How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (2024)

Xbox’s flagship shooter is an intergalactic sci-fi saga with narrative foundations that date back billions of years. Despite that far-reaching history, the actual Halo games largely take place within a single decade during the tail end and aftermath of the Human-Covenant War.

The mainline Halo games present a sequential storyline, though several spinoffs complicate the series’ chronology. With that in mind, we’ve created this brief rundown of the Halo timeline as explored in video games.

This list includes all 6 mainline Halo games and most spinoffs, including the Halo Wars strategy games and Halo: Spartan top-down shooters. The mixed-reality game Halo Recruit, the arcade game Halo: Fireteam Raven, and the marketing ploy/mobile game Halo 4: King of the Hill Fueled By Mountain Dew are not included.

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Halo Games in Chronological Order

The Halo Games in Chronological Order

As with most series, there are two possible ways to approach the Halo games: chronologically by release date or chronologically by narrative. The choice is yours, and both possible paths are outlined below, beginning with the narrative chronology of the Halo game series.

With series newcomers in mind, these brief plot synopses contain only mild spoilers such as broad plot points, settings, and character introductions.

Which Halo Game Should You Play First?

There are a couple of different routes you can take when choosing which Halo game to start with. If you're new to the series, you'll either want to start with Halo: Reach or Halo: Combat Evolved. Reach is the first full-fledged FPS chronologically while Halo: Combat Evolved is the first game in the series.

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (1)

Available on Game Pass Halo: The Master Chief Collection

1. Halo Wars (2531)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (2)

Halo Wars is the series’ earliest-set game, taking place 21 years before the start of Halo: Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo Wars is set during the early days of the Human-Covenant War, a conflict started by the alien Covenant to preserve the false foundations on which it built its religion. Halo Wars follows the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) forces aboard the Spirit of Fire and the Red Team of Spartan-II supersoldiers as they take the fight to the Covenant across the planets Harvest and Arcadia, as well as the Forerunner installation Shield 0459 (aka Trove).

Halo Wars is the first of two real-time strategy spinoffs. The second, Halo Wars 2 (further down this list), is set between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite.

2. Halo: Reach (2552)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (3)

Halo: Reach is set 21 years later, during the summer months of 2552. Noble Team begins its fight with the Covenant on the planet Reach, one of humanity’s most prosperous colonies. Noble Team, including the playable character Noble Six, was heavily outnumbered in their fight, yet their efforts allowed the ship Pillar of Autumn and Cortana to escape Reach, setting the scene for Halo: Combat Evolved.

3. Halo: Combat Evolved (2552)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (4)

The ending of Reach leads directly into Halo: Combat Evolved, with the Pillar of Autumn entering Installation 04, one of seven ring-shaped worlds (i.e., Halos) created by an ancient species of highly intelligent beings known as the Forerunners.

The Pillar, carrying Cortana and John-117, aka Master Chief, is attacked by the Covenant and forced to crash-land on the ring. There, Chief fights Covenant forces and accidentally unleashes the Flood, an ancient species of parasitic organisms that feed on sentient life. Chief must find a way to contain the Flood outbreak without destroying humanity.

Halo: Combat Evolved also introduces series staples such as 343 Guilty Spark, the Forerunner Monitor tasked with overseeing Installation 04; Jacob Keyes, a commanding officer in the UNSC Navy; and Avery Johnson, a highly trained UNSC Marine.

4. Halo 2 (2552)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (5)

Set shortly after the conclusion of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 tells two tales: the story of a Covenant Sangheili named Thel 'Vadam (aka The Arbiter) and the story of Master Chief’s continued fight against the Covenant and Flood.

The story takes place over roughly one month, with Chief and the Arbiter eventually coming together to fight for a common cause. The campaign introduces another Halo ring (Installation 05) and takes us to the series’ version of Earth, where the threat of a Covenant invasion looms. Halo 2's ending gives us Chief's legendary line: “Sir, finishing this fight.”

In addition to the Arbiter, Halo 2 introduces the Covenant Hierarchs (the Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Regret) and Miranda Keyes, a commander in the UNSC Navy and the child of the aforementioned Jacob Keyes and the not-yet-introduced Dr. Catherine Halsey.

5. Halo 3: ODST (2552)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (6)

The events of Halo 3: ODST run concurrently with those of Halo 2 — specifically it begins after the Halo 2 mission Metropolis. ODST is set in New Mombasa, an early and vital battleground during the Covenant’s invasion of Earth.

The less-linear story centers around a group of six highly-trained Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs), with the player controlling a character known as Rookie. Rookie encounters Covenant forces within New Mombasa as he searches the city for his scattered squadmates.

Among those squadmates is Nathan Fillion’s Edward Buck, who returns in Halo 5: Guardians as a member of Fireteam Osiris.

