Call of Duty Zombies was a game mode introduced in Call of Duty: World at War. Throughout the years, the small side mode has grown and solidified itself as a mainstay in the Black Ops series. Other developers such as Infinity Ward and Sledgehammer Games have also tried their hand at their own zombies game mode. With nine games across three developers, there is only one that can be the best Call of Duty zombies game of all time.
9: Call of Duty: Advance Warfare
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gave players Exo Zombies, a more futuristic twist to Call of Duty zombies. This was the first zombies mode by Sledgehammer Games. The game had four maps and followed the Sentinel Task Force attempts to stop the zombie outbreak caused by Atlas’s Manticore bioweapon. There were some changes from the traditional zombies, such as allowing players to have five perks and upgrading weapons up to 20 times to refill your ammo. However, some perks were reskins of Juggernog, Quick Revive, and Speed Cola. One of the main problems of Exo Zombies is that it is DLC only. Having the game mode be DLC only limited the player base immediately. It also felt too unlike the game mode traditional zombies game mode for many players.
However, there are some redeeming qualities. The four maps created a unique story surrounding the zombies outbreak, and gave players the first boss fight in zombies history. All four maps also had their own Easter Eggs, complete with puzzles and interesting steps to keep players entertained. Once players complete the Easter Egg on Descent, they unlock “Double feature” mode, which is a hardcore version of Exo Zombies that increases the difficulty tremendously. Exo Zombies is also one of the more unique zombies modes. Players have the ability to double jump and stomp, much like in Advance Warfare’s multiplayer.
8: Call of Duty: WWII
Call of Duty: WWII went in a different direction than other developers. Sledgehammer Games decided to go back and create a darker and scarier version of the zombies game mode. Players follow the story of German engineer Marie Fischer who is sent to retrieve stolen artifacts from the Nazis and to rescue her brother, Klaus. Her and her teammates are attacked by an unknown being as Marie defends herself from undead German soldiers. Similar to Exo Zombies, WWII Nazi Zombies takes some inspiration from traditional zombies. There were nine maps and a tutorial, which allowed for a lot of replayability of the game. Bodega Cervantes, U.S.S Mount Olympus and Altar of Blood are survival maps stemming from DLC Three’s map The Tortured Path.
Players can customize their loadouts as much as they want, with different starting weapons and lethals, and even powerups and specialists. This increased the replayability even further, allowing players to experiment with different set-ups when hopping into a game. Another great part of the game was the weapon variety. Players are not limited to three or four overpowered weapons. The game gives a guide to the steps to complete in order to beat the Easter Egg for casual players, but it also offered a hardcore Easter Egg for dedicated fans to complete.
However, the biggest issue with the game was the lackluster DLC season. Following the launch map of The Final Reich, the DLC maps did not match up to the launch map. DLC one’s The Darkest Shore received criticism about the fog. This prevented the player from seeing the zombies until they were in their face. DLC two, three and four continued the downwards descent of WWII zombies, ending with a lackluster boss fight and ending the story on a sour note.
7: Call of Duty: World at War
Call of Duty: World at War gave Call of Duty players their first taste of zombies. Once players completed the final mission of the campaign, they met a cutscene that introduced them to Nazi Zombies. The first map of Nacht der Untoten served as an introduction to the game mode as four unnamed soldiers fight off the undead. With just the mystery box and wall weapons, players spawn into an endless game of survival. Nacht der Untoten gave players the Ray Gun, a mysterious wonder weapon that outclassed all guns.
World at War gave three strong DLC maps which introduced new features with each map. Verruckt gave players the original four perks. The map also gave power, the electric trap, and named characters such as “Tank” Dempsey or John “Banana.”
Shi No Numa was the beginning of a change in zombies. With a main cast set of “Tank” Dempsey, Nikolai Belinski, Takeo Masaki, and Edward Richtofen, players were able to latch onto these likable characters. This map also birthed high rounds with the Wunderwaffe DG-2 and The Flogger. Players reached rounds in the hundreds and thousands when at the time, it was impressive to get past round 20 on the other maps. Hellhounds, random perk spawns, and the zipline were other new additions to the game.
Der Riese changed zombies forever with the introduction of Pack-A-Punch, allowing players to upgrade their weapon and make them stronger. Der Riese also started to create a story with the Ultimis crew and gave players the best camping spot in zombies history on the catwalk.
Alone, Nazi Zombies is where the fandom and game mode began and improved to be a fantastic game. However, in comparison with newer games, Nazi Zombies does not hold up, to no fault of its own. It can be appreciated for what it is, but today it is not what it used to be.
