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Villain Overview

Wait... Who is doing this? Such a lust for revenge... WHOOOOOOO?!
~ Skull Face's most famous (albeit memetic) quote.
You too have known loss, and that loss torments you still. You hope hatred might someday replace the pain, but it never goes away. It makes a man hideous, inside and out. Wouldn't you agree? We both are demons. Our humanity won't return. You. Me. We've no place to run, nowhere to hide. And that's why I'll show you my demon.
~ Skull Face.

Skull Face, also known as A Ghost Without A Past, is the main antagonist in both Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He was the commander of the organization XOF during the 1970s and early 1980s, an enemy of Big Boss, and Venom Snake's archenemy, wishing to inflict his suffering upon the world in the name of revenge.

He was voiced by James Horan in English, who also voiced Smaug in the 2003 Hobbit videogame. In Japanese he was voiced by Takaya Hashi, who also voiced Kakuzu in Naruto, Vearn in Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, the Great Shinobi Owl in Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Amiba in Fist of the North Star and John Bacchus in Mirai Nikki.



Skull Face was from a Hungarian village which had a factory, which was where his parents worked. However, one day, an aircraft destroyed the factory under the pretense of it secretly developing weapons (specifically repairing them), as stated by various spies. Although he and the workers tried to escape, a huge crowd of people blocked him, and he was eventually kicked in the stomach. He would hear his name called when the factory was demolished, and upon being taken to a hospital, he heard, in what was ultimately his final recalled instance of his mother tongue, a nurse stating that he really needed to be put out of his misery in a tone that indicated that she frequently said this towards her patients.

By this point, most of his prior identity had been stripped, which resulted in the nihilistic philosophies that he eventually adopted. His already deformed features, which resulted in him being virtually incapable of feeling pain, were worsened later on when he was tortured by foreign hands. Afterwards, he made his living as a spymaster and assassin, although he spent his time killing various people via methods that would point against murder, many of his targets being those he harbored vengeance against for taking away his ability to speak his native tongue. One of his targets was the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, whom he murdered via one of his MOs, behind locked doors and making it seem as though he had suffered from a stroke. He later defected to the West, eventually joining the SAS. It was here where he met his future superior, David Oh. Impressed with Skull Face's skills as an assassin and military tactician, David promoted Skull Face to be his XO (short for Executive Officer).

He later was made the commander of XOF, a highly classified special forces unit created by David now going by the codename Major Zero. It was created as an unconventional support team to the CIA unit FOX to help make it stronger and to provide support to its operatives, with Skull Face giving the orders. One of these missions was Operation Snake Eater, with Skull Face himself being secretly deployed by Major Zero to follow, assist, and clean up after Naked Snake during the operation. Skull Face even provided field intel for Snake that would help him complete certain mission objectives, all of which was relayed through Major Zero to keep his cover as a covert operative. Although he hated both men, he nonetheless enjoyed his position in XOF immensely. At some point, he met with Code Talker, where he stole some parasitic bugs, which would cause various gruesome symptoms, including irreversible decline of the host's cognitive systems.

Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes

After the events of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Skull Face and XOF took over the U.S. Naval Base Camp Omega in Cuba, and using fake CIA credentials turned it into a black site. According to a tape, Skull Face tortured an agent personally, recounting his personal history with the intention that he, like Skull Face, would live through his torture from the desire for revenge. According to the "pseudo historical" Side Ops Destroy the Anti-Air Emplacements he interrogated an MSF agent, even quoting Big Boss's line "pain gets the better of us all". Although the prisoner never divulged information, Skull Face nonetheless came very close to breaking him, and the prisoner was left unable to fully remember his face. At some point, Skull Face discovered that Pacifica Ocean had survived the events of Peace Walker and imprisoned her in the hopes of finding Zero's location. Claiming to be acting under Cipher's orders, he proceeded to viciously torture her, constantly pushing her physical and mental limits, although she showed a surprising defiance to his methods. Later, XOF captured Chico, who was trying to rescue Paz from the base. Knowing the young boy's association with Big Boss' mercenary group Militaires Sans Frontières, Skull Face saw a opportunity to get rid of both Big Boss and Zero and began to torture Chico as well.

