Halo Infinite is fast approaching its release next week, and fans are gearing up for the long-awaited return of the Master Chief. Story details for the game are being kept intentionally vague as to not spoil any of its surprises, but the road leading up to this moment has been over 20 years in the making. Here’s the entire story of Halo story before you dive into Halo Infinite.
Since the Halo franchise encompasses multiple mainline games and spin-offs that tie directly into the central storyline, we’ll be exploring all of them by breaking them down by each game in the chronological order that they happened. This will also be a summary of each game’s story, so it won’t dive into extreme detail.
The Entire Halo Story So Far
Halo Reach follows the story of Noble Team, an elite group of Spartan soldiers. In the year 2553, humanity (headed by the UNSC) is at the peak of an intergalactic war with the alien race known as the Covenant. Noble Team, comprised of genetically enhanced soldiers called Spartans, are deployed to the hostile planet called Reach which has become overrun by the Covenant. Reach was also the training base for all Spartan soldiers, including Noble Team. Players assume the role of Noble Six, a member of the elite squad.
After several dangerous encounters with the Covenant, the team is given their most important task yet: reclaim the AI Cortana from a heavily guarded base and transport her safely to the massive UNSC ship known as the Pillar of Autumn. Noble Team suffers several blows including sacrifices and deaths, but Noble Six is able to deliver Cortana safely to Captain Keyes on the Pillar of Autumn. However, Noble Six chooses to stay behind on Reach and battle waves of the Covenant, who quickly overwhelm him and he dies. Noble Six is immortalized as a hero in the decades to come.
Halo: Combat Evolved
Picking up directly after the events of Halo Reach, Halo: Combat Evolved begins with the elite Spartan soldier John-117 (or better known as Master Chief) awakening from cryo-sleep on the Pillar of Autumn. The ship is given coordinates by Cortana that takes them to Installation 04 Halo, a massive ring world constructed by an ancient civilization called the Forerunners. After the Covenant attacks the Pillar of Autumn, Master Chief and Cortana land on the Halo ring with the duty of finding Captain Keyes and discovering the secrets of the installation.
With the help of the robot 343 Guilty Spark, this leads them to discover that the Halo ring has been overrun by a parasitic hivemind called the Flood, enemies of both humanity and the Covenant. It’s initially believed that the rings were constructed by the Forerunners as super-weapons to eliminate entire planets that were infected by the Flood as their reign spread across the galaxy long ago. However, this wasn’t the case, as the rings were actually designed to destroy all sentient life in the galaxy, causing the Flood to starve to death. Master Chief and Cortana use the crashed Pillar of Autumn’s reactor to detonate on the ring, destroying it as they escape to Earth.
Halo 2‘s story begins with a Covenant Elite named Thel ‘Vadam, who commanded the forces at Installation 04 and Reach. Thel ‘Vadam is called to trial for his failures by the Prophet Hierarchy of the Covenant, and punished for it. However, he’s given a second chance at redemption by becoming the Arbiter and serving the Hierarchs directly. He’s tasked with finding the Activation Index for Installation 05. However, the Hierarchs betray him by ordering the Brutes and their Chieftain Tartarus to kill him, thus initiating a galactic civil war.
Meanwhile, Master Chief, Cortana, Sergeant Avery Johnson and Captain Keyes’ daughter commander Miranda Keyes defend the Earth from a Covenant attack. A Covenant ship hovering over New Mombasa, lead by the Prophet of Regret, flees into slip-space to escape. The UNSC ship Amber Clad gives chase which leads them to Installation 05, a new ring world. Master Chief kills the Prophet, but is captured by the Gravemind, the massive Flood hivemind, along with the Arbiter. Putting aside their differences, Master Chief and the Arbiter team up to stop the Prophets from finding the Index and activating the Halo ring.
Master Chief is sent to High Charity, the mobile capital world of the Prophets, which becomes overrun by the Flood. He pursues the Prophet of Truth to Earth but is forced to leave Cortana behind to detonate in the Amber Clad’s reactor. Luckily, the Arbiter is sent to the control center and with the help of Miranda and Johnson, defeats Tartarus and stop the ring’s activation.
Halo 3: ODST
Back in New Mombasa, a team of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODST) are tasked with infiltrating the Prophet of Regret’s Covenant ship to capture him. When the Covenant ship escapes, it leaves the troopers stranded in New Mombasa and left to fend against the Covenant and Brute forces left behind. Playing as The Rookie, players are tasked with finding the rest of their team as they’re scattered around the city, uncovering clues that could lead him to them.
The Rookie eventually finds Veronica Dare, a Captain of the UNSC Navy. Together, they try to find out why the Prophet of Regret landed specifically in New Mombasa. They encounter an alien Engineer named Virgil who knows the answers. The team reunites and escapes New Mombasa as the Covenant arrives in full forces. A little while later, Johnson arrives to interrogate Virgil about what the Covenant were trying to dig up beneath the city’s ruins.
