One of the most successful franchises in video game history, the Halo story has expanded more than any other game series before it with its multiple series of books, comics, and more!
In this article, you will find:
- A complete table timeline of all Halo media, including the comics, books, short films, and of course, the games
- A breakdown of how all the games and media fit together
- A look at the chronological events of the Halo saga
- My recommendations on where to start
- What’s on the Halo Timeline?
- Halo Timeline of Media
- The Games
- Eras and Major Events
- Forerunner Era
- Foundation of the Covenant
- Insurrectionists and First Contact with the Covenant
- Master Chief and the SPARTANS
- The Halo Trilogy
- The Reclaimer Saga
- Non-canon Stories
- Where Do I Start Reading the Halo Books?
- The Best Halo Stories
What’s on the Halo Timeline?
This list attempts to create a reading order (or in some cases viewing/playing order) for all major pieces of Halo media.
This includes primarily all video games, novels, films, and comic books. This list does not attempt to split up any media into individual scenes/pages, but rather focuses on an easy to follow reading/playing/watching list (with a few exceptions).
In the event that two works cover the exact same time-frame I first list the first published work. Additionally I base the placement within the timeline on where the work ends rather than where it begins.
This list of Halo media includes:
- The Halo Games: Considered the “core” medium for the Halo franchise. These include the main series of games, as well as a few mobile games such as Spartan Assault.
- Novels/Comics: Halo has more tie-in novels and comics than any other video game franchise. I include them in the timeline.
- Films/Short Films: Though the Halo franchise has never seen a theatrical release, the series does include a few films that were released through other mediums, often online.
Halo Timeline of Media
Enjoy this timeline table, which you can download as a CSV as well, if you want. If you want more, read on!
Full disclosure: If you click any of the links below and end up buying something, you’ll actually be helping out the site and contributing to my Netflix fund. And it won’t cost you anything extra!
If all you want to know about are the games, here’s the long and short of it:
The games began with the original Halo game in 2001, and have blossomed since then. The bulk of these games are in the same genre and are similar in many respects.
However, there are a few that are top-down strategy games, and top-down shooter games. Here are a list of all the games in their release order.
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)
Chronology: Takes place during the Covenant war, just after the battle of Reach, and is the first in the Halo Trilogy. I recommend getting it as part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
- Halo 2 (2004)
Chronology: Takes place during the height of the human/Covenant war, and is the second in the Halo Trilogy. I recommend getting it remastered as part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
- Halo 3 (2007)
Chronology: The third and last of the original Halo Trilogy. This game concludes the Human/Covenant war and takes place immediately after Halo 2. I recommend getting it as part of the Halo: The Master Chief Collection
- Halo Wars (2009)
Chronology: This is a prequel to the original games, taking place some 20 years prior during the early era of war with the Covenant.
- Halo 3: ODST (2009)
Chronology: A spin-off of the original Halo trilogy, this takes place concurrently with events of Halo 2 and Halo 3. You can also get it in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
- Halo Reach (2009)
Chronology: This is an immediate prequel to the original game, ending immediately before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved. It was the last game produced by Bungie Studios. You can also get it in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
- Halo 4 (2012)
Chronology: This takes place a few years after Halo 3, in a new era where a new threat emerges, along with continuing friction between humans and remaining factions of the Covenant. It was the first game produced by 343 Industries. It is also available in the Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
- Halo: Spartan Assault (2013)
Chronology: This is a twin-stick shooter (another divergence in genre) that takes place roughly between Halo 3 and 4.
- Halo 5: Guardians (2015)
Chronology: This takes place shortly after Halo 4, during the height of the Reclaimer Saga.
- Halo: Spartan Strike (2016)
Chronology: This is the sequel to Spartan Assault, and takes place during two time periods. The first during Halo 2, and the second between Halo 4 and 5.
- Halo Wars 2 (2017)
Chronology: The sequel to the original Halo Wars, this takes place much later, around the same time as Halo 5, and after.
- Halo: Fireteam Raven (2018)
Chronology: This is an arcade game that takes place during the events of Halo: Combat Evolved.
- Halo Infinite (2021)
Chronology: This takes place a year after Halo 5: Guardians.
If you want to go through these games chronologically, the best order would be the following:
- Halo Wars (2531 CE)
- Halo: Reach (2552 CE)
- Halo: Combat Evolved (2552 CE)
- Halo: Fireteam Raven (2552 CE)
- Halo 2 (2552 CE)
- Halo 3: ODST (2552 CE)
- Halo 3 (2552 CE)
- Halo: Spartan Assault (2552 – 2557 CE)
- Halo 4 (2557 CE)
- Halo: Spartan Strike (2557 – 2558 CE)
- Halo 5: Guardians (2558 CE)
- Halo Wars 2 (2559 CE)
- Halo Infinite (2560 CE)
Eras and Major Events
So that gives you a good sense of the games, but there’s a lot more in this saga besides those. There are books, comics, short films, a television series, and even an audio drama.
