Halo is one of the top-40 all-time most successful franchises. It might not sound as much, but that’s worth about $3.7 billion. It’s Xbox’s all-time best-seller series.
If you’ve never played these games, you should know they are available for Windows PC. For example, the Halo Masterchief Collection is a remaster of the original trilogy, plus two of its best spin-offs. You could get it as part of the Xbox Game Pass service.
Also, you can play any Halo game on the Xbox Series because of retro compatibility.
The Halo Timeline
The series has two parts. There’s the Original Halo Trilogy, and then there’s the Reclaimer Saga. On top of that, there’re various spin-offs. Some of those, like Halo Reach, are as good or better than the main titles.
The Reclaimer Saga includes Halo 4, Halo 5, and the upcoming Halo Infinite. There’s no official release date for Halo Infinite other than “2021.” However, reviewers, YouTubers, and Streamers are already testing its multiplayer modes.
Bungie Studios created the original trilogy. Their first game debuted in 2001 as the defining Xbox exclusive sci-fi FPS. Microsoft bought Bungie in the year 2000 to consolidate the console hit. Either way, Gearbox Software launched a PC port back in 2003.
We’ll talk about the Halo franchise in release date order. Maybe you’ll find the time to play the historical saga that gave the Xbox and the Xbox 360 so much success.
Halo Games in Order by Release Date
We don’t want you to be confused, though. Here are the Halo games in chronological order according to the timeline:
Halo 1 Combat Evolved – Original Trilogy
You play as Master Chief, a human super-soldier in the XXVI century. Alongside the Cortana AI, you face various Alien races as you journey to discover the secrets of the artificial ring-like world, Halo.
Master Chief combat against aliens by using high-tech weapons, vehicles, and powerful melee tools.
Deep lore and careful world-building go along with the superb gameplay. Bungie studios created a fully-fledged sci-fi universe, albeit with common tropes of the genre. For example, Earth is suffering from overpopulation, which is why humans are colonizing other planets.
As part of the colonizing efforts, the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) created the SPARTAN project. You’re a result of the project, a Spartan, a super-soldier with genetic and cybernetic enhancements.
The other crucial part of the lore is The Covenant. The Covenant is an alien alliance waging a genocidal war against humans.
Master Chief must reach Halo before the Covenant and discover how and why the station can support life.
The game goes along 10 chapters, and the story unfolds across narrations, cinematic cuts, and lore. It takes about five hours to beat the game.
Lastly, Halo 1 also has a multiplayer aspect. It’s a free-for-all PvP, but it’s no longer alive.
In 2011, Microsoft released the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Remaster for console and PC.
Halo 2 – Original Trilogy
Halo 2 follows the original story by building upon what made Combat Evolved such a classic. It premiered for Xbox in 2004.
There’s an important upgrade in terms of performance, though. Bungie Studios created a new graphical engine for Halo 2, the Havok 3D engine.
On top of that, there’re more weapons, more vehicles, more enemies, and extra maps for the PvP multiplayer mode.
Most notably, the campaign allows you to play as Master Chief, as well as the alien Arbiter. Both are following the conflict between the UNSC and The Covenant.
After its debut, Halo 2 became the most popular multiplayer Xbox game. It’s also the Xbox 360 best-selling game, with over 6,8 worldwide sales.
Overall, fans and critics praised the game for both its single-player and multiplayer experiences. Also, the main campaign is longer. It can take about 10 hours to complete.
Microsoft released the Halo 2: Anniversary Edition in 2020. It’s a remaster of the classic game.
Halo 3 – Original Trilogy
Halo 2 broke records as one of the most successful launches in entertainment history. Then came Halo 3, and took the hype even further. On release, Halo 3 became the best-selling 2007 game in the U.S.
The third entry concludes the original trilogy’s story arc. The plot lingers around the war between humanity and The Covenant. However, a third-party factor comes into play, the Flood, a parasite alien raze.
You play a Master Chief, once again, to fight against both sides of the conflict. As the story evolves, you’ll understand opposing factions within the Covenant, which ultimately leads to their downfall.
