It's Metal Gear's birthday again! This time it joins an elite group in celebrating its 30th year of existence. Of course now, the figurehead behind the series' longstanding success has gone, and we're left with the meagre hope that the upcoming Metal Gear Survive will somehow be brilliant (or at least not a bit toss). To celebrate Hideo Kojima's stealth series' big anniversary, PSU staff has voted for their favorite Metal Gear games, and ranked them accordingly.
14. Metal Gear Solid Portable Ops (2006/2007 Playable on: PSP)
The first proper modern Metal Gear handheld, Portable Ops saw the basic framework of a Metal Gear Solid title applied, but the fiddly nature of the PSP sat at odds with it. The result was a largely unmemorable Metal Gear. Though it did have the odd juicy chunk of story that proved to be the first of many additional Big Boss tales.
Best Bit: Using Wi-Fi and GPS to find secret soldiers. Like Pokemon Go, but with Russian military units.
13. Metal Gear Solid VR Missions (1999: PS One, PSP, PS3, PS Vita)
Taking the core of Metal Gear Solid, VR Missions (Sold as a separate entity in the US and Europe) went for a healthy selection of bite size VR scenarios. These range from stealthy guard aversion to firing off Stingers and floating targets. It didn't offer much beyond that. Considering the core game had just done something fresh and new for games, this always felt like a step back. A fun step back though.
Best Bit: Beating your best time on a level by seconds.
12. Metal Gear Acid (2004/2005: PSP)
When fans heard Metal Gear would be heading to Sony's newly minted PlayStation Portable, there was palpable excitement. The emergence of Acid however, threw one hell of a curveball by making the Metal Gear experience into a turn-based card-collecting strategy RPG. It was a move that didn't help Acid's cause, but it wasn't without its charms.
Best Bit: The daft, yet engaging story. It didn't add anything to the lore of Metal Gear, but it was decent.
11. Metal Gear Acid 2 (2005/2006: PSP)
While the original Acid underwhelmed, it didn't stop a quickfire sequel getting out of the door within a year. Acid 2 refined some of the quirks and annoyances of its predecessor whilst largely remaining the same game in a new sneaking suit.
Best Bit: The ridiculous ‘Solid Eye' peripheral that came with the game. It was essentially a cardboard viewer for the PSP that let you view certain images in a theater mode. Daft, but it wouldn't be the last time we saw a portable device get a cardboard viewer.
10. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990: PS2, PS3, PS Vita)
While the original Metal Gear may have sparked the series into life, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake brought forward many of the key concepts, characters, and ideas that Hideo Kojima would take into the groundbreaking Metal Gear Solid eight years later. The top down stealth adventure was restricted to the diminished MSX platform for many years, with the side-scrolling Snake's Revenge serving as the West's alternative Metal Gear sequel (Not here because it doesn't feature on a PlayStation device). Luckily, MGS 3 Subsistence saw both Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2 as bonuses, allowing a whole new audience to experience the genesis of the Metal Gear name.
Best Bit: Snake's final battles with Gray Fox and Big Boss are suitably epic and typically Kojima in design.
9. Metal Gear (1987: PS2, PS3, PS Vita)
The game that started it all. Kojima directed his first Metal Gear twenty years ago, in doing so, he created an important touchstone for the stealth genre. It suffered similar audience reach issues as its sequel by being on the MSX platform, but it did get a (heavily reworked) port to the NES. As with Metal Gear 2, it can also be found in various versions of Metal Gear Solid 3.
Best Bit: That fate saw Kojima take over on the project from another Konami associate, and the now famous stealth series was born because technical limitations dulled the effect of the endless combat that had originally been planned. How different the industry could have been.
8. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes (2014: PS3, PS4)
Ground Zeroes kicked off plenty of controversy. For its length, for its price, for its new approach to storytelling, and also for what occurs during that cliffhanger ending involving Paz and a secondary bomb. All of it is nonsense though as Ground Zeroes featured Metal Gear's deepest, most versatile set of mechanics to date, creating a huge amount of replayability for such a small area. Its tightly-coiled stealth purity made it the perfect playground to get to grips with the basics of what Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain would become.
Best Bit: Unlocking the Metal Gear Solid-inspired mission. Lots of nostalgia, mixed with the modern.
7. Metal Gear Rising Revengeance (2013: PS3)
Raiden was a divisive character. Even his transition from fresh-faced whiner to Metal Gear-destroying cyborg ninja wasn't without its detractors. So it's rather fitting that his spinoff game, developed by Bayonetta and Vanquish team Platinum Games, has proved to be equally as effective in dividing opinion. This isn't a stealth game. Rather a showcase of Raiden's funky ninja skills in increasingly ridiculous situations. This features a robot wolf, a scrap against theatrical bosses, and an insane finale where Raiden is pitted against a nanomachines (son) fuelled Senator with an abundance of disdain for the American public (which, no matter how you cut it, mirrors the core series in thematic terms). It gets a lot of flak for ‘not being a true Metal Gear' from certain corners of the fandom, but it is inarguably driven by the spirit of the series' narrative arcs.
