Even though he hasn’t appeared in Metal Gear game since 2008, Solid Snake has remained the face of the franchise even in the face of Big Boss gradually stealing the spotlight away from his son. It’s really not hard to see why all things considered. Big Boss may be more recent and culturally relevant, but Solid Snake was the face of the series for four straight games and generally starred in games of a higher quality. Snake Eater is considered the gold standard for Metal Gear, but MG2, MGS1, and MGS2 are three of the strongest games in the series alongside it. The same simply can’t be said for Portable Ops, Peace Walker, or Ground Zeroes.
Perhaps what makes Solid Snake all the more interesting when compared to his father is that he’s a far more compelling character on a conceptual level. Solid Snake is a clone who was raised from birth to be a soldier. He should be superhuman by all accounts, but his body was designed, in many ways, to ultimately fail him. Solid Snake is a time bomb and he knows this. It shapes him into the man he becomes by the end of Metal Gear Solid 4 and paints a portrait of a sad soldier who was forced into a very specific lifestyle.
Despite sharing several physical and biological similarities with Big Boss, Solid Snake wasn’t a test tube baby. Rather, EVA carried him in her womb for nine months like a proper baby. His DNA was augmented to emulate Big Boss’ soldier genes, but that’s essentially it. There are physical and biological differences between the two. They may not be apparent, but they are there. This doesn’t mean Snake isn’t a clone, but he’s more of a son than the series lets on.
Shorthand is one of the most important tools in storytelling as it can convey a great deal of information relatively fast without bogging down the audience with exposition. What does this have to do with Solid Snake’s body, though? Simple, Metal Gear Solid’s shorthand can be used to determine Snake is the younger twin brother when it comes to his relationship with Liquid.
Siblings never get along at this age.
To be a bit more specific, shorthand capitalizes on information the audience is likely to have to push across a point. In media, a pair of siblings will typically be depicted as such: the younger being reactionary and the older being provocative. Liquid spends most of MGS provoking Snake while Snake reacts. This is a form of shorthand and lends itself to the idea that Snake is younger. If only for a few minutes.
Even though the series never slows down to focus on it, the fact Snake can’t reproduce is quite sad in a sense. This is a man who clearly wants to pass on his legacy as evidenced by Metal Gear Solid 2, and he’ll never get a chance to do so on a biological level. What’s particularly interesting about Snake’s inability to reproduce is the fact that he was designed that way.
When he was still just an idea in the minds of those in charge of the LET Project, the plan was to make sure Big Boss’ genes couldn’t be passed on through biological means. Snake was always meant to be a temporary weapon and that meant snipping his ability to reproduce at conception. He was designed to be one and done.
It’s easy to miss since it’s easy enough to just assume that a significant amount of time has between the end of Metal Gear 2 and the start of Metal Gear Solid, but there are more than a few lines in MGS1 that indicate Snake has started aging poorly.
The most notable comes from Gray Fox who outright comments on Snake’s less than stellar age.
Of course, it’s debatable whether or not Kojima knew he wanted to bring Snake this road eventually, (most likely not all things considered,) but it does work as a strong piece of foreshadowing in hindsight, if only thematically. Time is not kind to Solid Snake, nor will it ever be.
Not all heroes are good people, and not all good people are heroes. This is a theme Metal Gear pushes consistently from game to game and one that applies to the legendary Solid Snake himself. It could be because of Big Boss’ soldier genes within him or the environment he was raised in, but both Metal Gear Solid and Metal Gear Solid 4 establish just how much Solid Snake loves the thrill of the battlefield.
Liquid explicitly calls Snake out on assassinating his comrades throughout his time on Shadow Moses while MGS4 features an optional sequence where slaying enough enemies in combat results in Snake vomiting from the pressure of remembering Liquid’s accusation. In many ways, Liquid’s line is calling out players who choose to play MGS lethally. In games after the first, it’s totally possible to do full non-lethal runs. The only reason one wouldn’t would be if they loved violence.
