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Halo Games Ranked From Worst to Best

Here, we’re going to take a stab at ranking the mighty Halo series in this Halo games ranked from worst to best article! Halo put Microsoft and the fledgling Xbox on the map. Along with Call of Duty, its gunplay and story quickly set the standard for future FPS titles. Its influence was so significant that the original developer, Bungie, eventually split off to take those ideas even further with the Destiny franchise.

Bungie may no longer be at the helm, but Halo has remained a consistent fixture of the gaming landscape for the last 20 years. The franchise was set to make its big return to form alongside the Xbox Series X this fall, but the wait for a classic Master Chief experience has extended into 2021. 

Not to worry, though, as the delay makes now the best time to revisit the backlog of Halo titles already available. The story is written in such a way that you can jump into the series at any time, and we here at High Ground have the best Halo games ranked to help you decide where to start.

Halo Games Ranked Worst to Best

For this list, we’re looking at every single game in the Halo franchise, including the core series and spin-offs. Let’s see which games should’ve been ejected out of an airlock and which are worth finishing the fight.

13. Halo Spartan Assault

Spartan Assault
  • Developer: 343 Industries, Vanguard Games
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC, Mobile
  • Release Date: July 18, 2013

Starting off our Halo games ranked article at #13 is Spartan Assault. Spartan Assault represents 343’s first attempt at expanding the story they set up in Halo 4. The game ends up being an unfortunate casualty of Microsoft’s foray into touch devices, as they opted for a mobile title that zaps the game of its potential.

The action-packed set pieces Halo fans have come to know and love work surprisingly well as a twin-stick shooter. The shooting and movement feel satisfying enough, but the game loses its luster when played on PC or Xbox. With incredibly short missions, limited level variety, and a story that does nothing to expand the lore or narrative, Spartan Assault can’t quite make a case for itself. 

12. Halo Spartan Strike 

Spartan Strike
  • Developer: 343 Industries, Vanguard Games
  • Platform(s): PC, Mobile
  • Release Date: April 16, 2015

Spartan Strike was the direct follow-up to Spartan Assault and was strangely a vast improvement over the original. It ditched any attempts at a deep and cohesive story altogether, and instead focused on expanding the gameplay scenarios and environments.

One such expansion is the inclusion of the Promethean enemies from Halo 4. While I absolutely despise them (which you’ll learn more about later on), they work incredibly well here. Their presence increases the game’s difficulty and tactical nature, keeping the gameplay loop from feeling too repetitive.

Unfortunately, you can tell that Microsoft had lost faith in this little experiment due to its absence on the Xbox One. Sadly, this will likely be the last attempt we see at a top-down shoot-em-up Halo title. 

11. Halo: Fireteam Raven

Fireteam Raven
  • Developer: 343 Industries, Play Mechanix
  • Platform(s): Arcade Cabinet
  • Release Date: July 10, 2018

Fireteam Raven isn’t a console game, but it’s still a fantastic Halo experience that truly embraces the couch co-op roots of the series. Set during the campaign of Combat Evolved, you take control of an elite team of ODST known as Fireteam Raven. Your mission is to secure the surface of Alpha Halo and take down the covenant threat.

It’s this setting that truly makes this game special. You get to see set pieces and maps from the first game in a whole new light. You even get to interact with Chief as he wrecks Covenant troops at various points throughout the game. 

It’s a fun and snappy experience worthy of the Halo namesake, but it’s also incredibly punishing and meant to eat up quarters. Even then, it’s still worth grabbing three friends to play all the way through.

10. Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2
  • Developer: 343 Industries, Creative Assembly
  • Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: February 21, 2017

I don’t think anyone ever thought we’d see another Halo real-time strategy game. But the release of Halo Wars 2 brought back the now-iconic spin-off for another go-around set after the events of Halo 5. Unlike 343’s earlier attempts at expanding the Halo universe’s lore, Halo Wars finds success by focusing on a plot set outside the events of the core titles.

You still play as the same crew from the original game, but this time around, you’re facing a rogue Brute threat with galaxy-ending implications. Surprisingly, the setup of the big bad was paid off in the last Halo Infinite trailer, making this game a now-integral part of the series.

Plot and fan excitement aside, the drawback of this sequel is its lack of innovation. There are no quality of life improvements, and the gameplay feels like an incredibly basic RTS title. Unless you’re a die-hard fan, you may want to save yourself some time and just read a plot synopsis instead. 

9. Halo 5: Guardians

Halo 5 Guardians
  • Developer: 343 Industries
  • Platform(s): Xbox One
  • Release Date: October 27, 2015

You know how I mentioned my disdain for Prometheans? You can thank Halo 5 for that. All other issues aside, the soldier and knight units are the most overpowered and frustrating enemies to fight in any first-person shooter. And frustrating may be the best way to describe this game.

Serving as a follow-up to 343’s surprisingly solid first outing, Guardians was meant to be the next leap in innovation for the franchise. Leading up to release, we got a riveting podcast starring Keegan Michael-Key, teases of a branching narrative, and the introduction of team-based cooperative AI. Instead, we got a mess of a game that couldn’t decide what it wanted to be or where it wanted to take the story.

Sure, there are some neat ideas like Breakout that push the envelope of what a Halo title can be. But the Warzone mode, grindy battle cards, weak story, and clunky mobility features shroud any of the high points. It feels like an ambitious title that got caught up in making too many changes.

8. Halo Wars

Halo Wars
  • Developer: Ensemble Studios
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: February 26, 2009

Unlike its sequel, Halo Wars represents dramatic innovation for console-based RTS titles. Taking inspiration from the original pitch of Combat Evolved, the team at Ensemble Studios found a way to streamline an incredibly in-depth strategy game. 

Not bound by current lore, this game is set long before the events of the original, at the height of the war between the UNSC and Covenant. Unlike other Halo titles, you control not only Spartans but also marines, ODST, and various vehicle units throughout the game. It truly represented the potential of the Halo series at the time and set a bar for simplified RTS titles. 

7. Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo Combat Evolved
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Platform(s): Xbox, PC, Mac OS X
  • Release Date: November 15, 2001

At its release, the original Halo felt like a shot in the arm for FPS titles. It showed that you could have incredibly fun multiplayer while still focusing on telling a meaningful story. That story didn’t need to be straightforward, either, with Bungie opting to throw you right into the action.

The level design, enemy variety, and overall story only improve as you progress through the campaign. Best of all, once you’re finished with the story, you can jump directly into local co-op to battle it out with friends. You can even play all of your favorite maps online with revamped graphics, thanks to the Anniversary edition’s release in 2011.

Combat Evolved truly set the standard for modern shooters. Sure, the gameplay may seem a bit sluggish, and the level design a bit convoluted compared to later entries, but it still holds up overall.

6. Halo 3: ODST

Halo 3 ODST
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: September 22, 2009

One of the more interesting games in the series, ODST served as a standalone expansion following the release of Halo 3. This would be the first time in a Halo title where you don’t play as Master Chief. Instead, you take control of an elite Orbital Drop Shock Trooper to investigate a disappearance in the semi-open world of New Mombasa. 

This investigative angle, combined with the fact you aren’t playing as Spartans, makes you feel much more vulnerable. This causes the overall gameplay to feel more strategic over previous titles, as you have to approach every scenario carefully. Go in too hot or miss a med pack, and it’s back to the beginning for another go.

While the campaign is a complete departure, the multiplayer is somewhat of a mixed bag. The actual online multiplayer is simply a repackaged Halo 3 online mode with additional maps, but it also introduces possibly the most memorable addition to the Halo franchise with Firefight. This wave-based horde mode would become a short-lived staple for the series, and once again prove that the team at Bungie could still find ways to innovate. 

5. Halo 2

Halo 2
  • Developer: Bungie 
  • Platform(s): Xbox, PC
  • Release Date: November 9, 2004

I know I’m going to get flack for listing this below Halo 4, but I do have my reasons. While great in its own right, Halo 2 really laid the groundwork for what the next few games would go on to do better. The only mechanic that gets overlooked is dual-wielding, which is sadly still locked within this one game despite being well-deserving of a comeback.

