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Looking Back On 25 Years Of Metal Gear: Why MGS1 Is The Greatest In The Series

Posted on Monday, July 9 @ 15:00:00 PST by Alex_Osborn

There are a handful of moments that I would consider life-altering for me as a gamer. Playing through The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time takes the cake, with the runner-up being my experience with Pokémon Metal Gear Solid. I never got around to playing the original Metal Gear titles that released on MSX2 and NES, so forgive me for my ignorance on what came before the PlayStation classic. That said, my introduction to the Metal Gear universe was odd, as I never owned a PlayStation back in its heyday. You see, I was a Nintendo loyalist.

That all changed when my cousin urged me to play "some game" called Twin Snakes on GameCube. At the time, I had heard of Metal Gear, but since I didn't own a PlayStation console, I tuned out the MGS2 chatter at school. That all changed when I played Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, an updated remake of the PSone original. The game's cast of compelling characters and engrossingalbeit zanyplot had me hooked from beginning to end like no game before.

Naturally, I wanted to experience the game in its original "pure" form, so when I saved up enough money to buy a PS2, I bought a copy of the original MGS along with MGS2 off a friend for $10. Let's just say it was the best ten bucks I ever spent. After breezing through both games, I couldn't wait for the third installment, as I scanned every gaming magazine I could get my hands on for any juicy details. When the game finally released and I got to experience the prequel tale from the eyes of Big Boss, I was hardly disappointed. And then several years later there was Metal Gear Solid 4, a game that brought everything together and ended Snake's story in a more satisfying way than I could have ever imagined.

So here we are, some 25 years after the dawn of one of the most beloved video game series of all-time, and I can't help but look back on MGS1 with fonder memories than all of the others. Perhaps it's because it was my introduction to this wonderful franchise or maybe it's truly the best of the bunch. While it's likely a mix of both, I believe it's primarily the latter, as some of the hallmark moments of the PSone classic simply cannot be topped.

Up until this point, I've been spoiler-sensitive, but here I will be getting into specifics of each of the four major titles, so consider yourself warned. Also, please note that I will not be discussing the portable titles for the sake of brevity, so if you've got something you'll like to add about Peace Walker, feel free to do so in the comments below. 

Let's start with MGS4 and work our way backwards. While many complain about the super-long cutscenes, I can't seem to get enough of them, and Kojima went all-out in the fourth installment. I must confess, I play MGS primarily for the story, so the more I get to sit back and watch the characters, the better. At the same time, however, this is also a huge weakness of the game. In a generation where developers are striving to convey story through gameplay instead of text, the "stop and watch a cutscene" routinewhile still very awesome—feels dated.

In addition, Old Snake's tale was unfortunately bogged down by all of the mysteries from the games that preceded it. In an effort to tie up all of the loose ends created in prior games, MGS4 felt more like a bookend than an actual story with its own identity. That said, the game served up a fantastic conclusion with callbacks to the prior titles and even a revisit back to the iconic Shadow Moses Island. The game is filled with so many memorable moments, not the least of which was Snake's crawl through the microwave tunnel. Truly epic.

All right, now let's jump all the way back to the days of Big Boss and MGS3. This third installment ranks number one in the hearts of many Metal Gear fans, and I can understand why. With a wide open jungle to explore, new exciting gameplay mechanics, and a host of incredible boss battles, there is a lot to love about this game. Seeing iconic characters like Ocelot in his youth was absolutely priceless and living out the origin story of Big Boss was truly amazing.

All things considered, however, the story was not quite at the same level as that of the original Metal Gear Solid. And what would a recap of Snake Eater be if I didn't mention the battle of patience with The End or the eerie trek past all of the ghosts of the soldiers you killed throughout the course of the game during your confrontation with The Sorrow. Those two battles alone make this game one of the greatest created.

Love him or hate him, Raiden was a huge part of Metal Gear Solid 2, undoubtedly the most polarizing game in the series. Befuddled with all sorts of ridiculous plot twists, a fat dude on roller blades, and the noticeable absence of Solid Snake, MGS2 received its fair share of criticism.

But amongst it all, this second installment was still an amazing game, especially considering the graphical leap thanks to the hardware of the PlayStation 2. In many ways Sons of Liberty laid much of the groundwork that was seen in the later titles. We take the ability to aim and shoot from a first-person perspective for granted now, but back then it was a major step forward.

And finally, the cream of the crop, the adventure that started it all (for me, at least) Metal Gear Solid. I've got to say, I was blown away the first time I played this game on a number of levels. First off, the bosseswhile some of them may not stand up to the likes of what we saw in MGS3, you'd be hard-pressed to find a boss fight quite as memorable as Psycho Mantis. Not only does the game read your memory card to create the illusion that the psychic foe is reading your mind, but you actually have to switch controller ports in order to beat him. Oh yeah, and how about when the screen turned black and all it said in bright green letters was Hideo? Priceless.

I could go on about the long-range battle with Sniper Wolf or the hand-to-hand fight with Liquid atop Metal Gear Rex, but I'm sure all of these moments are well-embedded in your memory as well. I rarely replay games, but in the case of Metal Gear Solid I've been through it several times. Getting to relive that first meet-up with Otacon after traversing the bloodied halls left in Gray Fox's wake or spamming the circle button to withstand Ocelot's torture makes replaying this game a pure joysomething I can't say about most other games.

Now if you'd be so kind as to excuse me, I'm off to continue my Metal Gear marathon. I'm just a few hours into Sons of Liberty.

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