When I finished my top 5 Metal Gear Solid protagonists list, I felt like I just had to make one for the antagonists as well. While the heroes may have brilliant characters and personalities, so do the villains of each game. Just because you don’t play as them, doesn’t mean they don’t have an equal amount of personality. Hell, I’d say some of the villains have even more personality than some of the heroes! Just like the heroes, I love every one of these villains (except one, but we’ll get to that in the list). With all that said, here is my list of top 5 Metal Gear Solid antagonists!
Also, Big Boss won’t be here despite being the villain of the first two Metal Gear games, mostly because he’s been the protagonist in more games now and is already included in my top protagonists list.
Be aware that there will be spoilers ahead.
(Video by George Salonikh)
#5: SKULL FACE
There seems to be a lot of differing opinions for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Some think it’s amazing, some think it’s the worst. It’s certainly very different, switching the series’ notoriously long cutscenes for audio tapes that you can listen to at your leisure. Skull Face is a villain made specifically for Phantom Pain and Ground Zeroes as a sort of antagonist that was in the background until now, apparently having been around since MGS3. I enjoy MGSV, but personally, I’m kind of “meh” on Skull Face. I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other for him.
Sure, he’s a pretty interesting character, especially when you learn more of his backstory and motivations. Unfortunately, he has nowhere near as much time to develop as a lot of the other villains. He doesn’t get much of a build-up elsewhere and it sort of feels like he just kind of showed up. In the previous games, all the talk of Cipher was associated with Zero, who was one of your major allies in MGS3. Except now it turns out the part of Cipher going after Big Boss was just Skull Face all along, with Zero still partially on Big Boss’ side.
He also has a very short amount of screen time and doesn’t get a boss battle, unlike all the other villains on this list. He just doesn’t have much of a presence in his own game, compared to the other antagonists.
The main antagonist of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Colonel Volgin is an imposing presence whenever he is onscreen. He is a character that will make the player tremble whenever he appears due to how he treats friends and foes alike, his sick grin he gets whenever the opportunity to hurt someone arises, and just how bloody big the man is. It seems the only things to scare him are lightning and The Boss. She is the only one to ever get him to back down. Other than that, he does, says, and harms whoever he wants.
I love him for all these factors. He’s really the only MGS villain to outright scare me due to his sadism. You see this happen with some of Snake’s other allies when they are discovered by Volgin. At one point in the game, the legendary Big Boss himself gets absolutely beaten to a pulp and then tortured by this mountain of a man. There is a cutscene from Snake’s perspective while he has a bag over his head and you can only hear what’s happening. In this cutscene, Volgin beats Sokolov to death and I swear it’s some of the best and most horrific sound work in the whole series.
He also appears as a secondary antagonist in The Phantom Pain as the Man on Fire. Despite supposedly dying at the end of MGS3, he returns with the sole purpose of destroying Big Boss for taking everything away from him. He lives on as a supernatural being powered almost entirely by rage and spite. To me, this is one of the coolest concepts for a villain, which gives him more of a presence as an antagonist in MGSV than Skull Face does honestly. Together, they both make a good villain for MGSV. Skull Face has the exposition, and Volgin has the boss battle might.
#3: LIQUID SNAKE
One of the best instances of the evil twin trope is the main antagonist of Metal Gear Solid. Although in a way, he’s also the antagonist of Metal Gear Solid 4. Liquid took finding out that he was a clone a lot worse than Solid Snake. A lifelong troublemaker and schemer, Liquid believed that he received Big Boss’ recessive traits and therefore, the inferior clone to Solid Snake. He resented them both for this, which is made abundantly clear in the few times they get to have a good chat, usually before a brilliant boss battle. This can also be seen when he is a child with how he is almost always hostile towards Venom Snake. He believed all life was a slave to its genes, which in turn, made him a slave to his genes.
His whole character is centred around ego and seething malice. He tries to succeed both Big Boss and Solid Snake in any way possible to get his revenge on them both. He was the first of the Big Boss clones to act as an antagonist. The Les Enfents Terribles project that created Snake and himself creates both a backstory for Liquid, and delves deeper into the unknown past of Snake. I think this unwilling closeness they have with each other is part of the reason why I love him so much.
