How to play the Halo games in chronological order

It takes a while to finish this fight.

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From the moment it was released for the first Xbox in November 2001, the Halo franchise has been Microsoft’s flagship series. It is perhaps the biggest reason for the popularity of first-person shooters, and it brought many fans to Microsoft from Sony. There is no doubt Halo is one of the most beloved franchises in all of gaming, and it was one of the first esports to be taken seriously.

Halo‘s relationship with its developers is rocky. Bungie, Ensemble Studios, and 343 Industries have all contributed to the series with their own titles. 343 Industries currently develops Halo, but the games haven’t reached the heights Bungie took them to. Despite that, the series is beloved by many and its esports scene is regrowing slowly.

Putting Halo in order of story events isn’t as easy as just sorting by release date. The Halo games have told different parts of the story over the years, so it’s easy to forget where they take place chronologically. The story began 20 years before Master Chief’s outing in the original Halo and continues long after, revealing more about the Covenant and all alien forces of the Halo universe.

The chronological order of each entry in the series is listed below, along with what it covers.

All Halo games in the order they take place

Halo Wars (2531)

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Ensemble Studios was tasked to create what seemed impossible at the time: A real-time strategy game for consoles. When Ensemble was just finishing Age of Empires III, Microsoft asked the company to give its space project a Halo skin. Ensemble did not enjoy working with Bungie on a Halo real-time strategy game, according to Blood, Sweat, and Pixels, and was not as interested in it as other projects. Even though it was able to make a working Halo real-time strategy, the company ended up closing down after the game was released due to issues during development.

In Halo Wars, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) fights the Covenant off of a planet to prevent them from reaching an alien artifact 20 years before Halo: Combat Evolved. A decade has passed since the Covenant showed themselves as hostile, revealing the bad blood between the two. While the story isn’t the best, it sets up much of the universe.

Halo: Reach (2552)

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One of the best Halo games ever made is Halo: Reach. There is more to this game than just its fascinating multiplayer mode. It also has a compelling single-player narrative. This game tells the story of Noble Six, a Spartan who was assigned to a team called Noble when Reach fell. It was mentioned briefly in Halo: Combat Evolved that the Covenant took Reach. But there’s so much more to why it fell and how much the Spartans of Noble Team sacrificed to save Master Chief and Cortana.

The events that led to Reach’s fall are pretty heartbreaking to play through. The game is also Bungie’s last in the series, so the company really gave its all.

Halo: Combat Evolved (2552)

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Taking place a short time after the fall of Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved revolves around Master Chief. While protecting Cortana from capture, Master Chief must find out as much as he can about the Halo surrounding a planet. Throughout Halo: Combat Evolved, players feel as if they are part of the war effort, fighting alongside Marines they can protect or use as cannon fodder. The Master Chief may be a super soldier, but he is still human and can die if he takes excessive amounts of bullets. In Halo: Combat Evolved, we are shown there is much more to the universe than was previously believed, and an extinction-level event may be the Convenant’s goal.

Halo 2 (2552)

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In Halo 2, the Covenant is mad and wants revenge. Their failed general is assigned the task of defeating the UNSC once and for all before they leave earth. The Covenant’s top general turned traitor and is helping the UNSC protect the galaxy, and Master Chief continues to fight the good fight. All life hangs in the balance as the game leads up to an incredibly climactic race to either turn on the ring or destroy it.

It does have a cliffhanger ending, but in our opinion, it does well to set up the next game, as Master Chief tells Cortana that he is “finishing this fight,” before the game ends.

Halo: Spartan Strike (2552)

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A UNSC team is trying to beat the Covenant to a Forerunner artifact called the Conduit in Halo: Spartan Strike. The game feels like an arcade game and lacks the series’ charm. Most people don’t like it, mostly because the story isn’t compelling and the twin-stick shooting method isn’t all that interesting. The games Halo: Spartan Strike and Halo: Spartan Assault did much better on mobile devices. We don’t blame you if you don’t want to play this one, but looking up the whole story will tell you more about the lore.

