If you want to dive into the expanded universe of Halo, you might wonder where you need to start. With so many books, comics, movies, and even audio dramas and board games that complement the video games, the Halo series can be quite intimidating. Which Halo game should you play first, what Halo books do you need to read, and in what order? We’ve got your back, just read on to learn where to start in 2023.
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Whether you are already familiar with the Halo tie-in media, just played a few games, or only just discovered the Halo Series, we’ll explain you where to start in 2023 and help you find your next Halo story to dive into.
Where to start for newcomers: Halo: The Master Chief Collection
It goes without saying that the video games are the best place to start with Halo in 2023. While the books and other media greatly expand on the story, the universe ultimately finds its roots in the video games.
If you are new to the series, the best place to start is Halo: The Master Chief Collection, available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and pc. The collection includes Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4, as well as Halo 3: ODST and Halo Reach. If you never played any of the games before, we recommend to play them in the original order of release, as this will offer you the best build-up both in story and terms of technology, like graphics and sound design.
After Halo: The Master Chief Collection
After that, it is a no-brainer to continue Master Chief’s saga with Halo 5: Guardians and Halo Infinite, the latest installment in the series. If you want to dive a little deeper into the Halo lore, you might also want to check out Halo Wars and Halo Wars 2. While the stories of all shooters are connected, the story of the Wars-games is fairly self-contained, although there are some interesting ties to the main games. This makes the Wars games a great way to broaden your horizon, without turning to another medium.
Where to start with Halo books: Halo: The Fall of Reach
If you have played the games and want to delve further into the lore of Halo, you should start with book Halo: The Fall of Reach. This book by Eric Nylund described the live of Master Chief right up and until the start of Halo: Combat Evolved. It offers great insights in the origin of the Spartan program, Master Chief and his relation to characters like Dr. Halsey and Cortana, and the Human-Covenant War. Halo: The Fall of Reach is truly an essential read for any Halo fan.
Halo: The Fall of Reach also lays the foundation for many other novels. Its story is continued in Halo: The Flood (basically the novelization of Halo: Combat Evolved but told from more perspectives) and Halo: First Strike, and also has ties to Halo: Ghosts of Onyx. Regardless of just how deep you want to dive into the Halo Universe, Halo: The Fall of Reach is where to start.
If you aren’t that into books, you can also read the comic adaptions of the novel. The story was spread out over three comics books, namely Halo: Fall of Reach – Bootcamp, Halo: Fall of Reach – Covenant, and Halo: Fall of Reach – Invasion. There is also an animated adaption of the same stories, called Halo: The Fall of Reach – The Animated Series. Yet The Animated Series only tells half of the story, leaving out the titular fall of Reach, making it a less ideal starting point.
Alternative starting point: Halo: Contact Harvest
Halo: The Fall of Reach and its sequels are still very Master Chief-oriented. If you’d rather learn more about the Human-Covenant War, Halo: Contact Harvest is a great starting point. Contact Harvest takes us back to the very beginning of the conflict between humanity and the Covenant, expands on how the conflict started and dives deeper into the motivations of the Covenant. Last but not least, it features Sgt. Johnson as the protagonist, making the novel very relatable and accessible if you played the games. Yet its story stands very much on itself, with little to no direct ties to other media.
Alternative starting point: Halo: Cryptum
Halo: Cryptum is also a great place to start for fans who’d like to dive deeper into the Halo lore. More specific the history of the Forerunners, as Halo: Cryptum takes place 100,000 years ago during the height of the Forerunner empire. The book marks the beginning of the Forerunner Saga and its story is continued with Halo: Primordium, Halo: Silentium and Halo: Rebirth. The story obviously has great significance within the series as it describes the ultimate downfall of the Forerunners, but it doesn’t rely that much on any prior knowledge other than that the Forerunners were once a mighty race that ruled the universe and created the Halo rings, making it a suitable place to start for Halo fans.
Other accessible media and recommendations
If you want to dip your toes a little bit in the Halo universe but still want to stay close to the video games, there are numerous media that directly tie into the video games, making them very accessible. The comic book Halo: Uprising bridges the small gap between Halo 2 and Halo 3, expanding on Master Chief’s journey from High Charity back to Earth. The live-action movie Halo: Landfall also takes place in this timeframe but is told from the perspective of a group of ODST’s that try to locate Master Chief’s trajectory back to Earth.
Tie-ins to Halo Infinite
If you want to learn more about the Banished from Halo Wars 2 and Halo Infinite, you can read to comic book Halo: Rise of Atriox to learn more about the origins of the Banished faction. The book Halo: Shadows of Reach bridges the gap between Halo Wars 2 and Halo Infinite, while Halo: The Rubicon Protocol directly ties into Halo Infinite by taking place when Master Chief was drifting in space.
Character origin stories
If you want to know more about specific characters, there are numerous character origin stories within the Halo universe. Master Chief’s origin story was originally told in Halo: The Fall of Reach, but further expanded upon with the novels Halo: Silent Storm and Halo: Oblivion, and the comic book Halo: Collateral Damage. Halo: Contact Harvest is all about Sgt. Johson. The live-action movie Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn gives you some interesting background for Captain Lasky and his relation to Master Chief. Halo: Rise of Atriox will learn you more about the Brute Atriox and his Banished faction.
If you want to know more about Fireteam Osiris from Halo 5: Guardians, the live-action movie Halo: Nightfall introduces us to Jameson Locke, Halo: Hunters in the Dark to Olympia Vale, and Holly Tanaka is featured in Halo: Escalation. Edward Buck was already introduced in Halo 3: ODST, but Halo: New Blood explains how he became a Spartan. New Blood’s story continues in Halo: Bad Blood.
What about the Halo TV Series?
The Halo TV Series by Paramount+ actually takes place in its own, separate universe, called the Silver Timeline. Although it is great to see some live Halo action and beloved characters like Master Chief, Dr. Halsey and Captain Keyes come to live, the story has no ties to the Core Canon that is featured in all video games, books, comics, and previously released movies and shorts. Read more about the differences between the Halo TV Series and the games.
With so many books, comic books, movies and shorts, there is always something new to discover. Use our Halo Timeline to piece the universe together and discover what story you would like to learn next.
What is your favorite Halo story? Let us and your fellow Halo fans know by dropping a comment below. Halo is never finished, but we hope this guide helps you getting started.