At a XOF prison camp, Skull Face visits an imprisoned Chico, giving him a music tape stating that he earned it. He then asks him how it feels to play the traitor and tells him to give his regards to The Boss when he gets home. This dialogue refers to Chico's earlier choice to send a fake SOS signal to the MSF, thereby bringing Snake to save them. While Snake climbs the cliff to infiltrate the XOF prison camp in Cuba and save Paz and Chico, he barely misses Skull Face and some of his agents who leave by helicopter. After Snake breaks Chico out of his cage and brings him to the extraction zone, Chico reveals that the tape Skull Face gave him contains Paz' screams as she was tortured by Skull Face. There are more tapes to be found, revealing the torture of Chico and Paz through Skull Face. Skull Face tortured them for information, specifically for information relating to Mother Base and MSF. He even went as far as forcing Chico to rape Paz. Afterwards, Skull Face told him he wanted him to record a SOS signal to Big Boss and MSF to distract him into trying to rescue Chico, although he also revealed if Big Boss did so, Paz would have to be killed. Chico eventually ended up making the SOS signal on the condition that Paz's death be painless, and was dragged back to his holding cage. Eventually, Skull Face confronted Paz in private and, after explaining his motives and inferring his willingness to aid Big Boss to fulfill his goal, he got her to reveal Zero's location.

After being debriefed about the successful rigging of bombs on Mother Base's struts by an "advance team," he also ordered the XOF personnel to make copies of Chico's recordings, as he wanted to make sure Big Boss listened to them. On board of the extract helicopter it is revealed that Skull Face has planted a bomb inside Paz' body, which was successfully extracted. When the helicopter returns to Mother Base, Snake finds his headquarter a burning ruin, having been attacked by Skull Face and the XOF under the disguise of a UN inspection. Snake is able to get Miller and a few soldiers inside his helicopter before fleeing from Mother Base. During the flight, Paz awakes and reveals that Skull Face has planted another bomb in her body and jumps out of the helicopter seconds before an explosion brings down the helicopter.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

After the events of Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Skull Face was exiled to Africa, although he still retained command of XOF. Using the information gained from Paz, Skull Face was able to find Zero, in an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, New York, controlled by Cipher agents. One year later, Skull Face sends Zero a pin badge that once belonged to The Boss, Big Boss's late mentor. Unknown to Zero, who pricks his finger on the pin while unpacking it, it is actually a fake laced with a parasite sample; Skull Face kept the real pin for himself. Skull Face shifts the topic of discussion to the parasite project, which Zero abandoned years earlier. During this exchange, the parasite suddenly takes effect and Zero realizes Skull Face betrayed him, having gotten info on his whereabouts out of Paz. As Zero convulses in pain, Skull Face mocks him and announces he will carry out The Boss's will himself from there. This parasitic infection would gradually render Zero invalid, eventually taking effect before 1977, as his hatred was such that he wasn't content with merely killing his former commanding officer.

However, Skull Face's chance at revenge came at the cost of being infected with several of the same bug inside his vocal chords, forcing him to find a cure for his infection to no avail. During Zero's degradation, Skull Face took over the majority of Cipher's resources, while the remainder were used by Zero's faction to develop the Patriot AI's. As a result of Skull Face's treachery, Zero later falls into an unconscious vegetative state for the rest of his life (as seen at the end of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots). Skull Face was later manipulated by Code Talker into undergoing experimental radiation therapy, the latter hiding from him that there was a far simpler cure in the form of the bacterium wolbachia.

