Fetch Me Their Souls!
When you initially think of Call of Duty, the idea of fighting a nonstop horde of the undead probably isn’t the first thing you’d think of. Well, at least until after the Zombies mode became a staple of the Call of Duty series, becoming as much a part of the franchise as its multiplayer and campaign modes.
Since its original inception in Call of Duty: World at War, many players have grown attached to Zombies, as it provides a fun four-player co-op excursion from the series’ standard modes. However, with so many titles now including the mode, the amount of available maps has skyrocketed.
Here are 10 of them that remain the best the series has offered to date.
10. Nacht Der Untoten – World at War
If you were someone who had just completed the campaign for Call of Duty: World at War, you may have been greeted by this map right as the credits ended. Originally, “Nazi Zombies” was hidden away from players until they completed the main storyline. Once the credits ended, players would be immediately thrust into the first Zombies map, Nacht Der Untoten. Translating to “Night of the Undead”, this small locale was an edited version of a building from the campaign mission “Hard Landing”
Players are trapped inside the building with no means of escape, as the undead march to the many windows keeping them out. Players would then have to fend off the zombies for as long as possible. Nacht is a simple map, focusing on the main gameplay loop of round-based survival. Players gain points from shooting zombies and can upgrade their arsenal by purchasing weapons with the points. Whether that’s by purchasing them from the chalk drawings on the walls, grabbing the sniper from the upstairs cabinet, or taking their chances by opening the “Mystery Box” in the room on the ground floor.
Players only had their skills to rely on, as the onslaught of zombies was relentless, and help wasn’t coming anytime soon.
9. Der Reise – World at War
Der Reise, or “The Giant” was the final map to be given to players in World at War‘s life cycle, joining DLC as an addition to standard multiplayer maps. Since the Zombies first appeared in Nacht Der Untoten, the mode had undergone some changes, transitioning from defending a single location to a more expansive map where letting in the undead didn’t spell the end of your crew.
Der Reise puts players at ground zero of the Zombie outbreak, a facility ran by the elusive “Group 935”. While the lore wasn’t at the forefront of the gameplay, dedicated players could tune into the many radios around the map to uncover the story of Dr. Edward Richtofen, the betrayal of his partner Ludvig Maxis, and the horrific creation of the undead army, including the hellhounds that attack the player every five rounds.
Der Reise also solidified the “Perk-a-Cola” system into the game. Brand new to Der Reise, was the Pack-a-Punch machine. Players could now invest in their favorite weapons by upgrading them to become more powerful variants. Players who were clever enough to stick with weak weapons like the Colt M1911 would be rewarded with a pistol that shot explosive rounds, telling players that all weapons are worth at least upgrading once.
Der Reise’s high replayability and the formal introduction of the series’ lore gave players something to think about as they waited for the next Treyarch game to release, hoping that the questions they were left with would finally be answered.
8. Ascension – Black Ops
Ascension refines what’s already been learned in previous maps, but keeps it fresh by adding to the mechanics in fun and intuitive ways. The map starts out with the player entering it through a lunar lander. The color fades to monochrome, and the only way to turn the color back on is by activating the power station.
Pack-a-Punch is opened by riding lunar landers between the three main locations on the map, allowing players to launch a rocket stationed in the background, opening the room housing the Pack-a-Punch.
The map functions similarly to Der Reise, though the lunar lander has to be called to each location before riding it. This waiting period, and the short ride back to the start, provide small breaks for the player to reload and recoup before continuing the fight. Special rounds return, though the hellhounds are nowhere to be seen, replaced by terrifying space monkeys, who attack the Perk Machines players have used. If they’re stopped before dealing any damage to the perks, players will be able to net themselves a free perk, bypassing the four perk limit set by all maps.
Ascension also introduced players to “Easter Eggs” a story quest that can be done throughout a session to gain rewards, and directly impact the plotline of the series. It’s not front and center, and compared to other maps, Ascension’s is quite simple, but access to a 90-second Death Machine, (a devastating piece of weaponry), is a fine reward for the most skilled zombie slayers.
Ascension is a perfect map for all player types, keeping them on their toes with the special rounds, but close in complexity to World at War‘s maps to let players just enjoy a game of Zombies.
7. Kino Der Toten – Black Ops
Kino is the first map players got to play in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Originally meant to be an extra map in World at War, it instead became an “on-disc” map for Treyarch’s next title. This worked to its benefit, as the new engine and similar design to previous maps in the Zombies mode made it into the iconic map it is today. With Kino Der Toten (Theater of the Dead) as the main on-disc Zombies map for Black Ops new players have a perfect entry into the mode.
