We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Halo games in order - the full Halo chronology

With 13 games spanning over 20 years, there's a lot of Halo games. But where does each game fall chronologically? Here are all the Halo games in order of lore.

Halo games in order: Master Chief as seen in Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo Infinite

Halo is one of the oldest and most revered FPS game franchises of all time. Having celebrated its 20th birthday back in 2021, developer 343 Industries continues to build on the journeys of the enigmatic Master Chief and sentient AI Cortana with Halo Infinite and beyond.

However, alongside the six main entries into the Halo videogame series – which are split into the ‘Original Trilogy’ and the ‘Reclaimer Saga’ – there are a slew of spin-off games which interlace and precede Chief’s own story. As such, the Halo games in order of release are at times inconsistent with the chronological order the series’ events occur in.

Ignoring re-releases such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection, we count a sizable 13 Halo games in total which contribute to its vast lore. With so many games, it’s no wonder that many players are trying to figure out where they all line up chronologically. This is where we come in.

Below you will find all the Halo games in order of chronology. While we’re fans of playing through the series in release order for that generation-by-generation experience, players looking to hop into the series for the first time should play them how they want – we’re not your dad, after all.

Halo games in order

If you’re looking to avoid major story spoilers, then steer clear of the brief rundown of each game’s main plot points which follows the list below.

Here are the Halo games in order of where they fall in the lore:

  • Halo Wars
  • Halo: Reach
  • Halo: Combat Evolved
  • Halo: Fireteam Raven
  • Halo 2
  • Halo 3: ODST
  • Halo 3
  • Halo: Spartan Assault
  • Halo 4
  • Halo: Spartan Strike
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Halo Infinite

Halo games in order: Halo Wars art showing three Spartans with various aerial vehicles behind them.

Halo Wars

  • Release date: 2009
  • Halo timeline: 2531 CE

Unlike the mainline Halo games, Halo Wars is actually a real-time strategy title that fans of series like Age of Empires, Command and Conquer, and StarCraft can get on board with.

Set 21 years prior to the events of the original game, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo Wars sees a group of UNSC soldiers and scientists attempt to stop the religiocentric Covenant from getting their mitts on a fleet of ships belonging to the Forerunners – the ancient race that constructed the Halo Array which contained the parasitic Flood.

‘What is the Flood?’ you ask. Well, it transpires that the Flood is the corrupted, dusty remains of the Precursors, creators of both the Forerunners and humanity billions of years before the Halo game timeline begins. Coming into contact with the Flood causes horrific mutations, hence its quarantine.

Halo games in order: Halo Reach art showing a squad of Spartans.

Halo: Reach

  • Release date: 2010
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

Halo: Reach marked the end of the Xbox 360 era of Halo games, with Bungie sending its final instalment of the series out with a bang, before handing the reins over to current developer 343 Industries.

With the ending of Halo: Reach taking place right before Halo: Combat Evolved kicks off, those who had already played through the original knew fully well that the UNSC’s Noble Team’s endeavour to save the doomed planet of Reach from the Covenant invasion wouldn’t end well.

Halo games in order: Halo Combat Evolved art showing Master Chief in his earliest iteration.

Halo: Combat Evolved

  • Release date: 2001
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

Now we’re starting to simultaneously fast-forward and backward in time. Released all the way back in 2001, Halo: Combat Evolved is where it all began – both for the genre-defining franchise and for Master Chief’s story.

Having escaped the Fall of Reach on the UNSC Pillar of Autumn, the ship’s crew find themselves overrun by the Covenant. In order to keep the location of Earth safe from its arch nemesis, Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 is entrusted with the ship’s AI, Cortana, before being evacuated to what transpires to be one of Halo’s rings – Installation 04.

Throughout their first adventure together, Chief and Cortana gradually unravel the mysteries of the ring as they whittle their way through more than their fair share of Covenant forces. As it transpires, firing Halo will wipe out not only the Flood, but all known life in the galaxy – something the Covenant is keen on achieving, and something Chief must ultimately prevent.

Halo games in order: A peak at Halo Fireteam Raven.

