Who could forget that gorgeous sound when the enemies see Solid Snake? We can’t. It was only a matter of time until we revised the outstanding stealth series.
Metal Gear, also known as “Metal Gear Solid” because of its main character, it’s a Japanese game series. The creator is Hideo Kojima, a Konami executive you’ve surely seen many times.
Kojima has worked on Castlevania and, more recently, on Death Stranding during his long career. He was the leading writer and director for the 2019 story-telling masterpiece.
Metal Gear is one of the most iconic series in the industry. We’re taking a look at its eleven core games.
The Metal Gear Series
Metal Gear Solid games pioneered the stealth genre. The character has a short supply of tools and must rely on silence and tactics to infiltrate and complete the missions.
Konami names its core mechanics as “Tactical Espionage Action.” That means these games don’t rely on heavy action. Instead, the gameplay is about sneaking into bases and uncovering the plot.
Another core characteristic is its cinematics, heavy plots, and political topics. The villains are nuanced, and the topics are complex.
Years before it became real-life issues, Kojima was already writing about internet and information censorship, military companies doing war for profit, the morals of genetic engineering for advantages over other nations, and the complexity of advanced technology over humanity’s welfare.
The main character is Solid Snake, the clone of the legendary soldier Big Boss. Solid’s “brothers,” Liquid and Solidus, are two other clones.
Solid Snake is a member of FOXHOUND, a secret organization looking to destroy “Metal Gears.” The Metal Gears are highly advanced biped tanks, heavily armed, and capable of launching nuclear weapons.
The original supersoldier, Big Boss, is also a recurrent protagonist and an antagonist. His codename is “Naked Snake.” He also looks, sounds, feels, and behaves much like Solid Snake, so unfamiliar players may confuse the two characters.
The third main character is Raiden. He’s Solidus Snake’s adoptive son, a cyborg ninja soldier.
Then, the story is about a never-ending conflict between private security companies. It’s a world where the URSS is a super-power, war is common, and resources are scarce. The in-game narrative expands from 1964 to 2020.
Finally, the Metal Gear timeline does not correlate with the release dates. I’ll answer that in the FAQ.
But as it’s common on Japanese video-game franchises, the story has more plot twists than we could count. It’s often masterful but also outlandish and tough to follow.
Every Mainland Metal Gear Solid Game in Order of Release Date
We’re only considering the main Metal Gear games, plus the relevant ports and spin-offs.
However, we’re disregarding mobile titles, spin-offs, alternative sequels, and other non-relevant titles that only debuted in Japan or are currently unavailable.
So, we found 11 canon games, four relevant spin-offs, two collections, one remake, and one extended version. The grand total is 19 mainland Metal Gear Solid entries.
Metal Gear – 1987
The original game debuted in 1987 for the Japanese MSX 2, it also reached worldwide audiences through the Nintendo Family Computer and the NES. There’re also multiple ports for the title, including a PlayStation 2 version.
The story happens in 1995, in South Africa. Big Boss sends rookie agent Solid Snake to the Outer Heaven compound searching for the Metal Gear and the “Grey Fox” missing operative.
This title plays with 2D bird’s-eye perspective. Solid infiltrates isolated locations, sneaks past guards, and ultimately reaches the end goal.
Snake’s Revenge – 1990 (Spin-Off)
Snake’s Revenge debuted in 1990 for the NES in Japan. Because Kojima wasn’t part of the “sequel,” Konami doesn’t consider it part of the main series.
The title is very similar to the original game. Solid has to infiltrate locations and can use a limited supply of tools and weapons. Also, the game introduced the “(!)” marks when an enemy spots Solid.
The alternate story happens after the original title. Solid Snake destroyed the first Metal Gear, and now he must destroy a similar weapon on another base.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake – 1990
Kojima wrote the true sequel, and Konami released MG2 in 1990 for MSX in Japan. Many years later, it reached international audiences through the PlayStation 2 (2005), Wii Virtual Console (2010), PlayStation 3 (2011), and Xbox 360 (2012).
