Metal Gear Solid 3 Analysis: The 5 Phases of Dealing With Hidden Trauma

Playing Metal Gear Solid 3 after 8 years taught me how to deal with trauma, just like Naked Snake does throughout the game. It's hidden well and would take a great deal of life experiences to see. Games can sometimes teach us a variety of lessons, but Metal Gear Solid 3 takes it to a whole new level.

Metal Gear Solid 3 Analysis: The 5 Phases of Dealing With Hidden Trauma

Metal Gear Solid is a series famous for its over-the-top exaggeration of action, world-affair conspiracies, and unique characters. It also contains extensively detailed characters that you need to play a few games from the series to actually understand. It’s also something that you need the patience to appreciate. If you can’t sit back and enjoy the long cutscenes and dialogue, this series isn’t for you. Without further ado, welcome to my Metal Gear Solid analysis.

If you can tolerate all of that and give attention to Hideo Kojima’s artful story-telling, there might be very few franchises out there that can fulfill your need for an epic adventure.

Metal Gear Solid 3 came out in 2004, when many of us were kids. We did not possess the intellect to grasp what the story was implying. Needless to say, we still might not understand fully what Hideo Kojima wanted to say to us. It’s something that can allow different individuals to take away a different meaning. That, I believe, is the essence of art.

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

Back to the past

16 years later, I got the chance to play this gem again through Xbox Game Pass, and on this playthrough, I discovered something else. I finished the game about 30 times back on my PS2 and it never hit me back then on how deep some of its elements were. With the kind of experience I have with this game, I could write a Metal Gear Solid analysis every day for the rest of my life.

metal gear solid analysis ps2

Can’t believe I sold you

To recap a bit, we play as Naked Snake in this game. Naked Snake is a special operative who is used by the government to pursue missions in absolute secrecy. When the going gets tough, Naked Snake is the man to call. 

The military life

Naked Snake is first and foremost a soldier who grew up on the battlefield. He is not an average Joe. Nothing else gives meaning to his life other than serving his country and more importantly, the mission he is assigned. Nothing can distract him from achieving what he’s been tasked with. By all means, he is a hardened military personnel whose life revolves around the battlefield. That is his normal.

Typically, the relationships military people form on the battlefield are sometimes more powerful than they have outside of this life. The term ‘Brothers In Arms’ is not to be taken lightly. If you know anyone who has been deployed, they can attest to this.

The biggest trauma Naked Snake has ever witnessed

This background is important because we see Naked Snake form such a tight bond with his mentor, The Boss. If you’ve paid attention to the dialogue in Metal Gear Solid 3, you’ll know how highly Naked Snake thinks of her. She is his everything. We don’t hear or see Naked Snake talk about anyone else with the same level of attachment.

In the beginning of the game, we see her and Naked Snake talk after a long time of unexplained absence from her side. Naked Snake was left wondering where she was. He cared about her well-being. They continue to talk on the radio while Snake is on his mission until Snake is traumatized finding out that she has defected to the Soviet Union.

metal gear solid analysis bridge

Imagine what Naked Snaked must be going through here

The Boss manages to beat the living crap out of him when they confront and it’s a surprise he manages to live. He was injured badly before being thrown off a bridge and into a fast-flowing river. 

After somehow managing to survive, Naked Snake patches his physical wounds and talks on the radio with his team. He expresses his confusion and we can clearly see how meaningless this mission seems to him now. The only person he has probably ever cared about has left him. What is the purpose of his life now? No physical wound that Naked Snake has endured comes close to the emotional damage he faces now.

The road to redemption

From this point onwards, Naked Snake faces the last remaining members of the elite Cobra unit that The Boss has used in missions for long. They are a breed of super-warriors who can pretty much do anything they want. Invincible. They are a myth on the battlefield that enemy troops talk about in campfire horror story sessions.

Much like trauma, no one believes that they can be beaten. But Naked Snake teaches us a lesson that it’s possible by going through phases. There are 6 Cobra unit members we encounter: The Pain, The Fear, The End, The Fury, The Sorrow, and The Boss.

metal gear solid analysis cobra unit

The deadly Cobra unit

Before you think I’m some sort of a conspiracy theorist, hear me out. Look closely at their names. They are all emotions. Emotions that all humans feel from time to time. Some more than others. By giving it a closer look, we can see that these emotions sound like subsets of a larger trauma (except The Boss, who we are going to treat as the trauma itself).

If we can conquer those emotions, we can actually deal with trauma. According to me, that is a big part of Metal Gear Solid 3 lore

In order to make more sense of this, we need to flip the order a bit in which they appear.

