The Metal Gear Solid franchise has been no stranger to insanity. Hideo Kojima’s writing and directing frequently ranges from appropriately genius to downright baffling, but it is entirely because of his manic style of storytelling that the series has managed to remain such an important part of video game history.
Playing through the games themselves will naturally expose the series’ unpredictable twists and turns that somehow make perfect sense in hindsight. Some of the highlights of experiencing Metal Gear Solid comes from that very first playthrough where everything is new and fresh; Solid Snake is just a retired vet and Big Boss is nothing more than a familiar legend.
At first glance, it almost seems like Metal Gear Solid is at its best when experienced for the first time, but that is far from the case. In and around the games exist a rich history of cut content, easter eggs (like a doll of Mario and Yoshi appearing in Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes), and secrets that only serve to enhance the Metal Gear experience.
It’s only natural that a thirty year franchise would have countless details hidden in the background, but Metal Gear Solid takes it to another level altogether. Rivaling some of the most complicated literary pieces, each entry in the series does everything it can to reward players who wish to revisit the games.
What makes it all the better, however, is the rich development history that lingers in the background. As subtle as some of the finer points of the narrative are, their subtlety pales in comparison to the tragic and absurd details Kojima hides in the background.
What Peace Walker lacks in in-game cutscenes, it more than makes up for in pre-mission codec calls. Directly following the cutscene heavy Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Kojima’s follow up sought to lighten the load on high stakes story and instead emphasize the wackier elements of the series.
Naked Snake, now codenamed Big Boss, can kidnap enemy soldiers via balloon transportation, hold them up R&D designed bananas, and even hunt down iconic monsters from Monster Hunter. Perhaps the strangest development in Peace Walker, however, is the sudden reveal that Big Boss believes in Santa Claus.
After Huey laughs off Big Boss’ comment about NORAD tracking Santa, Big Boss continues to insist that old Saint Nick is indeed real: “He’s real, I tell ya. He used to bring me presents…”
It’s a small call that lasts less than a minute, but it’s a nice, humanizing moment that reminds players that even the legendary Big Boss has a soft spot.
Introduced in Peace Walker and promptly killed off in Ground Zeroes, Chico never seemed to get the development that was destined for him. His relationship with Paz lended itself to a natural tension and served as the driving force of Ground Zeroes but, aside from one short radio call in The Phantom Pain, Chico’s presence was all but erased from Metal Gear Solid V.
That is unless you take a look at The Art of Metal Gear Solid V. The art book dedicates a page to what Chico might have looked like had he survived Ground Zeroes and hints at his potential role.
Sporting a long red coat with a peace symbol on the back and a series of melee weapons, it seems like Chico was slate to come back and fill in the Cyborg Ninja archetype that was left unfilled after Metal Gear Solid 4. Whether he was meant to be a friend or foe, Chico’s exclusion feels like another missed opportunity on The Phantom Pain’s part.
The Phantom Pain’s twist might feel like it comes out of left field given its admittedly non-existent buildup, but fans were able to piece together Venom Snake’s true identity by paying close attention to Kojima’s music choices for trailers and picking up on Venom’s new eccentricities.
With any other developer, Snake’s new ponytail and vape would have been seen as a new direction for the character, but with Kojima every little detail has meaning and his fans know that. Big Boss is an avid cigar smoker, a habit he carries from Snake Eater all the way to his final scene in Guns of the Patriots, and while his choice of smoke may not have been enough to tip off most players, Kojima’s musical cues certainly were.
One of The Phantom Pain’s first trailers is set to Garbage’s “Not Your Kind of People,” a song about identities being slightly off. An elaborate image detailing the theory circulated for a while, but lacked a final nail to sell it. It’s hard to imagine many of the theory’s naysayers kept their doubts after MGSV opened with David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.”
David Hayter being replaced by Kiefer Sutherland in Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes stirred quite the controversy within the fanbase to the point that fans theorized that this was simply an elaborate hoax on Kojima’s part. The fire was only fueled with the release of The Phantom Pain, when it was revealed that Kiefer was indeed meant to be a permanent fixture.
Hayter’s seemingly last minute replacement came as a surprise to many, but the reality is Kojima had planned on replacing him as early as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.
