Real Talk By: Knowledge
While I expect that many people over the past 30 years almost, have argued what is the best Metal Gear game, here is my take. My list is based on how each affected the gaming world, and myself with their releases.
The first Metal Gear to hit the brand new Playstation 2, Sons of Liberty featured what by today’s standards, might be just slightly better graphics, but back in 2001 this game looked amazing. The characters looked infinitely less pixilated and the movements seemed flawless. Equipped with an upgraded arsenal, Solid Snake (voiced by the all-time great David Hayter) was ready to take on another breathy and at times confusing storyline written out by the legend Hideo Kojima. This also marked the real introduction of Raiden to the Metal Gear series. Ripping the player away from Snake and forcing him to play as the love-stricken, albeit skilled soldier.
This game may seem like an odd choice, but Peace Walker really expanded on the idea of Portable Ops and refined it as well. The combination of story missions, mother base, and online was a great way for me to spend time in the car rides while I was borrowing my friend’s PSP for a lot longer than he ever should have let me. This time playing as Big Boss set in 1970, you’re tasked with taking down a group of fighters that have amassed enough firepower to rival some countries military forces. This also was the first mobile title for the series that was directed by Kojima himself so that’s a huge upgrade right away.
Easily the most visually striking Metal Gear game made to date, The Phantom Pain broke new ground with this open world release of Metal Gear. We are not including Ground Zeroes on this list because quite simply it should have been tagged a demo for V. While the game lacks a real Kojima story and for whatever reason the voice acting took a day off on this one, there is no denying that this installment provides hours of endless fun and endless possibilities to play and replay missions. I believe all the Metal Gear games have longevity when it comes to playing them again and again. However, this game has so many options that you may not even make it to the end of the game before you invest hundreds upon hundreds of hours into it. A graphic masterpiece that was also tinged with a pretty devastating and very publicized split with Konami and Kojima.
One of the most memorable boss fights ever, a musical score to rival John Williams, and yes you can eat snakes too. This game was, is simply amazing and I think would still hold up to today’s standards. Breaking the norm of the military base, metal and iron work setting, this game plunged you into the heart of the jungle and gave you the new camouflage system that you tried to stick so that enemy soldiers couldn’t spot you. At the time graphically I thought it could not be beaten, the voice acting, once again was on point, and the writing by Kojima is some of his best work. I remember not wanting to pull the trigger at the final boss fight with Big Boss, and letting the game sit for 10 minutes, hoping that there was another option, before realizing that I had no other choice. To this day, one of the greatest games ever made.
If ever there was a game that I could point to and say “this is the game that started it all for me”, this is it. Watching my brother do 2 full end to end playthroughs, pleading with my parents to buy me my own memory card (remember those??) so that he wouldn’t yell at me anymore for taking up his save space or accidentally playing over his. Sneaking through Shadow Moses for the first time. Battling the cyborg ninja wishing I could be him. Resisting torture at the hands of Revolver Ocelot and failing many times and developing muscles in my thumbs because of it. Trying to figure out how Psycho Mantis knew how to mess up my controller! This game set the standards of what great storytelling, gameplay, and graphics should be. I was too young at the time, being only 10 when the game was released, to really understand the story. But, as I got older and went back to play it before the next Metal Gear games were released I developed a deeper understanding and couldn’t help but marvel at the way the game played along with the story so well and really immersed the player into it. A revolutionary game and my all time favorite across any genre or platform.
Honorable Mention: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
The only reason this game doesn’t make my list of top 5 is because of the exceedingly long and somehow even more confusing cutscenes. The weapons arsenal was amazing and was one of my favorite things to mess around with while trying to figure out how in the world I could get through the thing without triggering any alerts. Still an amazing game and most memorably for the fact that it brought us full circle to where it all started. Seeing Shadow Moses in HD and still in ruins from our earlier work there was a true kick in the nostalgia pants and still one of my favorite experiences in video games.