For as composed as Solid Snake can be, he’s not the most internally sound individual. He has a grace period where he’s at his physical and mental prime during Metal Gear Solid 2, which we’ll touch upon shortly, but, for the most part, Solid Snake is a man lost in life. He has no true sense of who he is during MGS1 and MGS4 causes him to question his entire existence.
Can a clone truly be their own person?
Is he just a clone of Big Boss? Is he his own man? Does Snake even know what he’s fighting for? The reason he shoots off so much philosophy from game to game isn’t just for the benefit of the audience or who he’s talking to, it’s also for himself. Snake is introspective and his monologues are the few moments where we get a glimpse into his mind. It isn’t until the very end of MGS4, where he confronts Big Boss one last time, that he accepts who he is.
Metal Gear Solid 2 is a hard game for everyone involved. Raiden is mentally and physically broken by the end of the game; Otacon is faced to live with the fact that everyone he loves will leave him in increasingly painful ways; and Solidus is masterminded by Liquid Ocelot to the point where any action he takes ends in his ultimate loss. Everyone suffers. Except for Solid Snake.
Following the events of MGS1, Snake reaches his prime. He’s mentally composed, emotionally in charge, and in the best shape of his life. There’s nothing Snake can’t do. The cruel reality of this situation, however, is that Snake’s glory days will soon come to an end. This will be one of Snake’s last adventures before his accelerated aging kicks in and starts treading towards the end of his life.
When it comes down to it, The Boss’ will is the ultimate driving force of Metal Gear’s entire plot. Every action Big Boss, Ocelot, Liquid, and Solidus take can be directly linked back to what The Boss wants for the world. Unfortunately, what The Boss wants for the world is misinterpreted by Big Boss, creating a chain reaction of decades upon decades of warfare. Only one man truly understands her will: Solid Snake.
Despite never meeting The Boss, Solid Snake wishes for a world untouched and untampered by outside forces.
He wants to let the world be, to allow the world to heal and move on naturally. Instead of radicalizing the political landscape, Snake believes that leaving it alone is the best course for humanity’s progression putting him completely in line with The Boss. In the end, it was Big Boss’ son who understood The Boss best.
Despite being physical clones of Big Boss, identical ones at that, Solid Snake and Liquid aren’t evenly matched throughout the course of Metal Gear Solid. Although Snake ultimately wins their final duel on top of Metal Gear REX, Liquid is made out to be the stronger of the two brothers. At the very least, he’s more durable. Not only do Liquid’s punches hit Snake harder than the other way around, it also takes far more to knock Liquid out than Snake.
Despite being weaker than his supposed big brother, however, Solid Snake is clearly the far more skilled fighter. Having trained directly under Big Boss, Snake is able to beat Liquid down, weaving in and out of attacks for the entire fight. Snake adapts to the situation and doesn’t let fighting a much stronger opponent get to him.
There’s not a single person who compares to Solid Snake’s stealth skills as far as the Metal Gear canon is concerned. Big Boss comes closest, but his accomplishments aren’t nearly as impressive as Snake’s. Not only is Solid Snake able to stealth through Outer Heaven as a rookie, he’s also conquered Zanzibarland, handled Shadow Moses by himself, took on the Big Shell alongside Raiden, and made his way through Outer Haven in MGS4 in an ultimate test of stealth.
Although he’s been caught before, Snake has always found a way to get himself out of trouble in order to get back into the heat of stealth.
Consistently, Snake is able to outperform the competition and survive situations that would otherwise render him deceased. It isn’t until MGS4 where he needs to start using high tech gadgets to help him with stealth, and even then he’s coasting by mostly on his own ability.
Have you ever wondered why Solid Snake suddenly uses CQC in Metal Gear Solid 4 despite never having used it in MGS1 or MGS2? Simple, it’s because he resented Big Boss so much he couldn’t will himself to use a fighting style he developed. Rather, he used CQB, an offshoot of CQC. For Snake to harbor so much resent towards Big Boss that he refused to use what’s arguably the greatest combat stance in the world says quite a lot about their strained relationship. You don’t go decades without using a technique out of anything but pure hate and spite.