Halo: Fireteam Raven

  • Release date: 2018
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

Many won’t have heard of Halo: Fireteam Raven, and for good reason. In order to experience Play Mechanix’s addition to the series, you’d have to hope your local arcade had it in. That’s right, this arcade co-op shooter cannot be experienced from the comfort of your sofa.

The events of Fireteam Raven occur simultaneously with those in Combat Evolved, focusing on a group of ODST soldiers who, like Master Chief, were based on the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. Fireteam Raven’s story culminates in the squad fighting off both Covenant and Flood alike in an attempt to help Chief complete his mission to destroy Installation 04 at the end of Halo: Combat Evolved.

Halo games in order: Halo 2 art showing a dual-wielding Master Chief against the backdrop of a burning city.

Halo 2

  • Release date: 2004
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

For many competitive FPS players, Halo 2 is where they grew their competitive roots thanks to its Xbox Live integration. The second game in the series took everything that was great about Combat Evolved and amped it up a whole bunch, adding a slew of new toys to play and slay with.

Lore-wise, Halo 2 isn’t actually Combat Evolved’s direct sequel – that would be the 2003 novel Halo: First Strike. However, when we do jump back into Chief’s story, there’s more trouble afoot, and yet another Halo installation to blow up. We also get a deeper dive into the Covenant’s backstory, while occasionally dipping into the shoes (they don’t actually wear shoes) of the Arbiter – a Covenant Elite who helped oversee the destruction of Reach.

As it turns out, there’s a fair amount of discord between the Elites and the Brutes who provide the backbone for the Covenant’s military might. Oh, and the Arbiter is actually a pretty good(ish) guy.

Halo games in order: Halo 3: ODST art showing an ODST soldier standing in the rain with a weapon at their hip.

Halo 3: ODST

  • Release date: 2009
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

Bungie decided this time to show rather than tell the events bridging Halo 2 and Halo 3 – though Halo 3: ODST actually kicks off shortly after the ‘Metropolis’ level in the second game.

Throughout ODST, we’re treated to a far more human experience of the Human-Covenant War than we usually get with the nigh-on invincible Master Chief. It’s the simple, yet brilliantly-told story of a squad of ODST soldiers trying to reunite with one another, each fighting through the dimly-lit streets of New Mombasa, Kenya in order to reach their comrades.

Halo games in order: Halo 3 art showing Master Chief looking into the distance with eyes blended into the horizon.

Halo 3

  • Release date: 2007
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE

The first Halo game to land on the Xbox 360, Halo 3 rounded out the Original Trilogy with style, finesse, and the introduction of the now-iconic Forge map editor.

Bungie’s final addition to the mainline games breaks the mould of its previous two campaigns, ending with Master Chief actually activating a Halo ring constructed by Cortana on the galaxy’s outskirts, wiping out the Flood and a huge chunk of the Covenant’s remaining forces in the process.

However, before the Arbiter, Chief, and Cortana can escape on the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, the ship is severed in half by the portal, setting the human/AI duo adrift far from the Halo’s blast while the Arbiter makes it back to Earth. With the Human-Covenant War now over, the remaining question mark hangs over Chief and Cortana’s location.

Halo games in order: Halo Spartan Assault cover showing a silvery-red Spartan pointing behind them.

Halo: Spartan Assault

  • Release date: 2013
  • Halo timeline: Sometime between 2553 CE and 2557 CE

Taking place sometime between Halo 3 and Halo 4, Halo: Spartan Assault was originally a mobile-exclusive release, before later coming to Xbox consoles and Steam on PC.

This twin-stick, isometric shooter sees players assume control of Spartan Commander Sarah Palmer – who we see plenty of during the Reclaimer Saga – as she takes on a newly-formed splinter faction of Covenant zealots, led by the Elite Merg Vol, who rejected the Human-Covenant truce.

Halo games in order: Halo 4 art showing a kneeling Master Chief surrounding by rubble and debris.

Halo 4

  • Release date: 2012
  • Halo timeline: 2557 CE

As we rejoin Master Chief and Cortana – the pair still silently floating through space – they are drawn into former Forerunner planet Requiem. As several years have passed, Cortana is now living beyond the usual lifespan for AIs, resulting in her developing rampancy – a state of being which sees her depart from her programmed constraints and long for power.

