1. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004)
Metal Gear Solid 3 ditched military bases for open-air jungles in the Soviet Union, focusing on Naked Snake during a Cold War nuclear crisis. The game brought a new level of stealth to the franchise, with camouflage, and also introduced close-quarters combat, or CQC, for attacking enemies without using firearms. Snake Eater is also distinguished by the emotional boss fight at the game’s climax and a catchy theme song that plays in its entirety while Snake climbs one very long ladder during the game.
Snake Eater also spawned a second branch of the franchise that takes place before the original Metal Gear Solid; that branch includes Metal Gear Solid V and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Factor in this game’s much-improved Subsistence rerelease, and you’ve got one of the best-playing Metal Gear games in the series — and without a doubt the most impactful. — Andrew E. Freedman
Play it now: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection (PS3, PS Vita, Xbox 360), Snake Eater 3D (Nintendo 3DS)