In early 1984, having discovered Big Boss's location in a Cyprus hospital, Skull Face sent XOF to infiltrate it, who murder anyone inside, patient or staff. While Big Boss managed to escape, Skull Face succeeded in covering his tracks and discovered Tretij Rebenok and the Man on Fire, two beings who also attempted to go after Big Boss. Skull Face's desire for vengeance attracted Rebenok to him, and Skull Face was thus able to control him and the Man on Fire. Skull Face then worked on his experiments with the vocal cord parasites, which Venom Snake encountered the outskirts on his early missions.

When Snake is on the mission to get the Honey Bee missile launcher, a mist appears. Snake ventures into the mist and is grabbed by Sahelanthropus. Skull Face then comes out of the mist and wonders why Snake has become "a demon" for a little weapon as the Honey Bee but states that Snake will see the bigger picture eventually if he survives. Skull Face then takes his leave, walking onto the open hand of Sahelanthropus and is carried away while Snake has to face the Skulls Parasite Unit.

Skull Face and Tretij Rebenok with Sahelanthropus.

When Snakes invades a base in Afghanistan to find Huey Emmerich, Snake witnesses an angry conversation between Emmerich and Skull Face revealing that the past nine years, Emmerich was forced to work for XOF to build a weapon to surpass Metal Gear. When Emmerich tells Skull Face that the Sahelanthropus is not operational yet and that the A.I. control has not reached the application stage, Skull Face reveals that Sahelanthropus will not be controlled by an A.I. When a guard tells Skull Face that Emmerich was in contact with Big Boss, Skull Face confronts Emmerich and throws him down the stairs. A soldier with walker gears then takes Emmerich, ordered to bring him to the base, while Skull Face enters a jeep and is driven away. While trying to leave with Emmerich, Snake's escape is disrupted when Sahelanthropus lands next to them. Skull Face, who is standing on the hand of Sahelanthropus, tells Emmerich that he is as useless as expected, having Sahelanthropus finished without Emmerichs help. Sahelanthropus then lets Skull Face enter a XOF helicopter before attacking Snake.

Skull Face later re-encounters Snake (who was trying to rescue an African child soldier unit leader named Shabani) at the Ngumba Industrial Zone shortly after executing one of the test subjects. When he shoots the subject Shabani screams which alerts Skull Face. At first intending to shoot the intruder, Skull Face changes his plans when he finds out that it is Snake and tells him to "burn with the rest of them" and leaves, intending for Snake to die by the hands of the Man on Fire. Snake ultimately escapes with his life, although Shabani is not as lucky. After Snake's escape the Diamond Dogs have clarity that the Man of Fire is controlled by Skull Face.

When meeting with Code Talker to find a cure for the epidemic that has infected Mother Base, Snake finds out that Skull Face is in possession of a parasite that kills the host if he speaks a certain language. Miller realises that Skull Face plans to wipe out every language except English, calling it an ethnic cleansing. After saving Code Talker from the Skulls, he reveals to Snake and Ocelot that Skull Face plans to sell nuclear weapons that he enriched with a parasite that allows him to arm or disarm them, giving him the full control of them. To avoid detection, he intends to export minerals containing small amounts of uranium in the form of his parasite which later enriches the Uranium and weaponized it. Believing that Sahelanthropus in the hands of the Soviets would turn countries without nuclear weapons to line up to buy from Skull Face, Miller and Ocelot interrogate Emmerich to find out where Sahelanthropus is before Skull Face can unveil it in Afghanistan.

Anticipating that Snake and the Diamond Dogs will locate the Sahelanthropus as well as himself, Skull Face orders his men to ignore Snake sneaking to the heliport where Snake hopes to find and capture Skull Face. At the Heliport Skull Face, Tretij Rebenok and XOF soldiers await Snake, with Skull Face telling him that they are both demons and ordering Snake to follow him. On the way Skull Face mentions that he and Snake formerly worked together, with Skull Face cleaning up the mess Naked Snake made during the Operation Snake Eater. They enter a jeep and during the ride Skull Face tells about his violent past, were he was forced to speak many different languages when his masters changed. As he thinks his language and his past were stolen from him, he plans revenge against Zero, with killing him hoping to kill his past. He then reveals an English strain of the vocal parasite to Snake, revealing that he, opposed to what Miller expected, plans to destroy the English language with it. He then states that his Metal Gears will be the new universal language, with no words needed.