Kino Der Toten’s simple design guides players around either side of the theater, either through the backstage or onto the stage from the alleyway. Once the power is turned on, the open area on the stage provides plenty of room for players to train zombies. Pack-a-Punch is as simple as linking one teleporter to the pad the players started the game on as well, providing a safe spot to upgrade your weapons and a short break from the horde of zombies.
With both paths being linked to one another multiple strategies can be executed by neglecting to open doors on either side of the map, allowing for solid camping strategies utilizing the traps found around the map.
While it’s not the most complex map, Kino Der Toten lives in the hearts of many players, as it’s a map even the most hardcore Zombies fans will come back to.
6. Shadows of Evil – Black Ops III
Completely contrasting Kino Der Toten is Black Ops III’s own on-disc map, Shadows of Evil. With the gameplay shift to more complex maps that started in Origins. Taking notes from both Mob of the Dead, and Origins, Shadows of Evil’s H.P. Lovecraft-inspired aesthetic recontextualizes the many mechanics players loved about the maps utilized in Black Ops II.
The map consists of a lengthy “set-up phase” in which players will need to complete four rituals around the map to open the Pack-a-Punch Machine. Players will have to use Beast Mode to open rooms and activate perk machines in the same way afterlife mode worked in Mob of the Dead. This is also how players will open the central hub underground the main junction between all four locations in the map.
Shadows of Evil includes a plethora of extra content to do once the set-up is complete. Players can find symbols hidden in the decor while riding the train, which they can use to unlock a hidden wall underground to begin the quest to gain the Apothicon Sword, adding another weapon to their arsenal without taking up a weapon slot. Finding three fuses around the map will also net you the Civil Protector, a mechanical automaton that will help you fight the undead for a short amount of time.
While Shadows of Evil isn’t a good map to introduce players to the Zombies mode, it is a perfect map for fans who want not only a challenge but a map with something to do around every corner.
5. Zombies in Spaceland – Infinite Warfare
The only map on this list that was not designed by Treyarch, Infinity Ward decided to do their own take on Zombies for Infinite Warfare. Being completely separated in lore, this iteration was a more comical take on the game mode, introducing a new story, characters, and maps inspired by movie genres of the past.
Their debut map, Zombies in Spaceland, sent players to an ’80s theme park, filled to the brim with out-of-this-world attractions and undead. The gameplay loop was extremely similar to Treyarch’s previous entries, with players first unlocking the upgrade machine by using three teleporters around the park.
However, survival wasn’t the only thing players could do in Spaceland. The theme park’s multiple attractions could be used to help destroy the undead, such as the spinning Escape Velocity, or out-of-control bumper cars. The map is filled to the brim with actual interactives as well, playing one of the many arcade games in the Astrocade, or riding the rollercoaster will net you tickets, which you can then spend on myriad helpful gear.
Perks were also included in this new rendition as well, taking the form of “Perk Candies”, but retaining the same effects as in the Treyarch maps. Previously removed perks, such as the PhD Flopper, returned in Infinite Warfare. Some perks were even based on fan suggestions, like Trailblazers, which left a trail of fire as a character slid along the ground. Dying in Spaceland doesn’t set players too far back either. Bleeding out would send you to the Afterlife Arcade, which allows players to complete fun arcade games in order to jump back into the match without having to wait until the round is over.
Infinity Ward managed to make Treyarch’s mode their own, and in turn, delivered one of the freshest takes on the mode. All without straying away from the original formula.
4. Der Eisendrache – Black Ops III
The first DLC map for Black Ops III brings back the Primis crew, the alternate universe versions of Richtofen, Dempsey, Nikolai, and Takeo that players met in Origins. Der Eisendrache or “The Iron Dragon” takes players to a medieval castle run by the elusive Group 935, where they must fight against the onslaught of undead, including special enemies like the Hellhounds, and Panzer Soldats.
Returning from Origins is a wonder weapon with four variants, one for each player. After feeding the dragons throughout the map, players can pick up the Wrath of the Aincents. This bow can be upgraded into one of four variants, each with its own devastating effects. The map also introduces low gravity and wall-running, which is part of the BO3‘s advanced movement system.