6. Halo 3 (2552–2553)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (7)

The conclusion of the original Halo trilogy, Halo 3 follows Master Chief through the final months of the Human-Covenant War. Chief and the UNSC once again attempt to prevent the Covenant from firing the Halo Array, which would wipe out all sentient life within a 25,000-lightyear radius. The Flood, meanwhile, descends on Earth, introducing a second existential threat to humanity.

Our heroes deal with the threat, and Master Chief leaves us with another unforgettable sendoff as he enters a cryo-chamber aboard the ship Forward Unto Dawn: “Wake me when you need me.”

7. Halo: Spartan Assault (2554)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (8)

Halo: Spartan Assault is a spinoff game set between Halo 3 and 4. It’s one of two top-down shooters on this list alongside its sequel, Halo: Spartan Strike. Spartan Assault stars Spartan-IV soldiers Edward Davis and Sarah Palmer in a post-war skirmish against a Covenant faction led by Sangheili warlord Merg Vol. There's not much added to the overall narrative, though Palmer also appears in Halo 4, 5, and Infinite.

8. Halo 4 (2557)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (9)

Halo 4 is a pivotal game in both the series’ ongoing narrative and the story of its development: It begins the Reclaimer Saga and begins the series’ life under 343 Industries following original developer Bungie’s split from Microsoft.

Halo 4 picks up four years after the conclusion of Halo 3, when Cortana awakens Master Chief from the cryosleep to deal with a Covenant threat. Halo 4 puts more emphasis on the relationship between Chief and Cortana, as the latter deals with the early stages of rampancy, a condition in which AI becomes dangerously unstable. The duo, meanwhile, face a new existential threat to humanity in the return of the Forerunners led by a new antagonist, the Didact. Chief explores yet another Halo ring, Installation 03.

We also get debut appearances from Cortana’s creator Dr. Catherin Halsey and a critical Forerunning being known as the Librarian.

9. Halo: Spartan Strike (2557)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (10)

Halo: Spartan Strike begins concurrent to Halo 2 in 2552 before jumping to 2557. The narrative consequences of Spartan Strike on the ongoing Halo saga are minimal; the story follows a group of UNSC forces fighting the Covenant while tracking down a Forerunner artifact called the Conduit.

10. Halo 5: Guardians (2558)

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Considered the poorest of the Halo campaigns, Halo 5 commits the cardinal sin of moving the focus away from the series' beloved Master Chief in favor of Fireteam Osiris led by Jameson Locke, a Spartan-IV supersoldier tasked with locating the Chief and bringing him back to UNSC leadership.

The story cuts between Fireteam Osiris and Blue Team, who under Master Chief’s command, is on its own mission to track down a rogue, power-hungry Cortana.

11. Halo Wars 2 (2559)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (12)

Set between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite, Halo Wars 2 introduces the Brute warlord Atriox, the leader of the Banished and a major antagonist in Halo Infinite.

Halo Wars 2 features the return of Red Team and the Spirit of Fire from the first Halo Wars. The team is awakened after 28 years of cryosleep and arrives at the Ark, where they encounter Atriox and the Banished. Despite poor odds, Red Team sees itself as the shield between the Banished and humanity, and so they fight. The unresolved UNSC-Banished conflict continues in Halo Infinite.

12. Halo Infinite (2560)

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (13)

The series’ most recent game by chronology and release date is Halo Infinite. It brings the focus back to Master Chief and introduces players to the series’ first open world on Zeta Halo (Installation 07).

Infinite brings the Banished from Halo Wars 2 into the mainline series while introducing another threat in the Endless, an ancient race of beings until now imprisoned by the Forerunners. The Endless are represented in the Infinite campaign by a new character named the Harbinger.

Chief’s new allies include a UNSC pilot named Fernando Esparza and an AI replica of Cortana known as the Weapon. In addition to Atrioix and the Harbinger, Infinite’s lineup of villains includes the Banished War Chief Escharum and the Sangheili Spartan killer Jega.

Every IGN Halo Review

How to Play The Halo Games By Release Date

  • Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)*
  • Halo 2 (2004)*
  • Halo 3 (2007)*
  • Halo Wars (2009)
  • Halo 3: ODST (2009)
  • Halo: Reach (2010)
  • Halo 4 (2012)*
  • Halo Spartan Assault (2013)
  • Halo: Spartan Strike (2015)
  • Halo 5: Guardians (2015)*
  • Halo Wars 2 (2017)
  • Halo Infinite (2020)*

*Mainline Halo games

We've also created this fully interactive Playlist of all Halo game projects, in order of release.

