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Main Character Index | Metal Gear 1 (Solid Snake | Big Boss / Naked Snake) | Metal Gear 2 | Metal Gear Solid | Sons of Liberty (Raiden) | Snake Eater | Guns of the Patriots | Portable Ops | Peace Walker | Revengeance | The Phantom Pain | Acid | Ghost Babel | Snake's Revenge

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"Let it go, my son."
Click here  to see Naked Snake in MGS3
Click here  to see Snake in MGS:PW
Click here  to see Big Boss in MGSV
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AKA: Naked Snake, Jack, John Doe, The Legendary Soldier, The Legendary Mercenary, The One-Eyed Man, Saladin, Vic Boss, Ishmael, The Bandaged Man

Naked Snake voiced by: Akio Ohtsuka (JP; MGS3, MPO, MGSPW, MGSV), David Hayter (EN; MGS3, MPO, MGSPW)
Big Boss voiced by: Chikao Ohtsuka (JP, MGS4), Richard Doyle (EN, MGS4), Kiefer Sutherland (EN, MGSV)

"If the times demand it, we'll be revolutionaries, criminals, terrorists. And yes, we may all be headed straight to hell. But what better place for us than this? It is our only home. Our heaven and our hell. This is Outer Heaven."

In 1964, a man named John, an agent of the Black Ops unit FOX, saves the world from nuclear Armageddon. Along the way, he's forced to slay his teacher and adoptive mother codenamed the Boss. For his actions, he is christened "Big Boss" by the President of the United States and inherits his teacher's title of "the Greatest Warrior of the Twentieth Century".

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He later goes on to found the private military companies Militaires Sans Frontieres and Diamond Dogs, as well as the U.S. Army black ops group FOXHOUND. In the first Metal Gear game, Big Boss secretly leads the uprising at Outer Heaven and sends FOXHOUND rookie Solid Snake to investigate it, not expecting that he will actually survive. In Metal Gear 2, Big Boss takes control of Zanzibar Land and kidnaps a scientist who developed an alternative fuel source. Solid Snake is sent in to rescue the scientist, and ultimately kills Big Boss with a makeshift flamethrower.

While he was originally little more than the Big Bad of the first two Metal Gear games, Big Boss later received a great deal of Character Development, becoming the tragic protagonist of the prequel games.

For tropes pertaining to his mental doppelganger Venom Snake in The Phantom Pain, go here.

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  • '80s Hair: Has a mullet twenty years early and sports it throughout The '70s.
  • Absurd Phobia: He is afraid of vampires of all things. (Of course, this being the Metal Gear universe, this fear might not be quite so absurd or irrational after all...)
  • The Ace: Considered this throughout MGS3, and his legend exploits this. He's good enough that losing an eye only leads to one instance of trouble with depth perception. Then he gets broken.
  • Affably Evil: He may have been willing to cross any line to give soldiers a place in the world, but he was an otherwise likable guy: kind to his subordinates, respectful of his enemies, and full of many adorkable character quirks.
  • Alliterative Name: His codename is Big Boss.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Shows shades of this in Snake Eater and Peace Walker. Despite his charisma, he's not very sociable and tends to not handle emotions well, has a tendency for repeating other people's phrases, has unusually dedicated obsessions with guns and cardboard boxes, is surprisingly naïve and trusting towards people who end up deceiving him in some major way (EVA, Zero, Miller, Paz, Huey), and has some rather unusual beliefs (such as being afraid of vampires and believing in Santa Claus well into his 30s). His sons also exhibit a few of these traits.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Solid Snake performs precision strikes against threats as they appear and succeeds. Big Boss tried to raise several sizeable organisations to accomplish his goals, went to seed from the stress, and ultimately fails.
  • And I Must Scream: After his battle with Solid Snake at Zanzibar, he was left heavily burned and just barely alive, but the Patriots recovered him and injected him with nanomachines to keep him from dying. After this he was kept in a cryogenic coma, during which he was semi-aware, as the Patriots used him for extensive experiments, leaving quite the marks on his already damaged body. He was in that state for fifteen years until the destruction of the Patriots' AIs finally let him wake up. Luckily for him, EVA had in the meantime been able to steal his body back from where the Patriots kept him and used parts of Liquid's and Solidus's bodies to restore him to his former appearance.
  • Anti-Hero: During his younger days, he was trying to make the world a better place, even if it meant fighting and killing on the battlefield to do so. And even after becoming extremely disillusioned at the end of Snake Eater, he nonetheless keeps trying to do the right thing.
  • Anti-Nihilist: As Solid Snake's predecessor, Big Boss once had a very similar philosophy, but became a Well-Intentioned Extremist and one of the series' main antagonists when he took romantic notions of being a soldier too far, though it's hard to blame him for it, with all things considered.
  • Anti-Villain: After realizing that he rejects The Boss's philosophy of self-sacrifice for nations that care nothing for you, he becomes willing to kill, torture and brainwash even non-combatants to make his dream of a nation where soldiers will always be needed a reality. Eventually, he even threatens the world with a nuclear weapon. However, even at his most villainous, he still showed compassion to his former enemies and cared deeply for his men.
  • Archnemesis Dad: He's the nemesis of his own son Solid Snake/David in Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2. Liquid Snake/Eli is inmensely jealous, having wanted to kill Big Boss for years. And Solidus Snake/George Sears was the one to idolize Big Boss, modeling himself after the legendary mercenary.
  • The Atoner: While he's very much aware of how far he's fallen, takes him decades until the end of Guns of the Patriots before he at long last atones.
  • Back for the Dead: He returns at the end of MGS4, only to die shortly after.
  • Badass Back: Some of his CQC moves allow for these moments.
  • Badass Baritone: David Hayter gives him the same baritone Naked Snake's famous for. Replaced later by Richard Doyle and Kiefer Sutherland.
  • Badass Beard: Though some in the world community would consider it a Beard of Evil.
  • Badass Boast: "You don't have what it takes to kill me."
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: For his final appearance in Guns of the Patriots. Turns out he had some good reasons to.
  • Badass Longcoat: In his later years. The khaki trenchcoat is a standard attire for FOXHOUND, but it originated with Gene's FOX unit.
  • Badass Normal: Unlike his sons, Big Boss has had no genetic tampering, nor nano-augmentation, nor suit of power armor (though Solid Snake's genetics are actually supposed to be a flawed clone), and yet, his feats of military prowess are every bit as legendary.
    • As Ishmael, he appears to be an unarmed, otherwise unremarkable individual, he's the only reason why Venom Snake manages to make it out of the hospital, fending off a heavily-armed force of XOF soldiers and The Man On Fire.
  • Bad Liar: During the Peace Walker incident, whenever confronted in regards to why Big Boss is in Costa Rica, he always comes up with a lie about why he's there, a lie that's very easy to pick apart. These include:
    • Claiming that he was a Colombian bird photographer when meeting Amanda and the FSLN. His camera is not even set right, and when he rescues Chico, he actually slips up and calls himself a war photographer. To cover up his mistake, he says that he takes pictures of "the birds at the battlefield" in a somewhat unsure tone.
    • Claiming that he's an entymologist, and that he's looking for the Ulysses butterfly. Huey points out that Ulysses butterflies are not present in Costa Rica, and Snakes says he meant the Morphos butterfly, and he's trying to get some for the CITES Washington Treaty. Huey tells him they aren't covered in the treaty.
    • Claiming that he's an ornithologist and that he was looking for the Quetzal for the CITES Washington Treaty.
  • Bag of Spilling: The rival military outfit XOF takes out Mother Base along with Big Boss's entire arsenal. Big Boss lands in a nine-year coma after this incident, which strips away his muscle mass.
  • Bandaged Face: This is probably because he's in a hospital, but it also shows him as The Faceless Ishmael and helps him hide his true identity.
  • Been There, Shaped History: In MGS3, he, along with Sigint and Zero, came up with the American classification for the dreaded Mil Mi-24 (the "Hind"), and he was also the one who came up with the cardboard box trick that Solid Snake and Raiden made frequent use of. With Kazuhira Miller's help, he also founded the world's first private military companies.
  • Being Good Sucks: Moreso than Solid Snake, and he knew it too. Everything he ever did was for the sake of his country and The Boss, but no matter what, life found a way to take everything from him. When he found out the whole world wanted him dead, he decided he had enough and created Outer Heaven.
  • Benevolent Boss: There's a good reason why his followers have genuine undying loyalty to him. This is easily his greatest redeeming quality.
  • Berserker Tears: While he was already suffering from executing The Boss — and gradually started to lose his composure throughout Peace Walker — being forced to tear the aforementioned AI's pod apart (reliving his "matricide" once more), caused his sanity to take an even further nosedive.
    Big Boss: Why?! (As he's banging on the pod he just dismantled.) I don't understand! Answer me! Tell. ME. WHY! ANSWER ME! BO-O-O-OSS...!!!! ...why?
  • Big Bad: Of Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, wanting to enforce his ideals of Outer Heaven and give soldiers like him a place in the world through nuclear superiority, using Outer Heaven in South Africa (Metal Gear 1) and Zanzibar/ Tselinoyarsk (Metal Gear 2) as his bases of operations.
  • Big "NO!": Lets one out during Paz's Heroic Suicide at the end of Ground Zeroes.
  • Blood Knight: One of his primary reasons for creating Outer Heaven and later Zanzibar Land was to give himself and his soldiers a place where they can go to war endlessly, due to the fact that he only ever felt truly alive when fighting in a war.
    • He did originally intend and, more importantly, attempted to live his life peacefully after Operation Snake Eater (namely as an instructor or a hunting guide), but he ended up dragged back onto the battlefield.
  • Body Double: How he survived the original game, as revealed in The Phantom Pain.
  • Bond One-Liner: Something he usually does.
  • Book-Ends: The Guns of the Patriots novelization claims that Zanzibar Land was originally Tselinoyarsk, the place Naked Snake infiltrated in Snake Eater, suggesting that the location where his fame arose is also where he meets his final defeat.
    • MGS3 ended with Big Boss saluting The Boss's grave, thus beginning his Start of Darkness, while MGS4 ended with him saluting The Boss once more in his death throes. He's also seen shedding a Single Tear, completely overcome with guilt.
      • Chronologically, the whole series begins and ends with him smoking a cigar.
  • Break the Cutie: He was a fairly nice guy who wanted nothing more than to serve his country. Operation Snake Eater changed that, and turned him into a bitter and angry shell of a man. Losing an eye and killing your old mentor and mother figure (who never even betrayed her country) will do that to you. Granted, he kept some of his quirks as well as a strong sense of morality, but for only so long...
  • Breakout Character: While Big Boss has always been an important character to the series since the very first MSX game, it wasn't until the debut of his younger self Naked Snake that he gradually began taking the role of the series' protagonist away from his son Solid Snake. Having already starred in four prequels (Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Peace Walker, and Ground Zeroes), the amount of canonical Metal Gear games starring Big Boss matches the amount starring Solid Snake.
  • Broken Ace: In Peace Walker.
  • Broken Bird: Became this when he killed The Boss in MGS3, and never really recovers. In his final meeting with Solid Snake, Big Boss openly admits he was essentially dead inside from that day onward.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • The Boss becomes the former to him after The Boss's faked defection. At the end of Peace Walker, he denounces The Boss as a fraud for laying down the gun and embracing peace, but still tries to enforce his interpretation of The Boss's will and honor his mentor's memory.
    • The U.S. government becomes one to him and stays a broken one because of what they did to The Boss, though he retains some respect for his country.
    • Big Boss himself becomes a Broken Pedestal to two other people:
      • To Solid Snake, his prized student and son. After the events of Outer Heaven and Zanzibar Land, Solid Snake is so bitter over Big Boss's betrayals that he's one of the last people to recognize his achievements, and swears off using CQC for nearly two decades. That being said, he still retains some respect for his old CO, being livid in MGS2 when seeing Solidus impersonating Big Boss, as well as the fact that he visits and even salutes Big Boss's grave in MGS4.
      • To Kazuhira Miller, his second-in-command and best friend during the events of Peace Walker. In the post-credits scene of the True Ending, Ocelot tells Kaz of Big Boss's true plan: leaving everyone he ever knew behind so he could conduct his own war against Cipher, building the true "Outer Heaven" without his old comrades, and having the Diamond Dogs acting as a decoy, complete with an exact body double of Big Boss (who is the character you play as throughout the whole game). After losing his comrades, his limbs, and even his dream, Kaz finally gets his revenge on those who wronged him, only to find out that he feels completely hollow and that his best friend is an impostor, the real Big Boss having abandoned Kaz without a goodbye. Having truly lost everything, Kaz furiously swears that Big Boss will pay for his betrayal, and that Kaz will be more than happy to train the phantom and his sons to oppose him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: The man is a total geek over his guns and cardboard boxes. He also sincerely believes in Santa Claus.
    • Also, he apparently has a tendency to misunderstand exactly how some items are considered valuable to most people in other ways besides battle.
    • In Portable Ops, in a conversation with Para-Medic, Para-Medic explains about El Dorado and that even though it technically doesn't exist, there is evidence to suggest that there were similar civilizations that used gold even in the present, and mentioned that they used gold knives. Naked Snake expressed interest in the knives, although not in regards to its value as much as using the knife to distract the enemy so he could CQC them into submission, with Para-Medic exasperatedly explaining that she wasn't meaning that.
    • In Peace Walker, Paz explains to Big Boss about the Stone Spheres in Costa Rica, where it is not known what they were used for, but Big Boss guesses that he could use them for a trap, and that being nearly perfect spheres would make them perfect for rolling down slopes, causing Paz to express shock at what Big Boss is implying.
      • Though all of that is perfectly in character for Big Boss as in Metal Gear 2, he claims that personal wealth doesn't mean anything to him, war is the only thing that has ever satisfied him. He doesn't look at those things in terms of how valuable they would be because money doesn't have any intrinsic value to him; money is nothing more than a means to an end, namely funding his ability to wage war.
    • At several points, he didn't seem to understand much about sexual orientations. Notable examples include when he calls EVA about Raikov, to which, despite EVA's not-so-subtle hints that Raikov was homosexual, Naked Snake seemed completely oblivious and didn't seem to know what EVA was talking about (at one point, he even misconstrues her hints as believing that she formerly dated Raikov yet he broke up with her), expressing confusion to Para-Medic's suggestion that he use the Raikov mask to shake up Volgin note , and he also seemed slightly taken aback and confused when Cecile reveals that Strangelove, her captor, seemed to be a lesbian and have a romantic fascination with the same sex. Pretty much the only one where Snake seemed to have any clue about was heterosexuality, going by his reaction to some of EVA's comments.
  • Byronic Hero: Particularly in his Protagonist Journey to Villain.
  • Characterization Marches On: In the first game, Big Boss is a generic villain with no personality. Come Metal Gear 2, and he becomes far more complex and with more complicated motives and philosophies than most villains in modern games, let alone the 8-bit era. However, his father-son relationship with Solid Snake is completely absent, since the plot point wasn't even introduced at that point, leaving his appearance in Metal Gear Solid 4 to address that. The prequel games add on to this, detailing that he was an eccentric dork prior to his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Big Boss's superior soldier genes apparently have some mutant healing factor thrown in for good measure, since he's able to still move around after breaking his legs twenty times as long as he's put splints on them.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: After the car crash, Ishmael mysteriously goes missing and isn't mentioned again. The True Ending establishes that he exited the car safely and set the stage for his phantom's creation.
  • Child Soldier: Portable Ops implied that Naked Snake had participated in the battlefield while he was still very young. He was also a member of the Green Berets (a special forces group) and a veteran of the Korean War as early in his twenties; however, he is canonically born in 1935, so the only known way he could join a special forces group and be a veteran of the Korean War (assuming the former actually preceded the latter) is if he joined the military at a really young age. Being The Boss's apprentice might have helped as he was 15 when The Boss took him. He later attempts to raise child soldiers in Zanzibar Land, though their lack of hostility towards Solid Snake's and Big Boss's reference of "the wars of tomorrow" suggest otherwise.
  • Cigar Chomper: He picked up the habit from The Boss who was known to smoke them. His preferred smokes appearing to be a fictional brand of Cuban cigars, modeled after the H. Uppman No. 2.
  • Close-Range Combatant: While skilled in many areas of warfare, he is particularly skilled at CQC, a combative system he developed in conjunction with The Boss. In ''MGS3, he even notes that there are times when a handgun can be more useful than a rifle, as it allows him to quickly switch between knife and gun to suit the situation.
  • Color Motif: Green.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Going by the scene where Naked Snake first enters Dolinovodno during the Virtuous Mission, Snake has absolutely no problems with shooting down a hornet’s nest that's directly above a KGB soldier if it meant passing by undetected.
    • This habit annoys Ocelot who protests if Nathan ked Snake shoots the hornet nest or flings grenades during their fight.
    • Notably, he had no problem brandishing an automatic weapon (the Patriot perhaps?) against Solid Snake totally-unarmed and wounded. He still lost.
    • Subverted with his battle against The End, where if the player kills the old sniper early or lets The End die of old age first, Naked Snake will mention disappointment that he didn't beat the old man in a fair battle.
    • Averted in Portable Ops, where he outright refused to kill Null while the young soldier was unconscious, despite being told how much of a threat Null will be while awake. Sparing him would prove to be beneficial for both men in the long run.
  • Composite Character: Made of equal parts from Che Guevara, John J. Rambo, Snake Plissken and Commander James Bond (young and old Sean Connery).
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Quite aside from the Training from Hell he received from The Boss, on top of what he went through to become a Green Beret, Big Boss's many painful experiences have made him cynical about his flirtation with horror.
