By my own rough count, the Halo series has seen some 150 or so multiplayer maps over the course of its two decades. Many of these are good. Some are great. And of course, some are terrible. For this list, I and my fellow Kotaku Halo fans tried to narrow this extensive field down to what we consider to be the top 15 maps across all the games. All, at least, except for the just-launched Halo Infinite: It’s too new and we need more time to really get a feel for those maps.
We’re also sticking to only official maps. I know there are some amazing community creations built using various versions of Forge or PC mods, but opening up our list to all of those would have made an already-challenging task even harder. Oh, and this list is in no particular order!
With that out of the way, here are Kotaku’s top 15 Halo maps from across the series.
Exile – Halo 4
It’s no secret that the modern Halo games just don’t have as many classic maps as the older ones. Exile, a large-scale map set inside a rocky canyon, is an exception. Exile works perfectly with almost any game mode, letting you get wild with vehicles or more tactical with infantry-only objective-focused action. One of the few modern Halo maps I want a Halo Infinite remake of!
Battle Creek – Halo
I know this isn’t how games are developed, but Battle Creek feels like Bungie had just a little bit of space left on the Halo disc and made a tiny, compact map that would juuuuust barely fit. The end result is a tight, fast-paced but oddly scenic excursion featuring two lonely bases and a pretty river that, over the decades, has seen many, many bodies and been filled with gallons of blood.
Ascension – Halo 2
Certain maps get burned into your brain, becoming as ingrained in your mind as your childhood home. For me, Ascension from Halo 2 is one of those maps. The mix of wide-open areas and hidden paths creates a map that plays very differently depending on players’ experience levels. The first time they find the out-of-the-way walkways below the map a new dimension reveals itself and things change forever. Great stuff.
The Pit – Halo 3
Visually, a bit of a boring map, but don’t let this training course’s looks fool you; Halo 3‘s The Pit is pure heaven. It’s a symmetrical level, making it perfect for team games, but its power weapon spawns in the middle, making it exciting to play in basically any mode. Personally, I love grabbing the sniper found on either side of the map, getting up high, and trying to take out as many people as I can before getting popped by someone with the rocket launcher.
Sword Base – Halo Reach
Boarding Action was a map my friends and I played a ton of in the original Halo. It featured two large ships side-by-side and players fought across the gap or used teleporters to cross back and forth. It’s not a great map, but the idea lives on in Sword Base. Instead of a dark void that insta-kills you, between the two tall buildings is a sparse no man’s land. However, most action takes place on the bridges connecting the two sides or across the gap, recreating Boarding Action’s best bits while leaving the bad stuff behind.
Breakneck – Halo Reach / Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary
This Halo: Reach map is a remake of a classic Halo 2 map, Headlong. I like Headlong a lot, but I think Breakneck is better. It features small changes, like new paths and vents adding more options for sneaky escapes, while keeping Headlong’s urban look and fun bits, like the crane and the gauss warthog. This is how you remake a map, tweaking it just enough to improve it and make it work in the new game, but retaining the essence of the original.
Sidewinder – Halo
Some Halo maps are intricate mazes, filled with hidden nooks and crannies. Others are just big chunks of land connected by enough rocks and tunnels to be considered a battlefield. That’s Sidewinder. It feels less like a hand-built map and more like Bungie just scanned in a real-world location, stuck two bases on either end of the curved valley, and called it a day. And yet it works, partially because of Halo’s great vehicular combat and also because there are enough elevated areas and bits of cover to help keep the action from getting stale. Perfectly simple.
Haven – Halo 4
Haven is the standard by which every close-quarters Halo map should be judged. The semi-circular shape naturally funnels fights into a central structure, with smaller skirmishes playing out in the side hallways. It features two levels, rather than a linear plane, plus jump pads, allowing for all manner of vertical hijinks. And it’s gorgeously lit, all awash in bright, angelic light; you rarely have an issue seeing what’s going on. A perfect map, and a total bummer that it wasn’t recreated for Halo Infinite.
Midship – Halo 2
Most of the action on Midship plays out over a suspended platform with a sword. But fights tend to go down in various antechambers on the sidelines, which are connected by a circumferential, sloped pathway. So the timeless strategy is this: Grab the sword, run the loop, kill everyone you come across, and watch your K/D ratio skyrocket. Every Halo player can share a story about a match in which they ran the table on Midship (or one of its iterations).
Guardian – Halo 3
There’s never a dull moment in a match set on Guardian. Between the shotgun, the gravity hammer, and the active camo pickup on the side, Guardian — an asymmetrical structure built around a circular arena — is a dream come true for players who prefer small-scale battles. It’s tight enough to more or less always register an enemy on your motion sensor, contributing to a ceaseless tense feeling that you’re seconds away from a firefight. And when you die, you’re never more than a few seconds from another.
Narrows – Halo 3
Narrows features a long bridge, and on either side, bases with weapons and places to hide. Man cannons outside each base present an option: Take the long way over the bridge, or take the faster but riskier flight through the skies. I always enjoyed matches of VIP here, a game mode that didn’t work on many maps, but excelled on Narrows. But nearly any mode with eight players would work well on this elevated and snowy bridge.
Zanzibar – Halo 2
There are few maps as iconic as Zanzibar. Its large and spinning wheel, the beach outside the main area, the inner base hallways, and the courtyard out front are all burned into my brain. Its size provided a nice middle ground between Halo 2’s frantic, smaller maps and its more empty, bigger maps. I played a lot of games of CTF with friends here via system-linked consoles. Different era. Zanzibar still holds up in later remakes, but the original is still the best.
Coagulation – Halo 2
Perhaps the hottest take in this list, Halo 2’s Coagulation makes the cut over Blood Gulch from Halo. Gulch is iconic, but Coag takes the basic foundation of that classic map and updates it to make it more fun to play. The added rocks, expanded areas of the base, and outer cliffs really help turn what was already an amazingly fun map into one of the best maps ever featured in a video game. Sure, modern remakes and reimaginings of this map are cool too, but there’s something special about Coagulation that hasn’t been recaptured in subsequent iterations.
Hang ‘Em High – Halo
Let’s say someone is claiming they are the superior Halo player over you or one of your friends. This of course leads to some heated discussion, some jokes, and perhaps some stat sharing. But eventually, when someone really wanted to prove they were the better Halo player, they would challenge you to a 1v1 on Hang ‘Em High. It’s a big map, but packed with places to hide, long sightlines, and an eerie quietness that helps you focus on that bastard who claims they’re better. Many a score was settled here back in the day, making this one of the most-played maps in Halo.
Lockout – Halo 2
The map so nice they remade it twice! (And then remade it again and then also released a spin-off map inspired by its early designs.) Lockout is one of the best maps to ever appear in a Halo game. It features that perfect mix of tight corridors, long hallways, big open areas, hidden power weapons, and multiple paths to nearly every spot. Lockout also ruled for early matches of infection, back when it was a custom game mode you had to rig up yourself in Halo 2. I had many last stands outside the green shotgun hall against a horde of my zombified friends.
Yes, I know [insert map name] didn’t make the cut. I’m very sorry about that, but it’s only a top 15 list.. You must understand that if we had added every map we all liked, this list would be nearly three times as long. But hey, you can jump into the comments to share your takes and let others know what maps you think are best and why.