Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best Overall: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater at Amazon
"Snake Eater is available in its original form on a range of platforms, including Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles."
Best for Birthing a Legend: Metal Gear Solid at Amazon
"The game pits protagonist Snake against a renegade special forces group hellbent on launching a nuclear strike."
Best for Newcomers to the Series: Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes at Amazon
"Available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, it's the ideal place to begin your newfound Metal Gear addiction."
Best for Open-World Exploring: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at Amazon
"The vast open world feels ripe for exploring, and more than most other games, it encourages and enables almost any strategy you can come up with."
Best for Being Ahead of Its Time: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty at Amazon
"Long after its initial release, Sons of Liberty was considered to have some of the best AI of any action game."
Best for General Weirdness: Metal Gear Acid 2 at Amazon
"Released solely for the PlayStation Portable, this strange 2006 spin-off replaces the standard open-world stealth approach with a turn-based, card-collecting variant."
Best for Playing On the Go: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker at Amazon
"The wide array of missions see you recruiting soldiers and upgrading gear while growing your base and ultimately building a huge Metal Gear machine of your own."
Best for Sword-Fighting Mayhem: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance at Amazon
"You can still sneak around the battlefield, taking out a few foes before they even see you coming, but that's just a distraction from the main event: slicing enemies limb from virtual limb."
Picking the best from a 20+ game series isn't easy, but Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater makes a strong claim for the title. Released in 2004, it switched timelines and locations from previous releases, opting for a Cold War-era Russian jungle that opened up fresh gameplay and plotline variations.
Additions like the use of camouflage and close-quarter combat bought a new dimension to the franchise, as did a renewed focus on real-world concerns like finding food and tending to injuries.
It's the superbly-executed narrative that really sets the game apart, however—the tension, drama, and ultimate resolution of the last couple of hours, and the final battle in particular, wouldn't be out of place in any Hollywood blockbuster.
Snake Eater is available in its original form on a range of platforms, including Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo consoles. A re-released Subsistence edition added a new camera angle, unlockable uniforms and face paints, and a few other extras.
Courtesy of Amazon
Metal Gear games have been around since 1987, but it was the release of Metal Gear Solid just over a decade later that really set the franchise on the road to massive success.
Replacing the top-down graphics of the first two games in the series, it used the power of the newly-released Sony Playstation to switch to three dimensions. Even though much of the gameplay was based on its predecessor, Metal Gear Solid looked and felt like an entirely new game.
Setting new standards for video game plotlines and storytelling, the game pits protagonist Snake against a renegade special forces group hellbent on launching a nuclear strike. Shipping more than six million copies and essentially creating the stealth genre of game, it paved the way for the many sequels and spin-offs that followed.
As dated as the graphics look now, the gameplay and voice acting holds up extremely well twenty years later. Available for PC and PlayStation 1, as well as a re-released version for PS3, it's a great option for retro gamers.
With so many Metal Gear games to choose from, it can be hard to decide where to start if you've never played one before. That's where Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes comes in.
It's a bit unusual, in that it's as much a demo for the expansive Phantom Pain installment that followed as it is a standalone game, but that's what makes it ideal for newcomers.
Set in a single compact location, Ground Zeroes was heavily criticized at the time for being completable in an hour, but those complaints weren't particularly valid. There's still easily 20-30+ hours of entertainment to be found in all of the side missions, with a focused feel that's often missing from the large, open-world landscapes of other versions of the game.
The franchise's penchant for cutscenes is noticeably toned down in this edition, but the dark plotline still fits perfectly into the wider in-game universe. Available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, it's the ideal place to begin your newfound Metal Gear addiction.
If Ground Zeroes was the appetizer, The Phantom Pain was very much the main course. While controversy still rages about the reasons behind the ambiguous plot and ending, there's little disagreement on the quality of the gameplay.
The vast open world feels ripe for exploring, and more than most other games, it encourages and enables almost any strategy you can come up with. Each mission earns money to enable new items, which in turn opens up interesting and inventive approaches for tackling the next challenge.
Combining many of the best bits of previous titles in the series, including stealthy attacks, melee-based combat, and base building, and paired with smart AI and a compelling storyline, it's a game that's as much fun to experiment with as it is to follow the actual mission structure.
Available for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC, The Phantom Pain showed that even after nearly three decades, Metal Gear remains a highly-enjoyable—and at times, groundbreaking—PlayStationform of entertainment.
Released in 2001, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was ahead of its time in many ways. Taking full advantage of the hardware capabilities of the PlayStation 2, the game's graphics and sound were extremely impressive for the time. Dozens of new gameplay features were added compared to previous Metal Gear titles, from blinding guards with steam to shooting out their radios so they couldn't talk to each other.
To even the score, enemy intelligence was greatly enhanced, with guards calling in reinforcements and working as a team to cut off escape routes. Long after its initial release, Sons of Liberty was considered to have some of the best AI of any action game.
The plotline is just as advanced as the gameplay and remains remarkably relevant nearly two decades later. The complex story takes on serious topics like the nature of internet culture and the fetishization of war, as your character battles with a mind-controlling organization that's taking over the world.
Divisive at the time of its release, Sons of Liberty has gained greater appreciation from fans over the years and is well worth playing to this day.
The Metal Gear franchise hasn't been afraid to try new approaches over the years. Some have been great, some have been terrible, and some have been downright odd. The strangest of them all? Metal Gear Acid 2.
Released solely for the PlayStation Portable, this strange 2006 spin-off replaces the standard open-world stealth approach with a turn-based, card-collecting variant. What you can do, and the gear you can use to do it, is based on the cards you've amassed along the way.
The graphics are bright and garish, but just in case they're not sufficiently over-the-top for you, Acid 2 ships with the Solid Eye, a cardboard accessory that clips onto the PSP so you can view most of the action in 3D.
Building on the moderate success of its predecessor, the sequel doubles down on everything: many more cards, an arena mode for fighting iconic bosses from previous Metal Gear games, a multiplayer option, and more. Despite its oddness, it's surprisingly enjoyable, so pick up a copy and enjoy the weirdest Metal Gear game so far.
Peace Walker isn't the only Metal Gear title released for portable consoles, but it's easily the best. Set against a backdrop of the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1970s, there's a huge amount going on by the standards of any game, never mind one that needed to be crammed into the constraints of a handheld device.
The wide array of missions see you recruiting soldiers and upgrading gear while growing your base and ultimately building a huge Metal Gear machine of your own. Paired with a fantastic soundtrack, plus fun diversions like multiplayer online co-op battles, this is some of the most fun you'll ever have on a Playstation Portable.
Originally available only for PSP in 2010, an update a year later saw it released for Xbox 360 and PS3 as well. Whatever console you play it on, you'll find yourself regularly coming back for more.
While nearly all of the Metal Gear games focus on using stealth to defeat your foes, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance takes a rather different approach. Sure, you can still sneak around the battlefield, taking out a few foes before they even see you coming, but that's just a distraction from the main event: slicing enemies limb from virtual limb.
Armed with a razor-sharp sword and not afraid to use it, your character can strategically cripple an enemy by amputating an arm or leg, or PlayStation slice them in half and continue on his gory way.
It's all ridiculously over-the-top, matched by the heavy metal soundtrack and brightly-colored graphics, and is far more action-packed than the rest of the games in the franchise.
Available for Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, 2013's Revengeance might not be the most traditional Metal Gear title, but for some gamers at least, it may well be the most enjoyable.