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Best Halo Games: Mainline Series Ranked

Best Halo Games: Mainline Series Ranked

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Microsoft’s biggest franchise is Halo, a series created by Bungie and now in-house at 343 Industries. The sci-fi series primarily about the ongoing battle between humans and an alien covenant has a long and storied past, and the series has seen many popular and beloved entries over the years.

With Halo Infinite releasing in late 2021, we’re taking a look back at the Halo series as a whole and ranking the mainline FPS franchises. This list only covers major FPS games and does not include offshoots such as Spartan Strike or arcade game Fireteam Raven. We’re also not including the Halo Wars series, although it’s perfect for those who want more storytelling on Infinite. While Halo: The Master Chief Collection is definitely the best way to play the Halo classic in 2022, it also doesn’t appear on this list because it’s a compilation pack, not a game. You can also sign up for Game Pass Ultimate to play every mainline Halo game as well as numerous spin-offs.

8. Halo 5: Guardians

2015’s Halo 5 is the latest entry in the main series

The latest Halo mainline game is Halo 5: Guardians, released for Xbox One in 2015. Ahead of the game’s release, Microsoft launched an elaborate marketing campaign to convince fans that the Master Chief might actually be the bad guy. In the story, the Chief is being hunted by a new Spartan named Agent Jameson Locke, and the battle actually shifts from the Chief, letting you play as Locke in most missions. However, many felt that the marketing exaggerated the storyline, which didn’t pay off in the way some fans might have wanted. Still, the campaign is fascinating, and its story weaves many threads and takes players to new places. The design of campaign levels is also more open, allowing players more freedom to choose their own path in the environment. Unfortunately, Halo 5 doesn’t support split-screen, and Microsoft cites data that most people don’t play that way at all. That said, feedback came quickly, and while Halo 5 never added split-screen, it did prompt the studio to promise that future Halo games — like Halo Infinite — would indeed support split-screen.

For multiplayer, the biggest addition is Warzone, a massive MOBA-style mode that mixes PvE and PvP. The mode was generally well-received, although some viewers complained that it used Req packs, allowing players to spend real money to unlock items in the mode. Another innovation in Halo 5’s multiplayer is its climbing system, which allows players to move more freely around the map by jumping over ledges and climbing walls. It brings a new level of speed and verticality to Halo that Halo Infinite proposes.

Check out our Halo 5 review

7. Halo 3: ODST

ODST started out as a small project and later expanded into a full game

2009’s Halo 3: ODST was originally conceived as a bridge game between Halo 3 and Halo Reach, but it turned into a full-blown product that remains a favorite of many Halo fans. The story follows members of the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper (ODST) team, who are voiced in the game by Nolan North, Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Tricia Helfer and Adam Baldwin. You play as a rookie, and after a failed landing, you need to piece together clues about what happened when you tried to reunite with your new Mombasa teammates. In a major shift in the series, your character is not some cybernetically enhanced super soldier, but a regular run and file fighter – albeit an elite level fighter – thus requiring a more strategic play style. Halo 3: ODST is also known for its film-noir-like visual quality and overall darker color palette.

In terms of multiplayer, Halo 3: ODST’s big and memorable innovation is the crossfire mode. In his tribal-style mode, the Spartans fight to survive as long as possible as the enemy gets harder and harder to deal with. Players can use Skulls to make the experience more difficult and/or unique, and the mode supports couch co-op and online multiplayer.

In Halo 3: ODST, what started as a small-scale project turned into a real game that is visually and tonal unlike any other game in the series, and is, if nothing else, an unforgettable game .

See our Halo 3: ODST review

6. Halo: Reach

Halo: Reach takes to the sky

One of fan-favorite Halo games to date is the last game Bungie made before leaving Halo, and 2010’s Halo: Reach was a prequel to the original Halo game. It puts the player not the Master Chief, but Noble Six, an anonymous Noble team member. This is part of what makes Reach so exciting, refreshing and memorable. The tone of the story is also more somber. Anyone who’s read Halo’s original novel Halo: The Fall of Reach knows how it ends, however. It’s a major shift from the “Chief Saves the Day” approach to other games, and its story feels more personal. Also on the campaign side, Reach introduces space dogfights, an exciting new mechanic that literally elevates the action of previous games in the series. Multiplayer in Halo: Reach is as good as ever, mixed with a brand new mode called Invasion, in which an elite team tries to break into a Spartan stronghold. Halo: Reach isn’t the best Halo game, but it’s always one of the games that people consider the franchise’s iconic moment because of its unique story and being the last game Bungie made.

