35 years ago today, Metal Gear was released for the MSX2 personal computer. While not the first game that series creator Hideo Kojima worked on (that honor goes to Penguin Adventure), Metal Gear was the first title he fully designed and directed. On the MSX2, Metal Gear was a revelation — it popularized stealth mechanics and introduced a range of characters who would go on to be developed in dozens of subsequent titles.
Of course, the MSX2 wasn’t available in most of the world, so Konami decided to port Metal Gear to the Famicom and NES. In retrospect, this would be the first of many decisions made by the company that would negatively impact the series. The version of the game that American audiences received was a rushed product allegedly produced under instructions to make it as different from the original as possible. Kojima wasn’t involved and even disowned the game years later, but Metal Gear for the NES being a mess of a game that doesn’t even include the titular Metal Gear didn’t stop it from selling over a million copies.
Metal Gear was clearly an international hit, so much so that Konami decided to produce a US and Europe-only sequel to the game without Kojima’s involvement called Snake’s Revenge. In response, Kojima created Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake for the MSX2. After that, the Metal Gear series laid dormant for nearly a decade, as Kojima worked on titles like Policenauts and the Tokimeki Memorial series. Then, in 1998, Metal Gear Solid changed everything again.
From there, Kojima and Konami went on to release Metal Gear games of all shapes and sizes — portable titles, console titles, stealth games, card games, and so on and so forth. The Metal Gear series became a cultural phenomenon, driven by Kojima’s penchant for geopolitical intrigue and flair for the dramatic, not to mention his theatricality as a public-facing game designer at a time when most people didn’t really know or care about the names behind the games they played. But Konami’s early meddling with Metal Gear foreshadowed greater problems down the line.
In early 2015, Konami announced corporate restructuring that involved cutting ties with Kojima Productions. As a result, Kojima’s name was stripped off copies of Metal Gear Solid V, and he was infamously blocked from attending The Game Awards by Konami’s lawyers. He reformed Kojima Productions as an independent studio, with 2019’s Death Stranding being their first release.
But Kojima’s departure didn’t stop Konami, who after all had made multiple Metal Gear games without his involvement in the past. In 2018, they released Metal Gear Survive, a tower defense/survival game featuring a nameless soldier who enters a wormhole and travels to a dimension populated by zombies. The player must craft various items to survive the world and unravel the mystery of “The Dust.” In practice, this amounts to putting up a fence to keep zombies away from you and poking at them with a stick until they fall over and die, much like Metal Gear did after Konami’s production of this game.
Unfortunately, many of the Metal Gear titles are unplayable on modern hardware. Metal Gear Solid 4, for instance, languishes to this day on the PlayStation 3. With that in mind, you’ll have to play them however you can. If you want to check out the original Metal Gear, the easiest way to do that is probably via emulation using a translation patch. Lastly, here are a few of my favorite pieces on the Metal Gear series we’ve published over the years: