Halo Series | How Many Games, Order, and Where to Start
Halo might be the most prolific sci-fi video game franchise in history. Well-known for its punchy first-person combat, its gripping storyline, and its fantastic multiplayer, Halo is what so many think of when “first-person shooter” is mentioned. Exploring space with Master Chief is what many consider to be the epitome of first-person storylines. Because there are more than a dozen games and novels to look at, newcomers to the series might be a bit confused. Where do you start? Can you start anywhere? Or do you need to play every game in a row? We’ll help you work your way into the Halo Series!
How many Halo games are there in the series?
There are a total of 16 games in the Halo series. Of those games, eight are considered to be part of the main storyline. The other eight games are various spin-offs or adaptations that may or may not be part of the canon.
For canon games, the numbered options are all considered to be part of the main storyline. Halo 1-5 are all part of the official storyline. Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo: Infinite are all also considered to be part of the main story. While it may look like one, Halo 3: ODST is not considered a spinoff because it directs the story in a different direction.
Then there are four official Halo spinoff games. The famous Halo Wars is well-loved as being an RTS game set in the Halo universe. The Spartan Assault and Spartan Strike games are twin-stick shooters, so fun for a quick sit-down and play.
There are 2 Halo spinoff games that might not be available to everyone. Recruit is a short VR experience in the universe, and Fireteam Raven is an arcade shooter. Both are very enjoyable, but not often brought into the spinoff conversation.
Finally, there are two remakes. Combat Evolved Anniversary is a remake of the original Combat Evolved, while The Master Chief Collection is a collection game which includes All of the Halo games in the mainline series up to 4.
Which Halo game should I play first?
Games in the Halo series are designed such that you can start at any point and still be able to understand what’s happening. Generally speaking, however, it’s best to start with Combat Evolved. If your plan is to get down and dirty with the Halo series, then you’re going to want to start at the beginning. The story starts there, and it’s about to get very complicated!
As such, we recommend any starting Halo player to pick up The Master Chief Collection. This collection holds most of the series’ biggest hits, including the first release. It’s only missing Halo 5 and Infinite, but those aren’t games you’d want to start with first anyway.
However, if you’re not worried about story and just want to get into the action, then get Halo 3 might be a better place to start. This is around the time where Bungie started to get the multiplayer formula down, and many players still adore this game’s multiplayer. You’ll likely find quick lobbies and a lot of weird game modes within 3, Reach, and 4.
Is there a correct order to play Halo games?
The storyline of Halo follows a linear path from the first game to the most recent. As such, you can experience the whole story by playing each game in numerical order. Start with Halo: Combat Evolved, then work through to the latest game Infinite.
As luck would have it, most of these games are available within the Master Chief Collection, which is currently the most modern way to experience these titles. The Master Chief Collection is available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.
Here’s a look at the order to play Halo games to experience the full story from start to finish:
- Combat Evolved
- Halo 2
- Halo 3
- Halo: Reach
- Halo 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Infinite
Naturally, this means that you’ll need to get an Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S in order to play Guardians. For PC players, this is a bit of a shame, since all seven other mainline games are on PC. Perhaps Microsoft will bring Halo 5 to PC in the future… However, that’s unlikely now that six years have passed since release.
What About For Multiplayer?
Halo multiplayer is not really story-oriented. If multiplayer is your main interest, feel free to pick whichever Halo you like. Currently, Halo 3 seems to have the most players in The Master Chief Collection. The other games still have plenty of attention, however, so don’t let that scare you off of a game you enjoy more!
Which Halo game is considered the best?
All of the Halo games are well-made and enjoyed by millions. However, not all of them are made equally. Depending on who you ask, the Halo series lost a bit of the spark that it used to have as the franchise switched hands. Of course, another person might say the newest games are graphically impressive and well-polished.
According to Metacritic, the most popular Halo game is Halo: Combat Evolved. As the start to everything, this game certainly has its faults. But, to say that Combat Evolved wasn’t a masterpiece would be considered heresy among fans. It had almost all of the elements that have stayed in every single mainline Halo game since it’s inception.
From Combat Evolved, critic scores have gone slowly but steadily downwards. Sequels 2, 3, and Reach each received above 90 from critics. 4 and 5 are still well above 80, but franchise fatigue seems to have started to kick in. ODST, the half-brother of Reach, clocks in at the lowest score of the mainline series at 83. This makes sense for a slightly more experimental title.
While review scores are important, it’s important to remember that they are not everything. For instance, Halo 3 is still the most popular for multiplayer, despite having lower scores than Combat Evolved and 2.
Love Halo and want to know more about Infinite? We have your back!
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Jason Toro-McCue has committed his schooling to the study of the connection between game design and narrative. When he's not working on this bond through writing articles or guides, he's playing Dungeons & Dragons, or just playing games themselves and looking at the story there.