Best Call of Duty Game 2021 Revealed: How Does Vanguard Compare to the Series?
Call of Duty Vanguard has been released, becoming the 2021 entry in the Call of Duty franchise for over a decade now. Every year, pandemic or not, we are guaranteed to get a new game in the franchise, which continues to shape the best Call of Duty game 2021.
With a new game every year, there is a chance the latest game will become their new favorite in the series or one of their favorites for many players out there. As such, it is time to update our 2020 list of the top Call of Duty games out there and come up with a new ranking.
Since our previous list, I have taken some time to dig deeper into some of the newer games like Black Ops Cold War and Modern Warfare (2019), in addition to the newly released and well-reviewed Call of Duty Vanguard.
Because of this, some of this list might be a bit different from before. I have reevaluated the now “old” 2019 and 2020 Call of Duty games to give them a more permanent placing on this list. The addition of Vanguard into the top 10 also shakes up the best Call of Duty game 2021 considerably.
Best Call of Duty Game 2021 List: Top 10 Ranked
In creating the best Call of Duty game 2021 list, I included the top 10 games from across the series up until this moment. Due to the annualized nature, there are so many games in the franchise that it can make creating a list like this pretty difficult.
That said, many factors have been used to determine this ranking, starting with the individual quality of the game itself, both at its initial launch (which may be underwhelming in some cases) and at the end of its content lifecycle when we have the full package in front of us.
Furthermore, the next most important part is comparing the rest of the games in the series and how they shake out against one another. It is worth mentioning that this is mostly my list, so you are free to disagree and have your own choice about what the best Call of Duty game 2021 is.
That said, elements of popularity and community reception played a small part in each game’s ranking, especially in the newer games like Vanguard. Without further ado, let’s look at the top 10 Call of Duty games and find out the best Call of Duty game 2021, including where Vanguard places on the list.
10. Modern Warfare 3
If you took a look at the original list for the top 10 games in the series, you would find that WWII is the game that was kicked from that list with the arrival of Vanguard, which is admittedly fitting. In its place, the number 10 game on this list is now Modern Warfare 3.
I made this clear in the past, but I’m not a huge fan of Modern Warfare. It is certainly one of the weakest (but not the weakest of all time) games that Infinity Ward has released. My appreciation for the Modern Warfare series had diminished considerably by this time.
The characters were becoming blander than ever, the writing was showing more issues than ever before, and the multiplayer content was just okay. Some iconic moments and maps still exist in Modern Warfare 3, but this game was ultimately one of the first majorly disappointing entries.
9. Modern Warfare (2019)
Moving up on this list (well, staying in the same place, technically) to beat out its predecessor is the 2019 reboot of Modern Warfare. This grittier and more “grounded” take on the modern-day era of warfare around the globe was interesting and it has grown on me over time.
At the time, I was not a fan of returning to the Modern Warfare series nor did I like the tactical sprint and gameplay systems that this game used. Fortunately, this change. I view this game in a better light now that its content is done and over with.
The story is interesting at times and quite emotional, there are some great new maps that the game introduced in multiplayer, and Spec Ops is a pretty enjoyable larger-scale experience. It helps, too, that this game birthed Warzone (which is not included in this mainline entry list), but I would still prefer not to see Infinity Ward make a sequel in 2022.
8. Black Ops
The original Black Ops game started a whole new wave of Call of Duty fans and put Treyarch on the map. Taking place in the 1980s was an interesting choice as the Cold War period is not a setting that too many FPS games will tackle at times.
Treyarch came into its own with this game, creating some of the most popular multiplayer maps of all time and somehow taking a piece of the pie that the unmatched Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare before it was accomplished. Furthermore, this was where Treyarch developed its full-on trifecta of modes.
Though it first started in World at War, Black Ops is where Treyarch gave us the beautiful lineup of a singleplayer story campaign, online multiplayer, and the full-on Zombies mode. It is a formula that still works even outside of Treyarch-developed games in 2021, and it came to the forefront here.
7. Call of Duty Vanguard
Making its debut on this best Call of Duty game 2021 list is none other than the most recent entry: Call of Duty Vanguard. Vanguard is only the third game from the third main Call of Duty developer, Sledgehammer Games. And, in my opinion, it is the best of the three so far.
Following up on 2017’s WWII, this is the latest game to take the series back to its World War II roots. And it is a better effort in the end, representing a good evolution of the disliked tactical sprint system. It has its fair share of issues, especially in the server and audio areas at times, but the launch is a decent one.