Ever the big fan of Escape From New York, Kojima had filled the series with countless references to the movies, going so far to base Solid Snake’s alias in Metal Gear Solid 2 after Kurt Russell's character, Snake Plissken. Kojima intended on having Russel voice Big Boss and even had a Konami producer approach the actor with the offer, but Russell allegedly declined and Hayter was brought back on as the lead actor.
Old Snake’s grandpa mustache stands out as one of Metal Gear Solid 4’s more iconic images, going so far to feature rather prominently on the North American box art, but originally Snake was going to be able to acquire a razor and style his facial hair to his liking.
In an interview with EGM, Kojima mentioned that he’d wanted to incorporate growing facial hair in Metal Gear Solid 2, but the PlayStation 2’s hardware wasn’t up to Kojima’s standard to warrant inclusion.
The PlayStation 3 was deemed technologically sound for the mechanic and Kojima even previewed four of Old Snake’s potential facial hair styles, one of them being a full beard that made him look very much like an older Big Boss. Old Snake’s hair, in theory, would grow in real time throughout the game, prompting usage of the shaver. For whatever reason, though, grooming did not made it into the final product and Kojima never commented on its absence.
Kojima’s original idea for Metal Gear Solid’s sequel had Snake traveling to the Middle East to take out another Metal Gear. It’s a suspiciously simple sequel, especially considering the Metal Gear Solid 2 we did get, but Kojima only scrapped the concept due to rising tensions in the Middle East.
More importantly, however, Kojima’s next draft for the sequel featured literally none of the events of Big Shell actually occurring. Presumably, most of the general plot would have remained the same, but Raiden’s entire mission during the Plant chapter would have been a completely fabricated simulation where even Rose would have been revealed to be an AI.
MGS2’s narrative is already relatively confusing, forcing the player to question the reality of the story, but Kojima’s first draft would have completely thrown out that ambiguity in favor of a twist so grand it might have underwhelmed the rest of the series had it been carried out.
The Metal Gear Mk. II was one of the bigger gameplay additions in Metal Gear Solid 4, allowing more in-depth area scouting as Snake could find a safe hiding spot and send the Mk. II out to scan enemy locations. While Metal Gear Solid 4, as a whole, fails to offer many opportunities to use the miniature Metal Gear, it might have seen more immediate use had Kojima figured out how to implement it with the PlayStation’s hardware.
Sporting a better balance of gameplay and story in general, Snake was going to be able to deploy the Mk. II throughout Shadow Moses and the Mk. II was even shown in his inventory during E3 1997. The Mk. II presumably would have remained first person, not dissimilar to Snake’s first person view in the game and serve the same purpose it went on to serve in MGS4. Given Metal Gear Solid’s top down design it’s likely the Mk. II would have served a better purpose in Shadow Moses, though at the expense of making the game just a bit easier.
Raiden has always had a controversial design. He’s effeminate, whiny, naive, and just about the complete antithesis of Solid Snake. His blond hair is as iconic to the character as Snake’s bandana is to Solid himself. In many ways, Raiden’s design is genius as it serves as just another aspect to make Metal Gear Solid 2 as uncomfortable for the player as possible.
Raiden’s design wasn’t always so brilliant though. In fact, Sons of Liberty concept art shows Snake Eater’s The Fear as one of Raiden’s preliminary designs. Yes, easily The Cobra’s most manic and perturbed member was potentially going to be the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2.
Granted, his personality would have most likely been more in line with Raiden as we know it, but that doesn’t change that The Fear’s design doesn’t quite suit the narrative the same way Raiden’s does. President Johnson grabbing Raiden’s crotch would take on a very different mood with The Fear involved.
Trailers for The Phantom Pain played up the inclusion of child soldiers to the point that when Venom Snake outright refused to use them, many fans felt their expectations had been betrayed. Metal Gear Solid V was meant to be the game where Big Boss finally turned into the vindictive monster he was in the original Metal Gear duology, but many fans failed to realize he already made that shift in Peace Walker.
Through Paz and Chico, Big Boss was using child soldiers right from Peace Walker’s outset. Both characters are active parts of Militaire Sans Frontieres and while Paz is later revealed to actually be in her twenties, Chico is very much still a child.
Too many players fixated on The Phantom Pain to reveal Big Boss’ bad side, but Kojima had masterfully hidden it under everyone’s noses for years. It might not be as blatant as most fans wanted, but it’s subtlety that makes Metal Gear.
