The Time Paradox Game Over screen from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater.

A time paradox or temporal paradox is a theoretical conflict between past and future events that occurs when mutually-exclusive changes are made in the timeline. Since the games in the Metal Gear series do not take place in chronological order, the player can create a paradox in the Metal Gear timeline by causing the premature death of a significant character. The Time Paradox screen, featured in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, either follows or takes the place of the traditional Game Over screen.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Naked Snake

If Naked Snake is killed, the game comes up with the traditional Game Over page displaying "Snake Is Dead." After a little while (or quickly if the player selects Exit instead of Continue) "Snake Is Dead" changes to "Time Paradox." This is because at the end of the game, Naked Snake is revealed to be Big Boss, the genetic father of Solid Snake, Liquid Snake and Solidus Snake, as well as the leader of Outer Heaven. If he were to die, all subsequent events could not take place. Roy Campbell will also cameo, admonishing Snake for tampering with the time stream.

If the Game Over screen is triggered via the use of a fake death pill, the point at which the "Time Paradox" message is completed marks the point at which the fake death becomes real. In this scenario, the player can access the gadgets menu and select the revival pill to quickly reverse this process so that Snake can stay alive.

Sokolov

A grenade can be thrown through the window of the room Sokolov is being held in, bringing up the Game Over page displaying "Mission Failed." His death compromises the Virtuous Mission, as he would not be able to complete the Shagohod.

Ocelot

Ocelot can be killed if Snake shoots, stabs, or throws a grenade at his unconscious body near the end of the Virtuous Mission or kills him while he is on the catwalk during the fight with Colonel Volgin, bringing up the Game Over screen and the message "Ocelot Is Dead." As with Naked Snake, Ocelot causes a Time Paradox because of his involvement in numerous future events, such as being one of the founding members of the Patriots in the 1970s and his assisting in multiple Outer Heaven efforts between the early 1980s and 2014, the last of which ends in his death from FOXDIE at the age of 70.

Ocelot's far reaching influence is poked fun at by the achievement/trophy in the HD Edition of Metal Gear Solid 3, titled "Problem Solved, Series Over", obtained by causing an "Ocelot is Dead" Time Paradox. Because so many of Ocelot's actions either kickstart and/or advance the plot of various Metal Gear titles, his death in Metal Gear Solid 3 would likely end the entire series there, at the earliest point in the timeline.

EVA

If EVA is killed, an "EVA Is Dead." Tiime Paradox is created. She is instrumental in the completion of Operation Snake Eater, as her help in destroying the Shagohod and escaping Volgin's forces is crucial; she is the one who pilots the WIG out of Tselinoyarsk, sending Naked Snake and herself to safety after the mission's end. EVA also plays an important role in later events, as one of the founding member of the Patriots, the surrogate mother to Solid Snake and Liquid Snake, and a major operative during the Guns of the Patriots Incident, under the codename "Big Mama".

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

Should Big Boss be killed during the "Ground Zeroes" mission, small text under the Militaires Sans Frontières logo reads "Time Paradox." It should be noted that this only happens during the main mission, due to the side ops in Ground Zeroes being labeled "pseudo-historical recreations."

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

During the opening of the game, Venom Snake (under the name "Ahab") and the mysterious Ishmael escape the hospital during an assault. If Ahab dies, the Game Over text reads "Mission Failed"; however, if Ishmael dies, the text instead reads "Time Paradox.", implying future relevance. This was meant as a subtle hint to Ishmael's true identity, whose canonical death does not occur until decades later. However, even though Venom Snake is known to eventually survive until the Outer Heaven Uprising a decade later, the "Time Paradox" text does not appear if he is killed; this is likely intentional to emphasize the revelation of his identity.

If the player takes longer than three days to reach Kazuhira Miller when he is held captive in Afghanistan, a different cutscene is triggered with Snake discovering Miller's corpse, having succumbed to his injuries. This causes the mission to fail as a 'Time Paradox" game over, because Miller's death is known to not take place until just prior to the Shadow Moses Incident in 2005, over 20 years after his capture. This also happens if the player kills Miller themselves.

If Huey Emmerich is killed while being extracted from the Central Soviet Base Camp in Afghanistan, the mission will fail with the "Time Paradox" text, as his death does not take place until circa 1997, when he commits suicide after discovering that his wife had seduced his son, Hal.

If Eli is killed when he confronts Venom Snake, the text reads "Time Paradox" instead of "Mission Failed." This is was meant to be the first hint that he is Liquid Snake during his childhood; Eli does not die until he succumbs to FOXDIE during the Shadow Moses Incident in February 2005, at the age of 33.

If the helicopter Ocelot is riding in is destroyed during the "Metallic Archaea" mission, the mission will fail with the "Time Paradox" text, as his death should not occur until the Guns of the Patriots Incident in 2014.

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