Side Ops are the side missions of The Phantom Pain, requiring you to complete a simple objective in the game’s world, such as extracting a specific person or rescuing a prisoner. There’s a total of 157 Side Ops in the game, with the majority of them spread across Afghanistan and Africa, as well as a few located at Mother Base.
These side missions are not graded like the main missions, so you can try to complete them in any manner you wish, although this guide will still focus on the non-lethal method (tranquilizer darts and/or Fulton extraction). Each of the objectives in every Side Ops is usually in the center of the highlighted circle on your map, so you have a good idea where to go in some of the larger areas.
Side Ops missions will unlock as you play through the main missions and other Side Ops, with important ones having a yellow circle instead of blue. Note that there can only be so many Side Ops available at one time, so if new ones aren’t appearing when they should, then you will need to complete some of the ones already there. Sometimes, it’s possible for ones you have already finished to appear as available again if there are no others available in that area.
Note: The game forces a save as soon as you complete the objective in each of the Side Ops, so you can immediately pause the game and go back to your ACC if you’re in the middle of enemy territory or just need a quick lift to another Side Ops’s location.