    • He's come to accept that he's destined to live in the heat of battle as long as he lives. When Paz asks Big Boss about his thoughts on peace he says flat out that he doesn't know what peace looks like, and in an odd way the battlefield itself brings him a type of peace that "real peace" could never satisfy. By the time he fights Solid Snake in Zanzibar Land, his stance has been progressively worse as he claims that it's their fate to die bitterly like a dog on the battlefield. He goes so far as to say that nothing else matters to him; not money, not power, not even lust — only war.
  • Cool Old Guy
  • Cooldown Hug/ Final First Hug: With Solid Snake. And a damn touching one at that.
  • Covered with Scars: Admits to this in Snake Eater, and Volgin acknowledges this in his torture scene if you received enough wounds to max out your life bar.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, he apparently wised up to the two prior captures he endured, and fashioned a fake snake-shaped scar as a means to smuggle in a jigsaw which he can use to cut the lock off in the event that he did end up captured and didn't have an alternate means of escape.
  • Create Your Own Hero: If he hadn't betrayed Solid Snake in Outer Heaven, the latter would have been his greatest asset in his war against the Patriots, considering they have a mutual goal to put an end to the Patriots' hold on the world. Plus, it was Solid Snake who ironically manages to accomplish the goal The Boss wanted.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Had he simply killed or rejected Ocelot instead of befriending, the son of his mentor would have likely remained a vicious government operative than the highly destructive zealot for his cause that Ocelot wound up being.
  • Dark Messiah: Witness the unlimited sway he holds over thousands of troops across the globe, and it's clear how dangerous this man can be if pushed too far:
    Big Boss: Yes, we may all be headed straight to hell. But what better place for us than this?
  • Deadpan Snarker: Naked Snake proves to have a really dry, yet impish sense of humor and a sharp tongue to boot, frequently making quips at the expense of both allies and enemies.
    • In MGSV, this trope is one of the first hints revealing that player character is not the real Big Boss, as Venom Snake is far less capable of snark, while "Ishmael" fires off quips like ammo.
  • Death by Disfigurement/Death by Irony: Well, he barely avoided kicking the bucket, but the tropes still apply. It's his habit to keep lighters on him what became his undoing, when Solid Snake picked up one he dropped in a room, and then used it as part of a makeshift flamethrower to immolate him. Then again, it's heavily implied that his defeat at Snake's hands actually intentional.
  • Death Seeker: Hinted at on multiple occasions:
    • He pretty much begs Dr. Strangelove to torture him to death when captured.
    • The lyrics to "Heavens Divide" from Peace Walker seem to indicate he wishes for death so he can that rejoin The Boss.
    When Heavens Divide
    Time will come, to softly lay me down
    Then I can see her face, that I long to see
    • Solid Snake's response when asked about his supposed murder of Big Boss, even as the latter revealed their true relationship?
    Solid Snake: He wanted it.
    • In Guns of the Patriots, he outright states that he was "already dead" since the minute he killed The Boss, and takes being infected with the FOXDIE strain as a good thing, finally relieving him of his burden. One phrase in particular screams this trope:
    Big Boss: (Tearing up.) Boss... You only need one snake. No... The world would be better off without snakes.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: He takes the deconstruction of the Action Hero even further than his son:
    • While we initially meet Naked Snake as a seasoned soldier, his first mission turns him from being a Wide-Eyed Idealist with Patriotic Fervor into a Shell-Shocked Veteran who felt that he became an Unwitting Pawn to the government when the mission's true nature was revealed to him: a political affair carried out to kill an innocent soldier (who served as his mentor) and ensure that the United States made off with a fortune. As such, he left the United States to start his own private military company that became involved with increasingly morally-questionable operations, which eventually led to him being branded as a terrorist in spite of the fact that his actions successfully prevented nuclear war. After his base of operations was destroyed for the first time, he became a shell of a man that decided to fully embrace his role as a war criminal as long as it meant he could create a "heaven" for soldiers like himself — which, of course, would come at the cost of making the rest of the world a living hell for everyone else.
  • Decoy Protagonist: An odd case in MGSV. He is the protagonist of the first part Ground Zeroes but The Reveal is that The Phantom Pain was in fact not him but his body double Venom Snake. So the twist is essentially that he was a Decoy Protagonist when we were lead to believe he was simply the protagonist of the whole thing.
  • Defector from Decadence: Ultimately, a soldier, no matter how legendary, is just a tool, something to be used and then readily replaced. Big Boss lost some respect for his native land after he learned that the Boss was in fact innocent of defection and that the U.S. Government cast her aside because of an unanticipated factor involving Volgin and a nuclear weapon. note  This was a major impetus for Big Boss founding a Spartan-esque "nation of soldiers".
    • Eventually, he ended up leaving Cipher after Zero had him cloned without his knowledge or his consent.
  • Dented Iron: In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, not counting any injuries the player sustains in-game, he gets a couple of broken bones during the Virtuous Mission and loses an eye during Operation Snake Eater.
  • Despair Event Horizon: He crossed it when he was forced to kill the Boss. In his own words:
    Big Boss: Ever since I killed The Boss... with my own hands... I... was already dead.
    • While he was utterly and irrepairably heartbroken after killing The Boss, what truly turned him into villainy was dismantling the Mammal Pod AI (modeled after The Boss's personality) in Peace Walker, essentially forcing him to relive the same tragedy.
  • Deuteragonist: Of the whole series. He's got the second-most playable appearances (4) after Solid Snake, and still plays a major role behind the scenes in the few games he doesn't appear in.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: His CQC in Snake Eater is generally held to be extremely complex. That said, it's also generally held to be the most overpowered version of said CQC.
  • Disappeared Dad: Intentionally remained out of the lives of Solid Snake, Liquid and Solidus, due to not considering them as sons. He did personally mentor Snake within FOXHOUND, and informed of their relationship before Snake "killed" him, but there is no evidence to suggest that he ever met Liquid or Solidus.
  • Disney Death: Twice.
    • Though with the reveal in The Phantom Pain that there are two Big Bosses after MGSV this has been Retconned to only once. The "Big Boss" who died in Metal Gear 1 was actually Venom Snake.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": For at least ten years after the events of Snake Eater, he preferred to go by the Naked Snake codename or just Snake rather than Big Boss. It takes until the end of Peace Walker for him to embrace the Big Boss title.
  • Do Wrong, Right: While he was impressed by Ocelot's Improbable Aiming Skills, he chews him out and gives him advice on firearms such as not to use techniques on the field that he hadn't practiced let alone even properly existed and most notably to use a revolver instead due to a tic he noticed which would normally damage regular firearms, but would be better with a revolver.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: When the Peace Walker weapon, powered by an AI patterned after the Boss' personality and memories, drowns itself rather than risk nuclear war, Big Boss is irritated and declares it as proof that the Boss betrayed him and everything that a soldier should stand for.
  • Driven to Villainy: His own existence is a kind of premature Hell. So why not share it?
  • Drives Like Crazy: he has half a dozen near misses when attempting to flee from the hospital in Cyprus, due to not looking at the road until it's almost too late to avoid several oncoming fire trucks. It's also foreshadowing; Americans drive on the right, but in Cyprus they drive on the left.
  • Dying Alone: A subversion. Despite their long-standing relationship as enemies, Big Boss peacefully dies in front of his last living son. They even share a final smoke together.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Almost every guy shows some attraction to him. Ocelot in particular has confirmed romantic feelings for him, thus why Ocelot is forever loyal to Big Boss. Too bad Big Boss barely understands the concept of homosexuality or sexuality in general.
  • Evil Counterpart: To Solid Snake. Their lives mirror each other, they faced very similar hardships, betrayals, and formed powerful friendships. But Solid Snake was able to overcome his pain, forgive his friends for betraying him due to circumstances beyond their power and not succumb into a villain, while when Big Boss's allies (EVA, Zero, Para-Medic, SigInt, Paz, and eventually Kaz) turned on him, he became a villain. Lampshaded by Big Boss himself who says that if David was put into the same situations he was in, his son wouldn't have made the same mistakes.
  • Experienced Protagonist: By the time of Snake Eater, he's a Green Beret and a veteran of both the Vietnam War and Korean War.
  • Expy: Starts out as one to Snake Plissken. Then turns into one to Colonel Kurtz.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The first question he asks of any wildlife in Snake Eater is how it tastes, assuming he even waits to call Para-Medic before eating it.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Losing an eye doesn't stop him from being a good shot.
  • Eye Scream: He is well-known for having an eyepatch, so players can expect him to lose an eye at some point during Snake Eater:
    • The scene in question comes when Naked Snake's being tortured by Volgin, although it ends up being a Double Subversion. In order to clear her name as a spy, Volgin orders The Boss to cut out his eyes, and very nearly does, but is stopped at the last minute by EVA/Tatyana. Ocelot is then threatening EVA with three revolvers, loaded with a single bullet. Snake jumps in to push Ocelot out of the way, but ends up on the receiving end of a shot. However, it wasn't even a bullet that cost him his eye - the cornea was burnt out from the muzzle flash.

