In his youth, Kojima developed a strong interest in film. His parents were quite found of European cinema, especially Westerns and horror, and had a family tradition of watching a film together each night (with Kojima not allowed to go to bed until it had finished), and never really imposed any limits on what films their children were allowed to watch. Kojima would later proudly proclaim that "70% of [his] body is made of movies".
As a teenager, Kojima tried his hand at writing novels and wound up writing several "short" stories and sending to various publications. However, none of them were ever published as his stories often exceeded 400 pages.
Kojima's creative career properly kicked off in 1986, when he joined entered video game publisher Konami (doing so because it was the only games developer listed on the Japanese stock exchange). By Kojima's own admission, he became involved with video games because he was not able to enter the movie industry. His works feature frequent discussions about science, history, politics and culture as well as shameless references to films — primarily American action movies, of which he is a huge fan. His games often glorify, deconstruct, reference, or pastiche Hollywood tropes — from theme naming his cast after movie characters to copying action sequences motion-for-motion. Most of his stories fit into the category of Magic Realism, featuring Humongous Mechas and magical Super Soldiers within the context of real-world settings and events.
Kojima is also dedicated to giving his games an utterly enormous level of world detail in terms of character backstories, politics, history, culture, and science. As a direct result, his games feature so much information that it is almost impossible to find every bit on a first playthrough, starting with an absolutely gigantic in-game encyclopedia detailing the world of Snatcher, and carrying on throughout the Metal Gear series.
Kojima's games, especially in the Metal Gear series, feature a lot of characteristics uncommon in non-sandbox video games. They do not feature levels or missions, but a single location (like a military base or a large jungle) where all of the story takes place. The games prior to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker also mostly consist of cutscenes and static dialogue, with gameplay often taking up only a minority of each game's length.
He also constantly tries to surprise the audience. Each game of his features heavy plot twists and when he makes trailers, he often edits objects and characters out of certain footage and re-arranges scenes and dialogue to create a misleading impression. For example, all trailers for 2001's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty famously edited Raiden (the game's Contrasting Sequel Main Character) out of every scene he appears in and replaced him with Solid Snake, to hide the now-infamous change in protagonists that occurs after the prologue chapter.
Kojima is also known for never talking about his stories in-depth. He often says that his stories are anti-war, yet his protagonists are regularly sent on military missions with noble goals, such as preventing a nuclear catastrophe. He also states that he never aims at writing a complex storyline, yet his plots involve a great deal of real life information that he painstakingly researches, and they always pose deep philosophical and cultural questions that characters may spend the entire game discussing. Kojima also states that he wants people to think about his stories for themselves, which might be the reason for him making such contradictory statements.
In 2015, he and Konami had a massive fallout that resulted in Silent Hills being cancelled, his name being removed from the cover of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Kojima being prohibited from being involved in any publicity for Konami products. After his contract with Konami finally expired on December 15, 2015, Kojima established his own independent game studio and entered a partnership with Sony. At E3 2016, he revealed footage and the official title of the first new game produced under his partnership with Sony: Death Stranding.
In 2020, he is set to receive a BAFTA Fellowship for his artistry and contributions to the video game industry.
Kojima has written and directed the following games:
As an employee of Konami
- Metal Gear (1987)
- Snatcher (1988)
- Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake (1990)
- Policenauts (1994)
- Metal Gear Solid (1998)
- Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001)
With the first incarnation of Kojima Productions
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (2004; starting with the Subsistance release in 2005)
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (2008)
- Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (2010)
- Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014)
- P.T. (2014)
- Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)
As an independent developer
- Death Stranding (2019)
He has also been involved in the production of:
- Penguin Adventure (1986; see Antarctic Adventure)
- SD Snatcher (1990)
- Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series (1997-1999)
- Zone of the Enders (2001)
- Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (2003)
- Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand (2003)
- Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django (2004)
- Metal Gear Ac!d (2004)
- Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes (2004)
- Boktai 3: Sabata's Counterattack (2005)
- Metal Gear Acid 2 (2005)
- Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops (2006)
- Lunar Knights (2007)
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010)
- The Enders Project (On-hold)
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (2013)
- Silent Hills (cancelled)
In Febuary 2016, Kojima started a Web Video series called HideoTube to further reach out to his fans. The content is mostly all over the place, ranging from food to events in Tokyo to movies to the video game industry from his point of view. The videos are uploaded monthly and are in Japanese but with English subtitles. However, they have since slowed down, presumably due to Death Stranding going into full production. In the latest episode (the first in almost half a year), Kojima-San mentioned that he was even considering ending the series due to his very busy schedule.
