The Best of Halo: Ranking the Top Games in the Halo Series

Key Points

  • Halo is one of the most important franchises in gaming.

  • 343 Industries' titles are decent games but have struggled to retain long-time franchise players.

  • The original trilogy's standards are a lot to live up to.

  • What's the greatest Halo ever? Keep reading to learn HaloHype's picks.

Mario. The Legend of Zelda. Doom. Like these franchises, Halo has a storied legacy in gaming, with each gaming making a mark on how devs make video games. With consoles coming and going and new generations of players booting up their first game, every Halo installment in the iconic gaming franchise eventually sized up with those that came before. Ranking the franchise's greats against each other in a definitive list is daunting, but the HaloHype staff is up to the task.

Every mainline game is on this list. Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike are worthwhile games for millions of players, but they're not included here. The staff judged each title by its core gameplay, visuals, multiplayer game modes, and story. All these elements are subjective for every player, but this is the consensus the writing team achieved.

Without further ado, this is HaloHype’s ranking of the Halo series games, from least impressive to most.

10. Halo 5: Guardians

Close up of Halo 5: Guardians.

Photo source: Amazon

It's essential to get one thing straight from the get-go: Halo 5 retained a significant player base until Halo Infinite launched. Whatever failed metrics in this title are up for debate, but impossible to ignore is its controversial and confusing campaign. 

Multiplayer also had some unique design decisions that even the most casual of players struggled to adapt to. This entry is easily one of the most competitive Halo sandboxes, with built-in advanced movements like thrusters and ground pound. Viewed as a total package, Halo 5 is an interesting competitive arena shooter that seemed totally separate from the world created in Bungie's game. It's a good game — even a great game — but it tries too much to stand apart from the IP that made itself possible. 

9. Halo Wars 2

As only the franchise's second outing into real-time strategy (RTS), Halo Wars 2 has a decent story, with the expansion enhancing what works. It plays great on a gamepad, but it's difficult to grasp on a mouse and keyboard like you would while playing StarCraft or Age of Empires. It plays slower because it's intended to be played on a gamepad. The bottom line is that it runs as a true Halo strategy spin-off.

That said, Halo Wars 2 scratches that itch for a quality Halo side story, especially with the Awakening the Nightmare campaign. It has rich characters, artistic direction, and fun modes for players of all skill levels. It's by no means a bad game, but it has stiff competition in a franchise with an absurd amount of great games.

8. Halo Wars

As the final game released by Ensemble Studios, Halo Wars is a bittersweet game to look back on. The title originated as an RTS solely for consoles in an original sci-fi world created by the Ensemble team. However, after some push from its parent company, Microsoft, Ensemble had no choice but to make it a Halo strategy spin-off.

Fan-favorite characters like Sergeant Forge originate here, the soundtrack is superb, and it just feels more like Halo than its eventual 2017 sequel. Maps are tighter, and music cues feel reminiscent of Marty O'Donnell. Incredibly, this little game has had the fan acclaim and support it carries decades after its release. For that, it sits comfortably at No. 8.

7. Halo 4

Close up of Halo 4.

Photo source: Amazon

Some readers might be throwing bottles at their screens right now, but hear this out — even though multiplayer definitely plays the most like a Call of Duty game and the art style is such a grating departure from Halo's established visual language, underneath all of the extra and unnecessary changes, Halo 4 still manages to tell a solid Halo story. 

Enemy encounters at points become incredibly unfun, but the campaign, for the most part, runs a compelling and emotional story with new iconic weapons, Forerunner locations, and a primarily smooth kick-off for the Reclaimer Saga games. 

6. Halo 3: ODST

A neo-noir set along the backdrop of Halo 2's New Mombasa, Halo 3: ODST is known for its sultry and somber music while you play detective in this futuristic city. The common player has no memory of ODST, and while the Halo prequel storyline began in Reach, this was technically the first spinoff in the Halo series games.