Check out our Halo: Reach review

5. Halo 4

In Halo 4, development moved to Microsoft’s 343 industries

Halo 4 marked a major shift for the Halo franchise, as it was the first entry in the main series developed by 343 Industries after acquiring the franchise, and Bungie began making Destiny. 343 is under a lot of pressure to deliver something exciting and put its stamp on a franchise that many love, but the game hasn’t been a success in every category. While the story mode was widely praised for its engaging narrative involving New Prometheus, the multiplayer mode — seen by many as the bread and butter of the franchise — wasn’t quite as successful. It’s been criticized in some circles for borrowing mechanics from other popular shooters — with loadouts and (breathing) dashes — rather than forging its own path. Still, Halo 4 was a huge commercial success and helped show that 343 wasn’t simply a copy of Bungie.

Check out our Halo 4 review

4. Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite feels like a fresh start.

Halo Infinite is the first game in the series in over a decade, and it feels like it’s truly living up to the quality bars set by Bungie’s original trilogy. The event, which follows Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Wars 2, but still feels welcome enough for newcomers, combines the freedom of an open-world game with the spectacle and narrative focus of previous Halo games. This, along with the grappleshot tool, makes it feel like a truly revolutionary advance for a series that has been spinning its Warthog wheels in the mud as hard as they did when they crashed on the Halo ring for the first time Impressed. Ancillary activities like assassination missions and sea rescues also help make the world feel like life outside of the chief’s presence.

Free multiplayer is a major improvement over Halo 4 and Halo 5, while dropping the microtransaction mode and trend-chasing features for a simple and satisfying Halo experience. While content isn’t updated as often as fans would like, the groundwork here is top-notch, and with the creative helm of longtime Halo author Joe Staten at the helm, the future of Halo is very much bright.

See our Halo Infinite review.

3. Halo 3

Halo 3 remains a favorite of many fans

Halo 3 was released in September 2007 after a memorable marketing campaign that asked fans to “believe.” Fans actually got their first crack at Halo 3 with… Crackdown. Yes, Microsoft has included beta access to Halo 3 in its new IP Crackdown. The game was officially released in September 2007 and was a huge success, grossing $170 million in its first day and $300 million in its first week. It went on to be one of the best-selling games of 2007, a notable achievement considering other big games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Rock Band were also released that year. Reviewers generally liked Halo 3, with many praising its Forge system as going on to be one of the series’ most defining elements. In Forge, players can create their own maps and modes, extending the lifespan and appeal of the game, and this type of user-generated content is ahead of its time. For example, Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth used Forge to create the fan-favorite Grifball mode, which will go on to be the official mode for subsequent Halo games.

Check out our Halo 3 review

2. Halo 2

Halo 2 pushes the series forward on Xbox Live

Bungie followed up Combat Evolved with Halo 2 in 2004, another major success. One of the most defining elements of Halo 2 was its online multiplayer through Xbox Live, a brand new service at the time. While the game has come a long way in the multiplayer arena and brought fans a new way to play and test their skills around the world, the campaign mode remains a sore spot for many. Due to various issues, including time constraints, Bungie was unable to realize its full vision. With the deadline looming, the team decided to end things in suspense, setting up the upcoming Halo 3 in a few years — though that did lead to a very memorable final offer. Halo 2 is also worth noting, as it was the last native PC game, as the franchise moved towards a console-only release strategy for many years to come (but not forever; more on that later). The game also introduces dual-wielding weapons to the Halo universe, which have come and gone over the years.

Check out our Halo 2 review

1. Halo: Combat Evolved

where it all started

The game that started it all. Halo: Combat Evolved was released in November 2001 as a launch title for the original Xbox. While FPS games on consoles are all the rage right now, that wasn’t always the case, and Bungie’s Halo was a trailblazer. Microsoft reportedly lost billions of dollars on the OG Xbox, but Halo was a brilliant breakout game that would go on to become one of the most recognizable and iconic of all. Halo: Combat Evolved is rightfully inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame, and in addition to having an unforgettable campaign that introduces the world to the Master Chief, Halo: Combat Evolved features split-screen multiplayer. That was before Xbox Live, so playing together meant being physically together, and many people still miss those times, including us.

See our Halo: Combat Evolved review

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Wilbert Wood
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