The Metal Gear franchise is iconic in more ways than one. Its innovative stealth gameplay spawned a genre of its own, and the franchise’s gripping storylines and fascinating cast of characters moved the artform forward in powerful ways.
Today, we’ll rank the top 10 Metal Gear games based on factors such as gameplay, story, graphics, and overall impact on the franchise and gaming industry. Whether you’re a long-time fan or new to the series, this list will provide an in-depth look at the best games in the Metal Gear franchise. So, sit back, grab a box of rations, and let’s get started.
10 – Metal Gear (1987)
The first entry in the series was directed, designed, and co-written by industry giant Hideo Kojima. It was released in 1987 for the MSX2 home computer, and later ported to other platforms such as the Nintendo Entertainment System.
It introduced the gamers to special forces operative Solid Snake, the now-legendary stealth-based gameplay, and the bipedal tank called Metal Gear. It received positive reviews from critics and was commercially successful, selling over one million copies worldwide. Today, it is revered as one of the founding fathers of the stealth-action genre, and all of gaming.
9 – Metal Gear Solid: Snake’s Revenge (1990)
A fascinating slice of early-gaming history is Metal Gear Solid: Snake’s Revenge. The game was created and released in 1990 for the Nintendo Entertainment System without any input from series creator Hideo Kojima. Created for the American audience, Snake’s Revenge was meant to cash-in on the success of the Metal Gear port a few months earlier.
It’s a non-canonical sequel to the OG Metal Gear, and despite its tumultuous reputation, it introduced a lot of people to the game and genre. It’s far from the best game in the series, but the invention of the two-level alert system did move the franchise forward.
8 – Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance (2013)
A departure from the traditional stealth-based gameplay, Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance focused instead on fast-paced action and sword-based combat. In the popular spin-off, players control Raiden, a cyborg ninja and former child soldier. Highlighting a long list of gameplay innovations is “blade mode”, a unique element that allows players to slow down time and precisely cut through enemies.
The game was developed by PlatinumGames and produced by Kojima Productions in 2013. It was released on multiple platforms, including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC. It was met by mixed reviews, but the game’s reputation continues to evolve. It enjoyed a second life in the Spring of 2022, and gamers continue to revisit and find new things to enjoy about the strange spin-off.
7- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops is still looked back on with fondness to this day. Released in 2006 for Sony’s Playstation Portable, the spin-off game is set six years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. Set in 70’s South America, the game fills in a number of sizable story gaps and controls remarkably well.
There is some debate whether or not the unique story should be considered canon. Canon or not, Portable Ops is widely regarded as one of the best games ever released on the PSP, and holds up quite well. It might not be the game we recommend you start with, but it’s a fun experience and one that’s definitely worth exploring.
6 – Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
A direct sequel to Metal Gear Solid 1, Sons of Liberty was a resounding success on release. It was reviewed well and sold a lot of copies the world over. Metal Gear Solid 2 marked the fourth game written, directed, and produced by Hideo Kojima, and the first one featuring the controversial protagonist Raiden.
The game introduced a ton of new gameplay mechanics, including first-person aiming, silent walking, and the ability to distract guards by throwing objects. It was one of the best selling games of the Playstation 2 console generation and remains a must-play for fans of the franchise.
5 – Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
Peace Walker is yet another spin-off story that defined Sony’s Playstation Portable. The game takes place just four years after the events of Portable Ops, this time in Costa Rica. IGN gave it a 9.5 on release, and it’s discussed with fondness to this day. It’s available today on most modern consoles via the Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection, and we’re sure you’ll love it.
It’s a dense experience, with a roughly 17-hour mainline campaign and hundreds of hours of fun available via the Extra Ops and Outer Ops game modes. It was an ambitious undertaking, and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker delivered on all fronts. The fact that it’s only number 5 on our list has more to say about the quality of the franchise than the quality of this game in particular.
4 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
The release of Phantom Pain was bittersweet. The game is a spectacular achievement, and one of the most commercially successful for all involved. Metal Gear Solid V did however mark the departure of MGS series visionary Hideo Kojima, who parted ways with Konami shortly after the release of the game.
The ninth installment in the Metal Gear universe, The Phantom Pain is set in 1984 and sees Snake sneak his way through Soviet-occupied Afghanistan and parts of Africa. Its open-world style is a first for the Metal Gear franchise. It’s also the first time fans of the series have ever seen dynamic weather, vehicles, and the e-cigar.
3 – Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
In Guns of the Patriots, gamers take control of what’s come to be known as Old Snake, in a mainline sequel that picks up 5 years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 2. Though it does take a few hits for its exceptionally complex storylines and its reliance on long cut scenes, Metal Gear Solid 4 is widely considered one of the best of the PS3 generation.
It won countless awards, sold millions of copies, and caused a surge in sales of the Playstation 3. The game introduced a new form of camouflage called “OctoCamo,” and the now iconic “threat ring” alert mechanic to the series. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is a generational masterpiece, and a bonafide must-play for anyone interested in the series.
2 – Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
This Playstation 2 classic is considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time. The fifth in the series written and directed by Hideo Kojima, Metal Gear Solid 3 continues to be celebrated in gaming communities for its down to basics gameplay, inventive mechanics, and unforgettable plot line.
Snake Eater is a prequel to the OG Metal Gear. It’s set in the Soviet Union circa 1964, with rugged and dense outdoor environments. MGS3 was the first in the series to feature camouflage, close quarters combat, and a stamina gauge. It also featured some of the most memorable characters in the whole series including Naked Snake, Colonel Volgin, and The Boss.
1 – Metal Gear Solid (1998)
It’s impossible to overstate the significance of Metal Gear Solid. It was the first game to feature engine-generated cutscenes. It was fully voice acted. It birthed an entire genre! So many of the mechanics gamers take for granted today first appeared in this game in 1998 on the original PlayStation.
The game sees Solid Snake infiltrate a nuclear weapons facility to liberate hostages, subdue terrorists, and prevent a catastrophic doomsday scenario from unfolding. It was one of the most rented games of all time, back when renting games was a thing. It’s sold well over 6-million copies worldwide, and has been repackaged and rereleased a number of times. There are even rumors that a full-scale remake of Metal Gear Solid could hit the PlayStation 5 consoles soon.
A Class of Its Own
The Metal Gear franchise has produced some of the greatest games in history. The franchise’s monumental contribution to the gaming art form has cemented Snake’s place amongst other industry giants like Mario, Master Chief, and Link.
Whether you’re a long-time fan or just getting into the series, the Metal Gear universe is always worth exploring. So, grab your controller, equip your sneaking suit, and get ready to experience the best of the Metal Gear franchise. And who knows, you may just discover a new favorite game along the way.