Top 10 Mega Man Games [Best Recommendations]

While Mega Man is generally associated with retro gaming, in a way, Mega Man never left. Okay, yes, Capcom still references Mega Man frequently and regularly puts out merchandise for the character. However, games today are still drawing quite a bit of influence from the Blue Bomber. With their high-octane action, twitch-based platforming, and giant screen-encompassing set pieces, Mega Man planted the seeds for the focus on instant gratification gaming that are being reaped today.

So, with that in mind, we thought it would be fun to rank the classic Mega Man games in order of influence, either in the overall scope of the franchise or on the video game industry as a whole. After all, Mega Man is still fun to play even today. Maybe take this list into consideration to decide which ones you’d like to replay?

10. Mega Man 10

  • System/Platform: Wii, Xbox 360, PS3
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developers: Inti Creates, Capcom
  • Release Date: March 1, 2010 (US)

If you’ve been to cons lately and seen any official Mega Man merch for sale, chances are it’s from Mega Man 10, the most recent entry. Keeping with the same retro pastiche as Mega Man 9, Capcom would continue to build upon what they did and include a third playable DLC character in Bass, who could use a dash maneuver like in Mega Man X and had rapid fire shots. If you want to play, however, make sure you download it to your Wii, 360, or PS3 before their respective manufacturers shut down the digital stores!

The reason why this one starts the list is because, frankly, it didn’t do much for the franchise. It’s largely an expansion to Mega Man 9, with its only stand-out feature being the Challenge rooms. These featured small rooms with simple but tough objectives to complete, adding a little more meat than just replaying the main game. It does also feature the return of branching paths, though, this time more as a choice for the player to try their hand at a different route in case the first you took was too tough for you. It’s a great game, no doubt, but these are fairly minor additions.


9. Mega Man 5

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: December 1992 (US)

Truth be told, there isn’t a lot that Mega Man 5 added to the franchise. Really, its biggest effect actually came from its development process. Rather than design the Robot Masters entirely internally, like previous Mega Man games, instead Capcom had a contest for fans to develop their own Robot Masters, and eight lucky winners would actually see their creation implemented in the final game! This was the beginning of the close, more personal relationship Capcom would develop with their fans over the years while implementing their input in the design process.

However, mechanically, Mega Man 5 does nothing new. Instead, it polishes what was established in Mega Man 4 to a diamond shine. For example, rather than simply having one or two levels with secret weaponry a la Mega Man 4, every level in Mega Man 5 has a letter to collect. Upon finding them all, you can unlock Mega Man’s bird buddy Beat, who will save you from falling into pits. This actually provides an incentive to revisit every level rather than just a select couple.


8. Mega Man 6

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom (JP), Nintendo (US)
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: March 1994 (US)

Amusingly, while Mega Man has become beloved for its retro look, Mega Man 6 was already looking pretty dated by the time it came out. You may notice in the description that it was released in 1993, which was actually two years into the SNES’s lifespan. Capcom actually decided against releasing the game overseas because of this, and it took Nintendo stepping in to even bring it to North America. It didn’t even see an official release in Europe until 2013, 20 years after the fact, thanks to a digital release on the 3DS!

While Mega Man 4 and 5 dabbled a little bit in mild exploration elements, 6 full-on embraces the level structure. There is generally at least one branching path in every level, which lead you to extra lives, more energy tanks, or even an alternate boss! These secret Robot Masters are exactly the same as they would be if you traveled the level normally, but if you fight all 4 secret battles, you’ll unlock a new, bulkier armor that doesn’t reach far but hits like a tank. This would also be the first time we’d see Mega Man experiment with different armor types, something the series would further explore in the Mega Man X franchise.


7. Mega Man 7

  • System/Platform: SNES, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Wii U, New 3DS
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: September 1995 (US)

One of only two games of the classic Mega Man series to not feature its iconic 8-bit art style, Mega Man 7 did a lot to refocus the franchise into being about character progression. See, Mega Man X had already been out for two years and was already more focused on fast-paced action. So, to differentiate itself from the rival series, the team behind Mega Man 7 chose to keep it at a more methodical pacing while including slightly more complex, open levels.

The result was akin to turning the series into an RPG more so than an action game. This isn’t to say the game turned into Dragon Quest or something, mind you, but the addition of collecting bolts to buy upgrades gave players a method to beat the game by grinding rather than forcing them to master the mechanics. Most interesting is the fact that all the upgrades you can buy, you can also find hidden in each of the levels. This added an interesting dynamic; less skilled players could save all the bolts they found and buy upgrades if they got sick of looking for them, while the dedicated, more adept players could be fully loaded without ever spending a single bolt.


6. Mega Man 8

  • System/Platform: Playstation, Sega Saturn, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: February 28, 1997 (US)

Often times, games are developed specifically to take advantage of the hardware. Here, in Mega Man 8, we see the advent of fully animated and voiced cutscenes, which gained some notoriety (try uttering the phrases “Jump, jump” or “Slide, slide” to someone who’s played and see what happens). Also, since Capcom could afford to implement a save system, being that the PS1 offered memory cards, they wouldn’t have to invest in pricey internal batteries for cartridges. This drastically changed what could be done with Mega Man.

Similar to Mega Man 7, you could find bolts strewn about each level that you could use to purchase permanent upgrades. However, the difference in this is that bolts were limited and hidden out of the way, so you could never afford all the various upgrades. This forced players to choose what they wanted very carefully, ensuring that everyone who played would have their own unique experience.


