Metal Gear Solid is one of the most iconic video game franchises of our generation – polarizing not only for its impressive gameplay, but also for having some of the most fantastical, most intense, and most immersive stories you can find in games.
Something else the series came to be known for, however, was introducing you to some of the coolest, craziest, and most mechanically interesting boss battles around. I’m a huge Metal Gear Solid fanboy, and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve played the primary entries in the series (MGS1 through MGS5) a combined 25 times. The storytelling was always such a cool, fantastical way for me to get really immersed in a game – and I knew I would be the very moment I stepped onto Shadow Moses island for the first time. That being said, it wasn’t until I faced off against Psycho Mantis (spoiler alert: more on him in a bit…), that I experienced such an interactive and exciting boss battle experience in a game. Therefore, I’m here for this week’s Friday Five to countdown my five favorite Metal Gear Solid boss battles of all time!
5. Solid Snake vs. Cyborg Ninja (MGS1) – The fight between Solid Snake and the elusive, and terrifying, Cyborg Ninja, is probably one of the more intense boss battles in the entire history of the franchise (and the hallway leading to this boss is easily one of the spookiest things in all of MGS). It was not only a stress-inducing, sweaty-palm extravaganza, but it featured some really interesting looks into Snake’s past as well – because little did we know at the time, but Frank Jaeger, an old friend of Snake himself, was the man behind the robotic mask. This frenetic boss battle that saw Cyborg Ninja backflipping away from would-be attacks, deflecting bullets, disappearing completely only to surprise you with a flurry of attacks out of nowhere. If the stress of completing the fight itself wasn’t enough to break your will, the taunts and haunting dialogue throughout the entire fight were sure to add insult to injury – “I’ve been waiting for this pain” and “hurt me more!” are lines I never expected to hear from a boss I was trying to defeat, and it really added to the atmosphere of this incredible fight.
4. Naked Snake vs. The End (MGS3) – When it comes to games where I have the option of stealthy sniping from safe distances, I tend to lean that direction – so boss battles that involve a sniper duel have always been ones that I’ve enjoyed (that includes an honorable mention favorite boss, Solid Snake vs. Sniper Wolf). But the stressful fight from the 100+-year-old boss, The End, in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater was not only a tall-task, but it was also a fight like none we had seen from an MGS title. You had to face off against this cagey enemy in a relatively large map, easily one of the biggest in any boss battle to date, and his AI was really damn good. The End was easily spooked, would quickly make his way all over the battlefield taking up sniping positions that almost always were better than yours. You had to use so many tools in your arsenal, and all the Pentazemin that you could carry, to come out on top in this very, very stressful boss battle. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a boss fight that made me as vulnerable as this one did, as the camouflaged boss made a fool of me over, and over until I finally found the recipe to defeat him. Protip: there’s actually a moment earlier in the game where you can sneak up on this boss while he’s sleeping, and finish him off then and there, but by doing that you deprive yourself of one of the coolest, albeit difficult, boss battles ever.
3. Solid Snake vs. Liquid Ocelot (MGS4) – The final battle in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is certainly not one of the more interesting fights in the series, mechanically, but man oh man does the fight between Solid Snake and Liquid Ocelot pack a wallop in the feels and nostalgia department. (For those keeping track at home, it’s Revolver Ocelot’s body, with the arm of Liquid Snake grafted on, and… Well, long story short it’s really Liquid possessing Revolver Ocelot’s body… These games are weird, man). The final showdown between these archnemeses is filled with awesome (sometimes corny…) dialogue, beautiful cinematic moments, and a fanservice fist-fight that takes you on a nostalgic journey down memory lane bringing back key moments and music from the previous entries in the series. While this fight is not super difficult to overcome, it’s the opening moment that will always stick with me – as Solid and Liquid trade blows, both becoming exhausted from the herculean effort of fighting each other AND the FoxDie virus. While going blow for blow, literally matching each punch and kick, they each drop the anti-virus that will allow them to survive the fight with FoxDie a bit longer, and instead of injecting themselves, they share a moment of honor on the battlefield, and inject each other instead. THE FEELS!
2. Naked Snake vs. The Boss (MGS3) – So, I get into a pretty heated debate with one of my gaming friends about my top two boss battles in Metal Gear Solid history, as he and I have them swapped – but this is my list, dang it! There’s absolutely no denying that the final battle in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is one of the most powerful, and heart-breaking, boss battles in not only the history of MGS but maybe even in games in general. You are literally facing off against the person who helped raise you, that essentially made you who you are, and there are only two options at the end of this unexpected faceoff: You either defeat The Boss, or you die trying. This battle had huge implications for the history of the entire series, as it sets up Naked Snake for the alias we’ve known him as for years: Big Boss. But, there can only be one Boss, so you take on your mentor in a fight that is as tense as it is beautiful, and requires that you utilize every single tool that you’ve utilized throughout the game. Defeating Big Boss was no easy task, and it was one of the few gaming moments I have had where a boss victory felt almost like a defeat – pretty heavy stuff.
1. Solid Snake vs. Psycho Mantis (MGS1) – Not gonna lie, choosing Solid Snake vs. Psycho Mantis, like I mentioned above, creates some controversy within my circle of friends that are as passionate about gaming as I am. Here’s the major difference between me and most of my gaming friends, though – the nostalgia-factor is such an important part of what makes my favorite gaming moments really stand out. That’s why the very first time I went toe-to-toe with the psychic KGB agent donning a forboding gas mask, I knew it would be a fight I’d never forget. This encounter is the epitome of all that is wacky and intense about Metal Gear Solid boss battles, as it had a little bit of everything – difficult mechanics, powerful atmosphere, and some really cool cinematic moments (Mantis’ manipulation of Maryl during the fight always stuck with me). But what sets this fight apart was its absolute disregard for the fourth wall, something I don’t think I had ever truly seen in a video game. Psycho Mantis spends the entire fight mocking you by actually reading your PlayStation memory card, telling you how silly your game choices were, and even gave you a hard time for how often you’ve saved your game. And to top it off, there are points in the fight where you have to physically change what controller port you were plugged into, otherwise, this aggravating boss would “read your mind” and evade every attack you send his way. This fight was genius, pure and simple, and in my mind it set the standard for boss battles for years to come.
Honorable Mentions: Solid Snake vs. Metal Gear Rex (MGS1), Metal Gear Rex vs. Metal Gear Ray (MGS4), Naked Snake vs. The Sorrow (MGS3), Raiden vs. Fatman (MGS2), Solid Snake vs. Sniper Wolf (MGS1)