     F to M 
  • Face–Heel Revolving Door
  • The Faceless: Almost all of his face is covered with bandages, save his eyes and mouth while recovering with Venom Snake.
  • Failure Hero: His largely well-intentioned actions wind up causing far more harm to the world than good.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: Zigzagged. While he was still one of the biggest badasses of his generation:
    • His title "Big Boss" was given to him for "officially" besting The Boss in battle, thus he was granted the title to show his superiority over The Boss as a soldier. Except The Boss had actually thrown the fight, as the CIA would have assassinated him if both he and The Boss had returned from the mission alive.
    • According to Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Zero and later the Patriots actually exaggerated most of Big Boss's reputation to cement his status as their icon, though the feats he pulls off during the prequels (particularly in Peace Walker) calls into question just how much of it was a lie.
    • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain plays with it further when you realize that part of his reputation, strictly speaking, didn't come from his own actions, but to Venom Snake doing these exploits on his behalf. He acknowledges this, deeming that he and Venom Snake are both Big Boss; they're equally "real" because they both created his reputation.
  • Fallen Hero: A formerly good and idealistic man who got sick of seeing how soldiers were used, abused and then thrown away by their ungrateful governments, and eventually threatened to put the world in a state of never-ending warfare to ensure this would stop happening.
  • Famous Last Words: "This is good, isn't it?"
  • Fantastic Drug: Subverted; he injects Venom Snake with digoxin in an attempt to help him get back on his feet, but it doesn't work as well as he hoped it would, resulting in a Controllable Helplessness scenario for Venom Snake. Ironically, giving Venom Snake a shot of digoxin might have actually made the situation worse, as improper dosage can cause fatigue, weakness, and bradycardia.
  • A Father to His Men: Most of his subordinates thought the world of him. He even helped extract some, like Gray Fox and Naomi Hunter, or Sniper Wolf, from warzones into relative safety in America or Outer Heaven.
  • Final Boss: Kind of appropriate, considering his codename, but he serves as this in the first two games. Except not really, as the "Big Boss" fought in the first game was actually Venom Snake.
  • Final Death: Via voluntary infection.
  • Flashback Nightmare: It's implied in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake that Big Boss himself suffered from nightmares from the battlefield (he reacts to Solid Snake's mention of nightmares with some recognition).
  • Foreshadowing: There's a lot of hints to his true identity when Venom Snake interacts with him in his "Ishmael" disguise during the prologue of MGSV.
    • His covername Ishmael is simultaneously the main character and a supporting one.
    • During the fight with Quiet, you can hear Big Boss's distinctive grunt as Quiet punches him and recovers; no matter how much of a Cunning Linguist he is he can't keep up the act when fighting for his life.
    • Just before he introduces himself, he ruefully states, "You're talking to yourself".
    • During his fight with Quiet, he weaponizes some chemicals along with a lighter. Because of course Big Boss would have a lighter on him, right?
    • Also with using improvised weapons to set Quiet on fire, how did Solid Snake beat Big Boss in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake?
    • When Quiet throws a knife into his shoulder, he only winces in pain momentarily. After setting Quiet on fire, he promptly throws it back at Quiet without too much difficulty and even shrugs off the (not inconsiderable) pain afterwards. Of course, being Big Boss himself, even serious injuries don't slow him down very much.
    • He spouts a Bond One-Liner when Ahab asks him whatever happened to the woman trying to assassinate him, something Naked Snake was noted to be quite found of doing.
    • During the foyer section of the prologue, if he dies, a "Time Paradox" message appears, the same as if Naked Snake died during Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, whereas Venom Snake dying evokes a standard "Game Over" message.
    • A random patient is rather very competent in both stealth and combat, and certainly much more than Ahab who would do certain things to blow his cover, such as not ducking for cover against an attack helicopter searchlight, and not feinting death when investigated by XOF's death squad.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: While he mourns The Boss, Solid Snake doesn't lose much sleep over violently killing him in his second game due to how he was an outright terrorist at that point. After learning of their biological relations, Solid Snake deigns to visit Big Boss's grave on occasion, but doesn't hesitate to train a gun on him during their "reunion" in the fourth game.
  • Four-Star Badass: Sometime after MGS3.
  • Friend to All Children: Before Snake Eater, the only clue we had to Big Boss's kinder side was his adoption of war orphans from across the globe. He and his surrogate son Frank Jaeger (Gray Fox) formed a "family" of sorts with one of their charges, a girl who would grow up to assume the identity of Naomi Hunter.
    • In Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Solid Snake can converse with Big Boss's children who appear throughout Zanzibar. Ominously, one orphan mentions that their father figure "doesn't like adults", alluding to Big Boss's hatred of the world's politicians.
  • Freudian Excuse: Oh good lord. It's all over his page, it actually holds a lot of water.
  • The Generalissimo: With the U.S. believing him dead, Big Boss took over the third world backwater of Zanzibar Land sometime in the late nineties. His sprite wears the official beret of Zanzibar's troops, but his fatigues are green rather than tan.
  • Genius Bruiser
  • Glass Eye: As a part of his Ishmael disguise, he momentarily substitutes his iconic Eyepatch of Power for one of these during the Prologue of MGSV to make it appear like he has two eyes.
  • Going Commando: As Ishmael, his ass is clearly visible through the slit in his backless hospital gown because this wouldn't be Metal Gear if we didn't see his butt.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Overlapping with a Tearful Smile, at the end of Guns of the Patriots.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Both before and after his Face–Heel Turn, he smokes cigars. By contrast, Solid Snake smokes cigarettes.
  • Guttural Growler: Like father, like son.
  • Handicapped Badass: You know his accomplishments in Snake Eater? Well, it was strongly implied that he hadn't even fully recovered from the injuries he sustained during the Virtuous Mission, which included a broken arm, lacerations, and a broken rib, during that time, not to mention losing an eye during the course of said mission and still accomplishing it.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: After twenty years of protecting earth from sci-fi warmongers with bottomless bank accounts, Big Boss fancies becoming one himself. Of course, the same could be said for the rest of the FOX unit, too.
  • Hero of Another Story: While fans thought that The Phantom Pain was going to be the story of how Big Boss was the Big Bad of Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake prior to the game's release, the game in actuality is an elaborate backstory for the "Big Boss" that players would fight in Metal Gear 1.
  • Heel Realization: Like Venom Snake, Big Boss is aware of how lost he is, but nonetheless pushes through as he's come too far. It's not until decades later that he fully rejects his actions, however.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: In an optional Codec call with Para-Medic in MGS3, he reveals that he's a fan of dog-sledding, a trait shared by one of his sons.
  • Heroic Suicide: He successfully manages to convince David to not shoot himself... by (knowingly) contracting FOXDIE the minute he embraced his son as a father.
  • Hijacked by Ganon: Solid Snake is called into Zanzibar to rescue Dr. Marv and prevent his formula from being turned against the United States. FOXHOUND is initially unaware of Big Boss's hand in the kidnapping.
  • Honor Before Reason: In Portable Ops, he refused to kill the helpless Null (Gray Fox) in his culture tank because he couldn't defend himself.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: A common trait of his and possibly his biggest character flaw:
    • He trusted EVA throughout Operation Snake Eater even though EVA never provided the correct passphrase. While EVA did assist him in completing it, it turns out EVA was actually a Chinese double agent who was using him to complete her own mission.
    • He believed the government's story that The Boss defected to the USSR. It took EVA flatly telling him the truth to get him to understand. To his credit, even though he witnessed the "defection" with his own eyes, he still didn't fully believe it and constantly kept pressing The Boss for answers or to admit The Boss didn't really defect.
    • He originally misunderstood The Boss's goals that she wanted to pass on. Instead of seeking a united and peaceful world where soldiers would no longer be needed, or to live happily by leaving the world to its own devices, Big Boss sought to change the world and reshape it to where there was constant war and soldiers would always be valued and have a place. It wasn't until years later, at the end of his life, that he finally understood what The Boss really wanted and managed to pass it onto his remaining son.
    • He trusted Kaz Miller as his partner and co-leader of the MSF. It was then revealed that Miller had been in collusion with and receiving funding from Cipher who Big Boss considered his greatest enemy at the time.
    • He allowed Chico to try to sell a photo of the Chrysalis and pass it off as a UFO photograph because he believed that Chico wouldn't actually be able to. The end result was that Chico successfully sold a Chrysalis photograph to a tabloid magazine in Grenada, to which Sir Eric Gairy, Grenada's prime minister at the time, read it, and believing it as well as various rumors about various cattle mutilations and abductions being reported across the Americas that were suspected to be the result of the CIA Peace Sentinels activities, requested for the UN to set up a research facility to investigate aliens, which also nearly got the Prime Minister targeted by the CIA.