When the jeep arrives at the hangar containing Sahelanthropus, Skull Face shows Snake the Man on Fire, stating that he lives because of Snake. They are interrupted when Sahelanthropus awakes, which prompts the XOF members to drag Skull Face outside, to safety. While his men drag him outside, Skull Face screams that he wants to know who is doing that with such a lust for revenge. Outside, Snake observes Skull Face ordering his units to move in to destroy Sahelanthropus, but his helicopters and tanks are quickly destroyed by it. Snake loses view of Skull Face in the erupting chaos during Sahelanthropus' attack and is not able to see the XOF commander crushed by the mechanical feet of Sahelanthropus.

Skull Face begging Snake for the mercy of death.

To ensure that Skull Face's plans don't come true, Snake destroys Sahelanthropus. After its destruction, Snake returns to the base to find Skull Face. He and Miller walk through the rubble and find Skull Face crushed by a fallen antenna girder. Examining the box containing the parasites, Snake realizes that one is missing while throwing away the rest into the fire nearby to destroy them. Skull Face then begs Miller and Snake to kill him. Wanting revenge for the death of Paz, Snake takes Skull Face's shotgun and shoots off his limbs to make him dies slowly in agony, denying him a merciful death with Miller telling Skull Face to do it himself. However, on their way back to the helicopter, Emmerich goes behind his superiors' backs and finishes Skull Face off with a gunshot to the head, getting revenge for his nine years of forced work. The trio then fly off, leaving Skull Face's hemorrhaging corpse behind.


Cipher will rewrite the records, and I will vanish from human memory... But... The thirst for revenge that I have planted will infest the system! NO ONE can stop it now!
~ Skull Face's prediction

Later, while Diamond Dogs were moving Sahelanthropus into Mother Base, Venom Snake saw a phantom of Skull Face, a ghostly reminder that though they had lost their object of revenge, Diamond Dogs were still experiencing a phantom pain. While Skull Face's plans of uniting the world in the language of revenge were defeated in the short term, his desires would eventually come to pass, via the Patriots, the AI's that had taken over from Major Zero. Thirty years after his death, by the time of Guns of the Patriots, the world had been consumed in the war economy, where generations would fight one another in an unending cycle of vengeance.


So? Do you see me now? Tell me, what do you see? Hm? You have eyes; what do your eyes see? Yes. That's right, you see a skull face. You see me. This skull is who I am, my mark, my proof of humanity. I have no country, no language. I have no face - but I haven't lost my skull.
~ Skull Face
The chain of retaliation is what will truly bind this world together as one!
~ Skull Face to Major Zero.
Sans lingua franca, the world will be torn asunder. And then it shall be free. People will suffer, of course. A phantom pain. The world will need a new common tongue. A language of nukes. My Metal Gears shall be the thread by which all countries will be bound together, in equality. No words will be needed. Every man will be forced to recognise his neighbour. People will swallow their pain. They will link lost hands. And the world will become one. This war is peace.
~ Skull Face about his aims for the world.