Der Eisendrache also begins BO3‘s main storyline. After completing the Shadows of Evil main quest, Richtofen will steal away the Summoning Key, a device used to harvest souls, in an attempt to “Secure a Better Tomorrow”
If players choose to, they can work through the main quest to gain access to Ultimis Dempsey’s body and save his soul in the summoning key. This culminates in the first official boss fight in Zombies history. However, the map’s replayability, buildable nature, and wonder weapons create a perfect balance between complexity and accessibility, sitting it comfortably on this list.
3. Moon – Black Ops
With the release of the Zombies-only “Rezurrection Pack” DLC, Moon marks the end of Black Ops‘ story. The DLC included all of the World at War maps, as well as the new map, Moon. Moon is a unique map thanks to its many different mechanics. Starting the map doesn’t begin on round one, rather it begins on a timer in Groom Lake. While players start right next to the Pack-a-Punch machine, an infinite onslaught of zombies will continue to spawn. After a few seconds, they’ll pick up speed, making it more dangerous to stick around with just a pistol. Once you step onto the teleporter, you’ll be transported to the map proper, where you can get a significant head start if you’re skilled enough to survive in Groom Lake.
From here, you’ll need to put on the PES Suit, as there’s no oxygen. Once you turn on the power, and activate the life support systems, you can explore the labs without the PES. If you happen to find the Hacker in the labs, you can switch out the PES for one of the most powerful items in all of Zombies.
The hacker can do many things, such as opening any door for 200 points, gifting any player 500 points out of your own pocket, changing any powerup into a max ammo, and even refunding perks you don’t need anymore. If you’re playing Moon, you may also notice a zombie in an astronaut suit sporting the name of one of your friends. If caught in the astronaut’s grasp, he’ll teleport you to a random part of the map, and remove one of the perks from your loadout.
Players can teleport back to Groom Lake, as it’s the only way to gain access to Juggernog, Speed-Cola, and the Pack-a-Punch Machine. However, every player in the match needs to be on the teleporter pad to make their way back. This adds a co-op element, but makes it difficult to head back if someone in the squad isn’t playing along. With the right crew, planning trips to Groom Lake can net you and your pals more than enough points to upgrade.
The Hacker also allows players to shield themselves from the horde while Pack-a-Punching. This gives everyone a small reprieve, though they’ll need to be prepared once the doors open. With Moon being the finale, players see the culmination of all the maps quests, using items they acquired in previous maps, players can conclude the storyline in Moon.
During the Main quest, players will come face to face with Samantha Maxis, the mastermind behind the zombies. Richtofen, in his grand scheme, will control the zombies by switching minds with Samantha, changing the voice lines for the player who’s controlling Richtofen. This all culminates in the group firing rockets at the earth, destroying the planet, and setting in motion the events of Black Ops II.
Moon serves as an exciting culmination of Black Ops’ Zombies mode, and its inclusion in the Rezurrection DLC proves that Treyarch was taking notice of Zombies’ overall popularity.
2. Mob of the Dead – Black Ops II
Black Ops II’s story picked up where Black Ops’ left off, giving us a new plotline following a new crew of characters named Victus. However, Mob of the Dead is not a map in their story.
Mob of the Dead instead follows the story of four mobsters trapped in purgatory on Alcatraz Island. Sal Deluca, Finn O’Leary, Billy Handsome, and Al “The Weasel” Arlington find themselves in a twisted version of their prison where the undead run rampant, and the warden aims to lock up their souls forever.
This is the first taste of more complex maps that would become the norm in the second half of Black Ops II’s life cycle, and into Black Ops III. Players would spawn as souls in the new Afterlife mode and a mechanic where going DBNO turns you into a ghost. Aside from being able to revive yourself, Afterlife allows players to see passageways and secrets only visible through their ethereal form, introducing specific ways to open up the prison’s many secret rooms. There’s not a single power switch that powers on everything, rather, electrical boxes players need to shock are spread around the map, and Afterlife’s electric blast is the only way to power them on.
Around the map are also three hellhound heads, feeding each head a group of zombies gives them the Hell’s Retriever, a tomahawk that can be thrown like a boomerang to pick up powerups, or kill groups of zombies. Mob’s wonder weapon, the blundergat, is a four-barreled shotgun that shoots one blast at a time, a powerful weapon on its own, and when upgraded into the Acid-Gat, can dispatch hordes with ease. Pack-a-Punching the Acid Gat causes its bolts to attract zombies, turning a powerful weapon into an even powerful tool.
Every so often “The Warden” will appear, a powerful special zombie with unique abilities. For one, he’ll disable any Perk Machine, buildable table, or mystery box in his path, forcing the player to chalk up 2000 points to reopen it. Once you knock off his helmet, the warden will then cover himself in a smokescreen before charging at you once more. While this doesn’t do anything to mask the warden, it does obfuscate any other enemies you may be fighting.
