While Halo had incredible music, a memorable narrative, immense replayability, and famous characters like Master Chief and Cortana, the heart of any shooter game is the combat, and the heart of that combat is the game’s weapons. While the Call of Duty franchise went for a more realistic approach in their weapons, the Halo series went for a more arcade style, favoring colorful visuals and a much different approach to gameplay.
The weapons of Halo attributed to much of the game’s color and longevity, being both fun and tactical. While every weapon has its place in Halo, here are 10 that especially stood out:
10. Halo 1 Shotgun
The shotgun from the original Halo: CE didn’t show up in the campaign until nearly halfway through the game. Fittingly, this is right around when the series first introduces the hideous mutated abominations, the Flood. Zombies, meet shotgun. Suddenly you’ve turned a futuristic FPS game into a horror survival shooter racing through an abandoned alien library. For a game that came out in 2001, it scored some extra points for creativity and versatility.
The shotgun became a staple in every installment in the franchise from that point on, and has been the bane of sword-wielding CQC players ever since. While the weapon has received buffs and nerfs in every subsequent game, we’ll never forget the OG death stick that could knock Banshees out of the sky in a single shot.
9. Halo 2 Scarab Gun
Disclaimer: This gun was put in as an easter egg, and has never (and hopefully will never) be seen in a multiplayer environment. The gun looks like a harmless plasma rifle, and you hold it like one too, but it fires like the main cannon on a Covenant Scarab tank. That bright green-blue beam of obliteration that one-shots everything it touches? It’s in your hand now. Have fun.
While the gun has unmatched firepower, that’s not why it made the list: Half the fun of the scarab gun is the journey to acquiring it. Something of an initiation rite for Halo fans, hunting for this superweapon is to embark on a grueling journey: Luring a Banshee, breaking its wings, carefully bumping it along a narrow corridor only to board it as quickly as possible or it’ll disappear before your eyes, negating all your hard work and time spent. When you reach the summit of that bridge and see the gun floating there, though – you’ll feel truly accomplished.
8. Plasma Pistol
There’s a reason we didn’t specify which game we like this weapon best: It’s great in every game, and changes quite a bit from title to title. In the original Halo, you could rapid-fire as quickly as you could pull the trigger, while in Halo 2 the homing capabilities were increased. This led to some really creative options for dual-wield combos in Halo 2 and Halo 3. In Halo 2 (where it was infamously paired with the battle rifle) and Reach, the pistol could also be used to briefly EMP vehicles and turrets, which made it even a (albeit poor) contender for anti-vehicle combat.
We love the plasma pistol because it’s the underdog of weapons. When a team of enemy players comes barreling after you in a Warthog and you sidestep and hit the jeep with a well-aimed plasma shot only to follow it up with a sticky grenade to the tire? Congrats, you demolished a vehicle with a Grunt weapon. You’ll have to turn your headset volume down because you just made three players very angry.
7. Plasma Grenade
Here’s another one where we couldn’t list a specific title, and that’s because this weapon is iconic, a staple in every Halo game. The sticky grenades have long separated noob players from the pros, and in the hands of the latter, these guys can work absolute magic. The plasma grenade is the ‘fling and forget’ that sits in your back pocket, and was so beloved by the community and dev team that it even earned a place in the Halo 3 Believe ad.
That no heart-sinking moment quite on par with the “oh, s**t” when you see the blue flare and hear the whistling hiss of a plasma grenade stuck to your helmet. The grenades were so popular in the first couple Halo games that Bungie added spike grenades to the lineup in Halo 3. The great thing about any sticky grenade was that even if you ended up with a worthless weapon on spawn, you still had one last trick up your sleeve.
6. Halo 1 Assault Rifle
“The assault rifle works really well with the golden three things of Halo,” explained Multiplayer Designer Lars Bakken in an interview, “which are weapons, grenades, and melee.” When two players face off and both have the assault rifle, the deciding factor ends up being skill – how well you control burst fire, how well you can strafe and shoot, how well you can aim your melee or grenade throw.
