Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

How Memes Gave This Metal Gear Game A Second Chance

It's not unheard of for overlooked games to hit a renaissance years after their initial release. Most often, it's online games like "Final Fantasy 14" going from the worst MMO of 2010 to the most profitable "Final Fantasy" title via lovingly-crafted updates (via IGN). More rarely, it's cult classics like "Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines" getting a new surge of interest following the high-profile announcement of an unexpected sequel. 

Once every other blue moon, it's a simple coincidence where the stars of the internet align to create a viral phenomenon. The sudden revival of an almost 10 years-old minor game in a dormant franchise sounds unlikely, but the numbers don't lie: Steamcharts shows a recent 1000% spike of concurrent players on the 2013 "Metal Gear" hack-n-slash spin-off, "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance." 

Upon its release, the game received favorable reviews for its fast-paced and aggressive playstyle and a story that didn't slack off on the franchise's signature combination of dead-serious political commentary punctuated by deadpan absurdity of the highest degree. While the game sold well enough at over half a million copies sold within a year (via Playstationlifestyle), it was far from pulling the usual numbers of "Metal Gear" releases: "Metal Gear Solid 5" shipped 6 million units in its first year (via IGN).

So why the explosion in interest, years after launching and with no newer "Metal Gear" titles coming up anytime soon? Apparently, the answer is quite simple: memes.

Memes, the DNA of the soul

Specifically, the meme that started it all was the gif of Jetstream Sam — one of the game's iconic antagonists — stroking his chin thoughtfully with some absurd caption attached. One of the first viral uses of the meme was in January 2022, lining up with the sudden acceleration in the rising player numbers. It's hard to believe that this is the meme that set off such an explosive resurgence, considering that the game is packed with meme-worthy moments. Memes are actually one of the central themes of the plot, and though they use the original academic definition of "meme," the comedic effect of watching a nanomachine-enhanced US senator deliver a villainous monologue on the power of memes can't have been anything but wholly intentional. 

In many ways, "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" was ahead of its time. Though it might be best known for accidentally predicting a part of 2016, the game goes beyond to deliver a thoughtful critique of US-centric global politics that's still relevant today. The infamous cutscene that calls memes "the DNA of the soul" is actually a very concise and informative breakdown of "memes" as a cultural concept. Using this as a foundation, the story interrogates American Exceptionalism, self-replicating propaganda, and the use of war as an economic device.

With all that in mind, it's a little on-the-nose to see "Revengeance" hit a renaissance due to the power of an internet meme — but no one can say the renewed interest isn't well-deserved.