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The Cobra Unit, also known as the Cobras and once referred to as the Sons of The Boss,[1] was a legendary team of soldiers that were assembled by The Boss in 1942 to combat the Axis Powers. The codenames for each member of the team reflect a specific emotion that a soldier experiences while on the battlefield.


Early formation[]

The Cobra Unit was one of the many superhuman soldiers that the Philosophers had formed through their resources.[2]

In 1942, the Cobra Unit was officially formed and led by The Boss (then known as The Joy) during the Battle of Stalingrad.[3] The Cobra Unit consisted of soldiers trained to win the war and with superhuman abilities - which at least two owed to parasite therapy. Its members were The Pain, The Fear, The End, The Fury, and The Sorrow. Because of each of the members of the unit being extremely loyal to The Boss, to the extent that they only obey her orders even when she is under the command of someone else, they are sometimes referred to as the Sons of The Boss.

During the D-Day landings at Normandy (June 6, 1944), the Cobras were sent on a mission to destroy several V2 rocket installations. During the war, the Cobra Unit was used for the nastiest kinds of wet works, the kind that could never be let out into the open. Their missions were so top secret that not only were they forbidden to be taken prisoner, they couldn't even leave their corpses behind. Because of this, they carried a microbomb with them on their missions, which would automatically detonate upon their deaths.[4] During D-Day, The Boss gave birth on the battlefield to her and The Sorrow's child, who was taken away by agents of the Philosophers.

The Cobras were later officially disbanded in 1947 due to tensions between the Philosophers.[5]

In 1962, The Boss was forced to execute The Sorrow, otherwise both the American faction and the Russian faction of the Philosophers would have executed their son if both of them have lived.[6]

Operation Snake Eater[]

See also: Virtuous Mission and Operation Snake Eater
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Cobra Unit group artwork.

The Cobra Unit returned to action on August 24, 1964, following The Boss' defection to the Soviet Union, and the capture of Dr. Nikolai Sokolov at the end of the Virtuous Mission. Nearly all of the Cobra members (other than The Boss) carried microbombs on them due to wanting death on the battlefield, as they didn't have a country to call home or even a unit to belong to.[7]

One week later during Operation Snake Eater, The Boss had the Cobras follow Snake using a transmitter that The Boss had planted on Naked Snake shortly after the beginning of Operation Snake Eater in an apparent attempt to ambush and kill him. Unbeknownst to the Cobra Unit, The Boss expected Snake to defeat and kill each of the Cobra Unit members. Each fought Naked Snake (the final apprentice of The Boss) and were all ultimately defeated by him. In the case of the surviving four members (The Pain, The Fear, The End, and The Fury), their microbombs automatically detonated when exclaiming their individual codenames after being killed; while The Sorrow (being dead) "fought" Snake during an out-of-body experience. The Cobra Unit members were ordered to fight Naked Snake by The Boss, presumably with Colonel Volgin not knowing the full details behind the orders due to their only being obedient to The Boss.[8]

Following Operation Snake Eater, the body parts of The End and The Pain were sent to the USA for research. A Navajo scientist named Code Talker examined the remains of The End and researched the records of The Pain to discover the origins of their supernatural abilities. Code Talker discovered that they each had a unique form of parasite strain attached to their vocal cords and later studied them to replicate the parasites which had given them their superhuman abilities, successfully recreating and personally adopting the ability to photosynthesize in the process.

During the Peace Walker Incident, the Cobra Unit was indirectly mentioned by The Boss AI while Strangelove was performing a simulation of Operation Snake Eater on the AI.[9]


Behind the scenes[]


Cobra Unit artwork from the Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker novelization.

The Cobra Unit were created to act as the bosses for the game Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. When The Pain was about to fight Naked Snake, he referred to the Unit as being the "Sons of The Boss," which was intended to reference the future (in-story) terrorist organization led by Liquid Snake, the "Sons of Big Boss." Their characterization and rivalry with Snake was a reference to the anime series Tiger Mask, and their codenames referring to emotions done in battle was compared by Kojima to Colonel Kurtz's (portrayed by Marlon Brando) final words in Apocalypse Now.[10] Their dying via microbombs, as well as their overall role, was derived from the Kaijin characters from the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider franchises.[11] Of the members, only half have confirmed nationalities (The Boss, The Sorrow, and The Fury, the former being American, and the latter two being Russian).

