The writing in MGS, is it good or bad?

I think this is a very controversial topic and it is impossible to discuss on reddit or the wider metal gear community. MGS’s incosistencies and plot holes are often treated in a way that everything makes perfect sense in the end. The story is also often told, not shown through exposition.

I tried checking the internet for different discussions about plot holes, retcons and such. For what I could tell the biggest issues were timeline inconsistencies and what really happend with ocelot’s ghost arm. But I think there are huge problems with the plot which are rarely discussed. And often the narrative goes that the games suffered a drop in plot quality after MGS3.

The biggest gripe I probably have with the series comes from MGS1. And it is this plot detail that is often glossed over: why are foxhound trying to kill snake if they need him to activate the nuke? The best explanation I got for this was that snake would realize it is all a ruse if foxhound wouldn’t attack him. But foxhound gets themselves killed over it. And they all try their very best to kill snake, which would in a worst case scenario mean no nuke launch. Liquid reminds foxhound many times during the incident not to kill snake. It makes no sense.

And I think this style of plot is often repeated in the later games. In MGS3 snake is needed to prevent a nuclear war and ocelot, the boss and the cobra unit all try to kill snake. In MGS4 Ocelot needs snake to destroy the AI with foxalive, Ocelot helps snake by trying to kill him. It seems as if the plot is written with another needless twist in mind that contradicts what happened before.

In MGS2 the solid snake simulation makes perfect sense when Solidus announces it to Raiden. The Big shell representing shadow moses makes sense if Raiden were to be molded in to the next snake. But what happens after that is the real meaning of the S3 plan, selection for societal sanity. The shadow moses incident was chosen for it’s extreme circumstances according to AI colonel. But why couldn’t it have been a different game scenario all together if they only needed an ‘‘extreme circumstance’’. It seems like the game was made with the direction of making it an actual solid snake simulation, but yet again another twist was added. I like the selection for societal sanity part, but why it has to be shadow moses again makes no sense.

About the actual dialogue, it often doesn’t feel natural when characters just talk at each other.

I saw this video recently of all the dialogue Raiden has with solidus. I think it is a good example of the exposition in these games.

What do you think of the writing in MGS? Is it good, bad or somewhere in the middle? Too much exposition or is it just fine as it is? Do you think there are any other gaping plot holes that undermine the story? When I was younger and played these games I hardly gave any though to this.

Edit: I still like MGS regardless of this criticism. But I think the critique and problems with the games are worth of discussing.


It’s bad. I mean, I just don’t really know how you could call it anything else. MGS has some great themes. And the plot of the first three games are all great. The gameplay is outstanding. Music is good. There’s a lot there. But the writing itself, especially the dialogue but it’s more than that, is just not very good. It gets the job done. But that’s about it. I guess it depends on how you classify what’s “writing” and what isn’t. I think the stories are good but are written poorly if that makes sense.

Except MGS4. My fan conspiracy theory is that Kojima intentionally made it as shitty, overly expositioned, and ridiculous as possible as a big fuck you to all the assholes whining for the game that he didn’t want to make. Like, “Oh you want me to answer all the questions and tie up every loose end? Here you go. Oh you don’t like it? Go fuck yourself”

I think actually that MGSV has some of the better writing of the series but the plot of the game is awful and cut up. And all the good writing is in audio tapes that nobody listens to. It’s also mixed in with some of the worst writing in any game ever. Like anything Skullface says or does is so fucking bad it’s insane.


There is also this theory that Raiden was chosen as the main playable character for MGS2 because players ignored the meta stuff in MGS1. Only seeing it for the action and it’s hero, snake. But it doesn’t feel very earned since there would have been no MGS2 if it hadn’t been for those players who just enjoyed the action in MGS1. I would like to believe that the other reasons for choosing Raiden would outweigh this theory.