  • Skull Face is styled after villains from Westerns, and concept art showing his human face resembles Lee Van Cleef, a classic Spaghetti Western actor who often portrayed villains.
  • Right before the rampaging Sahelanthropus kicks rubble into Skull Face during its rampage due to the young Liquid Snake aka. Eli's influence with the young Psycho Mantis as medium, he was yelling, "Major... I'm burning uuuuppp!!!", referring to one of the lyrics to the David Bowie song "Space Oddity".
  • In the cutscene depicting Skull Face's demise, the player can choose whether to act on shooting Skull Face in revenge or waiting until the scene transitions to Miller aiding Venom Snake in shooting him. If the former, it will depict Venom Snake shooting him three times in the chest while flashing back to his appearance during the events of the Hospital Raid, hinting he shot him in revenge for sending Quiet and XOF to try and kill him at the hospital.
  • In spite the fact that he is the main antagonist, he didn't fought by the player as one of the game's boss unlike most other antagonists that eventually confronted as boss.
  • Skull Face was listed as Number 5 in the British YouTube gamer RabbidLuigi's "Top 5 Worst Video Game Villains" list. He stated that Skull Face was a great and disturbing villain in Ground Zero, however, he greatly criticized him in The Phantom Pain, as Rabbid stated that he went from a mysterious and sinister figure, to a "Saturday morning cartoon bad guy, in a game that was trying to be super serious. And not in the fun way like Senator Armstrong, just a vastly disappointing fall from grace before he dies whimpering and begging for death." He mostly disliked how his motives, while interesting, were poorly delivered and how, as stated before, Skull Face went from being an interesting villain to being completely ridiculous.
  • According to Hideo Kojima's notes in the Piggyback Collector's Edition Guide's art gallery, Skull Face's role is that, while he is indeed the story's villain and antagonist, his character is not simply about good and evil. He has lost something, which results in him suffering from the phantom pain. He also states that his absence will leave the player with a sense of lasting phantom pain. He also explains in the same source that the reason he doesn't have a standard boss battle is to further promote the theme of a chain of revenge, a phantom pain, the continuous chain that one experiences when a target of vengeance is gone, something that would not have been possible via a standard boss fight, unlike most stories where good vs. evil encounters are given in Hollywood movies to satisfy the audience.


           Metal Gear Logo.png Villains

The Philosophers
Colonel Volgin (Leader) | Major Ocelot | Naked Snake | Major Raikov | Cobra Unit (The Fury | The End | The Fear | The Pain)

Naked Snake | Gene | Null | Cunningham | Elisa & Ursula | Python

The Patriots
Major Zero (Leader) | Revolver Ocelot | Big Boss | Pacifica Ocean | Skull Face | Solidus Snake | Fatman | Mr. X | "The Colonel"

Peace Sentinel
Hot Coldman (Leader) | Ramon Galvez Mena | Huey Emmerich

Skull Face (Leader) | "Skulls" Parasite Unit | Man on Fire | Tretij Rebenok

Outer Heaven
Big Boss (NES Ver.)| Frank Jaeger | Shotmaker | Machinegun Kid | Bloody Brad | Fire Trooper | Dirty Duck

Zanzibar Land
Big Boss (Leader) | Gray Fox | Black Ninja | Running Man | Red Blaster | Four Horsemen | Jungle Evil | Night Fright | Dr. Madnar

Sons of Big Boss
Liquid Snake (Leader) | Decoy Octopus | Revolver Ocelot | Psycho Mantis | Vulcan Raven | Sniper Wolf

Sons of Liberty
Solidus Snake (Leader) | Dead Cell (Fortune, Fatman & Vamp) | Revolver Ocelot | Gurlukovich Mercenaries (Olga Gurlukovich)

Liquid Ocelot's Outer Heaven
Liquid Ocelot (Leader) | Vamp | Haven Troopers | Beauty and the Beast Unit (Screaming Mantis/Psycho Mantis, Crying Wolf, Raging Raven & Laughing Octopus)

Desperado Enforcement LLC
Senator Armstrong (De-Facto Leader) | Khamsin | Jetstream Sam | Mistral | Monsoon | Sundowner

Gear REX | Lord of Dust | Mosquito | Silent Mastodon | Huey Emmerich | Sergei Ivanovich | Gurlukovich Mercenaries (Sergei Gurlukovich, Olga Gurlukovich, Shalashaska)