Whether it’s remote-guiding a rocket through the floor of an office building or using surface-to-air recovery on sheep, the Metal Gear franchise has certainly provided fans with some pretty … creative moments (and that’s without even mentioning characters like Raiden and Vamp). Some of the most legendary scenes in Hideo Kojima’s histrionic (yet also strikingly poignant) are the infamous boss battles.
What makes Kojima’s boss fights stand out from the crowd of button-mashing, grindy, soul-crushing antagonists like Shao Kahn or Gill is that the fight isn’t made difficult because of triple health bars, invulnerability shields, or one-hit K.O. moves. Instead, they’re the highlight of the game for different reasons. We had a top 10 prepared, but Kojima always dials things up to 11, so we thought we’d go even one step further than that. Here’s our pick for the top 12 boss fights in the Metal Gear franchise:
12. Rex vs Ray (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Nothing says Metal Gear quite like two giant mechs ramming into each other in a high-tech battle for combat supremacy. Lasers, Gatling guns, missiles, and a ton of metal smashing against metal, the fight is only enhanced by the fact that it’s behind the mechs it’s the classic Snake vs Liquid, just to raise the stakes even more. To top it all off, Liquid is in “the more advanced model,” so Snake’s the underdog before the battle even starts.
11. Sniper Wolf (Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes)
Following her murder of one of the title’s protagonists, Sniper Wolf wants to prove her marksmanship against the one and only Solid Snake. “I always kill what I aim at,” says Wolf before the two face off in a snowfield sniper duel. The fight was the first all-out sniper battle in the series, but it wouldn’t be the last either. What also makes the battle memorable is the conversation with Wolf after she’s defeated – her relation with Big Boss, the tragic thing that she was truly searching for, and her wish to be at peace.
10. Vulcan Raven (Metal Gear Solid)
The boss fight with Raven was one of Kojima’s favorites: A duck-and-cover shootout in a warehouse full of boxes against a lumbering foe who decided to bring flock of birds and a Gatling gun to a pistol fight. “He never kneels down,” said Kojima in an interview. “I think that added a lot of character to him.” True enough, his final words raise more questions than answer them, cluing Snake in to the greater schemes of the game’s plot.
9. The Fear (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
The second member of The Boss’s Cobra Unit, The Fear is a mutant acrobatic contortionist who dons a stealth suit and fires poisoned darts at Snake with a crossbow. While he’s leaping from tree to tree Snake is running around a forested area laden with pitfalls, snare traps, and venomous creatures. Aside from the awesome battleground, the fight is also memorable for the many ways it can be won. The Fear can be lured, fooled, poisoned, and even blinded. If you manage to beat him by depleting his stamina, you’ll even get the reward of his uniform and its outrageous camo index.
8. Solidus Snake (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
What do you get when you make a near-perfect clone of Big Boss, make him President of the United States, have him be a master swordsman, and give him metal tentacles like Doctor Octopus? If you answered “A Metal Gear boss” you’d be right. This time it’s Solidus Snake duking it out on top of Federal Hall. Raiden was Solidus’ former protégé, adding an extra layer to the already epic fight.
7. Sahelanthropus (Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain)
One of the few boss fights of Phantom Pain, Sahelanthropus (the hidden image at the end of this link!) is a gargantuan mech built by the game’s antagonist, Skull Face. Since Phantom Pain is a largely open-world sandbox game, boss fights are infrequent. This one shines through, though, as Big Boss scrambles from vehicle to vehicle while avoiding the death shots and Balrog-inspired flaming whip.
6. The Sorrow (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
One of our favorite fights on this list (and another of Kojima’s own top 5), The Sorrow was a surprise boss fight late in the game. “This character was very different from all boss battles I had tried up to that point;” said Kojima in an interview, “it’s a boss that doesn’t exist, he’s a ghost.” While the Metal Gear franchise doesn’t veer away from the occasional step into fantasy territory, an encounter with a spirit is pretty far removed from the typical genre.
The experience takes Snake through a mangrove populated by zombies – corpses of all the enemies that the player has killed in their playthrough. The stream can even be empty if they’ve done an no-kill run! Since the encounter is more or less happening in Snake’s head, the sequence can be skipped entirely by using the life pill when defeated.
