Ranking the top 10 best Metal Gear games

A virtuous mission.

It’s been a decade since the sublime Metal Gear Solid HD Collection was released, a triple dose of remastered stealth action preceding Kojima’s fifth main entry in the series before parting ways with Japanese publisher, Konami.

Bathed in nostalgia, we often find ourselves looking back at this landmark series. Now, with rumours of Metal Gear Solid being outsourced to other game developers, it got me thinking about my favourite games in the series and how they’d rank in a top 10 list…

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10: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake | 1990

I remember playing Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake when I was only ten years old. At the time, I had no idea what kind of beast the Metal Gear series would eventually turn into. Even though MGS wouldn’t gain notoriety for another eight years, Metal Gear 2 played a crucial role in shaping Konami’s stealth action series, as he created the game as a kind of rebuttal to Snake’s Revenge: Metal Gear 2 that had been produced without his involvement. While not being amazing by today’s standards, it’s still fun to see the roots of Kojima’s genius/madness.

9: Metal Gear Acid 2 | 2005

After a string of superb releases, Acid 2 (stylised as “AC!D 2” – classic Kojima!) was a strangely wonderful diversion from the mainline MGS formula. I’ve always been a sucker for deck building games so, as an MGS die-hard, I just couldn’t say no. Featuring over 500 cards, Acid 2 saw you take control of a Snake clone in a beautifully mad, cel-shaded, turn based strategy game which was non-canonical. Acid 2 also did Google Goggles before it was a thing, shipping the game with the Solid Eye – a peripheral that slid over your PSP, letting you play the game in 3D! The series always felt ahead of its time and it was evident here. Sadly, it never got another entry afterwards. Still, it was fun while it lasted.

Small piece of trivia: AC!D stands for Active Command Intelligence Duel!

8: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker | 2010

After MGS3, players were hankering for more Big Boss adventures, Peace Walker fleshing out his backstory wonderfully. Going back to the series’ trademark brand of stealth action, Peace Walker was all about establishing your own army and really put you in the shoes of the future Big Boss, a title he wouldn’t accept until the game’s end. Missions could be tackled in co-op with friends, and there was a massive focus on building up your Mother Base, recruiting loyal soldiers, medics and researchers to get you the best army and weapons a Boss could ask for. Without doubt one of the best PSP games ever released, Kojima was able to push the portable console to its limit.

7: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots | 2008

MGS4 was an odd but charming end to the Solid Snake saga which spanned a whopping 52 years! By this point, you either understood the plot, or just accepted the madness for what it was. While not the last MGS, it certainly tied up some loose ends, made some characters cool (looking at you Raiden), and made many cry as those final credits began to roll. MGS4 was also loaded with fan service, taking any opportunity it could to reference the old games, from fights with Crying Wolf in a snowy field to a Metal Gear-off at Shadow Moses. A cracking send off, for sure.

6: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain | 2015

Back in 2012, Kojima pulled a fast one, teasing us with the fictional Moby Dick Studios’ ‘The Phantom Pain,’ before revealing it to be MGSV. Despite technically being unfinished and mired in controversy, MGSV easily boasts the most refined gameplay and mechanics the popular franchise has to offer. Mechanically, it was excellent, combining some of the best elements of the series with vast open world maps and Peace Walker’s soldier recruitment system. It mainly served to fill some gaps in the MGS story, telling the tale of where Big Boss went, leading up to his move to Outer Heaven and how he survived the events of Snake’s Revenge.

5: Metal Gear Solid | 1998

Metal Gear Solid was the one that started the craze, popularising the stealth genre while bringing Kojima’s name to the forefront as an almost auteur-like figure in game development. It pushed the PS1 to its limit with incredible graphics, unique stealth action gameplay and clever ways of breaking the fourth wall – Psycho Mantis of course providing some excellent moments, with him reading your memory card to tell you what games you’ve been playing, and having to swap your controller over to the second port so he couldn’t read your movements. Very clever stuff. Metal Gear Solid remains a stone cold classic and one of the most influential games of all time.

4: Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes | 2004

Before you all go getting in a huff, hear me out. While not the original, which most would consider the best, Twin Snakes did a damn fine job of updating Metal Gear Solid for the Nintendo GameCube, in the style of its 2001 sequel. The version of the game was bolstered by shiny new graphics and some zany set pieces, provided by Japanese filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura. For me, the sheer intensity of these new cutscenes was its major selling point. All of a sudden, Snake was making Matrix moves, dodging bullets, and stepping on missiles while the bad guys were having just as much fun, dramatically presenting themselves in spectacular fashion.

