How to play the Call of Duty series in chronological order
Call of Duty Black Ops 3 chronological
Provided by Activision.

How to play the Call of Duty series in chronological order

Call of Duty's order from its in-game stories

The Call of Duty series covers multiple world wars, and plenty of recurring characters so here is how to play the series in chronological order. While a lot of the older Call of Duty games cover earlier in the world’s timeline, games like Vanguard and WWII have made that a bit trickier to follow. This only covers the main title games in the Call of Duty franchise.

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It all begins with World War II

Call of Duty 2
An in-game image from Call of Duty 2. | Provided by Activision.

For the Call of Duty series, you’d think the earliest games cover the earliest in the timeline. However, the 2017 entry WWII is officially the earliest game in the series chronologically, starting in 1940. Then, we have a lot of the older games in the series, including the first two in the series, Finest Hour and World at War. Those all take place during World War II as well, this time in 1942.

Then, Call of Duty 3 is set in 1944, with the Big Red One in the same year. This is where one of the newer entries fits in, with Vanguard set just after, in 1945.

The Cold War continues the franchise

Call of Duty Black Ops 2
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 art. | Provided by Activision.

With Vanguard over, the next game up is the start of the Cold War era of Call of Duty games. Of course, this means Black Ops starts us off, set in 1961. Black Ops 2 is set afterwards, throughout the 1960s after the original Black Ops.

Then, in the 1980s, we have Black Ops Cold War, way before the other futuristic entries in the Black Ops series.

The two Modern Warfare eras

So, this is where the timelines split up due to the Modern Warfare remakes. Here are the two separate timelines, split up into two paths for you to follow.

The original path

If you are to follow the original path, the timeline starts in 2011 with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Then, Modern Warfare 2 and 3 are both set in 2016, with all three games’ stories very intertwined.

Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare remaster art. | Provided by Activision.

Then, weirdly, in between both these Modern Warfare paths, you get Ghosts, set in 2017. While this is the least futuristic of this branch, it’s separate from both the Modern Warfare and Black Ops series.

The remake path

Weirdly enough, despite coming out in 2019, the Modern Warfare remake’s story was set in 1999. So, when the Modern Warfare II remake came out, it was set in 2022, modern-day for the game’s release.

Modern Warfare II
Call of Duty Modern Warfare II art. | Provided by Activision.

The main difference between the two Modern Warfare paths is the breaks in time between games. Where the original path covered three games worth of story set over a five-year span, the remake started just before 2000 and the second game began in 2022.

The futuristic Call of Duty games

Then, we have Black Ops 4, set in 2043. Advanced Warfare is not too long after, set in 2054. Then, Black Ops 3 is set in 2065, and finally, Infinite Warfare. Infinite Warfare is currently the most futuristic chronological game in the franchise, set in 2080.

Quick recap for chronological Call of Duty

So, as a quick recap, here is a quick list. The original Modern Warfare path is italicized, while the remakes are boldened.

  • World War II (1940)
  • Call of Duty, Call of Duty 2, Finest Hour, World at War (1942)
  • Call of Duty 3, Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (1944)
  • Vanguard (1945)
  • Black Ops (1961)
  • Black Ops 2 (1960s, post Black Ops)
  • Cold War (1980s)
  • Modern Warfare remake (1999)
  • Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2011)
  • Modern Warfare 2, Modern Warfare 3 (2016)
  • Ghosts (2017)
  • Modern Warfare II (2022)
  • Black Ops 4 (2043)
  • Advanced Warfare (2054)
  • Black Ops 3 (2065)
  • Infinite Warfare (2080)

Related: Read about all Call of Duty games in release order on Dot Esports.

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Michael Czar
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.