It might be hard to believe, but the legendary Halo franchise has been around for nearly two entire decades now. And with a new Halo title well into development, it's looking like the Master Chief has still got a few more fights left to finish. But while the Halo universe is directly responsible for some of gaming's finest moments, they simply can't all be the best.
On the contrary, despite its reputation for incredibly high quality titles, the franchise has produced the occasional misstep alongside some incredibly polarizing titles. Curious as to which ones those are, exactly? Keep reading to check out the entire Halo lineup ranked from worst to best, and see which ones struggled to uphold the weight of the series' legacy.
12 Halo: Fireteam Raven
The franchise has made several interesting attempts to break outside of its established foothold in the FPS genre, but none so much out of left field as its attempt to fit inside of an arcade cabinet.
While it's an intriguing take on the Halo experience, and no doubt one of the coolest pieces of hardware at your local arcade, hardcore gamers and fans are likely to find the rail-bound light gun shooter coming a little short of they've come to expect from a Halo title.
11 Halo: Spartan Strike
Halo's foray into the sovereign territory of top-down twin stick shooters wasn't outright bad, but it didn't do anything particularly inventive with the genre either. All in all it's a pretty conventional, arcade-like experience.
Spartan Strike is actually the second attempt to pull this off. And while the gameplay did actually improve over its initial outing, Spartan Assault, this sequel is restricted to mobile platforms and Windows only.
10 Halo: Spartan Assault
Spartan Assault gets some points for being available on a decent spread of platforms, and the decision to go with a female lead is an entirely welcome shift of pace. But at the end of the day, it is inescapably a game that was squarely developed for mobile gaming.
It can be a fun little distraction, but any meaningful gaming experiences are hamstrung pretty badly by the limited capabilities of its target platform and its heavy reliance on microtransactions.
9 Halo Wars 2
Halo Wars 2 didn't do much better than its predecessor, suffering largely from the same criticisms that it did. It was generally praised as an accessible and simple RTS, but criticized as lacking in depth and challenge.
That said, it did manage to improve on its control schemes and the campaign was well written, despite its seemingly abrupt ending. The multiplayer in particular is regarded pretty favorably. Xbox players looking to get into strategy games would be hard pressed to find a better alternative.
8 Halo Wars
This sweet and simple RTS was Halo's first earnest attempt to emerge from the confines of the FPS genre it had revolutionized, and it didn't suck. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the best that can be said for it.
It managed to pull off bringing a functionally sound RTS title to consoles with only a few gripes to raise concerning controls, which was certainly a feat. But as an RTS title it simply didn't shine, managing to hit the average in terms of challenge and gameplay but failing to innovate in practically any department save its departure from the expected genre.
7 Halo 5: Guardians
Guardians is easily the most polarizing mainline title in the Halo series. Longtime fans raised a number of issues ranging from its willingness to take cues from modern military shooters to the unfocused and unsatisfactory campaign narrative, split between Locke's Red Team and the Chief's Blue Team.
That said, the core game and especially the multiplayer experience did break ground on some fronts that were much more warmly received. The combat still feels good, and the new Warzone multiplayer mode is delightfully chaotic, though the microtransaction scheme met some predictably harsh reactions.
6 Halo 4
Halo 4 was 343 Industries' first true turn at the helm after developer Bungie decided to split from Microsoft, and fans were reasonably skeptical concerning how they'd handle the beloved universe.
It wasn't a disaster by any stretch of the imagination, but it did bring a few changes to Halo's reliable formula that raised debate within the fandom. Where it really pulled through was in the campaign, fleshing out the Chief's depth as a character while tragically showcasing Cortana's developing rampancy.
5 Halo: Reach
Bungie's final entry into the Halo saga was certainly one to be remembered. While it would come under fire for showing signs of mechanically emulating trendy shooters of the time, such as Call of Duty, it was still one of the best received titles in the whole franchise.
A lot of credit is given to Reach's more accessible narrative, juxtaposed against the more convoluted web that the mainline series had been weaving. Revolving around Noble team's tragic struggle against the Covenant during the fall of Reach, players eagerly dove into the good old fashioned alien killing spree that embodied Halo's original impetus.
4 Halo 3
The campaign for Halo 3 received some scattered criticisms, but the game as a whole undoubtedly kept pace with Combat Evolved and Halo 2, receiving nearly universal acclaim from critics. The concluding chapter of the original Halo trilogy is fondly recalled as the defining multiplayer experience for many gamers.
Of course, this was also the chapter responsible for bringing its fans the Forge, a much beloved map editing sandbox utility that has remained a fixture of the franchise since.
3 Halo 3: ODST
Sometimes unfairly cast as a sort of glorified DLC pack for Halo 3, ODST has a habit of going criminally underrated. The campaign's noir aesthetic, amazing soundtrack and inventive, open approach to storytelling aren't just exceptional in the context of the series, but gaming as a whole.
Taking the role of a fragile human trooper relying on stealth as opposed to a Spartan super soldier felt surprisingly great. ODST also introduced the fan favorite Firefight cooperative game mode, pitting up to four friends against an endless onslaught of foes.
2 Halo 2
Halo 2 was once the pinnacle of the Xbox Live experience, with the original matchmaking lobby forever inhabiting a special place in gamers' hearts. If Halo: Combat Evolved essentially "made" the Xbox, then Halo 2's multiplayer did the same for Xbox Live.
Later titles may have refined Halo's matchmaking lobby, but Halo 2 paved the way for the franchise becoming synonymous with multiplayer gaming on Microsoft's end of the console market.
1 Halo: Combat Evolved
Of course, none of the other entries on this list would even exist if it weren't for Combat Evolved. That can be understandably accused of being a cop out in terms of reasoning, but the sheer impact of the Master Chief's maiden voyage in gaming needs to be considered as a whole.
Not only did Combat Evolved completely alter the perception of first person shooters on consoles, but it became a massive contributor to the success of the Xbox itself, quickly becoming its flagship platform exclusive for generations to come.