Top 10 Metal Gear Solid Tracks
by Richard Buxton
Hideo Kojima’s ‘Metal Gear Solid’ franchise is undoubtedly one of the most influential to ever hit gaming consoles. The legendary Solid Snake was infiltrating the lairs of supervillains long before the stealth action game was even recognised as a genre by the mainstream, and with the 1998 release of Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation, Kojima had changed the landscape of the action game forever. Combining state-of-the-art visuals and cutscenes, larger than life characters with the voice acting to match, intensely rewarding gameplay, and outstanding cinematic music, each Metal Gear Solid release has pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible.
With the recent release of ‘Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes’ and the launch of ‘The Phantom Pain’ slowly creeping ever closer, I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 tracks from my favourite series in gaming: Metal Gear Solid.
10. Debriefing by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
For such an eccentric video game franchise, Metal Gear is as effective as any at bringing an emotional hammer down upon the player, and no moment in the franchise managed this as effectively Snake Eater’s bittersweet conclusion. Harry Gregson-Williams’ mournful hymn captures the moment beautifully in three distinct but equally anguished sequences that rank among the most touching of the series, going so far as to draw audible tears of anguish from the normally so robust and inspiring main theme.
9. Battle in the Jungle by Norihiko Hibino (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
The industrial setting of the previous Metal Gear Solids was often reflected in the intensely rigid ‘alert mode’ music, so it comes as no surprise that Snake Eater’s jungle-based alert theme has a noticeably more flexible and expressive personality. Ethnic woodwinds reflect the jungle setting as chugging guitars and synth-bass get the heart racing. Snake Eater’s jungle-based alert theme comes in a collection of forms, and is discovered at its most thrilling in the fan compiled soundtrack ‘Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Byte’.
8. Sins of the Father composed by Akihiro Honda, performed by Donna Burke (Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain)
Despite the game still being some way off release, the use of “Sins of the Father” in the E3 2013 ‘Phantom Pain’ trailer was enough to secure it a place in the lower half of this top 10. A heart-rending opening leads into an electric fusion of synthetic and orchestral elements courtesy of Akihiro Honda that is completed by an enormous vocal performance by Donna Burke.
Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is keenly aware of his games’ reputation for the hyperbolic, and has used this spectacular song as yet another opportunity to push the series further into the outlandish. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
7. Mobs Alive by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots)
As the musical backdrop to a massacre, “Mobs Alive” is an electrifying ascent into an orgy of nanomachine-fueled violence. Electronics propel and strings churn as Liquid Ocelot’s Haven Troopers slaughter helpless Marines in a “violent ceasefire”, the haunting choir condemning them to a bloody death. MGS4 isn’t short on intense musical sequences, and this track stands out thanks in part to its inclusion in the game’s hype-injecting E3 2007 trailer.
6. Opening Infiltration by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
MGS2’s opening was a seminal moment for video games. Not only did it give the world a glimpse at what the PS2 was really capable of - given that the game was, at the time, arguably the most visually impressive title available on the platform - it was the beginning of a game at the heart of the gaming industry’s cinematic revolution. As games steered further towards the realm of film, Kojima’s franchise continued to pioneer cinematic storytelling in video games. Kojima’s visual and narrative intent was abundantly clear. All the game needed was a score to match, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ haunting choral cries and rising brass launched Snake’s leap of faith in stunning fashion. This was the eagerly anticipated return of a legend, and a moment in which the potential of cinematic storytelling within a video game was truly realised.
5. Virtuous Mission by Harry Gregson-Williams (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
MGS3’s opening cue is perhaps the perfect musical portrayal of the world’s restless wait for the release of the long-awaited game. A slow-burn of intrigue and suspense creeps teasingly upwards until the fuse is lit and hype reaches terminal velocity as the player and Snake are sent mercifully into freefall, soaring into… another cutscene. Despite the sudden segue into yet more exposition, “Virtuous Mission” captures Snake Eater’s introduction in breathtaking fashion, and follows the trend of music playing a large part in each game’s opening infiltration sequences.
4. Encounter by KCE Japan Sound Team (Metal Gear Solid)
Aside from the main theme, this nerve-shredding “alert mode” cue is perhaps the most iconic of the Metal Gear franchise, and in hindsight foreshadowed the arrival of Media Ventures/Remote Control Productions composer Harry Gregson-Williams with its at times striking similarity to fellow MV/RCP composer Mark Mancina’s ‘Speed’ score (as shown in this comparison video). Memories of Snake frantically seeking cover come flooding back in waves of frenetic percussion and hair-raising synths in a cue that will remain eternally etched into the memories of all those who infiltrated the depths of the legendary Shadow Moses nuclear facility. It’s almost as effectively panic-inducing as the dreaded and nightmarish tune to Sonic’s watery death.
3. Calling to the Night composed by Akihiro Honda, performed by Natasha Farrow (Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops)
Often overlooked in favor of songs heard in the series’ major entries, “Calling to the Night” is a powerful reflection of Big Boss’s ethical evolution during the events of ‘Portable Ops’, and is performed with real gravitas and a classic flair by Natasha Farrow. The grand orchestral eruption into the song’s chorus echoes Metal Gear’s unbroken passion and revered extravagance effortlessly in a song that is arguably the franchise’s most vocally, lyrically, and compositionally compelling.
2. “Metal Gear Solid” Main Theme [Metal Gear Solid 3 Version] by Harry Gregson-Williams and Tappi Iwase (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
Debuting in the E3 2003 trailer, MGS3’s main theme began with what has now become the main Metal Gear Solid theme, and ended with an extended and exotically-tinged rendition of the original Tappi Iwase theme. Kojima has always been known for his grandiose trailers, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ musical accompaniment did not disappoint with it’s new theme and its hectically percussive middle section that only ratcheted up the hype for a game already soaring at fever pitch.
1. Metal Gear Solid 2 Main Theme by Harry Gregson-Williams and Tappi Iwase (Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty)
The No.1 spot was always going to be taken by the iconic theme, the only question was which variation would win out. This version of the celebrated theme was one of the first impressions of Harry Gregson-Williams’ highly anticipated score given its inclusion at the climax of the 2000 E3 trailer. It would again be heard during the game’s opening credits sequence, a sequence that preceded one of the most hyped games in history. Treating listeners to an opening action variation before the theme’s militaristic pinnacle ends it spectacularly, the “MGS2 Main Theme” is as exciting as it is inspiring, and ultimately edges out the MGS3 theme with greater conviction in its rendition of the main theme. It’s undoubtedly a source of limitless nostalgia for many gamers, a nostalgia all the more poignant given the fact that a new interpretation never be heard again as a result of unfortunate plagiarism issues concerning the theme, its original composer Tappi Iwase, and Russian composer Georgy Sviridov. In the end, no matter where the inspiration came from, this theme stands among the most memorable the video game industry has to offer.
So have we missed one of your favorite tracks from this immense franchise? Let us know!