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A zombie in armor walks toward a player character with purple energy in Black Ops Cold War.
Image via Activision

All Call of Duty Zombies modes, ranked

Sometimes it takes a second tap.

Call of Duty has been synonymous with its Zombies mode since it was added in World At War back in 2008. Over the years, the game mode has evolved, and no two versions of CoD Zombies are the same. 

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Zombies has become an expected mode with every entry in the series, and it’s been hit or miss. With so many adaptations over the years, fans have argued over which CoD entry had the best Zombies mode. If you put them side by side, it’s easy to tell the best and worst. 

Below is every Call of Duty Zombies mode, ranked.

All Call of Duty Zombies modes, ranked

11) Call of Duty: Vanguard

Key art for Call of Duty: Vanguard, with a soldier reloading a weapon while planes fly in the background over sand dunes.
Kind of a flop. Image via Activision

Unfortunately, Vanguard didn’t add the things that made the Zombies mode so fun. The best part of playing Zombies was starting from one spot and buying new areas slowly. Buying new areas increased the challenge and gave players a sense of progression while opening up ways to get ammo and new weapons. 

Instead of Wall Buys and Easter Eggs, players got a hub world that would teleport them to areas with a limited amount of zombies. Since the world reset, many players realized they could exploit the leveling system and just repeatedly bring up specific weapons or their overall levels.

These changes took away any feeling of urgency or the dire situation you were supposed to be in. Instead of feeling like a soldier trapped in a world of zombies, you felt like you were playing a zombie game. The zombies weren’t as powerful as they once were, and you didn’t feel as human and vulnerable as you used to.

The transformation of Zombies into a roguelike-inspired co-op shooter deviated significantly from the traditional Zombies experience. We felt a lack of urgency and tension, key elements of the original game, which made the experience too different from what we expected. The consensus among the gaming community is that Vanguard had the worst Zombies mode of the franchise.

Not fun. Zero out of 10.

10) Call of Duty: World War 2

Key art for Call of Duty: WW2, with a soldier resting their head on the butt of a rifle.
It didn’t really hit the mark. Image via Activision

Call of Duty WW2 was as safe as a game could be. The polished, tactile mode with zombies that looked like Nazis was exactly what fans expected, and it was a safe bet. Unfortunately, safety doesn’t always mean fun, which hurts the game as a whole. 

Because it didn’t try anything new, Zombies mode took a big hit. It was almost a reskinned version of the Black Ops Zombies mode with different levels. Interestingly, this mode, which is much like every other Zombies mode, was made by Sledgehammer Games. Sledgehammer also made Vanguard, which was too much, unlike every other Zombies mode.

Despite the criticism, we believe that Call of Duty: World War 2‘s Zombies mode had its merits. The map layout was praised for its unique areas and traversability, and the gritty realism added a fresh feel to the game. As Sledgehammer Games continues to develop new titles, one can only hope they take these lessons to heart, striking a balance between familiarity and novelty and ultimately delivering a Zombies mode that truly hits the mark.

Until they can find a middle ground, fans will assume they’re not ready to make CoD games since Vanguard and WW2 were so unliked. That was, until MW3’s release in 2023, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

9) Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare

A soldier in an exo suit stands in the middle of a street in a busy city, watching zombies run off in another direction in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.
This one wasn’t missed at all. Image via Activision

As the first era of Modern Warfare and Black Ops games came to an end, the quality of CoD Zombies took a massive hit. While it’s nowhere near as bad as Vanguard’s Zombies mode, Advanced Warfare’s take on the popular mode was still underwhelming.

AW tried to tie its new Advanced Movement system into the Zombies mode, which was the first part of the problem because every map needed to allow for the new mechanic. Since the new movement and maps changed the gameplay drastically, the developers tried to use the new zombie types to counteract the new advanced movement.

Some players appreciated the new movement system, arguing that it added replayability and a fresh spin to the classic Zombies experience, and the voice acting and character interactions were also praised. However, we felt that the game mode was too demanding, requiring peak efficiency at all times.

Although it looks good on paper, Advanced Warfare‘s Zombies mode is not enjoyable to play. It was a lot to try out, which hurt the game. The Infection map from AW is remembered as one of the worst Zombie maps in the series.

8) Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

A human soldier and robot soldier take cover as a building explodes in Infinite Warfare.
Teaming up. Image via Activision

It is hard to knock Infinity Ward for its take on Zombies mode in Infinite Warfare. Zombies in Spaceland had a big theme park reminiscent of old carnivals with bright lights and neon signs. It had the Easter Eggs that fans loved, which showed they tried harder than Vanguard

There were two downsides to this: The new knife mechanics, which didn’t return in future games, and a final map that was not of the same quality as the others. Otherwise, you could say it wasn’t a bad first round by the Infinity Ward crew.

We really liked this version of the Zombies mode. Although it has some problems, this underrated gem was a nice addition to the franchise. The mode’s success is largely attributed to its adherence to the core mechanics that made the original Black Ops 3 Zombies mode popular while introducing a fresh, futuristic space combat theme. 

As fans, we look forward to seeing how future CoD developers might draw inspiration from it. Zombies in Spaceland was a fresh take on Zombies that didn’t try and change everything. As a result, Infinity Ward took what worked and gave fans a new theme that other CoD developers might consider trying.

7) Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

Key art for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, with three distinct soldiers geared up and ready for a firefight.
Dead center. Image via Activision

Black Ops 4 split the fanbase down the middle. There were two storylines in the Zombies Mode, which were as loved as they were hated. We can say the Chaos maps were incredibly fun, though, even if the Aether maps lacked personality and felt stiff. 

