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All of this. I remember the Halo series being the first games in a long, long time that really made me want to play through them on every difficulty and get all the achievements and all that. There's nothing that brings four hopeless nerds together like spending days or weeks trying to get the LASO achievements. The AI really helped with that, it wasn't just "more" enemies running at you, they were actively more aggressive.
More than anything else, the appeal of Halo to me was that I grew up with it. It's a game I could play in my room on my little 14" telly, I didn't have to borrow the family PC and sit in the living room and all of that, it was mine. Even if the games were shite I'd probably still have that feeling, but they also happened to be very good.
Halo is also the reason a lot of my online life exists, I have friends I made on Xbox live before it was even called Xbox live, that I still talk to today. I have friends from the Rooster Teeth and Machinima communities, both companies that simply wouldn't exist without Halo. It was a Big Deal for console gaming back then and that won't be forgotten easily by someone my age.
Halo CE being on PC, and able to run directly from a flash drive was excellent craic too. We used to just play each other in it in school/college computer labs when nobody was looking.