Rather than replicating what made the first game so successful, Bungie went even deeper. The story is more nuanced by delving into the warring nature of the Covenant. Thanks to the addition of Arbiter as a playable character, you not only get the power fantasy of playing as Chief, but also a sympathetic exploration of the tragic nature of your enemies.

Now, the innovative story would have been enough to satisfy most fans, but the team at Bungie took things a step further. As the first title to truly utilize the potential of Xbox Live, Halo 2 emerged as the direct symbol of innovation in online gameplay. While it likely wasn’t the cleanest setup by today’s standards, it did pave the way for what Bungie would continue to do online.

4. Halo 4

Halo 4
  • Developer: 343 Industries
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: November 6, 2012

I’m going to say it upfront: Halo 4 is an underrated gem in the franchise. Not only did it mark the successful handoff to a new team, but it was also a bold step forward in showing what a Halo game could be. It took risks, bumping up the speed and kinetic movement, yet it still managed to feel distinctly Halo. Plenty of fans complained that it was too fast, but really, it felt modern. 

Speaking of modern, folks also seem to forget how good this game looks. Released near the end of a console lifecycle, Halo 4 seemingly squeezed every amount of power possible out of the Xbox 360. The game is magnificent in scope and showcases breathtaking visuals that may be more akin to fine art over background imagery.

Possibly the only unforgivable aspect of Halo 4 is the introduction of the Prometheans as in-game enemies. Sure, they look neat aesthetically and hold unique lore connotations, but is that all really worth it considering how overpowered they become in Halo 5? I think not.

3. Halo 3

Halo 3
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: September 25, 2007

Halo 3 served as the final chapter in the initial trilogy, and the buildup did not disappoint. We had more incredible set pieces, consistent and refined action, and surprisingly emotional moments littered throughout. A truly impactful “end” to this chapter of Chief’s story.

But as we all know, the real impact of Halo 3 was how it improved online multiplayer. It took the barebones found in Halo 2 and created an online powerhouse that would set the standard for matchmaking for years to come. 

Throw in the release of Forge, Bungie’s builder tool, and a number of replayability features like Legendary mode and skulls, and you have everything that would define the franchise moving forward. It acted as a glorious finale to the series while simultaneously setting it up for the future. It could have been the end for Halo, and honestly, I think most people would have been satisfied.

2. Halo: Reach

Halo Reach
  • Developer: Bungie
  • Platform(s): Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: September 14, 2010

I have a feeling that putting Reach above Halo 3 is also going to get some pushback. But Reach holds a special place for me, one of building maps in Forge and playing late-night local co-op. Nostalgia aside and despite some of the armor ability changes, it truly represents the culmination of every Bungie’s approach to game design. 

Even without Master Chief, the story works and may even be more impactful. You get to know Noble Team throughout the beginning of the game, making their sacrifices near the end all the more emotional. There’s a dreaded feeling of hopelessness that’s apparent throughout, culminating in a final standoff mission where the story doesn’t end until you die.

Besides the story, the matchmaking, shooting mechanics, and modes are all at their best here. The game is still infinitely replayable today and somewhat acts as a last hurrah for the developers. 

1. Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Master Chief Collection
  • Developer: 343 Industries
  • Platform(s): Xbox One, PC
  • Release Date: November 11, 2014

Coming in at #1 on our Halo games ranked list is the Master Chief Collection. When the Master Chief Collection was announced, it excited fans with the promise of playing updated versions of the core trilogy. When it launched, it was instead a buggy and unorganized mess. If I were making this list a few years ago, it would likely be somewhere near the bottom, but now it’s simply the best Halo experience out there.

It’s hard to beat when you now have optimized versions of Halo 1, Halo 2Halo 3, ODSTHalo Reach, and all of the multiplayer content in one place. It may have started out broken, but the developers at 343 continued to support it long after the game’s initial release. They added Reach and ODST, all of the Spartan Ops missions from Halo 4, and many other behind-the-scenes contents for free.

The older titles have never looked better, and the multiplayer supports a thriving Halo community. It truly is the best way to play every Halo game and shows 343’s dedication to the franchise. It gives me hope that Halo Infinite will be just as well-supported and a return to form for the series, even with its delay.

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