For certain gamers, this may be the most contentious list GamingTopTens has ever crafted. Rating the best Halo missions is a difficult endeavor because each chapter of a Halo campaign serves its own flavor of enthralling plot development, furious combat on foot and in vehicles, and synchronicity between music and level design.
With Halo Infinite just around the corner, we figured the best way to whet our appetites for the next installment is to reflect back on some stellar moments in the series, and hope that Halo Infinite can include some moments as memorable as the ones below. In fact, we already have a decent idea of what we’d like to see in Halo Infinite.
Sharpen your energy sword and keep a plasma grenade handy, because you’re probably going to want to stick it to me by the time this list of the best Halo missions is done.
10. Delta Halo (Halo 2)
This mission kicks off with the Master Chief, Sgt. Johnson and Commander Keyes in hot pursuit of the Covenant Prophet of Regret. Narrowly sliding through an enemy slipspace portal, the UNSC team is stunned to discover the existence of a new Halo ring where the prophet is thought to be hiding out.
Cue a meteoric entrance onto Delta Halo, scorching through the sky with a squad of ODST soldiers to bash through the entrenched Covenant defenses. Keeping your fellow helljumpers alive is a huge boon throughout this mission, while you shoot, slash, and tank-cannon your way through a Covenant-held fortress. Juxtapose all of this carnage to the soothing string backdrop of “Peril,” one of the most recognizable Halo tunes within the series.
9. Gravemind (Halo 2)
Surrounded-on-all-sides, blood geyser fights to the death are not an uncommon way for a Halo mission to end. At first, Gravemind’s final moments seem no different. The Master Chief breaks into a Covenant antechamber to a scene of total anarchy; scores of Covenant Elites are firing at other elites and Brutes are pounding on the shields of Hunters, who are firing at anything with a pulse.
Spartan 117’s entrance is barely noticed amidst the carnage, and Cortana even recommends sitting this one out. Then, the electric guitars bust in, and Breaking Benjamin’s rolling thunder hit “Blow Me Away” jumpstarts the scene, motivating the player to jump in the fray and Kick Some Serious Ass.
This heady moment alone is enough to place it on the list, but this mission also includes our first introduction to the tentacled Flood monstrosity Gravemind, as well as the beginning of the star-crossed bromance of the Arbiter and Master Chief.
8. Assault on the Control Room (Halo CE)
The road to the Control Room spans two Forerunner bridges of death, a natural bridge of death, and finally, a large, four story tall pyramid… of death. Assault on the Control Room proves to be one of the most difficult missions in Halo CE, but the addition of a variety of vehicles, allies, and heavy weapons on the battlefield make the struggle very memorable.
Extra points for providing stealthy Spartans the opportunity to massacre dozens of sleeping Grunts on this mission. They just look so cute when they’re snoozing, really makes you want to pistol whip them to death.
7. The Maw (Halo CE)
The finale mission of Halo CE plays like one long rising crescendo of combat through the depressing wreckage of the Pillar of Autumn. Master Chief crash lands on the UNSC frigate, and steadily makes his way through, battling increasingly frantic waves of Covenant, Flood, and Sentinels.
The action peaks at the infamous Warthog turbo drive to the finish line, five minutes to weave through foes and cargo toward the lone Longsword conveniently waiting in the ship bay. Iconic flight into the star horizon, Halo ring exploding in the background. RIP Foe Hammer.
Besides all that, beating this level on Legendary treats the player to a non-canonical scene between Sgt. Johnson and an Elite fighting over an assault rifle near the Pillar of Autumn. They stop their tug-of-war when they notice the Frigate start blowing up. Realizing they won’t make it off the Halo ring alive, Sgt. Johnson turns to the Elite and reaches out his arms for a hug.
“This is it, baby. Hold me.”
6. Halo (Halo CE)
Nostalgic overload is the sheer bulk of what makes this one of the best Halo missions. Every fan remembers that glorious, breath stealing moment when Master Chief steps out of the lifeboat onto the first Halo world that started it all. This is the moment where many Halo fans found themselves hooked.
I consider this to be the actual first mission of Halo CE, because it has everything the series is so well known for: Whipping Warthogs around lush high mountain plains, spraying down squads of Covenant, and watching Space Marines die all around you.
5. Halo (Halo 3)
Bungie’s execution of the final mission of the original Halo trilogy is like an upgraded version of The Maw in Halo CE.
