Hideo Kojima’s venerable stealth-action franchise is positively oozing with standout moments, from its compelling, admittedly convoluted narrative to edge-of-your-seat set pieces. However, one of the most striking elements – both aesthetically and in terms of gameplay – has to be the massive boss battles. Whether you’re playing as Solid Snake, Raiden or Big Boss, Metal Gear Solid pits you against some of most over-the-top, screen-filling monstrosities to grace a Sony platform since the series received a 3D shot in the arm back in the mid-90s.
It’s not just challenge or visual prowess these bosses present; it’s the sheer satisfaction of having to go up against, for example, a 100-feet tall, walking death mobile (Snake’s words, not ours) as one bloke armed with a comparatively puny rocket launcher, and coming out on top. There’s a profound sense of accomplishment to be had from working out the kinks in your adversary’s armor and then exploiting that weakness, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. More than any other series, Metal Gear’s bosses make you feel like you’ve been through a meat grinder and come out in one piece.
Plucking our favourite MGS boss wasn’t easy, since there’s a plethora of iconic encounters spread throughout this sprawling franchise. Who could forget Metal Gear Rex? Or The End? Or how about Raiden’s duel with Solidus Snake in an armed-to-the-teeth fighter jet? Join us now as we extol Metal Gear’s best bosses ever.
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THE END (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
On paper, you probably wouldn’t think that a near hour-long duel against a wrinkly old sniper would provide such a compelling and challenging boss battle. Quite the contrary, however, as Naked Snake’s ruck with MGS3’s The End ranks as quite possibly one of the best boss battles ever conceived, let alone in the MGS series. The fight itself is a nail-biting test of skill, patience and dexterity. Unlike Sniper Wolf, your enemy doesn’t handily expose himself in the middle of a snow storm giving you ample opportunity to attack. This time, you’re in the middle of a sprawling jungle comprised of three areas, where your foe is camouflaged to the point of being nearly impossible to discern without the aid of some of Snake’s various trinkets. Oh, and he’s also a crack shot, meaning you’ll likely take a slug to the shoulder before you even know he’s there. But therein lies the challenge, and ultimately, accomplishment. Just finding your aging adversary is half the task; you’ll need to utilize Snake’s equipment to the fullest, sniffing out The End with a combination of the directional microphone, binoculars, and AP sensor. Needless to say, when you do win the game of cat and mouse, the feeling of satisfaction is palpable – almost as much as blasting him point blank with a shotgun or capping him with a well-placed sniper shot as he’s looking in the wrong direction. Don’t take too long battling the legendary sniper though, or he’ll die of old age – quite literally, in fact, thus robbing you of a hard-earned victory. One the most interesting aspects however is the chance to snuff out the old man's life prior to this battle. Snake encounters The End briefly outside a warehouse earlier on in the game, giving him a small window of opportunity to put a well-aimed round through the ancient sniper's head, killing him in one shot.
LIQUID OCELOT (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Solid Snake’s final battle was always going to be a corker, and his climatic duel with Liquid Ocelot atop Outer Haven doesn’t disappoint. Evoking memories of the gruff hero’s punch-up with his whiny brother in MGS1, this final fight doesn’t need gargantuan mechs and flashy gimmicks to impress; its stripped back approach of two men going toe-to-toe speaks volume in a way that previous boss fights can’t hope to achieve. Indeed, while the likes of Rex and Ray represents aesthetic marvels of impossible odds and intricate architecture, Snake’s duel with his arch nemesis packs an emotional clout perhaps unrivaled by any other duel the series has seen. Mechanically the fight is fairly rudimentary; a war of fists and feet punctuated by dramatic close-ups and QTEs, and plenty of bruised faces. However, Kojima Production’s ample use of remixed iconic Metal Gear anthems, combined with the fundamental impact of the building narrative up to that point, makes this deadly duel pack an almighty punch. Ocelot even adopts a different fighting style with each section of the fight, effectively taking you through the history of the series with every sequence.
PSYCHO MANTIS (Metal Gear Solid)
The FOXHOUND rabble was an interesting bunch, and while united in their common interest to impede Snake’s progress, they couldn’t be more diverse as individuals. Each one comes from a totally disparate background with their own unique beliefs and backstory, among the most interest of which is arguably Psycho Mantis. In fact, Snake’s battle with the masked maniac really pushed the boundaries in terms of gameplay, featuring some humorous breaking of the fourth wall. Mantis will read your memory card, make your pad rumble and even turn a valuable ally against you. Oh, and he’s able to read your every thought, which is video game talk for being invulnerable – that is, until you figure out his weakness. Metal Gear bosses have always required the Old Grey Matter to put in a bit of overtime, but the fight with Mantis is perhaps one of the most cerebral battles in the series; after all, how do you defeat someone who can read your thoughts? Furthermore, a black screen featuring the words ‘Hideo’ only further complicates matters. Back in 1999, we were stumped at finding a solution until we had to read a guide and find out we had to switch controller ports. Once this is accomplished, it’s merely a case of capping Mantis as he tries to lob bits of furniture at you until he goes down. In terms of experience though, everyone remembers their encounter with Psycho Mantis.
METAL GEAR RAY (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
Say what you like about pretty-boy Raiden, but you got to admire a guy who takes on dozens of Metal Gear Ray’s and lives to tell the tale. Not even Snake can boast about having achieved such a feat. In this case, we’re talking about the epic Ray battle towards the climax of Metal Gear Solid 2. Here, the floppy-haired hero finds himself on the top of Arsenal Gear armed with a Stinger launcher with an entire army of Rays baying for his blood, while Solidus looks on from the side lines. Make no mistake; this is a loud, bombastic and brutal boss scrap, easily among the most challenging the series has presented to date. It’s not as if the lumbering metal giants line up one by one to take a missile to the face either; they’ll attack simultaneously, sometimes two or three at a time. As such, Raiden is tasked with not only dispatching his giant adversaries, but also avoiding a constant barrage of laser fire, machine gun rounds and tracking missiles looking to leave a scar on his pretty face. It’s an arduous, health-draining slog, with some dexterous finger work required as you aim, fire, zip out of weapon mode and immediately have your dodge finger ready to avoid the inevitable enemy counterattack. Intense, adrenaline-pumping stuff.
REX VS. RAY (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Metal Gear’s answer to Clash of the Titans, the colossal ruck between Rex and Ray towards the end of MGS4 is an eyeball-popping spectacle tinged with visual and narrative prowess. Aside from the obvious nerd-gasm of pitting these iconic mechanical beasts against each other for the first time, this battle also offers an interesting spin on the typical MGS boss fight. After all, instead of being a flesh-and-blood man vs. machine, you’re now in control of the machine for the first time. Rex is armed to the teeth, and wielding its massive rail gun and gatling towers make you feel like a one-man wrecking crew. The amphibious Ray is the more nimble of the two giants, though Rex more than makes up for it in sheer brute force. It’s not just a mindless button-mashing affair either; tactically this battle has some interesting challenges as you exploit your enemy’s weakness and learn to avoid Ray’s devastating counter attacks. Firing and hoping for the best won’t get you very far. From a gameplay point of view, it's also interesting to note the battle offers a completely different control scheme for the first time in the series, giving this boss a unique feel. Let’s not also forget that the battle marks the first time Snake and Liquid have squared off since the original game, and the irony of Snake piloting a hulking battle tank that squashed his best mate to a bloody pulp a few years back is certainly not lost in the moment.
Let us know your favourite MGS bosses in the comments section below!