Whenever people list the best PlayStation 2 games of all time, you’re certain to see Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater topping the list. It’s a staple of the console, going so far as to push the limits of the hardware, but Snake Eater was never actually meant to be a PS2 title in the first place.
Konami wanted Snake Eater to frontline the PlayStation 3 as an early title and Kojima Productions fully intended on working with the PlayStation 3’s hardware, but constant delays kept the PS3 on the backburner for years to come. Not wanting to waste anymore time, the team was forced to carry out production on the PlayStation 2.
All things considered, it’s probably for the best given how notoriously difficult the PS3 was to work with when it first came out even causing Gabe Newell to call it a “waste of everybody’s time.” How times change.
Every Metal Gear Solid has its boss unit and Metal Gear Solid 4 is no different featuring The Beauty and the Beast Unit as the game’s antagonizers. Fully clad in black and grey armor, the B&B corp was composed of four women all suffering from PTSD.
The first phase of each battle had Snake pitted against their “Beast” form, where they took on the mannerisms of different bosses from the series. The second phase has each B&B shed their armor to reveal the beauty underneath as they slowly stride towards Snake, wearing nothing more than a skintight suit covered in slime.
It’s already an incredibly sexually charged scenario, but Kojima intended on amping up the sexuality by having the Beauties come towards Snake in the nude. Legend has it that he even got far enough to film the fully nude motion capture, but ultimately had to drop the concept as it would have given the game an AO rating it simply couldn’t afford.
As if Metal Gear Solid 2 couldn’t get any more strange, a skateboarding minigame was included when it was ported to the Xbox and re-released on the PlayStation 2 as Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance.
Substance added VR missions and an alternate non-canon story mode that had Solid Snake taking on the Plant in favor or Raiden, but amongst those logical additions was a Tony Hawk-style skateboarding mode.
Players could choose between Snake and Raiden and have them skateboard around Big Shell doing tricks and destroying Cyphers. It’s an incredibly simple mini-game with little depth which makes its inclusion all the more confusing.
To add even more confusion to the skateboarding, it was completely removed from all version of Metal Gear Solid HD and The Legacy Collection. Snake Tales and the VR Missions still remain, but all traces of Snake and Raiden grinding on Big Shell’s struts have been completely erased.
Torture is not a foreign concept to fans of the series, thanks to each game featuring its own spin on the concept, but Metal Gear Solid 3 easily has the most brutal take on it.
Not only is Naked Snake beaten to a literal bloody pulp by Volgin, he’s also humiliated and metaphorically castrated by his mother figure. It’s a powerful scene that never stops being hard to watch, but there’s a dark secret hidden in the torture segment.
Should the player save, quit, and load up the game immediately following the torture, they’ll be treated to bloody hack n’ slash mini-game titled Guy Savage. To add to Guy’s mysterious inclusion, Kojima refused to comment on the nightmarish mini-game for years until confirming it was a preview for a canceled Konami title. Much like the majority of the bonus content in Metal Gear Solid 3, Guy Savage only exists in the PlayStation 2 version of the game, so dust off those copies.
It’s no secret that Hideo Kojima wanted the series to end with Metal Gear Solid 4, going so far as to make Solid Snake an old man with mere months to live at the very beginning of the game, but what’s a bit more hidden in the background is Kojima’s frequent desire to end the series.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was meant to be the end of the Solid saga. Kojima had made his artistic statement, challenged the very perception of sequels and had absolutely no intentions on following up on MGS2’s cliffhanger ending.
As his team went on to make Metal Gear Solid 3, he saw them struggling and once against returned to help them, vowing that he would end the series after establishing Big Boss’ past.
Metal Gear Solid 4 continued without him and through constant fan badgering and death threats, Kojima once again found himself working on what would be his “last Metal Gear.” Needless to say, that wasn’t the case as development on Peace Walker started mere months after 4’s release.
Some more attentive fans might remember this, as Metal Gear Rising wasn’t always being developed by Platinum. It was originally a subsidiary product of Kojima Productions titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Instead of taking place after the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, Rising was going to take place between 2 and 4 and explain how Raiden saved Sunny from the Patriots.
Kojima left his team in charge of the product, but when he returned months later, he found himself disappointed with progress and canceled the title. Thankfully, Platinum Games stepped in and offered to complete Rising for them.