5. Big Boss (Metal Gear 2)
“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” says Batman in “The Dark Knight.” Such is tragically true for Big Boss, who turns out to be the mastermind behind the cruel, warmongering events of Metal Gear 2. Snake is forced to fight his ranking officer in a battle that redefines what it means to be an underdog. Armed with a hairspray can and a lighter, Snake creates a makeshift flamethrower and dukes it out with the legendary hero.
4. Psycho Mantis (Metal Gear Solid)
The battle with Psycho Mantis was the first fight that set the Metal Gear boss fights apart from others of the time, and one of the best boss fights of all time. To prove his telepathic might before the fight even starts, Mantis starts telling you your game stats so far: How many traps you’ve stepped in, how many fights you’ve gotten into, and how often you’ve been detected so far. He then takes it a step further and starts even listing off other games you’ve played on the system, a total fourth wall break that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
Since Psycho Mantis has telepathic powers, he can’t even be defeated like a regular boss; he can read your every thought and therefore predict your moves. The guy can even make your controller vibrate at will, and tells you when he’s doing it! The only way to really defeat him is to take out the controller completely and plug it into a different port! How’s that for thinking outside the box?
3. The Boss (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
The final boss battle of Metal Gear Solid 3 is against The Boss herself, the famed WWII hero who trained Snake since the very beginning. The fight against her takes place in a field of beautiful lilies, and is the classic master vs. apprentice as the two fight in a CQC battle for the title of Big Boss. There’s no gimmicks, there’s no spectacular fireworks or gaudy effects, just a one-on-one with a woman torn between her duty and her love.
Like all the best fights in cinema, it’s not the effects or the choreography that make it so memorable – it’s the two people that are locked in combat. When the fight ends it’s the player that has to pull the trigger on her; it’s not done in a cutscene. The lilies turn red to symbolize the shift in Snake’s character, and the blood that is now on his hands. The Boss was almost like a mother to Snake, and even after her defection she unsuccessfully tried to save Snake from the same path the she walked – a path of endless violence and warfare.
2. Liquid Ocelot (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
Revolver Ocelot was one of the major recurring characters of the Metal Gear franchise – sometimes a friend, sometimes a foe. He was the first fight for Big Boss, and poetically the final fight for Solid Snake. Metal Gear Solid 4 takes these characters to the end of their competitive journey, and has them fight on the ocean in front of a rising sun. “The war is over,” says Liquid, “but we are not yet free.” The two begin a fight for the ages, in a conflict that both of them knew would happen one day, and that one of them would not survive.
The boss fight itself is one of the series’ best. It takes the player through flashback pictures of Ocelot and Snake as they grew up together over the course of several games, and even a nostalgic comeback of the original games’ soundtracks and HUD. It really feels like a culmination of their arc, and both characters are physically and emotionally exhausted by its end.
1. The End (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
While other picks on our list are by and large better moments, there’s no actual battle that tops The End: The best sniper duel in gaming history. He’s a legendary sniper from the Cobra Unit who’s over a century old and saving the last of his strength for one final hunt. That hunt is Snake. The End wears a full-on salad suit and blends in nearly perfectly with the forest, making him hard to spot, and even harder to spot before he sees you and hits you with his tranquilizer-loaded Mosin-Nagant. Worse still, The End has photosynthetic powers, allowing him to regenerate stamina if it falls below a certain threshold. Combine that with the fact that the boss fight goes between three separate locations, and it’s a tug-of-war with who’s predator and who is prey.
Like all the best boss fights in Metal Gear, The End has multiple weaknesses that clever players can exploit. Kojima wanted the boss fight to last a long time, to really drag out the exhaustive snipe-off between the two characters but, as with Psycho Mantis, there’s ways to make the fight much easier, like following his footprints with thermal vision, catching his pet parrot and following it to his location, or even setting your console calendar forward a week just to watch him die of old age! Crafty players who get their hands on a sniper rifle early enough can even shoot him in his wheelchair long before the fight ever starts. It just goes to show how outside-the-box thinking can outwit and defeat even very difficult opponents.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list, and let us know in the comments below which Metal Gear boss is your favorite!