The Halo franchise is one of the most popular sci-fi game series in the last two decades. The universe of the games is quite vast and extensive, and the gamers absolutely love the narrative around every installment.
The games are so popular that there have been multiple renditions and adaptations into live-action films and animated series. The story is set in the future, starting from the 2500s, and revolves around a war between humans and the aliens known as the Covenant.
In this, we particularly focus on Master Chief, the most significant character from the franchise. He is a super soldier and, with a team, leads the fight against the Covenant for humankind. This is the basic premise of the games and other media titles.
Across different games, the creators juggle the timelines, stories, prequels, and sequels. Considering how big this universe is, you might be confused about where to begin.
Should I watch the titles first or play the games first?
If I watch the titles, what’s the watch order?
Are they all part of one continuous series or disjointed?
I’m sure you’ll have all these questions and more. But don’t worry. I’ve got your back. In this article, I have the complete watch order, play order, and all-encompassing order.
You can use it as your watch/play order guide to experience this expansive universe and enjoy it. Let’s get started.
The Halo Franchise has numerous games, books, live-action web series, movies, animated series, and a few shorts. The games are the source material for all other titles and adaptations of the movies, series, and books.
1. Halo Games Release Order
Over the years, game development has been helmed by different companies and creators. As a result, even though all these games follow a timeline, the feel and vibe of the game differ. This is due to characters’ presence and absence, the shift between sequels and prequels, and the style change between FPS (First Person Shooter) and RTS (Real-time Strategy) formats.
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
- Halo 2 (2004)
- Halo 3 (2007)
- Halo Wars (2009)
- Halo 3: OSDT (2009)
- Halo: Reach (2010)
- Halo 4 (2012)
- Halo 5: Guardians (2015)
- Halo Wars 2 (2017)
- Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare (2017)
- Halo Infinite (2021)
While reading through the above list, there are a few things you need to know:
- Halo 3: OSDT isn’t a separate game but an extension pack of Halo 3. The same is applied to Halo Wars 2 and Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare.
- Halo Wars saw the shift from an FPS-style game to an RTS-style game. It was also the first game where players could control armies.
- Halo Wars was also the first game in the series to not have Master Chief since it was a prequel. Another game that excluded the protagonist was Halo: Reach.
- Halo Wars 2 was another game where the RTS style was brought back after a break.
Besides these, there are a few other games within the Halo franchise. While these are canon, they are either homages to the original game, an arcade version, a remake, or more.
I. Other Halo Games
- Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (2011)
This is a remake of the original game that 343 industries created to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the game.
- Halo: Spartan Assault (2013)
This is a twin-stick shooter game where Spartan soldiers are part of the simulations of actual events. They see things from the perspective of a few human soldiers. In this, the events depicted actually took place in 2554.
- Halo 2: Anniversary (2014)
This game is a remastered version of Halo 2 and has a few subtle differences from the original game.
- Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2014)
This is a compilation of video games, including Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: OSDT, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4.
- Halo: Spartan Strike (2015)
This is the second part of the twin-stick shooter game and follows the same premise. However, here the events depicted take place between 2552 and 2557.
- Halo: Recruit (2017)
Halo Recruit is a 5-minute VR game created by Endeavor One and 343 Industries. It follows a mixed reality game format.
- Halo: Fireteam Raven (2018)
This is an arcade game that is available only at select video arcades.
While there are numerous other intricacies you’ll experience while playing these games, I’ll leave them for you to explore instead of spoiling. Another thing you should take note of is that not all games are available on the XBOX console.
Let’s move on to the chronological order of the games, and I suggest you pay close attention because it might get a little complex.
2. Halo Games Chronological Play Order
There are a lot of stories behind the development of these games that involve the glories of Bungie and a whole lot more. However, all those tales are for another day. So, for now, let’s look at the chronological order because that will make the most difference to you.
The way the creators have shuffled between timelines and plotlines is just incredible. While this juggling of timelines might not be intentional, it sure created an impact. The order in which you play the games makes all the difference when it comes to the way you experience a game and how you appreciate its progress. Let me lay it all in front of you in the simplest form.