6: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is Treyarch’s most heavily criticized zombies game. The game launched with four maps, and problems immediately arose. IX and Voyage of Despair starred the Chaos crew. The story behind this crew confused the players at the start, and the characters weren’t likable. Dead of the Night is DLC one for Black Ops 4, and Treyarch did not advertise the map. Ancient Evil rounds out the Chaos storyline with the crew getting trapped in Delphi, Greece.
The Aether storyline picked up in Blood of the Dead, a remastered Mob of the Dead. The fourth map at launch was Classified, a remaster of Black Ops’ Five. The Primis and Ultimis crew head to Alpha Omega, a remastered Nuketown zombies. The Aether storyline concludes at Tag Der Toten, a remaster of Call of the Dead.
The problems with Black Ops 4 zombies are apparent. Treyarch overhauled the perk system and removed fan favorite perks from the game. They added 14 new perks in generic statues or machines, leaving little personality for the perks. The Aether storyline did not receive an original map in the game.
However, the redeeming factor of this game is the experimenting. Players have more customization in this game than any previous zombies mode. The Easter Eggs are much more unique, especially with IX’s elephant battle and Ancient Evil’s Pegasus fight. Even though this game largely failed, it allowed maps such as IX and Ancient Evil to be created. Black Ops 4 zombies isn’t the best, but it is far from the worst.
5: Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Infinity Ward’s first and only time delving into the zombies subgenre got immediate backlash. Call of Duty fans were not pleased by another futuristic CoD.
However, Infinite Warfare zombies gave players a very unique 80’s style zombies mode which Infinity Ward nailed. Four actors named Andre, Poindexter, Sally, and A.J. are sucked into different maps as they play characters in scripts by the antagonist Willard Wyler. Infinity Ward took a similar approach to Sledgehammer and closely resembled their perks to those in Treyarch’s games. They also added their twist, making them candy boxes and creating the mystery wheel. When players downed, they went to the Afterlife Arcade where they could play games to get back in the game faster.
Spawning into Zombies in Spaceland, players are in an 80’s theme park with zombies and crazy clowns. DLC one’s Rave in the Redwoods is placed at a summer camp, much like an 90’s slasher. DLC two and three saw players travel to 70’s New York to defeat the Rat King in Shaolin Shuffle and the 50’s to defeat Crog-Zilla in Attack of the Radioactive Thing. With four maps nailing themes of their intended era, DLC four’s The Beast from Beyond sets the cast in the future. When players complete the Easter Egg, they are met with an ending cutscene with a big twist that Mephistopheles was pulling the strings. Director’s Cut mode allowed players to fight him, a unique reward to those who completed all the Easter Eggs.
Infinite Warfare zombies did not fail like Sledgehammer in their DLC season. Out of all the non-Treyarch zombies, Infinite Warfare takes the cake with its consistent themes and unique take to the zombies game mode.
4: Call of Duty: Cold War
Call of Duty: Cold War is the sixth game directed by Treyarch that has zombies in it. Following the conclusion of the Aether storyline, players are following the Dark Aether storyline. Treyarch added several new systems to the game, such as weapons rarity, upgrades to perks and removing the perk limit. This was a bit before they added Warzone and the best-rated Warzone cheats. They also added a salvage table for players to craft scorestreaks and the ability to exfil and survive the zombies.
Die Maschine brought players to the familiar setting of Nacht der Untoten with a sinister secret underneath it. Players are able to enter the Dark Aether and retrieve Pack-a-Punch. The player rescues a man named Orlov and use the D.I.E Shockwave’s four variants to complete the Easter Egg.
Firebase Z has the return of Samantha Maxis, as players save her from the Dark Aether. The players head to the Omega Outpost located in Vietnam, and see a new Ray Gun variant, the RAI K-84. Players also see the return of Hellhounds and Russian Manglers, and a new enemy called the Mimic. The Ordas is the final boss of the map.
Outbreak is the most unique zombies experience to date. An open world zombies game mode with several different locations to travel to and a main Easter Egg. This is a big step in a new direction that people weren’t expecting.
However, players feel Treyarch are not releasing round-based maps at a consistent rate. The lack of transparency between Treyarch and the community about the future of Cold War zombies as well as the lack of content holds back this game from being in contention for the best Call of Duty zombies game.
