To an outsider who hasn’t played any Metal Gear Solid games, it’s easy to assume that there’s only ever been one Snake. But oh, how wrong they are. Metal Gear is a franchise that’s riddled with Snakes. Some of them look and sound exactly the same as each other, while others have apparent differences. But one thing is for sure — each of the Snakes are independent characters with their own unique personalities and story arcs. However, only one can reign supreme. Here are Metal Gear’s Snakes, ranked from lowest to highest.
The sole factor that we’re using to judge each character is cool factor. We’re looking at a combination of their personality, appearance, achievements, and legacy.
SPOILER WARNING: The following paragraphs contain heavy spoilers for the Metal Gear Saga. Proceed at your own risk!
Honorable Mention: Raiden
Oh, Raiden. You may have suffered the collective wrath of millions of angry gamers back in the day, but we promise you that we’ve forgiven you. We’ve accepted you for who you are. We’ve got no beef with you, friend, and we’re glad that you got turned into the cyberest of cyber ninjas.
But you’re no Snake. Sorry dude. You’re a great character who we came to love and appreciate, with your own unique role in the Metal Gear universe, but you’re not the grizzly, raspy-voiced, sneaky boy that we play these games for. But, as resident protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2 and a competent ninja warrior in the following games, you at least deserve a mention on this list. Keep on keepin’ on, my friend.
5 – Solidus Snake
Now that we’ve gotten to the proper Snakes, Solidus, unfortunately, finds himself at the bottom of the list. Solidus is a victim of unfortunate circumstances. He was a compelling villain in his own story, but the story was so batshit crazy that he got upstaged by other stuff that was weird and insane in the way that only Metal Gear can be.
Solidus is a character that would majorly benefit if Metal Gear Solid 2 had a modern, HD reimagining. Solidus is a Snake clone, but the graphics weren’t quite good enough back then to make it look convincing. The future games added new lore relating to the bigger picture and how his motivations played into that, but he never got another chance to shine.
It’s possible that, if MGS2 was remade — with the context of the rest of the games now informing its plot — Solidus would be one of the coolest characters of the saga. But as it stands right now, he’s the least impressive of all the Snakes. Sorry, Solidus. At least your name is pretty cool.
4 – Venom Snake
Metal Gear Solid V is a paradox of a game. In many ways, it’s one of the most impressive games I’ve ever played. On the other, it also had one of the most profoundly disappointing moments I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of gaming.
That moment? Finding out that Venom Snake was, indeed, just some guy instead of the iconic Big Boss. Yeah, I get it. It’s a meta-statement. It’s subversive. It causes a real “phantom pain.” It highlights Big Boss’s true descent into heartlessness. It solved a plothole from the original Metal Gear games. Yada-yada, I know, I’ve heard the reasons, I still thought it was a stupid twist, and there will always be a part of me that loathes Venom Snake just out of pure spite.
But, objectively, he’s still a pretty cool dude. The fact that he was (apparently) one of Big Boss’s closest buddies says a lot, and his resume is pretty impressive, takin’ down Sehelanthropous and all that. He’s got a pretty good moral center, and he looks cool. But, his entire identity is based around the idea that he isn’t Big Boss, but also is. It’s an interesting idea, but we ultimately don’t get to learn very much about this guy. He barely talks, after all. Oh well.
3 – Liquid Snake
This is where it gets good, folks. Liquid Snake was, if nothing else, a great villain, played wonderfully by Cam Clarke. Liquid Snake is, in a word, memorable. He had an eye-catching design that called attention to itself, while still not being ludicrously over-the-top. He had an iconic voice that delivered lines with arrogant bravado. He had a wonderfully convoluted scheme which established a precedent of narrative complexity in the Metal Gear universe. Liquid Snake was fun, threatening, and much more layered than the average bad guy of the PS1 era of video games.
Liquid Snake was a fun adversary to deal with because he’s a man who is at first shrouded in mystery, and you wondered how such a pretentious tool ended up as the leader of the terrorists on Shadow Moses Island. But the truth slowly unfolds that he is, in fact, the “defective” clone of Solid Snake dealing with one hell of an inferiority complex, and that’s where things got interesting.
Overall, it was fun having a nemesis who was essentially a foil to Solid Snake himself. Liquid Snake was ultimately responsible for delivering that bombshell twist of Snake’s true heritage, and he stood out as a worthy foe for the entire game. In the events that follow MGS1, Liquid Snake’s legacy would continue to leave lasting footprints.
2 – Solid Snake
If you’re a fan of the Metal Gear games, it’s safe to say that you’re in one of two camps: Camp Solid Snake, or Camp Big Boss. It was excruciatingly hard putting the iconic Solid Snake as second place on this list, but I stand by my choice.
Yes, I know that Solid Snake is THE Snake. I know he’s the dude that starred in the 2D Metal Gear games. I know that he’s the reason why “Snake” even exists as a character at all. He was the original. He’s the badass to end all badasses, and he’s the definitive “good guy” of the series. It is ultimately Solid Snake who is responsible for dismantling the nightmarish legacy of Big Boss and company — the PATRIOTS who effectively controlled the entire world. He’s the true star of the games, the Luke Skywalker of the Metal Gear saga.
While Solid Snake is arguably the most competent Snake on this list, I think his character is, unfortunately, done dirty by the canon of the various Metal Gear sequels. We learn that Snake was ultimately a pawn in the grand scheme of things, being used as a tool by various parties, most notably the PATRIOTS. His only period of true autonomy is largely off-screen, during (and prior to) the events of Metal Gear Solid 2 when he was teamed up with Otacon. And, while Old Snake was a compelling character, he never quite ends up being as cool as his younger self. I love you, Solid Snake. But there’s someone I love more.
1 – Big Boss
You could make a decent case that Big Boss was never intended to be the face of Metal Gear Solid. Although Big Boss was a character in the canon ever since the very first Metal Gear game, I have serious doubts that Kojima was thinking so far ahead that he knew he’d eventually make a prequel game about him. But lo, he did, and Metal Gear Solid 3 was born, complete with the radical decision to replace Solid Snake with his genetic daddy in a prequel game.
Metal Gear Solid 3 could have been terrible. But it wasn’t. It was amazing. And after it was over, all of my doubts about leaving Solid Snake behind were cast away. Naked Snake — AKA Big Boss — had shown himself to be a more compelling, tragic character, and all I ever wanted afterward was more games to explore his story.
If Solid Snake is the Luke Skywalker of Metal Gear Solid, Big Boss is the Darth Vader. He’s the heroic figure who slowly descends into a much darker version of himself, and his actions singlehandedly shape the entire world of the Metal Gear universe. Every single conflict in every single game can be traced back to Big Boss — either as a direct result of his actions, or characters acting in the name of his legacy.
The Big Boss games explore a dynamic and tragic character as the main protagonist, and at the end of the day, I found his journey to be far more fascinating than Solid Snake’s. Although it breaks our heart seeing Big Boss compromise more and more on noble ideals, it’s also impossible to deny the realism of it. The world was never kind to Big Boss, and it’s interesting, if not tragic, seeing what so much punishment does to a man — especially when he wields influence over so many people.
Solid Snake is responsible for Metal Gear Solid becoming an iconic, memorable franchise, but Big Boss took the idea of “Snake” to another level. Here’s to you, Jack.