Halo as a franchise has completely changed the face of the gaming industry as we know it today. Be it the original game that came out in 2001, Halo Combat Evolved or the remastered version, each are a gem of their own.
But with the vast number of games under the banner of Halo, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Especially if you are trying to find an order to play Halo games.
The universe Bungie, and by extension 343 Industries created revolves around humanity’s expansion through space and the various obstacles faced in the form of alien invasions. Surprisingly the ‘Halo’ itself plays a unique role in these games.
If summarize in one sentence, then the story of the majority of the Halo games follow Spartans, super-soldiers bred by the UNSC and the exploits of a Spartan codenamed John-117 The Master Chief.
There are two orders to play all the Halo games, the chronological order and the order of release. While you can play the games in chronological order, you will miss most of the mysterious elements that come with the other game order.
Chronological order :
- Halo Wars
- Halo Reach
- Halo 1: Combat Evolved
- Halo: Fireteam Raven
- Halo 2
- Halo: Spartan Strike part 1
- Halo 3 ODST
- Halo 3
- Halo: Spartan Assault
- Halo 4
- Halo: Spartan Strike part 2
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars 2
- Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare
- Halo Infinite
Order of Release :
- Halo 1: Combat Evolved (2001)
- Halo 2 (2004)
- Halo 3 (2007)
- Halo Wars (2009)
- Halo 3 ODST (2009)
- Halo Reach (2010)
- Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (2011)
- Halo 4 (2012)
- Halo: Spartan Assault (2013)
- Halo 2: Anniversary (2014)
- Halo: Spartan Strike (2015)
- Halo 5: Guardians (2015)
- Halo Wars 2 (2017)
- Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare (2017)
- Halo Recruit (2017)
- Halo: Fireteam Raven (2018)
- Halo Infinite (2021)
These are the two orders to play all the Halo games throughout multiple platforms. But to get the full flavor of gameplay immersion, quality, and lore, this is the recommended order to play the HALO games.
Recommended Order :
01) Halo Combat Evolved (2001) [pc]
The legend. The masterpiece. Why should you play this old 20-year-old game instead of the newer, remastered version? Because it’s awesome. The graphics is sub-par and
garbage compared to the standards set by the gaming industry, but that’s the charm of combat evolved. The low lighting and ambiance of the maps in the 2001 game is a stark contrast to the realist approach of the anniversary. Combat Evolved 2001 opts for an artistic approach. The empty, dark, drab hallways with fog, the endless terrains of forestation of an alien world which feels, well alien.
You don’t know where the covenant grunts will attack you from, where the annoying jackals are sniping from, and why the elites just won’t die. Players can use human weapons which include assault rifles, shotguns, rocket launchers, and the god-tier zoom scope enabled sidearm. Alien weapons incle plasma rifles, sidearms, etc. Grenades are of two types, human-made frag grenades, and the alien-made plasma grenades. Just keep an eye out for a grunt charging up to you with two plasma grenades
hellbent on a kamikaze. You can also pilot vehicles such as the legendary Warthog, the Scorpion tank, and many alien vehicles like the Ghosts and Banshees. And then there is body horror, gore, creepy long winding levels with the silent hum of alien machinery. This is one of the reasons combat evolved has earned the horror tag. The Campaign is to this date top tier. The multiplayer…let’s move on.
Without spoiling too much, Halo Combat Evolved is set in the 26th Century (2552 CE) and follows Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a badass super soldier who’s awoken from cryo sleep aboard the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) flagship, the Pillar of Autumn. Prior to the events of the game, the technologically advanced group of alien races simply called the Covenant attack Planet Reach, a foreground of UNSC military
and the home of the Spartans, the aforementioned super soldiers. The Pillar of Autumn escapes the planet with the Spartan Master Chief, the player character on board. But the Covenant pursues the Autumn and attacks.
With the ship heavily damaged Autumn’s captain, Jacob Keyes entrusts the ship’s artificial intelligence known as Cortana to Master Chief in order to prevent the Covenant from discovering the location of Earth. The aliens board the ship and Keyes orders the crew, Master Chief and Cortana included to abandon the Autumn as it crash lands on a ringworld.
The titular Halo. From there the story picks up as Master Chief fights the Covenant of the ringworld, later to be dubbed Installation 04 in order to rescue Captain Keyes who’s been captured. But what everyone doesn’t realize, is that the Halo hides a secret so deadly it can threaten the very existence of sentient life in the known Universe.
02) Halo 2 (2004) [pc]
Halo 2 improved the graphics and rendering of the game significantly, though it’s still in the same leagues as Combat Evolved, meaning the maps are larger, the story even better, and the dark dreary terrains with low lighting, newer guns and an updated look on Master Chief’s armor.
This time, you can also use is the Covenant Elite sword, easily the best close-ranged combat weapon. One nice addition to the gameplay mechanics is that you can play as another character at times, in one of the most difficult levels. Once again, we are not talking about multiplayer because the servers have all shut down. The Campaign is once again God tier. The story picks up with Master Chief, Cortana and Sgt. Avery Johnson on Earth to warn the UNSC for
an incoming Covenant attack. The Covenant fleet nears Earth and the after a series of heavy battles they take the fight to another Halo Installation. But the emergence of the Flood forces the two sides to temporarily stop their war and form an uneasy alliance.