Considering if Kojima did this with MGS2, MGS4 being the middle finger for the demanding fans is not a far stretch. I wish there were a proper interview or something that would describe and translate what Kojima intended and felt during the process of making these games. How much was he tired and didn’t care anymore, and what part of it was just bad writing. We will probably never know.

Edit: and something that I forgot in my first post. I used to be one of those people who believed that everything in the MGS series made sense and the story was perfectly written. When I was younger I hardly understood the story, it was so convoluted (another problem with it’s writing, really). English isn’t my first language so a lot is also lost in translation. Now when I’m older and after watching many movies and series I really started to see where the problems in MGS are.

Kojima has done a lot, but it feels like there is no room for criticising his work. The english translator for MGS2 called out Kojima for bad writing years ago and she still gets a lot of hate for it.


I don’t see this as a conspiracy tbh I see it as a fact. “Driected by Alan Smithee” is never a ‘joke’. I think his resentment in making MGS4 seeped in to the making of MGSV and the fallout that ensued between him and Konami.


I briefly got into this discussion WAY back after beating MGS1 for the 3rd or 4th time with one of my childhood friends and his older brother (who was 15 or 16 at the time) to which his retort was “who cares buttholes?” - spoken like a true meathead Sean. But this is something that always bothered me too, but I just suppressed deep down in my soul because I loved basically every other aspect of the game and had never experienced anything like it before and despite MGS’s nuance going in one of Sean’s ears and out the other, I think he kind of had a point;

Did the inconsistencies with the story really matter that much to our young minds considering the fantastic set building and gameplay? I think I learned at one point or another to just…not care and enjoy the ride, which worked for my teenage years but as frequently referenced MGS4 really changed that for me. It was the moment where the plot and story were abhorrent enough that I couldn’t look past all the cool stealth gadgets and general aesthetic anymore, which brings me to…

Thus I agree. I can mindlessly enjoy the world Kojima has build out for us…to a point and it is absolutely worth ruthlessly picking apart inconsistencies and plot holes BECAUSE we love it so much.

Fantastic thread man!

As an adult, I think it’s fine for what Metal Gear is. Depending on the title the exposition can range from keeping me on the edge of my seat (MGS 2, 3) to being mind numbingly boring, inconsistent, and messy (MGS4, V) so I think overall it strikes a good balance across the series.

This is a valid theory that I’ve always contended to be true, as it doesn’t make sense how (arguably) the biggest release of the entire franchise ended up the way it did.


When I was younger I couldn’t have even understood that there were plot holes in these games, even if I had I would have just glossed over them. I had no idea what the characters were talking about but still loved every minute of it. I always had this mindset that the plot is perfectly sound. And I remember back then on MGSF, when discussing these problems with the plot we could always come up with some long answer, requiring a lot of thoughtwork and speculation to answer everything. We couldn’t just settle the matter as a plothole.

After thinking about the PAL card and foxhound trying to kill snake long enough there was only one answer that I could come up with; Foxhound are really trying to kill snake and they would activate the nuke without him if he dies. If snake makes it far enough he might serve some use activating the nuke. Foxhound probably isn’t even sure if snake will ever manage to figure out how to activate the nuke.

But even this theory isn’t perfect, since in cutscenes liquid intructs foxhound not to kill snake. And why didn’t they just go capture otacon in the first place? This theory would make perfect sense if Liquid wouldn’t continue to remind foxhound about not killing snake every now and then. And even this theory shows that there is a problem with the writing, it requires so much thinking just to understand the basic plotline.

I get that it is a theme of the game that snake is being used and lied to by everyone. But the PAL card activation scheme wasn’t really written well. The boss fights with foxhound are as if detached from the plot; serving as cool boss fights for gameplay. But in MGS1 foxhound plays a big role in the story, the members had their own backstories and all. Psycho Mantis and Ocelot didn’t care about Liquid’s revolution, but I guess the other members did have some interest or say in it.