Probable Theme[]

Throughout Metal Gear Solid 3, the Cobra Unit are used as a metaphor for the arbitrariness of enemy lines in war. Although comrades-in-arms during World War II, they are later separated because of the events of the Cold War. This is only remedied when The Boss supposedly defects over to the communist faction.

They also rarely exhibited a strong nationalist sentiment or necessarily agreed with Volgin's plans to adversely compromise Mutually Assured Destruction diplomacy. If anything, they only battle Naked Snake due to their interest in his abilities (being a protégé of The Boss).

This can be perceived as an expression of Hideo Kojima's views that soldiers are continually being used as pawns in political affairs; a view that he stressed beforehand in Metal Gear Solid. The Boss explains to Naked Snake before their final encounter her true intentions, expressing her views on relativity (that enemies and friends change with the times and that soldiers may have to fight their old comrades) and the futility of war.

Another theory related to the Cobra Unit is that each team member symbolizes an emotion that Naked Snake himself feels and has to overcome after the Boss's betrayal in the Virtuous Mission.


Even if the Cobras (excluding The Sorrow and The Boss) are defeated non-lethally, their bombs will still activate. Because of this, their "ghosts" appear during the confrontation with The Sorrow, as well as the "ghosts" of all the other soldiers Snake has physically killed. If Snake merely tranquilized the troops up to this point, the only spirits that will appear are the Cobras.

Other Appearances[]

The Cobra Unit as a whole appeared in Versus Battle, where they fought against FOXHOUND and later Dead Cell.

Enough Firepower to Fight WWII
Will Only Obey The Boss
The Cobra Unit was originally formed by The Boss to combat the Axis Powers during WWII, and was also known as ‘Sons of the Boss’
―Cobra Unit on Versus Battle; against FOXHOUND
Superhuman Soldiers Led by The Boss
Naked Snake
First seeing action during the Battle of Stalingrad, Cobra Unit was created to combat the Axis Powers of WWII and possessed wicked wet work abilities
―Cobra Unit on Versus Battle; against Dead Cell

All the members are also unlockable as officer characters in the Ground Zeroes app. They require varying methods of unlocking, all requiring playing the game with the app. Namely:

  • The Pain: send an enemy flying 20m or more
  • The Fear: obtain a lethal headshot of 300m+
  • The End: obtain a Tranquiliser headshot of 130m
  • The Fury: longest 2 wheel driving of 3 minutes+
  • The Sorrow: Obtain 50k+ points on hard Classified Intel Acquisition
  • The Boss: obtain 10+ S ranks or complete Ground Zeroes on Hard with an S rank (unknown which it is)


Notes and references[]

  1. ^ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2004).
    The Pain: We [The Cobras] are the Sons of The Boss.
  2. ^ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2004).
    Colonel Volgin: To secure victory in the war [World War II], the three countries [China, the Soviet Union, and America] pooled their resources to conduct the most covert types of operations and research - the atomic bomb, rocket technology, and the Cobra unit... And they amassed an enormous sum of money to fund these projects.
  3. ^ Metal Gear Solid 4 Database, Kojima Productions (2008).
  4. ^ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Konami Computer Entertainment Japan (2004).
    After defeating at least two Cobras, the player must call Major Zero on the radio. The conversation will usually start with Snake asking, "Major, why do they keep exploding...?", referring to the Cobra's microbombs' detonations. Major Zero will then direct Sigint to tell Snake about the nature of the Cobra's missions.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Komami Entertainment Japan (2010).
    Revealed by EVA in one of her tapes to Big Boss (Naked Snake).
  7. ^ Sigint mentions this in a radio call to Major Zero about the Cobra Unit's microbombs.
  8. ^ Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kojima Productions (2004)
    Naked Snake: I figured as much... Are they tracking me? // EVA: I don't know. The Cobras only take orders from The Boss. Not even Volgin knows what they're really up to. So I don't know anything about them either. // Naked Snake: No kidding... // EVA: I'll try to dig up as much as I can about them.
  9. ^ Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Kojima Productions (2010)
    Briefing Files > Briefing Library > Data Files > Strangelove's Simulation > Operation Snake Eater Simulation
  10. ^
  11. ^