Saddle up marines, it’s time for our guide to the Halo games, ranked worst to best. Stick with the Master Chief, he’ll know what to do.
Halo is without a doubt one of the most iconic gaming franchises to date and the newest addition, Halo: Infinite will be released on December 8 this year. Halo: Infinite will see the return of Master Chief, the hero and protagonist of the main series, and will follow on from the events of Halo 5: Guardians, which was released in 2015. With it being the first new Halo game on Xbox Series X/S, Infinite has the potential to give us great graphics, new guns and unbelievable multiplayer. It could be one of the biggest and best Halo games yet, which is saying something as there have been some pretty amazing Halo games so far.
With that in mind, in anticipation of the new release (and because this was a lot of fun) we’ve decided to take a look back at the franchise’s history to separate the Elites from the Grunts. Before we get started, a quick note – we’re not covering the Anniversary remakes as separate entries, and we’re not counting the Master Chief Collection as its own entry either – these are just new ways to play existing games. Our list, our rules.
Oh, and if you’re looking for Halo themed gifts (for friends, family, or just yourself), then check out our best Nerf guns guide – there are a couple of fantastic Halo replica nerf guns in there that let you wield some of the Chief’s most iconic weapons.
Right, now without any further ado, this is our guide to the Halo games, ranked worst to best.
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10) Halo: Spartan Assault/Strike
- Release date: July 2013/April 2015
To say any Halo game is the worst might come across a little harsh as there aren’t any bad ones, but “Halo: Spartan Assault” and “Halo: Spartan Strike” take the last place slot in our eyes. The reason we’ve bunched them together is because they’re very similar games and they had just about the same impact on the series as each other, minimal. Both games are enjoyable twin-stick shooters, but nothing to shout about.
Halo: Spartan Assault takes place between the events of “Halo 3” and “Halo 4” and sees a ceasefire between human and alien Elites. A splinter group of the Covenant ignores the ceasefire and players play as super soldiers who repel the attacks. Halo Spartan Strike takes place firstly during the events of “Halo 2” and then secondly after the events of Halo 4. The story largely revolves around Covenant factions seeking an artefact and Humans trying to stop that. While these games are enjoyable for a bit, they’re both fairly forgettable entries into the Halo franchise.
9) Halo Wars
- Release date: February 2009
Real-time strategy games have often proved difficult to pull off on console so hats off to “Halo Wars” and Ensemble Studios for having a good crack at it. The Halo Wars games aren’t a part of the main Halo series and perhaps that’s why they feel a bit forgettable, despite being decent games in their own right. If nothing else, this game provides a new style of play to Halo games and is something completely fresh.
In Halo Wars the player can build their own base and upgrade their buildings, all while gathering troops, warthogs and pelicans to take on the Covenant. The game was released for Xbox 360 but then later re-released for Xbox One and unfortunately the re-release didn’t add much. It was a good attempt and a solid game to play but in comparison to other Halo games, a touch forgettable.
8) Halo Wars 2
- Release date: February 2017
We got a Halo real-time strategy game whether we liked it or not and it was fine, did we need a follow up? Not particularly. Did we get one anyway? Of course we did. With that in mind, “Halo Wars 2” picks up from where the first one left off: a decent game which was fun to play for a bit and offered a different way of playing Halo games. But not a classic.
In the game’s defence, it is a real-time strategy game that is comfortable to play on a controller, and it did evolve some features (for the better) from the first game. Splitting up parts of your army allows players to get into even more alien battles, the main story of the game is surprisingly good and some of the cinematics and cutscenes are just a joy to watch. Like we said at the top of this article, there aren’t any bad games in this franchise and this certainly isn’t a bad game, it’s just there are far more enjoyable Halo games out there. It also introduced the Banished, who are the main villains in Halo Infinite, so we have that to thank it for too.
7) Halo 5: Guardians
- Release date: October 2015
Despite what you’re about to read – “Halo 5: Guardians” isn’t actually a bad game. With that being said, it does have some shortcomings. The campaign is definitely more enjoyable when you play it with friends rather than on your own, primarily because most of the bosses can only be attacked from behind so you need multiple players to flank them. Then there’s the characters… Master Chief isn’t the only protagonist as players get to play with a Spartan called Locke and Cortana acts like the bad guy for a while but then isn’t really. On top of all this, Halo finally got iron sights, although this change ended up dividing the fanbase massively.
This is the first main series Halo on Xbox One and it had so much potential but ended up feeling a bit confused and perhaps tried a bit too hard in places. That being said, it’s shortcomings didn’t stop it being enjoyable and it isn’t a bad game, it’s just that there are quite a few better Halo games out there.
6) Halo 4
- Release date: November 2012
Halo 4 was 343 Industries’ first Halo game after it took over from Bungie, and with it following Halo: 3, you can imagine the pressure the team was under. In fairness, 343 Industries delivered a really good shooter – not necessarily a classic but a very enjoyable game nevertheless. The graphics really stood out in this game and it would be fair to say it’s one of the best games (visually) to come to Xbox 360.
