One of the biggest hits in the gaming world over the last two decades, especially in the realm of first-person shooters, is the Halo franchise. It started out in the hands of Bungie and is now being developed by 343 Industries, Microsoft Studio’s subsidiary. The science fiction series has a military theme and is based around humans and the Covenant, an alien alliance that waged an interstellar war. The characters and plot of the franchise are part of what makes it so engrossing, but the graphics and gameplay have earned it recognition as well.
Thus far the Halo series of games has generated over $3 billion in sales, and that shows no signs of slowing down with the release of Halo Wars 2 in 2017. There are quite a few titles in the Halo lineup due to the issuance of remakes and remasters, but for this list only the seven main Halo games will be considered. From worst to best, here’s a ranking of the franchise’s core titles.
7. Halo 2
Halo 2 sits at the bottom of this list simply because it didn’t match up in any way to the first title in the series, Combat Evolved. However, Halo 2 was still an awesome multiplayer title, which is why so many people were willing to fork out cash for it for so long. The campaign mode was marred by iffy development and is lax to say the least. However, it’s well worth remembering that Halo 2 isn’t terrible by any means, especially when compared to the slew of underwhelming first-person shooter titles on store shelves these days.
6. Halo 4
This was the first Halo title developed by 343 Industries and it brought back the character Master Chief, who had been absent from the series for five years at that point. Halo 4 ushered in a new story line, the Reclaimer Trilogy. Those two things were exciting additions for the Halo Nation, but there were also quite a few minuses to this game.
Along with the storyline came a new type of enemy, Prometheans. Though great in concept, the actual task of fighting them amounted to a tedious exercise due to their disappointing design in the game. That problem was fixed in the next core Halo title, but it stopped Halo 4 from reaching its full potential. On the bright side the multiplayer mode in this game is pretty good.
5. Halo 3: ODST
One of the primary issues with Halo 3: ODST is that it’s much too short. That aside, it’s quite unlike other titles in the series, which isn’t necessary a good thing. This is the first game where Master Chief didn’t make an appearance until he was brought back years later. ODST really changed the formula that players were used to by putting them in an open world that they had to search in order to find missions via flashback. The open world wasn’t all that exciting, but this game was redeemed in a way by the introduction of the Firefight horde mode. That one thing alone bumped Halo 3: ODST up on this list.
4. Halo Reach
Halo Reach was the last title developed by Bungie, and it served as a prequel to the franchise. Instead of having gamers play as Master Chief — as this was the second title in a row where he didn’t appear — they’re given the opportunity to make their own customized Spartan. One of the most noticeable differences between Halo Reach and other titles is the appearance of its graphics, which are muted. That’s not a strike against the game, however, and it also gets high marks for its streamlined story and how well rounded it is.
3. Halo 5: Guardians
This is the second core title that 343 Industries made for the Halo franchise, and it’s a great game. By the time Halo 5: Guardians came along its new developers had a better idea of how to advance the series while also giving devoted fans what they wanted in a game. There was focus put on co-op game play, which was a hit with Halo 3, as well as more levels that were open. Basically, this game took the best parts from its two predecessors and made some big strides forward.
Some who have played it don’t care for the plot, which gets a bit loose at times, but for the most part all of the pieces of Halo 5: Guardians fall into place and it’s well worth a re-play. What’s more, the opening of this core title is beyond awesome, and the Sanghelios part of the game makes it special and worthy of being in the top three on this list.
2. Halo: Combat Evolved
Bungie’s game that started it all is still one of the best core titles in the Halo franchise. How great is it? So much that people are still buying it and replaying it 15 years after its debut. Developers of other games should pay attention to Halo: Combat Evolved, because this title is a prime example of how to make a game that will age well and have staying power. True, The Library could’ve used a lot of improvement and isn’t a high point of this particular game, but the rest of it makes that one aspect easy to overlook.
Most of the other levels in Halo: Combat Evolved were truly remarkable — who can forget The Silent Cartographer, Assault on the Control Room, and Two Betrayals? Of course, the Halo level was the crown jewel of the game and helped make this an amazing start to what would become a hugely successful franchise.
1. Halo 3
Halo 3 came out in 2007 and was the best at living up to its pre-release hype. The #2 and #3 games on this list have their high points and were exceedingly well done, but overall Halo 3 tops all core titles for its great levels, excellent multiplayer, and combat mechanics that were more fun and exciting than they were a chore. The Cortana level aside, Halo 3 contains two of the most memorable moments in the entire franchise. If you want the best Halo playing experience, this is the title that you need to check out.