What’s the best Classic Mega Man Game?
I’m so excited to say that Mega Man is finally back.
Ever since Mega Man Legends 3 was canceled in 2011, it seemed as if the Blue Bomber was being retired for good by Capcom. But now, 7 years and one failed spiritual successor later, we’re getting tons of new Mega Man stuff and a new game in the Classic Mega Man series! Heck, Capcom is rolling out so much red carpet for our boy in blue that they’ve put out a limited solid gold figure for $21,667. I mean… did Mega Man get equipped with Microsoft Stock after taking on Bill Gates Man?
Regardless, for the first time in years, it seems Mega Man has a bright future ahead of him. But as we enter into this new era of the Blue Bomber’s life, there’s never been a better time to revisit the past as well. Let’s count down all the Classic Mega Man games and see which one comes out on top.
10: Mega Man
The original Mega Man being at the bottom of this list is actually a compliment. No game series should peak with its first title, after all. Mega Man successfully established the series’ formula of taking the powers of robot masters in a non-linear fashion, and every subsequent game has built on that foundation.
Honestly, Mega Man is still a pretty good game! It’s a bit rough around the edges, and bosses like the Yellow Devil ruined many a childhood back in the day. But still, it’s a fun playthrough that was leaps and bounds ahead of its time back in 1987.
9: Mega Man 7
Mega Man 7 is the Classic Mega Man series’ sole SNES title, so it brings a lot of new content to the table. The graphics are cartoony and vibrant, fan favorite rival Bass is introduced, and Mega Man can now collect bolts to purchase upgrades. On its own merits, Mega Man 7 is a good game with a lot of charm.
The biggest problem with Mega Man 7 is that it’s hard not to compare it with Mega Man X, which came out two years prior and is still one of the best games ever made. Even compared to the NES games, Mega Man 7‘s large sprites make the screen feel more cramped than before. It’s as if Mega Man 7 couldn’t decide whether it was a Classic style Mega Man or something totally new. Once you get past all that, you’ll have a great time with Mega Man 7. Well, at least until that final Wily battle, which I can only assume was designed by a Mettaur bashing its head against a keyboard.
8: Mega Man 4
Mega Man 4 is the game that introduced the charge shot to the series. And if we’re being honest, I’m not a huge fan of the charge shot.
It’s a fine mechanic, I just don’t like it more than the games without it. The biggest issue is that the games have had trouble balancing the charge shot to be appropriately powered while still making the robot master weapons useful. The fact that the charge sound usually drowns out the series’ iconic music is a negative too.
To me, Mega Man 4 is the series low point in terms of robot masters and level design. But in the end, it makes up for all of that with a heck of a lot of polish and the rock solid controls that has defined the Classic Mega Man series to this point. It’s still a good game, possibly even great if you like what the charge shot adds.
7: Mega Man 5
Mega Man 5 is often considered a low point in the series. To me, it’s underrated.
It’s not near the top titles or anything, but it’s a fun and breezy playthrough all the same. There’s some fun stage gimmicks at play here, and even some of the music is distinct compared to other games in the series.
The game is pretty easy overall, and the robot masters are kind of lame with easy to predict patterns. Yet despite these things, Mega Man 5 is a lot of fun.
6: Mega Man 6
Mega Man 6 was one of the last games ever released for the NES, so it can be easy to treat it like a weak cash in. After all, the SNES is already out, why not put in the effort to make a game for the new hardware?
Still, you got to hand it to them, Mega Man 6 at least tried some new things. There’s more of a focus on exploration this time around, with alternate boss paths that you’ll need to find to unlock bird companion Beat. To facilitate this, Rush takes the form of alternate armor sets that dramatically change the way Mega Man plays. Both the Jet Armor and Power Armor at a ton of fun to use, and they help give Mega Man 6 its own unique identity.
Everything other aspect of the game is pretty standard for the Classic Mega Man series. In other words, it was good without its gimmicks, and a joy to play with them.
5: Mega Man 8
Mega Man 8 is a different kind of Mega Man game. It’s slow paced, the music is atmospheric, and many robot master weapons feel specifically designed for exploration. But despite its differences, the whole game comes together to feel really fun and cohesive on its own.
