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Legendary game designer, Hideo Kojima has been one of the gaming industry’s auteurs for nearly forty years. Kojima’s flagship franchise, Metal Gear Solid has been the gold standard for stealth action games and has often been imitated. Game series like Splinter Cell have tried to recapture Kojima’s formula to no avail. Since 1998, Metal Gear Solid has captured gamers’ imagination with its blend of American conspiracy theory, pop culture, and general weirdness.

The hero of the series, Solid Snake has become an icon in video game history. The character’s gruff demeanor and iconic appearance were always instantly recognizable to even the most casual fan. His exploits have been well documented over the course of several games, even when he wasn’t the main protagonist. Narrowing down what Metal Gear Solid games were the best was an act of splitting hairs. With the announcement of Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater, we ranked the five best entries the franchise has offered thus far.

1998’s Metal Gear Solid was a revelation for gamers around the world. It pushed the limits of what the PlayStation could produce in terms of graphics and sound. But its biggest accomplishment was giving gamers an epic (and often cinematic) game experience like no other. Years after its release, designer Hideo Kojima would help usher in a remake.

Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes built upon the groundwork of the original game and gave players a wholly new experience. With new cinematics directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus), Twin Snakes updated its source material for the current hardware of its time. The game was a massive hit with both fans and critics and redefined the inaugural classic.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty was something of a bait and switch at the time of its release. Fans of the original Metal Gear Solid were primed to take control of Solid Snake in the much-anticipated sequel. However, players quickly learned the game focused on a new protagonist, Raiden.

The change was met with some trepidation. However, gamers eventually became acclimated to the new hero, who would go on to become a fan favorite of the franchise. The updated graphic fidelity and improved gameplay the PlayStation 2 lent to the series outweighed the game’s lack of Snake. Sons of Liberty stood out for its complex narrative, which was equally convoluted and ridiculous.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker was a rather large hallmark for the series for a couple of key reasons. First, the game pushed the capabilities of Sony’s PlayStation Portable system beyond even what the previous Metal Gear game could on the system. Furthermore, it ushered in new gameplay mechanics that would resurface in later releases such as the “Mother Base.”

The game was a prequel set in 1974 in Costa Rica. Players take control of Big Boss, operating under the codename Snake, to combat a paramilitary group known as the “Peace Sentinels.” The game’s highly geopolitical story was outstanding and played into real-world militaristic anxieties. Sadly, the game did not perform financially well. This was mostly due to it being relegated to a handheld gaming system that was on its way out.

This game was nuts. Plain and simple. The production of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was littered with turmoil. Game director, Hideo Kojima disagreed with his publisher, Konami over the company’s restructuring. This led to Kojima parting ways with Konami. The game was released to stellar reception, but it was criticized for having content removed.

While the reason for the omission of the 51st and final mission from the game had been attributed to the Konami/Kojima tensions, it was ultimately hearsay. Regardless of what really happened behind the scenes, the final product players received was still outstanding. Moreover, The Phantom Pain gave players one of the most insane stories the series has ever produced, even by its own gonzo standards. Despite feeling oddly truncated, The Phantom Pain was Kojima’s swansong that was the culmination of thirty years of gaming innovation.

While not the final game in the franchise, Guns of the Patriots was the last story arc for Solid Snake. The game took place in 2014, set five years after the events of the Sons of Liberty. The story followed a rapidly aging Snake on one last mission to assassinate the series villain, Liquid Ocelot. Entrenched in technobabble and militaristic conspiracy theory, Guns of the Patriots undoubtedly hit all the hallmarks fans were hoping it would.

The game’s emotional weight helped buoy the transgressive storytelling, which cultivated a satisfying narrative climax. Guns of the Patriots improved upon the graphics and gameplay of previous entries. It also became a high watermark for action games, across the boards. This was truly a piece of art that deserved all the praise it received.