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The Metal Gear Saga Is Complete, But Where Do I Start?

The Metal Gear Saga began in 1987 with Metal Gear on the MSX2 home computer and concluded with 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.



Metal Gear Solid

So you want to get into Hideo Kojima’s magnum opus of storytelling before being dragged into his newest trip featuring Norman Reedus and a fetus? There’s no other story-driven video game out there like the Metal Gear Solid series and what better way to prepare for Death Stranding than by playing the games that skyrocketed Kojima to fame.

However, though he might be a master of storytelling in video games, understanding Kojima’s complete vision can be overwhelming.

The Metal Gear series began in 1987 with Metal Gear on the MSX2 home computer and concluded with 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain on PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC. Despite twenty-eight games in the franchise, there actually is not much to play regarding the main story. Subtracting all the unnecessary spin-offs and non-canon games leaves us with less than a dozen entries that are actually needed in order to understand and enjoy the entire Metal Gear Saga.

Metal Gear’s complete canon story- dubbed as the Metal Gear Saga by fans- is worth every second of the stress you may experience understanding it’s unconventional control schemes and sometimes complicated plot. If you need a guide to get started with the Metal Gear Saga, you are in the right place. Just one important thing you should note before starting; it is nowhere near as complicated as it may seem.

The Way To Play

There are two different ways to play through the Metal Gear Saga. One is the way this series was intended to be experienced while the other is an inferior route that will ruin several surprises the story has to offer.

The Metal Gear Saga is meant to be experienced in its release order rather than the canon chronological timeline. The order you should be playing the Metal Gear Saga in is…

Metal Gear (1987)

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990)

Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008) 

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013)

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)

Why In Release Order?

Back in 2012, Kojima Productions and Konami teamed up with Bluepoint Games to release the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and later Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. Despite these remasters being phenomenal ports and convenient ways of playing the series, Bluepoint made a severe mistake; the games were placed in chronological order on the main menu. This made newcomers believe that the games included in the collections should be played starting with Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and end with Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.

Although you can play these games in the story’s chronological order, it is not recommended. The advantage to playing this way is how the world-building seemingly evolves with the story’s advancing technology while characters are developed and replaced almost like an ongoing movie series. The disadvantage, however, is the earliest games in the timeline will spoil future mysteries and critical events.

At first, that may make no sense. How could a prequel spoil a sequel? Well, the first prequel story actually came out after a direct sequel for story purposes; that game was Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Snake Eater takes place 35 years before the events of the original Metal Gear. The prequel games, featuring the mentor of Solid Snake, Big Boss, were made to answer questions that you would have had after completing Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. By starting the series with Big Boss’s story, you are going to spoil several mysteries surrounding Solid Snake’s. 

The focus of the prequels are not supposed to be entirely on Big Boss; it’s the world his allies, enemies, and himself built that eventually evolve into the postmodern crisis that Solid Snake is stuck in. Many of the characters in the prequels were already featured in games that were released prior to Snake Eater. You were supposed to know what would happen to the important characters in the story before you started. The prequels were made to give closure to prominent questions derived from Solid Snake’s journey.

Shortening It Even Further?

Do you actually have to play all 11 entries? No, you actually do not! Four of these games are optional. 

Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops are the shortest stories in the series that are all explained in the direct sequels of each respective game through pre-mission briefings. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, on the other hand, is an extended prologue to the final chapter of the timeline.

Where Can I Buy The Games I Need?

As of right now, Konami has never released all of the mainline entries into one bundle, however, every game in the franchise is easily obtainable physically and digitally.

For starters, stick to the latest releases of any game that predates the seventh generation of consoles. They are the definitive way of playing all of these games today. Besides adjusting the resolution and aspect ratios, the remasters made multiple fixes to the original releases, such as reworking a majority of the overall camera functionality and controls for optimal play.

For PlayStation 3 owners, the cheapest way to experience the series is Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection. This bundle contains every canon game released between 1987 to 2010, except for Portable Ops. The spin-off Metal Gear Solid: The VR Missions and two fully voiced digital graphic novels of Metal Gear Solid and Sons of Liberty are also included in this collection. Every entry in the series can be individually purchased currently through the PSN Store and played on the PS3, except for Portable Ops [PSP and PS Vita].

As for Xbox 360 owners, almost every game is available, with the exception of Metal Gear Solid, Portable Ops, and Guns of the Patriots. Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance are backwards compatible titles on Xbox One.

Other Options to Play

Metal Gear Solid

If you happen to own a GameCube, there is an exclusive remake of Metal Gear Solid subtitled The Twin Snakes. The game goes for a hefty price online, but if you can not get it there is nothing to worry about. It’s the same exact same story and word for word script with enhanced graphics and gameplay features. If you can not get it, you are not missing anything. 

Sticking to Nintendo systems, the 3DS had a port of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. It included a new control scheme, but unlike every other release of this entry, it does not include the original Metal Gear duology. 

While handhelds are not the intended way to play through the series, the PS Vita did have a port of the HD Collection. It is a substantial way of playing through a small chunk of the series, but it contains one less game than the console release. 

Best Bang For Your Buck Way to Play All the Essentials?

Metal Gear Solid: The Legacy Collection and Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience includes all seven entries you need to get fully assimilated into Kojima’s insane fictional yet modern relevant world. If you are interested in purchasing both new copies physically on Amazon, you can follow both links retrospectively.

