Metal Gear Wiki
Metal Gear Wiki

Psycho Mantis frequently breaks the fourth wall.

Fourth wall is a term used to describe the boundary between a fictional narrative and the real world. The term was first used in theater to describe the nature of a set on a stage, where the audience would see a set depicting the three walls of a room and be intended to understand that they were placed behind an invisible fourth one.

The term is used in the context of breaking the fourth wall, which is a meta-narrative convention where a work's status as fiction is overtly acknowledged or hinted at though puns or other wordplay. This comes again from stage plays: a character on stage acknowledging the audience directly shows there is no actual "fourth wall" to the set, "breaking" the convention.

In the context of videogames, breaking the fourth wall usually refers to acknowledging the existence of the player, having characters acknowledge gameplay conceits such as control limitations or coming back to life after dying, or referring to events in the real world rather than the game's fiction (such as "in-jokes" about the series itself being delivered by characters within it). Sometimes these references can be subtle, such as incorporating real-life reactions to a character as an in-game character's attitudes to a similar character.

Fourth wall references in the Metal Gear series

The Metal Gear series is renowned for breaking the fourth wall. Sometimes the fourth wall is broken on many occasions in a single game.

Common elements

  • The main character's support team will describe in-game actions in terms of the controller buttons used to perform them, refer to elements of the in-game HUD such as the health and stamina meters, and discuss actions such as saving and turning off the game.
  • Optional calls will often be triggered based on the player character's current equipment or actions, even if the in-game radio system has no way for the support team to see this.
  • Gaming magazines featuring Metal Gear games can often be seen.

Metal Gear

  • After reaching Building 3's 100th floor basement in Outer Heaven, Big Boss will call and order the player to abort the mission by turning off the game system.
  • During Snake's fight with Big Boss, Jennifer tells Snake that using a cigarette will buy him more time to escape Outer Heaven, by slowing down the timer countdown of the self-destruct sequence.

Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake

  • Roy Campbell will tell the player to think like the game designer in order to see possibilities that are not immediately obvious. He also advises the player to fight only when one has to fight, which are "the rules on the battlefield, in a shooting game."
  • Campbell tells the player to use a tap code found in the game's manual in order to decipher radio frequencies. The North American manual for the PlayStation 2 version of Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, contains no such information, although the digital manual for the HD Edition does.
  • Campbell will try to give Snake advice on how to walk slowly across a noisy floor but then realizes that Snake can't do that.
  • After the player reaches the Tower Building, Colonel Campbell calls and tells Snake that he is changing his radio frequency. In the MSX2 version, he says that the frequency is on the rear side of the game's package, while in the Subsistence version, he says that the frequency is in a picture in the game's manual. Like the tap code, no such image is available in the original Subsistence manual, although it is included in the HD Edition.
  • Master Miller will tell the player not to envision the Game Over screen upon making a mistake while describing the power of positive thinking. He will also advise the player not to drink too much soda while playing nor play the game immediately after eating in order to avoid loss of concentration.

Metal Gear Solid (The Twin Snakes)

Psycho Mantis troubling the player with a fake channel change.

