Alex has been an online sports and pop culture writer for five years. When he's not writing about sports, Alex is an aspiring screenwriter.
Psycho Mantis is going to be number one. Yeah, why beat around the bush? But Metal Gear Solid is a series that is flush with memorable bosses. And the first game brought their A-game in terms of boss battles. This game has such a murderer’s row of iconic bosses, half of these could top lists if they were in another game. This ranking will be from worst… Well, there are no real bad ones, so the list goes from least interesting to most interesting.
In a game where every boss character has a big personality, a tank was the least painful choice for the bottom. Even for the least interesting boss in the game, there are positives. It introduces Vulcan Raven – who will show up later. Plus one man against a literal tank certainly sells how outgunned Solid Snake is. But Raven peaces out and a faceless gunner takes his place. Plus, it’s easy to exploit this boss. That kind of feels like the good news and the bad news.
Hind D Helicopter
The Hind battle is an improvement over the tank because the stakes are higher and the battle is more suspenseful. It also sells the lengths Liquid is willing to go through to kill his brother. While avoiding a helicopter’s attacks makes for a pretty suspenseful battle, actually hurting the thing is pretty basic – maybe even more basic than the tank. Definitely in the good but not exception category, this boss succeeds in keeping the flow of the game going without feeling stale.
Ninja (Grey Fox)
Metal Gear Solid's lineup is so good, this is where the bosses go from serviceable to excellent. It’s a good thing the game gives you some practice with a boss that requires your dukes because you will need it later. Ninja feels like one of the first monkey wrenches as he will just shut down any and all attempts to shoot him. At least until the end of the battle, where he WANTS Snake to shoot him. Ninja is an excellent boss but can be a little frustrating. Some of his attacks can be hard to avoid simply because dodging his straight punches went against my instincts. Also, if you missed the goggles – which is possible – Grey Fox can be a royal pain.
Raven doesn’t shy away from the heavy artillery, does he? After trying to blow you away with a tank, Vulcan Raven chases after Snake with a mini-gun. And unlike Ocelot, he is not running out of ammo. The game doesn’t give the player any chances to just brute force their way through boss battles, but keep-away is the name of the game here. Vulcan Raven can become a little frustrating because of his field of vision and ability to shoot down your missiles. But there is more than one way to skin the cat, such as mines and C4. Plus, Vulcan Raven is a pretty good sport about losing, with a pretty memorable death scene.
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You only get one chance at a first impression, and Revolver Ocelot does not disappoint. Ocelot’s gimmick is easy enough to figure out: Wait for him to use up all 6 bullets, then take your shots. This is of course complicated by a hostage surrounded by C4 and wires that will detonate. Ocelot’s trash talk feels iconic – “Hiding won’t help.” Being the first boss in the game, Ocelot splits the difference between being an exciting challenge but not frustrating the player into quitting.
You know a game has a good boss when you face them twice and it doesn't feel redundant. I wanted to be a little more imaginative than to rank both battles together, but I had no idea how else to rank her. When sniping was introduced in the game, it became a question of when, not if, that would play into a boss battle. Both battles are tense as they are among the few that require first-person perspective. So, you have to rely on a different set of tricks – especially when she has a wider playfield. Sniping battles would become a staple of the series, and that's because Kojima nailed it the first time.
After battling tanks, snipers, ninjas, psychics, and walking missile launchers, the game ends with a one-on-one showdown with Snake’s brother. No guns, just fists. This is one of the few bosses that is on the easy side. But considering everything you’ve been through (especially the previous boss), it makes sense. Though Liquid does have enough tricks such as recovery time and combos to make sure you can’t spam him and make this too easy. Plus Liquid can kick you off Metal Gear, and there is a time limit. Every Metal Gear Solid after this would have a final battle that follows some variation on this template. It’s easy to see why, as a one-on-one fight feels so personal.
Metal Gear Rex
Did you think a battle with a giant, walking missile launcher would be easy? This beast has a larger health bar than any other boss in the game, shoots lasers, shoots missiles, has a machine gun – all of which can reach the player depending on where Snake goes. And you have to beat it twice! A boss like this feels like a flex – and I don’t mean for the player. It feels like the game designers saying “We know you’re not going to quit after making it this far, no matter what we throw at you.” There is a cheap way to beat Metal Gear, but that’s easier said than done. One knock is that there’s a lengthy cut scene in between the two rounds. This includes an unskippable interactive section where Snake can’t pull the trigger. A little annoying, but it weirdly works as a motivator. Like, you want to beat the boss so you don’t have to keep going through this ordeal.
Told ya! Psycho Mantis has shown up on great boss lists like clockwork. And for good reason. This game came out before the internet was ubiquitous and even then Mantis’s tricks were well-known. Kojima took full advantage of the technology by having Mantis read your data, comment on your saves, denigrate the player for messing up, make it look like the video has been disconnected, and make the controller vibrate. It’s a pretty open secret that you have to switch controllers to beat the boss or he’ll just read your actions. (In fact, the game is kind enough to tell you this if you lose too much).
But even then, Mantis isn’t a walk in the park. The fact that your first person is used to see Mantis’s viewpoint instead of your own is brilliant. Plus, he can control Meryl to make her attack you or commit suicide adds peril and makes the character a little creepier. And there are even ways to beat Mantis without using the famous controller trick.
© 2022 Alex deCourville