03) Halo 3 (2007) [pc]
The third in the trilogy, the game is not as good as Halo 2 but it’s still awesome. The story immersion is the main focus here. You know the basics, as always you can use both human and alien weaponry, pilot both human and alien vehicles. A new addition to weapons are support weapons. These are cumbersome weapons like missile pods, flamethrowers, turrets, that sacrifice mobility for a superior offense. The player character is once again only Master Chief. Well…
The story begins in the year 2553 CE with a monologue from Cortana saying the best weapon Master Chief has is his extremely good luck. This monologue is paired with a shot of Master Chief crashing down to Earth from space and surviving. He’s found by Sgt. Johnson and the Arbiter. From there, Chief and company return to a UNSC outpost where Miranda Keyes and Lord Hood plan a final effort to stop the Covenant leader from activating an ancient artifact to stop the Flood infestation once and for all.
04) Halo 3: ODST (2009) [pc]
Halo 3: ODST is one of the few games where the player is not Master Chief, nor is he another Spartan. No, the protagonist of Halo 3: ODST is an ordinary rank and file soldier. An ODST, short for Orbital Drop Shock
Troopers. This game takes place during and after the events of Halo 2, making it a sort of prequel to Halo 3. ODST is an open world game, giving the player quality immersion as they explore each level. The central mechanics are similar to the previous games, if only a bit diminished. Since the player character is not a super-soldier, they’re not capable of jumping higher or running faster, or even the same endurance as Chief. Instead, the damage-absorbing energy shield is used as a stamina recharge mechanic. Players also can’t dual wield weapons unlike previous games. This makes the game a bit more challenging, and provides an insight on how a normal soldier in the Halo universe compares to their super-soldier counterparts.
As for the Campaign, the player protagonist is the unnamed ‘Rookie’. Rookie and his elite ODST team consisting of Dutch, Romeo,
Mickey and team leader Buck. With a new addition in the form of Captain Veronica Dare, they drop from orbit to Earth where a slipspace knocks their orbits awry separating the player Rookie’s pod from the rest of the team.
Due to an inappropriate landing from a drop pod collision with Mickey, Rookie loses consciousness and wakes up after six hours separated from his team. He is then assisted by the New Mombasa city’s maintenance AI in his mission to find out what the Covenant want with the data in the core of the Superintendent.
Meanwhile, Dare is on her own cassified mission sent from High Command that just might give humans an advantage in the Covenant wars.
05) Halo Reach (2010) [pc]
Halo Reach is a fantastic story that takes place before the events of Combat Evolved.
This game returned to it’s roots, as the gameplay style is similar to combat evolved. The player’s hud now has a motion tracker that registers allies, enemies and vehicles. This is another game where the protagonist is not Master Chief. And while your player character is no Chief, he’s no ordinary soldier either.
In Halo Reach, you are Noble Six, a super soldier belonging to the Spartan-III, a generation after the Spartan-II. The difference between a Spartan-II and a Spartan-III is their structural make up. Spartan-IIs are genetically modified and their endoskeleton augmented to pilot the Mjolnir suits. A Spartan-III is only chemically modified. Regardless, Noble Six is a super soldier and a new addition to the Noble Team which consists of team leader Carter-A259, second-in-command Catherine-B320, assault
specialist Emile-A239, marksman Jun-A266 and heavy weapons specialist and a surviving Spartan-II Jorge-052. Noble Team discovers the existence of a large Covenant force on Planet Reach.
Their team is then relocated to defend Sword Base, which is an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) installation, from a Covenant assault. There they meet Dr. Catherine Halsey, the mastermind behind the Spartan program. From that point, their mission is to repel the Covenant forces and simultaneously transfer humanity’s last hope, the Spartan-II codenamed John-117 and an AI called Cortana to Captain Keyes of the Pillar of Autumn. This game is a must play to understand the story preceding Combat Evolved.
06) Halo 4 (2012) [pc]
Ah. Halo 4. The game where 343 Industries
acquired the rights of Halo from Bungie studios. The game is good. It’s…good. The main is more on the story, or more specifically John.
But you must be thinking, what can possibly be there after the legendary ending of Master Chief’s saga in Halo 3?
The gameplay style is similar to the previous games, and it incorporates mostly everything from the previous games like a cleaner hud, motion tracking, third person perspective while using certain weapons and vehicles. With the threat of the Flood absent, the former Covenant does like the Elites make a return. A new enemy type is also introduced, which are the Forerunner AI constructs called Prometheans. Who are the Forerunners?
Oh that’s simple. The answer is play the damn games. Master Chief’s armor takes a new look, which is a departure from the sleek streamlines look of the Mjolnir Mark VI and
changes it to a more battle ready form complete with scratches and deformed chestplate. How did Master Chief get battle damage in his 4 year cryo sleep? Uh, Good question…The most notable difference between Halo 4 and the previous Halo trilogy is the characterization of Master Chief and Cortana.