In MGS3 the Cobra unit is mainly ‘‘detached’’ from the plot. They don’t have much backstory and serve only as boss fights. But it is never answered did the Boss tell them that they will be sacrificed so that she can secure the legacy for the Americans. And what part did they serve in trying to kill snake while he tries to save the world from a nuclear war. It feels a bit like an anime, I also get that big boss needs to grow stronger by defeating the cobra unit, but considering the wider plot it seems a bit unclear.

I’ve spent almost 20 years with these games so it is bound to happen that at some point you start to notice these inconsistencies, crazy that I didn’t realize it any sooner. The reason for me was probably that I just stopped caring about understanding the plot fully since it was just too much to grasp.

I sometimes wonder that if MGS4 was a middle finger for the players, does Kojima feel regret about about it? Many players these days are still very sour over MGS4. I was really hyped for MGS4 and so were many other fans. It could have been the ultimate PS3 title but did Kojima botch the game on purpose just to make a point about endless sequels?

Edit: again considering what he did in the past with MGS2, it was also a gamble to put Raiden as the main playable character. I wonder if Kojima really wants to get his point across even if most fans dislike it.

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Hahaha you know, I’m glad you started this discussion because I was thinking about MGS writing a bunch recently and my only conclusion is that it is bad, the story is honestly sort of stupid, and the universe is just ridiculous.

However, MGS is wonderful and I love it for those exact reasons. Hideo Kojima has a very special ability where no matter how ridiculous or out-there the plot gets, there is always a few seconds where my belief is properly suspended and I can believe that the MGS universe is plausible.

Kojima keeps the player involved in the story, and for that it means the story and writing isn’t all bad. If these characters have anything behind them, it is motivation. Every single character has a simple and specific reason for why they are there and I love that. Volgin has just as much motivation as Liquid Ocelot or Skullface or whoever, the audience sees that and this ridiculous world is just that much more believable. They don’t even have to be good reasons, but it’s more than a lot of big franchise universes have. The military sci-fi concepts are just anime enough to not be a tech-word dump like a Star Trek episode, and Western Machismo-y enough to look cool and stick with people aesthetically and stylistically.

tl;dr Kojima is competent, I’d even say good at delivering the proper format and conventions of writing. He can certainly build a universe. The writing itself is hilarious though.

Honestly thought that MGS2 was the last real effort Kojima has made story-wise. Everything after that has felt like spite for the fans and Konami.

Oh yes, I can relate to that. MGS seemed like some great masterpiece when I was a kid. Truth is, I think it was just the most convoluted thing I could follow, and barely at that.


Yeah the characters in MGS are very sincere, I think it overshadows some of the faults with the writing.

I thought of making this topic for weeks. Writing coherent english is such a big effort for me that I thought I wouldn’t even have the time anyway.

I think this issue with the series is hardly addressed among the MGS community. I have seen some topics on other gaming forums telling the honest truth but critique like this on MGS related sites feels unheard of.

Many players probably remember the MGS games for the themes represented, not the actual writing. For example the famous critical close up video by Super BunnyHop on MGS2 only addresses the themes of the game, not putting any critique on how it’s actually written.

Now that the dust has settled this new site really serves it’s purpose when discussing things like this. I doubt we could have talked about this topic on MGSF ten years ago (not saying that we didn’t have good discussions on MGSF).


Yes! 100%!

The idea of this perfect soldier, searching for a homeland where The Soldier fights for their own goals with their own travelled skills and experiences, not for politics but because that is their place in the world, to wage battle. The very puppet strings this perfect soldier tries to sever invade him, steal his genetic code, and non-consensually create cloned children from him, who they train from birth to kill. They cannot control them. They cannot control their own conflicts anymore. The planet faces an age of eternal war. These two children go on to cut the strings that pose them in their own ways, and one cuts the strings for everyone else too. They do it together in the end. The concept of war becomes obsolete. It’s sort of beautiful.

