The Metal Gear Solid franchise from Konami became an international breakout during the 1998 release of Metal Gear Solid, even though, it was, in fact, the third game of the series! Kojima was first brought to Metal Gear in the mid-1980s when he took over a project that wanted to feature contemporary warfare. Feeling that the MSX2 hardware was too limited, he switched the focus to infiltration/espionage. While MGS was the third game, it presents itself in a way that doesn’t require first-time players to have any familiarity with the first two games.
Beyond its unique gameplay and boss battles, the series gives intriguing stories of Cold War politics, government conspiracies, the importance of nuclear proliferation, the true meaning of freedom and dedication to country, and discovering what makes us who we truly are as individuals. And for you gun enthusiasts, Metal Gear Solid has plenty of guns (and customizations) to the point that you wouldn’t know where to start once you have them all.
10. Metal Gear Online
- Platform: PS3
- Release Date: June 12, 2008 (worldwide)
While online play was introduced in Portable Ops and in the Subsistence edition of 3, the release of MGO that was included with MGS4 perfects it. Now that you have beaten MGS4 on Extreme, how do you compare against a live player? Do you want to play with a team? Metal Gear Online is the game for you. Your soldier can be customized to be an expert in general firearms, as a sniper, or at close range combat with CQC. In some games, you can play just by seeing who has the most kills by the end of the time limit, capture the enemy base, and/or assume the role of Snake and avoid being seen by the enemies. Some stages include the Middle East base from Act 1 or Grozny Grad from MGS3.
With the online game reintroduced with V, you can now sneak into other players’ mother bases, or others can invade yours. In these instances, you can use the Fulton recovery system to take their vehicles or recruit the soldiers of other players.
9. Metal Gear
- Platform: Multi-platform
- Release Date: Jul 7, 1987 (Japan)
While many fans are familiar with the present state of the franchise since 1998, we cannot deny the original game that was released for the MSX. Thanks to the popularity of the recent franchise, the original game is now available through online services like Nintendo’s, or you can play it through MGS3 Subsistence. Yes, there were two Metal Gear games that were released on the NES but they were done by a different team that wasn’t under the supervision of Kojima, and he refuses to acknowledge them. One awful aspect that can turn off long time fans, as opposed to fighting the Metal Gear mech, you instead fight a super computer in the NES version. While the first game is 30 years old, it contains many features that will be immediately familiar to fans of the franchise, and we cannot deny that in its original form, it is a game that still makes you think about how to approach a problem.
If you ever find yourself playing this game, some familiar features you can recognize are exclamation marks appearing above the enemy if in the event they discover you, sneaking around in cardboard boxes, smoking health depleting cigarettes, and still has pretty fun boss battles. They are still unique in a way that makes you discover that there are only certain ways to beat them, such as Coward Duck, who uses hostages as shields. So if you want something retro, give the original a try.
8. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
- Platform: PSP
- Release Date: Dec 5, 2006 (US), Dec 21, 2006 (Japan)
Some could argue that Portable Ops, the first PSP release of the franchise is probably the most underrated installment. If you have played Peace Walker, then Portable Ops is the prototype/prequel to it. They share very similar structures by being mission/level oriented as opposed to being one stage you can freely roam. And just like Peace Walker, you have to recruit enemy soldiers to your cause. You can knock out enemies but you have to drag them back to your truck since the Fulton balloons wouldn’t be introduced until Peace Walker.
You can use your new recruits in the field, for reconnaissance missions, and have your own R&D department to make new equipment. In addition to some of its distinct mechanics, the game’s story perfectly demonstrates how charismatic Big Boss truly is and how he connects with soldiers to believe in something as opposed to the villain Gene, who manipulates people to do his bidding. And if there are any awesome songs Metal Gear Solid has to offer, Portable Ops has an emotional track with Calling to the Night, which will bring tears to your eyes.
7. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Platform: PS3
- Release Date: Jun 12, 2008 (Worldwide)
If any game were the original killer app for the PS3, it would have to be MGS4. The most useful feature this game introduces (which some fans felt was long overdue) is crouch running for more effective concealment while evading hostiles. Though previous MGS games took place in one big environment, MGS4 is structured by acts and each act takes place in different places around the world.