3: Call of Duty: Black Ops II
Call of Duty: Black Ops II saw a turning point in zombies. After the events of Moon, Black Ops II presents players with the Victis crew. Russman, Misty, Marlton and Samuel J. Stuhlinger are survivors of the nukes hitting Earth. The first three maps of Black Ops II nearly killed the game mode. The launch map, TranZit, is one of the worst maps of all time. With the fog, inconsistent busses, the Avogadro boss and much more, zombies was headed in the wrong direction.
Nuketown Zombies is a survival map that features random perk spawns and some backstory to how Marlton survived the nukes. This map is one of the four barebones survival maps, with Bus Depot, Farm and Town being the other three. The zombies community hated Die Rise due to the verticality, the sheer amount of buildables and the elevators with perks.
With zombies at a low point, something needed to change. Mob of the Dead is the map that changed zombies forever. Set on Alcatraz, players follow a group of mobsters fighting to survive. Afterlife gave players a new way to unlock the map and a way to revive themselves. The Easter Egg pits three of the mobsters against Al “Weasel” Arlington in a deathmatch on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Following a successful Buried, Origins released and is considered to be one of the best maps of all time. This map marked the start of the Primis crew as they venture to rescue Samantha from Agartha. The characters go on a quest to forge the four ultimate staffs while avoiding giant robots and the Panzer Soldat. This creates an atmosphere like no other map has.
Although Black Ops II zombies had a rough start, it quickly turned around into a top three zombies game of all time.
2: Call of Duty: Black Ops III
Call of Duty: Black Ops III started with the release of Shadows of Evil and The Giant. These two maps set in motion some of the best zombies experiences to date. Shadows of Evil saw a celebrity cast in the fictional town of Morg City fighting against the Shadowman. A fairly complex map with an afterlife-like ability called Beast Mode allowed players to open up the map how they wanted. Richtofen takes the Summoning Key at the end of the Easter Egg. He uses the Summoning Key in the intro cutscene of The Giant. Players received a form of familiarity with the Der Riese remaster, contrasted with the complex Shadows of Evil.
Der Eisendrache is the best DLC one map in zombies history. The four elemental bows, the return of the Panzer Soldat, and the first Treyarch boss fight cemented this map as a top three of all time. The specialist of the Ragnarok-DG4 continued the trend of specialist weapons from Shadows of Evil and The Giant. Dempsey follows Richtofen in killing his Ultimis self in the ending cutscene confirms the storyline of this game.
The rest of the maps follow the same pattern, except in Revelations, where players kill the Shadowman. The DLC cycle for Black Ops III was great. The addition of gobblegums and double pack-a-punch helped grow high rounds even further.
However, as great as this game is, there are some flaws that prevent it from being the best game. In older zombie games, there were good and bad weapons, but in Black Ops III, there are just good weapons. Double pack-a-punch allows any weapon to become a wonder weapon with the Alternate Ammo Types, which means the Ray Gun and other wonder weapons become useless in comparison.
1: Call of Duty: Black Ops
The highest selling Call of Duty of all time also came with the best zombies mode. With the launch of the game selling 5.6 million copies according to CBC News, there were a lot of new eyes on Call of Duty. This lead to more attention to the zombies game mode. With the familiar Ultimis group characters, the launch map of Kino der Toten became an instant fan favorite. This map popularized the popular “training” method to kill zombies, and introduced the Thunder Gun. The ease of the map made it so new and experienced players alike could enjoy. There was also a hierarchy of good and bad weapons, with the MP-40 and the M16 becoming fan favorites.
For those looking for a challenge, the map “Five” was accessible after completing the final campaign mission. This map has the most unique cast of characters, featuring John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Richard Nixon, and Fidel Castro as they try to survive in The Pentagon.
DLC one’s Ascension caused training to explode in the zombies community. The map introduced PHD Flopper, a perk that nullified splash damage, and Stamin-Up, a perk that increased sprint speed and time. The Ray Gun became overpowered with PHD Flopper and high rounds became popular.
Call of the Dead and Shangri-La were DLC two and three of Black Ops. Call of the Dead has the first celebrity cast. The two Easter Eggs continued Richtofen’s journey to controlling the zombies.
The final map of Black Ops is Moon. Players can now buy Mule Kick, allowing them to have three weapons. The Easter Egg has Richtofen swap souls with Samantha in order for him to take control of the zombies. Players who finish the Easter Egg start the launch of missiles towards Earth, marking the end of the greatest zombies game in Call of Duty history.
Feature Image Courtesy of Call of Duty and Treyarch
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