“The assault rifle’s design language works really well with the Master Chief,” said Weapon Modeler Tom Doyle of the weapon’s iconic silhouette and appearance. Doyle’s was the vision that saw the assault rifle returned to Halo after its absence in Halo 2. “There’s this thing we didn’t really identify in Halo 2,” said Bungie’s Software Design Engineer Adrian Perez in an interview, “that if you spawn everybody with a dual-wieldable weapon like the SMG it changed the game.” Since its triumphant return, the assault rifle has become a mainstay of the series.
5. Sniper Rifle
Sniper Rifles are a popular addition to many FPS games, but the one in Halo holds a special place. Maybe its because you can’t choose to spawn with it, so it becomes a coveted item, maybe it’s because the design and layout of Halo maps so often make the weapon advantageous, maybe it’s because the gun looks freaking sweet and can score you kills from across the map. Whatever the reason, this is one weapon that we couldn’t do without.
We’re not alone in thinking this, either; the weapon was popular enough that in later games more varieties of sniper rifle were added: The beam rifle, and later the binary rifle in Halo 4. Additionally, Team Snipers became a popular game type in multiplayer matches, pitting sharpshooter players in 4v4 matches across large maps like Valhalla and Blood Gulch.
The Needler is a wacky Covenant weapon that, like the plasma pistol, underwent some series mutations over the series. Whichever Halo game you’re playing, the Needler will be present, though aspects like fire speed, bloom, reload speed, and homing all change drastically from title to title. Halo 2 players will remember dual-wielding Needlers for instant kills.
Any way you spin it, the Needler is a grenade on a stick. Hit a player with seven of these sharp pink projectiles and they’ll coalesce into a detonation akin to a plasma grenade. Get the angle and distance right, and you can ambush and eliminate players before they even know what hit them.
3. Halo 2 battle rifle
While Halo 2 sadly lacked the assault rifle, it made up for it with the introduction of the battle rifle: A rare burst-fire weapon that FPS players actually like. The battle rifle encouraged mid-long engagements with other players in multiplayer mode, as well as rewarded players who could more consistently land headshots.
While the gun was present in several Halo games, there’s a reason we specifically cited the one from Halo 2: Expert players could exploit a double fire glitch that allowed them to fire two consecutive bursts in a row. If you quickly press fire, then immediately follow up with a held trigger pull, the controller registers the start of the holding and pressing ‘X’ fires both bursts at the same time or in rapid sequence.
2. Halo 2 Energy Sword
One of the most iconic weapon in the series, the energy sword is one of the coolest weapons ever designed. It’s the closest you’ll get to bringing a lightsaber into Halo, and as you might expect it feels about as epic. While the enemy AI could use the energy sword in Halo: CE, the player didn’t get to use it until the sequel … and Bungie went pretty overboard to make it worthwhile. The weapon had a very long reach, and could one-hit kill as soon as the targeting reticle turned red.
In Halo 3 the combat mechanics to the energy sword were reworked to make the weapon a little more fair, and better rewarded more skilled gameplay. A quick pull of the trigger would perform a slow lunge from the maximum distance, while hitting with the melee button hit faster for less distance. Entire sword-based game modes were introduced in Halo 3 and Reach, and sparring against multiple opponents got really cinematic.
1. Halo 1 Magnum
Veteran Halo players, you already knew this was going at the top of the list. From the first time you get to use Captain Keyes’ handgun at the start of Halo 1, all the way into wrecking entire teams with this in the remastered multiplayer, this is the sidearm that you’ll probably use more frequently than your main gun.
The magnum underwent some serious changes throughout the series, receiving a massive downgrade in Halo 2, then buffed damage but no zoom in Halo 3, to a really neat silenced version in Halo 3: ODST. By Halo: Reach, the magnum had made a triumphant return as a preferred weapon in SWAT matches, sacrificing the range of the DMR for faster fire and better handling. Pro players in Halo 1 were able to use the gun’s recoil to empty the clip, ending the barrage with a headshot once the enemy shields pop. It wasn’t unusual for pro players to put down a sniper rifle or rocket launcher in favor of this pistol, and for good reason.
Honorable mentions go out to the grenade launcher from Halo: Reach, the elite sentinel beam of Halo 2, and Gravity Hammer from Halo 3, but what’s your favorite Halo weapon? Let us know in the comments below, and stay tuned with us for more information on the upcoming Master Chief Collection on PC!