Also, the way “his” story ends in MGS4 with just two old brothers settling a score is one of my favourite moments in all of media. It’s difficult for me not to tear up while watching that scene, to be honest, especially when you’ve been with the series for damn near your whole life.
#2: SOLIDUS SNAKE
The third Snake brother/clone is the antagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2. It was difficult to pick between Solidus and Liquid for the number two spot. I love them both pretty equally, but I decided to choose Solidus because MGS2 is my favourite game and because he genuinely has a good goal, though he attempts it in a villainous way. Solidus’ goals are to destroy the Patriots, the shadow government controlling America so that the country can be truly free from their control.
He also wishes to be his own person and create a legacy beyond passing along one’s genes, a common theme in the Metal Gear games. Instead of Liquid’s belief that life is a slave to its genes, Solidus believes that being significant and changing the world is the way to create a legacy.
He is the perfect clone of Big Boss, seen even closer when he adopts Big Boss’ eyepatch. Solidus is one of those villains that you can almost agree with. Good motives, bad execution. This is one of the reasons I like him better than a lot of the other antagonists. When you understand the terrible things the Patriots have done and were planning, Solidus’ plans don’t seem like such a bad idea. They were planning on creating their own fantasy world through extreme censorship, eliminating true freedom. He’s really the only antagonist I can kind of consider an anti-hero. Well, only one apart from…
#1: REVOLVER OCELOT
Hands down, my favourite character in all of media. From an 18-year-old Major in MGS3 to the main antagonist of MGS4 at 70 years old, Ocelot is the only character to appear in every Metal Gear Solid game. He is a man so charismatic and intelligent that he was able to cross almost every single ally he is seen working with. He was even able to fool The Patriots with his masterful manipulation. It makes sense that the only game where he is an ally instead of a villain is MGSV. Despite his long list of affiliations, his one true loyalty lies with Big Boss.
I’m not sure what made me attach to him as a child, but it has absolutely held on today. Perhaps it was his initial mystery, or his genius levels manipulation against some of the most powerful people in the series. It could also be because the way he twirls his guns is just so cool to me. This has only grown stronger with each game release, which adds to his overall development. I was extremely excited to see him as an ally instead of a villain in MGSV. He has some of the best boss fights in the series. From epic shootouts in MGS1 and MGS3, to a mech fight using Metal Gear Rex and Metal Gear Ray in MGS4.
He later hypnotizes himself into believing he is possessed by Liquid Snake, all in a massive plot to destroy the Patriots once and for all, and create the Outer Heaven that Big Boss always wanted. Even his apparent defeat was all part of his plan to use Solid Snake to destroy the Patriot AIs. The final chronological fight in the series (not counting Metal Gear Rising) is against him while still hypnotized as Liquid. Through this fight, his original personality begins to shine through until right at the end. When he is fully Ocelot once again, his final words are “You’re pretty good”.
BONUS: HUEY EMMERICH
The father of Hal ‘Otacon’ Emmerich, Huey is like his son in many ways. Both genius engineers and craftsmen, both allies of Solid Snake and Big Boss respectively, and both extremes in likeability. While Hal is the franchise best boy, Huey is the franchise worst boy. Huey is one of the characters I actively hate in the series for a variety of reasons. On the surface, he’s a lot like Hal, which made me like him, but then his true colours start to show in MGSV.
He makes a deal with Skull Face, which leads to the destruction of Mother Base. He then continues to lie through his teeth about every accusation made against him after this, even when the evidence is absolute. During most of my first playthrough, I believed him as well. I thought that the man who gave us the sweetie known as Otacon couldn’t have been capable of such cruel actions as betrayal, murdering his wife, and endangering his son. When I finally accepted who he truly was, I felt more betrayed than I did from MGSV’s big twist.
He’s a little weasel of a man who only looks out for himself. He will lie and gatekeep to make himself seem right. Even as he’s being exiled from Mother Base, he can’t seem to accept that he lost. He would never be the man his son became. Huey was a git to the end, whereas Hal tried to fix his mistakes and make the world a better place. Love Hal, hate Huey; simple as that.
Who is your favourite MGS villain? There’s plenty in each game, all of them with their own appeal. Let’s chat about them in the comments!