Prior to this game, Master Chief was just a blank canvas for the player to portray themselves on. But Halo 4 introduces Master Chief as his own character, as John. If you want to experience the story of Halo Infinite, then thus game is also a must.
The story picks up in the year 2557 CE, with the broken husk of the UNSC flagship Forward Unto Dawn as it drifts to an unknown planet. Cortana, bored and past her 7 year AI life expectancy, decides to wake Master Chief from his cryo sleep when the newly formed Covenant splinter faction board the vessel.
Chief and Cortana fight then off and the ship crash lands on the unknown planet, named Requiem. There, Chief fights off the new Covenant faction and the mechanical warriors Prometheans while Cortana goes through random malfunctions. Burdened with the potential loss of his only companion, and the looking threat of a madman belonging to an extinct species, this battle will test Master Chief’s mental fortitude and will to the extreme.
07) Halo 5: Guardians (2015) [Xbox]
…Where do I begin. Play Halo 5, not for the gameplay, not for the story, but purely for exposition. I’m not saying it’s bad, but the fact that you can play the game only on an Xbox just explains a lot. The gameplay is first person, and divided between two squads, Blue Team under Master Chief and Fireteam
Osiris under Spartan Locke. What’s new to the series are ‘Spartan Abilities’, replacing the Armor Abilities of the previous games. In universe, the Mjolnir armor is more manueverable in all three axes of mobility.
While in previous games NPCs sometimes accompanied the player character, in Halo 5 a team of NPC Spartans are yours to command. As for the story, Halo 5 takes place 8 months after the events of Halo 4, in the year 2558. Blue Team under Spartan-117, Master Chief is composed of the Spartan-II teammates he fought alongside before the events of Halo Combat Evolved.
Fireteam Osiris is led by Jameson Locke, and hides team of Spartan-IV, a newer generation of Spartans. When Blue Team, and by extension Master Chief goes AWOL on a mission after getting an encrypted message from Cortana, Spartan Locke assembles his own squad to hunt down humanity’s savior.
08) Halo Wars (2009) [pc]
Halo Wars is a departure from the traditional first person shooter approach of the Halo games. The Halo trilogy has just ended with Halo 3, and Bungie decided to take a different path for their next Halo game.
Instead of another fps game, Halo Wars is a real-time strategy or rts game. First developed exclusively for Xbox 360 and then ported to pc, in this game the player isn’t a soldier or a Spartan, but a commander commanding his armies in an unknown alien world from a bird’s-eye view of the battlefield.
The game focused on military combat, strategy and base construction elements rather than the fight of the individual soldier. Under you command, each soldier and Spartan is a unit, an extension of your tactical mind. The game features two factions, the UNSC under
Captain Cutter and the Covenant under the Prophet of Regret.
For the story, Halo Wars takes a different approach from the Master Chief oiented trilogy. The game begins in the year 2531 CE, roughly 20 years prior to the events of Combat Evolved. The UNSC flagship Spirit of Fire is set to investigate the planet Harvest for possible Covenant activity.
Captain Cutter learns of the an excavation of an artifact by the Covenant. Assisted by a local team of Spartan-IIs, the UNSC Spirit of Fire fight to defend their colony world and push the Covenant forces off the planet, all the while unknown of the dangers of the parasitic Flood lurking in these far reaches of space.
09) Halo Wars 2 (2017) [pc]
Halo Wars 2 follows the origin story of it’s
first itineration, with the similar rts approach to gameplay. This time, the two playable factions are the UNSC and the Banished. The battlefields were initially covered by the fog of war which were uncovered by mobile units to uncharted regions of the map. Now each unit has a special ability.
Like, the Spartan supersoldiers are capable of hijacking vehicles and performing smash attacks after leaping into the air. But the campaign mode only allows the player to play as the UNSC, which is good for the story. A new addition was Forerunner intelligence, Prometheans construct AIs that are more connected to the story of Halo 5. In a secondary campaign, you can play as the Banished against the parasitic Flood.
And for the story, this game takes place 28 years after the events of Halo Wars in the year 2559 CE. Which is shortly after Halo 5:
Guardians. Arriving at Ark, a forerunner installation the crew aboard the Spirit of Fire receive a UNSC signal from the planet surface. Red Team comprised of super soldiers Alice, Jerome and Douglas, is deployed to investigate.
They retrieve an AI callsign Isabel from the UNSC base now abandoned due to an attack from the Banished. Isabel warn Captain Cutter of Atriox and the Banished under his command, and they suggest using the resources of the Ark to create a new Halo ring to transport the crew of the Spirit of Fire back into UNSC-controlled space.
At the End
And this is my recommended order to play the Halo games and be prepared for the events leading into Halo Infinite. This list leaves out the Halo Spartan series and the
arcade games simply because they don’t offer much in terms of the story or gameplay. But they are also good games, and you should check them out at your own pace.