Xbox’s flagship shooter is an intergalactic sci-fi saga with narrative foundations dating back billions of years. Despite this long history, the current Halo games are largely set in a single decade, during the end and aftermath of the war between the humans and the Covenant.
The main Halo games feature a sequential story, although several spin-offs complicate the chronology of the series. With this in mind, we have created this brief summary of the Halo timeline as explored in video games.
This list includes all main Halo games and most spin-offs, including Halo Wars strategy games. Halo Recruit mixed reality game, Halo: Fireteam Raven arcade game, and Halo 4: King of the Hill Fueled By Mountain Dew mobile game not included.
All 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 described belowbeginning with the narrative chronology.
With newcomers to the sagas in mind, these brief plot synopses contain only slight spoilerssuch as general plot points, settings, and character introductions.
1. Halo Wars (2531)
Halo Wars is the oldest game in the series, taking place 21 years before the start of Halo: Reach and Halo: Combat Evolved. Halo Wars is set in the early days of the Human-Covenant War, a conflict initiated by the Covenant to preserve the false foundations on which their religion was built. Halo Wars follows the forces of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC) and Red Team Spartan-II supersoldiers as they take the fight to the Covenant across the planets Harvest and Arcadia, as well as the Forerunner Shield 0459 facility (also known as Trove).
Halo Wars is the first of two real-time strategy spin-offs. The second, Halo Wars 2 (further down this list), takes place between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite.
2. Halo: Reach (2552)
Halo: Reach is set 21 years later, during the summer months of 2552. Noble Team begins their fight against the Covenant on the planet Reach, one of humanity’s most prosperous colonies. The team, including the playable character Noble Six, is outnumbered in their fight, but their efforts allow the Pillar of Autumn and Cortana to escape the Reach, setting the stage for Halo: Combat Evolved.
3. Halo: Combat Evolved (2552)
The end of Reach leads directly into Halo: Combat Evolved, with the Pillar of Autumn entering Installation 04, one of seven ring worlds (aka Halos) created by an ancient species of highly intelligent beings known as the Halos. Forerunners.
The Pillar, carrying Cortana and John-117, aka Master Chief, is attacked by the Covenant and is forced to land in the ring. There, the Chief battles the Covenant forces and accidentally releases the Deluge, an ancient species of parasitic organisms that feed on sentient life. The Chief must find a way to contain the outbreak without destroying humanity.
Halo: Combat Evolved also introduces series staples such as Guilty Spark, the Forerunner Monitor tasked with overseeing Installation 04; Jacob Keyes, a commanding officer of the UNSC Navy; and Avery Johnson, a highly trained UNSC Marine.
4. Halo 2 (2552)
Set shortly after the conclusion of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 tells two stories: that of a Covenant Sangheili named Thel ‘Vadam and that of the Master Chief’s ongoing fight against the Covenant and the Flood.
The story unfolds over the course of about a month, with the Chieftain and Thel ‘Vadam 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 introduces the Hierarchs of the Covenant (the Prophets of Truth, Mercy, and Repentance) and Miranda Keyes, commander of the UNSC Navy and daughter of the aforementioned Jacob Keyes and the as yet unintroduced Dr. Catherine Halsey.
5. Halo 3: ODST (2552)
The events of Halo 3: ODST take place at the same time as those of Halo 2, specifically beginning after the Halo 2 mission Metropolis. ODST takes place in New Mombasa, an early and vital battlefield during the invasion of Earth by the of the Covenant.
The less linear story centers around a group of six highly trained Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs), in which the player controls a character known as Rookie. Rookie encounters Covenant forces in New Mombasa while searching for his squadmates scattered around the city.
Among those squadmates is Nathan Fillion’s Edward Buck, who returns in Halo 5: Guardians.
6. Halo 3 (2552–2553)
Halo 3, the conclusion to the original Halo trilogy, follows the Master Chief during the final months of the war between the humans and the Covenant. The Chief and the UNSC attempt once again to stop the Covenant from wiping out all sentient life within 25,000 light years. The Flood, meanwhile, descends on Earth, introducing a second existential threat to humanity.
Our heroes face the threat, and the Master Chief leaves us with another unforgettable farewell.
7. Halo: Spartan Assault (2554)
Halo: Spartan Assault is a side game set between Halo 3 and 4. It is one of two descending games on this list along with its sequel, Halo: Spartan Strike. Spartan Assault stars Spartan-IV troopers Edward Davis and Sarah Palmer in a post-war skirmish against a faction of the Covenant led by the Sangheili warlord, Merg Vol. Not much is added to the overall narrative, though Palmer also appears. in Halo 4, 5 and Infinite.
8. Halo 4 (2557)
Halo 4 is a pivotal game in both the saga’s narrative and development history, beginning the Reclaimer saga and the franchise’s life under 343 Industries following the separation of original developer Bungie from Microsoft.
Halo 4 picks up four years after the conclusion of Halo 3, when Cortana awakens the Master Chief from cryosleep to deal with a threat from the Covenant. Halo 4 places more emphasis on the relationship between the Boss and Cortana, as the latter faces the early stages of a condition where the AI becomes dangerously unstable. Meanwhile, the duo face a new existential threat to humanity with the return of the Forerunners, led by a new antagonist. Chief explores another Halo ring, Installation 03.
Also appearing for the first time are Dr. Catherin Halsey, creator of Cortana, and a critical being of the Forerunners known as the Librarian.
9. Halo: Spartan Strike (2557)
Halo: Spartan Strike begins concurrently with Halo 2 in 2552 before jumping to 2557. Spartan Strike’s narrative fallout on the ongoing Halo saga is minimal; the story follows a group of UNSC forces battling the Covenant while tracking down a Forerunner artifact.
10. Halo 5: Guardians (2558)
Considered the poorest of the Halo campaigns, Halo 5 commits the deadly sin of shifting the spotlight away from the saga’s beloved Master Chief in favor of the Osiris Assault Team, led by Jameson Locke, a Spartan-IV supersoldier tasked with locating to the Chief and return him to UNSC leadership.
The story is divided between the Osiris Strike Team and Blue Team, who, under the command of the Master Chief, have their own mission to track down the power-hungry Cortana.
11. Halo Wars 2 (2559)
Set between Halo 5 and Halo Infinite, Halo Wars 2 introduces the Brute warlord Atriox, the leader of the Banished and one of the main antagonists of Halo Infinite.
Halo Wars 2 features the return of the Red Team and the Spirit of Fire from the first Halo Wars. The team wakes up after 28 years of cryosleep and arrives at the Ark, where they meet Atriox and the Banished. Despite the slim odds, the Red Team see themselves as the shield between the Banished and humanity, and so they fight. The unresolved conflict between the UNSC and the Banished continues in Halo Infinite.
12. Halo Infinite (2560)
The most recent game in the saga by chronology and release date is Halo Infinite. Returns the focus to the Master Chief and introduces players to the series’ first open world in Zeta Halo (Install 07).
Infinite brings the Banished from Halo Wars 2 into the main series, while also introducing another threat, an ancient race of beings hitherto imprisoned by the Precursors.
Among the Chief’s new allies are a UNSC pilot named Fernando Esparza and a replica of Cortana known as the Weapon. In addition to Atrioix and the Harbinger, Infinite’s villain lineup includes the Banished Warchief Escharum and the Spartan assassin Sangheili Jega.
How to play all Halo games in order of release
- 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)*
* Main series games