The Best Halo Games of All Time: A Definitive Ranking

Fanart of Master Chief from Halo

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Halo is one of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time. Spanning four console generations, dozens of books and even a live-action TV show, the sci-fi shooter has remained relevant for over 20 years. But which is the best Halo game?

Ask 10 people to rank the Halo series, and you’ll get 10 different answers. Much of it comes down to personal preference, so keep that in mind before getting up in arms about your favorite not taking the number one spot. For the purposes of this list, we’re also focusing on the mainline games. Sorry, Halo Wars.

Without further ado, here are the best Halo games in the series, ranked from first to last.

An original Xbox controller.
The Halo series stretches back to the original Xbox.

1. Halo 2

Halo’s second installation is a masterpiece, making it an easy pick for the best Halo game of all time. It takes everything great about the original — sprawling, brutalist alien environments, action-packed level design and a surprisingly smart story, to name a few — and turns them up to 11.

Halo 2’s story is second to none, bringing some needed complexity to an otherwise overdone alien invasion theme. While some may not have liked missions where you play as the Arbiter, his character brought an undeniable cool factor to the campaign.

Speaking of cool, Halo 2 introduced dual-wielding. It also brought a sick electric guitar rendition of the main theme. It’s no wonder this title got a whopping 95 on Metacritic without a single negative review.

2. Halo: Combat Evolved

Now for the one that started it all. Halo: Combat Evolved is an undisputed classic. Its weapon variety is staggering for its time, its Alien-inspired levels are equal parts beautiful and haunting, its music is cinematic and it perfected the split-screen multiplayer FPS experience.

Halo: CE also deserves credit for its use of AI in gaming, which was groundbreaking at its release. Covenant troops follow unique behavior patterns and respond to players in real-time. You may be used to that today, but it was a big deal in 2001.

Even if the OG Halo doesn’t feel quite as innovative today, it’s still an absolute blast. Who among us wouldn’t play some Capture the Flag at Blood Gulch right now if offered?

3. Halo: Reach

Our pick for the third-best Halo game goes to Halo: Reach. Reach had a lot to live up to after the massive success of Halo 3, and it delivered by taking some big risks.

Halo: Reach is a prequel where you don’t play as Master Chief and encounter no familiar faces. That may sound like a recipe for disaster, but Bungie’s last hoorah in the series weaved one of its best stories and a wildly fun multiplayer experience.

Reach is far bleaker than the rest of its series, and this gritty atmosphere oozes into every aspect of the game. That didn’t stop it from having fun, though, as it also had some of the most in-depth armor customization options and introduced abilities like the jetpack and drop shield.

Replica Master Chief helmet from Halo

4. Halo 3

Halo: CE might’ve started this franchise, but Halo 3 propelled it to legendary status. It set a record for day-one sales for both video games and movies by raking in $170 million at launch. That record may not stand anymore, but Halo 3’s legacy sure does.

The campaign brought the original story arc to a satisfying conclusion. The multiplayer was bigger than ever, thanks to Forge Mode and a huge variety of weapon and gameplay options. Halo 3 may not have changed the formula much — one of the only things holding it back — but it mastered what was already there.

5. Halo 4

After Reach, Bungie stopped developing Halo games, leaving 343 Industries to pick up the mantle. While most diehard fans agree that the Bungie era was better, Halo 4 was still a great entry. It’s not the best Halo game ever, but it’s certainly not the worst.

Halo 4’s story is full of intrigue and worldbuilding, but it doesn’t quite capture the same magic as earlier titles. The Prometheans aren’t quite as intimidating or interesting an enemy as the Covenant, but Cortana’s character arc in this game is remarkable.

The multiplayer was also solid. It built on the foundations laid by Halo: Reach without straying too far. Overall, the game didn’t quite scratch the Halo itch many fans had, but it aged well compared to what came next.

6. Halo 3: ODST

Despite its name, Halo 3: ODST feels more like a standalone game than an expansion to Halo 3. That’s a good thing, too, as it’s one of the most unique entries into the series. Unfortunately, that also means it doesn’t stand among bigger, better games in the Halo franchise.

You don’t play as a Spartan in ODST, which makes the Covenant feel much stronger and scarier. The campaign, while short, also tells an at times campy but engaging story. It’s by no means a bad game, but it loses some of what sets Halo apart from other shooters.

A white Xbox controller on top of a keyboard.
Halo Infinite gets bonus points for bringing the Halo series back to PC, not just Xbox.

7. Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is a strange beast. On one hand, it feels like a return to form. Master Chief is back on a Halo ring, Halo is back on PC, and multiplayer matches feel closer to the Bungie era than they have in years. On the other, it’s a dramatic departure, thanks to an open world and free-to-play multiplayer.

While open worlds are cool, not all can be Breath of the Wild. The nonlinear experience feels unnecessary in this case. It may even hold the story back from having any sort of emotional impact.

That said, Infinite is still fun — especially in multiplayer. Its player base is slowly climbing back up despite plummeting after launch, too. Being free to play certainly sweetens the deal, if nothing else.

8. Halo 5: Guardians

Oh, Halo 5. You could’ve been so much more. Despite selling more than 10 million copies, Halo 5: Guardians is the worst the series has to offer. To be clear, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It’s just not Halo.

Halo 5 splits the campaign between Master Chief and Spartan Locke, presumably trying to recreate Halo 2’s success in telling two simultaneous stories. Unlike Halo 2, though, Guardians ends up telling a confusing, nonengaging mess of a story. A radically new, lootbox-filled multiplayer experience didn’t help. It was a fine FPS, but not on par with the rest of the series.

It’s Hard to Narrow Down the Best Halo Game

Despite a few stumbles, the Halo series has consistently delivered quality titles. That’s partly why it’s so hard to pick the best Halo game. You could make a strong argument for a lot of them — just not Halo 5.

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