The Metal Gear game series is an expansive one that is responsible for some of the greatest stories and gameplay innovations in the history of the medium. The complex, military-themed storylines are only one part of its success. However, these complex storylines are sometimes a little too much to keep track of. The man known as Big Boss has been a part of a wide variety of conflicts that span across several Metal Gear titles. Figuring out what is going on when in the Metal Gear timeline is a tough task.
For those of you who were unable to experience Big Boss’ entire story up until the events of Ground Zeroes, check out this succinct summary of all of the major events from his early life. From the events of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater through Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, and finally up to the Ground Zeroes conflict, we help sort out the Metal Gear timeline to help you follow along with Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience, the new release that bundles together Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain and all of their DLC.
Early Life (1950-1964)
Back in the 1950s, Big Boss — then known as Jack — begins his military career when he participates in the Korean War as a teenager and later joins the Green Berets. In 1950, at age 15, he meets The Boss and becomes her apprentice. She trains him in combat, demolition, and intel gathering techniques. The Boss was considered “The Mother of All Special Forces,” having a decorated military career as the leader of the Cobra Unit. This specialized combat unit took part in a wide variety of high-importance missions during World War II.
During Jack’s time with the Boss, the two of them jointly develop a unique hand-to-hand fighting style, known simply as Close Quarters Combat, or CQC. They go their separate ways on June 12, 1959. Between 1962 and 1964, Jack joins the FOX unit, led by Major Zero. Jack and Boss will meet again five years later in Russia.
In August 1964, Jack takes part in the Virtuous Mission, a CIA/FOX operation that involves deep insertion into Tselinoyarsk, Soviet Union. Jack is given the codename “Naked Snake” (or Snake for short). The mission is to rescue a Soviet defector, the weapons scientist Nikolai Stepanovich Sokolov. Sokolov had pioneered the Soyuz rocket and the nuclear-armed Shagohod tank which is in development at the time.
Snake succeeds in locating and extracting Sokolov from KGB guards, but during his extraction, he comes face-to-face with The Boss. While The Boss is available as friendly radio support during the operation, she becomes unresponsive midway through. She reveals to Snake that she is defecting to the Soviet Unit to join the GRU Officer Volgin along with her Cobra Unit (consisting of The Pain, The Fear, The End, and The Fury). Sokolov is re-captured, and Volgin not only seizes Sokolov’s project but also unleashes an American-made Davy Crockett nuclear weapon on Russian citizens, creating an international incident.
The catastrophic fallout of the Virtuous Mission almost leads to the execution of Snake and Major Zero. To make amends, Snake is reinserted into Tselinoyarsk a week later in Operation Snake Eater.
Operation Snake Eater (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)
At 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 30, 1964, Snake deploys again into Tselinoyarsk to conduct Operation Snake Eater. The direct aims of Operation Snake Eater are to eliminate the threat of the nuclear-armed Shagohad weapon and to assassinate The Boss. Snake’s first task is to rendezvous with a CIA informant codenamed ADAM. Snake is unable to make contact with ADAM, but will meet up with ADAM’s fellow operative, EVA.
Snake comes into contact with several enemy combatants, including GRU Major Ocelot and his Ocelot Unit. The young major and Snake will clash several times, creating a lasting rivalry. Snake overcomes several battles against members of the Cobra Unit, dispatching The Pain, The Fear, The End, The Fury, and even coming into spiritual contact with a deceased member of Cobra, The Sorrow.
Confronting the Boss
Volvin captures and subsequently tortures Snake. Volgin orders The Boss to remove Snake’s eyes, but she refuses. Shortly later, Ocelot accidentally shoots out Snake’s right eye, leading to his trademark eyepatch. Snake later escapes from confinement and plants C3 charges inside the hanger where the Shagohad tank is resides. After a one-on-one bout with Volgin, Snake detonates the charges but they fail to destroy the tank.
The operation concludes with the Shagohad tank reaching it’s full operational capability, and Snake and EVA directly confronting Volgin within it. Snake kills Volgin and completely destroys the Shagohod tank. He manages to accomplish every objective of his mission except for one: To kill his former mentor.
Snake and The Boss face off against each other in a field of flowers near his extraction point. Her CQC prowess make direct confrontation difficult, but Snake utilizes every skill in his arsenal to finally dispatch her.
Peace Walker Incident (Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker)
Big Boss leaves his military career with the U.S. behind him. He creates Militaires Sans Frontières, (MSF) along with subcommander Kazuhira Miller. The organization is considered a private military company with no true cause or nation to fight for.
