Metal Gear Solid recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and the first 3D installment has had an incredible impact on the gaming industry. While the original 2D Metal Gear offerings from Konami were received well, nobody expected MGS to take gaming to a new cinematic level until it was released. It quickly became one of gaming’s biggest series despite how strange and complicated its story got over time. Due to this milestone, I wanted to take a look back at the entire series and rank the games from worst to best (although all of them are easily worth your time).
Metal Gear Games Ranked
Please note that only the nine main entries in the series have been ranked. Considering how popular Metal Gear is, the series has seen over 10 spin-offs ranging from robust action games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance to card games and this year’s Metal Gear Survive (which I’d argue is better than most people think). That is a conversation for another day, though, so I’ll stick to the canonical entries that were directed by Hideo Kojima for our Metal Gear games ranked list.
9. Metal Gear
While Metal Gear was impressive when it released in 1987, it hasn’t aged all that great in the past 30 years. In fact, it can feel somewhat archaic playing the MSX original. It relies too much on trial and error, and the story is shockingly simple considering what players expect out of the Metal Gear series now.
8. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
While the original Metal Gear was about betrayal, the sequel was a more complicated tale involving nuclear weapons. It was an upgrade on the original in every way as not the plot and gameplay both saw massive improvements. However, one element that hurts the original MSX games in retrospect is how much better Metal Gear: Ghost Babel for Game Boy Color was. It showcased how the series should ideally play in a 2D space, and it’s much harder to go back to the originals as a result.
7. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes
When Ground Zeroes released in late 2014, it really was a slice of stealth heaven. However, it was only a slice. Unless you dive into all of the side content (which players should since it is excellent), the main story will only take up a few hours of players’ time. If it wasn’t paired with the most satisfying gameplay of the series, it’d be nothing more than a disappointment, but the smaller release served its purpose as a prelude for The Phantom Pain the following year.
6. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
The structure of Peace Walker was a seismic shift for the series, but it actually makes a lot of sense in 2018. Kojima presented Monster Hunter-style quests for the players to go on, but instead of gathering ingredients or slaying monsters the objective was typically to infiltrate buildings or assassinate a key soldier. It’s a solid game that was built around the PSP’s limitations, but it’s one that isn’t as easy to return to since it was pretty much the prototype of Phantom Pain‘s structure.
5. Metal Gear Solid/The Twin Snakes
The first 3D entry in the series is fantastic no matter how you experience it and there’s not really one ideal way to go about it. Both the original PlayStation entry and the GameCube remake have their unique advantages and problems. The MGS2 additions to Twin Snakes were both a blessing and a curse as it makes the gameplay far more satisfying, but it also allows players to skate through some of the boss fights (namely the Ocelot Revolver encounter) with ease. Meanwhile, the PS1 original can be difficult to go back to due to how poorly its visuals have aged and how advanced the control schemes have gotten. It’s still a blast either way but some of the more annoying parts (such as having to backtrack a ton) can drag down the pacing and hurt the overall experience.
4. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Considering how Metal Gear Solid 2 ended with a shocking twist, most weren’t expecting for the series to go back in time to deal with a seemingly unrelated story (at first glance). However, Snake Eater is a fantastic prequel that is able to move the overall story forward by going backwards chronologically. Not only is it a fantastic spy story as a standalone tale, but it sets up the final chapter of the series perfectly. Some of the gameplay elements, such as the barebones survival aspects, haven’t aged all that well, but they don’t take away from it any.
3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Guns of the Patriots is the chronological ending to the main MGS series, and it’s truly best enjoyed when viewed through that lens. Not only is Solid Snake’s final chapter an emotional journey with constant callbacks to the past, but it’s paired with some of the most outlandish moments in the entire franchise. Everything from the action to the cutscenes have been turned to the max in MGS4, and only some underwhelming boss fights (namely the Beauty and the Beast unit) keep it from reaching its full potential.
2. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
When Sons of Liberty released in 2001, many of its themes of artificial intelligence and government corruption were thought of as outlandish and impossible. It only took 17 years for Metal Gear Solid 2 to stand out as one of the most forward thinking pieces of art ever produced within gaming. It’s truly Kojima’s best work from a writing standpoint, and the gameplay is far improved from the original. Plus, the shocking protagonist change after the opening segment remains one of the gutsiest moves in a AAA sequel.
1. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has been a divisive game within the community, largely since its open-world gameplay is such a drastic departure from the cutscene-heavy linear titles that preceded it. While some have complained about its perceived lack of story, there’s just as much lore packed into The Phantom Pain if you’re willing to listen to audio tapes and truly pay attention. It’s a game that is digested different from the rest of the series, but it’s utterly brilliant from the phenomenal stealth action to its genius twist ending that even reveals why the game is titled Metal Gear Solid V rather than “5.”