most unfortunate Call of Duty game in the franchise, because it has a pretty good campaign. However, the majority of players disliked the game's multiplayer, which led to the campaign getting poor reviews as well. An impressive thing about this campaign is that it tells the story of two brothers who are part of the Ghosts, who undergo some pretty cool and stealthy missions together.

The game has a very interesting backstory that isn't appreciated enough. Even Rorke, the bad in Ghosts, is pretty cool too. This is another good thing this game does: it gives just about all the main characters a kind of backstory. The game is written well, and although it doesn't have a ton of memorable missions, it's just unfortunate Activision didn't decide to continue Logan's story.

6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

A battle taking place in a seaside market in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.
Credit: Steam

This game picks up right after the events of 2009's Modern Warfare 2, the death of General Shepard. However, despite fantastic gameplay, this game has little to no memorable moments, making the overall campaign a bit lacklustre compared to the previous Modern Warfare games. A lot of the game's missions aren't as fun and suspenseful as one would expect.

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Although it does have what is arguably the most heartfelt scene in any Call of Duty game: the death of Soap MacTavish. The scene was so good for so many reasons. When Price left the pistol with Soap, it represents all three Modern Warfare games. It was also nice to see how they tied Yuri to the previous Modern Warfare games, and how they showed that it was Makarov who launched the nuke in Call of Duty 4, linking everything together.

5. Call of Duty: World War II

A zombie wearing a mask in Call of Duty: WW2

This game's campaign is incredibly good, in such that similar to Ghosts, it has an underrated campaign as well. It's a well-written game, the graphics are awesome, and overall it's just really a good WWII story. Remember how older Call of Duty games just kind of told the story through various different missions? This game does the complete opposite. It tells us the stories of prisoners of war, and adds depth to their backstories.

World War II basically took the premise of older Call of Duty games and improved on it, adding the storytelling element that games are so good with. However, a letdown in this game is that you're not fighting one bad guy, you're battling against an entire army. But the way the developers did the individual characters is very impressive.

4. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

A soldier in a desert pointing a gun in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
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This one starts out with a mission called Cliffhanger, where you play a character called Roach, a mentee to Soap. We don't know where Captain Price is, but he eventually showed up later on in the story after a daring escape. One thing this game does so well is that it creates a group of soldiers as opposed to just one individual soldier. They're called Task Force 141, and include the likes of Soap, Roach, Price, Ghost, and even General Shepherd.

Another thing this game does incredibly well is the antagonist. Makarov is pure evil, and he wants nothing more than to see the world burn. Players will not easily forget the mission No Russian, where you have to gun down hundreds of civilians in an instant. Even though it was a controversial part of the game at that time, it shows just how violent Makarov was.

If it wasn't for that mission, it wouldn't have made any solid sense why the world is trying to hunt him down throughout the rest of the campaign. It also has one of the biggest plot twists of any Call of Duty game, as one member of your team drastically betrays you.

3. Call of Duty Modern Warfare

Promotional image of Captain Price in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

Upon its announcement, a lot of people weren't happy that Activision was making a reboot of the previous Modern Warfare games. Fortunately, it turned out great! The characters were well fleshed out and the motivation behind the story was well explained through fantastic cutscenes. Activision pretty much knocked it out of the park with Modern Warfare, despite having a relatively short campaign.

Remember how we've said that a number of games lack a solid antagonist? Well this game does that and more, in such that there are too many bad guys. There are well over ten different bad guys you have to take down in this game, which is one of the few letdowns that most people have with Modern Warfare. Overall, this is pretty good. The campaign is one you won't easily forget.

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2. Call of Duty: Black Ops

Woods walking through a jungle in Call of Duty: Black Ops

The original Black Ops is probably the best-written Call of Duty game in the franchise. It's also really the first game that doesn't tell its story in a linear fashion. The game starts out with Alex Mason being interrogated by a mysterious figure, having to remember what the numbers in his head mean. Mason also recounts various different memories, including where he met Victor Reznov, the character from Call of Duty: World at War. It's the first game that started to tie these multiple series together, which was cool for fans.

It's also the game where you meet one of the best Call of Duty characters ever: Frank Woods. For another massive plot twist at the end, we learn that Mason was actually brainwashed while in prison, and Reznov has been dead the entire time. It's such a remarkable plot twist in the franchise, but leads to the only letdown from this game: the bad guy.

There's not really one main antagonist to point out, because the game merges multiple bad guys that are working together, and none of them are quite as evil as Makarov. From a sheer storytelling perspective, this game is hands down one of the best.

1. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Captain Price smoking a cigar in a helicopter in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Credit: Steam
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This is by far the Call of Duty game that took the biggest jump when compared to its previous titles. The game is so ahead of its time, the point where the developers realised that they can do more than just be war games, actually telling a character's story. Unlike its sequels, this game is simply about Captain John Price. Sure, the game introduced other characters like Soap MacTavish, but their stories weren't really told.

The mission where Price and Captain MacMillan sneak into a hideout, having to take out all enemies without being spotted, is one of the most memorable Call of Duty missions for a lot of players. This game is where Call of Duty began telling stories. The game also has one of the biggest plot twists in the franchise's history, when the nuke goes off as you're raiding a Middle Eastern village. As you're trying to escape from the helicopter after the crash, you realise it was a trap that got you to bring in 30,000 U.S soldiers to blow up a nuke and kill them all. Call of Duty simply wouldn't be what it is today without the story that's told in this game.

That's it for our look at the best Call of Duty campaigns! For even more on the hit FPS franchise, check out our Modern Warfare 2 gun list, as well as an explanation of this year's camo challenges.