    • He fell for Zadornov's deception as "Professor Gálvez" until he fell right into an ambush by set up by Zadornov.
    • He was fooled by Paz's deception (thinking that Paz was just a little school girl) and allowed Paz free roam of the base. Paz went on to modify and hijack Metal Gear ZEKE on Cipher's orders to attack Big Boss.
    • He trusted and recruited Huey Emmerich to his PMC as the head of his research staff. Huey in turn sold the PMC out to Skull Face and helped with the attack on Mother Base that destroyed the MSF and nearly killed Big Boss.
    • His most notable example is during Operation Intrude N313: He sent his son Solid Snake to infiltrate Outer Heaven, a private military company run by his body double. He was sure that the rookie agent would be overwhelmed by Outer Heaven's forces quickly. Surprisingly to him, Solid Snake managed to infiltrate Outer Heaven, defeat its elite forces, destroy Metal Gear TX-55, and kill Venom Snake (despite Venom Snake having the full intel on the infiltration and Big Boss misleading Solid Snake the whole time).
    • He completely misjudged Zero after he left Cipher, figuring that Zero was his worst enemy who wanted him either under control or dead. In reality, Zero never stopped considering Big Boss as a closest friend and readily came to save and protect Big Boss's life when he was in danger.
    Big Boss: Did Zero really hate me? Or... did he fear me? It's too late to ask him now.
  • Human Popsicle: For the duration of MGS. His frozen remains serve as a MacGuffin for the Genome soldiers and the rogue FOXHOUND who are demanding his remains so they can use them to cure genetic disorders the Genome army is apparently suffering from as a result of gene therapy.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Solid Snake flat-out calls him one before their second ( actually only) and final duel after Big Boss declares the only satisfaction true soldiers need is war itself. At first Big Boss claims he wished to uphold The Boss's will of a peaceful world... but his choices, tactics and philosophy (soldiers and war are a chaotic freedom unto themselves), make Outer Heaven little more than a dark mirror against the Patriots.
    • When he is presented evidence contrary to his viewpoint in that The Boss eventually wanted soldiers to put down their arms and live in peace, Big Boss views this as a personal betrayal. During the decades long Cold War with Zero's AIs, he was content to twist The Boss's legacy for his own revenge, something he later comes to deeply regret.
    • His exploitation of Venom Snake in Metal Gear Solid V, sacrificing one of his own loyal soldiers as a disposable Body Double for the sake of realizing his ideals of creating Outer Heaven, is the exact kind of actions that caused Big Boss to turn again the US government for using the Boss as a disposable tool, and later Cipher for trying to make disposable copies of him.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Big Boss's decision to leave everyone he still cared for behind and go along with Venom Snake serving as his double can be seen as this. All to exact revenge on Cipher with his own secret war.
  • I Have Many Names: Sniper Wolf knows him as "Saladin", a high honor in the Middle East. He has also gone by Naked Snake, John Doe, and Jack.
    • In the NES localizations, he's "Commander South" (a play on the controversial Col. Oliver North), "Colonel Vermon CaTaffy" (Muammar Gaddafi), and "Higharolla Kockamamie" (Ruhollah Khomeini — subtle, eh?).
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Averted, surprisingly. Old age hasn't diminished his good looks one bit. If anything, he's turned into a Silver Fox.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: When he reappears at The Boss's grave after Solid Snake's attempted suicide in MGS4, Solid Snake quickly reloads and draws his gun at him and assumes that he's back to settle the score. After a few tense moments of holding one another at gunpoint, Big Boss uses a technique The Boss once used on him to get Solid Snake to lower the gun by dropping his own. He uses the moment to disarm Solid Snake and gives a combined Cooldown Hug/Final First Hug, softly reassuring his last living son that he didn't come all this way to pick a fight with both men being so near to death's door as it already was. It works.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Zigzagged.
    • Even after losing use of his right eye, Big Boss continued to use firearms with a right hand dominant stance, not even bothering to tilt his weapons so he could use his good eye. Apparently he aims with pure muscle memory alone because he is never seen using weapon sights after that. Yet he is still a top-grade marksman with pretty much any weapon he uses.
    • Truth in Television: His shooting method is a style once commonly taught in the U.S. Army. The "Quick Kill" shooting method has the shooter use their rifle without using the sights, although this is relegated to close range engagements.
    • Played Straight: Cutscenes in MGS3 still have Naked Snake doing things like aiming a sniper rifle or The Patriot with the sight over his eyepatch.
  • Insistent Terminology: He's known as "Big Boss" after Operation Snake Eater, but the marketing for the series consistently refers to him as "Snake". While this is justified in the earlier installments, where he considers the title a Medal of Dishonor and a source of internal conflict, it becomes increasingly confounding as the series goes on and he embraces the title.
    • This becomes particularly noticeable in Ground Zeroes, where the game introduces him as "Snake", and even refers to him as "a former hero once known by the codename "Big Boss", when the reverse is true, and the only times he's referred to as "Snake" is when receiving certain orders and the game over sequence.
  • Irony: His fight against Quiet turns out to be a mirror of the fight between him and Solid Snake in Metal Gear 2, except this time Big Boss is the one injured, weaponless, and forced to make an improvised incendiary weapon, against an opponent armed to the teeth. Quiet's XOF uniform's color palette being similar to Solid Snake's iconic Sneaking Suit in MGS1 helps with the allusion. Like father, like son, huh?
  • I've Come Too Far: By the height of his Protagonist Journey to Villain. Big Boss is fully aware of how far he's fallen and how monstrous he is, but keeps pushing forward because he sees no reason to stop anymore.
  • Jack-of-All-Stats: In games with multiple playable characters, such as Portable Ops or Peace Walker, his stats are balanced, but all high, with most of them being A-rank. In the former game, he has the highest CQC stat and his weapon proficiencies are good across the board, with his pistol and assault rifle stats being higher than other guns. Throughout the series, he's skilled at close combat, sniping, and demolitions.
  • Kick the Dog: Delivers several at the height of his fall. He callously uses his rookie soldier to retrieve false information and when that went south, tried to get him killed or abort his mission. Then he threatened and attacked several nations, using stolen nukes and OILIX, which resulted in the death of doctor Kio Marv, gave a cynical breaking speech to Solid Snake, convinced that life has no meaning beyond the battlefield, and finally decided on the unequivocal use of child soldiers in Zanzibar Land, feeling it was "only logical" to feed them back onto the battlefield against his enemies. After all, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: The Boss, to be precise. He never really recovered from it.
  • Knife Nut: Big Boss is very handy with a combat knife. A firm stab will gut his opponent, or he can dice them up with skillful slashes. For a showy death, Big Boss can use CQC to slit their throats. In Peace Walker, he swaps out the knife for a non-lethal stun rod. By Ground Zeroes, he is back to using a regular knife.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: He was pretty idealistic, even if he was just operating under orders, until the end of Operation Snake Eater. After that his view of the world and the world's governments was drastically altered for the worse.
  • Kung-Fu Jesus: Big Boss has some overtones of the "villainous" kind. His reappearance in the graveyard of MGS4 marks both his Resurrection and Second Coming, as he prevents Solid Snake's suicide and casually switches off "Lucifer" (Zero), though the former is ultimately what costs him his life.
  • Last Request: Just before he dies in MGS4, he asks Solid Snake to live out what little time there's left to live in peace and not to waste it fighting. David promises to do so, deciding to finally quit smoking as the first step.
  • Legacy Character: he was the original "Snake", having received the codename for undergoing missions with minimal supplies and equipment. Stealthy and unarmed, like a snake. Thus he serves as Solid Snake's predecessor in the prequels. Even after attaining the title of Big Boss at the end of MGS3, he still prefers to go by Snake, as evident by the fact that it's still his primary name in Portable Ops and Peace Walker. Though by the end of Peace Walker, he fully accepts the title of Big Boss. The Phantom Pain has him finally casts off his former code name to his decoy Venom Snake.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: This does not actually happen during Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but is rather a retcon introduced in MGS1 where Solid Snake only shared this revelation with Campbell, but it's an open secret amongst Liquid's faction.
  • MacGuffin: In both MGS1 and MGS4, his body is sought after by the villains; FOXHOUND seeks it in the former to use his "soldier genes" to perfect the Genome Soldiers, and Liquid Ocelot needs it because Big Boss's biometrics and DNA are the key he needs to hijack the Patriots' system and put it under complete control.
