Metal Gear Solid is one of the best game series of all-time. A collection of convoluted plots, iconic story telling and generation leading graphics that have garnered both praise and alienation from gamers and critics alike.
While there are six main entries that hold the title Metal Gear Solid, spin-offs (Portable Ops, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance) or the stand-alone "Metal Gear" titles (such as the the NES releases) will also be included. The Substance and Subsistence re-releases for Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater are treated as the same games as the original releases of the game as is the prologue for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Ground Zeroes.
Not the Best Metal Gear Solid Games
Metal Gear Acid / Metal Gear Acid 2
One of these things is unlike the other. Most would agree that gameplay style and the grand storytelling are the staples of the Metal Gear series and what make it what it is. Metal Gear Acid shares neither of these. Metal Gear Acid's gameplay consists of turn-based tactics, using a trading card-based system to control the main character's movements and actions. That's hardly what you'd expect from Metal Gear. However, as far as turn-based card games go, Metal Gear Acid is pretty good.
Metal Gear was the first entry in the series. And for that it gets a ton of credit, but it was probably too ambitious for the NES. This was also in an era where a game like this was marketed (which in this case is the box art) as an action game. Stealth was hardly a genre at this time, and the frustration of trying to play this game in any other way was frustrating at best, game-breaking at worst. The original Metal Gear (and it's sequel below) were almost puzzle games compared to the actioners it was competing against. But, Metal Gear did pave the way for the rest of the series and brought a completely new style of gameplay to gamers at the time.
METAL GEAR SOLID: THE TWIN SNAKES
The Twin Snakes is a remake of the original Metal Gear Solid for GameCube. With upgraded graphics, cutscenes and gameplay mechanics, The Twin Snakes is a worthy update of Metal Gear Solid. The best addition is the updated cutscenes, bringing to life the action sequences, especially in regards to Cyborg Ninja. Gameplay has been tweaked to include first person aiming a la Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. And while it does a nice job showing off the improved graphics it also makes the game a whole lot easier. While not as groundbreaking in terms of any of its predecessors, The Twin Snakes is still a great playthrough that does nothing to harm the series, but neither does it expand upon it. It's one of the best remakes because it holds up over time versus it's predecessor for someone new to the series. The biggest reason this doesn't make the list is that technically, The Twin Snakes wasn't developed by Kojima. It's still great though and worth an honorable mention.
10th Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
An improvement over its predecessor in nearly every way, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake had better ideas than it had execution. This game perfected the systems that would later be perfected in Metal Gear Solid. The two-dimensional limitation was really its only fault, but it's hard to have seen the 3D and go back to 2D once it has been experienced. That's not Metal Gear 2's fault, but it hardly makes for a superior game. One thing Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake did excel at was storytelling. The backstory and fleshed out characters were something very rare on the NES and the series remains at the forefront of storytelling to this day.
9th Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid (Metal Gear: Ghost Babel)
Ghost Babel is a Gameboy Color game and was released after Metal Gear Solid came to the original PlayStation. It is a 2D game that fixes many of the criticisms of the NES era Metal Gear games because of the influence of the PS1 Metal Gear Solid. There are a lot of simple changes as well; the ability to move in eight directions (only four were available on the NES) and leaning up against walls with the ability to strafe on them. Essentially all of the stealth mechanics are improved tenfold. Ghost Babel also has simple but effective story that adds to the lore of Solid Snake and builds up his legend as a prequel to Metal Gear Solid.
8th Best Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops / Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Made for the PSP, Portable Ops has all the trappings you'd expect from a Metal Gear Solid game. A poor man's version of the PlayStation 2 entries, the gameplay is very effective, the voice acting is well done and the story, like some of the other "smaller" entries is simple and concise. The Portable Ops games are also significant for introducing several new gameplay mechanics with side missions in addition to the main missions, and also recruiting soldiers to help on your missions. It also marks the first time that missions are short themselves and aren't continuous level to level with breaks and a menu between them. Portable Ops was the blueprint for both Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
7th Best Metal Gear Solid
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
The main character of Revengeance, Raiden, has a rocky relationship with Metal Gear fans, but his appearence in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and this game, helped him to earn his respect. Revengeance is a straight hack and slash action game closer to God of War than any other game in the Metal Gear series, and it totally works. Metal Gear has always had its goofy moments and suspension of disbelief, and Revengeance raises that bar considerably. It's just fun and isn't afraid to make fun of itself and its main character. The gameplay is smooth, and the ability to slow down time and slice in any direction is more than just a gimmick, it is an important and original gameplay mechanic.
