The Saddest Moments in Metal Gear Solid

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To call Metal Gear Solid sad would be an understatement. It is a mopey teenager of a game, staring out the window listening to shoegaze and brooding about our slow species-wide slide into nuclear oblivion and the tragic (but sometimes beautiful!) futility of existence itself.

Out of this moroseness has risen some surprisingly poignant moments that have elevated the stealth series beyond its infusion of tactical action and strange sense of humor into a work that is occasionally moving.

In chronological order, here are the saddest moments from Metal Gear Solid.

1. Sniper Wolf’s Death
  Metal Gear Solid

Sniper Wolf is one of the few people to get one over on Snake. She wounds love interest Meryl and uses her to set a trap that catches its intended pray. Snake and Wolf’s eventual duel in the snow is a bit of a letdown, especially in comparison to the battle Naked Snake has with The End in Snake Eater, but when it comes time to put Wolf down it’s easy to see the begrudging respect the two warriors have for one another. The howl of wolves in the background as Wolf delivers her lungshot deathbed speech makes this scene haunting and mournful.

2. Gray Fox’s Death
  Metal Gear Solid

Gray Fox is a scary character, not just because he’s a cyborg ninja who can slice anyone he doesn’t like to pieces, but also because Snake’s only a few steps away from being like him: a killing machine who only feels alive when he’s on the battlefield. Snake and Fox’s relationship shifts constantly, with Fox wanting to kill Snake but also helping him with his mission at the same time. In Snake’s showdown with Liquid, who’s piloting Metal Gear Rex, Fox steps in to help even the odds against the giant machine—at the cost of his own life. His last words, urging Snake to take control of his own life so he avoids becoming like Fox, are particularly poignant: “Snake. We’re not tools of the government, or anyone else. Fighting was the only thing… the only thing I was good at. But… at least I always fought for what I believed in.”

3. Psycho Mantis’s Last Words
  Metal Gear Solid

Death # 3. I know, I know, but listen: Metal Gear Solid isn’t like The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, which throw their characters into the grinder one by one for shock value and then expect the viewer to feel something. The deaths in the original Metal Gear Solid are tragic in big, Greek mythology kind of ways—legends spilling the sins of their conquests to you as they die. These last confessions hit hard, especially Psycho Mantis’s, who after using his power to remove an obstacle from Snake’s way admits “This is the first time I’ve ever used my power to help someone. It’s strange… it feels… kind of… nice” before expiring.

4. Otacon’s Story
  Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Otacon, despite usually being a comedic relief character, has a sad backstory that isn’t revealed until about halfway into Sons of Liberty. As a young man he was sexually abused by his stepmother. When his father found out the man tried to drown himself and Otacon’s stepsister, Emma, which led to bad blood between the two siblings as Emma resented him for not trying to save her. During the events of Sons of Liberty Emma is mortally wounded and dies slowly in Otacon’s arms while reassuring him that he’s a good person, though he’s still plagued by the guilt of his inaction. The poor dude just can’t catch a break.

5. Fortune Discovers The Truth
  Metal Gear Solid 2:Sons of Liberty

Fortune is one of the most pitiable characters in the entire series. She spends the majority of Sons of Liberty raging against Solid Snake for supposedly killing her father only to discover in the end that she’s actually been working for her father’s killers the entire time. What’s worse is that she gets robbed of her chance to take revenge when Ocelot, the man who directly killed her father, flees shortly after shooting her in the chest. Her last act is shielding both Raiden and Snake from Ocelot’s missile attack, thus ensuring that they can go after him. Still, she deserved better.

6. The Betrayal
  Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Fast forward to the 2:57 mark

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater starts in a big way, with Naked Snake\Big Boss (Solid Snake’s dad) attempting to rescue a defecting USSR scientist named Sokolov. Everything goes to plan until Snake and Sokolov try to cross a rope bridge that leads to the area’s exit. There we meet Snake’s mentor, The Boss, considered the deadliest person on the planet, in person. She betrays Snake, beating him senseless before throwing him off the bridge and kidnapping Sokolov for a terrorist faction that wishes to develop a massive tank capable of firing nuclear warheads. It’s a stunning opening that leaves Snake crippled both physically and emotionally, setting the stakes and starting a long, memorable journey that spans several decades and generations.

7. Showdown with The Boss
  Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Nearly every moment in Snake Eater builds to this showdown with Snake’s mentor. His overcoming each of her squad members, his survival of the harsh ecosystem, even his own mentor/student relationship with the young Ocelot Revolver—everything in this game is about Snake rising up and taking the Boss’ position even if he doesn’t want to. And this is a fight that doesn’t disappoint. The battle itself is exhilarating, with a time limit and a fantastic score playing in the background, while the aftermath of it is soul crushing thanks to the epilogue’s revelation that The Boss wasn’t even a traitor: she was a double agent and a patriot to the end, sacrificing not just her life but her legacy for her country.

8. Raiden’s Sacrifices
  Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

Raiden was widely disliked by players before Guns of the Patriots, with many taking issue over the fact that he wasn’t…well, he wasn’t Solid Snake. His makeover as a badass cyborg ninja in the vein of Gray Fox feels just as much of a bitter HERE, FINE statement from Kojima and company for the haters as it is an intriguing plot development, with Raiden showing up to save Snake and even being willing to give up his life (in dramatic fashion) for the man twice near the end of the game. Luckily he doesn’t actually die but each scene works well enough to sell you that he’s about to perish.

9. The Crawl
  Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

The last act of Guns of the Patriots is a pretty loud affair, with several battles happening all at once while Snake, now old and somewhat decrepit, crawls through a microwave hallway that cooks him alive so he can reach a room filled with supercomputers that he must upload a virus to in order to save the world. He crawls slowly, bits and pieces of his suit popping off from the heat, health bar diminishing. The top half of the screen is taken up by footage of his friends fighting (and losing) against enemies, letting you know just what the stakes are. It’s a moving, heart-pounding five minutes that captures Snake’s long, painful journey to this point and is easily the stand out moment from the fourth game, letting us know that this is the last grueling push before our old, tired hero can take on his nemesis and then lay his burdens down at long last.

10. Some Time To Rest
  Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

The ending cutscene of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots is almost an hour and a half long. A lot of it is surprisingly moving, with character arcs being wrapped up in a nice way that paradoxically rings of finality and continuation at the same time. People get married, families are reunited, and Snake….well, Snake gets to say goodbye—or so he thinks. One of the key plot points of Guns of the Patriots is that Snake, due to a man-made disease he has, is slowly turning into a biological weapon that will wreak havoc on the planet, so his reward for saving the Earth is ostensibly the opportunity to kill himself. Bummer, right? However, it turns out that during the course of the game he’d been injected with a cure for the virus, so instead he spends the last half hour of the game at a graveyard, reunited with his dying father who reveals he’s been cured and then tells Snake to find a reason to live for whatever time he has left. It’s a moving scene that borders on goopy sentimentality, but it ultimately lands that devastating emotional punch as we watch Big Boss salute his mentor’s grave and die quietly with his son at his side.

Javy Gwaltney devotes his time to writing about these videogame things when he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter or his website.

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