Creative writer, NXpress Host, and Games Editor. I have always held a high interest in the fields of professional writing and communications. You can find me with my head deep in the espionage genre or in a kayak upstream. I’ll always be first in line for the next Hideo Kojima or Masahiro Sakurai game.



  1. Seth Balmore

    May 14, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    I know I’m randomly commenting almost a year later, but wanted to give a little bit of feedback. This whole article, while written well, was pretty unnecessary. When asking in what order to digest any creative work, the answer is always IN THE ORIGINAL ORDER. It’s no secret. Whether it’s music, film, literature, or video games, the “correct’ way to experience an artist’s work is always chronological order, though it may not always be the “best” way.

    For example, I’m a big Smashing Pumpkins fan. If you start with their first album, you get to witness a progression of their overall sound/genre, musical ability, and recording quality. Each album is a development that builds upon last. By starting chronologically, you get to ‘understand” their 5th album a lot better than if you jumped in on album 7 and then went back to album #5 and then to #2. Still, their 1st album doesn’t have ANY hits on it – they hadn’t yet developed their stadium-selling pop rock songwriting style yet. So the ‘best’ way to experience their music is to jump straight into their 2nd or 3rd album, where they’ve already hit their stride, and there are no weak songs. Otherwise, a new fan might get bored before they even get to the good stuff!

    I say all that because the same thing applies for the Metal Gear series. Everything you’ve written in this article is true, but can be obtained from a Wikipedia page. You didn’t give us any of YOUR knowledge as a fan and as an individual. This article would have been much more interesting if you pointed out the “best” way to play Metal Gear as opposed to the ‘correct’ way.

    Anyone new to the series is going to be used to modern games, and I don’t mean 2020 modern; I mean like 1998 modern. The first two MG games are VERY dated. They’re from an entirely era when games were vastly different from how we know them today. They’re not objectively “bad”, but telling a 15 year old kid to play an MSX2 game is like telling the same kid to play with a cup an ball on a string – very entertaining pre computers, but downright insulting in our modern era. Newer gamers would actually find MGS3 to be the perfect entry point. It doesn’t really spoil anything critical (it is a prequel after all), and is a polished game that shows you exactly what the MGS series is all about. And if you like MGS3, you’ll be eager to play the first two Solid games in order to get the full story.

    But certain people, who grew up on older consoles, would probably do better starting with MGS1. The graphics won’t be an immediate turn off, so they might as well start there instead of starting with the prequel. And any newcomer should skip over all the side games besides Peace Walker. It’s silly to encourage people to play the ENTIRE series when only the main entries are actually worth anyone’s time. Anyone jumping into MGS is decades behind at this point, so expecting them to dedicate the next 2 years in order to fully absorb this franchise is just asinine.

    So I feel like you should’ve just highlighted the good stuff and showed your audience the best compromise between chronological order and FUN order. Because that’s the point of games – to have fun. This is the kind of information that people are looking for when it comes to retro video game journalism. We need info that we can’t get from a Wikipedia page. I guess I’ll just leave it at that. I hope to see some great content from all the writers on this site.

    • Marc Kaliroff

      May 14, 2020 at 9:19 pm

      Hey Seth! I want to say I do appreciate feedback on my writing so I wanted to just say thank you for taking the time to comment. Two things to keep in mind is that this was the first article I ever wrote for the site and the second (as you stated) is that it has almost been a year since this was published. I do agree with some of your points and you make some great valid criticisms, but some of your complaints are addressed in the article and I think your perspective of having fun impacted your thoughts. My focus for the article was getting information to people looking to experience the full story in the best possible way it could be consumed.

      For one, I did say that you do not have to play the original MSX games and I even would personally advise newcomers to not play them at all (along with Portable Ops). Saying that they are inessential to the full story of the series would completely discredit the origin stories of Solid Snake and a critical turning point in the series timeline.

      Proclaiming that MGS3 is the perfect starting point is also extremely contradictory to the point of the article. MGS3 is not a good starting point if a player wants to experience the best aspects of Metal Gear’s entire story. It ruins several of the surprises and unique kinks that the series has to offer if you play them in the numbered order. Yes, it does work as a standalone story, but it arguably works better as a followup to 2 and a transition into 4’s narrative. No Wikipedia article would ever explain to you why you should play 3 after completing 1 and 2. Wikipedia may rightfully say that Snake Eater is first in the timeline, but as I said in the article “The disadvantage, however, [to playing in chronological order] is the earliest games in the timeline will spoil future mysteries and critical events.”

      I do mention the compromise to playing chronologically versus that of the release order in the article in the same paragraph. You are right. You can get the full story from playing the prequels first, but is it worth sacrificing the brilliance in the sequels for the sake of playing the “newest” entries? That is what I told the audience. There is a compromise in seeing how the world of MGS evolved, but is that really worth spoiling the story for? Also, saying older games are boring discredits generations of material. If you need living proof of it, I’m right here because I will still say MGS1 is one of the greatest games of all time and it came out on a console released two years before my birth. Lots of teenagers and kids will look back on older games and enjoy a ton of them if they gave them a shot. Not all have aged well, but that does not mean they can not be enjoyed.

      Once again, thanks for commenting!

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