Halo’s identity may seem complicated at a glance but it's actually pretty simple. Underneath the toppled Warthogs and Elite laughs is a group of ideas contained within each and every Halo title, including Halo 4 and Halo 5: Guardians. (Those are actually great games and you should ignore anyone that says they’re bad.)

Anyway, here’s my cute and definitely official acrostic on what it means to be a Halo game. I used ‘Plasma’ because there’s nothing more Halo than getting blown up by a plasma grenade. Bonus points if it was your co-op partner and the third time they’ve made the mistake. That’s also Halo.

Defining Halo — Breaking Down the Series and What It Means to Be Master Chief

Playgrounds — At its core Halo is about a super powerful player avatar that interacts with different worlds through explosions, exploration, and exciting toys. That’s been Halo since the very beginning. 

Level Design — I needed an L but stick with me. Moving through spaces that feel alive is a part of Halo and part of what makes the series so special. The levels of Halo aren’t just fun. Each space features meaningful design and environmental storytelling. And that matters. For examples on the opposite please see Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, which took art design and said, “hey, look, lights!” 

Atmosphere — Halo’s vibe has been a crucial part of the series’ appeal since Combat Evolved. And each game brings the sweet mixture of mystery and action-packed wonders that continue to impress after twenty years of Master Chief. 

Stories of Science-Fiction and … Stuff — There’s a lot going on in Halo’s story, but we’re not getting into that today. That’s for a different time. But Halo has a detailed and in-depth story, and it always has. It might not always be good but it’s always been better than boring military propaganda. And it’s also presented in a way where fans can take as much as they want from it. 

Music — Halo’s music is incredible. It’s a living part of each game. 

Appropriate Areas of Action — From the dramatic marketing to the chaotic multiplayer, it’s easy to understand why anyone unfamiliar with the games might also be unaware of the quieter moments that often fill game time. Halo is known for being epic and big. The series has intense combat encounters and epic escapes but in between are moments of peace, reflection, and searching. Halo is super chill until it’s time for action, and the series often knows how to space it all out just right. 

Related: Playing the Halo Series in Chronological Order Before Halo Infinite