Four years after the original story, Solid Snake infiltrates Zanzibar Land. He must find and destroy a new Metal Gear. Moreover, he must rescue a scientist who can synthesize petroleum from seaweed during an energetic worldwide crisis.
During the story, Solid goes into conflict with his former mentor and leader, Big Boss. Lastly, the gameplay stays very similar to previous entries, including the (!) plus its iconic sound effect.
Metal Gear Solid – 1998
MGS debuted worldwide in 1998 for PlayStation. It’s the first game in the series with 3D graphics, and it’s a direct sequel to Metal Gear 2.
The plot follows Solid Snake on a quest to destroy nuclear weapons in Alaska. He meets Liquid Snake, his “brother,” and discovers his genetic origins. Particularly, there’s plenty of cinematics in the game connecting one area with the next.
The entry respects the previous gameplay formula. Players control Snake through a multitude of maps while avoiding enemy detection. Additionally, the game tends to break the fourth wall to interact with the player and guide him through the game.
Metal Gear: Ghost Babel – 2000 (Port / Spin-Off)
Ghost Babel is a Metal Gear Solid port for Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance.
It debuted in 2000, but its international name is “Metal Gear Solid.” Hence, many people would consider Metal Gear Solid also came out for handheld consoles.
The entry added exclusive characters like Jimmy Hacks, Steve Gardner, and Ronald Lensenbrink. Also, the game’s ending reveals the whole story was a virtual training for upcoming protagonist Raiden.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – 2001
Sons of Liberty continues the main timeline. It debuted worldwide in 2001 for PlayStation 2 and Windows.
As the series jumped towards 128-bit consoles, Konami greatly enhanced the graphics, performance, cinematics, and enemy AI. Also, they created realistic 3D models, human-like facial expressions, and a new set of movements for the titular character. For example, the protagonist can aim in first-person, flip, and hang from ledges.
Speaking of which, the protagonist is Raiden, which the saga introduced in the previous port. It’s 2007, and the Metal Gear technology is thriving on the black markets. Solid Snake is the leader of an anti-Metal Gear ONG. Meanwhile, Foxhound dispatches his best agent, Raiden, searching for a new kind of Metal Gears.
The gameplay continues the stealth formula of the previous entries. However, there are many new elements: shooting in first-person perspective, slow walking, hanging, peaking, and shooting in cover.
Moreover, the game added a new enemy AI to work as a coordinated team. Enemies can use radio to flank and capture Raiden. They can also wear shields and bulletproof vests.
Lastly, Raiden has a tranquilizing pistol to put enemies to sleep. He can even use the non-lethal option on bosses. However, he has to hide the bodies to avoid enemy awareness.
Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes – 2004 (Remake)
The Twin Snakes is a remake of 1998’s Metal Gear Solid by Konami and Silicon Knights. It debuted for GameCube in 2004.
This title added new systems from Son of Liberty and a new English voice-over.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – 2004
Snake Eater debuted for PlayStation 2 in 2004. It’s a prequel to Metal Gear and the first game in the series’ timeline. Also, it’s one of the franchise’s best-sellers.
The story takes place during the Cold War, and the protagonist is Naked Snake. Naked’s mission is rescuing a deserting soviet scientist, destroying an experimental nuclear weapon, and assassinating his old mentor.
Compared to previous titles, most settings are jungles instead of futuristic bass and urban areas. So, Naked Snake sneaks around in nature and uses the environment to his advantage.
The game mechanics are similar to previous titles. It focuses on stealth, cinematics, and heavy plot themes.
Also, Snake can find weapons and items along the way to help the mission. For example, there’re detector movement gadgets. Other novelties include using various military uniforms as camouflage, a new melee combat system, a stamina bar, and medkits.
Lastly, theories point out that the Snake Eater’s protagonist is not Big Boss, but Solid Snake. We’ll leave the answer up to you, though.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – 2005 (version)
Subsistence is an expanded version of Snake Eater. It debuted in 2005 for PlayStation 2. Later on, it became available for PS3, Xbox 360, and PSVita.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – 2006
Portable Ops debuted for PlayStation Portable and PS Vita in 2006.
