Call of Duty is a series to rival all video game franchises. It’s a consistent bestseller, and with a timeline that stretches from 1940 right through to a far-flung dystopian future, Call of Duty (also known as COD) truly has become a goliath of gaming in terms of quality and quantity.
But keeping up with the story is a challenge akin to beating these games on Veteran difficulty. That’s why we’re taking a look at the whole Call of Duty timeline so far. But rather than focusing on the year each game was released, we’re drawing attention instead to the historical era in which each game is set. Time to pay attennn-tion!
COD Timeline in Historical Order
Call of Duty: WWII
Earliest date: 1940
As its title suggests, Call of Duty: World War II takes place in the second World War, and although many other entries from the COD collective also span this era, COD:WWII addresses events from as early as 1940 to establish its narrative and characters. This means it’s as early as it gets for the franchise.
However, the majority of the game is set between 1944 and 1945, when the Allied forces were making their march into Germany. Players also get to experience the storming of Omaha Beach for the D-Day landings in Normandy, entirely ditching the futuristic wars of COD:WWII’s predecessor for the boots-on-the-ground grittiness of World War II.
The game also features fan-favourite Zombies mode where you can shoot Nazi zombies, made popular from 2008’s Call of Duty: World at War. That part isn’t quite as historically accurate, though.
Call of Duty: Finest Hour
Earliest date: August 1942
This Call of Duty game again spans across World War II, incorporating historic moments like the Siege of Bastogne (December 1944) and the Battle of Stalingrad (August 1942 – February 1943), across 3 campaigns where you play as American, British, and Soviet soldiers.
Fun fact, Call of Duty: Finest Hour was the first to appear on home consoles such as the PS2 and Xbox.
Call of Duty: World at War
Earliest date: 17th August 1942
Next up comes an instalment that has become a firm fan favourite: World at War. This is the first Call of Duty game to be set in the Pacific Theatre against the Imperial Japanese in the second World War, whereas the Soviet campaign takes place in the Eastern Front, mainly in Nazi Germany.
The story begins on Makin Island on 17th August 1942, but in the Soviet narrative it continues on 17th September 1942, so chronologically COD:World at War comes just a slither after Finest Hour (which is simply stated as being set in ‘August 1942’). Incidentally, the aforementioned Zombies mode originated here, quickly becoming a gaming cult fave.
Call of Duty 2
Earliest date: 23rd August 1942
The sequel to the smash hit PC original, Call of Duty 2 continues with the World War 2 setting. In this sprawling single-player campaign, you take control of four different characters, each of a different nationality, as they fight through enemy Nazis on their quest to free the world. The earliest date we can find in COD 2 is 23rd August 1942, during the Battle of Stalingrad.
What makes it especially notable though, is that it was an Xbox 360 launch title.
Call of Duty
Earliest date: 18th September 1942
This is where it all began. In the first entry in the critically-acclaimed series, players control soldiers in 3 different campaigns (British, Russian and American), while fighting Nazi Germany in WWII.
The earliest date within the initial game falls in the Battle of Stalingrad on 18th September 1942, which is in the Soviet campaign. The American and British missions occur approximately 2 years later on the 5th and 6th June 1944 respectively.
Call of Duty 3
Earliest date: 25th July 1944
The last Call of Duty game to be released on the original Xbox, COD 3 again delves into the World War II theme. But this time there’s a slight twist: it takes place during a single event rather than spanning months or years. This event is Operation Cobra, which focused on the Allies trying to break out of Normandy from the 25th July 1944.