3: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty | 2001

The MGS2 tech demo was enough to get me excited, on its own. More of Snake, incredible graphics and shooting melons! Little did people know what kind of trickster Kojima was, lulling us into a false sense of security before pulling the Snake rug from under us, revealing Raiden to the world. A new protagonist? Gah, the people shouted. I tell you what though, it still made for a very good story, seeing Snake through the eyes of another, somewhat hated at the time, protagonist. And, lest we forget, this is where things started to go nuts, with dead presidents and diabolical simulations which wouldn’t really be understood for some time, until later entries in the series came along. Still, MGS2 provided some incredible intrigue, great set pieces, and was an excellent sequel all round.

2: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance | 2013

I could have just screamed ‘RULES OF NATURE’ over and over again for this entry, but that wouldn’t do it justice. Despite its troubled development, Revengeance turned out to be pretty spectacular. In a huge departure from the series’ stealth action roots, we once again take on the role of Raiden (who is now cool) to slice our way through hordes of enemies and take down a corrupt senator. With the series technically being over, it was a great way to see more of the wider MGS universe and not tread the same old ground. Stealth belonged to Snake and slicing up bad peeps was definitely Raiden’s domain. Also… NANO MACHINES, SON. If you know, you know.

1: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater | 2004

Here it is. Snake Eater, not only the best MGS title, but one of the best games of all time. You’ve seen the villain, Big Boss, but what was he like before turning bad? Well, he was just John soldier-man, sent on a mission to the Soviet Union during the Cold War before being savagely betrayed by those closest to him, including his mentor. Snake Eater was a stunning tale with astonishingly good boss fights and some truly standout moments which gave massive context to some of the series regulars. Plus, the final confrontation… no, the entire end of the game brought me to tears. Simply perfection. To top it off, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence would refine the sequel even further while introducing the beloved Metal Gear Online.

So there you go, my top 10 Metal Gear Solid games ranked. But what would I know, at least when compared to one Mr. David Hayter. We asked Solid Snake himself what his favourite entry in the series is:

Well, I truly love MGS and MGS4. I enjoy 2, though it’s a little tough to understand. But for a sheer, cinematic experience, I would have to say that Snake Eater is my favourite.

There you have it folks, if both Solid Snake and myself are saying Snake Eater is the best one, it must be true!

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Written by
Consummate professional, lover of video games and all-round hero that can be found doing a podcast, writing about games and also making videos. Oh, I have saved the world 87 times and once hugged Danny Trejo. You're welcome.

9 Comments

  1. Nano-machines FTW

  2. Lol, nano machines. Great article, I real surprise too, I wasn’t expediting MGS to get a mention any time soon! I’d personally ditch Phantom Pain from the list, the ultimately empty similarities to Peace Walker and lack of development of Paz and Chico’s involvement in Ground Zeroes were huge disappointments. I’d put GZ in 5th position, then 3, Peace Walker, MGS and in top spot for me is the bonkers number 4. Punching the living hell out of Liquid Ocelot with microwave-corridor induced screaming arm craps on Big Boss difficulty was the highlight of my PS3 ownership!

  3. For me, MGS2 is the best game in the series. Its scary how many of its suggestive themes such as fake news, meaningful news, social media are true today and how relevant the game actually is. Both sections of the game are tight masterfully designed with excellent enemy A.I, soundtrack and sharp framerate. MGS2 ran at 60 fps on PS2 whereas Snake Eater didn’t (presumably because of the transition to non-linear levels).

    The voice acting is great and the Russian soldiers actually have Russian accents something which is oddly missing in MGS3. MGS1-4 are all masterpieces and any one of them could be rightfully proclaimed the best of the bunch.

  4. Clearly wrong, 4 is the best.

  5. I think MGS3 is one of few perfect games, but I wouldn’t disagree with your other ordering. Though I’m very glad to celebrate Metal Gear with this article and discussion! That’s awesome that you got David Hayter to contribute – he knows more about his own series than most voice actors!

  6. I was playing Peace Walker last month, still great fun. 2, 3 and 4 are all fantastic of course. Not replayed the original in a long time. I wonder if they will ever remaster it. Got to love the story telling in MGS3, definitely a solid choice.

  7. Portable Ops would have been up there for me. Gave us our first taste of the army-building/recruitment stuff that carried into Peace Walker and MGSV later. Was one of the first multiplayer games I’d play obsessively.

    Number one for me has to be the OG Metal Gear Solid. Revengeance doesn’t even make my top 10.

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