So how does that all fit in?
In what follows, I’ll discuss each major era of the Halo timeline, and our best recommendations for each.
First and foremost in the Halo Universe, is the Forerunner era. This is a time millenia before the main events of the games, deep in Earth’s past. At this point humans were already space-faring (yes, you read that right), and they interacted with a race known as the Forerunners, who are the same beings that build the Halo array of rings.
Cerca 150,000 BCE
Humans become a space-faring race. They ally with a species called the San’Shyuum, known as the Prophets in the Halo games.
Cerca 107,445 BCE
The humans go to war with a race called the Forerunners, the most advanced species in the known universe at that time. Someone called the Didact leads the Forerunners, and the war lasts for centuries. Unbeknownst to the Forerunners, the humans were dealing with another threat known as the Flood, which had forced them to retreat into Forerunner territory, sparking the war.
Eventually humans lose the war and lose their technological advancement, retreating back to a level of hunter-gatherers.
The Forerunners encounter the Flood themselves. The Flood is a race of parasites that take over their hosts, spreading and gaining intelligence as they spread.
The Forerunners are forced into another war that lasts for centuries, and they nearly lose.
The Forerunners realize that the only way to get rid of the Flood is to eradicate their food source, aka, all life in the galaxy.
So they create the Halo rings that are mass superweapons. They wipe out all life in the galaxy, but certain seeds are preserved, so that all species throughout the galaxy are once again given life.
Foundation of the Covenant
The Covenant play the biggest antagonist throughout the Halo games. They are a collection of various races that are united against humanity by the time we see them in the main part of the timeline.
There’s little media that takes place during this time long before the games, when the Covenant was just forming and brand new. But there is some to go on.
The San’Shyuum (aka the Prophets) and the Sangheili (the Elites) form a Covenant, after having fought with each other for decades.
They are not the only two species to join the Covenant. Other species are coerced into joining.
High Charity, a giant space station that will eventually become the Covenant’s capital is built.
Insurrectionists and First Contact with the Covenant
Eventually, humans gain space-faring ability again, completely unaware that this is the second time in several hundred millenia that they have done so. They begin to spread to colonies throughout the solar system and beyond.
But eventually Insurrectionists rise up, wishing more autonomy from the central government at the time. The United Nations Space Command (UNSC) engages in a war with these Insurrectionists.
However, it is right about this time that humanity comes into contact with the Covenant forces, and the Insurrectionist war is all but forgotten as humanity faces an even greater challenge.
Humans advance enough to begin colonizing the solar system. They colonize the Moon and Mars among other stable moons throughout the solar system.
Insurgents attack the jovian moons, and the Insurrectionist conflict is sparked.
The UNSC is created to combat the growing Insurrectionist threat.
A united government on Earth is formed after a temporary peace is achieved.
Faster-than-light (FTL) abilities are discovered (through the existence of a alternate reality called Slipspace)
The first colony ship (the Odyssey) is launched. It will eventually settle in the planet called Reach, one of the largest human communities outside of Earth.
There is a rebellion among the Covenant of the Unggoy (also known as grunts) that only lasts a year.
A supersoldier program is begun, called the SPARTAN project. This project doesn’t appear very promising, and is too costly, so it is later shut down in 2506 CE.
Amid resuming Insurrectionist threats, a woman by the name of Dr. Catherin Halsy creates the SPARTAN-II project. This time the approach is more thorough.
To create the SPARTAN-II’s, children are abducted form their homes and replaced with clones. They are rigorously trained and eventually bio-enhanced to become supersoldiers. Master Chief is the primary SPARTAN-II that we get to know in the games.
Humans make first contact with the Covenant on the planet Harvest. Talks do not go well, and almost overnight, the Human-Covenant war begins. It is a war that will last decades.
- Halo: Contact Harvest
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
- Halo Legends: Homecoming
- Halo Wars
- Halo Legends: Prototype
- Halo: Blood Line
- Halo Legends: The Babysitter
- Halo: Helljumper
- Halo: Battle Born
- Halo: Meridian Divide
Master Chief and the SPARTANS
Of paramount importance to the Halo story is the origin of the SPARTAN-II’s. As mentioned above, they were kidnapped as a child, replaced by a clone, and trained from the age of six to become the best soldiers in the world.
This was originally to fight Insurgents, but eventually their purpose shifted to combat the Covenant fleet, and they became the most promising fighting force against the alien species threat.
Master Chief is the principle SPARTAN-II that we follow, though there are several others. Many die before the time of the original Halo trilogy.
During this time, the SPARTAN-III’s were also developed, though they weren’t as powerful as the SPARTAN-II’s. They play prominently in the game Halo: Reach.
