Halo is one of very few shooter franchises out there that cay say that their campaigns and multiplayer components are equally important. People play Halo games online for years and years on end, and for very good reason, but the importance of the series’ campaigns cannot be overstated- to the point where a Halo game’s campaign, as we have seen several times over the years, can make or break the entire experience. We recently ranked all Halo games as overall packages, but here, we’re going to limit our criteria to just a single factor, and rank every game in the series based on their campaigns.
Also remember that for the purposes of this feature, we’ll only be covering the mainline Halo FPS titles, so you won’t find the Halo Wars games in this ranking.
#7. HALO 5: GUARDIANS
Well, this one was sort of obvious. Halo 5: Guardians is, as many series fans will argue, an incredibly well playing game, and there was a lot of fun to be had in its multiplayer offerings, but as far as its campaign is concerned, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that 343 Industries just completely screwed the pooch on this one. Halo 5 drummed up some cautious excitement before its launch with its marketing, but the actual game itself turned out to be a major disappointing. The story was a complete mess, the characters were really hard to root for, and worst of all, Master Chief got weirdly sidelined for a huge chunk of the campaign. All said and done, Halo 5 ended up delivering the series’ most underwhelming campaign to date.
#6. HALO 4
Of the two Halo campaigns 343 Industries has put out, Halo 4 is the far better of the pair. Granted, that’s not saying much, but there is plenty to like here nonetheless. Overall though, it’s just sort of… alright? The relationship between Master Chief and Cortana is developed really well, and Cortana’s descent into rampancy is a fascinating plot point, but there’s just so much other baggage here. The Didact is a generic and disappointing villain, the missions were a bit too repetitive, the story was just a total mess that relied way too much on players having read a whole trilogy of books, and there just weren’t nearly enough high points the way you’d normally expect from a Halo campaign.
Then again, Halo4 did finally let you fly a Pelican, so there’s that…
#5. HALO: COMBAT EVOLVED
Back when Halo: Combat Evolved first came out, it was a total revelation for so many reasons, from its incredible AI to how it limited players to small weapon loadouts and encouraged experimentation to the fact that it was a well-playing shooter on a console. Today, much of that seems… well, ordinary. Granted, it seems ordinary because of Halo, but now that these things are basically staples, Combat Evolved’s campaign doesn’t hit nearly as hard (and the fact that the level design in the indoor missions is terrible doesn’t really help). Even so, classic standout missions like The Silent Cartographer and Assault on the Control Room are just as excellent today as they were all those years ago. On the flipside, The Library is just as horrible as it was all those years ago as well, even with the improvements that were made in The Master Chief Collection.
#4. HALO 2
If not for that abrupt ending that seemed to come out of nowhere, Halo 2’s campaign would probably rank among the very best shooter campaigns ever, but even with its very noticeable issues, it’s still a damn good romp. Halo 2 kicked things up a notch in pretty much every way possible. It introduced dual-wielding, new enemy types, put a greater emphasis on vehicular action, had much more focused storytelling and character development, and best of all, explored the fascinating inner workings of the Covenant and their own complicated history and structure. The decision to introduce the Arbiter as a secondary playable protagonist proved to be a little controversial at the time, but in retrospect, it was a great move. Halo 2’s campaign wasn’t the most consistent – its first half is noticeably better than its second half – but it has some of the highest highs in the entire series.
#3. HALO 3: ODST
On paper, Halo 3: ODST might be a side-story spinoff sort of deal – it doesn’t even have the Master Chief, for crying out loud – but don’t let any of that fool you. This right here is one of the best single player campaigns in the series. Playing as a vulnerable marine instead of a human tank completely changed the dynamic of combat, leading to some of the best, most intense combat encounters this series has ever drummed up. The story, though not nearly as high-stakes or ambitious as Halo stories tend to get, felt incredibly impactful because of how zoomed in it was. Best of all was the game’s whole gloomy, melancholic atmosphere, which just lends it a sort of vibe that no other Halo game has ever really had.
#3. HALO 3
The hype surrounding Halo 3 was ridiculously high, to the extent that, in retrospect, it seems impossible that the game managed to live up to all of that anticipation. But live up to it it did, thanks in huge part to a great campaign. Halo 3 brought the series’ arc to a very satisfying close with a narrative that may not have been as ambitious as, say, Halo 2’s was, but was more than a solid finale to the original trilogy. Where it really excelled, though, was in its mission structure and gameplay. Bungie had polished the series’ combat, weapon balancing, and AI to an absolute sheen to this point, and all these elements came together with some of the best and most varied mission design we’ve ever seen in a Halo game to this day. Finishing the fight in Halo 3 was truly a please.
#1. HALO: REACH
Halo: Reach was Bungie’s last Halo game ever, and they knew that they hide to sign off on a high note. And though some of the gameplay features they introduced proved to be a bit divisive within the Halo fanbase, there’s absolutely no question that where the campaign was concerned, they hit the ball out of the park. Reach was an excellent setting, and watching the planet before, during, and after its fall throughout the story made for an incredibly moving experience- most of all because that fall meant having to watch the excellently portrayed characters of Noble Team die one after another. Halo: Reach’s campaign has the best storytelling, the best character development, and some of the best missions in the entire series. It just delivers one high point after another, and never really lets up until its unforgettable conclusion.
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