5. Mega Man 4

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: January 1992

Every long-running franchise at some point needs a transitional title: a game that attempts to adhere to the formula that made it popular in the first place, but also expands on what can be done with said formula. For Mega Man, that game is Mega Man 4. There isn’t much added to the core mechanics beyond the addition of the charge shot, which, to be fair, was a major addition. Having the option between quick-but-weak shots or waiting a bit to charge a stronger, larger blast added a bit more depth to the generally basic combat, even if the charge shot was generally the superior option.

However, there’s more to Mega Man 4’s additions than meets the eye. One of the biggest changes the series has ever seen was the ability to revisit old levels that you had beaten. Initially, this might not seem like a big deal, but what this did was open up the level design to include slightly branching paths and secret weapons, adding an element of exploration and optional character growth the series had never seen before, something that would get further expanded upon in all Mega Man titles, classic series or otherwise.


4. Mega Man

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: December 1987 (US)

The one that start it all! Despite this, though, it might be the one that least resembles the other original NES games. For example, it keeps your score, which was promptly dropped in the sequel, and only has 6 Robot Masters, making it significantly shorter than the other Mega Man titles. Plus, while classic Mega Man games are known for their difficulty, this one is especially punishing since you have to beat all four levels of Dr. Wily’s Castle with only 3 lives!

However, this is still the game that first showed the world the potential of the franchise. Even with only six levels, the idea that you could actually pick the order in which you played was revolutionary for the time. Get stuck on Guts Man’s tricky moving platforms? No problem. Just head over to Bomb Man’s stage and try your luck there. Plus, those who made it through all the different bosses would notice that certain weapons would make short work of them, popularizing the proud tradition of elemental weaknesses in video games.


3. Mega Man 3

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: November 1990 (US)

We can thank Mega Man 3 for the introduction of certain beloved characters. For example; Proto Man, Mega Man’s mysterious rival, first showed up here, popping in for a fight in the middle of certain levels. And while vehicle upgrades were nothing new to the franchise, the addition of Mega Man’s beloved robot dog Rush gave these vehicles more of a personality beyond just being tools. It’s not the game that got Mega Man his place in history, but it is the one that defined it as a franchise.

Of course, none of that would matter if the game was no good; but naturally, it expands upon what you find in Mega Man 2. One of the biggest additions was the slide maneuver, which gave Mega Man some much needed mobility options to at least move under low shots without being baited into a jump. Best of all, though, is how Mega Man 3 twists your expectations coming off the first two games. Just when you beat all eight levels and are about to start Dr. Wily’s Castle, the game reveals you have to revisit remixed versions of 4 of the stages in the game to fight all the bosses from Mega Man 2! It set the precedent that the game could mix up the formula at any time.


2. Mega Man 9

  • System/Platform: Wii, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Mobile
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: September 22, 2008

Intentionally retro-stylized games were pretty uncommon back in 2008. Producer Keiji Inafune must have thought that, in spite of newer versions and styles of Mega Man, fans still preferred the 8-bit look. It was a huge gamble for Capcom at the time, but it paid off. Mega Man 9 served as a reminder for an industry obsessed with pushing for high graphics and wow factor that there was still a lot we could learn from old design philosophies.

They also must have felt like Mega Man had become too bloated, as Mega Man 9 reduced the title character’s move set to running, shooting, and jumping. This helped the level designers focus on creating wild and imaginative concepts for levels, like the teleporters that launch you in the air in Galaxy Man’s stage, or the rotating cylinders in Tornado Man’s level that let you jump while upside down. Going back to the basics and bringing back the wow factor that made Mega Man 2 made for a fantastic ride.

It does, however, bring some modern updates. Mega Man 9 is the first in the series to incorporate achievements, giving it immense replayability. Also notable, is the addition of a second playable character in Proto Man as DLC, complete with his own unique moveset. The main game may only be as long as the NES games, but don’t be fooled; it’s got nearly endless play time.


1. Mega Man 2

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, Playstation 2, GameCube, Xbox, Mobile, Playstation 3, Wii, 3DS, Playstation 4, Xbox One
  • Publisher: Capcom
  • Developer: Capcom
  • Release Date: July 1989 (US)

This is it. The big one. We all know the quirks, like how Metal Blade destroys anything in its path, or how Air Man is impossible without the Leaf Shield (Note: actually untrue), or those awful one-hit kill lasers in Quick Man’s stage that trick you into wasting your Time Stopper just before you’d actually need it for the boss. The game is loaded with memorable little moments of gameplay that we can’t help but look back on fondly. So what is it that captivates us so much about this game?

Mega Man 2 is a game that is all about spectacle from an age of gaming that prided itself on functionality. Even today, the Mecha Dragon chasing you down the corridor at the end of Wily Stage 1 seems impressive due to how seamlessly it transitions into an auto-scrolling segment without you even realizing it. The battle itself is heart-stopping due to the sheer size of the beast and how you know that one misstep leads to falling into a pit. Or heck, how about interrupting levels with mid-bosses that are actually bigger than the Robot Masters themselves, like the fire spewing wolves in Wood Man’s stage?

But, even more so than just the battles, every moment is loaded with creativity. We may make fun of the constant reappearance of the disappearing blocks in Heat Man’s stage now, but when playing, it feels like an event due to how much they build it up beforehand, making sure you’re ready in a safe area before sending you off hopping across lava. Or in Air Man’s stage where the clouds in the foreground manage to actually block your own view. Maybe there have been bigger games since the NES days, but few have been so genuinely determined to wow us like Mega Man 2.


Final Thoughts

The Mega Man franchise is vast and perhaps a bit intimidating. With so many different subseries like Mega Man X, Battle Network, and Zero, it would be impossible to rank them all. Even this list is more about how the classic series managed to influence itself and the gaming world. So, please, if we’ve missed anything or you would just like to share your own favorite Mega Man games, let us know in the comments below!

Matt Knodle

Writer

Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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