  • The player is told that Meryl Silverburgh's CODEC frequency "should be on the back of the CD case," referring not to an in-game item, but the real-life case the game came in, which has a screenshot of Meryl being contacted via CODEC on the back. In The Essential Collection version of Metal Gear Solid, her Codec frequency is in the manual. It's also featured on the back of the collector's box, due to the Kojima Productions logo put on the back of the game case. In the PlayStation Network version, it is in the game's digital manual.
  • Master Miller warns the player to use the bathroom frequently so as to not miss one of the game's cutscenes, and to not play while tired, after eating, after a bath, or in the dark. He also advises the player to trust their instincts as a gamer and think as a map designer.
  • Miller carefully describes a "stalking" method of walking followed by Snake saying he can't do that, a reference to the game originally being made for a D-Pad with only one movement speed.
  • The gibberish that Gray Fox can be heard chanting in the corridor to Otacon's lab is actually a list of the stations on Myōken Line in the Kansai region of Honshū, Japan: this list is commonly used as a vocal "warm-up" by Japanese voice actors.
  • Famously, the battle with Mantis repeatedly breaks the fourth wall. During the player's battle with him:
    • Mantis reads the player's memory card. He has special comments (e.g. "You like to play Castlevania, don't you?"). if the player has corresponding Konami-based save files (Suikoden, Azure Dreams, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Vandal Hearts: in the Japanese versions of the game he can also mention games like: Snatcher, Policenauts, Tokimeki Memorial: Forever With You and Mitsumete Knight) Mantis also does this in The Twin Snakes, although with Nintendo game saves instead (such as Super Smash Bros. Melee, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, Super Mario Sunshine, etc.). If the player doesn't have anything Mantis has a response to, he'll just declare "Your memory is completely clean." In the PC version of Metal Gear Solid, this scene is omitted.
    • If the player is using a DualShock controller, Mantis tells the player to place it on the floor "as flat as you can" and that he will move it with the "power of (his) will alone:" he then makes several hand motions with the controller vibrating in time to make it shift around. In The Twin Snakes, Snake physically turns to face the camera, and nods approvingly to the player. Like the memory card scene, this is omitted in the PC version.
    • Before the fight, Mantis will check to see how many times the player has saved the game. If the player has saved less than three times, Mantis will declare them to be "somewhat reckless." If the player has saved more than three times, he will call them prudent. This scene is omitted in the PC version.
    • Mantis will also comment on how the player has progressed during the game up until their encounter. The evaluation is in three parts: the player's performance at sneaking, in combat, and in dealing with traps. Mantis will either praise or criticise Snake for each. This scene is omitted in the PC version.
    • Using his "blackout" technique, Mantis will change the player's screen to a black screen reading "HIDEO" in the top corner, as to replicate most standard television sets' VIDEO setting.
    • Campbell tells Snake that he must physically change the game controller's port on the PlayStation or GameCube, to prevent Mantis from "reading their mind." If the game is played on the PlayStation 3 or PSP, reassigning the controller works just fine. If played on the PC, the player simply needs to use the keyboard, which will only affect them if they are using a controller.
    • If the player dies against Mantis without changing the controller port after getting the above message, Campbell will ask if there is something wrong with the second controller port and an alternative method of beating Mantis' powers (attacking the statues with bandaged faces) will be offered instead.
    • In The Twin Snakes, Mantis will cause "sanity effects" during the battle by making the overhead camera tilt at an angle and cracking the screen if the player manages to make Meryl shoot at the screen.
  • If Mei Ling is contacted by Codec, immediately after the first battle with Sniper Wolf, she will urge the player to save their data, stating that she has a bad feeling about what is about to happen (referring to the torture sequence that occurs should the player continue on).
  • During the torture scene with Revolver Ocelot, he will specifically describe how the game mechanics of this sequence work, including how "the game is over" and "there are no continues" if Snake's life runs out, and that if Snake uses "autofire" he will know. If the player hasn't saved the game in a while, Ocelot will remark "You really wanna go down that long road again?"
  • If the player uses a DualShock controller, or has the vibration on in The Twin Snakes, Naomi will tell the player "to put the controller against (their) arm" after Snake tells her that his arm hurts. She will then activate the controller's vibration functions, simulating a shiatsu massage. This occurs after the player has resisted two rounds of torture and is ready to escape. This does not occur in the PC version, regardless if a DualShock is plugged in.
  • While fighting the Hind D, Naomi and Campbell will advise Snake via Codec to use the television's stereo speakers to track the Hind while it is off-screen. However, if the audio is set to monaural, they will instead express their pity towards Snake for not owning a stereo TV set.
  • In The Twin Snakes, the screen will crack if Snake is killed while in first person view, a gameplay element carried over from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

Metal Gear: Ghost Babel

  • Before fighting Pyro Bison, Bison will tell Snake the number of sentries or bosses the player has killed up to that point.
  • Weasel warns the player not to walk while playing or play in uncomfortable positions. He also advises the player to take a break from the game if they feel fatigue setting in, to change the batteries if they run low, and to lower the volume or use headphones in non-private space.
  • After his support team is captured, Snake will automatically realize that the fifth Black Chamber survivor is Brian McBride when his portrait appears in the Codec screen even though it's only an audio device.

