Best Metal Gear games ranked
Each of the Metal Gear games are memorable journeys designed to resonate with a player for a lifetime, and we’ve looked at each mainline game to rank them from worst to best.
The brainchild of legendary director and auteur Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear as a franchise is famous for producing games that feel ahead of their time due to innovative mechanics and fourth-wall-busting stories.
From dynamic boss fights to a deeper sense of control of your character’s movement and strategic abilities, MGS games have always been unfathomably deep and immersive – not to mention rich with complex, weaving narratives.
Each Metal Gear game has something that makes it unique and easy to differentiate from the rest, so without further ado, here’s every main Metal Gear game ranked until we get to the very best representation of tactical espionage action.
9. Metal Gear
It’s crazy to think that the franchise first began way back in 1987, but that was very much the case as the game hadn’t even added “Solid” to its name yet.
The more primitive NES and MSX2 title features some ideas and concepts that would go on to form the basis of nearly every other MGS game moving forward, namely, the Codec system and Alert model.
It should always be fondly remembered as the Big Boss of every other title that succeeded it, but Metal Gear is understandably the weakest game of the bunch.
8. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
Metal Gear 2 expanded upon its predecessor in almost every way — not only did it noticeably look sharper and better looking, but the gameplay is even more refined.
Enemy AI is far more intelligent with their patrol patterns and extra emphasis is placed on stealth and the ability to remain concealed.
Whereas the story is really beginning to take shape and sets the stage for future MGS games with a showdown between Solid Snake and Big Boss.
7. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes
Similar to how Metal Gear Solid 2 had a defined prologue in the Tanker before moving onto the main Tanker portion of the game, Kojima opted to split Metal Gear Solid V up into two different beasts.
Criticism was directed at Ground Zeroes over its length as Camp Omega is one big base that serves as the epicenter of the game’s main and side missions and was derided by many as a glorified tech demo.
Plus, long-time fan-favorite David Hayter is displaced from his role as Snake, and duties were handed over to 24 star Kiefer Sutherland.
But make no mistake, Ground Zeroes is an exciting appetizer as Metal Gear Solid’s debut on PS4 and Xbox One looks and handles like a dream, playing more responsively and technically than ever before.
6. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Peace Walker shared more in common with the likes of Portable Ops and Special Missions, but it still manages to incorporate plenty of new ideas to allow the game to more than hold its own as an individual standalone game.
Despite having to be condensed and stripped down in some respects due to the PSP’s limitations, Peace Walker is still a pretty sizable MGS entry. Not only is there a huge amount of content, but the narrative ramifications can be felt in in Metal Gear Solid V, too.
Due to the PSP’s mixed reception and underwhelming sales figures, commercial performance for Peace Walker wasn’t a patch on recent iterations in the franchise, leaving the game to be less heralded.
It shouldn’t be though, Peace Walker is a classic and got more recognition when it was released as part of the Metal Gear Solid Legacy Collection in 2013.
5. Metal Gear Solid
Presumably most players’ first steps into the crazy world of Metal Gear, the 1998 hit delivered a thrilling and explosive adventure that brought back many recognizable characters such as Solid Snake, Campbell, Gray Fox, and Colonel Miller.
The series’ signature boss fights were well and truly born here with an array of varied fights against now-iconic villains and the intense room-to-room tussles with genome soldiers are tension-filled and heart-poundingly exciting.
Some of the game’s movement and overall configurations haven’t aged well in 2022, but who cares when the novelty of Psycho Mantis’ mind-control techniques still supersede many modern ideas – we still remember the first time he moved our PS1 controllers with his ‘mind’.
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At the very least, a PS5 remake could bring the title back, adding modern gaming improvements like tighter controls and sharper visuals.
4. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
It feels dirty to put Metal Gear Solid 4 this low, but we’re now entering bonafide masterpiece territory and some of MGS4’s nuances compare unfavorably to our top three.
In short, the gameplay, sound design, graphics, character models, etc, are all absolutely exquisite and are practically faultless. Guns of the Patriots is a genuinely mindboggling proposition and such a vast and vivacious spectacle in a dark and depressing world, providing a perfect send-off to many of the franchise’s beloved characters.
But the game’s infamous cutscenes, as filmic and engrossing as they are, detract from the interactivity of the game and make the story even more complicated than it already is. If you don’t believe this to be the case, consider this — the final cutscene of Metal Gear Solid 4 is approximately 71 minutes long!
3. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The Phantom Pain is probably the most polished and perfect Metal Gear Solid experience ever created, at least from a gameplay perspective.
Set in the middle-east, The Phantom Pain brings back Peace Walker’s base-building system and Fulton extractions to deliver the most intricate MSG game to date.
The open world is a sheer delight and presents the most accessible MGS game to date to really allow you to feel like a secret operative with unlimited skills and potential. Furthermore, the gameplay is silkier than a beautifully woven spider’s web as Snake almost glides around the map.
Whilst The Phantom Pain avoids MGS4’s missteps by cutting down on the cutscenes, it was perhaps too great a turnaround. Kiefer Sunderland was great as Venom Snake, unfortunately, we hear very little from him during the game, and Konami controversially cut crucial end scenes and missions that would’ve explained the game’s confusing ending – due to disagreements that resulted in the untimely departure of Hideo Kojima.
2. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
A case could be made for either of our last two entries, but there is no disgrace in Sons of Liberty coming a close second, and it’s not even because of Raiden – we like him!
In the typical fashion we would become accustomed to over the years, MGS2 built on MGS1’s shortcomings and advanced many of its core fundamentals with enemy AI being a biggie. Enemies would now report in, meaning knocking one out or killing one could trigger a check-up, large teams could now be sent to lock down an area for a short while, and additional human and robot sentries heightened security and the claustrophobic nature of being hunted throughout the tanker section or Big Shell.
Add in the ability to shimmy along ledges, a better implemented first-person view, and a whole bunch of other features, and Metal Gear Solid 2 hits more than Revolver Ocelot.
Story revelations aside, Sons of Liberty’s narrative takes us on a supreme rollercoaster and showcases some of Metal Gear’s greatest, and most intriguing characters ever, while also providing us with an incredible bait-and-switch that’s now infamous.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
In short, the naturalistic elements of Snake Eater, the inception of CQC, and the diversity of the Soviet Union jungle just edge out MGS2’s Big Shell for our money – and it has the most fun bosses.
A tussle with an aging ‘The End’ boss reminds us why Metal Gear Solid should be in every conversation when “all-time greats” are discussed. We also love the camouflage cloak as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater embraces the elements to manipulate your own stealth capabilities, placing a lot of responsibility in the player’s hands.
The story of Solid, Liquid, and Solidus Snake is always fascinating, but getting to jump into the boots of Big Boss himself, years before we’d play Metal Gear Solid 5, is a dream come true. Learning about his past and his connections to the original Boss are heartwarming and the expertly crafted story culminates in a dramatic and poetic clash for the ages.
Snake Eater, in our eyes, is pound-for-pound the most consistent and well-rounded Metal Gear Solid experience in every facet of its creation and it feels like the game is a perfect assimilation of the wealth of knowledge that Hideo Kojima had gained to this point.
That wraps up our list and it’ll be interesting to see how much our list differed from yours. If you want to check out some more cool content, we have more fun features for you below:
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