A Beginner’s Guide to Halo

When you think of a first-person shooter game, the first ones to pop up in your mind are likely the Halo games. And for a good reason; this series of games has become one of the most popular first-person shooter games, and they have inspired several novels, comic books, and even some animated short films.

The story of Halo has captivated many with its interesting lore (or people just like to fight aliens and each other, which is pretty fun). And let’s not forget the absolutely gorgeous music that comes with it. (Seriously, I have a Pandora station that just plays the soundtrack music from the Halo games.)

But to someone looking to take the plunge in the Halo realm might be a little intimidated by all the content. There is quite a bit of lore now behind the games, so it can hard for a newcomer to know just what they’re getting into. So, here’s a beginner’s guide to Halo to help you out as you join our fight in protecting humanity.


If we’re looking at the history of the games, Halo was first released in 2001, and it definitely changed things for first-person shooter games. Since then, with each game, the graphics, mechanics, and designs have only gotten better. (I’m not even the biggest fan of first-person shooter games, and I like Halo. That says a lot about the games.) The most recent games have been Halo 5: Guardians, and Halo Wars 2. Halo Wars was actually pretty interesting since it set up the game in real-time strategy instead of the usual first-person shooter style.

If we’re looking at the story, it mostly follows Master Chief John-117 and his A.I. Cortana. These two go about fighting off the Covenant, an alien race that’s sworn to destroy all of humanity as they deem them heretics. Besides fighting the Covenant, Master Chief also has to destroy the Halo Rings, devices that are capable of destroying all life in the galaxy.

Throughout the games, you’re generally focused on fighting off the various aliens that seem determined to kill you, and you’re also set on destroying anything that could threaten humanity or even all life.

The theme of the games is often just struggling to survive. This is a war that is very one-sided, and unfortunately, you’re often on the losing side, but all you can do is keep fighting. Sometimes you’re facing the Covenant, sometimes it’s the Flood, and sometimes it’s even your own A.I. The moves you take are often desperate and it’s usually a miracle that you survive and emerge triumphant.

Where to Start

Since there are quite a few different types of media that Halo is in, where to start depends on what you want to do and what form of medium you prefer.

If you want to just jump into the games, start at the very beginning with the first Halo game. If the older graphics annoy you, you’re in luck: the latest collection, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, has remastered the four games.

If you’re looking into learning more about the story, there are quite a few great books to get started with. You could start with Halo: The Flood, since it gives you a good novelization of the first game and the story. It mostly follows the events of the first game, even having some of the iconic dialogue, but it also gives you scenes you wouldn’t have in the game.

If you want to start at the very beginning of the story, take a look at the book Halo: The Fall of Reach. This book gives you some background on Master Chief and how the civil wars in the 26th century lead to his own creation.

If you’re feeling more in the mood for a comic book, start with the first graphic novel, The Halo Graphic Novel. It gives you a few stories within the world of Halo, and it’s pretty good for people new to the franchise. Another option is to start with Halo: Fall of Reach, which is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel.

No matter what media you choose, if you read the novels first or play the games first or even just stick with the graphic novels, you’ll have a good experience. All of the media in Halo tend to enhance each other, so you can’t go wrong.


  • Some of the dialogue of the marines in the first game was taken directly from the film Aliens
  • Throughout all the games, we never see Master Chief’s face. Some games tease with ending scenes showing him removing the helmet, putting it on, etc., but his face is never shown
  • Halo was originally going to be a real-time strategy game, but was then reworked to become a first-person shooter
  • Gregorian Monks were used for the vocals in the theme song (which is amazing)
  • Cortana was originally supposed to have an English accent, but they cast American Jen Taylor instead

For more on Halo, visit our Halo timeline page.

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