The campaign stands out in Halo 4 as the levels are well made, look stunning and notably, there’s no “flood” at all, which has been the bane of many Halo players in previous games. The multiplayer is pretty good too although at times it can feel a bit “Call of Duty” like (having a sprint button for example) despite one of the big successes of Halo before this installment was offering something completely different to its rival franchise.
5) Halo 3: ODST
- Release date: September 2009
Now, there was always going to be some controversy when discussing the top Halo games of all time, but this is probably the most controversial placing on our list. ODST has some die-hard fans who insist it’s among the best Halo has to offer.
There’s very little wrong with “Halo 3: ODST” – it’s an amazing game that offers a different experience to the other Halo games. In the campaign, you play as The Rookie, a regular human who can’t jump as high, move as fast or take as much damage as Master Chief is able to. But rather than being a downside, it’s exactly what makes ODST so great. It gives your character a more vulnerable feel and gives the player a different perspective of the fight against the Covenant. Not being a supersoldier actually helps ODST stand out.
Multiplayer is solid in ODST too, it contains 21 maps used in Halo 3 as well as three additional ones. The firefight game mode is pretty cool too – players can play online or on split screen and must survive waves of enemies that increase in difficulty. Unlocking characters and maps for firefight come from completing the campaign, which is a good incentive. It’s a shame Halo 3: ODST comes in at number five, and it’s not through any shortcomings of its own, it’s purely down to the excellence of the remaining four games.
4) Halo: Combat Evolved
- Release date: November 2001
The game that kicked everything off in sensational style, it also gave huge credibility to Xbox as a gaming platform as it was released as a launch title for the console. Sure, the game isn’t perfect but this is where we’re first introduced to Master Chief and his artificial intelligence companion, Cortana. The agility of characters and the smooth shooting mechanics helped launch Halo into the stratosphere of the gaming industry and formed the prototype for all the success to come.
The campaign sets up the rest of the franchise as it starts off by dropping the player into open combat against the Covenant in a way that was often replicated, but rarely bettered by FPS games that came after. There was the occasional mission where fighting The Flood became a bit tedious, but aside from that the story remains exciting to play – even to this day. Plenty of action and smooth game mechanics helped make Halo: Combat Evolved the critical and commercial success it is and the only reason it isn’t higher on our list, is because the games that follow somehow found a way to raise what was an already high bar.
3) Halo 2
- Release date: November 2004
Halo 2 is the first game to make the podium on this list, and it is more or less entirely down to the overwhelming success of the multiplayer. The game used Matchmaking and skill-ranking as well as other features that you would expect from multiplayer games today. The combination of action and sci-fi in this game made it stand out as one of the most exciting and addictive multiplayer games at the time.
The campaign is only the issue with Halo 2, although switching between Master Chief and a Covenant Elite is a nice idea, the execution didn’t stick with a lot of fans. The campaign was a bit too short, it featured an abrupt cliffhanger and switching between the two sides distracted players from Earth’s survival, which ultimately is what the game was about. Also those damn one-hit kill snipers on Legendary difficulty were a nightmare. At least the soundtrack to the campaign was a hit though.
2) Halo: Reach
- Release date: September 2010
The runner up on this list (Which is an achievement in itself) is “Halo: Reach,” the prequel to the first Halo game. Reach was also developer Bungie’s final Halo game before 343 Studios took over, and what a way to sign off. The visuals still hold up to this day thanks to it’s really strong art design and the gameplay is exhilarating too. The guns pack a punch and the pace of the campaign means it is one of the more exciting in the franchise. Set on an earth-like colony called “Reach,” players take control of “Noble Six” and follow the action of “Noble Team” as they fight off the invading Covenant.
The multiplayer in Halo: Reach allows players to customize their Spartans giving players more of a personal experience when getting into the details of building a character and load-out. Players can enjoy classic game modes like “Capture the Flag” and “Deathmatch” as well as new game modes including “Headhunter,” “Stockpile” and “Generator Defence.” Combining a mesmerizing and somewhat emotional campaign with exciting gameplay and new game modes on multiplayer mean that Halo: Reach goes down as one of the biggest hitters in a titan of a gaming franchise.
1) Halo 3
- Release date: September 2007
Is this the greatest multiplayer game ever made? Very possibly. It’s for that reason Halo 3 comes in at number one on our list. Other top multiplayer franchises like Mario Kart and Call of Duty have at times struggled to get close to the sheer excitement, intensity, and addiction that running around with a battle rifle or a sniper rifle and killing enemies with your friends on Halo 3 brought. The multiplayer maps are another strong feature as they help create tense and action-packed environments for players to play in.
The campaign in Halo 3 wasn’t too shabby either, and it was one that players could play cooperatively with friends. Great gunplay, awe-inspiring action sequences and destructive vehicle-play meant that this really was as good as Halo got, and that is saying something. When you combine top-quality multiplayer gameplay with a top-quality campaign, you get an exceptional game and that is exactly what this is. One of the truly great games and probably worth buying an Xbox 360 just to play (although it has been re-released on Xbox one and Series X/S via Halo: The Master Chief Collection).