Metal Gear Ray vs Rex
Metal Gear Rex (left) takes on Metal Gear Ray in MGS4: Guns Of The Patriots.Konami

You may have noticed there's a new Metal Gear Solid out, and it's causing a bit of a stir. In fact many are calling it the best game in the series, which is sure to inspire debate over where The Phantom Pain sits among its predecessors.

Has the series ever topped the original Metal Gear Solid? Is Snake Eater the pinnacle? Is Peace Walker the connoisseur's choice? Does anyone honestly think Sons Of Liberty or Guns Of the Patriots is the best? Countless articles have and will weigh the pros and cons of each, but when it comes to ranking Metal Gears what people really want isn't a ranking of the games, but of the Metal Gears themselves – the hulking weapons of mass destruction around which the series has revolved.

Our list follows, but first some caveats. Because the game is so fresh, we haven't included anything from Metal Gear Solid 5, so this is spoiler free in that regard. We have also not included Metal Gear Excelsus from Metal Gear Rising.

10. Intercontinental Ballistic Metal Gear
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)

This mobile nuclear missile platform isn't the most spectacular beast. Unable to launch by itself it has to be attached to a rocket and launched over its intended target before parachuting down. It then has to be airlifted by three helicopters. No arms, tiny legs, no massive guns, not exactly impressive.

9. Metal Gear Raxa
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)

Metal Gear Raxa is a prototype of the Intercontinental Ballistic Metal Gear – making it the first Metal Gear ever built – so in terms of look it's largely the same. What raises this one further up the list is the fact it (with a pilot) takes on Naked Snake (Big Boss) in battle. In its walking, animated form it's quite a unique looking Metal Gear.

8. Metal Gear Mk. II
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots (2008)

Metal Gear Mk. II was developed by Otacon and Sunny for Solid Snake's use on the battlefield in MGS4. It's a useful gadget for sure, scouting ahead and shocking enemies if needed, but tries too hard to be cute - whizzing about and spinning around like R2-D2 on crack. The Mk. III later joins Snake but is a scarce improvement.

Metal Gears
(L-R) The TX-55 Metal Gear, Metal Gear Raxa, Metal Gear Mk. 2 and Metal Gear D.Konami

7. Metal Gear D
Debut game: Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (2001)

Now we're talking. Metal Gear D is a big bastard bipedal tank with a mounted rotary canon, machine gun and six-missile launching pod, making it a force to be reckoned with. One man who did reckon with it was Solid Snake, and he won due to D's legs, an obvious weak point. Metal Gear G followed, a smaller, mass-produced version of D.

6. TX-55 Metal Gear
Debut game: Metal Gear (1987)

The first Metal Gear in the first Metal Gear game is similar in design to Metal Gear D, but more simplistic and (importantly) with more robust legs. Solid Snake never actually takes on the TX-55 (due to the NES's technical limitations) but he does plant C4 around an unmanned one to take it out. Being the OG Metal Gear bumps it above D.

5. Arsenal Gear
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (2001)

Arsenal Gear is hundreds of times bigger than any of its ancestors. An enormous mobile army base that is submersible and can be flown, its debut came as part of MGS2's twist-filled final act when it is revealed that the Big Shell facility is a cover for Arsenal's construction.

While not exactly a cool Metal Gear in terms of design (it's just a big mass really) the reason it ranks here is due to the wow factor that came with its reveal and how immensely powerful it is. As well as housing dozens of Metal Gear Rays and thousands of missiles, it can also manipulate data on a global scale – Kojima's comment on 21st Century forms of warfare.

In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots an Arsenal Gear is stolen and modified by The Patriots and Liquid Ocelot, becoming Outer Haven – the setting of Solid Snake's final battle.

Metal Gear Zeke Peace Walker
Metal Gear Zeke from MGS: Peace Walker.Konami

4. Metal Gear ZEKE
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

Zeke is the first Metal Gear created under the guidance of Big Boss, which boasts a feature unique among Metal Gears: customisation. Players are able to customise their Zeke using materials gathered in the game.

Hideo Kojima wanted it to look like Metal Gear Rex, likely because it would give players that extra thrill, but it also holds Zeke back on this list. Like Rex before it (or after it in the timeline) Zeke is hijacked, leading to Peace Walker's final boss fight.

Shagohod MGS3
The Shagohod from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.Konami

3. Shagohod
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)

We're including the Shagohod here because, while it isn't technically a Metal Gear, in the story it is the weapon that would inspire what was to come. It's also Snake Eater's primary mechanised antagonist, which is reason enough.

The Shagohod is a massive nuclear missile launcher capable of high speeds due to its two enormous auger screws which plough through the ground to propel it forward. It can also hoist itself up on these front "limbs" for limited movement.

What makes the Shagohod so cool is how different it was to the two Metal Gears that preceded it (and which proceed it on this list). This was a Metal Gear of the 60s which is still technical enough to fit in the technologically-advanced alt history of the series while still feeling suitably retro in comparison to models made after it. The chase sequence involving it is a spectacular peach of a sequence too.

Metal Gear Ray
Solid Snake encounters Metal Gear Ray in MGS2.Konami

2. Metal Gear Ray
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty (2001)

The top two Metal Gears on this list were always going to Rex and Ray, the problem was how to select a champion. I'll explain what made the difference when we get Rex, so let's focus the Metal Gear that followed it.

Metal Gear Solid 2 began with Solid Snake aboard a tanker with a mission to find a take photos of a new Metal Gear. Instantly this creates curiosity in the player, making the moment Snake enters the tanker's hold and sees Ray a great moment. Better still it's only a few minutes later that we see it in action after Ocelot steals it.

Ray knows how to strike a cool pose and its pressurised water-jet weapon is much cooler than a laser would have been in the world of Metal Gear. What holds it back slightly is how much smoother, more overtly animalistic it is compared to its older brother.

Metal Gear Rex
Solid Snake piloting Metal Gear Rex in MGS4.Konami

1. Metal Gear Rex
Debut game: Metal Gear Solid (1998)

Rex isn't the original Metal Gear - in fact in the timeline of Metal Gear events it falls somewhere in the middle - but it was the titular star of the game which turned the series, and Kojima, into household names.

It exhibits all the best qualities of what makes these machines a thrill to witness and fight in the series, in particular the fine line they often tread between machine and living thing. Rex has traits of an enormous monster but always feels like a feasible military weapon – at least in the realm of MGS.

In Guns Of The Patriots Snake returns to Shadow Moses, a sequence culminating in a showdown between Oceleot – piloting Ray – and Snake – piloting Rex. There's a good reason the hero of the series is inside one and not the other, and that's why it's the greatest Metal Gear.

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