Gameplay improves upon the Halo mechanics with new gameplay elements. For example, there’re new gadgets, vehicles, and weapons.
Notably, the entry cemented the “Golden Triangle of Halo.” It’s the combination between melee attacks, weapons, and grenades. These options are available to Master Chief at all times.
There were some tweaks to the rule, though. For example, players could use dual-wield weapons like maces and rocket launchers. These options don’t allow Master Chief to use grenades.
Another new feature is equipment, a single piece of gear with a range of buffs for the player, like extra shield regeneration.
The multiplayer mode included the Forge map editor. It allows the player to modify multiplayer maps, even while playing.
Lastly, a new Film mode allows players to record their actions and watch them with different speeds and angles.
Halo Wars – Spinoff
Halo Wars is the first real-time strategy game of the franchise. Bungie Studios was not part of the game, as Ensemble Studios took care of the title.
It premiered in 2009 for Xbox 360. According to the Halo Timeline, the story takes place 21 years before Halo 1. You’re aboard the Spirit of Fire warship, leading human soldiers against the alien Covenant race.
Both fans and critics praised the RTS entry of the series. It had intuitive controls, awesome pre-rendered cinematics, plus an engaging storyline within the Halo universe.
However, the campaign is quite short and focuses solely on the human race. With Blizzard’s Starcraft II about to release in 2010, it was odd not to let users play with alien factions.
That said, Halo Wars is a solid Halo game but not a very good entry in the RTS genre. At best, I’d say it’s a mobile RTS game. That’s my opinion, though. Most people seem to love the game.
Either way, a Windows and Xbox One enhanced version came out in 2016.
Halo 3: ODST – Spinoff
Bungie’s Halo 3: ODST is my favorite Halo game. It thrives on what made the original trilogy great while adding a new character and a new setting to explore.
It’s the fourth FPS game of the franchise, and it debuted for Xbox 360 in 2009. You played as “Orbital Drop Shock Troopers,” a special UNSC commando unit.
According to the timeline, it happens right after Halo 2. The setting is in New Mombasa city, where you discover a new invasion is threatening peace.
The gameplay, level design, music, and storytelling are at the top of the franchise. However, the campaign is too short: it takes about three and a half hours to beat the game.
Lastly, ODST has a multiplayer mode. The “Fireflight” PvE experience puts teams of players against increasingly tough alien waves.
Halo: Reach – Spinoff
Halo: Reach is the next FPS entry of the franchise. Bungie Studios created the game, and it debuted on the Xbox 360 in 2010. Its premiere represented a new record for the franchise, with $200 million in sales on launch day.
It serves as a prequel to Halo: Combat Evolved, right at the beginning of the war between humanity and The Covenant.
You play as Noble Six, a member of an elite supersoldier unit. The setting is grim, though, as the human world Reach is falling under the alien attack.
When Halo 1 starts, Reach is already destroyed. That’s why there’s a great focus on the environment, music, and details.
As you’re a part of a squad, you can play the campaign co-op, as your friends can assume the role of other supersoldiers. Otherwise, AI companions will follow you.
Gameplay is similar to the original game, with some new features. It has new weapons, updated weapons, and new abilities. These abilities are a sprint, a jetpack, camouflage, a hologram, a drop shield, and “armor lock” (locks you in place while being invulnerable).
Then, the game has various multiplayer modes like Capture the Flag, Fireflight, and Slayer.
A new mode, Headhunter, makes players drop skulls upon death. Other players must pick up the skills to deposit them at special drop points.
If you’ve never played Halo, I would advise you to start with Halo: Reach. It’s one of the series’ best, and it’s also the first part of the story.
Halo 4 – Reclaimer Saga
Halo 4 debuted in 2012. 343 Industries is the new studio behind the title, but it remained an Xbox 360 exclusive.
The story follows Master Chief and Cortana while exploring the ancient ruins of a planet. Two new factions serve as the enemies. Remnants of The Covenant and mechanoids from the Promethean empire.
The game presents new gameplay features and modes alongside a new main antagonist. Performance-wise, the game used motion capture for its cut-scene animations.
