One of the biggest draws to the Halo series has always been its sandbox and starting in Halo 2, Bungie decided to capitalize on players exploring their levels so intently by including some collectibles. But in typical Bungie fashion, they made it their own by making collectibles that resembled skulls. Originally finding these little items used to be extremely difficult but with each new iteration of Halo that included the morbid collectibles, they became more manageable to obtain (for the most part). When a player collects the skull, they are granted a game modifier which in the Halo 2 days only worked until the player turned off the game. That too would be improved with the proceeding iterations so that once collected, the skulls could be used as game modifiers during any campaign playthrough.
The Master Chief Collection included all of these skulls, as well as the ones that were added to the remastered version of Halo: Combat Evolved in 2011. There are some incredibly creative, weird, and well hidden skulls to find throughout the different games but there are also some ridiculously difficult ones. There are a lot of skull locations that I like but I wanted to choose the ones that I thought were the most fun and engaging without causing me a headache to obtain. There is no limit on how many skulls a single game has, but I did try to include samples from all three of the original halo games rather than let Halo 2 and 3 carry this list. But with that said, I think we are just getting started.
Flood Gate – Fog Skull
One of the shortest levels in Halo 3 also has one of the most unique skull locations. The Fog skull can only be obtained if the player is on high alert at the beginning of the mission. On a nearby rooftop, a flood form will appear for just a moment and then sprint across to another rooftop. During this time, the player only has a few moments to line up their sights and take the baddy out.
What normally might be taken as just a foreshadowing of the enemies to come is actually the only time in the original trilogy where an enemy is holding a skull. I remember feeling like an idiot when I was going through the levels in search of skulls because I had seen the flood form jump but had never thought to kill it until a friend told me it was a skull. Live and learn, I guess.
Gravemind – Anger Skull
The most annoying thing about the majority of the Halo 2 skulls is that you have to play on legendary in order to find them. That makes the Anger Skull particularly annoying to obtain since Gravemind is one of the most difficult levels in Halo. However, based on location alone, it is also one of the best. Halo 2 does a great job at encouraging players to explore outside the expected boundaries of its levels.
On Gravemind, the player must jump over some boulders and walk the wall of the ship to find this skull but watch out as there is a fuel rod grunt guarding it. It can be a nasty surprise and might discourage less resolved players, especially since the skull doesn’t pop into view until you are much closer to its location. However, that grunt might even act as a clue to something being hidden because why else would a heavily armed grunt be chilling in the corner of the map by itself? Just an Unggoy being an Unggoy.
Library – Black Eye Skull
Ah, the Library. One of the most hated levels in all of Halo for its repetitive level design and thunderous hordes of flood that swarm the player the moment they set foot in its dark halls. This skull is located up one of the pipe like structures that the player has been watching flood crawl out of since their arrival. It only takes a little bit of finesse to reach the skull by using a well timed grenade jump onto a nearby structure which gives you access to the pipe.
You have to crawl up the pipe and into the darkness while hoping that no flood forms pop out and whomp you into next week. A little ways into the pipe there is a lip where the skulls is waiting patiently in the shadows. Turn your light on and you will see it easily. Now it’s time to get the hell out of the Library.
Silent Cartographer – Bandana
It’s always a bonus when an interesting skull location is on a level that is also iconic. The Silent Cartographer is one of the most famous Halo levels for its D-Day like beach drop and narrative secrets. The skull is hidden in a room under the island and requires that you use a buddy’s body as a ladder or that you make a difficult grenade jump.
Both methods are incredibly annoying because grenade jumps don’t work super well in the original Halo but that’s also what gives this skull its charm. You need to jump on top of the structure where the interface Cortana wants you to interact with is located. I remember the first time I did this with a friend we took turns falling into the pit below the room for 20 minutes because the jump was so precise. However, when you are able to get up, you feel like you can do anything; as long as “anything” is jumping to a high platform in a Halo game.
Metropolis – Catch
Metropolis is one of the most iconic levels in Halo’s history due to the bridge sequence in the beginning and the scarab chase. It also stars the biggest Halo easter egg with the scarab gun sitting on the top of a skyscraper; on top of that, it has this far out skull. In order to reach it, the player must perform a grenade jump up some slanted architecture and find it resting on an outcropping.
