Thanks to the release of the excellent Halo Infinite, people are spending a lot of time talking about the Halo franchise again. With that in mind, we've decided to revisit all the main Halo games to see how the older ones stack up against more recent entries in the series.
To be clear, we're only looking at main games—no spin-offs like the real-time strategy Halo Wars or top-down shooter Halo: Spartan Assault. We're also not including Halo: The Master Chief Collection. (You can play most of these games in that collection.)
So let's jump in! Here's our ranking of all the main Halo video games. Which one do you think should come out on top?
8. Halo 5: Guardians
None of the mainline Halo games are bad games, and that's even true for Halo 5: Guardians despite taking the bottom spot on our list. The main reason it's so low? A few changes that made it feel less like a Halo game.
Loadouts and aim-down-sights aren't gameplay elements you think of when you think of Halo. That said, these changes did freshen up what felt like an aging franchise, even if the campaign was somewhat forgettable.
7. Halo 4
While 343 Industries had already done significant work on the Halo franchise with Halo 3: ODST and Halo: Reach, this was still the developer's first chance at a proper numbered Halo game.
They managed to create a completely serviceable Halo game, even though it's difficult to remember it as much more than that.
This is when the Halo franchise's overall story started becoming increasingly complicated and hard to follow. That might be part of the reason this ranks so low, but it's mainly that this game led directly to the relative low point of Halo 5: Guardians.
6. Halo 2
Halo 2 left a sour aftertaste for many players, primarly due to its ending. That's a shame because it has led many to overlook just how important Halo 2 was to the franchise. After all, this is the game that introduced online multiplayer to Halo.
It's also the game that—spoilers for a nearly 20-year-old game coming up!—let players step out of the shoes of Master Chief for the first time. Bungie somehow kept tight lips on the fact you spend some of the campaign playing as the Arbiter!
5. Halo: Reach
Halo: Reach is a must-play for die-hard Halo fans thanks to its lore and its significance to the Halo universe. For everyone else, it remains a very playable and entertaining game that you could certainly do worse than—but you don't really need to play it save for the story.
Why? Mostly because of the passage of time. Halo: Reach was a major hit with both critics and fans when it came out, but so how many games have come out since, and its reputation has fallen in retrospect.
4. Halo 3: ODST
Before Halo Infinite, there was another game that flirted with open-world elements in the tried and true Halo formula. Halo 3: ODST didn't stop there as far as messing with the Halo formula, though.
Halo 3: ODST introduced non-linear storytelling in tandem with its semi-open-world design. It also had a distinctly different feel to its world, thanks in part to the ruined city setting as well as its music, which remains subtle and jazzy compared to the usual bombast of a Halo soundtrack.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved
Most of the time, the first entry in a classic shooter franchise doesn't hold up well over time, but that isn't the case for Halo: Combat Evolved.
Slap on a new coat of paint—as developer 343 Industries did with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and the more recent Halo: The Master Chief Collection—and it's surprising just how fresh this 20-year-old game feels.
Of course, local multiplayer was a big selling point of Halo when it first released, even though it lacked online multiplayer. That came in Halo 2, but the DNA of multiplayer Halo was already present in this first game.
2. Halo Infinite
I'm far from the first person to say this, but Halo Infinite's open-world direction helps recreate the feeling that players got the first time they played the original Halo. Those maps were small, but compared to everything that had come before, they seemed huge.
By adding open-world elements, Halo Infinite is the first game in the series in a long time that truly feels like a step forward.
Combine fun new mechanics (like the grappling hook) and an interesting take on a Battle Pass, and Halo Infinite is precisely what we didn't know we needed in a new Halo game.
1. Halo 3
As revolutionary as the first two Halo games were, not all that many people played them compared to later entries in the series. While Halo 2 introduced online multiplayer, the extra effort in getting online on the original Xbox meant it didn't take off the way it would later on.
Halo 3 is when things really soared to new heights. Released for the Xbox 360 and equipped with a stellar campaign and unmatched online multiplayer for the time, Halo 3 was the one that truly introduced the world to Halo—and in many ways, later games never hit that same high.