The Metal Gear Solid Master Collection Volume 1 coming this October will mark the return of some of the best games ever made to the latest generation of hardware. The stealth games were intrinsic in defining the genre, but also responsible in a large part for the identity of the consoles they appeared on. They also solidified Hideo Kojima’s place as a game-making colossus. The re-release, bringing Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater to PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC is fantastic news. In fact, I’d argue it’s the best kind of re-release for this generation.
We already know that the games are likely to be just re-releases or straight ports given Konami says the collection will “allow fans to play the games as they were, as first released, on the latest platforms.” Considering Snake Eater is getting its own remake, it’s likely these will just be updates to run on modern hardware.
I was planning to revisit them on the PlayStation 3 soon anyway - as part of a big PS3 library rebuild and re-explore - but with the Collection arriving with us soon, I booted up the PS3 this summer and am about halfway through MGS2 right now. Push those rose-tinted glasses to one side, and the biggest thing is that these games actually hold up in 2023.
The stories still have that cinematic shine delivering twists and turns throughout the relatively short runtime of each game. The themes are still deeply interesting with the exploration of philosophy, socio-political tensions, and artificial intelligence as relevant as ever; and the action is still as suspenseful in its stealth and tactical in its options as I remember.
Using distractions to lure guards around corners and out of your way, aiming for total silence in yourself and weapons, or the necessity of cleaning up after yourself in the sequel games are still perfect stealth gaming tools. The one that still takes the biscuit though? The mere seconds it can take for an in-control stealth moment to turn into an all-out gunfight in which you are outnumbered and outgunned. It can still go from a jolly sneak to a dramatic end in almost the blink of an eye.
Two of the biggest areas that are still excellent in 2023, however - translating to the modern day well, not just withstanding the test of time in isolation - are the memorable and momentous boss fights and the world-building that goes into each location.
Revisiting the Psycho Mantis boss fight from MGS1 one can fully appreciate the way it - and he - has been built up throughout the early hours of the game, as well as the shocking cleverness that is his fourth-wall-breaking interaction with you, the player, not in-game Solid Snake. The controller port trick, and feeling like you’ve outsmarted him is just as fun and satisfying all these years later. The fast-paced boss fight with Fatman in MGS2 and its cherry on top of the hidden final bomb is another highlight that will surely fool and hoodwink a new audience all over again, just after thinking they have succeeded.
And in terms of powerful place-making, growing up as a young kid, I can’t remember how many times I spent all of my weekend’s video game time allowance playing MGS1 up to the same point - I was drawn in by Shadow Moses and the sense of place and wonder it had. It still feels like that now in a way, my imagination being pulled at so as to wonder how rooms were used by soldiers or what was behind certain doors or just beyond certain locations. The sequels take this even further too, and the sense of place and that sense of ‘I wonder how this was used’ or ‘What’s behind that door normally’ is just as present on the Big Shell and in the Soviet-controlled jungle.
It’s not all rosy though: given how the use and deployment of gamepads have progressed, and how developers have changed the way characters are controlled - limited to eight directions on the D-Pad on PlayStation 1, or having their menus deployed to the trigger buttons, for example - the controls do take some getting used to. This will be a particular element that won’t age or gel well for newer fans, particularly when it comes to using menus and items, even though the ‘movement pill’ is helped go down by the sugar of analog stick support that came with MGS2. MGS1 will likely handle like a top-heavy shopping cart on modern controllers, analog support or not, though.
The games also do a fantastic job of showing the huge leap and speed at which game development progressed between the PS1 and PS2 generations - MGS1 and MGS2 are like night and day visually and graphically, while Snake Eater doesn’t have a huge leap in fidelity from MGS2, but takes giant steps forwards in terms of design and complexity.
Gamers in the present day deserve to be reminded of this. Of all of this. How some of these, the greatest games of all time, were handled pretty poorly, how a blocky ‘facility’ on PS1 can have a rich sense of place, and how the stories of Metal Gear Solid elevated what games could explore narratively and thematically - as well as revisit the birth of the stealth genre itself. And doing so with modern benefits makes it all the better - even the idea of trophy support on MGS1 sounds like a worthy inclusion and long overdue feature too - a silver trophy for hiding in all the cardboard boxes, anyone?
And while these are almost certainly going to be straight-up re-releases of the HD versions that came to PS3 in 2011 (in the case of MGS2 and 3), I think the reality is that no one is likely to complain about this - especially not in the same way as the slightly deflating re-release of Red Dead Redemption, say.
The reaction to Red Dead Redemption’s re-release has been middling at best, and poor and bemused at worst. And while it’s a much younger game than the Metal Gear Solid series, most were expecting it to get some sort of enhancement: particularly given that a new game engine waiting in the wings that made Red Dead Redemption 2 look so good. The MGS games being older could fall into this category by default - though the existence of the Metal Gear Solid 3 remake does offset that. But on the whole, these games will find their feet and a welcoming audience, old and new, in this current-gen, just re-released as they are.
This generation needs to have games as important as these playable by everyone and anyone, and releasing these without major change is as good a re-release as we’ll see this gen.
If you're looking for more high-stakes action to jump into outside of the Metal Gear Solid Master Collection when that launches, you might want to check out our list of the best FPS games, or the best single-player games for a more immersive solo adventure.
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Rob is Deputy Editor of TechRadar Gaming, a video games journalist, critic, editor, and writer, and has years of experience gained from multiple publications. Prior to being TechRadar Gaming's Deputy Editor, he was a longstanding member of GamesRadar+, being the Commissioning Editor for Hardware there for years, while also squeezing in a short stint as Gaming Editor at WePC before joining TechRadar Gaming. He is also a freelance writer on tech, gaming hardware, video games, gardens, and landscapes and is crowdfunding a book on video game landscapes that you can back and pre-order now too.