Metal Gear Solid is hands down my favourite game franchise. It’s been with me most of my life, all the way back since I watched my brothers playing them while I was a kid. The protagonists in each game have deep and well-crafted stories that have been built over multiple games. The Snakes have all had various character arcs, both in-game, and in real life with fans. They have their own stories, personalities, growth, and hearts. Sure they’re all clones of each other, both literally and figuratively, yet they all somehow still shine as unique and wonderful characters. Though despite this, we can still pick a favourite. I’m not their dad, so I don’t have to love them equally. Here’s my list of the top Meat Gear Solid protagonists.
I love them all to bits, yet I can still mostly decide which ones I like more. This list is in no way objective and is just my own opinion. I’d love to hear which Snake is your favourite!
Also, pretty big spoilers for every main MGS game ahead, especially Phantom Pain.
Yeah, I know he’s not a playable character, but I’d say he’s just about as useful as the rest of the protagonists on this list. He’s the most featured supporting character and he is, of course, best boy. Plus it helps make the list a nice round top 5 instead of 4. He’s a central character in most of the games, from meeting Snake in MGS1, to becoming his partner in MGS2 and MGS4. I’d dare say that Snake may not have been able to do most of the things he could in the series without the help of Otacon.
Master engineer, hacker, and all-round tech whiz, Hal ‘Otacon’ Emmerich is one of my favourite characters. He’s the other side of Solid Snake’s coin. His brains paired with Snake’s brawn creates one of the most effective duos in the series. He assists Snake in pretty much anything tech-based, as well as digs up plenty of intel for him. This is made much more prominent in MGS4, where he’s able to have a physical presence to assist Snake through the Metal Gear MK2.
In pretty much every discussion I’ve seen, most fans seem to agree Raiden is the worst protagonist of the series. That’s not to say he’s bad, he certainly redeems himself in MGS4, and further in Metal Gear Rising. But in MGS2, he plays the whiny rookie. It can make the transition between playing as Solid Snake before him seem a little jarring. However, this does allow us to see Snake in a more positive light. See the badass action hero from the eyes of someone else, which I honestly love.
It’s also worth mentioning the hate he received from fans when MGS2 was first released back in 2001. He was mentioned absolutely nowhere in the marketing for the game. As far as anyone knew, it would just be another adventure with Solid Snake. Then Snake supposedly dies in the prologue and is replaced by another guy also being called “Snake”, until his codename immediately gets changed to ‘Raiden’. This pushed a lot of fans the wrong way, and it took a long time before they could warm up to him. They felt deceived, betrayed even. They were promised the badass Snake and were given this cheap wannabe.
Raiden makes up for everything after he takes the role of cyborg ninja in MGS4. The whiny rookie becomes the superhuman killing machine. His fight cutscenes are some of my favourites in MGS4, and the hack ‘n’ slash combat of Rising is so much fun. Watching him take down a group of Gekkos like they’re nothing, when just before we see them absolutely massacring regular soldiers is amazing. His fight scenes with Vamp look more like a complicated dance than it does a fight. I still pray for a sequel for Rising to appear one day.
#3/2: BIG BOSS
Okay, so this may seem like a weird one. Both #2 and #3 go to Big Boss. Both of them. Interchangeably. I am of course speaking about Naked and Venom Snake. Naked Snake earned the title of ‘Big Boss’ after defeating The Boss at the end of MGS3. There is also Venom Snake, who is supposedly Big Boss himself at first until he is revealed to be another soldier that went through cosmetic surgery and psychological brainwashing to believe he was Big Boss. Venom Snake is designed to be Big Boss’ phantom, to keep their enemies busy while Big Boss himself goes undercover to build Outer Heaven. Got all that?
I love both of these characters. Venom Snake got a very mixed response when the twist is revealed at the end of MGSV that you aren’t playing as Big Boss himself. Except in a way, you are. As Naked Snake himself says, “I’m Big Boss, and you are, too”. From then on, they both play the role of Big Boss.
Naked Snake himself is a much bigger character, seeing as he is the protagonist of MGS3 and Peace Walker, and built the legacy of Big Boss that Venom Snake steps into. Not to mention he is also the template on which all other Snakes are based, seeing as Venom is his body double, and Solid, Liquid, and Solidus Snake are all his clones.
Venom Snake is far from the most popular character, partly for not actually being Naked Snake, and also for being a fair bit different from him in general. Venom Snake is a lot quieter than Naked Snake but is also arguably a more moral character. This can be seen when he chooses not to kill Quiet and tries to help child soldiers. I’m not sure why, but after I got over the shock of the big twist, I came to really like him. He’s kind of the strong silent type. Venom feels like the soldier that doesn’t complain and just does his job. He was chosen to become the phantom Big Boss partly for this reason. He was loyal and would do anything Big Boss wished.
#1: SOLID SNAKE
Is this a nostalgia pick? Absolutely. Did you think Naked Snake would be in the #1 spot? MGS3 seems to generally be considered the best of the franchise, but I just never thought that fondly of him. I played MGS3 relatively late, after the release of the HD Collection, so I never had any nostalgic ties to the game, or to Big Boss. Solid Snake, however, has always been my go-to hero while growing up. He was one of the first action hero style characters I was exposed to, and I’ve latched onto him ever since. The amount of nostalgia I feel for MGS1 and MGS2 peaks everything else.
Solid Snake is who started the series back in Metal Gear released in 1987. Even if he is a clone of Big Boss, he has carved his own legacy through the many games featuring him. He has become his own person, separate from Big Boss. He may see himself as nothing more than a killer, but I prefer Meryl’s view of him. That of a legendary hero. Snake goes from a selfish veteran that just wants to be left alone in Alaska, to someone actively trying to make the world a more peaceful place. He learns to live for more than just himself and teaches the lesson that we are not defined by our genes, but by what we do.
Who is your favourite MGS character? Do you agree with my list? Let me know in the comments below!