Skulls in Halo are gameplay modifiers that were first introduced as Easter Eggs in Halo 2 to provide an extra layer of depth to the game, and to provide more of a challenge for players by altering the way the game plays. To activate a Skull, the player must first find it, which is usually a challenge in itself, as the Skulls are scattered throughout the campaign levels, usually well off the beaten track, with some requiring complex exploits, codes, platforming, glitches or even surviving a gauntlet to actually reach them.
In this list, I will be counting down the Top 10 Skulls from the perspective of modifying the game to make it more fun. I will also be doing a list of Top 10 Most Challenging Halo Skulls for balance, and there may be some overlap. Nevertheless, we start with:
10 – Bandanna – Infinite Ammo
Bandana comes quite low on the list due to the fact that it basically amounts to cheating, but having infinite ammo comes in handy for other reasons than just making the game ridiculously easy. This skull is essential if you want to do any boundary-breaking, out-of-map exploring or ridiculous grenade jumps because it means you aren’t limited to the 4-frag cap from the original Halo 2. Hidden deep within the Silent Cartographer Island in Halo: Combat Evolved, retrieving this skull requires clever manipulation of the original Halo’s unusual physics engine, and a clever way of making this skull redundant for any actual ‘cheating’ that was included in Halo: The Master Chief Collection makes gaining points impossible whilst this skull is activated, so really its just for fun.
9 – Black Eye – Melee Recharges Shields
Whilst it might seem like it wouldn’t be very fun at all to have to melee enemies in order to recharge your shields, the Black Eye skull appears on this list due to how it works in Halo 2. Unlike all other Halo games (so far) Halo 2’s version of the Black Eye Skull lets you increase your shield strength to far in excess of what is usually possible by whacking enemies, allowing you to survive explosions and other forms of damage that would kill you in normal gameplay. This opens up huge possibilities for exploration since you can stack grenade explosions to propel the player up high buildings and across chasms, and since Halo 2 lacks any form of invisible barriers or kill timers, basically anything you can see, you can reach.
8 – Grunt Funeral – Dead Grunts Explode
It requires no explanation as to why a Skull that makes dead Grunts explode like Plasma Grenades makes the game hilarious to play, particularly since it actually also adds a layer of challenge to the game since all Grunts become time-bombs, and avoiding them at all costs is a priority. An interesting quirk with this Skull is that any and all dead Grunts explode, including ones that are already pre-loaded into the level – this can create some interesting results, particularly in Flood levels, as it redistributes any object that isn’t glued to the ground in a blaze of plasma.
7 – Masterblaster – Co-op Special Powers
One of a few wacky ‘co-op only’ Skulls that 343 industries added to Halo 2 in Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Masterblaster gives one player huge overshields but removes their ability to shoot and gives the other player infinite ammo but removes their shields entirely, with the roles swapping after a certain amount of kills. This skull essentially makes co-op a bit more challenging, but also has potential for hilarious results, particularly when the roles switch halfway through a rampage.
6 – Prophet Birthday Party – Regret Guitar
Another bizarre Skull that 343 industries added to Halo: The Master Chief Collection, the ‘Prophet Birthday Party’ skull is unique in that it has only one use – if you could call it a ‘use’. What this skull lacks in usefulness it makes up for in sheer ludicrousness, as it punctuates every whack that you deliver to the Prophet of Regret during the boss fight halfway through Halo 2 with electric guitar licks (performed by none other than Steve Vai himself) and lightning bolts. Increasing the difficulty magnifies this skulls effect, as it takes at least 10 punches to kill Regret on Legendary and the licks intensify each time.
5 – Sputnik – Physics Modifiers
This Skull is essential for level exploration, particularly in the original Halo 2, as it significantly reduces the mass of all objects in the game, making melees and grenade explosions blast objects much further than they did before. This means that the player can use grenade jumps to reach places that are further away, and makes whacking objects around much more easy, allowing the player to uncover passageways and secrets that would be impossible in normal gameplay. For example, to find the Giant Football in the Halo 2 level Metropolis, the player needs to use the Sputnik Skull combined with a grenade jump to blast themselves onto a high tower, and the Sputnik Skull is also needed to be able to melee the football down, after which Ghosts can be used to knock the ball around. There is an even more extreme version of this Skull in the Anniversary version of Halo 2, but more on that later.
4 – Grunt Birthday Party – Headshots Become Explosions (or Confetti)
This Skull is one of the many that had its effects altered over the course of the Halo games – in the original Halo 2, this Skull required a descent to the very bottom of the Heretic Gas Mine upon which the player is confronted with a circle of dancing Heretic Grunts, all worshiping the aforementioned Skull and with good reason, since all headshots become plasma explosions with this Skull activated, even on dead bodies. However, in later Halos (and even in the Halo 2: Anniversary port in Halo: The Master Chief Collection) this Skull turns headshots into small explosions of confetti, coupled with the jarring but now famous sound clip of children cheering from Viva Pinata.
3 – Envy – Master Chief can go Invisible
This may sound like another ‘cheat’ Skull, and in some ways it probably is, depending on your point of view. Technically, all this Skull does is grant the Chief access to an ability usually only accessible when playing as the Arbiter, as in Halo 2 Arbiter’s ‘active camouflage’ replaces the flashlight and allows for more stealth-orientated levels. However, the stealth ability is notoriously unreliable, since it only lasts for a short time and requires lots of time to recharge. When Chief has this ability, you can’t even see the timer for the recharge either, so you have to rely on the audio cues to know when camo is ready to use again. However, it does allow for a stealth alternative in the Chief levels, which adds an extra layer of depth to the gameplay that is usually only present in the handful of tailor-built Arbiter levels.
