20 reasons why Metal Gear Solid is one of the greatest games of a generation
What. A. Game.
Metal Gear Solid will live forever in gaming lore.
1998 was a simpler time, in many ways.
Social media wasn't a thing, Donald Trump was more concerned with cameos in movies than burning his country to the ground and David Bowie was still alive.
It was also the time of the humble PlayStation, later referred to as the PlayStation One when its flashier older siblings came along.
That off-grey machine was a staple of adolescence for a whole generation, with games like Destruction Derby, Twisted Metal, Broken Sword, Gran Turismo, Crash Bandicoot, Wipeout, Tomb Raider, Tekken, Ridge Racer and Final Fantasy VII all taking up space on Christmas wish lists.
And then there was Metal Gear Solid.
Clip via Hayato182004
Suspense. Intrigue. Chaos.
Heavily influenced by Western culture, specifically movies, Metal Gear Solid was officially released in Japan on 3 September 1998.
Though it wouldn't arrive in Europe until February of the following year, MGS' impact was quickly felt.
20 years on, it continues to draw people back in thanks to an incredible story, unique gameplay and a host of other reasons, so let's list 'em, eh?
1. The Plot
Oh, to live inside the mind of Hideo Kojima for a day. The man is essentially the personification of geeked-out pop culture, even the bad stuff. Maybe especially the bad stuff.
Having grown up fascinated by the likes of Escape from New York (which is great, don't get it twisted), Kojima paid tribute to the past and helped shape the future all in one go.
The plot of Metal Gear Solid is completely ludicrous, centring around a rogue's gallery of broadly-sketched characters that threaten the world with wildly OTT nuclear weaponry.
Step forward series hero Solid Snake, a gravel-voiced super-soldier completely dedicated to his world-saving mission.
And that's really the elevator pitch for a script that enjoys numerous bizarre twists and turns all while parroting gloriously overwritten dialogue that tests the boundaries between video game and 'interactive cinema event'.
But not the way Guns of the Patriots did, that was barely a game.
2. The Gameplay
Tactical Espionage Action.
That's how it was billed, and that's how it went down. MGS is not a game to go in all guns blazing.
This is an adventure that requires and rewards patience, cunning and timing. Leg it into a room full of bad guys and it's game over, mate.
Work out your surroundings, distract guards, disable cameras and generally think outside the suspiciously-placed cardboard box; the adrenaline rush is real.
3. The Music
Clip via Chubb
Heart-stopping and truly iconic (stop misusing that word, kids), the music of Metal Gear Solid is nothing short of sublime.
A character in and of itself, the score adapts to your environment - that alert sequence still brings chills - perfectly soundtracking your way to powerful victory or crushing defeat.
4. The Characters
Mentioned above but let's give them their due; the men and women (okay, it's mostly men) that inhabit this story are instantly captivating.
Snake is every bit the Hollywood-ised anti-hero Kojima envisioned and from the opening moments, he represents the perfect avatar with which to tackle this thing.
Elsewhere you've got his black mirror Liquid Snake (more on him in a bit) and his team of Batman-esque villains - the sneering Revolver Ocelot, the lethal Sniper Wolf, the imposing Vulcan Raven and, but of course, the otherworldly Psycho Mantis.
5. The Psycho Mantis boss fight
Clip via Boss Fight Database
The battle with Psycho Mantis feels like it belongs in a Resident Evil game, thanks to haunting music and a genuinely unsettling atmosphere.
Then you fight him and he gets inside your brain, you cannot harm him and the screen randomly fades to black. What the hell is going on?
As any hardened MGS fan knows by now, the solution to this one is genius - swapping out your controller for the alternate slot and thus blocking Mantis' mind games.
Kojima breaking the fourth wall and demanding more of his audience, a trait that would continue throughout the series.
6. The Codec
The single most cinematic way to present back-and-forth dialogue that a video game has ever conjured up.
And it was definitely the ring tone of a lot of people reading this, and maybe still is.
7. Finding Meryl's frequency
The Colonel states it plain; Meryl's Codec frequency is on the back of the CD case.
Snake has a disc in his inventory, so it's clearly that, right? Cut to at least half an hour* examining this item from every possible angle, only to realise...
...that it's on the back of the actual CD case that the game came in.
*Okay, maybe an hour.
8. Game Over
High drama as everything goes dark and the only man you can trust screams your name.
All together now; Snake? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKKKKEEE!
9. Using cigarette smoke to thwart hidden laser tripwires
No infrared goggles handy? Light 'em up.
10. The Sniper Wolf battle
A precursor to what was to come in Snake Eater and that superb patient showdown with The End, Snake's face-off against Sniper Wolf isn't just a great sequence, but an emotional one, too.
No mere quipping thug to take down, Sniper Wolf presents an exhausting conflict for our hero in a devastating fight to the death.
11. Liquid Snake's amazingly hammy performance
Clip via Hayato182004
Take a bow, Cam Clarke.
The voice actor really sank his teeth into the role of a lifetime here.
Yes, he voiced Leonardo and Rocksteady in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, but Liquid Snake is king. One of the greatest, most knowingly ostentatious villains in any medium, ever.
The work of artist Yoji Shinkawa deserves to be studied forever thanks to his signature designs that fleshed out an already heightened reality.
His mix of comic book style sketching and billowing shadow play is truly exceptional, marking MGS as one the slickest, coolest properties out there.
13. The exclamation mark when a guard is alerted
As meme-friendly as pop culture gets. And, again, actually iconic.
14. The cardboard box
Need to make a quick escape from a panicked man in a snow suit with a huge machine gun?
Why this random cardboard box with eye holes in it should do the trick...
15. Grey Fox
A cyborg ninja with revenge on his damaged brain. Because of course there's one of those milling around here.
16. The fact that Hollywood keeps trying to adapt it
Kong: Skull Island director Jordan Vogt-Roberts reckons that he's the man to finally, finally bring Metal Gear Solid to the big screen.
The feeling persists that much like Alan Moore's Watchmen, this story is just too complex and sprawling to ever possibly do it justice inside two or three hours.
In spite of Kojima's clear inspirations, it might be for the best to keep this one as is...
17. An Irish ballad brings the curtain down
Clip via alvaroduck
And you thought it couldn't get any more intense.
Step forward Aoife Ní Fhearraigh and the ethereal ballad 'The Best Is Yet To Come', which allows the player to dwell on their actions instead of celebrating them.
18. The clever economy of scale
You might not notice it until you revisit Metal Gear Solid many years later, but the game is actually a smart exercise in keeping things tight.
Not all that many locations exist, and Snake is forced to backtrack through several key areas as the story moves towards its dramatic conclusion.
In other games, this could be a cheap mechanic, but revisiting places like Psycho Mantis' now-empty office - his body nowhere to be found this time - adds an extra layer of nuance.
19. Creating a community
MGS boasts a rabid fan base to this day.
It is no exaggeration that Kojima crafted a cult out of this thing, with cosplayers, elaborate tattoos, fan-made films and general dialogue used in every day situations all keeping the stealth dream alive.
The main man may have endured an acrimonious split with publishers Konami following the protracted mess that was the Phantom Pain - c'mon guys, that story was awful - but fans live in hope that he can one day drag Snake through the mud again.
Whether it's intriguing musicians like Burial who prefer to slink in the shadows or rival games like Hitman and the recent Batman revival series taking on gameplay elements, MGS had a clear knock-on effect for creativity the world over.
It set a benchmark for game developers and designers everywhere, and though many have tried to ape its style and its special thrills, no pale imitation can come close.
Oh and the original PlayStation game works on your PS3 because it's backwards compatible, so get on that if you have the chance...