There are a multitude of reasons Metal Gear Solid is renowned as one of the best video game series, whether it’s the memorable characters, addictive gameplay, its convoluted but brilliant plot, or its general lunacy. Another reason it’s so beloved, though, is its complex villains who present equally impressive challenges. Sure, the series could throw some tried and true formats at the player—hit the glowing limbs or repeat a process three times are classics—but what fun would that be for creator and mastermind Hideo Kojima? No, he has to push the envelope and make ballsy design choices to not only garner attention, but to cement boss battles in the forefront of the players’ minds.
Every entry in the Metal Gear Solid series comes packed with colourful villains rarely devoid of interesting character traits that bring them to life. It’s an integral part of why these encounters are so memorable. Rarely do the boss fights hinge on engaging gameplay, as Kojima clearly understands the connection between emotional investments and memorable battles. This is why Michael Bay films are so lackluster: your characters require a healthy dose of life and eccentricity, something Kojima repeatedly nails out of the park. It almost does the series injustice by limiting this list to only 10 bosses, but it’s a testament to the sheer scope of perpetual quality found within Metal Gear Solid.
So with that in mind, boot up the recently released Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which we purposely excluded from this list, on your console of choice and get in the mood as we count down the cream of the crop.
10 Vulcan Raven, Metal Gear Solid
9 Gray Fox, Metal Gear Solid
8 Sniper Wolf, Metal Gear Solid
7 Solidus Snake, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty
6 Volgin, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
5 Liquid Ocelot, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
4 Liquid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
3 The End, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
2 Psycho Mantis, Metal Gear Solid
1 The Boss, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Upon defeating The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, I felt drained and overwhelmed with emotion. Not only did her final exchange with Big Boss involve a heartbreaking reveal, the battle fittingly takes place in a field of white flowers, a beautiful and symbolic aesthetic to conclude the game. Individual pedals float aimlessly in the soft breeze as Big Boss crawls through the white canvas painting it red with blood. It’s a bittersweet final showdown, one that ranks among the best in gaming for its ample emotion and expert design. Leave it to Kojima and Metal Gear Solid to pull off such a feat.
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