Gameplay mechanics are similar to Halo: Reach, as the player can use various abilities and gadgets. New abilities include a protective barrier, a visual field, and a regeneration field.
You can play the campaign solo or co-op with split-screen or with three additional players on Xbox Live.
Multiplayer introduces the “Infinity” mode. You play as Spartan-IV, a customizable super-soldier. Then, you earn experience points and ranks from challenges and matches. New ranks unlock customization options.
Modes include classic PvP scenarios like deathmatch, team deathmatch, or capture the flag.
Halo: Spartan Assault – Spinoff
Halo: Spartan Assault is a “shoot ’em-up” game by 343 Industries and Vanguard Games. It premiered in 2013 for Windows 8, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and iOS.
According to the timeline, it happens between Halo 3 and Halo 4. You play as soldiers Sarah Palmer and Edwar Davis as they fight against a Covenant faction. It has 25 single-player chapters, plus an additional DLC campaign.
The gameplay features an overhead bird’s view, similar to Halo Wars. Controls are intuitive but dependent on the console.
As for multiplayer, it features a co-op horde mode. There’s crossplay available between Windows and iOS devices.
Halo: The Masterchief Collection
In November 2014, Microsoft released The Masterchief Collection for Xbox One and Windows. The bundle includes a remaster of the first two games, Halo 3: ODST, Halo 4, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4.
As the anthology of past Halo games, the bundle constantly receives support, upgrades, patches, and new content.
Moreover, every game that’s part of the collection has a graphical update. Notably, Halo 2 has an HD redesign of its audio and cinematic cuts.
Halo: Spartan Strike – Spinoff
Halo: Spartan Strike is the second part of Spartan Assault. It premiered in 2015 for Windows, Windows Phones (RIP), and iOS.
It follows similar gameplay while following Spartan Soldiers. You play in a series of simulations that recreate the historical events of the franchise.
Spartan Strike summarizes the entire Halo story arc, from Halo Wars to Halo 4. That means it includes Covenant and Promethean enemies.
Even though it’s an improvement over its predecessor, it lacks a multiplayer mode.
Halo 5: Guardians – Reclaimer Saga
Halo 5: Guardians debuted in 2015 as an Xbox One exclusive title. It’s one of the best-selling Xbox One games, as well as the best-selling Halo title.
The game features massive performance upgrades like a new game engine, motion capture for character animation, higher resolution, and a higher frame rate.
The gameplay features the classic FPS settings with some tweaks. For example, the camera changes to third-person from some gameplay sequences and cinematics.
Another new addition is the “Spartan Abilities,” which replaces Armor Abilities. Lore-wise, the MJOLNIR Spartan armor got some upgrades that offer extra mobility options for players.
New to Halo 5 campaign is the persistent company of NPC Spartans. You can even issue others to your AI companions.
Moreover, you can play co-op with other players online. Your friends can take the role of other Spartan characters.
The plot follows Fireteam Osiris as they chase the new Promethean threat. As the Prometheans are AI constructs, there’s also some complex narrative revolving around Master Chief’s AI companion Cortana.
In particular, Cortana goes rogue, and Master Chief must find a way to stop his former friend.
Lastly, multiplayer features classic PvP modes across various maps.
Halo Wars 2 – Spinoff
Halo Wars 2 debuted in 2017 as the successor of the original Halo RTS game. It’s available for Windows and Xbox One.
Within the Halo timeline, the story happens after the events of Halo 5.
The gameplay is similar to Halo Wars. You create a base of operations, gather resources, and they create military units. Likewise, you control your soldiers and vehicles against enemies on the battlefield with a birds-eye view.
As in any RTS game, there’s an implicit rock-paper-scissors system between Promethean and UNSC units.
The plot revolves around a Promethean installation that constructs and controls Halo rings.
Both fans and critics praise the game for its animation. However, it lacks the depth other RTS games have, so it doesn’t feel like a fully-fledged genre game.
There’s a different game, Halo: Fireteam Arcade. However, that’s a literal arcade game, so it’s not widely available.
So, that’s it for our list.