With Halo: The Master Chief Collection landing on PC in instalments and with Halo Infinite looming, we look back through all of the core games in the series and pick out our favourite missions. Needless to say, there's more than a few spoilers as we pick out the Halo's greatest hits.
Halo: Reach - Noble Actual - There were several Reach levels that were under consideration for this hit list, but where better to start than the beginning, and Noble Actual is a great opener by any measure. What works so well in this mission is the fact that you already know exactly what is about to happen, and yet the tension builds and builds until the big release and you're back in business and popping headshots like it's going out of style. Of course, the name of this mission alludes to our introduction to Noble Team, the elite Spartan unit that we battle alongside throughout this stellar campaign - Bungie's last on the franchise. We play as the enigmatic Noble 6, who joins the team just in time to join the fight against the Covenant forces that have landed on the planet Reach.
Halo: Reach - Long Night of Solace - Arguably the standout mission from the whole of Bungie's swansong, Long Night of Solace is a multi-part mission that delivers on all fronts. First, there's the sequence that has you and your allies fighting up the beach (and we think that sequence is better than the fighting on the beach in Cartographer - yup, it's that good), then you're all aboard a Sabre for a shoot 'em up sequence par excellence, before battling through a Covenant ship orbiting the planet in order to deliver a hammer blow to the invasion force. There's a gut-punching twist at the end which we won't spoil here, but needless to say, every part of the mission lives long in the memory and we think it's nigh on unmissable.
Halo: Reach - Pillar of Autumn - Our adventure on Reach comes to an end with Pillar of Autumn, with the remnants of Noble Team doing their very best to help the eponymous ship escape the planet with its precious cargo. The result is a race against time when you and your teammates put everything on the line to complete your mission. In fact, Pillar of Autumn ends with a postscript mission, called Lone Wolf, that sees Noble 6 battling against the Covenant invaders until the bitter end. It's powerful stuff, but it's ok because hope lives on; just as the UNSC leaves town we get a glimpse of a certain sleeping Spartan by the name of John 117.
Halo: Combat Evolved - Pillar of Autumn - No, that's not a typo. The first mission of Halo: Combat Evolved carries the same name as the last level of Reach. Rather neatly, the first and last main campaign missions that Bungie made for the Halo series start and end with the UNSC Pillar of Autumn. Of course, this mission takes place aboard the iconic ship, which the Covenant has just boarded, rousing Master Chief from his slumber and stirring him into action. The resulting battle sees the ship crashing onto the halo ring that gives the series its name, but that first encounter with the Covenant, with Grunts and Elites running around while you experiment with both the human and alien weapons for the first time - it's the stuff of legend. It's probably a lot of people's first Halo memory, and potentially even their best.
Halo: Combat Evolved - The Silent Cartographer - The halo ring that Master Chief and his allies find themselves on proves to be a strange and intriguing place, and the plot truly thickens in this, the fourth mission in Halo CE. This mission perfectly demonstrates what Bungie tied to do with the series, with an expansive sandbox filled with enemies that you can tackle as you see fit. With lots of Warthog action and some truly intense combat, this dive into the heart of the halo ring stays long in the memory. Stick this one on either Heroic or Legendary and experience Halo as it's meant to be played.
Halo: Combat Evolved - 343 Guilty Spark - This one's a no brainer and probably the first mission on most lists. Why? Because 343 Guilty Spark is, in fact, the level when two becomes three, and when a fairly standard space war between humanity and the Covenant becomes a menage a trois and the Flood invades the Halo series, changing up the dynamic irrevocably. One minute you're happily blasting away at Grunts, feeling very in control of everything, and the next you're being chased down by a relentless swarm of parasitic creatures that descend on Chief almost out of nowhere. It's a frantic, breathless mission that really establishes one thing in technicolour: this game is truly special.
Halo 2 - Outskirts and Metropolis - We're cheating now and slinging two missions together because they flow so nicely into one another. In Outskirts, we're battling through the streets New Mombasa, and it's also the first mission in 2 where we can get behind the wheel of a vehicle (which is probably one of the reasons why we love it so much). Then the action flows into Metropolis, where fans may remember that there's a meeting with a Scarab. If you're unfamiliar, these massive walking weapon-platforms are a formidable challenge and your first encounter with one is probably the coolest FPS boss fight of all time. Hyperbole? Maybe, maybe not, but with Master Chief casually walking out of the wreckage afterwards... Well, we're getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
Halo 2 - The Arbiter - We're going to make it three-in-a-row and highlight The Arbiter as our final recommendation from Halo 2. For the first time in the series (up until that point) it was time to walk in the shoes of a character other than the Chief, and Bungie didn't mess about: the character in question is none other than the Arbiter, here hunting down so-called heretics for the Covenant. With a soundtrack provided by Incubus, vocal work by actor Keith David and distinctive traversal that made playing as the Arbiter feel unique, it's certainly a memorable level in the grand scheme of things, even if it's not the best (and as you've just played through Outskirts and Metropolis, you should probably just keep going and make it a hat-trick).
You've reached the half-way point, congratulations. Celebrate by seeing if you agree with the order that we've ranked the ten best Halo games.
