How the Metal Gear franchise has changed over time


Metal Gear is a franchise that has always strived for innovation and change between its entries, from 2D to 3D, base-building to action-stealth, there is very little it has not tried and (somehow) succeeded at. Metal Gear as a franchise began back in 1987. A titular top-down 2D stealth game that spawned a similar sequel in 1990, before its most well-known entry in 1998, the renowned Metal Gear Solid. This PS1 classic is the one that solidified the franchise in the minds of fans. The jump to 3D allowed Metal Gear Solid to introduce mechanics and ideas that revolutionised both the franchise, stealth games, and 3D games as a whole.

Metal Gear Solid 2 introduced impressive graphics, and its sequel managed to adapt this stealth-action gameplay to fit a slightly campy 60s cold war thriller theme. But perhaps the most drastic evolution of the Metal Gear formula was yet to come, portable action stealth card games. The kind of ideas you’d expect now to be dreamed up by indie developers was somehow coming from one of the largest video game companies and franchises, and weirder still, it worked great. This card stealth game Metal Gear Acid was popular enough to spawn a sequel. These trippy Metal Gear games, while proving that Hideo Kojima was not the only component to Metal Gear’s success, are as impressive and underrated as they were 16 years ago. Adapting Metal Gear for portable consoles, particularly the PSP did not stop there, it got its own traditional 3D real-time Metal Gear of questionable canon in 2006, and its own canon mainline game in 2010, which began the base building trend present in Metal Gear Solid V. Introducing a mainline game on a handheld console in such a way is rare even today.

The non-portable PS3 and PS4 era of Metal Gear are perhaps the ones that enact the least serious change, but the series still carved out its niche in popular trends. Excusing the bombastic hack-and-slash Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance headed up by Platinum Games.  Metal Gear Solid 4 put its spin on the Middle Eastern shooters of the time (even if the game itself is perhaps the weakest story-wise). With 2015’s Metal Gear Solid V the series caved and went open world, but made this world actively hostile, one to fight through not actively explore, unlike other games. This game will perhaps always have the most powerful story, being Hideo Kojima’s final Metal Gear game at Konami, and linking the game from 2015 back to the very first in 1987. The definitive black sheep of the franchise Metal Gear Survive leans hardest into the failures of modern games, heavy microtransactions (present but less severe in the V), survival mechanics, zombies, and RPG mechanics. Despite all this there is still something there, you can feel the respect for Kojima’s series, and some interesting ideas utilised throughout.

One cannot discuss the evolution and change of Metal Gear without touching on the minigames that Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 featured. The latter, at least on PS2, featured a special skateboarding mode where the main theme got a ska remix and the protagonist was left to kickflip through the game’s setting. While ostensibly an advert for a Japanese skateboarding game the lack of context leaves it as a fun (and odd) minigame. Metal Gear Solid 3 featured a crossover with Ape Escape called ‘Snake vs. Monkey’ where you traipsed through the Soviet jungle capturing cartoon monkeys, the game also featured a small section of a soon-after cancelled hack and slash game titled Guy Savage.

From the days of top-down 8-bit graphics to high-definition open-world video games the Metal Gear franchise has always been one that rolled with the punches for better or worse, adopting (at least temporarily) a plethora of different ideas and genres and almost always making it work. The fact that this article barely touches on the multitude of unique ideas in each entry is a testament to its constant want to evolve. Here’s to the franchise’s future, hopefully not just as a cool reference in the latest Super Bomberman game.

Watch the trailer for Metal Gear Solid V below:



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