After landing on the planet, Chief and Cortana are immediately jumped by Covenant forces which have refused to disarm following the Human-Covenant truce. Now hailing the Forerunner Pomethean Ur-Didact – who was kept locked array on Requiem until shortly after Chief’s arrival – the wayward Covenant and their new leader wish to use a machine capable of turning an organic being’s consciousness into data known as the Composer to resume their war on Earth.

Fortunately, Chief is able to overcome the Didact and escape, but not without paying a great price. Using what little power she has left, Cortana effectively sacrifices herself in order to whisk Chief away before the Didact’s ship explodes. After a final emotional farewell between the two, Cortana fades away, leaving Chief to be rescued by a UNSC search-and-rescue team.

Halo games in order: Halo Spartan Strike art showing an orange Spartan with a blue visor and white stripes.

Halo: Spartan Strike

  • Release date: 2016
  • Halo timeline: 2552 CE and 2557 CE

While not a sequel to Halo: Spartan Assault as such, Halo: Spartan Strike once again deploys the same basic gameplay loop seen in the previous game. This time, however, the events of this mobile-first title take place at two different points in time: the Battle of Mombasa in 2552 CE, and at Halo Installation 03 in 2557 CE.

The story itself revolves around the Conduit – a Forerunner artifact capable of opening Forerunner slipspace portals across the galaxy. We are first introduced to it in Mombasa, before it is taken by the Covenant. Fast forward several years and a Headhunter must retrieve it from the Halo ring in order to close a portal that has unleashed a Promethean invasion back in New Phoenix, Earth.

Halo games in order: Halo 5 Guardians art with Master Chief staring at Locke.

Halo 5: Guardians

  • Release date: 2015
  • Halo timeline: 2558 CE

While it looked like Cortana had finally bitten the dust at the end of Halo 4, the lucky AI finds herself on the Forerunner planet of Genesis after what was left of the Didact’s ship – which she was still connected to – made an emergency slipspace jump to the distant world.

Defying the UNSC’s orders, Chief sets off to retrieve his close friend from Genesis with Blue Team in tandem, only to find Cortana has fused with the Domain – a galaxy-sized librum full to the brim with Forerunner knowledge. Fireteam Osiris, led by Jameson Locke who you also get to spend some time piloting throughout the game, is subsequently sent to retrieve the rogue Spartans.

Cortana tells Chief that her rampancy is cured. However, she remains a threat as her plan to use the immensely powerful Forerunner AIs known as Guardians to forcefully forge peace throughout the galaxy eventually comes to light.

Fortunately, her attempt to place Chief and Blue Team into cryosleep for 10,000 years so she can consolidate power over the cosmos is scuppered by Locke, with help from Genesis’ original AI warden, Exuberant Witness. As Halo 5: Guardians ends, Cortana appears to be in complete control, slowly shutting down UNSC operations across human space. Chief and Locke, meanwhile, are last seen on Sanghelios – homeworld of the Elites.

Halo games in order: Halo Wars 2 art showing the Banished warmaster Axiom on a hill surrounded by Spartans.

Halo Wars 2

  • Release date: 2017
  • Halo timeline: 2559 CE

Halo Wars 2 takes place 28 years after the events of the first game and serves as a direct sequel. Now awoken from cryosleep, the crew of the UNSC Spirit of Fire happen upon the Ark – the Forerunner installation used to build and control the Halo fired by Master Chief at the end of Halo 3.

However, they soon encounter the Banished – a powerful mercenary faction led by the Brute warmaster, Atriox. Halo Wars 2 follows the crew’s bitter struggle against this new threat in true RTS fashion.

Halo games in order: Halo Infinite art showing a battle-ready Master Chief against the verdant hills of a Halo ring.

Halo Infinite

  • Release date: 2021
  • Halo timeline: 2560 CE

Halo Infinite follows Chief’s attempts to find out what really happened to Cortana after she was apparently contained and deleted by the UNSC AI known as ‘Weapon’, before putting an end to her plan once and for all.

YouTube Thumbnail

And there you have it, the full rundown of Halo games in order of their chronology. While you’re waiting for your next Halo adventure to download, check out all the other best FPS games you can play as well.