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

  • During Codec conversations in the Tanker Chapter, if the player presses R1/RB to listen to Snake's positive thoughts, he will occasionally say "Hey, I'm the main character!" or "I'm the hero of this game!"
  • Certain actions will cause visual effects on the screen, if the player is in first person view mode.
    • The screen cracks if the player character is killed:
    • If sea lice are blown up with explosives, they will fly into and splatter all over the screen.
    • If the player pulls a headshot, and the enemy is close enough, blood will splatter on the screen.
    • If the player looks up while outside, seagull droppings may splatter on the screen.
  • Snake and the Cyborg Ninja tell Raiden that he needs to have the controller's vibration function on to use the AP Sensor and cell phone, respectively.
  • The entire Arsenal Gear sequence, after the virus infects GW, is a fourth wall break. The Colonel and Rosemary give cryptic messages, urging the player to turn off the console, saying lines from previous games - Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, Metal Gear Solid, VR Missions and Ghost Babel, and spouting gibberish. At one point, the Colonel even specifically refers to Raiden's situation as a "role-playing game."
  • Snake, after meeting Raiden in Arsenal Gear's bowels, remarks that he has "infinite ammo" while pointing to his bandana. This is a nod to Metal Gear Solid's bandana, which gives the player infinite ammo for all weapons.
  • Just before Raiden throws away his dog tags at the end of the game, they display the information that the player entered at the beginning of the Plant Chapter. This is often considered a metaphor for Raiden's refusal to remain a puppet and to start thinking for himself. Snake will also ask Raiden if he knows that person (i.e. the player), to which Raiden will reply "No."
  • Indeed, the whole message of Metal Gear Solid 2's story breaks the fourth wall. Raiden's role in his "scripted" mission parallels the player's role in respect to the game. Snake directly refers to the fact that Raiden's only experience is in VR as "war as a video game", during which scenes from Metal Gear Solid: Special Missions are played. In addition, scenes from the game's menu and images such as that of the "Fission Mailed" screen are shown during the Colonel's explanation of the S3 system.
  • In the Snake Tales story External Gazer, Solidus talks to Snake about the Koppelthorn Engine and how it can let people control parallel universes, and vice versa. He asks Snake, "Have you ever felt like your body wasn't your own, like you took an unexpected action after the fact? Or you were able to do something you didn't think possible? That's because of interference from other universes. Perhaps the reason you were able to topple Shadow Moses is because of the helping hand from someone in another universe." This is a nod to the players of Metal Gear Solid, since they are the ones who control Snake.
  • A few times in the game, HIDEO 2 appears, either on a TV or a computer screen.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