What followed was a brand change that dropped the “Solid” from the title and a story change that put Raiden in MGS4’s future instead of its past. It’s rare to see any moments where Kojima expressed disappointment in a Metal Gear title, but it’s ultimately a good thing that Rising continued despite his initial wishes.
Unless you were actively following the pre-release of Metal Gear Solid 2 back in 2001, odds are you already knew Raiden was going to take over for Snake a quarter into Sons of Liberty before even playing it. Raiden’s inclusion has gotten to the point where he’s actually heavily featured in Metal Gear Solid 2’s advertising, being the face of the game for the HD collection, a complete 180 from the original release.
Going into Metal Gear Solid 2 in 2001 meant there was no reason to even think Snake would be replaced. Raiden had been featured briefly in TV spots and some trailers, but the focus was always on Solid Snake. Snake was controllable in all the scenes and the star of all shown off cutscenes.
Most would take this to mean that Kojima only showed off The Tanker portion of the game, but he actually also showed off the Plant just with Raiden’s model swapped with Snake. It’s almost cruel, but that's exactly what makes it a Kojima move.
Before Kojima had decided on making Metal Gear Solid 2 into a cerebral, postmodern game he originally envisioned a more traditional sequel featuring Solid Snake pitted against Liquid Snake once more.
In Metal Gear Solid 2, as we know it, Liquid does return spiritually through Ocelot’s arm but Kojima intended Liquid to have faked his own death at the end of Metal Gear Solid 1. It makes sense in a way given how much Snake struggled to take down Liquid, ultimately being unable to and relying on FoxDie to finish the job, but it also would have felt like a slap in the face precisely because of that struggle.
Liquid having faked his death and coming back would have rendered the twins’ final confrontation pointless on Snake’s end as he was, once again, foiled by Liquid while also retroactively hurting Metal Gear Solid’s overarching theme of Nature vs Nurture. It’s one of Kojima’s more interesting concepts, but it’s for the best that it remained a concept.
Revolver Ocelot is, without a doubt, one of the most iconic characters in the Metal Gear Solid saga. Whether he’s acting as a protagonist or antagonist, the theatrical cowboy is directly tied into some, if not most, of the series’ highlights. Ocelot is at his most prominent in Metal Gear Solid 4, where he actively works against The Boss’. It’s tragic enough as is, given how beloved The Boss is as a character, but it takes on new tragedy with the realization that Ocelot is The Boss’ son.
At the end of Snake Eater, The Boss mentions she gave birth during a battle, but the identity of the child is never directly given and only hinted at in an optional codec conversation with EVA after fighting Ocelot: "All I heard was that his mother was supposedly shot in the gut during battle and that he was born right there, bullets whizzing past them." It’s a sad, hidden plot point, but it’s Kojima in every way.
A lot of the heart in Peace Walker comes from Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller’s friendship. The player never gets to see the two formally meet, but it’s clear given how comfortable they are with each other that they’ve managed to build a healthy partnership. . . so long as they’re out of the showers, that is.
In the eighth entry of Paz’s Diary, she talks about Kaz’s womanizing nature, followed by detailing a naked fight the two had directly because of it, “They had already been at it pretty hard in the showers and their bodies were covered in bruises.”
Paz continues to detail the violent encounter as the two grappled and pound on one another to prove their points, but as ridiculous as the encounter is, there’s a genuinely heartfelt moment at the end as Paz reflects on the nude brawl: “I got the sense, that for all his womanizing, Miller only trusted one person, and that was Snake.”
Metal Gear Solid 4, and Solid Snake’s story for that matter, ends with Snake opting not to commit suicide after having a heart to heart with Big Boss in a cemetery. In what is perhaps the longest string of cutscenes in the series, Snake chooses to live his few remaining months alive peacefully, accepting the world for what it is and letting it be.
It’s a poignant, uplifting finale for the character and the series that hits all the right emotional notes, but Kojima’s original ending was much darker.
After stopping Liquid Ocelot and freeing the world from the Patriot’s control, Snake and Otacon would turn themselves over to the U.N. for Metal Gear related terrorism and promptly be set for execution. Kojima’s staff deemed the ending too dark and actually refused to work until he changed his mind.
While Snake saluting his father and quitting smoking makes for a powerful conclusion to his character arc, it’s hard not to be curious about how Kojima’s intended ending would have been executed.