Even though it’s a handheld game, it’s a canon story. The story is about how Big Boss created Foxhound.
Then, the gameplay introduces Big Boss as the titular character. He commands an array of special soldiers on a quest to defeat the older organization, Fox.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus – 2007 (Spin-Off)
Portable Ops Plus doesn’t have a story mode. The 2007 PSP game only has a series of missions and maps with settings of the previous title.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – 2008
Guns of Patriots debuted in 2005 as a PlayStation 4 exclusive in Japan. It reached worldwide audiences in 2008.
The story happened in 2014. Solid Snake is significantly older as he ages faster due to his cloned genetics. He has six months to live.
The Worldwide economy depends on war, mercenaries, and weapon trades. One of Solid’s brothers, Liquid Ocelot, leads a powerful mercenary organization. With the world in crisis. Solid Snake goes on a mission to stop Liquid.
Then, the story takes place across five locations and five acts. It’s long, twisted, and full of complex themes.
Because t’s a “futuristic” world, the game adds some tech gadgets Solid can use. For example, Snake has a special camouflage, a robot, and a special lens (Solid Eye).
However, he still relies on stealth, as he’s fragile in his old age. Moreover, when Snake is under stress, he gets clumsy and slow, adding a new layer of challenge to the game. To help players, Snake can sense movements around him when he lies on the floor.
Metal Gear: Peace Walker – 2010
Peace Walker debuted in 2010 for PSP, PlayStation 3, PSVita, and Xbox 360.
The story happens four years after Portable Ops. Naked Snake (former Big Boss) lives in Costa Rica and leads a mercenary company (MSF).
Naked Snake goes on a quest to find and destroy the Peace Walker, the first Metal Gear with legs.
The gameplay delivers Big Boss as the protagonist. He has several movements for traversal and combat. For example, he can walk, crawl, run, jump, and hang.
Then, the player can customize Naked Snake before each mission. He may choose to play stealthily, aggressively, or a mix of both. However, players pick the arsenal beforehand.
Additionally, a character progression system allows Big Boss to evolve and learn skills. It’s an all-new RPG mechanic that made the game feel fresh.
Another novelty is how the game replaced cinematics for comic-style bullet points.
Similarly, the title had a multiplayer co-op. It allows four players together on special missions.
Lastly, the game had a series of extra missions, 128 of these, to be precise. These included crossovers with the Monster Hunter saga.
Metal Gear Solid HD Collection – 2012 (remaster bundle)
The first Metal Gear collection delivers HD remasters of:
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
It debuted for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PlayStation Vita.
Revengeance (also known as “Rising”) debuted in 2009 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Currently, it’s also available for Windows.
Compared to the previous entries, it’s an action-oriented title leaning into the “hack & slash” genre. Konami explained they replaced the Tactical Espionage Action for “Lighting Bolt Action.”
The change happens because the protagonist is Raiden (Lighting and Bolt in Japanese). He’s a cyborg ninja that offers fast-paced playtime.
Raiden has a sword to attack, but he also has stealth mechanics at his disposal. He can cut enemies to get back health points and other items with his sword. It works through a complex melee system.
More importantly, the game incorporates a “free slicing” AI, which means Raiden can cut anything within the game world. He also has other skills to use tactically against his enemies.
The story happens in 2020, six years after Guns of the Patriots. Raiden is working for security company Maverick, trying to raise money for his family.
A rivaling company kidnaps the Prime Minister. Raiden chases the kidnappers down and discovers a new kind of Metal Gears.
Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection – 2013 (Collection)
- Metal Gear
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
- Metal Gear Solid via
- Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Ground Zeroes debuted in 2014 for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Windows.
The events take place one year after Peace Walker. The story that unfolds works as a prologue for the next game, The Phantom Pain.
The year is 1975, and the protagonist is Naked Snake (Big Boss’ codename). He’s leading the renegade MSF mercenary faction into an American detention center in Cuba.