Halo 3 (2552)

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All three Halo games in the original trilogy take place one after another, making the original trilogy one long story. Halo 3 follows directly on from Halo 2. At the beginning of this game, Master Chief does not have Cortana but finds her during the events of Halo 3. It’s a thrilling game that ends Halo‘s struggle with humanity triumphant, and peace between the Covenant and humanity. As the Master Chief ends the game stranded on the Forward Unto Dawn frigate with Cortana, he chooses to go into cryosleep.

By not asking Cortana to inform him when someone answers his distress beacon, Master Chief demonstrates his dedication to the defense of humanity. Instead, he continues to choose to live his life as the ultimate weapon for humanity and says, “Wake me when you need me.” As he closes the game, Master Chief makes it clear he knows he is a weapon and will continue to live as one.

Halo 3: ODST (2552)

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Since Halo 3: ODST starts in Halo 2 but continues far into Halo 3, it’s hard to place it in the timeline. This is put after the big events because it’s best to play as Master Chief and then see how those events affect soldiers on the ground. It was not well received when players were given control over regular ODST soldiers in Halo 3: ODST, a change from the supersoldier Spartans. This story is okay and does a good job of showing how collateral damage affects everyday Marines.

Halo 3: ODST was the first Halo game developed by 343 Industries, and it wasn’t a good start. 343 Industries has struggled to beat Bungie’s vast shadow for as long as Bungie has been making Halo games.

Halo: Spartan Assault (2554)

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Halo: Spartan Assault is the first twin-stick shooter from 343 Industries, which tells the story of humanity’s breakdown with the Covenant. Despite being rebels, these Covenant are still dangerous, so players must shoot them all in this arcade twin-stick shooter. In this game, you will learn the Covenant is splintering and rebels have broken the peace between the aliens and UNSC. Since it’s not a popular game in the series, it’s not important to know if you don’t want to play it.

Halo 4 (2557)

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In Halo 4, Master Chief has been woken up by Cortana, as Covenant rebels have attacked their Frigate. They make it to an unknown planet while Master Chief fights forces once again with Cortana at his side. Unfortunately, Cortana suffers from rampancy, a terminal illness for advanced AI’s. Rampancy happens when an AI is left alone to think too much and becomes depressed. She wasn’t supposed to survive seven years, but Master Chief wouldn’t let her die, and now she starts thinking in ways that won’t benefit humanity.

Although Halo 4 wasn’t as popular as Halo 3, it was a great way to introduce Cortana into the story. As the series progresses, Cortana becomes an increasingly important character.

Halo 5: Guardians (2558)

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Halo 5: Guardians was advertised as a game where Master Chief is rogue in some way. If you played any Halo game featuring Master Chief, you’d know he’d never turn his back on humanity. You still have to play as some Spartans as you attempt to arrest Master Chief, the best Spartan ever. The facade continues until you realize Master Chief was leading a squad of Spartans to find Cortana, which is a much more interesting part of the story.

Cortana has actually gone Rogue and thinks she is helping humanity by using Master Chief and taking over computers and other AI to join her war effort.

Halo Wars 2 (2559)

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Halo Wars 2 is kind of a sequel to Halo Wars but takes place much later. Forerunner artifacts, known as Arks, are nearby when the Spirit of Fire crew awakens from cryosleep. As the crew has been asleep for the past few years, they are unaware that the ark can make bad stuff, like Halo rings.
As well as defending against The Banished, the crew investigates the Ark. There is a cliffhanger ending to this story, which hasn’t been resolved, and the crew is still waiting for rescue.

Halo Infinite (2560)

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Halo Infinite is pretty depressing. Master Chief must fight Cortana, his long-time friend, ally, and possibly romantic interest. The UNSC is at war with multiple AIs which have rebelled with Cortana and The Banished. Master Chief has a duty to Cortana her because she has gone completely rogue, leads the AI, and has become a super villain. Since the game is still new, we won’t reveal much more about the story, but this one has an open world and shows just how much this relationship means to them both. Halo Infinite is one of the best games in the series.