The Zombies mode would have done better if there had been a real focus on one mode instead of two, but we wouldn’t have had two choices. The developer of Black Ops 4 Zombies tried something new, and it succeeded for many players, so it’s not the worst on the list, but some players really hate it.

While some of us appreciate the weapon feedback, vibrant maps, and specific maps like DotN and Ancient Evil, others have pointed out that the Zombies mode in Black Ops 4 was too easy, and had many glitches upon release.

We’ll keep it in the middle because if you liked it, you’d rate it higher, but if you didn’t, you’d rate it lower.

6) Call of Duty: World at War

Soldiers fire through the treeline at zombies in Call of Duty: World at War.
The game that started it all. Image via Activision

You can thank World At War for the Zombies mode everyone has loved. After you beat the campaign, the game informed you a Nazi Zombies mode was unlocked. Despite immediate assumptions about what a Zombies mode might look like in CoD, once players began to play, it was immediately praised. 

Boarding up windows, opening doors, and earning currency gave you more weapons and places to move in this game. The mode was so popular it received DLC specifically for map packs and has been in every game since.

The most popular map from Nazi Zombies was Nacht der Untoten—German for “Night of the Living Dead.” This map was remastered for the Hardened and Prestige Editions of Call of Duty: Black Ops. There’s no doubt that players would love it if it was remastered again with an even harder difficulty.

The Zombies mode in Call of Duty: World at War holds a special place in our hearts. Despite its age, the game mode continues to offer a unique experience that later installments have yet to replicate. The raw, gritty atmosphere, combined with the tension of surviving wave after wave of undead, creates a captivating experience that keeps us going back.

5) Call of Duty: Black Ops

Frank Woods from Call of Duty: Black Ops, a soldier , aiming at an enemy off-screen while standing in an abandoned hallway.
Mason’s numbers won’t help you here. Image via Activision

Black Ops took the idea World At War started and moved the ball forward. It brought the mode into a Cold War setting with a tongue-in-cheek way to pull the political leaders from the time into the game. 

It was the best comedy the series had done in a very long time, and the allusion to Nixon’s Watergate Scandal was terrific. The rooms were tight enough for players to feel secure, but there was enough space for Zombies to feel overwhelmed if they weren’t killed quickly. An all-around romp of a time best enjoyed with friends.

4) Call of Duty: Black Ops 3

A soldier aims down the barrel of their rifle as a battalion of vehicles speeds behind them in Black Ops 3.
Almost perfect. Image via Activision

Black Ops 3 took everything the previous games had done and improved it. The only thing that separates this from the previous entry is the maps. BO3 maps were lacking, and there aren’t many that are as memorable as Black Ops 2

That doesn’t take away from the fast-paced action and zombie types that BO3 offered, however. Many players would consider these last three entries the best in the series, and they wouldn’t be wrong. BO3 appealed to the fan base well but was beaten out by the superior maps of the game that came before.

The introduction of elements like Gobblegum brought additional tactical depth, enhancing the game’s appeal to newcomers and seasoned players alike. We see this version of Zombies as a testament to the developer’s ability to listen to feedback and continually refine its craft.

3) Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (MWZ)

Players running away from a hoard of zombies in MW3
DMZ or MWZ? Image via Activision

Some may believe we’ve jumped the gun here, but 2023’s MW3 is already regarded as one of the best additions to the CoD Zombies collection.

Modern Warfare Zombies, or MWZ, marks quite the departure from the typical Zombies mode. Those who played the MW2 (2022) extraction shooter DMZ will be familiar with how the mode works.

Gone are the rounds and the smaller maps, replaced with Urzikstan—a giant open city and outskirts pockmarked with points of interest and plenty of zombies. Fans familiar with zombies will no doubt spot the likes of Mystery Boxes, Pack-a-Punches, and Wall Guns, but with contracts to hunt and an increased difficulty the closer you get to the center of the city, it’s a fresh perspective on the franchise—and fans are loving it.

2) Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

A soldier wearing a red mask dodges an explosion in Black Ops Cold War
After the new maps were added, it became an instant classic. Image via Activision

Black Ops Cold War appealed to a newer generation of players like the original Black Ops appealed to the former generation. Many players will say it’s not as good as our number one pick because of the maps, but it has better graphics and weapons, and the studios have taken what has worked from previous entries and packed it on in Black Ops Cold War

The addition of new maps arguably did more for this title than for any other Zombies mode. Despite its initial release state, Season Two made the game significantly better, solidifying it as a timeless entry in the Zombies franchise.

The continuous updates have kept the mode fresh and engaging, solidifying its place in the franchise and on our list. Although it had a rocky start, Black Ops Cold War‘s Zombies mode has proven its worth and continues to captivate players globally.

1) Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

An armored tank fires a cannon shot in a city in Black Ops 2.
The top spot for a reason. Image via Activision

Black Ops 2 is the strongest entry in the CoD Zombies series, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be touched for first place for a long time. It took the formula that had been working and amped it up to 11, with the best maps ever released and a gameplay loop that satisfied even the toughest of CoD critics.

The game’s unique blend of thrilling gameplay, innovative features, and memorable maps has garnered widespread acclaim. The introduction of Tranzit, an open-world experience within the Zombies mode, was a game-changer, offering players a new level of freedom and exploration.

Whereas BO3 only improved on what worked, BO2 took a risk, trying several new features at the time, like custom game modes and weapons—and it hit the mark in almost every beat. We haven’t seen better maps than those shown in BO2, which has proven to be the key element to a great Zombies game.

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