Metal Gear is the poster boy for retcons as far as video game narratives are concerned. Every game brought with it new information that bordered on being incompatible with previous titles. One such detail was introduced in Metal Gear Solid and subsequently contradicted in Metal Gear Solid 3. Specifically, Solid Snake used to be blond.
It's hard to imagine a blond Big Boss all things considered.
In MGS, it’s stated that Snake cut and dyed his hair to differentiate himself from Liquid, someone with long, blond hair. Unfortunately, MGS3 shows us that Big Boss not only looks exactly like Snake, he also has brown hair. Realistically, Big Boss wouldn’t have dyed his hair, meaning Snake’s canonical hair color was switched to be brown all along by proxy.
At nearly 182 cm, Solid Snake is almost 6 feet tall during the events of Metal Gear Solid 2. Age is not kind to him, however, and he shrinks a bit when heading into Metal Gear Solid 4. Granted, only by two centimeters so he’s still nearly 6 feet tall, but it’s nonetheless worth making note. Snake’s shorter stature, albeit not all that extreme, is a reminder of his age and the passage of time. Even the greatest soldier in history will lose pieces of himself as he ages.
Should you ever find yourself on Konami’s official web page for Metal Gear Solid, you’ll notice a little something if you do some digging and can read Japanese: Solid Snake has an IQ of 180. While the games certainly don’t depict Snake as unintelligent, the face his canonical IQ is 180 is genuinely one of the most impressive and interesting facts about him.
He's the smartest spy alive.
Snake gets a bad rap for parroting dialogue quite frequently, but his high IQ does make sense. He’s able to follow military jargon strikingly well, and he’s constantly finding new ways to stealth his way through missions. Do remember this is the man who thought to combine a lighter and hairspray to defeat Big Boss on Zanzibarland. Maybe he’s portrayed more practical than overtly smart, but it’s not like his IQ is totally out of the question.
Also found on Konami’s character page for Solid Snake, is the brief tidbit that he’s fluent in six major languages. Solid Snake only ever speaks English within the games themselves, but we can probably deduce what he can speak based on where’s he’s been and his occupation. For starters, English- it’s what he canonically speaking; he likely also knows Japanese since he does have a connection to the East; he also likely speaks Russian given the events of Metal Gear Solid 2; and MGS4 might imply he speaks Spanish, Arabic, and Czech considering acts 1 through 3.
Otherwise known as “The Man Who Makes the Impossible Possible,” Solid Snake is basically the world’s get out of jail free card when push comes to shove. No matter what happens, no matter what danger lurks around the corner, Snake is able to push himself to overcome any odd imaginable. This is a man who never gives up, a man whose convictions are so powerful they keep him from an early grave in Metal Gear Solid 4. Snake is able to defeat enemies far stronger than him consistently. He quite literally makes the impossible possible.
Here’s what Solid Snake and Big Boss have in common: they’re both spies and they look alike. Personality wise, Solid Snake and Big Boss are night and day. Both are introspective and passionate men, but the way they go about their feelings differ so heavily that they ended up mortal enemies despite only knowing each other for a fairly short time.
Snake would give his life to protect his friends, Big Boss forced a soldier to give his life to protect his own skin. One is a man. The other, a monster.
Snake wants to let the world be while Big Boss wants to radicalize it and create a world of perpetual warfare. Snake is reactionary in the grand scheme of the world while Big Boss is provocative, orchestrating grand plans to seize control. Snake fights for those who can’t, Big Boss fights for himself.
Solidus Snake is, quite literally, Solid Snake’s brother. They’re both sons of Big Boss in a medical sense and they even refer to one another as brothers in MGS2 proper. If you look at them biologically, though, Solidus is more of a father to Snake than he is a brother. He’s much younger mind you, but unlike Snake who’s only partially a clone of Big Boss, Solidus is an exact clone.
