×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Every Halo Game Ranked Worst To Best

Want to feel old? It has been 20 years since the original Xbox launched with "Halo: Combat Evolved", a game that forever changed console gaming and launched one of the medium's biggest franchises. With "Halo: Infinite" on the Horizon, and the multiplayer already live in what is technically an open beta, the iconic first-person-shooter franchise is on everyone's mind. Master Chief has returned and we are ready to take a look back at his greatest adventures — and the not-so-great ones he was absent from.

Over the two decades that have led "Halo" to be one of the biggest sci-fi IPs in the world, there have been over a dozen releases in the series. Between mainline games, "Halo Wars," and other less frequently mentioned spin-offs the series has seen over a dozen releases. So how do they all measure up today? Let's find out by ranking every single game in the "Halo" franchise, from worst to best.

Halo: Recruit

"Halo: Recruit" is most likely the game the least amount of people reading this list have played — and that's just one of multiple reasons why this VR game takes the bottom spot. It requires a great deal of expensive, proprietary hardware in order to even play this short, shallow experience. Some might say that's par for the course with VR, but compared to other "Halo" spinoffs, "Recruit" doesn't stack up.

The experience requires a Windows Mixed Reality headset and is exclusive to PC via the Microsoft Store. Put on your headset and jump behind the eyes of a UNSC recruit ready to jump into combat for the first time. The game has no movement and after showing you a detailed slideshow of the Covenant you will be shooting, you are placed in a standard wave-based VR shooting gallery. Some users say the guns feel good compared to other VR shooters, but the fact that you are shooting cardboard cut-outs of aliens and not the real thing deflates the entire experience. "Recruit" takes about five minutes to complete, as well, making it feel more like a demo of something bigger to come than a full-fledged game.

  • Release Date: October 17, 2017
  • Available On: PC (requires Mixed Reality headset)
  • Genre: Action, First-person Shooter 
  • Game Modes: VR single-player
  • Metacritic: N/A

Halo: Fireteam Raven

A little bit longer and more substantial than "Recruit," the 2018 light gun shooter "Fireteam Raven" is yet another entry in the "Halo" franchise most fans haven't got to check out. In fact, it is probably more difficult to find a way to play it than "Recruit." At least you can reliably buy a Mixed Reality headset for that "Recruit" if you wanted to spend a prohibitive amount of money on a five-minute experience. "Fireteam Raven" is longer and more involved, but was only released at Dave and Buster's arcades in 2018. If you don't live near a US or Canada Dave and Buster's location featuring the game, well you are out of luck.

Thankfully, you aren't missing out too much on this fairly shallow on-rails shooter. It is novel, for sure, and has you globe-trotting to fight all of the most iconic "Halo" enemies like the Covenant and Flood. It consists of a handful of missions and takes about an hour to complete. Like even the greatest "Halo" experiences, this one is best experienced with a friend.

  • Release Date: July 10, 2018
  • Available On: Arcade
  • Genre: Action, Light-gun shooter
  • Game Modes: Single-player and local co-op
  • Metacritic: N/A

Halo: Spartan Assault

This spin-off game came out in 2013 to a very middling reception. "Spartan Assault" is a twin-stick shooter that adapts the world of the "Halo" games to an isometric point of view. The game, and its sequel that never made it to Xbox, have at this point mostly been forgotten, although you can pick up both for a steal of $5 on Steam.

"Spartan Assault" features 30 levels of twin-stick shooter action, but none of it is that remarkable. The story attempts to fill in the gaps between "Halo 3" and "4," and you play as the Spartans that came after Master Chief. "Halo" lore nerds might find it worthy of a download via Game Pass, but other than that there isn't too much reason to dive into this arcade-y shooter.

  • Release Date: July 18, 2018
  • Available On: PC, Mobile, Xbox 
  • Genre: Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online co-op
  • Metacritic: 70 (PC), 53 (Xbox One), 51 (Xbox 360)

Halo: Spartan Strike

Released just two years later, "Halo: Spartan Strike" was a lot more of the same that players had seen in "Spartan Assault." Like its predecessor, "Spartan Strike" is a twin-stick shooter boasting 30 playable levels across the campaign. The graphics are improved and the gameplay feels a bit snappier, but overall this is more of the same mediocrity as before.

The strangest part of "Spartan Strike" is that despite being a slightly better and more refined version of "Spartan Assault" it is not available on Xbox. The game was only ever released on PC and mobile, making it the only "Halo" game (meaning we aren't counting "Recruit" or "Fireteam Raven") to never make it to the family of consoles that gave the franchise its start. An odd one out, that's for sure. 

  • Release Date: April 16, 2015
  • Available On: PC, Mobile
  • Genre: Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online co-op
  • Metacritic: 66 (PC), iOS (86)

Halo Wars 2

While the original "Halo Wars" made enough of a splash to have fans wanting more, the sequel that was released eight years later came and went without a bang. Set after the events of "Halo 5: Guardians", this real-time strategy title adapted the visual language and narrative of 343's "Halo" games. The team at 343 teamed up with genre veterans Creative Assembly, but the results were an underwhelming game that came out far too late for the genre it was working in.