The goal is to recover former allies. However, an unknown military organization under the name XOF attacks Snake. The events make Big Boss take a turn and change perspective. It becomes important for the next main entry.
Then, the gameplay adds a hub where the player can develop tech, weapons, and gear for the missions. Another novelty is a day/night cycle and a non-linear design.
That means Ground Zeroes is no longer an A-to-B game. Instead, players get a certain amount of freedom to approach each mission and map. Also, they get various stealth movements, firearms, and traverse abilities.
Beware, though. This is a prologue, so the playtime takes about one hour.
The Phantom Pain debuted in 2015 for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. It’s the last entry under Hideo Kojima’s direction, as he then moved on to Death Stranding.
Also, it appears it’s the last entry of the saga. Notably, it introduced another Snake character, “Punished Venom Snake.” He’s a Big Boss double, destined to sacrifice himself for the leader.
It’s 1987, and Venom Snake travels worldwide to accomplish a specific task. His goal is to avenge a military group that endangered his military enterprise during Ground Zeroes.
It turns out he’s the leader of XOF, so he must defeat Big Boss, AKA Naked Snake.
The gameplay comes through an open world. The player can approach missions in a non-linear way, and there’re 50 main quests and about 150 side quests.
Venom Snake must gather resources to fabricate weapons, ammo, and other tools and gadgets to complete most goals. As before, he has a base hub available where he can craft. The player will unlock better technologies by researching and gathering resources.
Similarly, the player can approach missions in silence or guns-blazing. Also, the player can choose a partner as a companion for the quest. Different NPCs have particular abilities to help you.
Lastly, the game has a Karma system. According to his actions and morals, the system changes Venom’s physical appearance.
Survive is the latest game in the series. It debuted for PS4, Xbox One, and Windows in 2018.
This online-only game takes mechanics and elements from the core series for its experience. It features a mix between fast-paced shooting and tactical stealth.
The story happens in an alternate universe. Players create a character and enter an open world. They can gather resources, craft weapons, build a camp, and explore the hostile world.
Players can only explore in co-op mode with a team of four players. The team infiltrates areas with hordes of enemies to accomplish specific missions.
Every mainland Metal Gear Solid Game in Chronological Order
- Metal Gear – 1987
- Snake’s Revenge – 1990 (spin-off)
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake – 1990
- Metal Gear Solid – 1998
- Metal Gear: Ghost Babel – 2000 (port / spin-off)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – 2001
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes – 2004 (remake)
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – 2004
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – 2005 (version)
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – 2006
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops – 2007 (spin-off)
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots – 2008
- Metal Gear: Peace Walker – 2010
- Metal Gear Solid HD Collection – 2012 (remaster bundle)
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance – 2013
- Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection – 2013 (collection)
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes – 2014
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain – 2015
- Metal Gear Survive – 2018 (spin-off)
What Is the Metal Gear Solid Timeline?
The canon storyline takes into consideration the following stories:
- 1964 – Snake Eater
- 1970 – Portable Ops
- 1974 – Peace Walker
- 1975 – Ground Zeroes
- 1984 – The Phantom Pain
- 1995 – Metal Gear
- 1999 – Metal Gear 2
- 2005 – Metal Gear Solid
- 2007/09 – Sons of Liberty
- 2014 – Guns of the Patriots
- 2020 – Rising: Revengeance
Are There Other Metal Gear / Metal Gear Solid Games?
Yes, there’re several other entries. We left them behind because of a lack of availability and information.
- Metal Gear Acid
- Metal Gear Acid 2
- Metal Gear Acid Mobile
- Metal Gear Solid Mobile
- Metal Gear Solid touch
- Metal Gear Online (not available)
- Metal Gear Arcade
- Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D (Nintendo DS port)
- Metal Gear Solid: Social Ops
Do I Need to Play Metal Gear Solid Games in Order?
It would be very hard to play Metal Gear Solid games in order. If any game on the list caught your attention, play that one and rely on videos explaining the lore.
We recommend The Phantom Pain, Metal Gear Solid, Guns of Patriots, and Snake Eater.