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One
Earliest date: September 1944
Although a specific date isn’t stated when the game begins, it does start in Maubeuge, France. Given that the player character is American Sergeant Roland Roger of the 1st Infantry Division, it’s likely to be set in September 1944 as this was when units of the US 1st Infantry Division were involved in the push towards Belgium. This was the fourth main game in the series, getting its unique name from the real-life Army Infantry Division that the campaign follows.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Earliest date: April 1961
The seventh instalment in the series jumps forward a couple of decades in the timeline, as Black Ops is set during the Cold War era. The very first mission depicts main character Mason, a member of the US black operations unit known as SOG, undertaking a mission during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, with the game’s timeline running all the way through to 1968.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Earliest date: 1986
In 2012 we got Black Ops II, which splintered the timeline in two, taking place in both 1986 and 2025. As a result we got quite a lot of near-future tech in the campaign, such as a wingsuit. The Black Ops storyline continues, switching between the Cold War saga of the game’s predecessor and a technologically advanced future which sees a new conflict between the US and China flare up due to the actions of the villainous Raul Menendez.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Earliest date: 2011
Set predominantly in the Middle East and Russia in 2011, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the first game in the series to ditch the World War II setting of the past to tell a modern war story. In doing so, it became an undisputed classic that got a remake alongside Infinite Warfare’s release.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Earliest date: 2016
The sequel to the uber successful Modern Warfare, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 continues the story in of American and British soldiers fighting Russian extremists. Set in 2016, there’s a huge twist to the action this time, as Russian forces invade the USA, taking the action into the suburbs and, in one amazing mission, the White House.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Earliest date: 2016+
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 rounds off the trilogy with a bang, as we follow Captain Price and Soap MacTavish as they hunt down the international terrorist Vladimir Makarov. The campaign follows immediately after Modern Warfare 2, beginning immediately after the events of its final mission and placing it on our timeline somewhere after 2016.
Call of Duty: Ghosts
Earliest date: 10th July 2017 (mainly spanning 2027)
Our next entry introduces a brand-new storyline where the United States is under threat from a coalition of South American nations, and must employ a special group of operatives known as ‘Ghosts’ to survive. The game initially begins on July 10th 2017, when a devastating mass event called an ODIN strike destroys several cities in the southwestern United States, including San Diego. The game then picks the story up 10 years later in the second campaign called ‘Brave New World’, taking place in Hollywood and Fort Santa Monica, Los Angeles.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (again)
Earliest date: 2025
Now, you might be thinking, “Haven’t we had this game before?”. Well, if you’ve been paying attention thus far, a) fabulous effort, well done, and b) yes, Black Ops II has been in the timeline already. However, as this game introduced two completely different eras in one campaign, we’re reintroducing Black Ops II at this point as a significant part of the story takes place in 2025.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Earliest date: 2043
Taking a leap forward into the future, Black Ops 4 follows the story of researcher Savannah Mason-Meyer as she recruits and trains a team of elite soldiers via a virtual simulation to combat an unknown threat. It’s the first COD game not to have a traditional single player campaign, but it more than makes up for it with Specialist HQ training missions that fill in the story, alongside a stellar battle royale mode, and of course, the much-loved Zombies mode too.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Earliest date: 2054
At this point, we’re truly evolving into the next generation of war. As the first COD game to be spearheaded by Sledgehammer Games, Advanced Warfare brings gamers into the battlegrounds of the future. It boasts a new hi-tech, advanced arsenal and ability set, arming players with fresh equipment, technology, perks, vehicles like hoverbikes, and highly specialized drones.
Progressive products such as powered exoskeleton frames and cloaking devices meant that a certain Private Military Corp is the dominant force of the world. The game begins in 2054, and then transitions to ‘4 years later’, which would bring us to 2058.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Earliest date: 2065
Black Ops III takes place in a dark and twisted future where the lines between humanity and the technology created to stay ahead are becoming increasingly blurred. This is a world where warfare is defined by cutting-edge military robotics. Call of Duty: Black Ops III follows up on the events of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, specifically with regards to the drone strikes of 2025 near the end of the game. Black Ops III is set between 2065 and 2070, 40 years after its predecessor.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Earliest date: 2080(?)
The game that’s assumed to be set furthest (for now) in the chronological future is Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, released in 2016. Set just before a devastating attack on Earth, you play as Captain Nick Reyes, a Tier 1 Special Operations pilot, as you lead the remaining alliance forces against a relentless enemy, all while trying to survive the extreme environment of space.
The setting takes place in a future where Earth’s resources are almost depleted, forcing governments and businesses to seek them elsewhere in the Solar System. Although the date was intentionally left vague to add to the ‘futuristic’ aspect, we can guess that the events in Infinite Warfare happen sometime between 2080-2100.