Except it’s Metal Gear Effing Solid. It’s nanomachine cop-outs and emo cyborg ninjas and whatever the hell Metal Gear Solid 5 was. Concepts that never get finished, loose ends that hastily get tied off. It’s melodramatic 2-hour expositions dumps. Every scene from the middle of MGS1, 2, 3, whatever just goes:

“You mean to tell me this McDonalds has a WORKING ice cream machine?”

“Yes. And it’s been weaponized to carry nuclear weapons.”

And yet I have to love this world. And laugh at everyone that lives in it. I’ve been playing Metal Gear for a good twelve years. The stories get funnier to me with every game, especially in 2 and 4 where they just take everything so seriously. 4 more than 2, of course.


I recently finished replaying all the games. When I was younger I thought MGS was a masterclass in writing because I’d never really played games like it before.

But upon my recent replay, do I think the writing is bad? Sorta

There’s definitely some solid (no pun intended) themes and character stuff but I’d say the dialogue isn’t written all that great, but it works for what it is since the earlier games don’t take themselves too seriously. MGS1 was pretty easy to follow for adult me, despite it’s cheesiness it did have some pearls of wisdom buried amongst it. MGS2, when he tried to make it more complex is where it gets a bit trickier but I could still piece together what was happening enough. That game also had the benefit of being sillier than the first so it had a degree of being self aware I think. MGS3 works fine as a corny, Bond-esque, Cold War story. But in MGS4 when he tried too hard to wrap everything in a neat little bow is where I checked out. The character stuff with Snake, Otacon and Raiden was alright but when it came to all the Patriots and conspiracy stuff is where the story cracked under the weight of itself. It was kiiiiinda still salvageable once you defeat Liquid and the credits rolled. As in it was still a mess but you could at least head canon it enough to where it makes at least some degree of sense. But in the mid credits scene where Big Boss meets Snake is where it got broken beyond repair imo. I liked it in the way that Solid Snake and Big Boss where able to bury the hatchet and see each other as fellow men rather than enemies, but when he tried to explain away EVA and Revolver Ocelot’s motives is when it raised more questions than it answered for me.

Peace Walker works fine as a follow up to Snake Eater, and the whole plot of learning to let go was good enough. And tbh I really liked how he worked in the geopolitics of Central America in the 70s into it

The Phantom Pain had some pretty good morsels of story buried it in but is ultimately an unfinished mess in the writing department


Not a single MGS game has a good script. that doesnt stop me from enjoying the series


I think MGS2 is the game I consider to be the most complete and consistent with the writing, but plenty of it still doesn’t really make sense when I think back on it. The problem is with the MGS games and their writing departments is that they seem to want every single footstep or door opened to have been meticulously planned or scripted by the antagonist, as if literally everything happens for a reason. I get that they want some huge revelations and unforeseen plot elements to come to light usually at the end of the games, but man lmao it makes you wonder why you’re even infiltrating Shadow Moses or Big Shell in the first place if all the enemy generals somehow seem to know exactly what you’re going to do.

So yeah, my problem is really fundamentally the obsession to tie absolutely everything up and together in these games, when it’s a fucking stealth action game at its core.

Also, none of the writing team know how to write a woman, what a woman is and how they dress - but that’s anime design sometimes I GUESS!


I mean it’s not good. But then name 5 video games with legitimately “good” writing. I think MGS2 and 3 are written about as well as they needed to be. The priorities are different for video games, its very difficult to make the player and protagonists motives align, and also having the whole thing make sense as a story. I think people who usually harp on about writing in games like it’s an empirical science usually watch too much TV and don’t read books. Many literary masterpieces break all conventions and rules of what “good” writing is supposed to be. If the writing in a MGS game got you turnt when you were 13, it did its job. It wasn’t necessarily meant to be analysed 20 years later.

I’ve come to see Ocelot as kind of a cocksucker in hindsight because of this. Logically he could have stopped/prevented a lot of bullshit he supposedly knew about but would rather be the quadruple agent sigma male and waste everyone’s time instead of helping the side he was eventually revealed to be aligned with.

