The Metal Gear series seems to be pretty much dead as far as interest and quality are concerned, and that’s because creator Hideo Kojima has moved on from the games. But when he was at the helm, the series had crafted a chronology that lasted more than twenty years in real-time releases.
In this list, we’ve considered only the mainline Metal Gear games, which are those that supply storylines to the overall narrative; games that are only side material or take place in parallel universes don’t qualify. If you’re confused which game takes place in which year (and we’re sure you are confused), then take on a look at the chronology which ties all the Metal Gear games and the years they are set in.
11 Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (1964)
If you want to know the man behind the villain that was Big Boss, then you need to start from all the way back in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The game shows us a young Big Boss – known here as Naked Snake – in the 1960s, as he seeks to prevent a superweapon from going off and threatening the world.
During his quest, Snake has to face his mentor, known as The Boss, who has become a turncoat and is now on the opposite side of the protagonist; this makes the story a deeply personal one, which kickstarts Big Boss’ story.
10 Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (1970)
You’ve probably never even heard of Portable Ops, since it was released exclusively for the PlayStation Portable back in the day. The story, too, while taking place a significant time after Snake Eater, doesn’t delve into the fallout of the events that followed Snake taking The Boss’ life.
However, you’ll be mistaken into thinking the game isn’t canon, as this story follows Naked Snake rallying whatever support he can get in a world where he is now out of allies. The plot sees Snake being the one held captive by his own former FOX teammates, with the protagonist having to escape with his life and establish new grounds for himself.
9 Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (1974)
This one serves as the true sequel to Snake Eater by presenting us a Snake (no longer Naked, it seems) who is wracked with guilt at The Boss’ death even almost a decade later. The result from Portable Ops is also felt, with Snake now having formed his own mercenary group known as the MSF.
Snake being called “Big Boss” takes its first steps into the chronology here, with the character being very reluctant to hold that title due to his unsureness over his mettle of being a leader. Of course, by the end of the game, Big Boss is truly here.
8 Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (1975)
You can’t be satisfied with this game if you play it exclusively without continuing with the follow-up, because Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeros is very obviously a first-parter to a two-part story. The story also leaves you hanging, but that’s the point of the game.
Starting very shortly after Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, the plot sees Big Boss (now embracing this title, although going by the alias of Snake) infiltrating into enemy lines to rescue his allies. It starts off one way and ends in another, and you need to keep your interest alive until the next game to understand the timeline that goes rather wonky from here.
7 Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (1984)
What’s weird here is that you kind of need to play the first Metal Gear to understand what the ending of this game entails, although you could still play chronologically and avoid having your mind blown at the enormous reveal of Big Boss’ identity.
This story brings to a close the biggest plot hole the series had had for decades, and completes Big Boss’ arc in the past – setting up Solid Snake’s adventures that had been released earlier in the real world. The plot for The Phantom Pain depicts Punished “Venom” Snake in his pursuit of revenge for the events that took place in the previous game.
6 Metal Gear (1995)
Remember how we mentioned Big Boss had been captured by his own FOX team, and then proceeded to form a new special forces group? This is where it led to, as we step into the shoes of Solid Snake in the original Metal Gear.
If you happened to become attached to Big Boss by now, then unfortunately for you, you’re going to have to fight him, as Big Boss takes over the reins as the series’ antagonist from here. However, all your adventures in the previous chronologically placed games will have brought you context to what Big Boss’ motivations were, so the blow isn’t too big.
5 Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1999)
This one places it simpler with its storyline, as you become Solid Snake again to enter enemy lines and rescue a scientist, along with the plan of destroying the mysterious “Metal Gear D”. For those who played this game back when it was released in 1990, the sight of Big Boss was a surprise, since he was supposed to be gone, but we know from Phantom Pain what really was up.
This game continues placing us into the shoes of Solid Snake, and makes us further accustomed to the hero. By now, gamers started favoring this character as the protagonist of the series.
4 Metal Gear Solid (2005)
The Big Boss stuff is done for now, and we’re firmly into Solid Snake territory. This game began the “Solid” aspect of Metal Gear, and every main game (save for one) carried it in its title from here. The story now shifted toward making Solid Snake a fully fleshed out character, and brought in Liquid Snake as his antagonist this time round.
Overall, the plot was pretty much along similar lines, as Snake has to continue his infiltration techniques to fight off a threat that has nuclear implications. Snake’s personal story takes an unexpected turn when it is revealed that the villain is his genetic counterpart; this is where roots to Big Boss’ games take into effect.
3 Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (2007-09)
In a time where there was no trolling on the internet, Metal Gear trolled us hard by making us believe Solid Snake was the hero of this story. In actuality, it was a young man called Raiden, who holds the main protagonist role for the bulk of the game, taking place two years after where we first started out.
From here, Solid Snake’s story evolves into incorporating everything that has happened previously, into something unforeseen. The Sons of Liberty take control of the situation by threatening the President, and an overall sinister plot to overtake world power is unraveled; orchestrated by the Patriots – an organization which has been manipulating events at large.
2 Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (2014)
Solid Snake’s story comes to a close here, with the protagonist suffering from old age, due to his status as a clone of Big Boss not making him a conventional human. With Snake’s death impending, he undertakes a last mission to confront Liquid Snake, and bring down the Patriots in a final bid for world peace.
All in all, this story ties everything up with Big Boss’ saga, too, with his unit’s intentions becoming clearer here, and the overall evolution of where things started and where they ended up heading. Guns of the Patriots effectively concludes the fifty-year story that began in 1964 and ended in 2014.
1 Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2018)
It’s not a direct continuation, but we do get an epilogue of sorts with Revengeance, where Raiden’s personal story comes to an end. After the Patriots were finished off in the previous game, its remnants are seen in this one, with Raiden being the man to end this threat.
Four years after the previous game’s events, we don’t get to see what the world is now like, as the story squarely focuses on Raiden’s cybernetic abilities, which devotes the plot toward his own angle rather than the arc we were used to. However, it’s part of the main series due to Revengeance tying all loose ends up.