Ranking the Canonical Metal Gear Games

Death Stranding. It’s the long awaited game of Hideo Kojima after going solo. The creator of the Metal Gear franchise left Konami amid a heap of controversy with the company taking Kojima’s name off of all Metal Gear Solid V materials and scrapping his proposed Silent Hills and performing scorched earth tactics on PT, the playable trailer for what was supposed to be the next entry in the dormant Silent Hill series.

Now, I haven’t played Death Stranding yet but I do have plans to do so. I’m just waiting for the Christmas break so I can devote all my time to playing it to see what all the hoopla is all about. It’s had a mix of criticism and praise and I’m eager to see where I land on the side of things.

I’m pretty sure that there are fans that would want to see Death Stranding become a new franchise from the mind that made the Metal Gear saga. However, before that does happen, let’s go look at the franchise that made Hideo Kojima the iconic video game producer he is today. In fact, I’m going to rank the canonical Metal Gear games from my least favorite to the one that’s the best.

As this list will only rank the canon Metal Gear games, I won’t be including things like Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for the Game Boy Color (which is a really good game), Metal Gear 2: Snake’s Revenge (which is terrible when compared to the official games), the Acid series and *shudder* Metal Gear Survive. Anyway, here we go!

#8 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Was there any other choice?

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was my very first PlayStation 2 game. I bought the game even before I got the console! That’s how much I wanted to play this game. Was I disappointed? Not in the least! A lot has been made about the bait-and-switch with Solid Snake and Raiden as the main protagonist but I didn’t mind it all that much. I didn’t like it but I didn’t hate it either. Besides, how could you hate Sons of Liberty when the gameplay was a huge improvement over the previous game?

The graphics were, at the time, cutting edge and they still hold up today. Hideo Kojima added a lot of new stuff, like having to hide bodies this time around and holding up enemy soldiers. These new things added a lot of entertainment to the proceedings since you can’t just clear out soldiers of an area this time around.

The biggest problem is that the story wasn’t as good as the preceding Metal Gear Solid. The entire plot also came off as too convoluted, especially for the time. I will give props to Hideo Kojima predicting how controlling information in the Internet age will be as important to controlling people as it is today, however. The things that cinches Sons of Liberty as my least favorite game in the Metal Gear sage are the obscene number of cutscenes that pop in the middle of gameplay. This is painfully seen during the first part of the plant chapter as a cutscene will interrupt when Raiden would just walk to a door or down a hallway!

#7 Metal Gear

The first one isn’t always the best… but it’s still fantastic!

I do have to mention that, when I’m talking about the original Metal Gear game, I’m talking about the original MSX2 version as this is the one I played as it came with Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence package for the PlayStation 2. Of course, the game itself isn’t all that impressive by today’s standards but, for its time, Metal Gear was astonishing. The story was much more than your simple hero foils bad guy’s plot as there were twists and turns throughout the campaign.

My main issues with Metal Gear mostly because of when it was made and the limits of the systems it was running on. There are a lot of archaic gameplay elements, such as not being able to equip a gas mask and a keycard at the same time and keycards that don’t stack. It’s also funny that enemy soldiers can’t see Solid Snake just as long as you’re a little bit to the left or right to them. Oh, and crawling on the floor, a Metal Gear staple, hasn’t been implemented yet. Like I said, technology limitations.

#6 Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

It’s better than the first game because Solid Snake can crawl here. Okay, that’s not the only reason but it is one of the reasons why it’s better that the first game.

This is the game that Hideo Kojima made because he heard that Konami made a sequel without his knowledge and decided (and knew) he could do better. I and many other wouldn’t have been able to play this version. I am honestly impressed that this isn’t a 16-bit game. Yes, the graphics are decidedly in the realm of 8-bit but Kojima managed to crap a lot of stuff like knocking on walls to distract guards, multiple levels on the same area, loud floors and, yes, at long last, Solid Snake can crawl on his belly like his namesake. The Soliton Radar also makes its first appearance in the franchise.

There’s really nothing much to complain about here but the game has really shown its age by now. I like to think of it as vintage but, compared to the later entries, Metal Gear 2 doesn’t have the creative and cinematic oomph. It’s still a fantastic game but I just rather play the newer games now.

#5 Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain

Weirdly enough, the latest entry of the Metal Gear series is right smack in the middle for me in terms of quality.

