The legacy of Snake comes to a close next week, and world is on edge. We all can't wait to experience the final chapter in one of the most iconic series of games in the industry. Considering that we are still unsure if we will ever see a Kojima directed game ever again, this is a big deal for us. The Metal Gear games are consistently stellar experiences, but it's only right to quantify them in list form. For posterity, of course.
10. Metal Gear: Ghost Babel
It remains a mystery how so much game fit into such a small package. Metal Gear: Ghost Babel is a "What if?" scenario on the GBC, sending Snake into an alternate version of the years following Shadow Moses. Konami put so much care into melding the ominous mood and tactical freedom that the PlayStation entry provided with the old school arcadery of the MSX iterations. Together they made for a must have have on a console known for it's incredible first party library.
9. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Metal Gear 2 is the first time the series truly began to indulge in its deep and opulent strangeness. The story began to dip its toes in themes that would consume the series later on, like the existential crisis of nuclear acquisition and the natural place of warfare in the human condition. The barrier between Snake and fourth wall took its first hits here, as well. Codec "tap codes" were hidden throughout the game manual, and were full of important information for progressing through the game. Solid Snake is the first time Metal Gear looked and felt like the game we know today.
8. Metal Gear Acid 2
Once a series gets old enough, spin offs are inevitable. Metal Gear was no exception, but of course Snake couldn't be bothered with settling for something mundane like kart racing. The turn-based strategy, card-battler Metal Gear Acid series was sufficiently weird, but it wasn't fully realized or all that fun to play until the sequel. With an updated art style full of vibrant cel-shades and a wildly expanded collection of cards, gameplay modes, and playability tweaks, if Acid 2 was actually the first game in the line, we may have still seen iterations to this day.
7. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops
The lack of a second analog stick on the PSP should have doomed this game from start, but Kojima Productions took great care in adapting the tried and true 3D Metal Gear formula to the portable platform to the best of their abilities. Big Boss's post-Snaker Eater life starts here canonically, and so do some of the more signature design choices that would show up again in later games. Recruiting soldiers to the cause directly from the battlefield was introduced here, and would be iterated on in Peace Walker, and now fully realized in the upcoming Phantom Pain. Portable Ops Plus adjusts some gameplay issues and introduces a host of new modes, including playing as many of the side characters in the game, but lacks the story elements from the original.
6. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
If you bought Guns of the Patriots on a whim in 2008 without ever playing a game in the series, I feel very bad for you. It's a masterful love letter, tying together the loose ends of a 20 year old series both narratively and mechanically. It brings closure to many of the characters who have been woven into the greater Metal Gear tapestry, and matures many of the game's mechanics into polished and reliable tools for your tactical espionage action. That said, its a very hard game to recommend to people not indoctrinated to the Metal Gear way of thinking. This games flaws - lack of gameplay diversity past Act 3, the complete uselessness of Drebin points, the incredible number of hour+ cut-scenes - are way more forgivable to die-hards.
5. Metal Gear Rising: Revengence
Metal Gear Rising is the absurdity of all of Metal Gear, concentrated into one game and thrown on the shoulders of the game's most ludicrous character, Raiden. His journey from Sons of Liberty to Guns of the Patriots redeemed the character in the eyes of fans that weren't quite sure what their feelings were about him. Rising is almost a bitter "told you so" to the haters, turning the cyborg ninja into a vicious killing machine, eschewing every tactical and stealthy trope the series held tightly to up until that point, and simultaneously being the most Metal Gear thing ever. This white knuckle bundle of fan service is a great alternate perspective on the lore fans have grown to love. Raiden thrives in a time that has evolved past Snake, doing things that MGS's protagonist could never come close to doing.
4. Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes
The original Metal Gear Solid is a game that the entire series exists squarely in the shadow of. Stealth games were forever changed since, and to say it's very Summer blockbuster-inspired visual direction hasn't pushed the medium towards it's cinematic destiny would be selling it short. Metal Gear Solid is the spy thriller we love to watch, but in video game form, complete with gadgets, double crosses, and political intrigue. But then it expounds on that idea, adding a colorful cast of heroes and villains (and things in between) that would be well placed in a comic book. The Gamecube revival spruced up the visuals, both in the character models and environments as well as the camera work in the cutscenes, but made the game easier. A plus or minus, depending on your level of masochist.
3. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
People let the fact that Solid Snake isn't the main character distract them from all the wonderful things Metal Gear Solid 2 has to offer. When people refer a "post modern" game, MGS 2 is normally part of that conversation, thanks to Hideo Kojima's insatiable need to turn every established concept on it's ear time and time again. One of the best looking games on the PS2, the attention to detail was astounding. It wasn't just visual, either. Guards could be manipulated by targeting their equipment and not just their bodies. They would also learn from your mistakes, bringing helmets if their peers were being dispatched by head shots, or riot gear in areas with tight spaces. There's also that ending, that is arguably the biggest twist in the series.
2. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
In the grand scheme of Metal Gear games, Peace Walker may be the most approachable. With many, very old issues with the mechanics finally being addressed (crouch walking, finally), PW could focus on the things that main stream folks could really get behind. The short, tense missions and recruiting of Portable Ops makes a comeback in a big way, now that Big Boss is in full demagogue mode. The obtuse yet compelling story is present and nestles its unique take on historical fiction in the Nicaraguan Revolution back in the 70's. The only downside are the really uninspiring boss battles, which are almost mitigated by the fact that you can hunt Monster Hunter monsters as side missions.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Snake Eater's triumph comes at the cost of a lot of the weirdness that really defines Metal Gear as a series. Techno jargon and super modern convolution takes a back seat to the incredible human vulnerability brought about by the Cold War. But it's still Metal Gear at its silly, serious, insightful, beautiful core. For a deeper dive into why, check out this list of Konami's greatest hits (spoiler: this is it.)
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