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The Ending Of Metal Gear Solid 5 Explained

At its core, "Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain" is a game about revenge and deceit. These themes appear throughout the lengthy game, but are never more present than during the title's final moments. Revealing the mother of all twists and connecting the dots between distant entries in the series, "Metal Gear Solid 5" ends with a bang. That said, some players may find themselves lost if they're unfamiliar with the most colossal narrative in the franchise.

It's easy to become confused with a whirlwind of names like Venom Snake, Code Talker, XOF, Quiet, and Skull Face. "The Phantom Pain" introduces its own set of characters and plot points, but it's built around supporting narratives from the rest of the franchise's timeline. Serving as the "missing link" between protagonist Big Boss and his future clone counterpart Solid Snake, "Metal Gear Solid 5" doesn't pull any punches when it comes to its finale. Here's what happens at the end of "Metal Gear Solid 5" and the big twist, explained.

Snakes Killing Snakes

Revenge is fruitless, but it's only after it's achieved that players begin to see everything crumble around Snake. Once the Diamond Dogs take vengeance on Skull Face and his XOF forces, Snake's organization falls into a downward spiral, hemorrhaging allies and goodwill. When a deadly parasitic outbreak infects HQ, Snake is forced to murder his own soldiers and friends to prevent a worse epidemic. Surviving this, his remaining friends and allies begin to see the futility of their leaders' aspirations. Some remaining troops attempt to flee, while others are exiled as Snake and his advisors grow paranoid. Things come to a head when Snake's close ally, Quiet, disappears after the turmoil. After losing so much, Snake can't bear to lose her too, especially not at the expense of his Diamond Dogs.

When Snake finally reconvenes with Quiet, the two are taking cover from a sandstorm and enemy soldiers when Snake is bitten by a venomous desert snake. It's an eerie mockery of the series' narrative future, in which Solid Snake will go on to contend with Liquid Snake, Solidus Snake and even the Big Boss himself. Quiet saves Snake by calling for help via radio, but in doing so activates the dormant parasites within and consigns herself to a life of exile. Battered, beaten, and failed in his mission, Snake returns to his Diamond Dogs empty handed.

Venom Snake Is Not Big Boss

The high of his revenge has long worn off and Snake questions whether it was worth it. Along the way he and his allies lost themselves, both physically and metaphorically. Miller and Snake may have both lost limbs, but what values did they sacrifice to get what they wanted? They're not the same men, as evidenced by the pile of bodies and burning ideals left in their wake. Snake and his allies built so much of their life, their very being around revenge; what's left after they achieve it? Neither Snake nor his allies could answer that question, so they just keep working.

Players soon learn that they haven't been playing as the real Snake/Big Boss at all — they've been controlling his body double. Both Big Boss and the Medic suffered injuries after "Ground Zeroes," but Big Boss was only briefly out of commission. When the real Snake came to, he ordered extensive plastic surgery and hypnotherapy on the comatose Medic. Big Boss believed he could make his friend act in his stead while he waged a shadow war elsewhere — and he was right. So what does that make Venom Snake? The ultimate tool for revenge? A man whose very life and purpose was tailor-made for Big Boss? More or less. Venom Snake continues Big Boss' plans, eventually leading the Outer Heaven uprising and dying by Solid Snake's hands in "Metal Gear." However, that's not the whole story.

Metal Gear Solid V Is Missing Its True Ending

Though Konami maintains "Metal Gear Solid 5" is complete as-is, there was initially a different ending considered for the game. Known as Mission 51, Collector's Edition owners of the game got a peek at what could've been in store for players. Mission 51 would have served as a proper finale to the title, seeing Venom Snake come head to head with Eli (Liquid Snake) after the child clone steals Sahelanthropus. Eli takes control of an island completely overwhelmed by parasitic infection, and it would have been up to Venom Snake to stop the boy warlord plus his newly acquired nuclear weapon. Some see it so crucial they've declared the game has no ending without Mission 51 (per AV Club).

Mission 51 may not have made it into the final version of the game, but it would have provided some context for the ending that is there. Eli's existential crisis lies at the center of his aggressions, and the interaction between him and Venom Snake could've made for some fascinating dialogue. At the very least, it'd offer a better idea of why Venom Snake so readily sees the futility in fighting Big Boss' machinations and rejects his real identity. As it is, "Metal Gear Solid 5" already has a convoluted story and it doesn't get any less confusing as it goes on. Mission 51 would've helped tie things together even better, but the game already packs some momentous twists and turns.