While the delay of Halo Infinite upset many franchise fans looking to dive into the series latest installment before 2021, the recent addition of Halo 3 ODST to Game Pass gives us a reason to dive a little deeper into this legendary franchise.
Specifically, we want to talk about Halo‘s multiplayer. While many people think of multiplayer when they think of Halo, the truth is that each new Halo game has added elements to the franchise which help distinguish them from the others in the series.
With that in mind, we thought we’d take a stab at ranking the competitive multiplayer modes in Halo‘s history in order to help determine which stand above all. For the record, this ranking only applies to each game’s multiplayer and does not extend to the single-player campaigns.
6. Halo 4
While most Halo fans disagree on the rankings of the franchise’s various multiplayer modes, it’s hard to find a Halo player who puts Halo 4‘s multiplayer above the basement of such a list.
Halo 4‘s multiplayer suffered an identity crisis that can likely be attributed to it being the first game in the series not developed by Bungie. The game’s most noteworthy shortcoming was its flawed loadout system, but generally speaking, Halo 4‘s multiplayer felt like it was trying to be something it wasn’t.
Maybe that could have worked out, but Halo 4‘s combination of popular trends just didn’t gel into something that was compelling or fun to play.
5. Halo Reach
Bungie’s last attempt at a Halo multiplayer mode ended up being a somewhat sad swan song for the revolutionary studio.
Halo Reach tried a few new things (including an early loadout-like concept), but in the process of chasing the new, it failed to retain many of the things that made Halo multiplayer so desirable in the first place. Its map design and weapon balance are particularly low points in that respect.
It’s hard to fault a studio for thinking outside of the box a bit, but this feels like it should have been Bungie’s greatest hits take on Halo instead of the largely failed experiment it proved to be.
4. Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo: CE‘s multiplayer changed gaming forever by not only bridging the gap between PC and console but by offering an iconic series of maps, modes, and weapons that live in infamy to this day.
Play Halo: CE‘s multiplayer today, though, and the cracks begin to show. It’s only natural that a 19-year-old game would show its age, but Halo‘s slow movements and absurd weapon balance feel especially dated.
It’s entirely possible to still unironically enjoy a game of Halo: CE multiplayer, but it also does feel like this really was the template for what was to come.
3. Halo 5: Guardians
While Halo 5: Guardians is somewhat controversial among series fans for quite a few reasons, its multiplayer sometimes unfairly gets lumped in with the game’s other flaws.
Halo 5 removes the previous game’s loadout system and introduces a variety of new modes and tweaks designed to appeal to old-school fans and modern players alike.
Variety is really the word to use in this instance. Halo 5 offers more play options than other Halo games even before you take into account the infinite possibilities offered by its custom creation Forge mode. Its gameplay may not be quite as solid as the series’ finest hours, but this is a generally underrated experience.
2. Halo 3
Considered by many to be the finest overall Halo game ever made, Halo 3‘s multiplayer is certainly a series highlight that sets the standard in many ways.
Halo 3‘s multiplayer brilliance is as much about the things it adds (most notably its emphasis on equipment) as it is about the things it simply does better than its predecessors. This is a tight Halo multiplayer experience that emphasizes a core group of weapons, reasonably good balance, and some truly incredible maps.
Released before the homogenization of so many popular shooters, Halo 3‘s style and finesse stand out to this day.
1. Halo 2
There’s certainly a great deal of nostalgia that comes with any Halo 2 praise, and any praise of the game must realistically be balanced by pointing out some of the multiplayer mode’s flaws. Yes, it’s dual-wielding system is often unbalanced. Yes, it lacks many of the features and refinements of Halo 2. Yes, it feels dated in many ways.
Yet, Halo 2‘s multiplayer emphasizes all of the things that make us care about Halo multiplayer games at all. Its weapon selection is an iconic blend of concepts that cater to different play styles. Its action is deliberate and diverse. Its maps may still be the greatest collection of maps in the history of the FPS genre.
When we talk about the best Halo multiplayer modes, it’s important to remember that Halo and multiplayer are both key components in the ranking. There are strictly speaking better multiplayer modes in the franchise’s history, but this is the best of everything that made Halo special.