Best Bit: Raiden's second fight with Jetstream Sam narrowly tops the insanity of the Armstrong finale for boss encounter brilliance.
6. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015: PS3, PS4)
The final Kojima chapter in the Metal Gear saga has certainly proved to be a memorable send off, if not entirely for what happened in the game. There's no denying that the mechanics are the best the series has offered. There's much to love about choppering into missions to the sounds of 80's pop hits. What lies beyond that has divided the fanbase perhaps more than any entry in the entire series. Even here at PSU the feelings range from bitter disappointment to adoring fascination. Notably it features on this list as the lowest core entry. Perhaps the the game remains too fresh for the kind of retrospective takes we saw certain previous entries get.
Best Bit: The safe answer here is calling in your chopper to rescue you as it blares out ‘Kids in America' and mows down enemies. Sublime. D-Dog also deserves a mention.
5. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010 PSP, PS3, PS Vita)
Peace Walker represents the pinnacle of portable Metal Gear antics and arguably provided the PSP with its finest game. A great story that fills us in on more of Big Boss' post MGS 3 adventures, and a perfectly bite-sized gameplay formula befitting the platform it was intended for. The only regret was how much it murdered our hands from overuse on the PSP.
Best Bit: Building Mother Base. From fultoning enemy soldiers to forcing Kojima to work in the kitchen, the base-building side of Peace Walker made the missions all the more compelling.
4. Metal Gear Solid (1998: PS One, PS2, PS3, PSP, PS Vita)
The original PlayStation's popularity was the touchpaper for so many burgeoning franchises. Final Fantasy exploded in the West thanks to Final Fantasy VII for example. Even before release, Metal Gear Solid wowed E3-goers with its cinematic stealth stylings. By the time the game arrived, at the peak of the PlayStation's powers in 1998, it was looking like a surefire hit. What we wouldn't know was quite how much of a game changer it would become. From Kojima's now legendary gameplay to the highly interesting cast of characters. Metal Gear Solid blazed a trail for cinematic action games in a bright new way. It remains a clever, ridiculous touchstone of modern gaming, a title as important as it is memorable.
Best Bit: Take your pick! We'll go with that Psycho Mantis fight. Still one of the smartest, most inventive boss fights in videogame history.
3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008: PS3)
MGS 4 is Solid Snake's swansong. His moniker may have adorned a large fraction of the Metal Gear series, but Big Boss has had more of the story to himself overall. This game layed it on super thick with the crowd-pleasing callbacks. It delivered plenty of Solid Snake, albeit, in typically trollish Kojima fashion, with Snake as a near-geriatric shell of his former self. The daftness and the drama were in plentiful supply as Kojima and his team went nuts on everything to round off this particular portion of the story. Some may find it bloated to excess (cutscenes almost long enough to be feature-length come to mind), and the Prague section is all kinds of erratic with its pacing, but Guns of the Patriots did some special things to close this story loop. Including a clever return to Shadow Moses and a post-credits scene that provided the perfect end.
Best Bit: The agonising crawl through the microwave tunnel as the fate of others plays out around Snake. Emotional
2. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001/2002: PS2, PS3, PS Vita)
Before The Phantom Pain or Revengeance, the height of Metal Gear controversy and fan ragers came in the form of Sons of Liberty's infamous bait n' switch. It was a move that, alongside an overabundance of cutscenes and codec calls, caused a lot of tempers to flare. Yet despite this, Sons of Liberty is filled to the brim with quality. There’s an incredible depth to the mechanics, A.I. and level design outstripped any PlayStation 2 title of its time. While the story got more than a little self-indulgent, it has several intriguing layers that spewed forth many theories. Thematically, it resonates with today's culture to an eerie extent.
Best Bit: Raiden's team-up with Snake is a fine piece of chest-swelling hero worship.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004: PS2, PS3, PS Vita)
Is it much of a surprise to see PSU staff vote Snake Eater as the best Metal Gear game of all? Metal Gear Solid 3 is the perfect balance of developer freedom and publisher constraint, with Kojima at his most focused. The James Bond/Cold War set dressing allowed Snake Eater to feel a bit more grounded than its near-future older siblings. With the underlying focus being on the more human Naked Snake and his defecting mentor The Boss, the story was a tighter, more impactful affair than anything in the series so far. Throw in perhaps the greatest boss fight in the series, and a agonisingly bittersweet ending, and you have not only the peak of Metal Gear, but one of the finest games ever made.
Best Bit: The fight with The End, followed by that epic ladder climb, is quite frankly a breathtaking experience.