I’m lumping in both Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain here are they are basically part of the same narrative, with Ground Zeroes being the “prologue” and The Phantom Pain being the actual story campaign. Now, despite all of its problems, Metal Gear Solid V is a game that super satisfying to play once you get the hang of it. It’s hard not to feel like a badass when you take out an entire platoon of soldiers all by yourself simply by scouting the area and planning out your attacks. It’s also the only game in the series where it plays like an open world game. This had both its pros and cons. It’s great that everything is super seamless and you can travel to one location to another without a hint of load times. On the other hand, it can be a bitch to actually travel around the area, especially if you’ve lost your horse or your vehicle!

As fun as Metal Gear Solid V is, there are several huge problems with it. The first one is the story is absolutely bonkers and a huge letdown. When I got to the reveal that you weren’t playing the actual Big Boss all this time and every one was just playing along, I couldn’t help but feel cheated. There are too many loose threads like Liquid Snake stealing this game’s version of the Metal Gear near the end of the story. I do know that the resolution to this was cut out thanks to Kojima and Konami’s souring relationship. It’s still a huge disappointment to just leave it as is.

Another thing that kind of destroys the game is how you need to repeat missions over and over to push the story forward. It kind of wrecks the flow of the story as sometimes you’re left wondering what you have to do in order to unlock the next story missions. The biggest issue I have with the game is the decision to get rid of David Hayter as the voice of Big Boss and replace him with Kiefer Sutherland. This does kind of make sense in retrospect since you aren’t playing the real Big Boss throughout The Phantom Pain… but it doesn’t make sense in Ground Zeroes! No offense to Kiefer Sutherland but he’s not my Big Boss. David Hayter is! These things keep Metal Gear Solid V for true greatness but it’s still great nonetheless.

#4 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Yes, the humble canonical portable entry ranks this high on my list and for good reason. Peace Walker was something I wanted to play but it was a PSP exclusive for such a long time. I pretty much gave up on the idea of playing this until Konami got greedy and released the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for the PlayStation 3, which is how I managed to play this.

As this is another Metal Gear Solid game, I was wondering how they were going to execute the cutscenes. Would they do it all using the in-game? Were they going to use still images from the game? Well, leave it to Kojima to do something interesting and do something creative. What Peace Walker does in order to tell its story is to use a comic style illustrations with very limited animation. It’s hard to explain fully but when you see it in action, it just works.

Peace Walker also adds a new twist of its own and gives you more incentive to never kill enemy soldiers. If you knock them out, you can actually use the Fulton Recovery System to take them out of the field and recruit them to work for Solid Snake’s army! There’s a benefit to getting strong soldiers as you can dispatch them to other areas of the world to earn money, have some of them to research and develop new gear, or just have them on the base so they can cook to keep your troops healthy. Also, most of the bosses here are basically vehicles like tanks but, if you manage to take out the soldiers driving the vehicles, you can also take those tanks and helicopters with you afterwards! Gotta catch them all… and I pretty much did!

The game does have some noticeable problems. Like Metal Gear Solid V, some missions are locked until you’ve earned enough research points. The ending does seem to drag as the game seems like it’s over and you’ll be stuck repeating the same kind of missions by the end. My biggest problem is that Big Boss forgot how to crawl! Being able to crouch-walk is fine but they already established that he could crawl in a previous game! Did he just forget? Even with these problems, Peace Walker is an incredible game and worthy of the Metal Gear Solid pedigree.

#3 Metal Gear 4: Guns of the Patriots

A part of me wishes Hideo Kojima was true to his word and this was the final game in the series. Alas, he was goaded into making one more which resulted in the not as good Metal Gear Solid V. In many ways, the game to bear the number V was a much better game than Guns of the Patriots. However, when it comes to pure impact and memorability, Guns of the Patriots has that in spades over Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain.

You can actually tell that Kojima put a lot of work into Guns of the Patriots’ story as it attempts to tie up all of the loose threads of the series’ winding story. Who are the Patriots? What happened to Olga’s child from Sons of Liberty? How the heck does Liquid Snake possess Ocelot whenever Solid Snake is close by? All those and more are kind of answered in Guns of the Patriots. Your degree of satisfaction on how they’re answered will be different from mine. However, if you’ve played the previous games in the series, the game is chock-full of fan service.