Halo 3 - Tsavo Highway - If there is one thing Halo has always nailed, it's vehicular combat. Tsavo Highway is a great example of this, as it puts Master Chief in the driver's seat and asks him to put the pedal to the metal. Don't be mistaken, this isn't a Fast and Furious type escapade, you are frequently required to put boots on the ground to pummel some Grunts into a sticky blue goo, all whilst protecting a team of marines, who quite frankly seem to be more of a danger to themselves. Managing a group of feeble, non-enhanced humans, whilst sniping Jackals hundreds of metres away, butting heads with Brutes and blowing Shade turrets into smithereens is the perfect culmination of Halo's combat. Tsavo Highway is such an iconic mission as it gives players a tease of what's in store further down the line, but it's more than that; it's also Halo 3's first Warthog encounter, and I think we can all agree: the Warthog is the coolest vehicle in Halo.
Halo 3 - The Ark - The Ark is the first of two levels that asks Master Chief to find the Cartographer, and then stop the Prophet of Truth from firing the Halo Rings. Throughout The Ark, however, there isn't all that much searching going on, instead, it's more about blowing stuff up, usually vehicles. Whether that means rocking the oh-so-satisfying gauss Warthog, with perhaps one of the most fulfilling sounding weapons of all time, or choosing the more efficient, and quite frankly terrifying scorpion, there's really no right answer. Whichever way you lean, taking down a towering Scarab is always a special memory. The Ark also features one of the saddest moments in Halo history, a moment that brought even the toughest of Spartan aficionados to tears, the death of Major. Avery Johnson.
Halo 3 - The Covenant - Following on from the events of The Ark, The Covenant promises more vehicular combat, this time, however, with a little more airborne focus. Throughout this mission, Master Chief is asked to stop the Prophet of Truth from firing the Halo Rings, an event a lot of fans had been waiting to see for a long, long time. Due to the Chief's success rate, we are still waiting, but that didn't mean getting to cut the Prophet of Truth down to size wasn't incredible. The Covenant took all the best parts of Halo 3's larger missions and brought them together for a more sandbox styled level. There wasn't ultimate freedom here, but being able to take a hornet for a quick jolly, with a spartan laser in your back pocket, made for some of the most explosive fun in Halo 3.
Halo 3: ODST - Coastal Highway - ODST often gets overlooked across the franchise, and that's not down to it being bad, rather it's more of an indication of how good the other titles are. Take Coastal Highway, for example, this mission is everything a Halo level should be, except in a Halo game without Chief. It has nearly every vehicle you could possibly imagine (even the Elephant), there are more chances to wield unique guns than in most cases, and best of all, you get to slug it out with a couple of hunters. Bring all this together, with a sprinkling of ODST's Firefight mechanics toward the end, and you get one hell of a final mission, one worthy of the Chief himself.
Halo 4 - Dawn - When Bungie left Microsoft and dropped the rights to Halo, 343 Industries were handed the reins. Expectations were high. Needless to say, after the conclusion of Halo 3 and Reach, few knew where Halo planned to go next, but 343 certainly saw a light at the end of the tunnel. The first mission in Halo 4, Dawn, is almost a rebirth of Master Chief, seeing him go through a similar ringer as he did at the beginning of Combat Evolved. After years in cryo-sleep, Chief awakes to find himself on the remains of the UNSC Forward Unto Dawn, drifting in the cold abyss of space. Unexpectedly, Chief's initial thought process is to simply kill aliens, and so, armed with a pistol and fists of steel, the Master Chief goes to work, starting an entirely new era of Halo in the process.
Halo 4 - Reclaimer - There are not many cooler things than spending an entire level of Halo riding around in a tank the size of a warehouse. That's precisely what the Reclaimer brings to the table. As the Chief throughout the duration of the level, your duty will be to hop on and off a Mammoth tank as it tears through the dusty landscape, destroying various pieces of the Covenant's Particle Cannon network along the way. Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows, however, as Cortana slowly degrades during the mission, increasing in rampancy and making Chief work a little harder to save his AI companion.
Halo 4 - Shutdown - Considering the grand scale of Halo's art direction, it seems a little strange to say this but Shutdown has some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in the series. This level sees Chief piloting his own Pelican as he dives headfirst into danger (as always), to stop the malevolent Didact from escaping the planet's surface. With its wild levels based around slowly moving down a vertical pillar, all the way to the stunning aerial space in Requiem's atmosphere, Shutdown delivers a truly astounding sci-fi vision.
Halo 5: Guardians - Swords of Sanghelios - We know Halo 5 isn't in the Master Chief Collection (just yet?), but considering where we've been over the course of this article, it would have been harsh not to give it a mention, and the Swords of Sanghelios mission is the perfect example of what Halo 5 brings to the table. It's built over a level that is both visually striking and packed with action, especially since you get to use the hard-hitting Mantis mech suit for a while. Swords of Sanghelios has plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, but perhaps its biggest strength is the variety in its combat encounters, which flip-flop between long-range, sniper drills, to up close and personal fights in tight, ancient sandstone corridors. The mission is also one of few throughout the Halo 5 storyline that is fought against only Covenant, which no doubt makes long-time Halo fans even happier.
Have we been brutish and skipped your favourites? Throw a sticky bomb in the comments down below and let us know!