2 – Feather – Like Sputnik on Steroids
Ah, the elusive Feather Skull. Unavailable to many players in the early days of Halo: The Master Chief Collection’s release due to a bug in the pre-order system (which was later fixed when all the pre-order bonus Skulls became available to everyone), the Feather Skull initially seemed to be not worth the bother – according to the description, with this Skull activated all melees ‘impart more movement physics’, essentially making this Skull’s effect very similar to the Sputnik Skull. However, when you combine the effects of both Skulls together at the same time, it doubles the effect and allows the player to reach inconceivable heights with grenade jumps, (usually resulting in death unless a much higher-up destination is nearby) but, more importantly, allows for ridiculous arcing jumps if an explosion occurs just next to or behind the player, making this Skull and its older brother popular with speedrunners as it allows for huge leaps that allow Chief to clear entire buildings in a single leap, cutting time by requiring fewer grenade jumps.
Thunderstorm Skull – All Enemies are at Max Rank
Whilst this Skull will certainly feature on my ‘Top 10 Most Challenging Skulls‘ due to the fact that it makes every enemy the strongest and most intelligent that it can possibly be, in certain situations (in Halo 2 in particular) this Skull also makes the game much more fun, since the Skull’s influence also affects Covenant allies. This means that with Thunderstorm activated, any level in which you encounter Minor Elites or Grunts as allies will now gift you with a squad of highly-trained, uber-powerful Elite Ultras and surprisingly confident and capable Grunt Ultras, and the best part is that Ultra Elites always carry an Energy Sword as their secondary weapon meaning Brute enemies rarely stand a chance.
That’s Just… Wrong Skull – Better AI Sight and Hearing
This Skull, like Thunderstorm, seems like it would make the game more difficult than fun, since it removes the restrictions that the developers put on many of the AI to balance the gameplay – they now hear your footsteps, can see the shimmer of your invisibility, and fire with amazingly precise accuracy at all times, so why is it on this list? Well, for the same reason as Thunderstorm – these effects are also bestowed upon your allies. With this Skull on, allies will rarely ever accidentally kill themselves with heavy weapons, can now locate and dispatch cloaked enemies with ease, and fire with (literal) inhuman accuracy. Essentially, with this Skull on, the allied AI is probably as good as the game as you are.
Streaking – Shields Decay, and Recharge with Kills
The final Skull in the ‘Honorable Mentions’ category is yet another example of a Skull with a challenging effect that can be manipulated for fun. This Skull fixes a critical weakness of the Black Eye Skull, namely the fact that after doing a particularly elaborate grenade jump that blasts you out of the map you have no way of actually recharging your shields. With this Skull on, however, grenade throws can actually recharge your shields, meaning with Bandana on you can slowly recharge your shields by throwing grenades. Whether or not this is a glitch, it opens up more possibilities for exploration by allowing the player to pull off multiple Black Eye-enchanced feats in succession.
1 – IWHBYD – Rare Dialogue is more Common, and Secret Dialogue is unlocked
This Skull is fantastic because it makes the game much funnier to play in such a simple way. By reversing the probabilities of common and rare combat dialogue, this Skull makes lines of dialogue that are usually heard only once in a blue moon much more common, and unlocks hidden lines of dialogue that are locked in the game’s standard code. This makes Marines, Elites, Brutes, Grunts and basically anything else in the game that speaks English yell more hilarious (and sometimes vulgar, perplexing or even downright ridiculous) insults to the each other, the player, or even the developers via fourth-wall breaking complaints about the game. The Skull also increases the chances of AI talking to and interacting with each other, and allows the player to hear tales such as the story of Flipyap the Grunt, Sergeant Bank’s message home (delivered in the form of a telegram) and Sergeant Johnson’s many hidden lines of cutscene dialogue.
Named after the subtitle ‘I Would Have Been Your Daddy…’ from the start of Halo: Combat Evolved’s fifth level, Assault on the Control Room, The Skull actually unlocks this line of dialogue for Sergeant Johnson in-game, and he completes the quote with ‘…but a dog beat me over the fence.’ What makes this Skull even more interesting, however, is the ridiculous lengths you have to go to in order to actually unlock it in Halo 2 and Halo 3. Halo 2 involves navigating the normally-inaccessible rooftops of Mombasa to find the Skull (which may or may not actually be there) before having to face off against wave after wave of Ultra Elites who guard the Skull (for whatever reason) before finally unlocking the effects. Halo 3 requires the player to jump through giant holograms of the Halo rings in a specific order – each ring hums at a different tone when you jump through it, so jumping through the rings in a sequence that plays the seven notes of the Gregorian Chant in the Halo theme causes the Skull to magically appear before the player, opening the door for many hilarious encounters to come.
So that’s my list of the Top 10 Most Fun Halo Skulls, I hope you enjoyed and if you did, why not leave a like? You can also follow Sacred Icon or like us on Facebook for more content like this, and look down below for more of my Halo posts!
- Halo – Ranking ALL the Halo Games
- Halo – Microsoft E3 Announcement – How Halo: Infinite could save the franchise
- Ranking the Levels – Halo 2
- Top 10 Best Halo Easter Eggs