With the release of Halo: Infinite coming later this year alongside the release of the Xbox Series X, there is no better time than now to rank the Halo series from worst to best.
Halo is quite the series, isn’t it? It’s been around since 2001 and has built a reputation as one of the more prestigious and most important first-person shooter franchises in the industry. While it’s not to say it hasn’t had it’s ups and downs, Halo has been pretty consistent in terms of gameplay quality and in being graphical showcases for their respective consoles whether they be the original Xbox, the Xbox 360 or the Xbox One. It’s been Microsoft’s golden goose ever since the success of Combat Evolved for a reason.
This list here is my opinion on the mainline entries of the series: Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, Halo 4 & Halo 5: Guardians. With the exception of Guardians, you can get all these games with Halo: The Master Chief Collection which is in the best state it’s ever been since it’s launch. If you are a Halo fan, it is in your best interest to get it. It’s on Game Pass too, so it’s very easy to get. Also, keep in mind, I value the single player campaign a lot, probably even more than the multiplayer.
Without further ado, let’s get this list started!
#7: Halo 5: Guardians (Xbox One, 2015)
Halo 5: Guardians is quite possibly the most disappointing entry in the series thus far. This one had the potential to be the one of the more interesting entries in the series narrative-wise but it unfortunately fell flat in almost every turn. The marketing for the game certainly didn’t help, as the game we got was completely different than what the marketing showed us throughout the buildup to release.
Gameplay wise, it is a solid entry in the series as it plays well, it’s frantic, and the visuals are fantastic. So a lot of what you can do is captivating due to the look of the game. The multiplayer is also very fun and an improvement over Halo 4’s multiplayer. Co-op is the main selling point of the game and it does it well, improving the single-player campaign significantly by it.
But this is quite possibly the worst game in the series in terms of single-player. The campaign is among the shortest in the series. And it has the most disappointing story in the mainline series with not much happening in the grand scheme of things until…that moment. Locke isn’t that interesting a character and the whole Locke vs Chief dynamic almost never comes into play until much later in a very disappointing cutscene.
Overall, this is the most disappointing entry in the series to me and here’s hoping Infinite can do a good fixer upper with the story Guardians gave it to work with.
#6: Halo 3: ODST (Xbox 360, 2009)
ODST is a different take on Halo in the sense that it’s quite literally a lot more down to earth. Alongside Guardians, this is one of the shorter games in the series. However, unlike Guardians, which was a big entry in the series in terms of scale and didn’t deliver in terms of story, ODST knows it’s a smaller story and uses it to it’s advantage.
The gameplay remains like it was in 3 so fun is to be had here. But what makes ODST stand out is actually the single player campaign. It is the first game in the series where you don’t play as Master Chief, which Reach would continue this idea later on. Come to think of it, a lot of what ODST has can be seen as blueprints for what Reach becomes. It also takes place during one of the mainline games, Halo 2.
The reason I placed it low is that it’s a little too small scale in terms of the series. Even though what would be the outcome is a big deal, it’s one of those titles where if you don’t play it, you unfortunately won’t miss much. However, despite it being a smaller game, ODST can be considered a very daring title as it really tries to do things differently. More so than the other games in the series before in terms of who you play and the scale of the story.
It is a title worth playing and hopefully more people do as it is often overlooked.
#5: Halo 4 (Xbox 360, 2012)
Like Guardians, 4 is a pretty controversial title for a few reasons: the art style change, the lacking multiplayer, and the more personal direction in the story. However, I do think it has more merit than it’s given.
The campaign in my opinion, is one of the strongest in the entire series. Even though some people dislike the personal direction it went and the more soap-opera feeling it had, I think it was a nice change for Master Chief. It allowed more characterization for him and made him more interesting. Not to say that he was bad beforehand, but the story made him more interesting and fleshed out as a character. The ending is one of the more emotional in the series and is one of the few times we see Chief emotionally vulnerable. The gameplay was also really fun but the levels, while beautiful in terms of visuals (this is easily one of the best looking games on the 360 if not the best looking one), are not really that memorable in terms of overall design. Also, despite my praise for the story, the Prometheans could have been more interesting antagonists.
The multiplayer is however the weakest in the series with quite a few things either taken away from previous entries or changed for the worse. Overall, this is quite a divisive pick amongst fans to say the least and the oddball in the series for some. However, it does have quite a few good things about it, especially in terms of story, that I don’t think people give enough credit.
