Halo turns 21 today, but which game is best?

By Luke Albigés,

Halo: Combat Evolved launched on this day 21 years ago, giving the original Xbox its killer app right out of the gates. Bungie's landmark FPS spawned a series that came to define Xbox, but which title is the best?

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the launch of Halo: Combat Evolved, and therefore of the Halo series as a whole — a franchise which, over the years, has defined the Xbox platform and even offered it a big green mascot now recognised the world around. In the two decades and change since Combat Evolved, we've seen sequels, spin-offs, book and TV adaptations, toys, weapon replicas, highs, lows, and so much more. As well as having some of the TA news team share their Halo highlights, we'd like to open the floor for your thoughts on Halo's best game to date... naturally, Halo: The Master Chief Collection is excluded from the conversation here, since picking multiple games at once is blatantly cheating.

That said, The Master Chief Collection is the top-rated Halo game going by TrueAchievements community score, with a strong 4.53/5 not entirely surprising given that the compilation is easily one of the best Game Pass games. Just behind, we see Halo: Reach on 4.32/5, followed by the Games for Windows Live version of Halo 2 (4.27/5), Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (4.26/5), and then Halo 3 (4.24/5) rounding out the top five. Let's see whether the poll here reflects those aggregated user scores from over the years, and in the meantime, let's find out what the TA team has to say...


Luke

Luke — Halo 2

Halo 2 was Xbox Live in the early days of the online service. What better way to get people to sign up for Live than with the sequel to a game synonymous with the Xbox brand leading the charge? Unsurprisingly, it worked. Halo 2 stood for several years as the online console game, and it remained Live's most popular game all the way up to the 2006 release of Gears of War. Somehow, Bungie managed to follow up on its genre-defining Xbox debut with a bigger, better, and broader experience that would go on to become the best-selling game for the original Xbox. Sure, the campaign's weak cliffhanger ending left a sour taste, but the rest of the game — like everything Bungie touched at the time — was solid gold. As the game that arguably defined the franchise as we know it and even pushed further to inform aspects of the entire Xbox ecosystem, I couldn't pick anything else here.

Sean

Sean — Halo: Reach

I’ve never really been a big fan of Halo, but after years of putting it off, I decided to finally play through each game’s campaigns and ended up having a blast. I pretty much played them all back to back, and while my memories of each campaign seem to have mainly blurred into one big Halo daydream, the one that really stood out to me was Halo: Reach. I don’t like Master Chief as a character (he’s boring, sorry, Master Chief stans), so playing as someone different was a breath of fresh air — shoutout to ODST for the very same reason. I love Halo: Reach’s story. Witnessing how Reach fell to the Covenant and how Noble Team’s situation grew worse every hour throughout the game was handled superbly, and, ultimately, tragic indeed. As for campaign missions, they’re all consistently good and exciting, which I don’t think you can say about any other game in the series. Oh, and that post-credits mission… chef’s kiss. I just couldn’t let Noble Six go.

Tom

Tom — Halo 3

Bungie’s first-person shooter series featuring the big green man didn’t resonate with me fully until Halo 3. I think at that point, the team had really fallen into their stride and dropped a game that took full advantage of the Xbox 360. I’m not saying that Combat Evolved and Halo 2 were bad because they certainly weren’t, but for a younger Tom at 15 years of age, fresh out of school, and beginning to really explore the world of video games with his own money, Halo 3 arrived at the most opportune moment. While the multiplayer was of course a huge winner alongside Forge, for me it was the campaign that shone the brightest and the culmination of a story that had begun with the original Xbox. My brother had an Xbox 360 at the time (yes, I was a PlayStation 2 teenager), and I had picked up Halo 3 for his console so we could play the campaign in co-op together. That memory, along with the awesome storyline that would actually see us aligned with Elites to stop the Covenant forces from activating the Halo Rings, is the reason Halo 3 will remain as one of my favourite Halo games, plus, the dual-wielding was polished to a much higher standard than what was found in Halo 2, and I love blasting through Grunts with dual M7S SMGs!

Now it's your turn — hit the poll below and let us know which Halo game is your favourite, and feel free to explain your choice down in the comments, too!
Which is the best Halo game?
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Halo 2
  • Halo 3
  • Halo Wars
  • Halo 3: ODST
  • Halo: Reach
  • Halo 4
  • Halo: Spartan Assault
  • Halo: Spartan Strike
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Halo Infinite
We've had 1274 responses.
Luke Albigés
Written by Luke Albigés
Luke runs the TA news team, contributing where he can primarily with reviews and other long-form features — crafts he has honed across two decades of print and online gaming media experience, having worked with the likes of gamesTM, Eurogamer, Play, Retro Gamer, Edge, and many more. He loves all things Monster Hunter, enjoys a good D&D session, and has played way too much Destiny.