Memorable Metal Gear Moments: The Ladder

Ask any Metal Gear fan about ‘the ladder’, and chances are they know right away what you mean. For those who don’t know what this is about, here’s a small introduction.


In Metal Gear Solid 3, after defeating The End in the forest, Snake must pass through a cave that connects to the mountains. At the end of the cave, a shaft with a ladder points straight to the summit. You begin your ascend.


And you climb. The ladder doesn’t end. Above you and below you are only height and depth. It’s almost like you’re in an abstract world. Here, there’s no beginning or end, no before and after, only now. The rhythmic sound of Snake’s boots against the metal steps is entrancing.

And still you climb. Then, a faint echo can be heard. Music. It’s the ‘Snake Eater’ theme, that is, an a capella version, without instruments. The music takes you back to the start of the game. There’s a moment to contemplate on what has happened so far, and what’s yet to come. Concrete all around you.


As the echo of the song fades away, Snake finally reaches the top of the ladder. You walk outside, into a completely different environment. Barren mountain slopes, vultures, howling winds.


The ‘ladder sequence’ has puzzled people ever since the game came out. It seems to be pointless from a gameplay standpoint as well as from a narrative standpoint. And still, it’s proven itself as one of the most memorable moments in the series. What does it mean? Does it even mean anything? Is it meant as a reflective moment? Or as a joke? Everyone can decide that for themselves, but one thing is certain: it wouldn’t be Metal Gear Solid 3 without it.

  • PrinceHeir

    actually i wasn’t aware how long the ladder is.

    i was too busy listening to the song 😀

    it’s funny how the ladder sequence reminded me a bit of MGS1’s stair battle where tons of enemies keep coming from up and down directions and you have to kill them to move on.

    now that’s one long stairs as well!!

    • Nyxus

      Yeah, though that’s really an action sequence. By the way, I wonder if anyone ever counted the number of steps op the ladder in MGS3.

  • Golgari

    That ladder represents his future. Snake is changing. It’s a long road but Snake is different and music just reminds you of the past.

    The past is like an anchor holding us back. You have to let go of who you are to become who you will be.

    • Nyxus

      Hm, never thought about it that way, an interesting way to look at it for sure. Makes a lot of sense.

    • William

      But if Snake lets go he falls down,man

      • Sam Arcade

        if he falls, he will become a demon… but vemon became a demon for him

  • Nintendo Fan 4 Lif3

    The ladder represents his reflection on his life: it’s been a long, hectic ride for Naked Snake with all the events leading up to the moment and all that he’s struggled with on his journey. He only hopes to make it to the top, make it to finish what he started, make it to see The End of his conflict with the world, with The Boss, and with himself.

    • Nyxus

      Well said!

  • Vincent Wong

    There may be three explanations:
    1) The really long ladder first appeared in the final scene of the original Metal Gear (the MSX version). Solid Snake has to pick one of three ladders to climb back to the ground level before Outer Heaven self-destructed. Kojima wants to add-in some “deja vu” element in MGS3, as Naked Snake just finished “The End”.
    2) The End also marks the “end” of the outdoor forest environment and then take the player to a completely different setting. i.e. The End marks the beginning of a new chapter.
    3) This scene echoes the lyrics “Climb… is the way I fly to you…” Naked Snake is finally seeing The Boss again.

  • Vincent Wong

    By the way, the MGS1 stairs battle is also a salute to the original Metal Gear as well.

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