- Halo Wars (2531)
- Halo: Reach (2552)
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2552)
- Halo 2 (2552)
- Halo 3 (2552)
- Halo 3: OSDT (2552)
- Halo 4 (2557)
- Halo 5: Guardians (2558)
- Halo Wars 2 (2559)
- Halo Infinite (2560)
As you’ve already noticed, not all the games from the release order are present here. This isn’t because they are not canon, but just that the timeline and story element is present primarily in these flagship games.
I’ll be dividing this chronology into different sections and give you a gist of the timeline and the events. This way, you know what you’ll be signing up for a while, staying aloof of the spoilers.
I. The Prequel
- Halo Wars
- Halo: Reach
These two are prequels to the original trilogy, and the last mission of Halo: Reach is just before where Halo: Combat Evolved begins. The story begins in 2525, when humans have learned how to travel through space as a species.
This brings us under the radar of the Covenant Army, who are aliens. According to them, humans shouldn’t exist because their gods, the Forerunners, wouldn’t want them. The Forerunners aren’t present at the time, but it’s an assumption made by the Covenant.
Thus begins the battle between humankind and the Covenant. The war is waged till about 2552 when the Covenant kills people of the planet Reach. This is also the place that acts as humanity’s military hub and a training place for Spartans.
The Spartans are genetically engineered super soldiers who fight for humanity against the Covenant. This sets the stage for the first-ever Halo game and Master Chief.
II. The Original Trilogy
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Halo 2
- Halo 3
- Halo 3: OSDT
This is a long series with multiple things happening with the Covenant, the humanity, and Master Chief. Here we realize that the Covenant is looking for sacred rings called Halo. According to the Covenant’s highest leaders, called the Prophet, the Halo rings would destroy a plague called the Flood.
However, within the Covenant, a couple of people believe that the Prophet is lying. It wouldn’t put an end to the Flood but to all sentient life within its range.
Master Chief is in the middle of all this, trying to prevent the Covenant from getting access to these rings, which are mega structures. So there are multiple battles on different planets throughout Halo: CE and Halo 2.
In Halo 2, the Covenant had attacked Earth, and the reason for this is revealed in Halo 3. We understand that the Earth has an artifact that can control all the Halos in the galaxy.
By this time, there are three sides: Master Chief, the Prophet, and his Covenant army, and the Flood’s consciousness (Gravemind). Don’t worry, I’m not giving any spoilers here because you might want to know how we reached this point.
So there are different battles between the three sides, and by the time the war seems like it’s over, Master Chief is stranded on a ship in space without anywhere to go. So he puts himself in cryogenic sleep, asking Cortana (his AI) to wake him up whenever it is needed.
III. The Renewal
- Halo 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Wars 2
- Halo Infinite
The story continues in Halo 4 after 4 years, and the adventures of Master Chief continue. The war is over between humanity and Covenant by the end of Halo 4. However, this time, we also meet the Forerunners and understand a bit of what they intended to do with the Flood and humanity.
Besides this, we also see the AI Cortana go through an issue called rampancy, which makes her realize that she can end humanity for good and take over the universe. This is essentially the story of Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. Halo Wars 2 is the next event in the timeline but is a sequel to Halo Wars 2.
This is a parallel arc where the main character is Captain James Cutter. Master Chief is absent from this installment, as we last saw him battle against Cortana. James Cutter and the lot meet new characters called the Banished.
These are rebels who defected, revolted against the Covenant, and became the new antagonists after the war. We still see the Halo Rings, which are pretty prominent in the story. What happens between Cutter and the Banished is the game.
Halo Infinite brings together both the parallel arcs with the focus kept on Master Chief. The three main sides in this game are Master Chief, the Banished, and Cortana, whom we last saw in Halo 5: Guardians.
If I tell you anything about the premise of this installment, it’ll be a spoiler because it builds off the previous two games. With this, we’ve come to the end of the chronological order of the games, and I can safely say, the difficult part of this mission is indeed over.
3. Halo Movies and TV Series Release Order
The Halo movies, shows, web series, and animated content are adaptations of different parts of the game. They portray the events from different parts of the timeline. So, if you watch them together, they might feel quite disjointed to you.