- Author Appeal:
- Above all else, Kojima is a world builder. He'll reel off yard after yard of flavor text describing your surroundings, politics of the day, the latest fashions and tech toys, your teammates' pasts and motivations, philosophy, and assorted Jeopardy! trivia.
- David Bowie is Every Metal Gear Solid Character?
- Kojima-san also makes a lot David Bowie references in his scripts, i.e., Diamond Dogs, Major Tom (from Space Oddity), and "The Man Who Sold The World". There is also a character in MGS2 (Scott Dolph) who barks at his soldiers to "turn to the right!", which is in the David Bowie song, "Fashion".
- Also, Potty Failure and/or Urine Trouble
- Author Tract:
- Living on a space colony would have terrible effects on the human body.
- People aren't defined by their genetics.
- The unrestricted flow of digital information is dangerous, but ultimately necessary.
- Loyalty to your country means nothing if you can't adapt to the changing times.
- The Military-Industrial complex is a horrific, exploitative and ultimately pointless business.
- Deterrence Theory doesn't work.
- Revenge is an inherently destructive process and will not leave you satisfied if you achieve it.
- Humans are meant to form emotional connections to one another, and severing or avoiding these connections is foolish and self-destructive.
- The Cameo:
- Appeared in a Mega64 video parodying the Metal Gear games. He then appeared as himself in multiple Rooster Teeth productions.
- He also makes an appearance in an episode of Too Old to Die Young as a nameless Yakuza executioner. He cuts off a guy's finger with a katana.
- In the PS4 version of Control, Kojima (as well as Aki Saito, Head of Communications at Kojima Productions) makes an appearance in an optional sidequest, guiding the player through audio therapy tapes while in a sensory deprivation tank.
- He appears in Cyberpunk 2077, as an NPC in the mission called "The Heist". He's called "Hideyoshi Oshima" and is an accomplished braindance director, who says a short monologue about his craft if the player gets close.
- Contemplate Our Navels: There are often long conversations about things like Neo Kobe Pizza, movies, etc. Especially drawn out in his web videos, which is a full hour of this trope.
- Creator Breakdown: Kinda. While it obviously hasn't affected his work on Death Stranding, it's pretty obvious from how he gently talked about it that Konami's treatment of him really affected him.
- Doing It for the Art: He originally planned to pursue a career in filmmaking before deciding to switch to game design. This was met with demands for reconsideration by his peers and family, as video games were a largely infantile industry at the time. Who's Laughing Now?
- Fanservice: As far back as Policenauts, his games have featured notable amounts of this. The aforementioned title featured Easter eggs where you could grope the breasts of female characters without consequence, and the Metal Gear series tends to feature at least one scantily-clad Femme Fatale per game. Happily, there's often a fair amount of male fanservice too.
- He Knows About Timed Hits: Explanations of game features are often done by characters within the game.
- Humongous Mecha
- Meaningful Name: For example, Raiden's civilian name "Jack" is a reference to a lot of things. Including an American nickname for a Japanese warplane from World War II.
- Mind Screw: One of his trademarks. A big part of the reason why people were excited for Silent Hills: based on the tech demo, it seemed he was preparing to take the recently kind-of-lackluster series in refreshingly bizarre new directions.
- Motive Rant: Often far longer than the time it takes to actually defeat the villain.
- Never Trust a Trailer: He hates it when trailers spoil the story, so he deliberately makes totally misleading trailers. He took this to its absolute limit with Metal Gear Solid 2, where the fact that Snake isn't even the main character was completely, totally obscured.
- Nice Hat: His Twitter account reveals him to be a fan of sombreros.
- Older Than They Look: Look at him again. No way the guy looks in his 50s. This is joked by fans that he had nanomachines implanted in him.
- The Oner: Featured in cutscenes that are filmed ENTIRELY as one shot in Metal Gear Solid 5 and has even used this in a couple of times in Death Stranding.
- Revival by Commercialization: Existing songs that are featured in his games or game trailers have been known to become wildly popular. To wit, Midge Ure's cover of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" and Low Roar's "I'll Keep Coming", the former somewhat known but not popular, and the latter barely known, experienced exponential spikes in popularity after they were used in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Death Stranding, respectively. Mike Oldfield's "Nuclear" is also most widely associated with Metal Gear Solid V after being used in a trailer.
- Signature Style: On the technical side, Kojima has a clear preference for real-time cutscenes, meaning done in-engine and allow a seamless transition from cutscene to gameplay without loading in-between (ex. the boss fights in MGS4 transition from cutscene to gameplay without loading). This is particularly notable given Kojima's (in)famous love of lengthy cutscenes.