Halo: The Complete Playlist

Halo: Combat Evolved arrived on the scene in 2001. Since then, it's grown beyond the numbered sequels. Log in to manage your backlog and track which games you've completed.

See All

Halo: Combat EvolvedBungie
Halo: Custom EditionGearbox
Halo 2Bungie
Halo 2 Multiplayer Map PackBungie
Halo Triple PackBungie
Halo 3Bungie
Halo WarsEnsemble Studios
Halo 3: ODSTBungie
Halo: ReachBungie
Halo: Combat Evolved AnniversarySaber Interactive

You can use this list to easily start your own Halo list on IGN, rank the games, and more.

The Future of Halo Games

Halo is easily one of the biggest names in gaming, so its probably not going anywhere soon. That being said, it does seem like the franchise is on shaky ground with an uncertain future ahead of it. A feature by Polygon paints the future of the franchise in 343 Studios' hands as murky as best, and there may even be new developers jumping in to create new Halo games. So while a new Halo game is probably quite a ways off, there are more titles coming, we just have to wait and see what'll happen next.

How to Play the Halo Games in Chronological Order - IGN (2024)

FAQs

What is the best chronological order for Halo games reddit? ›

If you want to play them chronologically as the story is concerned, you want to play them like this: Reach, Combat Evolved, H2, ODST, H3, H4, H5, Infinite.

Where does the Halo series fit in the timeline? ›

The timeline of the Halo Paramount+ series is altered from the games. However, there is an explanation — the Halo show takes place on what's known as the Silver Timeline. This is a separate timeline to the Halo games, with many key events and dates altered.

How old is Master Chief? ›

Master chief is 41 when Halo CE starts and the events of Halo 2 and 3 take place within about 6 months of that. After Halo 3 he spends basically all the time till Halo 4 in cryo; so he ages very minimally and is about 42 when Halo 4 starts.

Is Noble 6 master chief? ›

While Master Chief holds the highest enlisted rank, Noble Six is a Lieutenant. While such a title seems inferior, it ranks higher than Master Chief's Petty Officer. Even so, Master Chief has the authority to lead teams of Lieutenants and Captains, despite them outranking him.

Will they make Halo 6? ›

Halo Infinite is a 2021 first-person shooter game developed by 343 Industries and published by Xbox Game Studios. It is the sixth mainline installment in the Halo series, following Halo 5: Guardians (2015).

Will infinite be the last Halo? ›

Halo Infinite's season 5 is its last, confirms 343, but support through 2024 is still planned. Operations will be the main form of update going forward.

Why is Halo obsessed with 7? ›

Bungie's obsession with the number seven may be attributed to (or be a determining factor) why John-117 is considered lucky, as 7 is considered a lucky number. In spite of the fact that the number seven is featured extensively in Bungie's work, it has generated an aura of apophenia.

Should you play Halo chronologically? ›

As with most series, there are two possible ways to approach the Halo games: chronologically by release date or chronologically by narrative. The choice is yours, and both possible paths are outlined below, beginning with the narrative chronology of the Halo game series.

How tall is Master Chief? ›

His skin is unnaturally pale as a consequence of spending most of his time in his armor. He stands about 7 feet (2.13 m) tall and weighs 1,000 pounds (450 kg) in armor; without it, he stands 6 feet, 10 inches (2.08 m) tall and weighs 287 pounds (130 kg).

What happened to Cortana after Halo 5? ›

Shortly after the end of Halo 5, Cortana rallied other UNSC AI and created a coalition called "The Created," who believed themselves to be worthy of the Mantle of Responsibility, a philosophical theme in 343 Industries' Reclaimer Saga that dictates that the superior force of the galaxy should be in charge of all life ...

Where is Halo 5 in the timeline? ›

Setting and characters. Halo 5: Guardians takes place in the year 2558, eight months after the events of Halo 4. The game follows two fireteams of supersoldiers of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC).

What year is Halo 1 set in? ›

In 2552, Covenant forces attack Reach and destroy the colony. The starship Pillar of Autumn escapes the planet with the Spartan Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 on board. The ship initiates a jump to slip-space, hoping to lead the enemy away from Earth.

How do you play Halo for the first time? ›

If you're totally new to Halo games, we recommend starting with a Campaign. To experience the games in the order they released, start with the Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary campaign. To start playing a Campaign: On the main menu, select Campaigns.

What is the sequence in Halo infinite? ›

Reconstruct the Forerunner sequence at each of the four beacons to gain access to the Command Spire. Objective(s): Reconstruct the Forerunner sequence from the four beacons.

Does Halo: Reach take place before Halo CE? ›

Reach takes place in a futuristic science fiction setting; the year is 2552, shortly before the events of the video game Halo: Combat Evolved, and during the events of the novel Halo: The Fall of Reach.

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