I really like how they took the strengths of Mega Man 7 and refined them for 8. The gorgeous graphics and animations no longer consume too much of the screen’s real estate. Bolts are better balanced and cleverly hidden in the stages. And speaking of stages, it’s a lot of fun to replay them with boss weapons equipped to see what secrets you can uncover. While the X series was veering in the direction of high intensity action, Mega Man 8 finally established a new formula for the Classic Mega Man series.
It’s unfortunate that another game was never made in the style of Mega Man 8. But in a way, that makes Mega Man 8 much more special today. And for the record, the hilariously bad voice acting just makes the game even better.
4: Mega Man 10
Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 were games that pioneered the “retro revival” that is so prevalent today in gaming. As two games that reinvented the wheel by going back to the series’ 8 bit roots, they proved that sometimes the best way forward is to take a step back.
Mega Man 10 certainly has its faults. The music is a bit hit or miss (though some tracks are still absolute bangers), and the robot master weapons are honestly kind of useless. But that’s made up for with super tight controls and rock solid level design. Honestly, it’s amazing that the 10th game in a series could still pull off level gimmicks that haven’t been used yet, but here we are.
Thanks to the inclusion of an Easy Mode and multiple playable characters, Mega Man 10 ironically is just as good for newbies as it is series vets. If this one passed you by in 2010, make sure you give it a shot.
3: Mega Man 3
It’s amazing to think that Mega Man 3 was rushed onto store shelves before it was ready. Because despite its rough edges, Mega Man 3 is still an incredible game.
Mega Man 3 introduced sliding to Mega Man’s move set, and you can tell the game was designed carefully around this move in mind. Robot masters attack fiercer than ever to necessitate a speed boost, or you’ll want to dodge attacks by sliding under bosses instead of jumping over them. It’s all tightly crafted, and the accompanying levels make for some memorable set pieces too.
Also, can we just talk about the music here? Because the title theme and Protoman’s theme have got to be some of the best compositions to exist on the NES. It’s no wonder the Mega Man 3 album by The Megas was so good.
2: Mega Man 2
No nonsense, no filler, just excellent jump and shoot gameplay. That’s Mega Man 2 in a nutshell.
It’s hard to explain why Mega Man 2 is often considered the best game in the Classic Mega Man series any other way. There’s not a lot of crazy gimmicks in the level design, but everything is just so good. The level design, the robot masters, everything is just solid throughout. Mega Man 2 might not be the longest game in the series, but it’s easy to see why its one of the most fun games to replay and speed run.
It’s not all perfect, of course. Like why is there a boss in Wily’s Castle that you are helpless against if you don’t use your crash bombs exactly right? And why are the Metal Blades the most destructive weapon in the history of gaming? Still, these are minor complaints in the long run. Plus, just like how Mega Man 3 had some amazing tracks, the soundtrack of Mega Man 2 is just as good from start to finish. It’s easy to see how tracks like Wily Stage 1 have been covered numerous times and basically inspired the entire Chiptune genre.
1: Mega Man 9
Yes, I know that dethroning Mega Man 2 or Mega Man 3 from the top spot can almost be considered blasphemy among Mega Man fans. But it’s been almost a decade since Mega Man 9 came out, and after replaying it over and over, I need to listen to my heart here. Mega Man 9 is the absolute pinnacle of the Classic series.
Every part of Mega Man 9 ranks with the best Classic Mega Man games. The levels, the music, the bosses, it’s all golden from start to finish. But even then, Mega Man 9 still rises above the top of the pack by giving us one of the best weapon sets that the series has ever seen. Seriously, every power you get from the robot masters has a unique and useful purpose. Figuring out how to best navigate Mega Man 9‘s levels with your available tools keeps the game fresh and fun well into your 20th, even 30th playthrough. I’m serious, it’s that good.
As a cherry on top, Mega Man 9 has one of gaming’s best sets of achievements ever. While some are for masochists only (trust me, I tried to beat the game without getting damaged), all the others really help you dissect the game and appreciate how carefully crafted every screen is. Trust me, even if you don’t get 100% completion, you’ll want to replay the game to take out some of these challenges.
If you had asked me prior to Mega Man 9 if a retro reboot could actually surpass the games that inspired it, I would have laughed and given a snarky “yeah, no way.” But Mega Man 9 is definitive proof that a new team can come together and craft an experience that’s just as good, if not better than the gems of the past. With this in mind, I have a lot of hope for Mega Man 11. A new era of Mega Man is upon else, and it’s clear to see the series can still become even better than it ever was.