Phase 1: The Fear

This boss’s physical traits manifest the elements of fear. He is a spider-like soldier with a long tongue that uses invisibility and his inhuman flexibility to attack. He will scare you.

metal gear solid analysis the fear

Still creepy to look at

What trauma usually does to us is that we refrain from accepting that we are scarred. We don’t want to seem weak. We fear being seen as a victim. Not admitting that there is something wrong with us allows those emotions to become part of our personality. People who were abused as children tend to become violent themselves later on. They believe a little childhood beating did nothing to them. When in reality, they suffer from more than they realize.

Even if we believe that there is something bothering us, many of us refuse to face the situation. We fear what will happen if we try to go down the path of healing. So many people refrain from getting therapy for whatever it may be that hurts them.

We can only solve problems that we admit to being real. Therefore, the first step in dealing with trauma is fighting the fear of its existence.

Phase 2: The End

metal gear solid analysis the end

One of the longest boss fights of my life

Now we have a frail old man who looks like he could die at any time. He shows us how we can deteriorate over time and how difficult it can become to solve our emotions at such an age. He shows us that we don’t want to be spending our last years fighting with each other and our emotions. For this is the time where we should be savoring our memories with what we have left. This is the time to reflect on what kind of a life we have spent.

This boss fight can end in three ways actually, but only two are related to the story. If you save the game after the fight begins and give a two-week break before starting again, The End will have died of old age. He will have kept waiting for you to come, but you never show up.

The expectations of his last battle are his only thoughts and we fail to provide him with them. We kept him waiting on something we didn’t deliver. 

The End shows us how important it is to solve things in a timely manner. The more we let things drift apart, the harder it can be to come to grips with if it ever ends. Saying sorry on time can help someone live comfortably with what they have left.

The other, normal ending to this fight is beating him in battle. The fight finishes with The End being grateful for the way things ended.  This ending shows us that even if we let things go unsettled for so long, there is still time to mend them. A short, but good time could make up for the years lost in not doing anything about it.

Phase 3: The Pain

This boss embodies what being hurt feels like. His face is permanently damaged from the stings of hornets. He shows us what pain looks and feels like.

metal gear solid analysis the pain

See that scarred face?

This is often what we feel when tackling our problems. There is pain. There is remorse. We are now fighting to fix what is wrong is with us. It’s usually hard. It can be an addiction. It can be a broken relationship with someone that is dear to us. It’s usually not as simple as just saying a few words or doing a few things to resolve it. It can involve answering some very strong questions that we won’t have the courage to face unless they come to confront us themselves.

I myself have had addiction problems. They aren’t easy to deal with. 

Coming out of trauma requires an effort that can actually cause us to feel more pain than we felt before. But, it is a process that we need to go through to better ourselves.

Phase 4: The Fury

The Fury is a resentful astronaut-like soldier that has a lot of bottled-up anger. The way he talks and the weapon he uses (fire), all point to a hidden rage.

He is the face of hatred

He is the face of hatred

He was also fairly easy to beat since he was so absorbed in his frustrations that I found it easier to wait for him to come to me than it was to face him head-on.

This is what we can feel after we try to face our inner monologues. Maybe the conversation that you thought would fix everything went into a whole new direction that you weren’t prepared for. Maybe the response you got to expressing your feelings showed you that the other person just wasn’t that involved in you as you thought they would be.

Anything can cause us to feel hatred and that can make us spiral into a self-loathing human. the effects of which are clearly visible in this fight. If this phase is not conquered, we can become worse than what we tried to fix.

Anger left unmanaged can destroy people in such horrible ways and push apart the ones we care about.

Phase 5: The Sorrow

Took me forever to figure out how to win this one

Took me forever to figure out how to win this one

This is a fight where you can’t do much except dragging yourself through it. The sorrow is a spirit from the beyond who shows Naked Snake the torment he has caused on his mission. In this boss fight, you see the spirits of every person you kill throughout the game. 

The part of this fight that really struck me is that sorrow is a different kind of emotion than the rest. I believe that in order to heal your sorrow, you have to grieve. Without letting yourself truly feel what is inside you, you may never win from it. This is what Naked Snake does as he walks across the river full of the souls he has killed on this mission.

Let the feelings embrace yourself and get through it. In the end, it will make you feel much better.

We are now prepared to handle trauma

After beating them all, Naked Snake faces The Boss herself. From all those battles, he has gained skills and strengths that are paramount for this battle. Without which he would have succumbed to her Goliath-like strength.

Now that Naked Snake has defeated the trauma herself, he is more than capable of taking on bigger challenges in his life which we see in later games.

If all of us can develop the courage to tackle our emotions, all forms of trauma can be defeated. They don’t have to control our lives to the extent we believe they can. Everything can be overcome if we just try to keep our composure. Letting any of these feelings spiral out of control will only be our downfall. Sometimes, there is no other way to win battles than to face them head-on.

I am not crying, you are!

I am not crying, you are!

I’d love to know if you have any unique Metal Gear Solid analysis.

If you want a piece of Hideo Kojima’s latest masterpiece, check out our Death Stranding review.


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