For a sequel that came out years after its predecessor, "Halo Wars 2" dropped the ball on the campaign missions and story mode. Despite gorgeous cutscenes from Blur, the narrative had a lackluster ending. The best thing about "Halo Wars 2" was that it was simultaneously released on PC and Xbox One, allowing RTS veterans to play it on their set-up of choice.

  • Release Date: February 21, 2017
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online co-op
  • Metacritic: 70 (PC), 79 (Xbox One)

Halo 5: Guardians

The least successful of the main series "Halo" games, "Guardians" was 343 Studios trying their absolute hardest to make a name for themselves while taking "Halo" into the modern era. Ditching many of the controls and trappings Bungie cooked up years earlier, "Halo 5" added aim-down-sights to the left trigger and added mobility options beyond the equipment of "Halo 4." These well-intentioned ambitions ultimately led to a game that sold well, but made fans angry enough that it required 343 to entirely reconsider the future of the series.

The campaign was the weakest of the main games. Between the new control scheme and mobility options trying to ape popular shooters like "Call of Duty" and the nonsensical story (even for a "Halo" game), "Guardians" didn't bring anything distinctly "Halo" to the formula. Worse, it shipped without split-screen co-op, a feature of the series since "Combat Evolved." Instead, it feels like the most generic of the main franchise entries. But it wasn't a complete failure.

The one great addition "Guardians" brought to the series was the Warzone mode. This 12 v 12 mode was full of ambitious large maps, MOBA-like creeps (basic non-player units), and combat on a grander scale than any "Halo" before. Unfortunately, this mode has not returned in "Halo Infinite."

  • Release Date: October 25, 2016
  • Available On: Xbox
  • Genre: Action, First-person shooter
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
  • Metacritic: 84 (Xbox One)

Halo Wars

Back in 2009, Real-Time Strategy games had not yet dried up as a genre. Blizzard's "StarCraft 2" was on the horizon and even "Halo" was expanding into the RTS territory with this gem. Enemy and vehicle designs are easily recognizable to "Halo" fans, so on some level the idea made sense. "Halo Wars" is one of the most interesting experiments in the series, and while not entirely successful it did get the basics right.

The most impressive part of "Halo Wars" is the controls. Managing to make a genre that was built on the backs of mouse and keyboard work on a controller is a feat in and of itself. "Halo Wars" feels good to control and the commands are easy and intuitive. Unfortunately, this successful control scheme was a double-edged energy sword as it streamline typical RTS mechanics and led to a less nuanced strategic experience than its PC competitors.

  • Release Date: March 3, 2009
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online co-op
  • Metacritic: 82 (Xbox 360)

Halo 4

"Halo 4" was 343 Industries' first crack at picking up where Bungie left off. All in all, it wasn't the near-franchise-ending catastrophe that "Halo 5" was but it still failed to live up to the pedigree of the previous games. Still, it was a pretty fun shooter with a compelling multiplayer mode.

In 2012, 343 were stuck between trying to bring the series forward into the modern era of FPS controls and conventions and making a "Halo" game. It shows, as "Halo 4" is mostly faithful to the older entries in terms of its controls and feel. It brought back many classic Bungie weapons, introduced some new ones that were hit or miss, and added meaningful progression to the multiplayer mode that was a welcome addition at the time.

To this day, the campaign remains quite divisive among "Halo" fans. Some bemoan the lack of scale and nuanced encounter design of the Bungie games. Others praise the story, especially the extremely emotional climactic moment between Chief and Cortana, as a high point in the series.

  • Release Date: November 6, 2012
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online, and local co-op
  • Metacritic: 87 (Xbox 360), 84 (PC)

Halo 3: ODST

Another divisive entry in the series, "ODST ” is not as full-fledged as Bungie's other entries, but what's there is fascinating. Originally titled "Halo: Recon," the game's campaign is best played co-op. It drops you as an ODST trooper in the middle of New Mombasa in the time between "Halo 2" and "3." The best part of the game is the gorgeous hub area of the city. With neon lighting like nothing else in "Halo" and open areas with multiple ways to approach objectives (as well as a sick silenced SMG), the vibes of "ODST" are immaculate. These sections are interspersed with traditional "Halo" sized levels that were good, but failed to live up to the heights of "Halo 3" and "Reach." Still, the campaign remains unique and impressive.

The other mode "ODST" shipped with was a creative, but admittedly bare-bones version of Firefight. Not putting a matchmaking mode would've killed the wave-based mode entirely if Bungie hadn't rectified that in "Reach." While reviewers were initially bummed about the price-point and lack of matchmaking and multiplayer options, some have come around on the title over the years. "ODST" has become a cult favorite among hardcore "Halo" fans.