Guns of the Patriots does also succeed in the gameplay department as well. There’s a lot of cool stuff and tech used. The mere fact that Solid Snake’s sneaking suit can copy whatever texture he’s touching is very ingenious and give the player incentive to sneak around instead of going around guns blazing since it’s so easy to hide. The biggest downside are the loadtimes in between missions are atrocious! The stage has to be uploaded into the PlayStation 3’s hard drive each time and that could take from anywhere from three to five minutes! It’s not enough to impact the quality but I do have to dock it a couple of points for this limitation.

#2 Metal Gear Solid

My first Metal Gear Solid game I’ve ever played. I’ve only played the original one that came out for the PlayStation 1 and not the Twin Snakes remake. Really want to play the remake but, even if I haven’t, the first Metal Gear Solid still ranks this high on the list. It’s that good!

Metal Gear Solid set a new benchmark on what the aging PlayStation 1 could do. Hideo Kojima managed to squeeze a lot of amazing stuff into this one game! The voice acting was amazing, especially for its time! It’s easy to take great voice acting in video games for granted nowadays but, during the early days, getting good voices was hard to come by! The graphics or, more specifically, the art style was unique and still pushed the console to the limit with things like The Ninja’s camouflage.

Hideo Kojima’s creativeness was in full display in Metal Gear Solid. He managed to get the developers to do things like read your memory card to see what Konami games you’ve played, give you a massage by using the DualShock’s rumble feature and break the fourth wall by telling you to look at the back of the CD case to find that one frequency to move forward. All of this was mind-blowing at the time and, frankly, it still is today! The only nitpicks I have is some of the backtracking necessary and the fact that there are two sniper battles when one would’ve been sufficient.

To say that Metal Gear Solid was one of the best video games on the PlayStation’s library is totally true. I was totally entranced by the game and still love it today. Now, where’s my Twin Snakes for PlayStation 4, Konami?

#1 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Let’s just start out with one of the best and goofiest songs in video game history, shall we? The instant I heard Snake Eater’s James Bond-ish theme song, I was all in. This was going to be a fantastic game. I was not disappointed and Snake Eater far exceeded my expectations.

I will have to mention that I played the Subsistence version of the game, which did allow more control of the camera and, to be frank, this is one of the reasons why I love playing the game. All previous entries had you playing on this top-down view, which isn’t bad. But after playing Snake Eater with full control over the camera, it was hard to go back! This made the game much more fun to play and the lack of the Soliton radar didn’t bother me one bit!

Snake Eater does more than just give you better camera angles. It adds so much new tweaks to the gameplay. There are different elevations in each area, making figuring out how to navigating the map without being detected more exciting. You can also equip different camo outfits, which affects your camo index. The higher your camo index, the more difficult it is for enemy soldiers to find you. The CQC combat system, while not super intricate, works extremely well and I love that you can counter attacks with a well-timed button press. You’ll have to get really good at this, especially during the final boss battle against The Boss.

In fact, all of the boss fights in Snake Eater are just brilliantly designed. There’s always a catch to how to beat them and, while it can be frustrating when I took them on the first time, there was always this “Aha!” moment when things would just click for me. My favorite has to be the battle against the sniper The End. Oh, you can take him out early with a well aimed shot early on or just wait for him to die of old age. But I prefer to take him out mano-a-mano!

As great as the gameplay is, it’s the story that keeps Snake Eater in the top of my ranking list. It’s the most intimate story between a protagonist and antagonist. The relationship between Naked Snake and The Boss is one of the best ones in all of media, not just video games. The entire story also feels like a self-contained adventure, requiring virtually no knowledge of the previous games as this is technically the very first event in the Metal Gear timeline.

If I were to nitpick, the only real issue is the attempt to make the fights more realistic when it comes to the Survival mechanic. Naked Snake can get a grievous injury when hurt. Whether it’s a broken bone or getting poisoned, you can’t recover the damage until you fix it. But the process is rather laborious and these injuries happen often, especially during boss fights. It does destroy the flow of the game. That’s my only issue with Snake Eater. It is still the best game in the Metal Gear saga in my opinion and one of the best games of all time.

What is your favorite game in the Metal Gear series? Let me know in the comments section below!

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