As Joe Staten's pet project, the writing and characters have more spunk than ever without the need for space operatics. You play as a ground-level fighter, not a super soldier. Your job is to survive the Covenant's onslaught. Its atmosphere, soundscapes, and gunplay cultivate a playing experience that stands out best. 

5. Halo: Combat Evolved

Close up of Halo: Combat Evolved.

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Combat Evolved is the most important launch title in console gaming history. Without it, Microsoft's Xbox experiment would have sputtered and fallen into obscurity, just like the Sega Dreamcast (which did have good games but come on). It handles smoothly, plays perfectly gimmicky, and solidifies itself as the beautiful couch multiplayer party game that sets the tone for the next 20 years of games.

Has it aged the most gracefully? Only a few have. Halo improved graphics and gameplay afterward, level design became far less labyrinthian, and the Magnum became a proper sidearm instead of the sniper it is in Combat Evolved's campaign. It introduced players to the Halo ringworld, the Master Chief protagonist, and remains the perfect entry point into the Halo franchise. May it endure forever. 

4. Halo Infinite

This may surprise many, but 343 Industries' latest Halo installment Infinite, despite all the ups and downs, the controversy, the missing content, and the choice to continue the Reclaimer Saga games, is still the closest the franchise has gotten to the original Halo trilogy’s magic since Halo 3. That is an insane achievement. 

Its potential is both infuriating and exciting. Its competitive scene is enthralling, and the art style is a proper return to form. Its expansive open world opens the door to more incredible stories, all on the back of Halo's great vehicles and that buttery-smooth grapple shot. Can Halo Infinite improve through content updates and story expansions? Only time will tell.

3. Halo: Reach

Close up of Halo: Reach for Xbox.

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Reach remains a hot topic for many players — its campaign counteracts essential components of the fan-favorite novel Fall of Reach by Erik Nylund. It introduced a controversial loadout system in multiplayer and started the seemingly never-ending sprint debate in the franchise. Beyond the middling controversy lies developer Bungie's love letter to its baby, delivering a satisfying goodbye as the studio departed to work on Destiny

But Halo: Reach, in hindsight, just feels good. The sandbox is expansive, the DMR is clean, and the armor customization feels fair and worth progressing. As the most important entry in the Halo prequel storyline, Reach tells you how the story will end in the first two minutes and doesn't pull its punches — you play as a doomed soldier on a doomed planet. Your mission is to save as many human lives as possible from tactical and militarized forces more powerful than humanity has ever seen. Your sacrifices make the events of the original Halo trilogy possible. Remember, always; remember Reach.

2. Halo 2

Nothing more can be said about the game that forever changed console play. Halo 2 solidified Xbox Live as the premier online service for couch players and made console esports viable with its partnership with Major League Gaming. Halo 2 improved graphics and gameplay, expanded the story and world created in its predecessor, and gave us the Arbiter, who stands as the only rival to Master Chief as the series' protagonist. 

To many, Halo never got any better. It was more — more campaign richness, more multiplayer game modes, and more of what makes Halo the iconic gaming franchise it is. Halo 2 can't be outdone by any other game in the franchise.

1. Halo 3

Close up of Halo 3 for Xbox.

Photo source: Amazon

You knew this was going to be close to the top. Halo 3 remains the highest-selling title in the franchise to date and the one not mired in any controversy. Sure, there are complaints, but these barely hold a candle to other games' weaknesses. The story is simple, but its set pieces and pacing are perfect. Cortana is the worst mission in the game, but it's still miles better than the least enjoyable missions in every other title. The sandbox is the quintessential composition for every game in the franchise.

It achieved the perfect balance between satisfying a casual, couch co-op audience, introducing Forge for the uber-creative, and satisfying the most diehard competitive players. In short, there has never been a more Halo game than Halo 3. It remains the perfect representative for the franchise in the debate for the greatest game of all time.

"No. I Think We're Just Getting Started."

Close up of Master Chief in Halo 4 for Xbox.

Photo source: Amazon

As the Studio Head of 343 Industries Pierre Hintze says, "Halo and Master Chief are here to stay." More Halo stories will be told, and it remains to be seen if this list gets shaken up or not.

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