  • Made of Iron: In the original Metal Gear, the guy took 4 propelled rockets to the chest before collapsing, and somehow survived the nuclear explosion that engulfed Outer Heaven. The truth is, the guy who fought Solid Snake in Outer Heaven (a body-double) did not survive. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and all of the prequels expand upon this to hilariously absurd levels.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater alone, on the ill-fated Virtuous Mission he ends up getting his arm broken, a broken rib and multiple lacerations from coming out second-best to The Boss and being thrown off a bridge. Not even given a week of recovery where his medical officer admits he should be back in intensive care rather than on a mission to save the world, he then gets shot in the thigh with a crossbow bolt, poisoned by the venom of one of the deadliest spiders on Earth, beaten to within an inch of his life, subjected to 10 million volts of electroshock torture which is so painful that he pisses himself and then gets his right eye shot out. And this is just what happens to him canonically in the story cutscenes, not even counting injuries that can be received in the game. A normal person put through all this would be a physical and psychological wreck, but this is the greatest soldier in the world we're talking about, so this doesn't even slow him down.
  • Magnetic Hero:
    • Big Boss builds an army from scratch; Cipher blows them all to hell; Big Boss sets about building another, bigger one.
    • Three of Solid Snake's former allies, Gray Fox, Kyle Schneider, and Dr. Madnar, all defected to Big Boss's side in the wake of MG1. Gray Fox stayed with him out of filial and professional loyalty; Kyle was moved by how Big Boss remained behind in Outer Heaven to help the refugees (after NATO callously bombed the ruins). Dr. Madnar joined Big Boss as he felt that he had been shunned by the scientific community for his revolutionary ideas.
    • Just to show just how much loyalty he inspires, he's the only person in the entire franchise, barring The Boss, who Ocelot is truly loyal to.
  • Man on Fire: Solid Snake immolates him at the end of Metal Gear 2, resulting in a messy death. The Patriots immediately extracted his remains and put them on ice, setting the stage for MGS1.
  • Martial Arts Headband: He wears a bandanna for ten years. By the time of Metal Gear Solid V, he's stopped wearing one.
  • Manly Tears: Shedding them is one of the very last things he does.
  • Meaningful Name: "Big Boss" is kind of a giveaway, isn't it? His Chinese name is "Tai-pan", a clever double meaning; it's shorthand for "big shot" or "boss" in corporate culture, but taipan is also a type of snake.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for murdering The Boss to save America's face.
    • Made even more so when it is later made apparent that the reason that The Boss had to die didn't even to do with saving America's face and that a certain member of the American Government wanted her offed from the start, and actually manipulated the events of the ending of the Virtuous Mission just so there could be an excuse to send Naked Snake in to kill The Boss.
  • Mercy Kill: In Peace Walker, Amanda asks him to do this to Chico should the worst happen. He does do this, but rather kills Chico's old self as a quivering child and invites Chico to live a new life as a soldier.
  • Mole in Charge: He was leading FOXHOUND and Outer Heaven (via his doppelganger Venom Snake) by the 1990s. Ensuing that if the U.S.A. decided to act against his own forces, he could control what action the U.S.A. would take against him. Like sending in Solid Snake, an underequipped rookie that he personally trained with little chance of actual success. He's replaced by Colonel Campbell after his apparent death.
  • Mook–Face Turn: The majority of Big Boss' soldiers in both his armies composed of captured enemy soldiers who are convinced to fight for him.
  • Mr. Smith: The guy's real name is literally "John", and some even calls him by "John Doe". To muddy the waters further, the only one of his sons who has a known last name has the family name "Sears". So his name may be: John Doe or John Sears. And that's just going on what tiny fragments of information there is.
  • My Greatest Failure: He views the killing of The Boss, his mentor and mother figure who taught him everything he ever knew as a soldier, and then going on to fight for causes that she never would have believed in as his greatest failure. He goes so far as to claim after that point he was "already dead" emotionally. At the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots as he stands above her grave, Big Boss proclaims to his son that if their roles had been reversed, he probably wouldn't have made the same mistakes and that he still has a chance to do things better than he ever had.
    • As of Peace Walker and especially Ground Zeroes, witnessing Paz's Heroic Suicide is all but outright stated to have become this for him as well, to the point her impact extended well into his dying breath.

     N to Z 
  • No-Sell: Throughout Snake Eater, EVA (a highly trained spy and seductress) keeps coming on to him in increasingly direct ways, and he usually just flat-out ignores EVA. This turns out to have a thematic resonance, as she points out, she was the deceiving "Eve" who tempted the "Snake".
  • No Dead Body Poops: An inversion occurs in Metal Gear Solid V as he and Venom Snake play dead in a hallway full of corpses to avoid a group of soldiers. Noticing one of the corpses emptying out he uses an iv bag filled with water to give the illusion that he’s dead. Unfortunately, the soldiers begin double-tapping the corpses, making the ruse moot. However, the soldier who was about to double tap Ishmael does buy it, seeing the 'emptying out' as a sign he's really dead and doesn't shoot. Unfortunately again... Ahab is quickly found to not be doing so, and doesn't do anything to sell himself playing dead. It is only by grace of the Man on Fire showing up when he did that Ahab didn't get shot dead.
  • Not Quite Dead: As revealed in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, he actually survived his final showdown with Solid Snake at Zanzibar Land, albeit barely.
  • Old Soldier: Even in old age, he proved himself the best soldier of his era. It took a clone of himself, that he personally trained, to finally get the better of him one-on-one.
  • One Last Smoke: Shares one with David right before he passes away.
  • One-Man Army: Where do you think Solid Snake got it from? Big Boss isn't known as "The Legendary Soldier" for nothing!
  • Order Versus Chaos: What his conflict with Zero ultimately boils down to. Big Boss's goal is to establish an anarchic perpetual battleground where soldiers are free to serve as mercenaries and do battle without allegiance to any government, ideology, or creed, whereas the latter hopes to unite the world under a One World Order government run by Big Brother AIs.
  • Papa Wolf: Don't ever hurt soldiers under his command. XOF learned this the hard way in Ground Zeroes, with help from Big Boss's assault rifle.
    • Notable is that for almost the entire attack on Mother Base, he was completely calm while fighting, until he sees one of his men get killed in front of him, at which point he yells in anger and almost goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge right there.
  • The Paragon Always Rebels: As Naked Snake, he was an American hero and came back home well-decorated after the events of Operation Snake Eater. The same mission disillusions him to the war machine and tries to create a nation where soldiers can serve free from their home nations.
  • Parental Substitute: Was this to Sniper Wolf, Gray Fox, and Naomi Hunter. Ironically, Solid Snake viewed him as this before Big Boss revealed that he was actually his father.
  • Pet the Dog: Even at his worst, Big Boss was Affably Evil and a Benevolent Boss to the end, and still had the capacity for kindness and compassion:
    • During the Truth tapes in The Phantom Pain. Both Zero and Ocelot intended for Venom Snake to merely be a Body Double or decoy for Big Boss and was supposed to be nothing but a disposable tool to him. Big Boss for his part refused this notion and disliked the fact that one of his most loyal men was reduced to a decoy. When Big Boss reveals the truth behind what had happened, he insists that neither him nor Venom Snake are Big Boss, but rather the legend of Big Boss belongs to both men. On top of that, despite making it clear that he doesn't consider Eli/Liquid Snake his son, he nonetheless orders Ocelot to treat him like a human being should they encounter him.
    • At the end of the first game, he takes it upon himself to save Kyle Schneider and the members of his rebellion from Outer Heaven's self-destruction, despite them being his enemies at the time; this led to Kyle defecting to Zanzibar Land in gratitude.
    • In MGS4, despite believing that Zero had always feared him and wanted him dead, he still feels compassion and brotherly love for his old friend and CO. When he Mercy Kills Zero, Big Boss gently hugs at Zero's death throes to ease the pain of passing.
  • Polyglot: Metal Gear Solid 3 reveals he's perfectly fluent in Russian and Peace Walker shows that he has at least some basic knowledge of French, Spanish, and Cat.
  • Pop-Culture Isolation: Discussed in-universe. Several of his conversations in Snake Eater with Para-Medic will have her asking him if he's seen certain movies, to which he often replies "No". He is, however, aware of James Bond movies, but voices his disdain for those as seeing Bond as an unrealistic spy while Zero geeks out at a mere mention of it.
  • Posthumous Character: His impact and legacy are felt long after Solid Snake immolates him in Metal Gear 2. Many characters worship the ground he walked on (some more literally than others), and his body is even used as a MacGuffin in Metal Gear Solid. This ends up being subverted, as Metal Gear Solid 4 reveals that he was being kept alive in a barely-cognitive state by the Patriots. Metal Gear Rising, the only game in the series to take place after his actual death, barely mentioning him at all.
  • Perpetual Frowner: During the Solid Snake era, Big Boss is drawn to look as he has the biggest frown on his face during artwork cutscenes. After he was revived, he still has a frown even after the Patriots' destruction.
  • Properly Paranoid: Naked Snake mentions his being exposed to the Bravo Shot atomic blast in 1954. He mentions that while he hasn't shown any symptoms, he suspects that symptoms will pop up sooner or later in his life. This was later confirmed when he was revealed to have been made sterile as a result of the event.
