Metal Gear. A sprawling, epic tale of spies, stealth and espionage tangled over two decades of game play. Kojima’s vision is beautifully, bafflingly and sometimes teasingly depicted in its fully glory to his vision – and that’s what we love about it. Say what you want about the series low points; at least they stay true to the overall vision and keep the series heading in the intended direction. We decided to take a look back over the series, ranking all the major outings from worst to best. To be clear – we don’t feel there are any *bad* Metal Gear games – some just manage to marry the game play to the story more intricately. I’ve also left out the Subsistence games – because otherwise we’ll be here all day.
11. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (360 PS3, 2013) – For what it’s worth I feel this game was a bold diversion from the typical Metal Gear outing. Shifting the focus to Raiden and dropping all aspects of the much-loved Solid branch gave Platinum Games license to do so much with the story. Sadly it all devolves into a mindless hack and slash affair, with all semblance of plot finesse going out the window. It’s developments are clunky and feel wholly out of sorts with the rest of the series and while the core game play is solid; the heavy emphasis on heavy metal action never really comes together to deliver a satisfying experience. Kojima binned this project when he felt it didn’t hit his standards; we can understand what he meant by that.
10. Metal Gear 1 (MSX2, 1987) – The genesis of the series offers up an interesting take on the 2D games. By modern standards its quite quaint and somewhat boring – yet the story retains a large amount of the Metal Gear intrigue. The tale of Snake infiltrating Outer Base was one the series would enjoy playing with down the line. Yet here its hard to not feel that the ideas hadn’t quite formed yet; that the game is missing features that even the diehard fans would struggle to enjoy. One for nostalgia purposes only.
9. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (MSX2, 1990) – The discussion over Metal Gear 2 is an interesting one – largely because it paved the way for the hugely successful Solid franchise of MGS games that would follow. On the one hand it’s certainly a Metal Gear game – all the plot elements and twists are accounted for and correct. Add in more complex mechanics, better looking graphics and a tighter focus on stealth – and its easy to see why some hold this game up as a better game than its predecessor. Does it hold up all these years later? That’s for modern gaming to decide. Personally I don’t think it’s as much fun to play as the original – but each to their own.
8. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS4/Xbox One, 2014) – Wait what? Why is this game on this list? The decision to charge full whack for what amounts to a glorified game demo left a lot of gamers fuming when Ground Zeroes landed. It’s a shame really because what’s here is highly polished and does an excellent job of showcasing the engine and mechanics that would ultimately dazzle in MGS5. The problem however is its length – with dedicated gamers managing to hit the end of the demo well within half an hour. Sure there was plenty to do to extend this time; but this was a demo and when MGS5 came out; the lack of variety on show here became apparent very quickly. I don’t want to say cash grab, but it’s Konami, so of course it’s a cash grab.
7. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (PSP, 2006) – To the credit of Portable Ops it’s a great early-PSP game. The 3D graphics look adequate and manage to give the game a sense of scale. unfortunately it’s hard to get over the feeling that the entire experience has been shrunk in the wash. A lot of the nuances that make a Metal Gear Solid game great are missing in action – while the controls themselves are about as much fun as being shot in the hands. Portable Ops was ambitious, almost to a fault.
6. Metal Gear Solid 4; Guns of Patriots (PS3, 2008) – Considering the huge pile-up of mess that MGS2 left in its wake – Metal Gear Solid 4 did an adequate job of tying all the strands together. The plot tries desperately to make sense of everything in the lore, leading to a dauntingly cut-scene heavy outing that may leave some feeling cold. The gameplay itself is fine, although I’d argue it isn’t anywhere near as strong as some of the earlier (or later) 3D outings. The globe-trotting plot allows the developers to shake things up visually, but there’s never a huge “Wow” moment in this game that makes you feel like you’re playing a cutting edge experience. Guns of Patriots is a fine Metal Gear game – but it’s certainly not the one I’d push people to try when showcasing the series.
5. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP, 2010) – Incredibly ambitious, Peace Walker was the follow-up to MGS3 that fans wanted. The focus on base building and co-op game play hinted at the direction of MGSV in a satisfying way. The introduction of mission prep was a game changer while the game managed to bring in a number of the main console games features to keep fans on board. While the story itself is something of a take-it or leave-it affair; it does lay a lot of the groundwork for MGS5 and makes clear that the series was heading in new and exciting directions.
4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (PS2, 2001) – Gamers at the time resented this game for the bait and switch pulled with its marketing; positioning Snake as the protagonist only to switch it out to Raiden without warning. Look beyond this and you get a much more rounded experience than the original Metal Gear Solid game. Refinements to the experience make the game feel more whole. Refinements like the ability to aim down your guns sight and the chance to make use of the environment more offer up more opportunities for the gamer to play how they want. Unfortunately its the game’s story where things begin to unravel – the game transforming into a convoluted mess around the 2/3 mark and never really recovering from the process. Hardcore fans hold it up as epic storytelling; we call it a jumbled mess that got too grand for its ambitions; suffocating the ending sequence of the game with baffling amounts of plot. Shame really.
3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Xbox 360/One/PS3/4, 2015) – Metal Gear Solid V had the burden of somehow tying together all the loose ends from MGS4 while offering up a compelling followup to the MGS3 (and its sequels) stories. The game not only achieves this but does so in arguably one of the most competently put together slices of game play we’ve seen for a good while. The ability to manage your army on the battlefield and drop into missions; both main and side quests – lends the game a huge sense of personality and makes you feel attached to the world. The Foxhound engine wonderfully churns out gun play, sneaking and vehicle mechanics with ease – allowing gamers from all strategies to play the game exactly how they want. Add in some of gaming’s best cut scenes throughout the series and an open world that’s begging to be explored and you’ve got one of the best gamers ever created. It’s such a shame that the final third of this game feels rushed – a consequence of the troubled development that Konami slapped down on Kojima. Had this not been the case, it’s very likely I’d be sliding this game into the top position. As it stands though, Metal Gear Solid V is everything a modern action game should aspire to be. Brilliant doesn’t quite cover it.
2. Metal Gear Solid (PS1, 1998) – When Metal Gear Solid landed on the PlayStation 1 back in 1998, its arrival heralded in a new age of appreciation for the potential of 3D gaming. Here was a gritty, unforgiving stealth game that forced the gamer to be smart and made full use of the 3D world it inhabited. The technical feats this game achieved were mind-blowing for the time; from inventive boss battles all the way through to hiding codec numbers in the game’s manual – it was the kind of game that PlayStation needed to become the juggernaut it would become. Many herald this game with jump starting the stealth genre and it regularly gets called out as the best PlayStation 1 game. We don’t disagree with either of these assertions.The Gamecube remake Twin Snakes is equally worthy of praise – marrying the best of this game into the best of Metal Gear Solid 2’s mechanics. Since they’re the same game effectively, I’ll lump them here as one. But make sure to go and check them out.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2/ Xbox, 2oo4) – What can be said about MGS3 that hasn’t been written a million times over already? Sidestepping the baffling layers of plot that MGS2 left in its wake; the game focuses on a more spy orientated thriller, the tale of betrayal and government espionage during the height of the Cold War. The game mechanics are beautifully married to the world, allowing the gamer to immerse themselves in a rich environment that begs to explored. The focus on survival mechanics (Hunting for food, tracking enemies and injuries) made the game feel more gritty and challenging; forcing a more concise approach from gamers.
The plot is layered wonderfully into proceedings and by the end – the sense of satisfaction that hangs over proceedings outstrips that of MGS2. Put simply, this is the Metal Gear Solid franchise at its peak. Confident, experimental but as deep as before. It’s this balance which ultimately makes Snake Eater not just the best Metal Gear games ever – but one of the strongest video games of all time.