What this means is that Solidus is a 1:1 match to Big Boss. He looks exactly like Big Boss and his biology is identical to that of Big Boss. Solidus Snake is a perfect clone meaning that he’s, in a way, Solid Snake’s father on a chemical level. If your brother is your father’s clone it doesn’t mean your father is your brother, but your brother might be your father. Technically.
Incapable of having biological children of his own, Solid Snake has to find other means of passing his legacy on to the rest of the world. Metal Gear Solid 2 actually explores this idea quite heavily in its ending by zoning in on the relationship between Snake and Raiden. Snake tells Raiden that the future is what he makes of it and that passing on his wisdom is the best gift he can give to the next generation. We as a society need to pass on information and knowledge to promote human growth.
When you can't pass on your genes, pass on your wisdom.
While this mainly ties the game’s core themes together, it’s also a way of showing the player how close Snake and Raiden have become over the course of Metal Gear Solid 2. Snake is passing on his legacy to Raiden, and Raiden is accepting it fully. In many ways, it’s a parallel to a father passing his genes onto his son. MGS2 itself even contemplated on the relationship between genes and memes, MGS2’s core theme. By the end of the game, Raiden is a son to Snake in almost every sense.
Snake first defeats Venom on Outer Heaven all the way back in Metal Gear; he then defeats Big Boss in Zanzibarland during Metal Gear 2; Metal Gear Solid has Snake defeatist Liquid; and Metal Gear Solid 4 has Snake beating he Liquid out of Ocelot. Raiden ends up defeating Solidus himself and nobody beats Snake, but it’s a pretty solid record nonetheless.
The Phantom Pain’s plot twist brought with it one of the most narrative implications in the entire Metal Gear mythos: there were two version of Big Boss all along and everyone was none the wiser. This means Solid Snake never realized what his connection to Venom truly was. What is their connection though? It’s not that Venom is a false version of his father like you might think. Rather, their connection is that both are soldiers made in Big Boss’ image.
Two shades of Big Boss.
Where Solid Snake is someone biologically manufactured to be Big Boss, Venom is someone physically altered to be Big Boss. Snake was born and lived in Big Boss’ shadow while Venom was forced into Big Boss’ shadow. Snake rejected his lineage, forging his own ideology, whereas Venom embraced his link to Big Boss, doing his bidding to the very end. They’re two sides of the same coin and Snake never knew.
Anyone can tell you that Solid Snake loves a good smoke, but can they tell you just how much he loves them? Time and time again, Snake proves his loyalty to smoking in some of the most ridiculous ways imaginable. Most notably, he swallows an entire pack on his way to Shadow Moses so he can smoke on the job. To push this idea even further, MGS4 has Snake smoking in the load screens, going through packs like they’re nothing. There’s love and then there’s love. Find you someone who looks at you the way Snake looks at his pack.
Following his retirement at the end of the MSX’s Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, the titular Solid Snake retires to Alaska to become a musher. He raises his own pack of huskies, enters into races, and even competes in some local Alaskan events. It’s easily one of the most interesting aspects about Snake and it says quite a lot about his personality and body without saying much at all.
For starters, the fact Snake raises his own dogs implies he has a nurturing side. He knows how to properly care for multiple living beings at once. He also lives in a harsh environment and competes in even harsher events. This is a man built for cold weather and he puts that notion the test for sport. It takes a bold man to brave a cold world.
Although Metal Gear Solid 4 places quite a great deal of emphasis on Solid Snake’s deteriorating body, it’s important to recognize just how absurdly fit Old Snake actually is. He may be aging rapidly, but he’s in some of the best shape of his life. Form a physical standpoint, Snake rocks the old man look with grace. His body is a bit beat up, but he’s got plenty of muscle and a solid figure.
Age really is but a number.
When it comes time to get into the battlefield, Snake’s old body is durable enough to take on the entire Beauty and the Beast unit and then survive a final fist fight with Liquid Ocelot, a man in far better health. The game tries to explain that Old Snake’s sneaking suit is doing a great deal of the world, but it’s obvious that Snake is nonetheless is fantastic shape all around.