6th Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
Coming off of what really started the Metal Gear Solid franchise as we know it today, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty made a huge impression with its gameplay demo that was included with Zone of the Enders (Kojima's other project at the time). The demo had Snake infiltrating a large ocean freighter that had been taken over by a small faction of Russian troops. This was the best possible example of what Snake could do in his PlayStation 2 outing. After the game was released the surprise after the opening freighter scene was the introduction of a new character, Raiden. This didn't go over so well, but it didn't really influence the gameplay negatively. The plot is basically the same as that of the original Metal Gear Solid plus the beginning of one of the hallmarks of the series, convolution. This game may be at the bottom of the list, but that's more of a testament to the rest of the game's in the series, not a demerit against Sons of Liberty. The influence and spectacle Sons of Liberty provided was much more important than the quality of the game itself.
5th Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Guns of the Patriots continues the story from Sons of Liberty, and the convoluted plot along with it. What this game did bring were easily the best graphics at the time for any game and the best stealth gameplay mechanics of the generation (sorry Sam Fischer) as well. With the new control scheme, attacking was better than ever, making stealth less of a necessity and opening up the level design, eliminating the corridor design style of previous games.
Another feature that this game excelled in were overlong cutscenes. While some of these cutscenes have brilliant action choreography and art direction, some feel like filler. Even when the exposition given during the cutscenes is useful, it's never elevated and might as well have been a codec conversation like in past games.
4th Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Peace Walker on PSP could have easily been truncated due to hardware limitations, and it was partially. Fortunately, these limitations helped to breed new life into the franchise.
Because of the PSP's limitations combined with it being a portable on-the-go device, Peace Walker is broken up into smaller mission sizes each with specific objectives ranging from rescue, elimination or procurement. One of the most interesting aspects of the missions is that enemy soldiers can be procured and used for Snake's army. This brings to the series its first RPG elements. Soldiers have skills that can be used to improve Snake's gear and weapons in addition to being sent out on missions themselves for specific procurements. It adds an entirely new element to the Metal Gear formula that ends up being one of the best in the series. Despite the lack of a second analog, Peace Walker adopted similar controls to that of Guns of the Patriots. It's not always the most fluid since the face buttons are used to control aiming, bit it is still more organic than the auto-aiming in a single plain of the PS2 and PSOne entries. The remastered version of Peace Walker for the PS3 completely solves the control scheme due to the second analog stick. This is the version to play if you get a chance.
3rd Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Snake Eater was the first game to really shed light on Solid Snake's predesesor, Big Boss. Snake Eater is the first mission that helps to explain his dissent from hero to antagonist seen in the NES games.
Because Snake Eater takes place in the 1960s in the jungle of Southeastern Russia, gameplay is primarily about camouflage and survival rather than eliminating the threat. Threats still exist, but stealth is more important than ever. Manually adjusting your camouflage based on your environment can make Snake all but invisible to enemy soldiers. If Snake is found out and injured, escape and survival by eating animals (yes, like snakes) to replinish energy, helps to improve health. Even addressing your injuries with specific medical procedures to stop the bleeding, disinfecting a wound or resetting a bone need to be taken before health can be restored.
Acton is mostly encountered in boss encounters, which are the best in the series. Whereas the bosses of Sons of Liberty were mostly mimics of the original Metal Gear Solid, Snake Eater offers up much more variety including one fight that can last over an hour. As far as plot and characters go, Snake Eater is only out shown by the original Metal Gear Solid.
2nd Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The latest entry in the series is the best in terms of gameplay. There is nothing that "redefines the genre" but The Phantom Pain takes the best gameplay elements from all the other entries and perfects them in an entirely new playground.
You can play this game in literally any way you can think of; load up with armor and weapons, while calling in air strikes, or go with stealth with sneaky infiltration, hand to hand combat and silenced weapons only. Sometimes you try one, it all goes to hell and you've switched tactics mid-mission in order to pull it out.
The story has been truncated and with that the convoluted plot of the other games has been simplified, allowing gameplay to take precident. Seen by many as a flaw, it's damned if you don't, damned if you do. I prefer the simpler story and there are still enough well acted and beautifully choreographed cutscenes to satisfy most players.
The Best Metal Gear Solid Game
Metal Gear Solid
The first game I played in the series, and still the one I've played the most. It was an entirely new video game experience. The voice acting, the cinematic qualities in the gameplay, scene direction and the overall adult tone set this apart from all other releases at the time. The boss battles are rooted in traditional, previous generation styles with exceptional antagonist character development that personalizes each fight with motivations for both characters involved.
To be honest the gameplay feels antiquated now, but that's no reason not to go back and play it again. At the time, stealth was a relatively new genre, and it seemed strange not to engage enemies at all times. This was perceived as difficulty at the time, but as seen today, this influenced more than just a stealth/action genre, but is seen across all game types. Some aspects of the game have improved such as the story seeming far less convoluted in comparison to later games.
Metal Gear Solid is ultimately the success behind the series, and with it, and its sequels and their influence, the game industry is thriving today.