  • Release Date: September 22, 2009
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online and local co-op
  • Metacritic: 83 (Xbox 360), 91 (PC)

Halo: Reach

The final "Halo" game Bungie released, "Reach" was both a prequel that came full circle to the original and a culmination of everything the team had done with the series thus far. It was maximalist, full of every multiplayer mode and feature ever put in a "Halo" game, including Firefight and Forge. It is the "Smash Bros Ultimate" of classic "Halo," and the campaign has one of the strongest character-driven stories in the game series.

You play as Noble 6, the newest Spartan assigned to Noble Team, a squad of elite soldiers assigned to Reach right before its inevitable fall. The game's entire narrative structure is predicated on knowing the tragedy that will befall these characters. It works because "Reach" makes you care about Noble Team anyway. Full of huge set-piece moments, advanced enemy AI (especially on higher difficulties), an awe-inspiring space combat level, and a subdued, affecting ending, the campaign of "Reach" is one of the best Bungie ever made.

The only reason "Reach" isn't higher up on the list is really not its fault at all. In terms of multiplayer, the name of the game was refinement, and that's perfectly fine. It just wasn't pushing the games industry forward in the way the original "Halo" trilogy did.

  • Release Date: September 14, 2010
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online, and local co-op
  • Metacritic: 91 (Xbox 360), 81 (PC)

Halo: Combat Evolved

It is only a slight exaggeration to say "Halo: Combat Evolved" changed console shooters forever. It was not the first console shooter, and over the years we've seen the control scheme of "Call of Duty" become more ubiquitous than the "Halo" style shooter, but the Xbox launch title lived up to its name. After "Halo," combat was never the same.

This game introduced the world to a compelling military sci-fi setting, the iconic Master Chief, and of course the Halo, a ring-world inhabited by the covenant. We could spend hundreds of words listing the weapons and enemies the game introduced to the world that became immediate gaming icons. The Needler, the forlorn "Halo 1" pistol, and of course Grunts and Elites. It was all there from the start. For Xbox gamers in 2001, there was nothing more breathtaking than finally landing down on the huge, open second level of the game. Most importantly, you could play the whole thing with a friend.

This is to say nothing of the multiplayer which, while not online, became so popular among local players that "LAN party" became a common phrase in pop culture. Classic maps like Blood Gulch even went on to be updated and remade in future iterations of the series.

  • Release Date: November 15, 2001
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Local co-op
  • Metacritic: 97 (Xbox), 79 (PC)

Halo 2

After "Combat Evolved" set the world on fire, "Halo 2" took "Halo" online. Sure, the campaign disappointed some fans (although for our money it still is full of incredible levels like "Cairo Station" and "Metropolis"), but it added so much as well. "Halo 2" introduced new vehicles like Scorpion tanks, iconic "Halo" weapons including the Energy Sword and Battle Rifle, and dual-wielding. While not all fans loved playing as the Arbiter instead of Master Chief for half the game, you have to admit the layer of political and religious context added depth to the Covenant forces.

Most importantly, "Halo 2" took the series online. Xbox Live was in its infancy at the time, but without this game, it likely would never have made it out. Multiplayer in "Halo 2" was a revelation for console players in 2004. Bungie came into their own as masters of shooter map design with this one, carrying those skills forward to future "Halo" and "Destiny" games. Whether you played online or split-screen, "Halo 2" marks the moment the series became the industry leader in multiplayer shooting.

  • Release Date: November 9, 2004
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online, and local co-op
  • Metacritic: 95 (Xbox), 71 (PC)

Halo 3

After years of waiting to see where the cliffhanger in "Halo 2" was leading, fans were rewarded with the greatest "Halo" game ever made, "Halo 3." A defining game of the Xbox 360 generation, "Halo 3" had it all and more. Where do we even begin?

For starters, the "Halo 3" campaign is the best of the bunch. The narrative concluded Master Chief, Cortana, and the Arbiter's arcs in the most cohesive and satisfying story in a "Halo" game to date. Add to this the inclusion of Brutes (and their hammers), four-player online co-op, and skulls that allow you to customize your experience each time around, and you have a perfectly paced campaign boasting memorable gunfights and vehicle segments like the final level's thrilling escape.

But you cannot talk about "Halo 3" without talking about multiplayer. Being the first "Halo" title on Xbox 360, it reached a huge audience of gamers who finally had easy access to Xbox Live. The maps are universally incredibly detailed and balanced, and the game was supported with years of DLC — setting the standard for shooters going forward. Most importantly, there was the Forge, a mode where players could create their own modes and maps. To this day, nothing in video games has recaptured the magic of "Halo 3" Custom Games. The multiplayer experience ran the gamut from hardcore modes like SWAT to the tag-based Infection, to the silliest gimmick modes you and your friends could think of using the Forge. "Halo 3" was a remarkable achievement in gaming and still holds up as the best part of the "Master Chief Collection."

  • Release Date: November 9, 2004
  • Available On: PC, Xbox
  • Genre: First-person shooter, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer, Online, and local co-op
  • Metacritic: 94 (Xbox 360), 88 (PC)