We were initially going to give a long explanation as to what games qualify for this list. After all, there've been many additions to the series over more than a quarter of a century. But we'd prefer to keep it simple: We're rating Metal Gear Solids 1-5. No handheld titles. No non-canon editions. No Revengeance. Or cash-in retreads. Just the core five.
That's the easiest way to put it.
After the series debuted on both the PS4 and Xbox One last month with Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes we figured we had a nice round number to work with for the AAA franchise. This series is the brainchild of legendary director Hideo Kojima meaning that it's as enticing as it is overproduced. While some MGS diehards embrace the outlandish plots the games have become known for, the rest of us sit through the outrageously long movies (paying just enough attention) because the gameplay itself is so enticing. Whichever camp you fit into, both sides fuse together to make up the fan base of one of gamings better series'.
So without further adieu let the ranking and subsequent comment section anger commence, here's the Metal Gear Solids ordered from 5 to 1:
5. Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014)
Well, this is anti-climactic, but it's fifth. Five out of five. There goes our tease. And while some of you might find it unfair to rank what is essentially a prologue, we call it fair-game since it got a standalone release (albeit at a reduced price).
The problem with Ground Zeroes is the length. It's really that simple. Think back to the tanker that introduced you to Sons of Liberty and you'll know what to expect. That being said, the undeniable takeaway from the latest entry is that the foundation is there. With a fully-fleshed title there's a lot to build upon. It'll be very interesting to see what Kojima and Co. do with Phantom Pain when it's released this fall whenever they damn well feel like it. Sneaking into GZ's black site is intense and it's as close as you can get to battlefield tension without enlisting. It's an open window into what Hideo Kojima wants to do with technology that's Skynet compared to what he worked with in the eighties. We're not guaranteeing that Phantom Pain will be the greatest MGS ever. That's a check that isn't ours to cash. But we are saying your nipples should be hard in anticipation of the possibility.
4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
Raiden has been discussed, filleted, and eventually accepted in ninja-form over the course of the past decade. The hatred for him as a protagonist was very real, and many of us here shared in that detestation. Every time we opted to save our Sons of Liberty we got a long, obnoxious, whiny diatribe about the situation at hand. Eventually we wanted his girlfriend/co-worker Rose to just say "Hey, could you maybe like shut the fuck up?" But the reality was that she was equally repugnant.
Raiden wasn't the only detriment to the PS2's debut MGS. We can accept guiding an abhorrent main character. We looked past Squall in Final Fantasy VIII, we proved we can put up with a douche.
No, instead problem No. 2 was the plot. C'mon Kojima...c'mon with your plots. MGS2 is so convoluted that we have trouble recollecting without a headache. As teenagers...forget it. We might as well have been translating an ancient Greek poem to Arabic. Onlookers must've thought we had lice with the amount of constant head scratches before chipping in with their own two cents of "This game doesn't make any sense at all." At times it was hard to argue.
But all plots in MGS's are pretty goofy. That's part of their charm. Many fans of the series like that. Okay.
But then there's still more reasons that MGS2 doesn't enter the elite (top three). Big Shell was dull. Compared to every other MGS setting it was dull. It was like watching the Premier League and then following it up with the Australian Open. The snow storm from the first game is replaced by vast ocean. The biggest environmental hazard is seagull dumps.
Combine that with bosses who were similarly mundane (minus Fatman, he was great) and you have a recipe for a game that failed to meet our, admittedly, high expectations. Coming in the same fall season as Grand Theft Auto 3 just made MGS2 feel like it was stuck in the past. Rockstar's crime epic was the hit of '01 and perhaps it blindsided Kojima and his fellow game creators with sheer innovation. Everyone should be afforded a slip-up and Raiden's inclusion showed us that Kojima was willing to take risks that others in the industry would not. That's an admirable trait, but it still doesn't mean we had to love this offering.
3. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
You want risks being waged? Guns of the Patriots gave us a chance to play as Solid Snake for the first time in a decade. The twist? He basically resembled our dads. The mulleted badass we knew was now a geriatric, complete with a gray cumcatcher and an occasional wince due to back pain. While his contemporaries were playing 'Bingo' in the old folks home he was still on the battlefield fighting the good fight. Off the top of our heads we can't recall a senior citizen as our video game leading man.
Guns of the Patriots is where we enter the elite. Not only is it the third best MGS but it could very easily jump into the Top 10 25 of all video games, period. Why? Well, for starters they nailed the camera without a remake. After doling out extra Lincolns, it was appreciated. The top down view we know and hated was gone. We now had the ability to see more than ten feet ahead of us which, as we understand, is very useful in armed combat.
Additionally, we loved the level variety. Instead of spending the entire game in the same environment, we got a sampling of five different acts ranging from desert, to jungle, to urban areas. We intentionally left out a very glaring omission because we have to highlight the fact that returning to Shadow Moses is, without hyperbole, the coolest moment in the Metal Gear saga. Truly awesome. Never has a game made us experience aging (simultaneously with nostalgia) better than when we paced over the snow-packed horizon to reveal the heliport as "The Best is Yet to Come," began to play. It's been ten real life years since we played the original on our Playstations and like Snake we haven't aged gracefully either. Never have we identified with a video game character more, which made us thankful that he chickened out of suicide at the end of the game.
Oh, oops spoilers.
2. Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Absolutely revolutionary for it's time, Metal Gear Solid reeled us in. It's unfortunate that the game hasn't aged well. Lining up shots. Top down views. The inability to shoot from first-person. The limited stealth moves. The fact that it's about three hours long when you 'X' through videos. Kids who buy this on PSN will never understand.
At the end of the nineties we could not have cared less, because the game was head and shoulders above it's competition and basically created a genre where you didn't need to kill 20,000 enemies to beat the game.
In retrospect, we even appreciate the plot more due to it's simplicity. Go to Alaska. Beat the shit out of your brother. Save the world. Got it. The idea of infiltrating a remote base in a blizzard with so many concurrent events is intense. You got an invisible ninja, a bodybuilding shaman, a maniacal twin, a sniper, a cocky revolver-wielding veteran, a psychopath with psychic powers and things are about to come to a head in this desolate piece of earth. Now go save the world.
The game jumps from event to event, boss to boss, with the trademark stealth in-between. Messing with the dopey genome soldiers is another highlight that was non-existent before Hideo Kojima put the series on the map with this entry. The only awkward part was explaining to Meryl why she had to die because you weren't capable of pressing 'O' fast enough. Well that, or you could tell her you just wanted the stealth camo.
1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
After the relative disappointment of MGS2, it was interesting to see where Kojima would go. Was Metal Gear Solid just a one-hit wonder? Was he incapable of tapping into the PS2’s power? Was he going to make us play as an obnoxious whiner who rambled for hours on codec about stupid crap?
In November 2004 those questions were answered. Not only was Snake Eater (by far) the best game in the series, but the game seemed to stretch the limits of what Sony’s second console was capable of. The graphics were sharp and made you wonder if that years GTA: San Andreas was using the same console.
Besides enjoying the relative openness of Snake Eater's wilderness (no more of Big Shell's corridors) it was also great to meet, and then kill, bosses who had charisma. Through it all you explore miles of virtual terrain, caves, military bases and eat crocodiles.
At the end, stealth gets tossed out the window, and you get chased by a deranged colonel in an experimental super weapon. It's just another example about how the series throws new gameplay mechanics at you throughout the game. After that, it's time to cap your mentor, and begin your dissent into "madness."
The entire journey is outstanding and the decision to go with a prequel turned out to be an excellent choice. Many waited years to control Solid Snake again, but the option to play as his poppa: Big Boss while exploring the Cold War was the right choice in the end. That's why Hideo Kojima makes the decisions. And thus, after seeing Big Boss's growth as a solider, and the shifting of his philosophy, you can truly understand the saga and how future clones intended to be near-supermen were chosen to come from Big Boss's penis over all the other penises in the world.