  • Naked Snake describes wearing the Raikov mask as "nostalgic." This is because Raikov's appearance is based on Raiden, the protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2. At the end of the conversation, Snake asks what he should do if he meets "that guy," with Zero responding that he should "beat the crap out of him." Zero's reaction to the Raikov mask is a reference to the large number of players outside Japan who disliked Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2. Conversely, Snake's comment after wearing the disguise of "Hey, this outfit should make me more popular!" refers to how, in Japan at least, Raiden was considered a popular character.
  • Raikov himself also can be interrogated to say some of Raiden's quotes towards Rosemary.
  • During a conversation with The Boss, Snake mentions that he has no sense of smell, an obvious reference to the inability of a game to simulate this for the player. The Boss then says that he will "just have to rely on his instincts as a gamer." Master Miller says the same thing in Metal Gear Solid.
  • The Boss describes the real life procedure for a tactical weapon reload, then explains that the actual procedure is to unequip the weapon and then equip it again.
  • Spinning Snake around in the Survival Viewer will eventually cause him to throw up in the game itself, despite occurring on a pause menu.
  • In the basement of the Granini Gorky Lab (heading towards Granin's office, not the prison), there are video game magazines scattered on the floor.
  • Granin has a model of the Jehuty mech from Zone of the Enders in his lab.
  • When EVA tells Snake about Raikov, Raikov is shown turning to the camera and smiling; an intentional nod at his likeness to Raiden, as well as a subtle reference to Raiden replacing Solid Snake in the previous game.
    • In the same scene, just before Raikov turns to the camera, EVA when suggesting Snake steal Raikov's clothes stated that Snake and Raikov look alike from behind, so the GRU personnel "won't know the difference," subtly alluding to Raiden replacing Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 2.
  • If Snake dies or kills Ocelot, Sokolov, or EVA, a Time Paradox screen is shown, as all four characters appear in games further on in the storyline. The future Colonel Campbell will also be heard questioning Snake (i.e. the player) over what he has done, and says that he's just created a Time Paradox. In the Japanese version, Campbell's voice actor is the same as Doc Brown's, of the Back to the Future trilogy, adding a further layer of comedy.
  • In addition, the Fake death pill item triggers a fake game over screen.
  • In the introductory Codec conversation of the Snake vs. Monkey minigame, Solid Snake references stealth genre heroes Gabe Logan and Sam Fisher, of Syphon Filter and Splinter Cell fame, respectively. Snake also mentions Spike and Jimmy, two of the protagonists from the Ape Escape series. Campbell mentions other characters from Ape Escape, commenting that one of them is a friend of Otacon's.
  • Para-Medic uses some of the movies she mentions as real world metaphors for the player to not play the game too long or take it too seriously.
  • During a conversation with Para-Medic about Zero's love of James Bond movies, Snake states that real spying is nothing like how it's depicted in fiction.
  • During the conversation about the CalorieMate, Snake says he's never been late for a mission, Para-Medic-responding with "Really? Aren't you always keeping people waiting?" in reference to Solid Snake's "kept you waiting, huh?" catchphrase.
  • Switching off the game after saving is described as Snake "resting" in several character interactions. There are even consequences to "resting" while fighting The End.
  • In one conversation with Zero, Snake talks about how eating food can't restore health, a reference to the ration mechanic of other games where it did exactly that.
  • The conversation with SIGINT and Para-Medic regarding the Russian Glowcap has the two accidentally forget to turn off the microphone and speculate as to whether a gameplay mechanic is actually happening or not.
  • If he is contacted while wearing the "Naked" camo, a horrified SIGINT will inform Snake that there is not a way for him to take off his pants.
  • SIGINT and Snake share a talk about how the Patriot has infinite ammo because one of the components is shaped like an infinity sign.
  • Snake is referred to as having experience at sniping in "urban and marine environments," a reference to the settings of the last two games. This was made more apparent in the Japanese version, where the Japanese terms for urban and marine environments have on the superscript above them "MGS1" and "MGS2", respectively.[1]

Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence

  • The Secret Theater film, Metal Gear Raiden: Snake Eraser, is based more or less entirely around fourth wall breaking humor.
    • At the beginning of the film, Raiden comments on killing Naked Snake and taking his position in the "Main Character" chair.
    • Whenever Raiden time travels and something bad happens, Campbell can be heard saying that he created a Time Paradox.
    • When Raiden returned to his original time, Rosemary tells him that the past can't be changed and that they can only change the future. Raiden then starts to say something about Metal Gear Solid 4, but Rose reassures him, telling him, "There's going to be a 5, right?"

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

  • In an optional radio call with Sigint, Snake will make references about "changes in equipment" where things have become lighter and more compact overall, the controls are completely different, and yet he can now "take the equipment outside" a direct reference to Metal Gear Solid being placed onto the PlayStation Portable.

Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker

  • Hideo Kojima can be recruited as a Mother Base staff member.
  • Another truck in the same cutscene where Kojima can be recruited contains literal metal gears, drawing the standard response.
  • On learning Cecile Caminades' full name, Kazuhira Miller comments that "Cosima Caminades" sounds like "Kojima, kaminandesu," which he interprets as a message that "Kojima is God." The character is also named after the former communications director of Konami's French division.
  • If he is contacted while wearing the swim trucks, Miller will reiterate SIGINT's statement to Big Boss that there is no way to take the swim trunks off.

Metal Gear Solid Mobile

  • When the AI starts crashing due to Otacon's hacking, Victoria Reed tells the player to take a break and the Commander tells the player to turn off their cellphone.

Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots

  • Old Snake uses a SIXAXIS controller to operate the Metal Gear Mk. II or III. This is also present in the game's instruction manual, where an artwork of Snake controlling the miniature Metal Gear with the same controller, along with instructions regarding the control scheme beneath the artwork, are all shown.
  • During Drebin's introduction, he will wave his title card away with his handkerchief.
  • On Shadow Moses Otacon has a conversation with Snake about how ridiculous it was for him to successfully take on a tank armed only with hand grenades.
  • When Snake enters the Blast Furnace on Shadow Moses, Otacon contacts him by Codec and tells him to change game discs (this is where the disc change occurs in Metal Gear Solid). He quickly, however, realizes that a "Dual-layered" disc eliminates the need to do so, complementing the PlayStation 3 hardware, before Snake tells him to "get a grip." The "Dual-layered" disc Otacon is referring to is a Blu-ray Disc, and that Blu-ray Discs can hold a ton of data and information compared to a CD, in which Metal Gear Solid was under that disc format, requiring 2 discs to play the game due to limitations of how much a CD can hold.
  • The entire Screaming Mantis fight is used to play on the player's memory of the Psycho Mantis fight. At one point, Mantis will change the screen to read "HIDEO 2", but if the player changes the controller port, Snake will still be unable to move and Otacon will tell him that tactic "won't work this time." Colonel Campbell suggests this technique if the player contacts Rosemary on the codec, and Rosemary will point out the flaw in his logic. Another plan suggested by Campbell is shooting off the leather straps from the Psycho Mantis bust, another tactic from the earlier game, but Snake will point out that there is no bust in this area. And if the player actually does assign the controller to something other than "1" Snake will say that he can't move and Otacon will ask if he assigned the controller to something other than one. He'll also say that the controller has to be on "1" or Snake won't be able to move. Also, in a very rare case, Mantis may "restart" the game, in which the Konami logo will appear, followed by a backwards Kojima Productions logo. After this, the player can resume as though nothing happened.
  • After defeating Screaming Mantis, Psycho Mantis will appear and repeat his psychic and telekinesis performance from Metal Gear Solid. However, due to the hardware, he is unable to read the memory card (as there isn't one), and his failed attempt to vibrate the SIXAXIS controller prompts an annoyed outburst (Naomi is heard saying "No more massages for you" referencing another scene in Metal Gear Solid).
    • If the player uses a DualShock 3 controller for the above sequence, Mantis will successfully move the controller and triumphantly declare that "Vibration is back!"
  • If the player calls Rosemary after being killed and selecting the continue option, Snake will occasionally start talking about dreams of dying or that he's "died recently."
    • If the player does the above after specifically being killed in an explosion, Rosemary will instead claim she dreamed of Snake suffering that specific death.
  • In a Codec conversation, Otacon asks if Vamp is immortal, to which Snake replies, "Not a chance. This is the real world, not some fantasy game."
  • If Snake dies during the fight against Liquid Ocelot, the "Exit" option becomes "Exist." If "Exist" is chosen, Liquid will reply, "Snake! It's not over yet!", a recurring phrase throughout the series. "Exist" will also change back to "Exit" and the marker will also go back to the default "Continue." The "Continue" will also shrink.
  • In a conversation with Naomi as she describes the SOP system, she mentions that the PMC soldier's battle experience "was just a game to them." During this conversation, the covers of Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid: Integral, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence, and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops flash through before stopping at Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (depicted as a video), with two blank squares in front of Metal Gear Solid 4 labeled "Under Construction", which was likely talking about Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker and Metal Gear Solid: Rising (now known as Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance).
  • When Snake enters the house after following the resistance member in Act 3, the player can see posters referencing Metal Gear Solid, Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. These posters are artwork done by Noriyoshi Ohrai.
  • While Snake is in Shadow Moses, if the player moves the camera so that it's above Snake instead of behind him, Snake will say "Overhead view... Just like old times. Now you're talking! Overhead view! That's more like it!" This is also a reference back to Metal Gear Solid where the whole game is played in overhead view.
  • If Snake dies at any point after first seeing Screaming Mantis in Act 1, puppet strings may appear on Snake, thus signifying the he's a "puppet of the player."
  • Sometimes when attacking an enemy and wounding them, blood will splatter all over the screen, similar to what happens in Metal Gear Solid 2.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

