Hideo Kojima guided the Metal Gear franchise from its inception in 1987 until 2015's Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. While the game designer departed with publisher Konami under bad circumstances, he has since released the incredibly unique Death Stranding, proving that he is not done sharing his art with the world.
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Even if The Phantom Pain was the last thing he did, the Metal Gear series has created an eternal legacy within the medium. The game's story spans six different decades. It can be hard to keep track of the Metal Gear chronology, so this list should clear up any confusion.
Updated on June 28, 2023, by David Heath: The Metal Gear series has received a shot in the arm at the time of this writing. Metal Gear Solids 1, 2, and 3 are receiving a fresh release on modern consoles as the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Vol.1, with plans for a Volume 2 on the way. Biggest of all, MGS3 will be remade for the PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC as Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater. It looks promising, though there's still room for trepidation, given this is all without Kojima at the helm. There have been games made in the series without his direct supervision, but as the series' creator and prime driving force, it's hard to imagine what the games going ahead will be like without him. But why is Konami going with MGS3 for its first remake? Aside from it being regarded as the best in the series, it's also the first canon game in the MGS Timeline.
- Available on PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita, then PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC via MGS MC Vol.1
This is the game that planted the seeds for the overarching conflict between the major characters. Funnily enough, fans did not realize its importance in the canon upon release. Fans could infer the Boss' major role in the series, given who her protégé would become. But Major Zero, Para-Medic, and SIGINT felt rather innocent compared to who they'd be revealed to be in Metal Gear Solid 4 in 2008.
Despite being the third numbered entry, Metal Gear Solid 3 works well as a standalone title since it precedes every other game. The PS3/360 port sacrifices the original PS2 bonus features for pristine HD graphics running at a smooth 60 frames per second. It's this port that's due to appear in the MGS Master Collection. The Nintendo 3DS version also utilizes the handheld's gimmick for some 3D fun.
18 1970: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (Released In 2006)
- Available On PSP
This portable spin-off is somewhat canon, as it's referenced in later games but only tangentially. It details how Big Boss and a young Roy Campbell team up to stop the FOX Unit, and eventually lead the way to its replacement in FOXHOUND. It's also the chronological debut of Grey Fox, who'd later become MGS1's Cyborg Ninja.
The gameplay introduces many elements later titles like Peace Walker would expand upon, like recruiting enemy guards to Boss' side. Unfortunately, Portable Ops was never brought to consoles, so a PSP is needed if one wishes to jump back into this title. That is, if it doesn't end up on the Master Collection Vol.2.
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- Available on PSP, PS3, and Xbox 360
The events of Peace Walker lead directly into Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain. While it was originally released on the PSP, it found a wider audience via the HD Collection on PS3 & 360. This game shows how Big Boss began to oppose Major Zero over their ways of creating the Boss' world without borders. The former wants to do it by turning everyone into weapons, and the latter aims to do it by controlling every weapon.
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Taking place in Costa Rica, most of the plot deals with colonialism and the Cold War. The game is rated T, so it is not as violent as other entries (e.g. Big Boss' knife is replaced with a stun rod), but the story still hits hard and takes dark turns. While the game was made with the PSP in mind, it plays excellently (if not better) on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Here's hoping it'll get a re-release someday.
16 1975: Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes (Released In 2014)
- Available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC
In retrospect, Ground Zeroes existing as a separate release from The Phantom Pain is seen as one of the first signs of Konami's meddling. It's said it was always intended to be part of the full MGS5 package, as it shows how Big Boss went from trying to rescue his comrades from Peace Walker to being a comatose shell in Phantom Pain. But it was separated to recoup the funds invested in its production.
As such, it became more of a very pricey demo for Phantom Pain. The main story mission took about an hour to beat, and less so for veteran players. But it came with plenty of extras, like the quirky Déjà Vu and Jamais Vu missions. Nowadays, it can be found for much cheaper prices, often packaged with Phantom Pain as MGS5: The Definitive Experience.
- Available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC
The black sheep of the MGS series is the first chronological alternate timeline. Metal Gear Survive is a zombie survival game following a group of soldiers from Mother Base who are somehow sucked into another dimension after Skull Face attacks it at the end of Ground Zeroes. It adds nothing to the story, is clearly not canon, and Hideo Kojima was not involved in the production in the slightest.
A lot of negativity followed it leading up to its release, namely Kojima's departure and the allegations over how Konami treated its staff. The actual game did nothing to change that as it was basically just MGS5 with shoehorned-in crafting, hunger and thirst mechanics, and price-gouging. That and, as absurd as Metal Gear gets, fighting zombies in another dimension was a step too far. It wasn't Metal Gear at that point, but a trend-chasing cash-grab.
14 1984: Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (Released In 2015)
- Available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC
Had the Phantom Pain been given the development time to do all it set out to do, the series would have finally come full circle, connecting the prequel games to the original Metal Gear. Instead, thanks to the strained relationship between Kojima and Konami, the final game was left missing some key ingredients. For example, Kojima hinted players could return to GZ's Camp Omega, which they can't. Many of the Side Ops are repeated because the dev team didn't have time to make original ones on par with Peace Walker.