In the release order, I’ll be giving a comprehensive order of live-action and animated titles together since there are very few. Let’s get started.
- Halo: Landfall (2007)
- Halo: Legends (2009 – 2010)
- Halo: Evolution Shorts (2010)
- Halo: Forward Unto Dawn (2012)
- Halo: Nightfall (2014)
- Halo: The Fall of Reach (2015)
- Halo: TV Series (2022)
- Other Halo Shorts
This list consists of all the titles in the Halo media franchise. In the chronological watch order, I’ll be sharing the year in which the events take place and delve a little deeper into some of the web series and shorts.
4. Halo Movies and TV Series Chronological Watch Order
- Halo: The Fall of Reach (2517 – 2525)
- Halo: Forward Unto Dawn (2525)
- Halo: TV Series (2531)
- Halo: Landfall (2552)
- Halo: Legends (Post 2552)
- Halo: Nightfall (2556)
- Halo: Evolution Shorts
- Other Shorts
In this list, if you see, the Shorts are separate because they are from different timelines and don’t have a specific place within the chronology. So you can watch them as standalone pieces of content once you’re done with the rest.
I. Halo: The Fall of Reach
This is a three-part animated series that depicts how Master Chief and Spartan 117 were formed. You’ll find it on Amazon Prime as a movie.
Halo: Forward Unto Dawn
This is a five-part live-action web series, where each episode runs for 15 minutes. You can find it on Amazon Prime.
II. Halo: TV Series
The latest addition to the Halo media franchise, this is an incredibly well-produced live-action limited series with 10 episodes. You can watch it on the Paramount+ streaming service.
III. Halo: Landfall
This is the first live-action content from the studio that created the Halo game. It was a three-part series compiled into a 7-minute short film and had a trailer-like treatment. It is available on YouTube.
IV. Halo: Legends
This is an anime-style series of 7 short films, namely:
- The Babysitter
- The Duel
- The Package (Two Parts)
- Odd One Out
These are available on Amazon Prime as one film.
V. Halo: Nightfall
Halo: Nightfall is a live-action web series with five episodes and has Agent Locke as the main character. In the games, Agent Locke is the second playable character besides Master Chief. The show is available as a full movie on Amazon Prime.
VI. Halo: Evolution Shorts
These shorts are a series of motion comics and include four titles, namely:
- Halo: Midnight in the Heart of Midlothian
- Halo: Headhunters
- Halo: The Mona Lisa
- Halo: The Return
You can watch these on YouTube.
VII. Other Halo Shorts
This series has numerous titles that were created over the years. So the events in each title are from a different part of the timeline, and you can watch them as standalone short films.
- Halo 3: Starry Night
- Halo 3: Believe
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo Reach: Birth of a Spartan
- Halo Reach: Deliver Hope
- Halo Reach: New Life
- Halo Reach: Spaceport
- Halo Reach: Patrol
- Halo Reach: Day Before
- Halo CE Anniversary: Living Monument
- Halo 4: Scanned
- Halo 4: The Commissioning
- Halo 5: All Hail
- Halo 5: The Cost
Most of these titles are available on YouTube, and if not there, you’ll find them on the website Halo Waypoint.
With this, the chronological order of all the titles also comes to an end. Now, let’s move to the final leg of this post and look at the reading order. While it is lengthy, considering the number of books that have been released, it’s simple.
5. Halo Books Release Order
There are over 30 books written by different authors over the last two decades. While some of them are adaptations of the games, there are numerous others adding to the universe.
All these books are split into different series. So, the below order is the release order of series and not individual books within them. Let’s jump right in.
