The Metal Gear Solid series has a reputation for begin hard to follow. Though the games have dominated the genre, Metal Gear titles often incorporate political or historical details interlaced with its already convoluted plot. Add on top of this a series of games told out of order, and it’s easy to see how some players might be intimidated just trying to figure out where to start. While it’s certainly not required to play the games in order, it’ll make understanding Metal Gear‘s overarching plot much easier. Here’s a guide to playing each Metal Gear Solid game in order, and a few details about where it lands in the timeline.
For the purpose of ordering these titles, we’ve excluded tie-ins or otherwise non-canon entries in the franchise. That said, Metal Gear Solid: Survive is included because it directly emanates from the events in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and resides as the most current release in the series.
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (Set in 1964)
Metal Gear Solid 3 introduced players to the legendary soldier himself, Big Boss. Set during the Cold War, Snake is asked to infiltrate Russia to investigate his mentor’s defection, gather information about the proto-Metal Gear, Shagohad, and uncover intel about the Philosopher’s Legacy (an unimaginable sum of wealth stockpiled by allied nations during WWII). After the mission, Snake has a falling out with his handler, Major Zero, which would begin the long history of tension between the two former friends.
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (Set in 1970)
Six years after Snake helped recover half of the Philosopher’s Legacy, the remaining portion was at risk when his former CIA-aligned FOX unit went rogue. After being captured and tortured by FOX, Snake meets Roy Campbell and the two escape to Columbia, where the insurrection’s leader, Gene, plans to create the nation of soldiers, Army’s Heaven. Once defeated, Gene passes on Army Heaven’s legacy to Snake. Meanwhile, Ocelot continues investigating the Philosopher’s identities and agrees to collaborate with Zero if Snake also joins.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (Set in 1974)
Set in Costa Rica in 1974, Peace Walker follows Snake after he’s established his Militaires Sans Frontières (soldiers without borders) from Gene’s Army’s Heaven. Snake and Kazuhira Miller learn that an enigmatic military group has invaded Costa Rica and that they’re discreetly constructing nuclear weapons. It’s even more peculiar when MSF is looped in; they’re presented with a voice recording from Snake’s now-deceased mentor, The Boss.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (Set in 1975)
A year after the Peace Walker incident, Snake and MSF learn that two allies, Paz and Chico, are being held at an American black site in Cuba. Snake is tasked to infiltrate Camp Omega to rescue victims if they’re alive or discover what they leaked if they’re dead. Disaster strikes after Snake rescues and evacs with his targets; Mother Base is destroyed and Snake barely escapes before a bomb implanted in Paz explodes, causing his helicopter to collide with another.
Metal Gear Survive (Set in 1975)
Just after Mother Base’s destruction, a wormhole appears above the wreckage, consuming debris and soldiers alike. The player character is a soldier who nearly avoids being taken by the wormhole but is ultimately recruited by the U.N. to traverse it anyway. On the other side is the world of Dite, belonging to another dimension and overrun with zombie-like creatures. Though it’s set up by Ground Zeroes‘ events, the game is considered non-canon.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Set in 1984)
Following his helicopter accident, Snake awakens from a nine-year coma hell-bent on revenge. He, Ocelot and Kazuhira Miller start rebuilding MSF under the new name Diamond Dogs. Snake and his allies take up arms against Skull Face and his rogue XOF unit while also investigating an emerging biological weapon. He even crosses paths with a young Liquid Snake, leading child soldiers in Africa. Ultimately, it’s revealed that players have been playing as Snake’s body double, undergoing facial reconstruction and brainwashing to better serve his role as Big Boss.
Metal Gear (Set in 1995)
Solid Snake, a new recruit of the FOXHOUND unit, is tasked by his leader, Big Boss, to infiltrate the mercenary compound Outer Heaven to investigate what happened to the agent Gray Fox. The mercenary leader has constructed Metal Gear, a bipedal nuclear-capable tank, and plans to use it to establish Outer Heaven as a world superpower. After locating and destroying Metal Gear, Solid Snake discovers the mercenary leader is Big Boss (Venom Snake) and defeats his former commander.
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (Set in 1999)
Solid Snake is pulled back into action after a scientist with the solution to the world’s growing oil problem is kidnapped. Taken to the newly independent Zanzibar Land, their leader hopes to extend dominance over the world through control of the vital resource. Solid Snake fights his way through Zanzibar Land only to hear the familiar voice of Big Boss. He again fights his former commander and clone-father, believing him dead once and for all.
Metal Gear Solid (MGS: The Twin Snakes) (Set in 2005)
When Solid Snake’s former unit, FOXHOUND, goes rogue and seizes control of Shadow Moses Island in Alaska, Snake infiltrates the facility but learns his twin brother, Liquid Snake, plans to weaponize the newly designed Metal Gear REX. Snake learns he and Liquid are both born from a clone program to recreate Big Boss. It’s also revealed Snake was unknowingly injected with the FOXDIE virus, killing any member of FOXHOUND nearby. Snake escapes after Liquid suffers a heart attack when getting too close and proceeds to disappear off the grid, away from the U.S. government’s call. The remake introduces minor differences.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (Set in 2007/2009)
The U.S. president is taken hostage by the Sons of Liberty group and FOXHOUND sends Raiden to defuse the situation. Raiden eventually locates the president with help from Solid Snake but learns the facility, recent kidnapping and even the U.S. political structure are all organized by the Patriots, an elite group of immeasurably wealthy and influential individuals. Another clone of Big Boss, Solidus Snake, attempts to use Metal Gear Arsenal, hidden under the facility, to overthrow the Patriots but is stopped by Raiden.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (Set in 2014)
Now succumbing to rapid aging from his cloned birth, Solid Snake is tasked with eliminating the now-fully possessed Liquid Ocelot. Ocelot plans to take control of the AI network that’s become the Patriots and, in turn, command nearly all nanomachine-integrated tech. Snake defeats Liquid Ocelot and eliminates the Patriots’ control over society.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (Set in 2018)
Four years after Guns of the Patriots, Raiden is working security in an African country when a rogue PMC called Desperado attacks his group. Critically wounded and rebuilt, Raiden tracks Desperado down and intervenes in their attempts to facilitate a coup. He learns a U.S. senator is working with Desperado to harvest children’s brains to create cyber soldiers and resolves to end the sinister plot.
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