Fascinating games

Ranking all major Halo games, from Combat Evolved to Infinite

The Halo game franchise has had an interesting time over the past few months with a new game released the previous year, as well as a live-action series adaptation this year. While fans rejoiced at a new Halo game in six years, they were soon horrified by the release of the TV series five months later.

Detailing the story of the Spartan soldier known as Master Chief, Halo is a series of games set in outer space, in a futuristic era, after humans developed a means of interstellar travel.

A few Halo games have diverged from the longtime protagonist. However, the overall story revolved around humanity’s struggle against tyrannical alien factions like the Covenant and the Banished.

This article reviews all of the mainline Halo games, spanning the two decades of the series from 2001 to 2021. Rankings are given based on the main campaign’s story, gameplay, and experience and their contribution to the larger story.

Note: This article reflects the views of the author.

Halo games from least most inadequate to best

8) Halo 5: Guardians

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After 343 Industries took over as lead developer of the Halo games from Bungie, things started to look bleak for the series. Released on October 27, 2015, it was and remains an Xbox One exclusive and perhaps one of the franchise’s most hated titles.

Most complaints were raised about the story and its quality, cited as poorly written and difficult to follow for those unfamiliar with comic books and other forms of media.

Cortana takes on the role of the main antagonist, which also soured the tastes of many.

Despite the poor storytelling and lack of character development, Halo 5: Guardians offered stunning graphics and gameplay. Its multiplayer was also apparently quite enjoyable.

7) Halo 3: ODST

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Being one of the Halo games that didn’t feature the Master Chief, Halo 3: ODST had a steep hill to climb. While he may not have fully reached that high peak, he has made it quite a distance.

This game told the story of an ODST team in the later events of Halo 2. Players took control of an unnamed character known as Rookie in this ODST team tasked with repelling the forces of the New Mombasa City Covenant.

As the team deployed, they got separated and users have to fight their way through the city, locating other teammates.

The campaign was relatively short, which earned it some criticism, though the overall gameplay was fun and the level design differed from previous Halo games.

6) Halo 4

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Halo 4 was 343 Industries’ first take on the Halo universe, taking a different approach to the series from previous developer Bungie and changing quite a few features. Fans didn’t like this decision, but it would have been a minor issue if the story was up to snuff.

While the story did a lot to humanize Master Chief and deepen his relationship with Cortana, it didn’t do much for the other new characters introduced in this Halo offering.

The main villain was also never given enough substance to feel more than just a two-dimensional character.

Many also found the gameplay to be radically different from older Halo games, with new Promethean weapons replacing the various Covenant weapons. The series had lost its iconic and fun shooter.

5) Halo: Combat Evolved

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This is where it all started, as Bungie released the very first game in the series, Halo: Combat Evolved. Released in 2001, this first-person shooter delivered something unique for its time, revolutionizing the genre.

With competitive enemy AI, a range of different weapons to use, and some of the best shooters ever, this title marked a milestone in gaming history.

The story saw the Master Chief, along with his AI Cortana and other UNSC forces, land on a mysterious ring world known as Halo. They battled the forces of the Covenant and discovered an even greater threat to the universe lurking on the surface.

Critically acclaimed, this title popularized developer Bungie for its excellent game design and gunplay. This is an aspect currently featured in their Destiny 2 live service game.

4) Halo 3

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Halo 3 ends the story of Master Chief at the hands of Bungie. It also saw the end of the series’ original trilogy, which depicted humanity’s battle against the forces of the Alliance and the Flood.

Continuing the events of the second Halo game, Master Chief finds himself in New Mombasa and reluctantly teams up with the Arbiter to lead the fight against the Covenant. This eventually brings them to a precursor structure known as the Arc, where the final showdown takes place.

The gameplay remains the same since Halo 2 but introduces support weapons to the series. The ending sees Chief and Cortana adrift in space, with the former falling into cryosleep until needed again.

3) Halo 2

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Halo 2 begins sometime after the events of the first game, seeing Master Chief return to earth. As an alliance ship approaches the planet, Leader Cortana and her allies must work to prevent them from reaching the planet.

This ultimately leads Chief to another Halo game the Covenant plans to use.

For many gamers, this is probably one of their favorite Halo games of all time, as it features Thel’ Vadam or the Arbiter, a Sangheili warrior who serves as a playable deuteragonist. As the Leader and Arbiter start from opposite roles in the story, they must work together by the end to stop the Covenant.

The gameplay retains the same basic concept of the first title but allows certain weapons to be dual-wielded. Users can also wield melee weapons such as Sangheili energy swords.

2) Infinite Halo

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343 Industries has seemingly learned from its mistakes, as its third attempt in this series, in the form of Halo Infinite, has seen fruitful rewards. This game feels more like the first entry in the franchise than anything the company has done in the past.

The Leader’s Mjolnir armor looks more like his Halo 2 look, Covenant weapons make a return, along with a new grappling hook, which dramatically increases the Spartan’s mobility.

The story is well written with mostly interesting characters that have satisfying arcs. Even Cortana gets some much-needed redemption.

The gameplay is fun and features smart enemy AI, excellent gunplay, and sound design. The open world leaves a lot to be desired, but the step in that direction is always appreciated.

1) Halo: Achieve

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As Bungie’s best game in this franchise, Halo: Reach had to take the top spot. It was another title that didn’t feature Master Chief, but he overcame that hurdle and walked another extra mile as the Spartan unit known as Noble Team.

As a prequel, this game takes place before the events of the first title and sees the fall of the planet Reach. Noble Team battles Covenant forces, assists in the evacuation, and ultimately delivers Cortana to the UNSC ship Pillar of Autumn, where she will eventually meet Master Chief.

Featuring one of the franchise’s most moving stories and spectacular gameplay from Bungie, it was their swansong before leaving the series.

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