5. Battlefield 1942 (2002)
The first, the original and, for many, one of the best. Battlefield 1942 is a formative piece of gaming history, in which DICE first took the concept of the hardcore military sim and marketed it to a wider audience. Not just valued for its historical importance, Battlefield 1942 is a fantastic first person shooter in its own right. For its time, the open map design and record breaking 64 player limits were a jaw dropping feat of technical power that let PC players value every penny they’d invested into their gaming machine, and even today, the authenticity of the gameplay stands up well.
All the DNA of Battlefield is here - class-based gameplay, vehicular, all-terrain combat, team-focused multiplayer modes - proving that DICE had struck gold with a formula that has maintained its appeal in the shooter genre 16 years later. Oh, and it was the game which blessed us with Wake Island, a near perfect multiplayer map, which justifies its position in this list alone.
4. Battlefield 1 (2016)
The biggest, wildest Battlefield game to date, Battlefield 1 turned the clock back after years of modern combat to offer a ferocious presentation of World War 1, in all its unhinged desolation. Coming off of a slew of forgettable, modern day campaigns, Battlefield 1’s War Stories took a different approach via a series of isolated vignettes, spotlighting the individuals on each side of the conflict, and paying off greatly in terms of both pace and pathos.
As for the new multiplayer features, Behemoths were a game-changing, earth-shattering alternative to Levelution, so unfettered in their seismic power that we’re willing to forgive the tremendous competitive imbalances that they brought to almost every match. Battlefield 1 is up there not just as a definitive high point for the series, but for the FPS genre at large.
3. Battlefield 2 (2005)
Modern Battlefield games began with Battlefield 2… and I don't just say that because Battlefield 2 was literally the first one with a modern setting (and the first to totally disregard proper numbering conventions). It was here that the series began to move away from the mindset of players swarming around static capture points in miniature wars of attrition.
Players were encouraged to join up with one of their team's squads, giving them both a mobile spawn point in the form of their squad leader and a way to receive more specific objectives than ‘get all the flags’. Adding the soldier-reviving defibrillator to the medic class and ammo bags to the support class also promoted a more mobile, dynamic game. Battlefield 1942 established the broad concept that all the following games would pursue, but Battlefield 2 refined and focused it in many ways that persist today.
2. Battlefield 3 (2011)
After several years of spin-offs and tepid free-to-play ports, DICE promised to firmly return to Battlefield’s roots with a proper, big-timey sequel that would hit consoles and PC synchronously. Both the studio and EA pushed hard on its promotion for Battlefield 3, deliberately billing it as a Call of Duty topper against the king of first person shooters.
The overconfidence was somewhat unjustified, as Battlefield 3’s campaign was a real mess no matter how you look at it, but it was a different story in the online realm. For console players, this hit a level of ambition and scale that hadn’t been seen before, all running relatively smoothly and looking mighty fine indeed, even with its technical concessions next to the PC. Battlefield 3 might not have been the perfect comeback, but it was a damn good start.
1. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010)
For all its steely eyed militarism, it turns out that Battlefield has a real personality on its off hours. Building on the camaraderie of the first Bad Company spin-off, Bad Company 2 features the best campaign of the franchise to date, with funny (yes, funny!) writing, unique gameplay scenarios, and a cast of characters who are actually a laugh to be around. There are cliches aplenty, but the snappy pace and expert mission design were just two bonus reasons to spend more time with the titular company of vagabond heroes, and that final, completely bonkers mission is still a total hoot.
Bad Company 2’s multiplayer was equally carefree and chaotic, with varied maps and a whole suite of impressive physics, destruction, and sound effects for experimenting with. Plus, the tragically underrated Vietnam expansion nails the historiography of its setting better than most full Battlefield games, extending the shelf life of Bad Company 2’s multiplayer with a more ferocious, claustrophobic variant on the game’s irresistible slashings of PvP. This is Battlefield unshackled, tongue firmly in its cheek, surprising all of us to still stand tall as the best Battlefield game of all time.