Solid Snake looking into the distance

Retrospective

24 years ago, Hideo Kojima changed video game storytelling forever

As it turns out...

Kojima Productions

Did you know that Hideo Kojima is made up of 70 percent movies? It says it right in his Twitter bio. The Metal Gear creator and iconic game director is known for his movie-inspired creations and friendships with Hollywood figures. Even his most recent work with Death Stranding backs his reputation as an unconventional developer. His inspiration from movies is so embedded in the product that there’s a whole wiki page dedicated to the 70+ media influences related to just Metal Gear games. It shouldn’t be a surprise that one of his most popular games (and arguably his breakout hit), Metal Gear Solid, reflects that film background. Games like Metal Gear Solid are absolutely riddled with movie references in a way that pushes the limits of storytelling in the medium at large.

Not all Snakes are the same Snake. This is Big Boss, who is technically Snake with an eyepatch, but not the only United States special ops Snake with an eyepatch.Konami

The Metal Gear story is famously complicated, enough that it sounds absurd just hearing the plot summary without context.

One of the most popular summaries of the first six games is videogamedunkey’s “Metal Gear Solid Explained” video, which bluntly describes the plot down to the complicated relationships between the main characters. Many of the movie references Kojima inserted into the game are Easter eggs like similar names, frames, and the like. The movie inspiration is more in the details of the story: simple from afar but detailed up close.

Kojima explained his writing process to Game Informer when the publication was preparing for a Metal Gear Solid V: Phanton Pain cover story back in July 2015: “Having a complex story is not my intention at all,” Kojima said at the time. “Ideally what I want to do is, for example, make a story that seems very simple, it’s very easy to understand on the surface, and once you zoom in there’s a lot of details and a lot of things that you can see there.”

Kojima didn’t create the entire Metal Gear story at once but in pieces. He also didn’t mind sacrificing old content to achieve what he wanted in the next part of the story. “I didn’t have the whole story put together at once when I created the first game,” he said. “When you do that sometimes the veins [of stories] get lost, change, or get stuck. From there I need to create new bloodlines so the story can keep going.”

Some of these “veins” and “bloodlines” include similarly named characters and factions like multiple Snakes from Solid Snake to Naked Snake. It doesn’t help that the two I mentioned look really similar and come from different iterations of the special ops unit FOXHOUND. The other snakes like Solidus and Liquid Snake are also related to the above. You find out quickly that every character has a complex backstory, like being in love with your boss who actually isn’t committing treason. Some characters are also actually AIs or clones. One of them is essentially a vampire for no reason at all.

Kojima directed the Metal Gear series since the first game launched in 1987. However, it didn’t reach critical acclaim until Metal Gear Solid in 1998. Metal Gear Solid was the third game in the series and jumped back 41 years into a timeline during the Cold War. In it, an unarmed Solid Snake takes on a one-man mission to infiltrate an enemy based in Alaska. As per Arcade UK, one of its biggest strengths was how it made players “fear” being caught. It wasn’t a game about charging in, guns blazing. You were a “spy” on a super secret mission, even if that mission included somewhat silly-sounding stealth tricks like hiding in a cardboard box for a half-hour.

Metal Gear Solid has been ported and remade for multiple platforms over three generations, including PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Game Boy Color, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS, and PC. There might even be a PlayStation 5 remake on the way.

Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, the last Metal Gear game, was released on September 1, 2015 before Kojima and Konami split. It was a “messy divorce,” so it’s unlikely that Kojima will return for another Metal Gear series game. Just back in September, he reminisced on Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain with a tweet.

“It’s been 7 years,” he wrote. “I miss everything.”

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