Looking to play through the Halo games in chronological order? Then our guide has you covered.
Halo Infinite is finally here which means it’s time for a ‘great journey’ for new players looking to catch up on the epic saga starring Master Chief, the alien supergroup known as the Covenant, and all the glowing, blue hallways left behind by the Forerunners.
It’s hard to go wrong with any of the Halo entries (here’s a list of all the Halo games, ranked worst to best). After all, each entry in the sci-fi franchise has adventure, explosions, and iconic one-liners, but at the center of Halo is an unforgettable story. And while playing the games in release order is still a great ride, it’s best to start at the very beginning.
With that in mind, here’s our rundown of the Halo games in chronological order, including spin-off titles, such as Halo Wars 2, which ended up being pretty important; the game serves as the introduction to Atriox, the main antagonist of Halo Infinite.
That being said, we wouldn’t blame you if you started with the newest game in the series before learning how it all started. After finishing Halo Infinite (and pulling yourself away from Halo Infinite's multiplayer (opens in new tab) mode), be sure to install the rest of the series from Xbox Game Pass to keep the sci-fi shooting and story going.
Halo games in chronological order
- Halo Wars (2531)
- Halo Reach (2552)
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2552)
- Halo 2 (2552)
- Halo 3 (2552)
- Halo 3: ODST (2552)
- Halo Spartan Assault (2554)
- Halo 4 (2557)
- Halo 5: Guardians (2558)
- Halo Wars 2 (2559)
- Halo Infinite (2560)
1. Halo Wars
- Release date: February 2009
- Halo timeline: 2531
Though different from the majority of the series, Halo Wars is actually a lot closer to what Halo almost was. Bungie, the developer that originally created Halo, had at first envisioned it as an RTS title (opens in new tab), similar to Myth, another game made by the team. But Halo quickly changed from an isometric perspective to the atmospheric first-person shooter gameplay the series is known for today after Bungie joined the ranks of Microsoft.
Halo Wars takes place 20 years before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, the first game released in the series. The United Nations Space Command (UNSC) warship Spirit of Fire is sent to investigate the world Harvest. The UNSC believes that the planet may be important to the collective group of aliens, united by shared goals and religious beliefs.
The Spirit of Fire’s crew learn Harvest is much more important than they initially thought thanks to the expertise of Professor Ellen Anders, a scientist interested in Forerunners, an ancient civilization that has left behind mysterious structures for (at the time) unknown reasons. The crew is largely able to survive, but the implications of their mission are ultimately left hanging in the balance by the game’s end.
2. Halo: Reach
- Release date: September 2010
- Halo timeline: 2552
Halo: Reach’s story concerns itself with Noble Team, a group of Spartan soldiers, as they scramble to secure humanity’s only chance at surviving against the Covenant.
The planet of Reach contains humanity’s second most important world after Earth, and is also home to the UNSC’s military hub and operations. Together, the team of Spartans give everything they have to push back the Covenant invasion just long enough for The Pillar of Autumn, a UNSC warship, to escape with Master Chief and Cortana, a one-of-a-kind AI safeguarding valuable intel that could turn the fight against the Covenant.
It’s a suicide mission from the onset, but the fires of Reach are also where the UNSC’s resistance is truly forged.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved
- Release date: November 2001
- Halo timeline: 2552
Halo: Combat Evolved starts with a bang, literally, as Covenant forces arrive almost immediately and begin boarding The Pillar of Autumn. The Covenant are after a few things aboard the UNSC warship, starting with Master Chief, who is quickly awakened from cryosleep by Captain Jacob Keyes to handle the attacking enemy forces.
Halo: Combat Evolved follows Master Chief and his trusty AI companion, Cortana, as the two learn of the Covenant’s true plans in their war effort against the UNSC and humanity. After discovering that the giant Halos are weapons, the two look for a way to take control of them before the Covenant do.
It isn’t long before they learn the true purpose of the ancient Forerunner weapons, which are designed to eradicate all sentient life. The rings are meant to wipe out a species known as The Flood, which can only stay alive through the use of other sentient beings.
Combat Evolved ends with Master Chief and Cortana narrowly escaping death – again – before rushing off to warn Earth of the impending Covenant invasion.
4. Halo 2
- Release date: November 2004
- Halo timeline: 2552
Halo 2 begins with Master Chief defending Earth from invading Covenant troops before giving chase to High Charity, a massive Covenant ship, through a massive slipspace portal. The High Prophets, the leaders of The Covenant, hoped to devastate Earth far more than they did before needing to hastily retreat, but the damage done was still substantial. (We’ll come back to this later when we discuss Halo 3: ODST.)