Yep, i’m thinking based.


I don’t have anything to add here, except great thread. A lot has already been said. I agree with most.
Agent has a point to though. We’re talking about videogames here, which blew our minds when we were kids. No need to overanalize everything now. I can destroy a lot of great films like that. :sweat_smile:

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I love the idea of this topic and believe me I understand where everyone is coming from and I’m not dismissing any opinion in here.

What I would like to say, whether or not the game had a bad story is isn’t really the point of why we, including Thousands of other fans, fell for this series. Personally, before I played MGS1 I was a strictly arcade type gamer. What MGS succeeding in doing was making me invested into a cinematic universe that to me didn’t exist in gaming. I’d go as far as saying at the time on ps1, few games came close to feeling like a movie. Not to mention one of the best aspects of MGS has always been it’s paranormal military angle. There’s a lot of loopholes when you put this series up to scrutiny and it’s very possible it’s not a good story. I’ll tell you what though. I rather play through the story of a legendary soldier than watch one, i want to be the active participant. Thinking of the era late 90’s early 2000’s who else was trying to tell us this type of serious story on consoles? I think the broad strokes of MGS is what holds up, the tiny things we have to forgive especially for the window it was out.

Just a little side story. In High School, we were all tasked to make a report on any story that we’re into. Naturally I wrote about MGS2 tanker incident, talking about gurlokivich(sp) His motives and snakes. the espionage aspect, the russian take over tand the u.s. basically f’ing over my Gurlocka! Teacher at the time asked me while I was walking out of class what book or whatever it was. I mentioned it was a video game I could see the disappointment come over his face as i walked out happily with my 90 percent!

Kinda what I’m trying to say is, for the most part, the over arching story is done pretty well, we cant get wrapped up in the weeds or we’re gonna be just as nuts as start wars hardcore fans! Hell even I have came around on MGS4 but mostly for what koj was trying to do or say.


This is a good way of looking at it I think

Imo it’s sloppy, overly convoluted writing is part of its charm

EDIT: Spelling and grammar


Couldn’t agree more.

Also, gameplay and story aside, look at what Metal Gear has led us to collectively. MGSF, OH, BLS, MGL, all these communities and branches from this core passion for our weirdo Japanese espionage game. Ancient forum drama aside, the Metal Gear community and fandom has been an overwhelmingly positive force in my life.

It’s taken me down a path I may not have walked otherwise, and led me to some of the most rewarding relationships and friendships I’ve ever had, with some of the coolest motherfuckers from all over the planet that I’d have never even known were it not for our shared passions over Metal Gear.

That alone kind of outweighs any problems I may have had with the series in the past. I’m at the point where I think I’m in love with the series again, as I’ve had a lot of time to ponder and discuss the themes and ideals present in Metal Gear over many especially eccentric late night debates with @NightFox and @Orca (both of whom are FAR more knowledgeable over MG Lore than I).

It’s maybe become of my favorite things to discuss.


Yeah I mean take a game like Last of Us or something that has very highly regarded writing. We didn’t all meet on a TLoU forum. There’s just something intangible to MGS that captures the imagination. Plus it’s just super fucking cool. Who gives a shit if the writing is pretty crappy when you’re completely immersed in the role of an action movie super spy assassin fighting giant nuclear robots and super soldiers? At the end of the day, you play a game for the game, not the writing. And MGS games are crazy fun, very cool, and very captivating. And that’s why MGS 1 is the best. Fight me



Yeah MGS as a narrative naturally lends itself to extremely cool blends of a bunch of things. Cold War espionage mixed with giant mecha robots is so fun. You can spend hours peering over these kind of designs like Sahelanthropus and Ray and what sort of inspirations and design cues they’ve taken to fit it into the world.

God I actually love the Mech designs in MGS (for the most part lol). They deserve their own thread.


You mean the game where the whole plot was “Dont you wish you were the protagonist of the superior first game?”?

Checkmate MGS2 fans