  • The Protagonist: Of MGS3, MPO, MGSPW and MGSV. Well, not really in the latter game.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain: At the beginning of his story, Naked Snake is (essentially) as green and naive as Solid Snake was during the original two MSX Metal Gear games. His exploits in the prequels (Snake Eater, Portable Ops, Peace Walker, and The Phantom Pain) all lead to him eventually being the Big Bad of the original two Metal Gear games. His speech at the end of Peace Walker particularly cements his role as the future villain:
    Big Boss: We will forsake our countries. We will leave our motherlands behind us and become one with this earth. We have no nation, no philosophy, no ideology. We go where we're needed, fighting not for country, not for government, but for ourselves. We need no reason to fight. We fight because we are needed. We will be the deterrent for those with no other recourse. We are soldiers without borders, our purpose defined by the era we live in. We will sometimes have to sell ourselves and services. If the times demand it, we'll be revolutionaries, criminals, terrorists. And yes, we may all be headed straight to Hell. But what better place for us than this? It is our only home. Our Heaven and Our Hell. This is Outer Heaven.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: At the end of MGS3, he's awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: He likes wearing the "Oyama" face paint and doesn't mind the GA-KO camo, even asking "What's wrong with being cute?" and also molded a piece of C3 into a butterfly, albeit more as a reference to a previous scene.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: He is ultimately the blue to Solid Snake's red, though not initially.
  • Red Right Hand: Big Boss loses a good deal of his anatomy over the course of his story. If you played any of the previous Metal Gear games, you would know that this was going to happen anyway. In fact, his amputated (left) forearm was foreshadowed]] all the way back in Metal Gear 2, though it was assumed Solid Snake caused that injury. Except that's not what happened.
  • Redemption Equals Death: At the end of Metal Gear Solid 4, he finally locates and gives Zero a Mercy Kill, officially ending the decades and globe-spanning feud and plots. He also admits that his plans and actions did nothing but make the world a worse place. Too bad that, by reconciling with and getting close to his son, hugging him, he inadvertently gets infected with the new FOXDIE strain. He takes his fate as a good thing, however.
  • Repaired Pedestal: Feels this way towards The Boss after learning of the conspiracy. At the very end of Metal Gear Solid 4, he considers himself to be "already dead" since he killed The Boss.
    • Likewise in MGS 4, he repairs his own pedestal in the eyes of David. As after explaining what went wrong between him and Zero and finally ending it, then admitting he was wrong, before finally dying, his last living son gives him one last smoke, then salutes him.
  • Retired Badass: Between MGS3 and Portable Ops.
  • Revenge: One of the key reasons for his actions, as well as being a Fatal Flaw. A lot of his actions began because of being an Unwitting Pawn forced by the government to kill The Boss for an unjustifiable reason. Unfortunately, his anger toward the government makes him want to create a world where soldiers will always be needed, and causes him to forget The Boss's wish for a peaceful world that she wanted him to continue in her steed.
  • Running Both Sides: Since he founded FOXHOUND and Outer Heaven, he ran both organizations until Solid Snake exposed him. Actually, he wasn't really running Outer Heaven, as his doppelganger Venom Snake took control of the organization in his place.
  • Scars Are Forever: He has a facial scar on the left side of his face underneath his temple region that he received during the XOF attack on MSF's Mother Base back in 1975. He carries it on with him to the very end, in 2014.
    • Subverted in Peace Walker. It initially seemed like he cut himself a scar in the shape of The Boss's scar, but it is later revealed to be faked, having placed a jigsaw on his person by disguising it as a scar in case he got captured.
  • Shadow Archetype: Big Boss represents what Solid Snake could have become had he allowed the trauma he suffered through to send him down a similar path and pull a Face–Heel Turn. During their final meeting, Big Boss even commends Solid Snake for not making the same mistakes he did.
  • Shared Family Quirks:
    • Like Solid Snake/David, he has an affinity for cardboard boxes, dog-sledding, and smoking (though he prefers cigars over cigarettes).
    • Like Liquid Snake/Eli, he has a desire to outdo his predecessor, seeing them as both superior and inferior to themselves.
    • Like Solidus Snake/George Sears, he has a habit of seeing his subordinates as his children, yet will dispose of them to accomplish their own goals, as well as being a Noble Demon willing to do horrible things to bring about his vision of a better world.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: He states that on the day he killed the Boss, he pretty much died inside.
    • Alluded to in Metal Gear 2, when he's quite candid with Snake about the nightmares soldiers suffer from their experiences. Big Boss explains to Snake that those nightmares never go away, those feelings are ingrained into a soldier and will always be a part of them; in the same way the killer instincts that drive soldiers to desire more conflict are equally as ingrained, and there is no way to exorcise these demons, therefore the only sane solution is to embrace them.
  • Shooting Superman: In MGSV, he shoots at the Man on Fire with a silenced pistol... right after he saw that "thing" shrug off machine gun fire and a helicopter missile without a scratch. He quickly realizes how pointless it is and instead shoots open a water pipe to fend it off.
  • Shout-Out: His choice of smokes, modeled after the H. Uppman No. 2, are a reference to John F. Kennedy, who preferred the H. Uppman No. 2.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Big Boss literally has no identity, making him a perfect candidate for FOX. And MGS4 suggests that the Patriots actually exaggerated a good portion of his reputation to cement his status as their icon. note 
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: Towards Solid Snake during their climactic duel in the second game when his protege refuses to just roll over and die, citing a credo about never giving up and always believing in victory that Big Boss himself told him. Big Boss scornfully rebukes the notion, waving it off as rubbish.
  • Significant Double Casting: Shares the same voice actors with Solid Snake and Venom Snake.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: He doesn't really believe in peace, even during his Cold Warrior days.
  • Silver Fox: He's in his sixties by the time of the first two games, and 79 by the time he finally dies for real in MGS4, but aside from graying hair, he retains the chiseled good looks he possessed in his youth during Snake Eater.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Just look at his images, as each game in the prequel game progresses, Big Boss becomes a darker character:
    • To list: In MGS 3 (1964), he becomes disillusioned with the U.S.A. due to being manipulated into killing his mentor; in Portable Ops (1970) he begins kidnapping enemy troops and turning them to his cause (implied through torture if needed); by Peace Walker (1974) he had started a mercenary nation willing to provide services to any paying customer and even included at least two (technically one) child soldier(s) amongst his ranks, as well as developed a nuclear weapon; by Ground Zeroes (1975) he was actively infiltrating foreign military, bases/assassinating (or kidnapping) High Value Targets under contracts, and covering up his possession of WMDs from the United Nations; by The Phantom Pain (1984) he had restarted his mercenary group (though now with even LESS scruples) and entrusted a loyal soldier into taking the fall for him; finally by MG 1 and 2 (1995 & 1999 respectively) he was declaring war upon the world.
  • Smoking Is Cool: He even smokes while he's dying, even lampshading it saying: "This is good, isn't it?"
  • Start of Darkness: His character arcs over Snake Eater and Peace Walker prequel games show you just what motivated him to create Outer Heaven and become the Big Bad of the first two Metal Gear games: seeing how disposable soldiers are to the world first hand over and over again eventually drove him to create a place where soldiers would be honored rather than thrown to the side.
  • Still Wearing the Old Colors:
    • In Portable Ops, Peace Walker and Ground Zeroes, each one of his uniforms still bears a FOX unit logo, though in Portable Ops his sneaking suit had been stolen from FOX.
    • In Metal Gear 2 his sprite wears a green uniform, opposed to the tan uniforms of his troops. The green uniform having been the standard uniform of the FOX and MSF units.
    • This is brought up by Snake in MGS4 when Otacon asks why Meryl is still wearing a FOXHOUND patch on her uniform when FOXHOUND no longer exists. Snake's response is that some soldiers like to keep patches, or other mementos like maybe a tattoo, to remind themselves of their old units out of some leftover fondness or loyalty they may have to those memories. This implies that Big Boss has some attachment to his old unit.
    • Likewise in MGS4, when he confronts Snake in person, he is wearing the officer's trenchcoat of the FOX (and its successor FOXHOUND) units. This is despite both units having long since been defunct.
  • The Stool Pigeon: An inversion of the Lacerated Larry type in Peace Walker. He remained silent about the truth behind his killing of The Boss outside of the official story of "betrayal" the United States when Dr. Strangelove tortured him. Unfortunately, his remaining silent on the issue is exactly how Strangelove managed to deduce the truth behind The Boss's final mission.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: In Peace Walker, he refuses to Mercy Kill Chico at Amanda's request for this reason. Also, in MGS4, he commends Solid Snake for not going through with blowing his brains out, remarking there's "no need for [David] to go just yet." Of course, he also ends up switching off Zero's life support in the same conversation, but that was to finally put an end to the Patriots, and by that point, Zero was nothing but a brain-dead vegetable.
    Big Boss: Amanda, we gave up our homes. But we're still alive. We're still fighting. And there's always another reason to keep on living.