The battles leading up to the activation of the Halo ring feel more desperate, and there is a warm feeling of camaraderie with the Arbiter and Sgt. Johnson fighting beside you. Vaporizing the stuffy Forerunner Christmas ornament 343 Guilty Spark is a gratifying victory, but the joy here is cut short from the tragic death of one of the series’ most beloved characters.
The final drive sequence is far more adrenaline pumping, backdropped by a more robust orchestral arrangement that strikingly amplifies the destruction happening all around you. The final moments are a poignant memorial to the sacrifices made by different allies, followed by an exhilarating lead into the Reclaimer Saga.
4. The Ark (Halo 3)
The Ark begins with a stark transition from the hopeless gloom of the previous mission, smashing through Covenant orbital defenses to land on the desert overland of the Ark. There are numerous iconic moments in this mission, including expansive views from the Pelican bay doors at mission start, the titanic descent of the UNSC frigate Forward Unto Dawn, and a one-on-one duel between Master Chief and a Brute Chieftain while other Brutes form a circle and cheer from the sidelines.
This chapter is the best Halo mission for vehicles in the entire series. The open desert on the Ark proves to be the perfect battleground for vehicular warfare, leaving plenty of room for evading Wraith bombs and Scarab beams while pounding on the heavy frames of Ghosts and Choppers alike. Bonus points if you can board the Scarab by crash landing a Warthog on the main deck.
3. Long Night of Solace (Halo Reach)
No other game in the Halo series so effectively fosters an emotional connection between the player and his teammates than Halo Reach. In fact, we are still very hooked on this game.
Long Night of Solace solidifies that connection, beginning with a lively exchange between the members of Noble Team and ending with a heart wrenching sacrifice by one of the game’s most lovable Spartans. Storming the beachhead to the Sabre facility is also a tremendous moment in the game, aided largely in part by the screeching guitar music in the background.
What really sets this mission apart is the introduction of the Sabre, the first time in the series where a Spartan can participate in spaceship warfare. The operation of the ship is smooth and fighting Banshees, Seraphs, and Phantom turns out to be a thrilling battle.
2. The Silent Cartographer (Halo: CE)
The Silent Cartographer is a close second for the best Halo mission in the series, but the way in which it distinguishes itself from other missions is largely underrated when compared to other memorable moments in the game.
It’s hard to understate the perfection between the Halo soundtrack and level design on this one. The Halo theme thunders triumphantly as Master Chief and a squadron of UNSC soldiers storm the beach head, framing the feeling of victoriousness for the player.
As the player descends into the Halo facility however, the mood darkens into one of anxiousness and dread. Master Chief goes deeper into the mysterious underground structure, the music haunting and further illustrating the fact that there is an Elite Zealot somewhere in this facility with a sizzling energy sword and a thirst for blood.
The final crescendo pushes Master Chief back up toward the surface, the energy reaching an absolute climax when he turns a corner and comes face to face with the Zealot. A frantic duel ensues with a victory that is narrowly snatched. The player is lured into a false sense of safety as they see the evac Pelican within view, and just before they escape, there is an ambush of three invisible elites lying in wait. Legendary space coaster of emotion here.
1. The Covenant (Halo 3)
It’s mind boggling that Bungie was able to fit in so many epic moments into a single chapter of Halo 3. The Covenant is by and large the best Halo mission in the series, containing within it multiple groundbreaking firefights, intense plot development, and top tier vehicular combat.
The game developers really went all in on this one. It features one of the most intense beachhead assaults in the series, that included many vehicles but especially the Hornet. Racing to stop the Prophet of Truth is a hell of a ride, made further complicated by the introduction of Flood to the Ark and a double Scarab showdown before the main gates. At no other point in the series is the player allied with the Flood, which is a strange experience but really awesome regardless.
Significant characters perish during a critical rescue, creating intense waves of drama in the narrative. Finally, the episode is capped off with the astonishing revelation that the Ark is actually a Halo ring production facility, and the only way to stop the Flood is to fire off the newly constructed ring.
This requires retrieving Cortana from the infected bowels of High Charity, which taper off the mission with a foreboding sense of danger. All of this underscored by the fantastic orchestral blessings by Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori.
If the Halo Infinite campaign can achieve a fraction of the pleasure derived from the above missions, the stoke would be electrifying enough to set off a Halo ring. That said, what we are most excited for in Halo Infinite is how fun the multiplayer ends up being; what vehicles, weapons and abilities will be retained and what maps will be brought back from the dead.