The UNSC is able to delay the Covenant’s plans thanks to an unlikely alliance with The Arbiter, a high-ranking Elite who has turned his back on the Covenant after learning the truth about the Halo rings.
The game ends with every Halo ring ready for remote firing after one ring’s activation is interrupted at the last moment, leaving humanity and the Covenant in a race to reach The Ark, the facility that can remotely set off (or disable) the Halo rings, saving or destroying all sentient life.
5. Halo 3
- Release date: September 2007
- Halo timeline: 2552
Halo 3 picks up right where Halo 2 left off. Master Chief lands on the Earth ready to defend the planet once again, although this time he’s without Cortana, his trusty AI companion who has been with him since the beginning (or at least since our first time with Chief).
As Halo 3 draws to a close, we see humanity claiming victory against the Covenant, but it comes with a cost. Master Chief and Cortana are left stranded in a critically-damaged Forward Unto Dawn frigate after narrowly escaping with their lives. Cortana places Master Chief into cryosleep and sets a distress beacon, with nothing else left to do but wait.
6. Halo 3: ODST
- Release date: September 2009
- Halo timeline: 2552
Halo 3: ODST takes place in and around the events of Halo 2 and Halo 3, with the game largely taking place after High Charity, the Covenant capital ship, makes a hasty slipspace jump out of New Mombasa, after Master Chief overwhelms the Covenant’s attack on the city.
The ship’s massive exit portal sends a huge shockwave over the city, devastating the city’s buildings, streets, and citizens, including a squad of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST) that had just started their jump from above the city.
You play as Rookie, an ODST, and learn how the mission ties into the larger war against the Covenant as you help Dare and Buck, two other ODST squadmates, smuggle a living biological supercomputer out of enemy hands and into the UNSC’s.
7. Halo: Spartan Assault
- Release date: July 2013
- Halo timeline: 2554
Halo: Spartan Assault is a training program exercise that takes place aboard a UNSC ship. The twin-stick shooter reveals details concerning a break in ceasefire between splintered Covenant forces that begin an attack on Draetheus V, a Forerunner facility thought to be a planet, until now.
Spartans David and Palmer are able to kill the leader of the attack and prevent the Forerunner weapon from being used, but not without losing their lives. You can skip this game and just watch cutscenes on YouTube instead to be honest. The same can be said for Spartan Strike, which is the same kind of game, but worth mentioning even less.
8. Halo 4
- Release date: November 2012
- Halo timeline: 2557
Halo 4 has one of the best openings in the series; Master Chief awakens from cryosleep only to learn from Cortana that they’re under attack by splintered Covenant forces that are either unaware of the truce or just don’t care.
And making matters worse, Cortana is suffering from rampancy, a terminal illness for advanced AI’s. Far from home and even further from help, Master Chief and Cortana fight their way across an unknown planet and new foes before uncovering even more secrets from the Forerunners and beyond.
9. Halo 5: Guardians
- Release date: October 2015
- Halo timeline: 2558
Halo 5: Guardians is chaos. Cortana is missing. Battles between the UNSC and the Covenant remnants continue to rage on. And now Master Chief and Blue Team, a squad consisting of Spartan-II’s, have gone AWOL to search for Cortana after receiving a cryptic message from her. Spartan Locke and Fireteam Osiris are tasked with tracking down the Chief and bringing him in.
Guardians ends with Cortana commanding AIs and computers across the universe, believing it to be the only way to truly save humanity. Meanwhile, the UNSC starts making random space jumps to evade her, trying to come up with a plan.
10. Halo Wars 2
- Release date: February 2017
- Halo timeline: 2559
The surviving Spirit of Fire crew awaken from their cryosleep near a Forerunner Artifact, known as an Ark, which are installations capable of creating all sorts of not-great stuff, including Halo rings. The crew doesn’t know this though because they were asleep during that part of the story.
Halo Wars 2 sees the crew investigate the Ark while also keeping The Banished forces at bay, a new Covenant faction being led by a brute named Atriox. The Spirit of Fire crew put up a good fight, even killing a significant amount of The Banished, but in the end they’re stranded and in need of rescue.
11. Halo Infinite
- Release date: August 2021
- Halo timeline: 2560
Master Chief must face his biggest challenge yet in Halo Infinite, and it’s going to take a lot more than delivering a bomb. Halo Infinite follows Master Chief as he continues his mission to neutralize Cortana, a super AI and one-time pal of the green Spartan supersoldier, but it’s what must be done.
Whilst trying to learn the secrets of the Zeta Halo, Master Chief must also battle against The Banished, which are spread across the mysterious planet. Master Chief isn’t alone though. He has an AI and human pilot along for the ride in what is definitely the biggest Halo adventure yet.