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Then, most notoriously of all, the "Kingdom of the Flies" mission, which saw Venom Snake and Eli's arcs get wrapped up, was never finished, reduced to a work-in-progress extra on special editions of the game. Still, the story had some good ideas, and the gameplay was top-notch. If only it had a Director's Cut edition like Death Stranding to close off those missing plot threads.
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- Available on MSX 2, NES, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, Mobile, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, then PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC via MGS MC Vol.1
Solid Snake makes his debut as a rookie FOXHOUND agent sent into Outer Heaven by Big Boss to save Grey Fox and stop the titular nuclear bipedal tank. This game is quite quaint by today's standards, but it shows many of the traits future stealth-action classics would follow. While it still has its twists, its storytelling is surprisingly quick and straightforward thanks to the MSX's memory constraints. Kojima's trademark verbosity would have to wait until its sequel to arrive.
The easiest way to play it today is through the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection's version of MGS3, which is due to also appear in the Master Collection. The NES port, while popular for its infamous localization job ("I FEEL ASLEEP!"), isn't as solid as the MSX original (pun unintended). Though it's still better than the stodgier C64 version.
12 1998: Snake's Revenge (Released In 1990)
- Available on NES
Some older gamers might have a fondness for Snake's Revenge, as it's actually a touch better than the NES Metal Gear. Nonetheless, it still has some of its flaws and told its own non-canon story without Kojima's involvement. In response, he made his own canon sequel for the MSX2 in Metal Gear: Solid Snake.
Despite still being developed by Konami, it was exclusive to the west and has never been re-released since 1990. As such, it's a hard game to find officially. Not that Konami, Kojima, or anyone else would be upset if it was picked up unofficially, as Snake's Revenge has largely been swept under the rug.
- Available on MSX 2, Mobile, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, then PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC via MGS MC Vol.1
The true canon sequel to Metal Gear establishes the formula future games would follow more effectively. The extra memory gave players a radar to spot soldiers & their field of vision, and mech bosses like the Hind D and Metal Gear itself could actually move and fight. The story also has Kojima's touch all over it, with grandiose speeches, high drama, and sudden twists.
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Many of its elements would actually get included in its sequel MGS1, from fighting soldiers in elevators, to old allies becoming cybernetic villains. In fact, it was almost enough for people to think MGS1 was a remake of the MSX2 game. Maybe Kojima and co thought they could get away with it because MG2 wasn't officially released in the West until it was featured on MGS3: Subsistence. It's also on the HD Collection and the upcoming Master Collection.
10 2002: Metal Gear: Ghost Babel (Released In 2000)
- Available on Game Boy Color
Released simply as Metal Gear Solid in the West, the game follows an alternate timeline from the MSX games, which sees Snake return to the remains of Outer Heaven to stop terrorists from using a new Metal Gear to threaten the world. The gameplay follows the MSX games' lead too, shifting to the GBC's limited buttons with ease.
It also offers 90 VR missions to go through in addition to the main story and a teaser for one of the main series' games at the end. Unfortunately, it has never been re-released since its debut in 2000, and finding working GBCs these days is tricky too. For anyone that does, it's best to pick up a European copy of the game as it comes with a region-exclusive feature on New Game Plus.
- Available on PS1, PS3 and PC
The MSX games may be where the series started, and Kojima had a cult following in Japan via his visual novel games. But it was this 1998 classic that truly skyrocketed the series, and Kojima, to their legendary status. It sees Solid Snake get brought out of retirement to stop his old unit FOXHOUND from using Metal Gear REX to launch a nuke and face his own past in the process.
While future entries would expand upon the gameplay, MGS1 still holds up fantastically today with its smooth controls and inventive gameplay, like using the controller ports against Psycho Mantis. Even so, there are calls for it to be remade, or at least for its Gamecube remake The Twin Snakes to get a re-release. But only time will tell.
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8 2005-2007: Metal Gear Solid Mobile (Released In 2008)
- Available on Mobile Phones and N-Gage
Metal Gear Solid Mobile is an early mobile game that is almost impossible to find through legitimate channels these days. It's not a hidden gem either as it seems to have passed by players without much notice. The most interesting aspect of it is its story.
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Set after MGS1, it sees Solid Snake help Dr. Victoria Reed in order to obtain intel on the construction of a new Metal Gear model. However, it turns out to be a ploy to trap Snake in a VR simulation (Victoria Reed = VR). It's ultimately inconsequential, as Snake gets mindwiped at the end, though the ending teases that this is the same VR regimen used by Raiden in MGS2.
- Available on PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS Vita, and PC
The first part of Metal Gear Solid 2 takes place in 2007 and shows Solid Snake infiltrating a Tanker for info on a new Metal Gear prototype. Then Kojima threw fans a curveball when the second chapter was set on a Plant two years later, and replaced Snake with Raiden. He was always planned to be the main protagonist, though Konami, Kojima, and co managed to keep him a secret (bar the GBC post-credits teaser) until after the game's release, replacing him with Snake in trailers.