While I’m not a fan of Champion Hill, it has found a dedicated audience. It is held back by its current issues and the underwhelming Zombies, so there is a chance for it to climb up in the future. On the other hand, it has one of the most blockbuster-like (but very short) campaigns with interesting new characters and one of the greatest selections of maps in multiplayer to date.
6. Infinite Warfare
Interestingly, Infinite Warfare was one of the least anticipated Call of Duty games in history, representing another new period attempt from Infinity Ward, having one of the most disliked YouTube videos of all time. That said, the game came out and it is one of the best Call of Duty games created.
The sci-fi is weird, leading to a totally cool but somewhat shallow campaign, but everything else is great. The multiplayer is fantastic, with the best version of the thruster-based and floaty movement that started in Advanced Warfare.
When sci-fi shooters were not doing too well, Infinite Warfare kept the sub-genre alive for a little bit longer. With the larger maps and modes that we have gotten in the last few games, it is high time we get Infinite Warfare 2, though it looks like that will not be happening. It helps, too, that it has one of the most unique and fun Zombies modes in the series.
5. Modern Warfare 2
Modern Warfare 2 had the daunting and impossible task of following up on not only (spoilers for later in the list) the best Call of Duty game 2021 but also one of the greatest video games to ever release in the history of the entire medium.
That said, Modern Warfare 2 did the best that it possibly could and created a game that not only rivaled its predecessor but made improvements in the process. Above the controversial but popular campaign, there was the iconic multiplayer with some beloved maps in the series.
There is a reason that players still adore the maps in this game to the point where players are wondering where the remastered multiplayer version is. Modern Warfare 2 is what many think of when they think of the prime time for the series.
4. Black Ops Cold War
It should be made clear from here that I have always been more of a Black Ops fan than a Modern Warfare one, so keep that in mind for the rest of the list. That said, Black Ops Cold War has truly cemented itself as one of my favorites in the series and certainly in recent memory.
For starters, there is the return of some of the best characters in the series and introductions of new ones. Then on the Zombies side, it took some time to get going, but some fascinating maps and mechanics are released in the game.
And then there is the god-tier multiplayer that made a comeback after the terrible Black Ops 4 with solid movement and impressive maps. Though it does rely heavily on nostalgia, the new maps are welcome additions that felt thoughtfully made for competitive play.
3. Black Ops 3
Black Ops 3 is one of the most mixed games in the series, but many have come around to in recent years. Personally, it is my favorite game in the franchise to date and a strong representation of what can happen when movement, weapons, gameplay, and maps are perfectly matched.
The maps were great, the game modes felt right with the exosuits, and the specialists system was a nice change of pace that would pave the way for future games. Zombies is good (not my favorite, though, personally) and the campaign was exceedingly fun.
I do get that players would have preferred a more traditional experience. Still, the cooperative campaign was a blast and something that I am saddened will potentially never return in the future. When I feel nostalgic for those halcyon days of Call of Duty, this is the game that I go back to.
2. Black Ops 2
Black Op 2 is the textbook definition of what a Call of Duty sequel should look like. Treyarch’s return to the Black Ops characters and storyline is utterly phenomenal, representing some of the finest work that has ever been done across all three of the main components.
The singleplayer story campaign is terrific, with easily the best cast of characters around, offering memorable locations and moments. Then there is the Zombies mode that is disliked by some, but I find it one of my favorite Zombies modes in the entire series as TranZit is both unique and engaging in a way that I wish we could go back to.
And then there is the multiplayer. This is where some of the greatest maps of all time were built, like Raid, Standof and Express. Each one is a banger on its own. As a whole, though, the multiplayer side is one of the best around and perhaps only beat out by one other game in the series.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The very best Call of Duty game 2021 remains Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Modern Warfare was a risk that Infinity Ward took, and it paid off in the best way possible. What was once a World War II-focused military shooter branched out into the modern-day and Infinity Ward has never looked back since.
The singleplayer story is among the most unforgettable, with some moments that players still look back on fondly to this day. Then there is the online multiplayer, which sets the standard for everything moving forward. There is a reason that several games after this one looked and played nearly the same.
The graphics, at the time, and the gameplay, still to this day, represent the pinnacle of what the Call of Duty series could do. The maps, game modes, and everything else launched the franchise into immense success, causing this exact scenario today where there is a new game every year. Will there ever be a Call of Duty game better than this one? That is something that I hope happens but doubt with the ongoing annualized tradition.