Military video games are commonly listed among the most highly-anticipated releases of the year. With their picture-perfect realism and high-stakes, action-packed gameplay, these games allow players to enjoy a hyper-realistic wartime experience right in the safety and comfort of their own living room. To celebrate the Nov. 5th release of Call of Duty: Ghosts, we have compiled a list of the top 10 military-themed video games of all time (in no set order).
Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Call of Duty: Black Ops II is one of the most successful titles in the popular Call of Duty franchise. It features a complex campaign narrative that shifts between two points in time – the Cold War-era, in which the campaigns follow returning characters Alex Mason and Sgt. Frank Woods, and the year 2025, in which the missions involve Mason’s son, David. Unlike other titles in the series, the narrative in Black Ops II is actually affected by the player’s in-game decisions, so the decision to shoot someone suddenly has an added weight to it because the player won’t know how it will affect the story. Black Ops II is one of the top military games of all time because it offers a great story with great graphics and outstanding replay value.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 – The first two games in Call of Duty’s Modern Warfare series are arguably two of the least favorite of all the military games, but the third installment of the series finally fixes (almost) everything that the first two got so wrong. Featuring a rollercoaster pace and a killer multiplayer experience, Modern Warfare 3 might not have the best narrative as far as storylines go, but it delivers a fun and exciting punch in the gut for first shooter enthusiasts. The graphics may seem dated by today’s standards, and they are, but they effectively sell the superb level design and wartime grittiness the game’s makers intended.
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Released in 2010, Black Ops features a cinema-like experience thanks to its groundbreaking graphics and big-name Hollywood voice actors. Set in the 1960’s during the Cold War, Black Ops focuses its story on top secret CIA black operations being carried out behind enemy lines. Solidified by one of the best stories found in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops has a number of twists that will keep even the most steadfast gamer guessing and if that’s not enough, it has a fantastic multiplayer bonus game with zombies in it!
Battlefield 3 – Released in 2011, Battlefield 3 had more than three million pre-orders on the day of its release making it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history” at the time. It was a multiple award winner that year, including the 2011 IGN People’s Choice Award for Best Shooter. Weaving a complex story with stunning graphics and realistic wartime environments ranging from Iran to New York City, Battlefield 3 offers an engaging globe-trekking single player experience with a multiplayer system that’s second to none.
Rainbow Six – Raven Shield – Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six franchise of military-themed shooters has regularly been recognized as some of the best first-person games around. But, of all of the titles in the franchise, Raven Shield offers the most realistic tactical experience. Raven Shield boasts realistic properties and innovative gameplay mechanics for a release at the time (2003). With a stellar multiplayer component and a generous number of expansion sets, not to mention a passionate mod community, Rainbow Six – Raven Shield is easily one of the best military shooters of all time.
Call of Duty – Released in 2003, Call of Duty was a game-changer that took first-person shooters to the next level. Built upon the innovative Quake III Arena engine, Call of Duty was among the first games to bring an incredibly lifelike experience to wartime games. The game takes place during World War II with a concentrated focus on the infantry and combined arms divisions and it features an immersive story and an outstanding wartime experience.
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs – In the fourth installment of the popular SOCOM franchise of Navy Seals games, a militant revolutionary has seized control in an important South Asian country. As the Ops Com, you must command an elite group of five SEALs and stop the militant’s agenda before it is too late – and you only have six days to do it. SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs delivers incredibly realistic gameplay that’s filled with squad-based tactics and ordering options.
Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis – In Cold War Crisis, the designers of the game excelled in providing gamers with super-realistic and highly detailed gameplay, so much so that the U.S. Marines showed interest in using the game as part of their training. In the game, players assume the role of a U.S. NATO private on a training mission during the Cold War. A new Soviet regime seizes control of an island community and underground resistance groups have started fighting back. Unable to fight the resistance, the Soviets calls upon NATO to restore order to the region. Among realistic wartime games, Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis continues to be a highly-ranked favorite despite being released in 2001.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault – The Medal of Honor franchise has had its share of hits and misses, but it hit the target dead-on with its 2002 release, Allied Assault. In the game, players assume the role of Lt. Mike Powell, a member of the famed 1st Ranger Battalion. The game includes 20 challenging levels, with each one based on the historic military campaigns of World War II, including the iconic Omaha Beach landing.
Command & Conquer – The oldest game on the list (released in 1995) and the only real-time strategy game as well, Command & Conquer brings military strategy back to the foreground where it belongs. The plot of the game is purely fictional and futuristic, but it forces the player to make important wartime decisions that can make or break the battlefield efforts. From constructing a base to acquiring resources in order to fund the ongoing production of various types of forces with which to assault and conquer the opponent’s base, Command & Conquer places you in total control. Oh, and in case you were wondering, Command & Conquer is getting an all-new design in a new release slated for winter 2013.
Of course, with the incredible pace at which military-themed games are being released, this list will no doubt change in the upcoming months and years. In addition to Call of Duty: Ghosts, other upcoming titles to look out for include Splinter Cell Blacklist, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots, End of Nations, Warface, and Battlefield 4.