I. The Original Series
- Halo: The Fall of Reach (2001)
- Halo: The Flood (2003)
- Halo: First Strike (2003)
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx (2006)
II. The Gray Team Duology
- Halo: The Cole Protocol (2008)
- Halo: Envoy (2017)
III. The Forerunner Trilogy
- Halo: Cryptum (2011)
- Halo: Primordium (2011)
- Halo: Silentium (2013)
IV. Kilo-Five Trilogy
- Halo: Glasslands (2011)
- Halo: The Thursday War (2012)
- Halo: Mortal Dictata (2014)
V. Alpha-Nine Duology
- Halo: New Blood (2015)
- Halo: Bad Blood (2018)
VI. The Ferrets Series
- Halo: Last Light (2015)
- Halo: Retribution (2017)
- Halo: Divine Wind (2021)
VII. Rion Forge and Ace of Spades
- Halo: Smoke and Shadow (2015)
- Halo: Renegades (2019)
- Halo: Point of Light (2021)
VIII. Master Chief Series
- Halo: Silent Storm (2018)
- Halo: Oblivion (2019)
- Halo: Shadows of Reach (2020)
IX. Battle Born Duology
- Halo: Battle Born (2019)
- Halo: Meridian Divide (2019)
X. Standalone Novels
- Halo: Contract Harvest (2007)
- Halo: Broken Circle (2014)
- Halo: Hunters in the Dark (2015)
- Halo: Legacy of Onyx (2017)
- Halo: The Rubicon Protocol (August 9, 2022)
- Halo: Outcasts (October 18, 2022)
XI. Standalone Novellas
- Halo: Saint’s Testimony (2015)
- Halo: Shadow of Intent (2015)
- Halo: Evolutions: Essential Tales of the Halo Universe (2009)
- Halo: Evolutions Volume I (2010)
- Halo: Evolutions Volume II (2010)
- Halo: Fractures (2016)
6. Halo Books Chronological Read Order
The chronological order is based on the timeline and the events depicted in the books. This way you can understand the context of events and also relate it to the other series. This order is not consolidated into various series like in the previous section. Instead, it is book-wise.
- Halo: Cryptum
- Halo: Primordium
- Halo: Silentium
- Halo: Broken Circle (First Section)
- Halo: Contact Harvest
- Halo: The Cole Protocol
- Halo: Battle Born
- Halo: Meridian Divide
- Halo: The Fall of Reach
- Halo: Silent Storm
- Halo: Oblivion
- Halo: The Flood
- Halo: First Strike
- Halo: Broken Circle (Second Section)
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
- Halo: Glasslands
- Halo: The Thursday War
- Halo: Mortal Dictata
- Halo: Last Light
- Halo: Retribution
- Halo: Shadow of Intent
- Halo: New Blood
- Halo: Hunters in the Dark
- Halo: Smoke and Shadow
- Halo: Renegades
- Halo: Saint’s Testimony
- Halo: Point of Light
- Halo: Envoy
- Halo: Legacy of Onyx
- Halo: Bad Blood
- Halo: Shadows of Reach
- Halo: Divine Wind
- Halo: The Rubicon Protocol
- Halo: Outcasts
As you see the anthologies are not part of the chronology, since the events take place across the timeline at different points.
With this, the reading order comes to an end. If you’re wondering whether you should play the games, read the books, or watch the titles first, I’ve got you the answers.
Playing the games first is the best way to enter the franchise because nothing is better than the original. After this, you can read the books or watch the shows/movies based on your interest.
However, I’d recommend you to read the books because they add significant value to the existing universe the games have built. In fact, they even extend it and add more depth.
7. Runtime and Binge Duration
The entire Halo media surely can’t be binged in one go. It would take people months, if not a year, to consume all this content and play all the games. The best way to go about the entire franchise is by going category-wise, as given in the above sections.
8. Where to Watch, Play, and Read Halo
All the games can be purchased from your nearby stores or platforms like Steam. The movies can be bought on Amazon Prime Video, and the shorts/trailers are available on YouTube and Halo Waypoint. Finally, the books are available on Amazon.
Halo is an American live-action sci-fi television series based on the Halo video game franchise. It is developed by Steven Kane and Kyle Killen for Paramount+.
The series follows a 26th-century war between the United Nations Space Command and the Covenant, a theocratic-military alliance of several advanced alien races determined to eradicate the human race.
The series stars Pablo Schreiber, Natascha McElhone, Charlie Murphy, Jen Taylor, Shabana Azmi, Bokeem Woodbine, Kate Kennedy, Natasha Culzac, Yerin Ha, and Bentley Kalu.