- Significant Anagram:
- Metal Gear Solid 4 shows that "RAT PT 01" can be an anagram for "patriot".
- The first information released for The Phantom Pain claimed the game's director was a Swedish man named Joakim Mogren. "Joakim" is an anagram of "Kojima".
- Start My Own: After the complete fallout with Konami, Kojima did the only logical thing to do and founded his own company.
- Stealth Pun: In The Phantom Pain, the protagonist is given an injection of digoxin, which is made from a plant called foxglove, referencing the in-game military unit FOXHOUND.
- Take That!: In episode 3 of HideoTube, where he visits the GAME ON! exhibition, he pulls off a stealth one at his previous employer that mistreated him when he gracefully walks past the Metal Gear displays without even batting an eye or stopping to talk about or acknowledge it. However he appears to have forgiven Konami in 2018, by posing with a PlayStation Classic, which the Japanese version includes Metal Gear Solidnote .
- The Muse: Mads Mikkelsen has recently became one to him, judging by the sheer amount of gushing Kojima did on Mikkelsen on his official Twitter account.
- This Loser Is You: The wimpy Otacon and Raiden can be seen as caricatures of otaku and gamers, respectively. However, both characters eventually became more likable, competent, and courageous.
- Trolling Creator: Kojima admitted that he likes to use promotional spots for upcoming games in order to deceive fans.
- Very Special Episode: Episode 6 of HideoTube guest stars Mads Mikkelsen.
- What Could Have Been: Kojima teaming up with Guillermo Del Toro, Norman Reedus, and JUNJI ITO to create the next entry in the Silent Hill franchise. Due to Kojima's falling out with Konami, all that ever materialized of the project was a playable teaser and a short trailer. Said playable teaser was widely considered one of the scariest things most people had ever played and is now only available on the PS4s that still haven't uninstalled it.
- Guns Akimbo: He even cut off his own gunslinger characters hand in his first appearance. This is ironic once you remember the Ninja...
- Trailers Always Spoil: This is also ironic since he produced some trailers that do exactly that such as the "cut trailer" for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
Some films that have inspired his work:
- Escape from New York
- Dawn of the Dead (1978)
- The Guns of Navarone
- The Great Escape
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Blade Runner
- Children of Mennote
- Lethal Weapon
- The Terminator and its sequel
Some other things he is known to admire:
- Assassin's Creed, to the point where he's made two different major references to it in the Metal Gear series.
- Mad Max, specifically The Road Warrior and Fury Road. He's mentioned that Road Warrior was in his personal Top Five favorite movies, only to later get dethroned by Fury Road.
- The Garden of Sinners, he wrote a blog post of the story of him meeting Kinoko Nasu and getting a signed copy of the first volume.
- Mega64, to the points where he's even guest-starred in one of their sketches, and even commissioned them to make a trailer for his new Transfarring data system.
- Ōkami, of which was one of the reasons why he asked PlatinumGames to work on Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
- Pokémon, which he is said to have all of the games and all of the Pokémon (including legendary) in every one of the regional Pokédexes.
- Yu-Gi-Oh!. In response, they made a card in tribute of him, Tactical Espionage Expert.
- Super Smash Bros.: He wanted Solid Snake in to be included in Melee and got his wish granted in Brawl.
- Goth Rock: He is a fan of goth rock acts such as The Cure and Sisters of Mercy.
- Pacific Rim, which he was very happy about◊ and may have led to his later collaboration with Guillermo del Toro in Silent Hills until it was sadly cancellednote .
- Gundam, with the reference to Minovsky Particles in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake and his photos of himself with the Odaiba statue being just the tip of the iceberg.
- David Bowie: Several references have been made to both his albums and songs throughout the Metal Gear series, and Midge Ure's cover of "The Man Who Sold the World" was used as the main theme song of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
- Godzilla. On your first save in Snake Eater, the first movie Para-Medic tells Big Boss is the very first Godzilla (1954) film. He even posted the posters he bought of Shin Godzilla.
- The works of Nicolas Winding Refn, which led him to the casting of Mads Mikkelsen in Death Stranding.
- Damien Chazelle's Genre Throwback to Jacques Demy and Hollywood musicals, La La Land, so much so that he penned a letter praising the film to high heaven.
- The Midge Ure era of Ultravox. Kojima once took on a part-time job in the 1980's specifically to save up enough money to buy a VHS compilation of the band's music videos, and referenced the band with the "Ultra Box" enemy squadron (later renamed to the "Four Horsemen") in Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake. Kojima would go on to befriend Ure in later years, and included Ure's cover of "The Man Who Sold the World" in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.