With the recent success of our Mega Dad Solid month on Twitch, it only felt right to set the record straight and finally put to rest the argument of which Metal Gear Solid games rise to greatness, and which ones should remain hidden in the shadows. The rest of Team Mega Dads may not agree, but they can go sucks eggs. This is my irrefutable “(Mostly) Definitive Ranking of (nearly) Every Metal Gear Solid Game (that I’ve played)“. Let’s begin!
6) METAL GEAR SOLID 5: GROUND ZEROES / THE PHANTOM PAIN
I like The Phantom Pain, I really do. It’s gorgeous to look at, the game play mechanics are fun to mess with, and you can make your horse take a shit on the highway to cause an accident. There are 101 ways to complete each objective, and building out Mother Base is genuinely fun to do, so what’s not to like? Well, the second half of the game, unfortunately. As open ended as the player maps were, missions began to feel repetitive, even when using different methods to complete the various mission types, and the narrative starts to fall apart quickly after the introduction of Skull Face and his elite level soldiers, the Skulls.
Also, being the 5th numbered game (9th overall) in the series, and a prequel at that, the story referenced so many details, and expected the player to already have knowledge of certain events and characters that it became an overly complicated mess that was impossible for me to follow. In the end, this is the only MGS game that I’ve played and haven’t finished. Forget the fact that the game is double or triple the length of any other game in the series, The Phantom Pain just feels like it falls under the weight of its own ambitiousness.
5) METAL GEAR SOLID: PEACE WALKER
The only portable MGS to make this list (much to the chagrin of fellow Mega Dad, Nick Edwards), Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker is a damn fun MGS game that once again puts players in the shoes of the charisma-vacuum known as Big Boss. Taking place 10 years after the events of Snake Eater, Peace Walker is a direct sequel that shows how the newly named “Big Boss” grows his Militaires Sans Frontières (Army without borders) from fledgling mercenaries to a global superpower as he attempts to stop the titular Peace Walker (less scary and small Metal Gear) from being launched in Costa Rica after the country is taken over by an army of unknown soldiers.
Over the course of the game Big Boss grows his following through the introduction of the same base-building mechanics that would be the foundation of Ground Zeroes/The Phantom Pain. Big Boss uses a Fulton Skyhook system to “recruit” unconscious enemies in one of the oddest plot-holes in a series known for insane plot-holes and madness. There is a lot of fun to be had here, and like the Twin Snakes version of MGS1, Peace Walker remains stuck on either the PSP/Vita, or the PS3/360 via the HD Remake collection. I would love to see this collection ported over to PS4/PS5 or like every other game I want to play, ported to the PC.
4) METAL GEAR SOLID 4: GUNS OF THE PATRIOTS
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is the canonical sequel to Sons of Liberty and is what happens when a creator says he is done with a franchise but comes back to do another one. Any sense of a more toned-down story, like what we got in Snake Eater, was quickly thrown out the window for soda chugging monkeys in diapers, nanite controlled soldiers, liquid’s arm, and a soldier with constant gastrointestinal problems. That is not to say Guns isn’t great, monkeys and diarrhea are very much in my wheelhouse.
MGS4 had the leg up on being the very first gear game to come out on the PS3 and it made every use of the new resources it had. The active-camouflage system built upon the foundation of the camouflage mechanics introduced in 3 and scouting with your very own tiny Metal Gear made for some great added depth to the game. MGS4 also saw the revamping of the camera system to an over the shoulder perspective that you could toggle into 1st person. For all the improvements implemented in MGS4, it lacked an iconic feature to all the great Metal Gear Solid games, memorable boss battles. It is more than made up for with the final showdown between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot old-man punching each other on top of a ship. Kojima also gets bonus points for taking Jack, the much-shunned protagonist from 2 and turning him into a cyborg ninja and finally offing Vamp.
What made Guns of the Patriot great wasn’t the shiny new systems and updates but the fact that Kojima came back and tried to close out the arcs for so many characters he started with back in the original tactical espionage game. This already impressive looking PS3 title deserves a remake or a port to the PS4 and PS5, or hell, maybe even a PC port so nerds like me can enjoy there as well!