I appreciate being able to see this section of the level from so high up and if you can do it quickly you get a better view of the scarab as it trudges along through the city. I just wish that it was easier to get up here without having to eliminate al the enemies. It would have made for a great vantage point, if not for those jackal snipers.
Regret – Assassin Skull
Regret was always one of my favorites when I was a kid and now it has one of my favorite skull locations. In order to find the Assassin Skull, you need to ride the gondolas all the way to the first structure. Once you arrive you step inside and you’ll see a small block, jump up, and follow the walkway back outside again.
Now you will be able to crouch jump up the rest of the structure and once you get to the top, you can look over for a surprise. There can be two camo elites silently wailing at the skull on the ground or it will be sitting alone. Just like the Grunt Birthday Party Skull, this skull location requires some exploring and can reward players will some enemies acting slightly out of character. It’s not everyday the Chief can beat up an elite with a human skull and they won’t fight back.
Cortana – Tilt Skull
I, like a lot of other people, am not the biggest fan of Halo 3’s mission Cortona. It isn’t very fun thanks to the Gravemind and Cortana constantly interrupting the flow of the game and taking control away from the player but I have to admit there are still some great aspects to the level and this skull location is one of them. After dropping down into a Flood infested room, the player is supposed to keep moving forward but if they are curious enough, they will find that some of the geography makes perfect platforms.
Despite being such a cramped mission, Cortana offers this skull location outside of the general play area. I love when developers encourage players to try to break their games or get to places that might not seem possible on first inspection. Bungie was even going to do this a second time in the reactor room later on in this same level but the skull was cut sometime during development. If you go into theater mode, you can still see the skull spawn before it falls into the depths below the reactor room.
Arbiter – Grunt Birthday Party Skull
I was only 9 when Halo 2 came out and I had no access to the internet so everything in gaming was mysterious to me. My friend swore that the level Arbiter had a pack of grunts dancing around a human skull because his teenage friend showed him. I of course, called him a liar but I always tried to find it anyway. It wasn’t until much later that I was able to see this skull with my own eyes and I still can’t believe that something so strange was included by the developers. But I am incredibly appreciative.
This skull can be found when you see the Heretic climb into a banshee and you are given your own. Instead of chasing the enemy, you have to fly down towards the back of the complex where you can see this strange alien ritual take place. An easter egg and a challenge all in one: that is how you do a collectible.
The Great Journey – Black Eye Skull
The Great Journey is the controversial finale to Halo 2. It may have let fans down due to its anti-climatic boss fight and cliff hanger ending, but the level itself is a good time with a satisfying final skull. In order to get to the skull properly, the player must play through the level on legendary and obtain a banshee. Once the player is safely flying towards the final building where Miranda Keyes is being held hostage, they won’t be going inside, instead they fly up towards an invisible barrier.
The barrier starts at the top of a slope so if the player gets out of their vehicle they can actually walk up the slope and through the barrier. The skull is located at the very top of the structure, so only the most explorative player will locate it. I think it is oddly fitting for the skull to be out of bounds in the final section of the level of the game. The perfect place to make the player stop and take in the final view of the most iconic game on the original Xbox.
Covenant – IWHBYD Skull
The I Would Have Been Your Daddy skull is one of the most iconic in the Halo franchise next to Grunt Birthday Party because they are usually a pain in the butt to obtain. However, nothing comes close to how convoluted it was to find this skull when Halo 3 originally launched in 2007. The IWHBYD skull can only be obtained by jumping through a specific order of holographic Halo rings after playing through the entire mission from the beginning. Once the rings are jumped through correctly, they will begin to light up and the skull will spawn back at the light bridge.
That might not seem hard but at the time no one understood where this last skull was and it became a crusade within the Halo community to find the elusive skull. I didn’t have internet when the game first dropped so I missed out on this entire saga. It’s also kind of sad that this would be the last skull to be found for a number of years since the collectible was removed for next next several entries in the series. Only recently, in Halo 5, did skulls make a comeback and I hope I can say the same thing with Halo Infinite later this year.