Born in Doncaster, Brown was a prolific goalscorer at school and youth level, Brown rose through the youth ranks at the team he supported as a boy, Sunderland, making his debut for the under-19 team at the age of just 15. However, Brown suffered a setback in 2002 when he damaged his cruciate ligament whilst playing for the reserve side, forcing him to miss the entire 2002/2003 season. During this season Sunderland were relegated from the Premier League.
After making a successful recovery, Brown was promoted to the Sunderland first team, and was allocated the number 31 shirt for the club's first season back in the First Division. During the season, Brown was loaned to Doncaster Rovers, where he made 22 appearances during his seven-month stay, scoring 10 goals. Brown ended the season with a Nationwide Division Three winners medal, finishing four points ahead of future club Hull City, who finished second.
Brown was handed the number 20 squad number at Sunderland for the 04/05 season, with many tipping Brown to break through into the first team that season as the club bounced back from a play-off defeat to Crystal Palace the year below. Brown was named as an unused substitute for the trip to Plymouth on 21 August and officially Brown made his debut for Sunderland on 21 September, scoring twice in the 3–3 draw with Crewe Alexandra in the League Cup. Although Sunderland lost the game on penalties, Brown impressed enough to retain his place for the trip to Leeds United four days later, with the game resuling in a 1–0 victory for Sunderland.
Brown featured throughout the season for Sunderland, making 14 starts and 23 substitute appearances, scoring 7 goals. Although mainly being used as a substitute during the first half of the season, Brown enjoyed an extended run in the side towards the end of the campaign, as Sunderland clinched the newly renamed Football League Championship title and won promotion. At the end of the season, Brown was beaten by teammate Stephen Elliott for the club's "young player of the year" award.
Brown featured for Sunderland during the pre-season tour of US and Canada, though was told by manager Mick McCarthy that he needed to gain further first team experience on loan at another club. Brown made a second-half substitute appearance against Liverpool at Anfield on 20 August and later joined Championship side Hull City on loan on 8 September until January. Brown struggled during his time at the KC Stadium however, scoring once against Reading in 13 appearances, and was recalled by Sunderland in November. After three appearances back at Sunderland however, Brown picked up an injury which would sideline him until March, by which time Sunderland looked destined for relegation after a disaster of a season.
Brown completed a £325,000 move to Norwich on 11 January 2007, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract. Upon signing he was allocated the number 14 shirt previously worn by Leon McKenzie. He was sent off for a second bookable offence on his first start for Norwich.
He made his debut as a substitute in the 3–1 league defeat against Plymouth and made his full debut against Blackpool in the FA Cup 4th round although he was sent off in the 2nd half. Shortly after his suspension he suffered a hamstring injury which disrupted the start of his Norwich career.
On 23 October 2007, in his 20th appearance for the club in all competitions, Brown opened his Norwich City account with a goal against Burnley in a 2–1 defeat.
On 10 January 2008, Brown completed a £400,000 Move to Preston North End. Brown made his debut against Watford and received the man of the match award after an impressive performance.
On 7 July 2011, Brown joined Doncaster Rovers on a free transfer after his contract with Preston North End ended.
On 23 June 2014, Brown signed a two-year deal with Blackburn Rovers. In Mid-September, it was reported Chris was going for surgery on his knee and will return within 6 weeks. Brown received a red card after just 10 minutes in a 2–1 Rovers victory away to Newport on 18 January.
Brown has been the subject of derision from Rovers fans for failing to score a single goal since joining the club.
Brown was released by Blackburn Rovers in the summer of 2016.
Brown joined League One side Bury in August 2016, signing a one-year contract with an option for a further year. He is yet to feature at any level for the first-team as of December 2016 due to recovery from knee surgery.As of 23 December 2016.
On 7 September 2004, shortly before Brown's debut for Sunderland, Brown was cautioned by Northumbria Police along with teammates Sean Taylor and Ryan Bell for firing paintballs at passers-by from a car. The trio were initially suspended by the club during investigations, and were fined and handed written warnings for their behaviour. During a statement, the trio said they were "embarrassed" by their behaviour, and apologised for their actions.  Brown made his debut the same day his fine was announced on 21 September 2004 and remained a first-team regular until his departure from the club.
On 7 December 2006, tabloid newspaper The Sun reported Brown, along with teammates Ben Alnwick and Liam Lawrence had filmed themselves in an orgy with a brunette girl referred to as 'Stevie'. In the video, Brown films his teammates perform sexual acts on the girl as well as themselves, and is said to give "Match of the Day" style commentary throughout. Former Sunderland midfielder Martin Woods also features on the tape partially clothed, along with two other men. In reference to the watching men, Brown reportedly comments “Here’s the boys — the watching faithful — every week without fail.”
On 8 December, The Sun reported that the girl in the video was just 16 years old, with the girl claiming she had no idea she was being filmed.Doncaster Rovers (loan)
Football League Third Division (IV) Champions: 2004
Football League Championship (II) Champions: 2005, 2007
League One Champions: 2012–13