#4: Halo: Combat Evolved (Xbox, 2001)
The one that started it at all and kick started Microsoft as a gaming company. It also cemented themselves as a video game giant. Combat Evolved is an extremely important game for a variety of factors even outside of the Halo franchise but let’s focus on it as a game first.
This game still holds up pretty well as a game, even though it is quite dated in some aspects which is why it’s placed only at #4. The campaign is solid and the multiplayer/co-op is still fun. It’s also still funny that you don’t have walking animation so co-op is hilarious. The Silent Cartographer still contains one of the more awesome introductions to a level I’ve seen in a game and it gets me hyped up every single time I play it.
However, it is dated in aspects that the other games in the series improve upon. The gameplay and levels are things that while they are fun for the times they came out in, they feel dated in comparisons to the other titles. Same thing goes for it’s multiplayer. Let me state that none of these are bad things in the game, they are simply done better in the later entries.
This is still a game that every Halo fan needs to play. Not only to see where it all started, but to be able to see how the series evolved (heh) from back then to the juggernaut it is now.
#3: Halo 3 (Xbox 360, 2007)
Quite possibly the single biggest game in the series in terms marketing, Halo 3 is the jack-of-all trades of the series. I think it’s a safe assumption that if you are a Halo fan, you’ve played 3 in some way shape or form and have likely to have higher chances of having played 3 more then any entry in the series.
Halo 3 has a great single player campaign with a satisfying ending (especially after the infamous cliffhanger of 2) with possibly the biggest scale in the series. A lot of things were wrapped up nicely and it gave us awesome moments. Memorable moments. Emotional moments. It gave us a bit of everything.
It also gave us the biggest multiplayer offerings out of any game when it came out. Everything you can think of, this game likely let you do it with it’s robust multiplayer offerings. Forge is considered one of the best, if not the best mode introduced in Halo’s multiplayer. For a lot of people, it has the best multiplayer in the entire series and defined Xbox 360 multiplayer for a lot of people.
Halo 3 is considered one of the best games of all time for a reason and I consider it quite the flagship title for the 7th generation of consoles. 2007 was one of the best years gaming has ever had and while I didn’t get to play 3 until much later in life, it’s easy to say this game was a big reason why that year was so good.
#2: Halo: Reach (Xbox 360, 2010)
This, right here, is how you do a prequel. Reach is like 3 in the sense that it’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of game. However, it improves on the things 3 introduced and also gives us easily the most different yet best campaign in the entire series.
What makes Reach so good in my opinion is the approach to the story. It lets you know that you fail at the very beginning of the game so what you end up playing is a suicide mission. However, because you know this, you dread the moment that you end up failing and you dread seeing who dies next. It’s a brilliant way to tell a story like this and it makes it one of the most impactful stories in the series.
The multiplayer is also great, especially with modes like Firefight and with things like Forge World. The amount of time you can spend customizing everything to your liking is just immense. This is why Reach is like 3 in a lot of ways.
Reach has something for everyone to enjoy and since it’s the last game Bungie makes in this series, it is a really good swan song and a great note to end on.
#1: Halo 2 (Xbox, 2004)
For some, Halo 2 is the best game in the series in a landslide, and there are a lot of reasons why. It was the natural evolution from the series in every single aspect: gameplay, multiplayer, level design, story, characters, and lore. Almost everything that was introduced in Combat Evolved was cranked up to the next level with 2.
2 introduces characters like the Arbiter and Sgt. Johnson into the series and they are extremely memorable and likable characters that are integral for atmosphere and tone. Due to Arbiter’s point of view, the Elites become more interesting as an antagonistic force as you now get to see how they operate and their reasons for doing what they do, regardless if noble or not. This, alongside things like the Gravemind, enriches the world of Halo that I feel hasn’t been replicated since. If only the ending wasn’t…the ending of Halo 2. Also, the Arbiter’s levels could have been better but that might just be me.
The multiplayer is another thing in which it takes the series into new heights, especially since this is the game that essentially launched Xbox Live. This, combined with the gameplay improvements and the new modes introduced here expanded Halo’s appeal even further.
While it doesn’t have the impact of Combat Evolved, it rightfully deserves a spot among the best games of all time and in my opinion, it’s one of the best sequels to a game ever made.