  • Super Strength: Implied in Peace Walker, where Big Boss was capable of lifting up a sealed garage door to gain entry to Peace Walker's hangar twice with his own bare hands, and, at least in gameplay, bench-pressing even Cocoon. Which is roughly the size of a small-town municipal building.
  • Surpassed the Teacher: The source of his codename; Naked Snake was deemed "above even The Boss" when he defeated and slew his mentor, and thus was dubbed Big Boss by the President. Big Boss didn't feel the same, however, and it took ten years for him to embrace the title.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: In MGS4, despite their long history of animosity, and believing Zero hated him and wanted him dead, when he comes face-to-face with the vegetative Zero after awakening from his coma, Big Boss feels nothing but pity and compassion for his former friend before giving a Mercy Kill.
    Big Boss: Now that I’m actually face to face with him again, the hatred is gone. All I feel is a deep sense of longing. And pity.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: At the end of Peace Walker, he gives a speech about how the world will view MSF differently as time goes by; either as revolutionaries, dogs of war or terrorists and he is willing to accept that role as a villain. And thus, Outer Heaven was born.
  • That Thing Is Not My Child!: His initial reaction to his three clones; in fact, the discovery that Para-Medic had cloned him under Zero's orders in the first place was ultimately what led him to defect from Cipher. As revealed in the Truth tapes in The Phantom Pain, he adamantly refused to acknowledge them as his sons, to the point of refusing to see Eli in Africa. Nonetheless, he came to respect David as a person and fellow soldier who he personally trained, and still orders Ocelot to treat Eli like another human being regardless. It is only at the very end of his life that he finally acknowledges David as his son who he encourages to live in peace with what time there's left.
    Big Boss: They're no sons of mine, and they're sure as hell not me.
    Ocelot: Just a bunch of cells grown in a lab?
    Big Boss: What they are is much sicker than that.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Prefers to simply tranquilize or knock out enemies rather than kill them unless killing is the only option.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: The first thing he does after waking up from nanomachine-induced coma and seeing Snake again after their fateful battle in Zanzibarland is use CQC to hug him, showing he has finally accepted David as his son with no enmity he used to have when the latter used to work for him and became bitter enemies.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Used to express a one-track interest regarding eating the many animals he came across during Operation Snake Eater, but snakes stuck out as a particular favorite to the point where he reacted with confusion when hearing about snakes being imported as pets, not food.
  • Tragic Hero: Big Boss's dedication to his allies and his desire to avoid war ultimately causes him to lose everyone he cared about while being hunted by governments and militaries from all over the world.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Has had three major ones, all of them alluded to his deceased mentor:
    • He kept wearing The Boss's bandanna, which he snatched from her head during the Virtuous Mission, for ten years. After watching the Peace Walker AI weapon drown itself in the ocean, he finds some closure to the event at last and casts it off to the winds.
    • He also kept The Boss's weapon, the Patriot, after executing her with it, as his personal weapon; using it until his death, 40 years later.
    • His smoking habit in general could be considered a huge one, as his sharing a final smoke with David before his passing demonstrates.
  • Training from Hell: It's strongly implied that he underwent this when under The Boss's tutelage and when joining FOX. In regard to the former, The Boss tells Volgin (who at the time was shocking him with electricity that was said by Volgin to be around ten million volts) that it wouldn't break him as The Boss trained him not to, and in the case of the latter, Cunningham stated that any attempts at beating him wouldn't even qualify as torture to Naked Snake due to his former FOX membership.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Let's face it. From Operation Snake Eater to Zanzibar Land, his life has been one huge Trauma Conga Line. See Shell-Shocked Veteran and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds to elaborate in his backstory.
  • Übermensch: He develops his own moral code, and doesn't care if that makes him "evil" in the eyes of others.
  • Unfortunate Name: Although his original codename "Naked Snake" referred to the fact that he infiltrated Tselinoyarsk with minimal equipment and weapons during the Virtuous Mission, Kazuhira Miller makes fun of him by jokingly implying that Snake went into missions completely nude. note 
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Well, young adult, anyway.
  • Villain Respect: He freely admits that while he never saw Solid Snake as his son, he did respect Solid Snake as a man and fellow soldier.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Up until his plans for Outer Heaven are stopped by Solid Snake. However, in MGS4, his popularity skyrockets once more after the Patriots declassify all files relating to his past exploits, including Operation Snake Eater, much to his son's annoyance.
    Solid Snake: The war criminal, reinvented as a hero.
  • Vindicated by History: In-Universe. As mentioned above, Big Boss's exploits had gotten recognition to the point people wanted to use CQC. Solid Snake naturally finds it stupid, to the point that he even calls the PMCs' CQC as cookie-cutter imitations.
  • Walking Spoiler: He's actually the real Big Boss who went into hiding after the hospital escape to begin work on creating Outer Heaven while leaving the player character to be his "phantom".
  • Walking Transplant: Big Boss reveals EVA hid his body and uses both Liquid's and Solidus's parts to replace damaged parts.
  • War for Fun and Profit: The ethos behind Outer Heaven. Big Boss's objective was to give soldiers without a home someplace to belong, as well as an escape from Cipher/The Patriots' umbrella. As Big Boss happened across war orphans during his travels, he began integrating child soldiers into his army too. His intentions were benevolent, but Outer Heaven set the stage for a perpetual war machine, which Les Enfants Terribles and Desperado later accelerated.
  • Weak to Fire: The only way to cause his alleged death in Metal Gear 2 is to immolate him with a lighter and a can of hairspray.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: After his "death", EVA recovered his body which gets patched up using parts of Liquid's and Solidus's corpses.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Given how horrifically governments and groups like Cipher treat soldiers in the Metal Gear Universe, it's not surprising Big Boss wanted to make a world where they'd always be needed.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He's deathly afraid of vampires and all subject matter related to them; specifically, Bram Stoker's Dracula. Para-Medic uses this to raise his adrenaline levels and spur him into action.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The man had a life could best be described as a Trauma Conga Line of absolutely epic proportions:
    • First off, in 1964, he's forced to kill the only woman he had ever loved — the same woman who had served as his mentor and mother figure since his childhood, all because somebody in the U.S. government held a grudge and set her up.
    • Ten years later, Big Boss comes up with the project for a Warrior Heaven heaven: a place where soldiers can live free from the manipulations of governments, and be given the honor and respect they deserve. Along the way, he decides that The Boss abandoned her soldiers, her virtues, and therefore, him as well. Said project is then promptly destroyed, as he watches hundreds of the men and women he adored as family die in front of him, and he's sent into a nine-year coma.
    • After returning to action, Big Boss strives to take revenge and build his Outer Heaven, gathering a formidable army, and also nuclear weapons, only to be foiled and crippled by his very own son Solid Snake. He is then held in another coma, essentially becoming a prisoner within his mind for fifteen years. And when he's finally able to reawaken, and reconcile with Solid Snake, he dies shortly after. All things considered, it's a wonder Big Boss didn't snap sooner than he did.
  • World's Best Warrior: He's renowned as the greatest soldier of the 20th century, and he can certainly back it up. It took the efforts of Solid Snake, a clone of himself who Big Boss personally trained, to finally take him down.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: In MGS3, though he's perfectly willing to fight and beat up Ocelot, he refuses to let EVA shoot Ocelot In the Back while running away because Ocelot's "still young."
  • Wrote the Book: Co-invented CQC with The Boss, and invented the use of the tactical cardboard box as a hiding place. He even originated the very idea of the "Stealth Mission" — hence, the Metal Gear franchise owes its existence to this man. Zero pitched the idea after hearing about The Boss's war stories; the Stealth Mission is actually a modified version of what the Boss termed "Snatch" missions, wherein an agent is sent to extract a VIP. Obviously, these missions ruled out a full-on assault or tripping alarms since the hostage would instantly be killed. Virtuous Mission (a Snatch Mission) and Operation Snake Eater (a Sneaking Mission) were intended as test drives, to convince the higher-ups at Langley to marry spies and soldiers into a single unit.
  • You Are What You Hate: Over the years, he became as manipulative and deceitful as the politicians who manipulated him in his youth. His ambitions even turned his small team of earnest operatives into a cabal that would forge a war machine infinitely worse than the one that chewed up and spat out his mentor.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: When he confronts Solid Snake in Zanzibar Land, the agent has just emerged from a fire, lost all of his gear, and is utterly defenseless. And he still refuses Big Boss's offer of a quick death. The commander can only marvel at his audacity:
    Big Boss: Really...? And how do you expect to beat me in your condition? With no weapon?
    Solid Snake: Never give up. Fight until the end. Always believe you will succeed, even when the odds are against you... Those are your words.
    Big Boss: Even I make mistakes from time to time.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: His codename "Big Boss" stems from his assignment to kill the Boss and her Cobra Unit.
  • Zen Survivor: With moments left to live, Big Boss stays completely calm and offers some final words of wisdom to his son.


"This is good, isn't it?"

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