This time period kind of overlaps with the previous one a bit, but here are some key dates and recommendations.
The SPARTAN-II program is created.
The SPARTAN III program begins, though it is a secret. The children of this experiment are orphans, instead of being kidnapped. There are considerably more SPARTAN-III’s, but they are also considered more expendable.
The AI named Cortana is created, a clone of the brain of Dr. Catherin Halsey. She will end up becoming a very important character. And yes, she served as the inspiration for Microsoft’s Cortana, the AI assistant.
August of 2552 CE
The events of Halo: Reach takes place here.
- The Fall of Reach
- The Fall of Reach: The Animated Series
- Silent Storm: A Master Chief Story
- Oblivion: A Master Chief Story
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
- Halo: The Cole Protocol
- Legends: The Package
- Halo: Reach
The Halo Trilogy
A lot happens in the year 2552 for everyone involved. In just this one year, we get the events of Halo: Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and a ton of other tie-in material.
The Original Halo Trilogy tells the story of how Master Chief, along with the humans and the Covenant discover the Halo rings left over by the Forerunners. The Covenant try to use it (aka to wipe out all life in existence), and are stopped by the Master Chief. In the process, the Flood are released back into the universe.
What follows is a brutal war between humans, Covenant, and Flood, that takes place on several Halo rings, Earth, and the Ark, a kind of Halo-ring-factory.
September 2552 CE
The events of Halo: Combat Evolved. The humans and Covenant discover a Halo ring and unleash the Flood. It is destroyed by the Master Chief before it could be used to wipe out all life in the galaxy.
October 2552 CE
The events of Halo 2. War breaks out on Earth and the Flood are unleashed. Some of the Elites make an alliance with the humans, breaking the Covenant apart.
November 2552 CE
The events of Halo 3. The War ends, the Flood are eradicated, and a cease-fire is issued between the remaining members of the Covenant and the humans.
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Halo: First Strike
- Halo 2
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo: Ghosts of Onyx
- Halo: Uprising
- Halo: Landfall
- Halo 3
The Reclaimer Saga
Following the original Halo trilogy is another Halo trilogy that begins a new arc: the Reclaimer Saga.
In this era, tensions between the humans and the Covenant elevate, and certain factions of the Covenant become hostile. There are a bunch of stories in this time period that are worth checking out. See recommendations below.
In Halo 4, Master Chief reawakens after several years in deep space, and discovers a new threat in the Forerunner Didact. The AI Cortana is thought lost but she eventually comes back and becomes a principle villain of Halo 5.
The events of Halo 4. Master Chief is brought to a planet called Requiem. Cortana is suffering from rampancy, a condition where AI eventually go insane and “think themselves to death”. They discover remnants of a Forerunner civilization, including a Forerunner who comes out of suspended animation. They have to defeat him to stop another huge threat to humanity. Cortana sacrifices herself to save Master Chief.
The events of Halo 5: Guardians. Cortana comes back, claiming that a Forerunner repository of knowledge called the Domain has cured her of her rampancy. But in trying to forcibly create a peace, she becomes the main antagonist of the game, and Master Chief is forced to fight against her.
The events of Infinite take place here. At this time it is currently unknown how this will continue the Reclaimer saga story, as this has been described as a “fresh start” for the franchise, meaning it is designed for newcomers. Halo: Infinite comes out for Xbox Series X in Holiday 2021.
- Halo: Initiation
- Halo: Last Light
- Halo: Lone Wolf
- Halo: Retribution
- Halo: Shadow of Intent
- Halo: New Blood
- Halo: Hunters in the Dark
- Halo: Nightfall
- Halo: Smoke and Shadow
- Halo: Renegades
- Halo 4
- Halo: Saint’s Testimony
- Halo: Escalation
- Halo: Point of Light
- Halo: Envoy
- Halo: Legacy of Onyx
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo: Bad Blood
- Halo Wars 2
- Halo: Infinite
There’s only one main non-canon story that you will not find on the above list.
Where Do I Start Reading the Halo Books?
Since this is a franchise based on video games, you should definitely start with those. I recommend the Halo: Master Chief Collection for the best starting experience. However, if you’re looking to start reading the books and/or comics, you should start with The Fall of Reach, which has the richest background information for the game franchise.
The Best Halo Stories
Of all the stories in the Halo Universe, here is a list of my favorites:
- The Forerunner Saga
- The Fall of Reach
- Halo: Combat Evolved
- Halo 2
- Halo 3: ODST
- Halo 3
- Halo 4
- Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Halo Legends (a collection of anime shorts)
And there’s definitely more to come in the Halo series, especially with the upcoming live-action television show on the way. I seriously can’t wait. Halo is definitely my favorite exclusive Xbox series.
As always, if you have questions or comments about this timeline, I recommend you follow my Facebook page. I hope you enjoy!