Master Chief crash lands on Earth and meets up with Johnson, Miranda and the Arbiter, who is now an ally of humanity. Johnson reveals that the reason why the Covenant were so interested in New Mombasa was because an ancient Forerunner artifact was buried beneath the city. This artifact acts as a portal to the Ark, a massive installation where the Forerunners built the Halo rings. The Prophet of Truth and his Covenant forces activate the portal and escape, despite Master Chief’s attempts to stop them. With the help of a message from Cortana, Master Chief is given directions to the Ark to stop the Flood Gravemind.
The UNSC and Covenant Separatists work together to battle the remaining Covenant, killing the Prophet of Truth before he can activate the rings. Sadly, Miranda Keyes is killed in the fight too. The Flood, who now control High Charity, arrives at the Ark. Master Chief manages to rescue Cortana from Gravemind. Using Cortana’s Index copy to activate a ring constructed on the Ark, the Chief wipes out all Flood without destroying any sentient life in the galaxy. Unfortunately, Johnson is killed by Guilty Spark who turns on Master Chief. After Chief eliminates Guilty Spark, him and the Arbiter manage to escape to the UNSC ship Forward Unto Dawn. However, the ship is cut in half, leaving Chief and Cortana stranded (and Chief presumed dead by the UNSC).
Six years later, the Master Chief awakens from cryo-sleep as Forward Unto Dawn is attacked by the Covenant. Chief and Cortana soon arrive at a Forerunner Shield World called Requiem, which is being overrun by Covenant Remnants. The Chief is tricked into preventing the UNSC Infinity from crashing onto Requiem, accidentally unleashing the ancient Promethean Knight constructs and their leader, the Didact, the last living Forerunner in existence. The Didact unites the Covenant Remnants and Promethean Knights under his command, aiming to escape Requiem and destroy humanity.
The Chief teams up with the UNSC Infinity to pursue the Didact to Installation 03 Halo, which houses an artifact called the Composer, capable of transforming humans into Prometheans. After the Didact takes the Composer, he makes his way to Earth. Chief manages to board his ship and confront him, detonating a nuclear weapon and destroying the Didact along with the Composer. Sadly, Cortana sacrifices herself to save the Chief as she shields him from the detonation blast.
Halo 5: Guardians
Several months later, Spartan Team Osiris led by Locke are ordered to rescue Dr. Halsey, the creator of the Spartan program, and defeat the Covenant Remnants’ leader. Halsey claims to have information about attacks on human colonies that might’ve originated from Forerunner constructs. Spartan Blue Team, led by Master Chief, are deployed on a mission to the Argent Moon research station to stop Covenant Remnants. However, Chief has a vision of Cortana, which leads Blue Team to go rogue as he attempts to find her. Team Osiris is tasked with apprehending Blue Team.
Blue Team eventually find the Forerunner world of Genesis, where it’s discovered that Cortana was alive all along. She has also harnessed the power of Guardian constructs to initiate Forerunner attacks on human colonies, aiming to achieve galactic peace by way of forcefully disarming forces. Cortana imprisons Blue Team and begins her plan. Team Osiris takes a detour to assist the Arbiter in defeating remaining Covenant Remnants on his home world of Sanghelios. They then arrive on Genesis where they find and rescue Blue Team, but it’s too late as Cortana has rallied all AI in the galaxy on her side and launched her conquest.
As the Guardians arrive, the UNSC Infinity manages to escape with Blue Team and Osiris in tow. They retreat to Sanghelios to regroup. Elsewhere in the galaxy, an unknown Halo installation powers up, with Cortana humming.
Halo Wars 1 and 2
The events of the first Halo Wars largely serves as a prequel, documenting the Human-Covenant war in its early years (2531 to be precise). The UNSC Spirit of Fire and its captain James Cutter pursue the Covenant to a Forerunner Shield World infested with the Flood. Here, the Covenant discovers a fleet of Forerunner ships which they hope to use against humanity. The UNSC Spirit of Fire uses its reactor to blow up the fleet before they can immobilize. Without a slip-space drive, the crew goes into cryo-sleep for several decades.
The events of Halo Wars 2 picks up in the year 2559. The crew awakens to discover that the Ark was rebuilt by a Covenant splinter faction called the Banished. The forces battle for control of the Ark. Meanwhile, a new Halo ring was constructed and sent to a distant part of the galaxy, which was intercepted by a Guardian. The Flood is also shown to have survived in the ruins of High Charity, but the Banished quickly contained them.
Where Does Halo Infinite Pick Up in the Halo story?
Halo Infinite will follow Master Chief who is still searching for Cortana. After being rescued from being adrift in space, he stumbles upon the partially ruined Installation 07 Zeta Halo ring which has been overtaken by the Banished. Equipped with a new AI, Master Chief attempts to find Cortana while dealing with Banished forces that have settled on the decimated ring.
Halo Infinite launches on 8 December 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and PC.