3) METAL GEAR SOLID 2: SONS OF LIBERTY
The second game in the series and Kojima wasted little time in tossing conventions straight out the window and turned an already crazy universe of twists and turns on it’s head, then kicked that head with a stealth boot half a dozen times for good measure. For a series, presumably named after the titular SOLID SNAKE, players controlled this Metal Gear Solid hero for maybe 10% of the sequel before jumping into the shoes of the new protagonist, code named: RAIDEN.
As a character, Raiden is kind of a whiny bitch, especially when compared to the walking death machine that is Solid Snake, but the game is still loads of fun, and Kojima didn’t bother giving him any new abilities the differentiate his play style from Snakes. Running around back and forth across the various struts on the Big Shell starts to get a little repetitive after the first half-dozen hours or so, and highlights the fact that MGS1 had a more varied environmental pallet, but the action is never dull, especially on high difficulties! Boss fights are perhaps less memorable than those found later on in the series, but I still take great pleasure in mercilessly shooting Fatman directly in the face after he exhausts himself on his roller blades.
2) METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER
There is a case to be made to put Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at the top of this list, and perhaps the biggest detriment is the fact, despite the name, you once again forgo playing as Solid Snake. Snake Eater is all about Big Boss, or rather, his origin story. Jumping back to the mid 1960s in the midst of the Cold War, MGS3 eschews the cramped corridors of Shadow Moses and Big Shell for Russian jungles and diverging paths. Also, as the name implies, Naked Snake actually has to EAT to survive, snakes included.
Kojima and company introduced a slew of new mechanics, including the need to swap camouflage patterns based on your current environment. While I would have preferred to play as Solid Snake (his damn name is implied in the series), it can’t be argued that the plot of Metal Gear Solid 3 isn’t one of the series’ best, and the final showdown with The Boss is one of the most emotional moments the series has to offer in addition to just being a fantastic boss fight (pun totally intended) in its own right.
1) METAL GEAR SOLID: TWIN SNAKES
The original, made better. Metal Gear Solid kicked down the doors of the PS1 with all 15 triangles of available power, but that didn’t stop Kojima and Konami from telling an unforgettable tale of intrigue and espionage. The first game in the “Solid” mythos remains a high point in the series thanks to fan-favorite boss-encounters like mind-altering Psycho Mantis, and the penultimate showdown with Metal Gear Rex. Couple that with a story that has yet to be topped in the series and you have the makings for what will go down as one of the greatest video games ever created.
Fast-forwarding a mere 6 years later and jumping ship to Nintendo’s little portable purple box of power, Twin Snakes takes the original game and throws a fresh coat of paint on it. The game itself remains unchanged, but was recreated using the same engine that was used for Metal Gear Solid 2, and also included re-recorded voice acting from the original voice cast for higher quality audio. The game play was updated to incorporate some elements from the sequel, such as the ability to shoot from the first-person view. With the fresh visuals, and minor game play tweaks, Metal Gear Sold: The Twin Snakes remains the best way to experience the game that kicked off a mega series… even though it’s still stuck on the GameCube. Come on Konami! Bring this to current gen already!
Dishonorable Mentions) Metal Gear AC!D 1 & 2
These non-canonical card games don’t belong on any respectable list, but I promised some bearded dude in an alley I’d put these on my list if he helped me out of a sticky situation. Consider my favor repaid.
There you have it. A perfect 10/10 list that will stand the test of time. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a new entry in the series that can rival the original, and with Kojima and Konami firmly and most likely permanently at odds, I doubt they’ll come together for another one. I am sure Konami has plans for future games in the series, and hopefully some proper remakes or remasters to bring the older games to modern hardware on PC and console.
Be sure to check out the VODs of our Metal Dad Solid streams over on Twitch.tv/MegaDads before they disappear, and while you’re there, why not give us a follow? You can find more of my rants either on Discord or by following me on Twitter @SGTBones_.