The Best Mega Man Games, Ranked From Busted To Mega Buster – GameSpot


Here's the absolute best of the mainline Mega Man series, the formative action-platformer that originated on the 8-bit NES and continued through modern times.
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Capcom’s Mega Man series was one of the best and most formative action franchises of the NES era, and it has inspired countless spin-offs and imitators. The original series still holds up for fans of old-school challenge, and some of the newer games have honored that legacy with their own twists. Mega Man has been mostly dormant lately, but the series is still easily accessible on modern platforms through the Mega Man Legacy Collection games and the (relatively) recent Mega Man 11. We decided to rank the entire mainline series. Read on to find out our pick for the best Mega Man game.
For more franchise rankings, check out our lists of the best Mario games, best Zelda games, and best Castlevania games. For Nintendo Switch game suggestions, we have roundups of the best Nintendo Switch games and best Switch games for kids.
Mega Man 10 was far from a bad game, but following shortly after the similar retro-revival Mega Man 9 made it feel less vital than it might have otherwise. That game had already done almost everything MM10 set out to do, with a classic NES-inspired visual style applied to an all-new set of Robot Masters. This game did have its unique charms though, like a playable Proto Man and later a playable Bass available as DLC. These characters weren’t a huge departure from Mega Man, but it was a nice treat for longtime fans.
Similar to Mega Man 10, MM6 came at the end of a cycle that had already been done. In the waning days of the NES, Capcom was starting to put out new Mega Man games so frequently that they were blending together. Mega Man 6 is the peak example of this, an unfortunate “also-ran” compared to the high highs of many of the other NES greats. Even the bosses felt largely recycled with familiar concepts like Blizzard Man, Flame Man, and Wind Man. (And the less said about the cringey Tomahawk Man the better.) The game’s biggest innovation was the Rush Adaptor, which made your faithful robo-canine less of a vehicle and more of a power-suit. But even then the basic functions weren’t all that different.
Mega Man’s lone appearance in the PlayStation era tried to modernize the formula, to mixed results. The presentation was bright and colorful, and it took advantage of the new hardware’s power to give Mega Man and the associated characters a slimmer makeover. The controls were tight and responsive as ever, though not quite as satisfyingly frenetic as the spin-off Mega Man X series, which had also migrated across generations. It also continued the divisive mechanic from Mega Man 7 of introducing the bosses in two sets of four instead of all eight at once, and the voice acting was just comically bad. Whoever knew that Dr. Light sounds so much like Elmer Fudd?
The first and only entry on the Super Nintendo was the first time Capcom took this iteration of the character out of the NES, and like his PlayStation upgrade, it was a qualified success. It was considered a little too similar to the previous NES games, especially since it came after the much more radical departure of the Mega Man X debut. By comparison, this Mega Man was squat and cartoonish, and didn’t have X’s array of power-up armor. On the whole, this was mostly a throwback to better games, though it does carry the distinction of introducing the fan-favorite characters Bass and Treble–evil doppelgangers for Mega Man and Rush.
After more than 10 years of the classic series laying dormant, Mega Man 9 was like a breath of fresh air for Mega Man fans. Though Mega Man 9 hews extremely closely to the NES formula, the long gap between games made this one feel more like a self-aware and referential romp than a simple retread. The stage design was not quite up to snuff with the very best of Mega Man, but it was a nice nostalgic way to revisit a beloved character. It also introduced Splash Woman, the first (and still only) female-coded Robot Master. Progress! Kinda.
Mega Man 5 might be the peak example of latter-day NES Mega Man, but it’s hard to deny that by this point, even the biggest fans of the Blue Bomber were starting to get tired. This game was mostly more of the same, keeping all of the power-ups and new abilities from the previous few games intact, with yet another round of vicious Robot Masters to defeat and take over. Its story helped further establish Proto Man as an ally as a nice callback to Mega Man 3. This is Mega Man at its most competent and middle of the road, which is why it lands in the middle of this list.
The OG. The very first Mega Man nailed down many of the gameplay concepts and mechanics that have remained throughout the entire series, including Mega Man’s basic move set and tricky platforming challenges, as well as the ability to inherit weapons from defeated bosses. Though Mega Man only featured six bosses instead of eight, as would become the norm throughout the rest of the series, its boss designs are more iconic than almost any others in the series. There’s a reason bosses like Guts Man and Cut Man have become recognizable story characters in TV and comic book adaptations. Capcom just nailed them from the start. At the same time, going back to this game before the company developed some of the fit-and-finish of later installments can be off-putting.
Mega Man 4 was arguably the point at which fatigue started to set in on the NES era, but it was also one of the best-made of its time. This was Capcom firing on all cylinders, mixing creative boss design like Skull Man and Toad Man with silky-smooth platforming. Stage elements like Toad Man’s howling rainstorm added more variety so no two stages felt exactly the same. And perhaps most significantly, this game added the Mega Buster, an upgraded version of Mega Man’s traditional arm cannon that can charge an extra-powerful blast. That ability was so immediately a hit that it would become a mainstay in all future Mega Man iterations, including spin-off series like Mega Man X and Battle Network.
The most recent Mega Man game took the concept of a retro throwback from Mega Man 9 and 10 and ran with it, introducing a more significant upgrade with a reverent but polished new visual style and a couple of new game mechanics. The look uses 3D models for the first time in the classic series, but after some stumbles and falls experimenting with 2.5D in the Mega Man X series, this one does it right. It feels as smooth as the pixel-based games ever did, and lighting effects make the characters look lively and animated. It also builds on Mega Man’s regular suite of powers with the ability to slow time or temporarily power up your weapons, giving some extra punch to the tricky platforming challenges and battles.
If you ask any true-blue Mega Man fan for the best original series game, most of them will say Mega Man 2. But some of them will say Mega Man 3, and there’s certainly an argument to be made. This is the Super Mario 3 vs Super Mario World of the Mega Man world, because both games are frankly fantastic. Mega Man 3 started to get downright weird with new boss concepts and unique powers. (Top Man? Really?) The bigger innovations were the introduction of Rush, the robot dog who took over for more generic platforming navigation items, and a slide maneuver that opened up new combat and platforming possibilities. It also recognized the greatness of its own previous game by including the Doc Robot boss stages, featuring bosses with the powers from Mega Man 2’s Robot Masters.
Mega Man 2 is widely regarded as the best Mega Man game of all time, often not just among the classic series, but all of the character’s assorted spin-offs. Though it lacks some of the later innovations like Rush, sliding, and the charged Mega Buster, the levels are so impeccably designed that you don’t even miss their absence. It wasn’t without its own innovations, though, as it’s the first Mega Man game to introduce an Energy Tank to refill health and a password system to pick up your progress where you left off. (This was before most cartridges had internal storage to save your game, so a password system was the next best thing for many NES games.) It has the most iconic boss designs next to the original Mega Man, and incredible, enduring music to match. If you can only play one Mega Man game, make it this one.
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