While this angered some fans, they gradually came around as its bizarre plot about the control of digital information became more prescient over the years. Its other twisting elements on the nature of identity were inspired by Paul Auster's New York Trilogy books, to the point where Raiden was originally going to have a support team named after characters from its first book City of Glass.
6 2014: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (Released In 2008)
- Available on PS3
Solid Snake's final chapter sees him as a prematurely-aged old man with one last mission in him: kill Liquid Ocelot, the series' cowboy-obsessed triple-agent completely possessed by Snake's brother Liquid Snake. MGS4 began life as a PS3 exclusive and is still stuck on the console. Unless it gets a re-release, fans will have to fish out their old consoles to see how Snake's story ends.
Hideo Kojima originally planned to have Snake & Otacon executed for their crimes a la the 1970s Italian drama Sacco & Vanzetti. His colleagues ultimately talked him out of it, giving him and Otacon a happier ending. One that's an hour and a half long. As fun as the gameplay is, the cutscenes are much more indulgent and lengthy compared to the rest of the series.
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- Available on PSP & J2ME mobile phones.
When fans were wondering what the first handheld Metal Gear since Ghost Babel would be like, they probably weren't expecting it to be a tactical, collectible card-based RPG. It doesn't follow any of the other games in the series, as Snake and his partner Teliko have to save a US senator from terrorists and learn just what the secret Pythagoras project is.
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Back in the PSP's early days, it was an easy recommendation because it was one of the system's best games. It was also effectively exclusive to the handheld, with only an obscure, less good Java port for mobile phones. Nowadays, while it's fine enough for fans of card-based games, it's a little too strange for a Metal Gear game, and it would only get stranger.
4 2018: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Released In 2013)
- Available on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC
This spin-off from PlatinumGames is also the last in the main Metal Gear chronology. Despite the gameplay going down the character action game route, similar to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, the story remains a distinctly Metal Gear tale. It sees Raiden, now working as a bodyguard, trying to stop Desperado Enforcement from starting a war, complete with a conspiracy involving kidnapped children, AI, and nanomachines, son.
MGR was really popular on its 2013 release, and a sequel seemed guaranteed until Konami and Kojima's fallout. The game has still retained its charm after a decade thanks to its gameplay, story, and memetic characters. Perhaps if MGS Delta succeeds, fans will finally get an MGR2. That is, if Konami and PlatinumGames can still work out a deal and bring that old magic back.
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- Available on PSP and J2ME mobile phones.
The AC!D games are proof that the series could be strange even without Kojima directly involved. Both games were primarily made by Tomokazu Fukushima, Shuyo Murata, and Shinta Nojiri, who previously created the more grounded Ghost Babel game.
AC!D 2 brought back the turn-based card gameplay and saw an amnesiac Snake and Venus stop the Doctor and his SaintLogic organization from using Metal Gear Chaioth Ha Qadesh. It sounds straightforward enough, but it only gets stranger as the plot introduces clones, switching allegiances, hypnotism, kid hackers, and reincarnation. It plays better than AC!D 1, though making sense of it is a trial in itself.
2 2040: Policenauts (Released in 1994)
- Available on PC-9821, 3DO, PlayStation, Sega Saturn
Hideo Kojima's visual novels aren't strictly part of the Metal Gear series, but some of the games' events are part of their canon. For example, the MSX games are both canon to Policenauts, as lead character Jonathan Ingram is sent to the Beyond Coast space colony to investigate a series of murders alongside his former Policenaut and LAPD partner Ed Brown on his Vice Squad.
One of his team members happens to be Meryl Silverburgh from MGS1. Except she says she aided Snake during the events of MG2 in 1999. Aside from her not being in that game, this would make her nearly 60 years old in Policenauts. Then again, Jonathan himself was stuck in suspended animation for 30 years. Maybe Meryl took a decade off too. The game was never released officially in the West, but there are English patches for the Saturn and 3DO ports.
1 2047: Snatcher (Released in 1988)
- Available on NEC PC-8801, MSX2, PC Engine, Sega CD, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, and TurboGrafx-16 Mini.
While Policenauts is technically more advanced than its older predecessor, Snatcher tells a better story. After the world recovers from a global pandemic, population centers find themselves threatened by robots called Snatchers. They kill their targets, then steal their identities. It's up to Junker Agent Gillian Seed to discover their weak points, where they came from, and their connection to his amnesia.
MG1 is a canon event to the game, given Gillian's robot buddy is modeled after the TX-55 from that game. He even comes out to the game's main theme. The two also visit a bar called Outer Heaven, named after Big Boss' military nation. Though given its lethal pandemic began in 1996, it's safe to say the later games didn't happen in its timeline. The game was released in the West via the Sega CD port, which is still the only English language release as the TurboGrafx-16 Mini version is all in Japanese. Good thing it's considered abandonware.
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