  • During a Codec conversation about Pit, Otacon mentions how Snake knows all about "Game Overs."
  • During the Subspace Emissary storyline, Snake says "Kept ya waiting, huh?", both breaking the cinematics' tradition of refraining from spoken dialogue and directly addressing the players. This is also a reference to Hideo Kojima wanting Snake to appear in the previous game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, which didn't happen due to time constraints. It could also be a nod to a cutscene, shown much earlier, where it simply shows Snake in a box.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

  • Sometimes when attacking an enemy and wounding them, blood will splatter all over the screen, similar to what happens in Metal Gear Solid 2.
  • At one point in Samuel Rodrigues' DLC, he asks why the Denver sewers "seem so familiar".

Metal Gear Solid V

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

  • Time Paradoxes make a return, as, if you die during the Main Op, the game over screen will say "Time Paradox."
  • As Big Boss takes his night vision goggles off in both the main story and in the opening for the Déjà Vu mission, when the camera zooms in onto his face, he says "Kept you waiting, huh?", which is the same line Solid Snake says to Otacon. It's also a reference of the long time that fans had to wait for the new Metal Gear Solid game.
  • Kazuhira Miller tells Snake that time doesn't stop while using the iDroid, a reference to prior games placing similar functions on a pause menu.
  • The mission Déjà Vu featured several fourth wall breaches, many of them being direct references to lines made in Metal Gear Solid.
    • After encountering the two prisoners who both die from heart attacks, the game will begin to glitch up and display psychedelic colors before initiating an auto repair. This is due to the FOX Engine being "infected" by FOXDIE.
    • The post-mission quiz on Metal Gear Solid-related trivia also heavily broke the fourth wall.
    • After unlocking the "Classic Snake" skin upon completing the extra op, the "Hideo blackout" screen will appear on the main menu and Big Boss will then change into "Classic Snake".
  • After completing the side op Intel Operative Rescue. Hideo will be sitting in the helicopter with Big Boss. If the player remains idle on the mission selection screen, Hideo will spin the list, causing it to scroll down.
  • In the Jamais Vu mission, Kazuhira Miller will tell Raiden that destroying the Snatchers won't add to his kill count.
  • Not in the game itself, but in the ending of the TGS 2013 daytime demo, Kazuhira Miller states that the analysis of a tape should be complete "by the time we launch."

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

  • Time Paradoxes can be created by killing Ishmael (Prologue), Huey (Hellbound), Eli (The White Mamba), or Code Talker (Metallic Archaea). Additionally, waiting too long to rescue Kazuhira Miller will create a Time Paradox as well. Finally, destroying the escape helicopter during Metallic Archaea will cause a time paradox, since Ocelot is onboard it.
  • As Venom Snake gets the ability to walk again, he walks past a Ground Zeroes poster of Big Boss.
  • In the mission where you escape the hospital, a patient will quickly nod at the camera after Ishmael uses a file cabinet to block a door.
  • Metal Gear Solid V can be seen on Kazuhira Miller and Ocelot's sunglasses.

See also

Notes and references