The real meat and potatoes of the map are how players will access Pack-a-Punch. Around the map are several pieces players need to find to build a plane to escape from Alcatraz. Finding all of them, and boarding the plane will send the mobsters flying, only to have them crash on the golden gate bridge, where the only escape is via electric chair. Once you come back, you’ll have to refuel the plane to go again.
If you complete the main quest, you’ll be greeted with an audio tour of the prison, while fighting the horde you’ll uncover the story of the mobsters, as they planned their escape in the same way as they do in the map. However, the plane you fly to Pack-a-Punch on was never built, as the Finn, Sal, and Billy, kill Al on the roof of the prison. The three are sentenced to death for the murder of Al, placing the four in the events of Mob of the Dead. Once you fly to the golden gate bridge for the final time. the mobsters will have to face off with Al once more, though this time, Al is aided by the zombies, in the only PvP zombies interaction in series history. Whether the mobsters won, or Al survived, the game would end, giving Zombies its first-ever win condition.
Mob of the Dead was a taste of what the new age of zombies was going to be, with players being given a checklist of tasks to complete, with optional quests, and buildables to make survival easier. This blend of set-up and casual survival, combined with the grungy, otherworldly aesthetic makes Mob of the Dead a one-of-a-kind map that hasn’t been replicated since.
1. Origins – Black Ops II
The final map to release in Black Ops II is a refinement of some of the mechanics found in Mob of the Dead. Although, what Origins did that Mob didn’t, was refine what would become the standard for Zombies maps going forward in the Black Ops series.
Taking place “on the battlefields of the great war” players would once again take control of the classic characters, Richtofen, Dempsey, Nikolai, and Takeo. However, these characters were different than the inherently goofy and sarcastic versions of them they had been removed from since Black Ops. These characters were more mature, more refined, and more grounded. The world around them, was not.
Origins took place in an alternate, steampunk timeline, where giant robots roamed the WWI trenches, and zombies terrorized the battlefield. The map was split into multiple sections, as players had to hold out on 6 generators to activate the Pack-a-Punch, excavated from the mysterious dig site that caused the zombie outbreak.
Players would find pieces of magic staffs throughout the map, by either entering the robot by shooting a hatch as it stepped on them, or digging them up during the brief times it snowed. finding the gramophone and record would open magic portals around the battlefield, allowing players to find a gem to complete their staff. with four buildable staffs, each player was able to wield a powerful wonder weapon, allowing them to incinerate, freeze, electrocute, or blow away hordes of zombies with ease.
At round eight, a Panzer Soldat would spawn in, a powerful enemy with a flamethrower, and a grappling hook, ensnaring players who were too far, and setting ablaze those who were too close. If you could survive that long, Origins kept you busy by having templar zombies attack the generators, forcing you to move to and stop them before you had to hold out on more difficult rounds.
Challenges were also introduced as a main mechanic, allowing players to complete challenges to unlock special rewards. Getting 115 headshots rewarded you with a free pack-a-punched weapon while spending 30,000 points would award you with a bottle of Double Tap, letting you bypass the perk limit.
Any perk that wasn’t available as a machine could be found in the Wunder-Fizz which functioned like the Mystery Box, but for perks. Origins did retain its four-perk limit, but you could increase the amount of perks you could hold by upgrading your shovel. Once you acquired the gold shovel by using it enough, using the new powerup Zombie Blood, would allow you to see special dig spots invisible by normal means, digging them would give you a free perk. Digging enough spots with the golden shovel would net players with the golden helmet, preventing them from taking any damage when being stepped on by the giant robots.
The main quest would see players freeing Samantha from Agartha, though much like the new crew, this Samantha was different, guiding players through the mission, rather than acting as the antagonist. Completing the easter egg ended the game, much like Mob of the Dead. However, this ending was a fully animated cutscene, where players discovered that the events of the map were nothing but action figures being played in Samantha’s imagination…
…At least, that’s what players assumed… until the plot of Black Ops III changed everything.
Origins sits atop the list of 10 best Call of Duty Zombies maps not just because of how influential the map is to the series, but due to its intuitive set-up phase, its many side objectives, its powerful wonder weapons, and its entertaining and challenging main quest. It remains a map that fans will always come back to, no matter what mood their in, as it readily satisfies every player’s zombie-slaying needs.