On Nov. 4, 1974, Miller introduces Big Boss to Ramon Galvez Mena and Paz Ortega Andrade, who are seeking MSF’s help in repelling an unknown armed force that entered Costa Rica. With the country unable to bear arms due to its peace constitution, Galvez wishes to hire MSF to fight the invading force. Big Boss deduces that Galvez is actually KGB and that allying with him would make MSF an enemy of America. However, Galvez convinces Big Boss to intervene in the situation by playing a recording that features the faint voice of The Boss. Big Boss offers to help Paz in order to find the answers behind the voice.
Building Mother Base
Galvez gives an old, offshore plant to MSF, which they use to gradually create Mother Base, their primary headquarters of operations. The organization enlists members by abducting enemy soldiers from battlefields via Fulton surface-to-air recovery system or accepting volunteers. Big Boss cooperates with Sandinista National Liberation Front guerrillas fleeing the neighboring Nicaragua. He then meets their leader, Amanda Valenciano Libre, and her younger brother Chico. The two of them directly help Snake throughout the long mission.
Peace Sentinel, a rogue CIA unit, is the organization behind the military presence. Peace Sentinel is smuggling nukes into the country. The Station Chief of Central America, Hot Coldman, is working along with scientist Huey Emmerich and Dr. Strangelove in creating Peace Walker, a new Metal Gear model created specifically for nuclear deterrence. Huey works directly on Peace Walker’s mechanical construction and Dr. Strangelove creates the Mammal Pod AI system that the Metal Gear adopts for it’s auto deterrence. Strangelove chooses The Boss to be the model of the AI, as she feels she “had the most logical mind to do so.” The AI also shares the same voice as The Boss, and is what Big Boss actually hears in Galvez’s recording.
Coldman wishes to launch a nuclear attack to directly show the capability of Peace Walker’s automated deterrence strategy. Neither Huey nor Strangelove are directly attached to Coldman’s plan. Big Boss travels throughout Columbia and later Nicaragua to combat various AI-controlled weapons, such as the Pupa, Chrysalis, and Cocoon.
Peace Walker Confrontation
During the operation to stop Peace Walker, Ramon Galvez Mena (real name Vladimir Zadornov) is revealed to be working alongside Coldman in the development of Peace Walker. He hijacks Coleman’s plan and attempts to launch a nuclear strike against Cuba, the Soviet Union’s biggest ally. The fallout from the attack spreads anti-American sentiment leading to a Soviet Union victory in the Cold War. In a tense standoff, Amanda and her Sandinistas capture Zadornov. Coldman, severely injured by a gunshot from Zadornov during the last stage of his plan, activates Peace Walker to launch a nuke as he dies.
Big Boss has a final confrontation with a nuclear-primed Peace Walker. He successfully prevents it from launching a nuclear strike on its own. Peace Walker continues to send false nuclear missile trajectory data to the U.S. military, who are mere moments from launching a retaliatory strike. With time running out and all hope nearly lost, The Boss AI becames fully aware and willingly walks Peace Walker into the ocean, flooding the system and stopping the false trajectory data, which prevents all-out nuclear war.
Huey and Strangelove later join MSF as members of the Militaries San Frontières Research and Development division to create a Metal Gear of their own, known as Metal Gear ZEKE. The Metal Gear is created by scavenging AI parts and pieces from destroyed enemy weapons during the incident.
After the worst of the event is over, Zadornov is captured and held in the brig at Mother Base. Paz decides to stay on Mother Base with MSF. After a few breakouts by Zadornov, Paz is revealed to be a spy for Cypher, a shadowy organization with strong roots in the United States. Cypher is led by none other than Major Zero, who wishes to rejoin forces with Big Boss.
Paz offers Big Boss to rejoin his former friend, but he refuses. Paz then hijacks a completed Metal Gear ZEKE and attempts to fire a nuke against the U.S. and blame MSF. Big Boss and Kazuhira Miller find a way to stop her. She falls into the ocean and is presumed dead afterward.
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes / Phantom Pain
In 1975, Big Boss receives word that Paz might still be alive. He suggests finding and killing her so her insider knowledge of MSF doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. However, Miller tells him that Paz might secretly be a double-agent and that capturing her could provide a direct lead to Cypher. Paz is captured and transported to an offshore military black site called Camp Omega off the coast of Cuba. Unbeknownst to the rest of the group, Chico attempts to sneak into the camp to rescue Paz. Unfortunately, he ends up captured himself.
During this time, Huey prepares Mother Base for inspection by an international nuclear organization. Prior to their inspection, the base hides their nuclear capabilities along with the repaired Metal Gear ZEKE.
On March 16, 1975, at midnight, Big Boss infiltrates the base with the goal of safely extracting Chico and Paz. He is not ready for the events that would unfold afterwards…
The saga of Big Boss continues in Metal Gear Solid V: The Definitive Experience which is available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Be sure to check out the expansive Metal Gear wiki for the full Metal Gear timeline and everything else Metal Gear.