Spanning five console generations and appearing on nine different consoles, Metal Gear Solid has established itself as one of gaming’s most loved and critically successful franchises. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain marks the last game in the series from creator Hideo Kojima and in the lead up to its release, we’ll be celebrating everything Metal Gear, from its incomprehensible story to its weird and wonderful characters.
So what better place to start than with a list of the most complex, unique and downright bizarre bosses of the Metal Gear series?
Naturally, spoilers for all four numbered Metal Gear Solid games
10. Vulcan Raven – Metal Gear Solid
Vulcan Raven is a stereotype in so many ways. He’s built like a tank, covered in tattoos and totes a level of insanity that is befitting of his appearance. But he’s also a philosophical ear-pulling champion, and in his dying breath, he warns Snake about the consequences of war.
“The path you walk on has no end. Each step you take is paved with the corpses of your enemies… Their souls will haunt you forever… you shall have no peace… Hear me, Snake!”
Your first encounter Raven is a rather mundane battle with a tank. The second encounter however stands as one of the most strategic and tense in the game, with Snake required to use a litany of different explosive weaponry to take down the heaving mass of Vulcan Raven.
9. Gray Fox – Metal Gear Solid
Repeatedly punching Gray Fox leads to animated cries of “Hurt me more!”
It’s more than a little uncomfortable.
The Cyborg Ninja is an eclectic character, who confronts Snake on Shadow Moses following previous confrontations in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. Cyborg and soldier are rid of their sword and gun respectively and the minimalism proves to be a welcome change. It’s two men punching it out (and Otacon pissing himself in a nearby cupboard).
8. Metal Gear Ray – Metal Gear Solid 2
What’s worse than facing one Metal Gear? How about fifteen? Raiden, largely criticized simply for not being Solid Snake, proved his worth against a seemingly infinite wave of Metal Gear Ray in MGS2. With a bevy of incredibly powerful attacks, and a lot of health, only patience, a steady aim and impeccable timing can assure victory.
7. Crying Wolf – Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear Solid 4 often receives criticism for favoring action over stealth. The final third of the game, and the very beginning too, sees more gunfire, more explosions and more needless killing than the majority of the other games in the series combined. The Beauty and the Beast’s receive their fair share criticism, too. Completely irrelevant to the Metal Gear universe, the fights always felt like a cheap way to tap into nostalgia and emulate the bosses of old.
Screaming Mantis was a poor imitation of Psycho Mantis, and Laughing Octopus reinvented a character that didn’t need to be meddled with. But not Crying Wolf. Crying Wolf became everything the Sniper Wolf fight would have been had it not been limited by the capabilities of the PlayStation’s hardware. A relentless blizzard masks Shadow Moses, and a wealth of choice provides the perfect blend of stealth and action.
There’re few better tests of your sneaking skills and, although it lacks the emotional punch of the Sniper Wolf fight, it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining.
6. The Sorrow – Metal Gear Solid 3
Fighting The Sorrow can be an infuriating, frustrating and mind-boggling ordeal. What do you do when the boss you’re fighting is already dead? Needless to say, given his deceased state, punching, shooting or attempting to come into physical contact with The Sorrow is a fruitless endeavour.
Devoid of options, you walk down an endless river in pursuit of an immortal spirit, while the ghostly apparitions of every enemy you’ve killed so far float by. You get to the end, hoping that this was all a message or extended metaphor about the consequences of war, but you die, and it starts again. It’s a seemingly never ending process, solved only by, well, faking your own death.
5. Rex Versus Ray – Metal Gear Solid 4
Metal Gear Rex and Metal Gear Ray always looked like they originated in the sketch book of a ten year old boy. Returning to Shadow Moses in Metal Gear Solid 4 marked the perfect fusion between nostalgia and evolution, and the abandoned complex set the stage for the return Rex and Ray, only this time, you were the pilot. Facing off against a Metal Gear was always fun, but fighting in one is infinitely more entertaining. With Snake in Rex and Liquid Ocelot in Ray, Rex Vs Ray is easily the coolest fight in the entire series.
4. The Boss – Metal Gear Solid 3
I always find it hard to write about The Boss. The fight with her is beautiful, memorable and littered with emotional significance, but articulating that sentiment without context is difficult. Know that the fight is a bittersweet duel between two comrades. Both Snake and The Boss show loyalty to their superiors, to their mission and to their country. Naked Snake emerges victorious, establishing himself as a war hero and earning the title of Big Boss, but at the expense of his closest friend.
3. Liquid Ocelot – Metal Gear Solid 4
Speaking of emotional encounters, Metal Gear Solid 4 culminated with two dying, withered old men fighting atop a battleship. With the mind of Liquid and the body of Ocelot, Liquid Ocelot fused two of Snake’s main adversaries into one deliciously evil package. As both characters exchange blows, the health bars, music and even Liquid Ocelot’s persona change to represent each of the four Metal Gear Solid titles. The fight marked the end of Metal Gear; the end of the convoluted story, the end of the incredible bosses and the end of interesting characters that we’d fallen in love with for more than a decade.
It was more than a worthy send off.
2. Pyscho Mantis – Metal Gear Solid
Fighting Psycho Mantis is disempowering. I mean, you can’t hit the guy. You can unload ten, fifteen, twenty bullets at Psycho Mantis, you won’t hit him. A Nikita Missile, your fists – it all leads to the same result. One of gaming’s toughest and physically capable heroes is relegated to a level of subservience that leaves you scratching your head. Is this fight even possible?
It is, but figuring out what makes it so, much like The Sorrow, is more fun than the fight itself.
As a self-confessed psychic, Psycho Mantis’ abilities allow him to know where you’re firing before you actually do, meaning he’ll sway past your bullets with ease. That is until you switch remove your PlayStation controller from Port 1 and insert it into Port 2. A simple yet incredibly inventive, brilliant and unique touch sets Psycho Mantis apart from the rest of the pack.
From making your controller vibrate with his psychic powers to commenting on what games you’ve played by reading your memory card, it’s a fight that uses absolutely every aspect of the hardware in a way that few games ever have.
1. The End – Metal Gear Solid 3
Think of any boss from your favourite game. There’s a fair chance that boss is abnormally large, sports a ton of teeth, claws, some sort of supernatural ability, and has a loud, pounding soundtrack that dips and swells in tandem to the fight.
Something like this…
Maybe even this…
But definitely nothing like this.
The End subverts and redefines the commonplace interpretation of a video game boss, and it does so without losing the tension, grand spectacle and tough challenge that make so many bosses a joy to fight. As a thousand year old man against a super soldier, the fight with The End has all the makings of a mercy killing. But to judge The End on his looks would be to do him a disservice. With age comes experience, and The End has used his time wisely to hone his abilities as a master sniper.
You fight The End in the solitude of MGS3’s jungle, with the only noise being that of the resident wildlife (and the occasional bullet shot). In fact, that in itself is somewhat of a lie. The fight with The End takes place across three separate sections; hunting The End down is just half the fun.
It’s a fight that doesn’t insult your intelligence. The rain pours down and it’s up to you to realize that he’s left his footprints in the wet mud, or to use your items to track his body heat, or even catch the light glisten off the end of his sniper rifle.
It’s also not without its typically weird elements that make it unmistakably Metal Gear; set the time forward on your console by a week, reload the game, and you’ll find that The End has died of old age. If you’re quick enough, you’ll also be able to kill The End with a bullet to the head before you actually fight him.
And that’s the list. Given the wealth of incredible bosses across so many Metal Gear games, it’s likely your favorite might have been left out. If so, we want to hear it! Note down your favorite Metal Gear bosses in the comments below.