Halo: The Master Chief Collection - What Does it Come With?

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Who knows what's inside? Only me, that's who

One might think that Halo: The Master Chief Collection is a bundle of every Halo game starring franchise protagonist/mascot Master Chief. Given the title, it seems like a reasonable assumption, and at its initial console release in 2014, this was the case. 

But now, after several years of patches and a 2019 PC port, the Master Chief Collection does not include every game starring Master Chief, and does include games starring characters who are not Master Chief. Very easy to follow.

So this quick list will tell you which games are in the no-longer-intuitively-named Master Chief Collection. Each of these games contain both singleplayer and multiplayer game modes, all selectable from the Collection’s main menu and customizable to give you the gaming experience you want.


#1. Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (2001/2011)

Big Team Battle in Combat Evolved Multiplayer

The one that started it all, took the world by storm, and invented the most overpowered pistol in FPS history. Follow Master Chief and his AI companion Cortana as they uncover the dark secrets of a mysterious ring world called “Halo.” Learn that the best way to stop a cosmic plague is to shoot it in the face with a shotgun. Play the least polished and most frustrating version of the industry-defining Halo multiplayer.

In this game, you get to see the starting point of an entire franchise, which means if you go back and play it with knowledge of the entire franchise bouncing around your brain, you’ll be shocked to see how bare-bones it all started. It is deservedly a classic but is clearly dated and a little clunky, just like Chief’s armor.

The Anniversary edition features new lore terminals you can find that flesh out everybody’s favorite floating lamp with a laser beam, 343 Guilty Spark. It also lets you switch between original and remastered graphics with the tap of a button, giving you the choice between low-detail graphics from twenty years ago, and overdesigned, overlit eyesores that frequently toss away the intriguing atmosphere players fell in love with in the first place.

#2. Halo 2: Anniversary (2004/2014)

Standard 4v4 Slayer in Halo 2: Anniversary

Combat Evolved was great, but what if it had, like, a story, with character arcs and thematic resonance and intrigue and sweet electric guitar solos? In the same way that the iconic Imperial March theme of Star Wars first appears in The Empire Strikes Back, many staples of the Halo franchise debut in Halo 2: the alien Covenant’s culture and goals, the Arbiter, the Gravemind, and Sergeant Johnson being an actual character with a name, to list a few. 

Are you one of the many fans who preferred the more minimalistic, open ended style of the first game? Shut up, nerd, you’re in an action movie now, whether you like it or not. Experience the best story the Halo games have to offer, right up until Bungie ran out of time to finish it and had to end on a cliffhanger. Then play it again on the highest difficulty to torture yourself as you die thirty times per minute to the true villain of the franchise: Halo 2 Legendary Sniper Jackal.

The Anniversary version of this game also features a choice between original and remastered graphics, but this time the remaster isn’t trash. You get an upgrade instead of a redesign, along with beautiful pre-rendered cutscenes and new terminals that give you even more deep lore about Covenant society to bore your friends with. 

#3. Halo 3 (2007)

Large-scale Group Kerfuffle in Halo 3

Halo 2 was great, but what if it had, like, a story, but with massive plot contrivances to rush a trilogy ending and dropped character arcs and totally shafting Cortana and a sad piano? Don’t worry if the writing quality seems iffy, you won’t care about that during the many, many amazingly designed levels and action setpieces.  Go fulfill the game’s iconic tagline and Finish the Fight (except for those massive sequel hooks Bungie left in to tease a fourth game they never wanted to actually make).

This is the first game to feature robust armor customization, the map-editor Forge mode, and replay-viewer Theater mode. It’s also got my favorite multiplayer with plenty of great maps, weapons, and equipment power-ups. This  is a strong contender for the peak of the series as long as “bad writing” isn’t a dealbreaker for you.

There’s no Anniversary edition for this one (yet), but it still looks quite good. Fortunately for lore-lovers, there were already terminals in this game, featuring lots of juicy Forerunner and Flood details that would get elaborated on and increasingly convoluted as the franchise continued.

#4. Halo 4 (2012)

A standard 4v4 in Halo 4

Master Chief may have Finished the Fight against the Covenant in 2007, but now it’s time to start a new fight, beginning with a bunch of battles against the Covenant. Watch Master Chief’s best friend Cortana slowly unravel from A.I.-Alzheimers in a truly heartbreaking and meaningful epilogue to the Halo trilogy that constantly gets interrupted by some doofus with vampire teeth rambling about galactic domination.

For their first outing as franchise developers, 343 Industries gave us the least controversial addition ever to the franchise: sprinting. This has totally not started a minor fandom war between those who think it compromises the franchise’s arena-shooter level design and those who think it was sorely needed. Don’t worry about it.

On top of the campaign and multiplayer modes, Halo 4 has a series of side missions called Spartan Ops, featuring your own customizable multiplayer character. Gameplay wise this game changed the most from its predecessors, as you would expect from a new developer. It may be somewhat divisive, but take a chance on love and give Halo 4 a whirl.

#5. Halo 3: ODST (2009)

Wandering around the city searching for the plot

This is possibly the oddest game in the collection. It features no Master Chief, no competitive multiplayer, and copious jazz. It has a great story in the collectible terminals and a middling story in the cutscenes. Wander around a Covenant-occupied city with a mind of its own, and stumble into random pieces of detritus that make you flash back to the adventures of your squadmates, which I guess counts as detective work somehow.

There may not be competitive multiplayer, but there is a cooperative horde mode called firefight. This game also features a dialogue exchange ripped directly out of the movie Chicken Run, so I’d say it’s worth playing for that alone.

#6. Halo: Reach (2010)

Giant Alliance Squabble in Halo Reach

At last we come to Reach, Bungie’s swan song prequel that they made before they left Halo in the hands of 343 Industries and went off to tarnish their reputation by making Destiny. Follow a squad of characters with in-depth interpersonal relationships that you barely get to explore . Watch them basically do the plot to Star Wars: Rogue One six years earlier. Hopefully you didn’t read/aren’t too attached to the Fall of Reach novel that came out with Combat Evolved, because Bungie did not care for that book and went out of their way to contradict it.

Reach possibly has one of the most varied gameplay suites out of the collection. It has the campaign (featuring your very own customizable character as the star), lots of PvP multiplayer modes, Firefight, Forge, and Theater. This was also the game that actually introduced sprinting, but since it was a limited-use armor ability, Reach gets to quietly sit to the side sipping tea while everyone yells at Halo 4 instead. It also does feature Master Chief, but only as an easter egg cameo. Reach sure is a game of technicalities.

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