In some instances, you will be caught in the middle of a conflict and you can either help affect the outcome or just avoid being seen. If you help out the local rebels, they are willing to help give you items as thanks. Last, the AI as you advance in difficulty will actually shock you with a real sense of fear. If you happen to play the game on Boss Extreme, the AI will follow your smell if you just got out of hiding in the garbage, or if you’re smoking cigarettes in the locker. If there is one thing this game is notorious for, it certainly has to be its lengthy cutscenes. If you care more about straight up gameplay, you can just simply skip the cutscenes. If you want to enjoy the story, it does offer some interesting twists but it does rely a bit too much on exposition.
6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
- Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
- Release Date: Sept 1, 2015 (US), Sept 2, 2015 (Japan)
The Phantom Pain largely plays like Peace Walker but is now a fully open world experience in the deserts of Afghanistan and the jungles of Africa. By making use of this wide world, you are free to travel the lands by horse or any other vehicle. Just like in Peace Walker, you can use the Fulton recovery system to get others to join your cause and build your own mother base for various jobs. The Fulton system now extends to vehicles and cargo holdings. Plus, you get to explore your mother base!
In addition to its new gameplay features, the game is also famous for intentionally pushing the envelope by portraying mature themes in relation to war ranging from prejudice, rape, and child soldiers. Adding fuel to the fire, the design of Quiet was a major source of controversy by having her scantily clad though the game’s story provides a reason for this. While MGS4 was criticized for having long cutscenes, Kojima has taken this with awareness and actually cuts down on them in this installment by giving players a more straight to the point game. As for some of you wondering why it’s not any higher up on this list, the unfortunate exclusion of the final mission where you once again confront Eli and the young Psycho Mantis in addition to some loose ends makes it feel rather incomplete, but we can’t exactly fault Kojima for that.
5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360
- Release Date: Feb 19, 2013 (US), Feb 21, 2013 (Japan)
While Metal Gear Solid traditionally has the player try to avoid confrontation, this is thrown out the window with Rising. In this game, infiltration is more of an option and emphasizes on balls to the walls action. Stealth can still work to your advantage for some sick kills. Its main novelty is how you can put the game in slow motion and during that time window, you can slice and dice your enemies to pieces!
Thanks to how distinct Rising is from other MGS games, no exposure to them are at all necessary so anybody new to the franchise can pick this up. Overall, it works like your typical platformer game but think of it as Ninja Gaiden meets cyberpunk and that is what you get. However, it still maintains MGS’ novelty of some rather interesting boss battles and a ripping hard rock soundtrack to get your adrenaline pumping.
4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Platform: PS2
- Release: Nov 12, 2001 (US), Nov 29, 2001 (Japan)
As the first MGS ends, we learn in a post-credits scene that Ocelot was in cahoots with Solidus, the US president who was also, in fact, a clone of Big Boss. This time, he is the main villain as he leads a group of terrorists known as the Sons of Liberty. While the tanker chapter has you play as Solid Snake, the face of the franchise, the rest of the game takes a controversial turn by switching the main role to Raiden. Once you read Kojima’s reasoning, you can sympathize with his viewpoints. One reason is that he wanted to develop Snake from a third person perspective and that the situations that Raiden faces would be more natural for a rookie as opposed to a veteran like Snake. Another reason why he wanted to use a pretty boy like Raiden is that he wanted to appeal to females, which actually worked in Japan where he received more positive feedback.
Due to limitations on the PS1, some things that Kojima wanted to do with MGS1, such as hiding, knocked out enemies in lockers, and working in teams, are finally implemented in this game. The game also introduces hanging off ledges and swinging around like they were monkey bars. MGS2 gives players a chance to sneak up on enemies, hold a gun to their heads, and make them put their hands up. If you aim for their head and/or privates (while in first-person view), they are willing to give you their dog tags or any other items. Last, the game also expands on the themes of the previous game on how we as humans shape our identities and is also a very unique critique of the rise of digital information when this game was released during a period when it was only in its infancy. So if you really want a game of the times, MGS2 is the one.
3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
- Platform: PSP, PS3
- Release Date: April 29, 2010, Jun 8, 2010
Taking place in 1974, 10 years after the events of MGS3, Big Boss has set up base in the Caribbean and is partners with Master Miller (who is nicknamed Kaz, short of Kazuhira, his Japanese name as he is half-American and half-Japanese) as mercenaries for hire. This game is Portable Ops on steroids. Like Portable Ops, the game is more episodic in nature by being separated as missions. Before every mission, you can choose your camouflage patterns and your equipment. While Portable Ops had your recruit your enemies by taking them to a truck, Peace Walker makes it easy by using the Fulton Recovery system, which would be further expanded in The Phantom Pain. With your new recruits, you can make your own R&D teams, a platoon unit, a medic unit and so on for your mother base.
While it may not have first-person aiming, one fun feature this game has is its CQC system that moves like a Kung Fu movie by being more flashy by allowing you to throw your enemies to other enemies, or up against the wall for an instant knockout! While it may not have the gimmicky boss battles MGS is traditionally known for, it makes up for it by having players fight off against tanks and helicopters and you either have the option of taking them out, or claiming the equipment as your own!
For those of you who love Monster Hunter, the missions of this game actually take some influence for Monster Hunter itself. Last, we cannot deny that this game has probably the best two songs in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Heaven’s Divide and Koi no Yokushiryoku. In addition to these two original hits, the classic hit song Sing by The Carpenters happens to play a very important role in the story of this game.
2. Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes
- Platform: GameCube
- Release: Mar 9, 2004 (US), Mar 11, 2004 (Japan)
This GameCube exclusive is essentially MGS1 with MGS2’s graphics and gameplay features. As stated, many of the features introduced in MGS2 were things that Kojima wanted to do with MGS1. But with Twin Snakes, his initial vision for the first game comes to fruition though some of the gameplay features such as first-person shooting/viewing have been subjected to criticism.
The action in the cutscenes is choreographed by Ryuhei Kitamura, famous for the cult Japanese action movie, Versus, a movie where Kojima actually had a brief cameo as an extra. While fans of Kitamura will recognize and appreciate his style being implemented, people unfamiliar with him will appropriately think of the action sequences as over the top for a game that aims for a certain kind of realism that Snake is associated with.
Last, the voice acting is entirely re-recorded. In fact, David Hayter, the English voice of Snake took a pay cut just to get most of the original cast back. In addition to the re-recording, Naomi and Mei Ling are given American accents, which is carried over in MGS4.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater
- Platform: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Nintendo 3DS
- Release Date: Nov 17, 2004 (US) Dec 16, 2004 (JP)
Taking place in Nov 1964, this game serves as the beginning of Big Boss’ origin story. With previous Metal Gear Solid games having more of an urban feel, Snake Eater takes Metal Gear Solid’s stealth gimmick to a new environment, the jungle. With Snake Eater’s camouflage feature, the player must pick an appropriate uniform and face paint that can suit either crawling through tall grass or hiding by a tree trunk. There are instances where Snake can get injured such as breaking a leg or getting a slug stuck in him, and if not treated, it can affect his health and performance. There is also a stamina meter and if it lowers, it would become hard to aim a gun. This can be fixed by finding the right food and as the game’s subtitle suggests, it goes as far as eating snakes (some food can be hazardous to your health). In fact, Snake Eater is a real life US Army term in reference to the Green Berets, who eat snakes as part of their training.
And we cannot look over that this installment has one of the most unique boss battles when Big Boss faces The End, a deadly sniper, in a battle of attrition. If you don’t hide properly, you’re open season! But if you know how to use your camo, your tools, and your environment to your advantage, you will emerge victoriously. There are other distinct ways to beat him and if you want to know, play this game to find out! So if you want to experience a great mix of James Bond and Rambo, Snake Eater is exactly what you’re looking for.
Every MGS game offers something to players new and veteran alike. Some of the gimmicks do go over the top and nobody can deny that certain aspects of the story do get pretty convoluted. But can we fault a game for always trying to do something new and different? Certainly not, but there are some instances that new thing can work and there are instances that just take some time to warm up to. Can Metal Gear Solid survive without Kojima? Many fans aren’t confident.
Ever since MGS2, he always says that an MGS he works on would be his last but demands that go as far as death threats just seem to bring him back. Could we see Kojima back despite the difficult circumstances that led to his departure from Konami? Give us your thoughts in the comments.