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Best Overall: Mega Man 2 at Amazon
"One of the greatest side-scrolling action games of all time."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Mega Man 3 at Amazon
"Added some truly unique features, such as the Blue Bomber’s sliding ability and his faithful doggo Rush."
Best Pure Action: Mega Man at Amazon
"Features six Robot Master stages you can play in any order."
Best Challenge: Mega Man 9 at Amazon
"Even the lowest of three difficulty levels tests your skills."
Best Variety: Mega Man 10 at Amazon
"A thoroughly enjoyable side-scrolling campaign stuffed with awesome content."
Best Sleeper Hit: Mega Man 8 at Amazon
"With multiple weapons on-screen at once, you can tactically combine abilities to conquer bosses in new ways."
Best Spin-Off: Mega Man X at Amazon
"Brought a new splash of color and better animations into the fray."
Best Non-platforming Spin-Off: Mega Man Battle Network 3 at Amazon
"Battle Network 3 is a legitimate gem from the GBA era."
Mega Man 2 is playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection.
It’s weird to consider the fact that the Mega Man franchise could have very well died after the original delivered lackluster sales figures. Developers at Capcom worked on Mega Man 2 while balancing other projects that the business side found more enamoring. If it wasn’t for the team’s dedication to their vision, we wouldn’t have Mega Man 2 or possibly Mega Man game since. Thank goodness Mega Man 2 came to life, then, as it remains one of the greatest side-scrolling action games of all time and the best Mega Man game overall.
A refined successor to the original, Mega Man takes place a year after the Blue Bomber downed Dr. Wily for the first time. That pesky Wily returns with eight Robot Masters in tow. Each of their themed levels shines thanks to clever platforming challenges, tricky minions, and a boss fight that tests both your command of mechanics and ingenuity. Even after numerous playthroughs, new strategies and workarounds reveal themselves. The new passcode save system and introduction of Energy Tanks are also welcome additions.
Mega Man 2 is pure action gaming goodness on NES, complete with fun power-ups, tough bosses, and stage design that feels next level, even today — more than 30 years later.
In fact, many of the best new video games in 2019 wouldn't exist without Mega Man 2.
Mega Man 3 is playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection.
On the heels of Mega Man 2’s success, Capcom released Mega Man 3 for NES two years later. While Mega Man 3 added some truly unique features, such as the Blue Bomber’s sliding ability and his faithful doggo Rush, it wasn’t quite as impressive from a design perspective as Mega Man 2.
In motion, Mega Man 3 feels extremely similar to its predecessor. Even the weapons resemble those earned in Mega Man 2. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but Mega Man 3 never quite develops its own identity. The Robot Master levels are mostly well-designed, but at times, glitches and unbalanced sections leave your fate to chance. Perhaps fittingly, Mega Man 3 has "remixed" the bosses from Mega Man 2. This fun addition further highlights how astounding Mega Man 2 really was, while adding additional value to Mega Man 3.
Mega Man 3 is without a doubt a wonderful side-scroller, one that added systems and mechanics we’ve come to know in love in the mainline games. Mega Man 2 cast a long shadow, and Mega Man 3 couldn’t escape it despite its admirable, memorable attempts.
The original Mega Man is playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection.
There’s nothing quite like origin stories. 1987’s Mega Man brought side-scrolling action to the NES that felt more dynamic and choice-driven than we’d seen before. For that, Mega Man wholeheartedly earns a spot on this list. More than a nostalgia trip, Mega Man still holds up today.
Mega Man features six Robot Master stages you can play in any order and a seventh, super long stage in which you fight a series of new bosses in addition to all the previously conquered Robot Masters. Since each boss drops a power-up that can be supremely useful in other stages, deciding who to tackle at any one time is a process of trial and error. Unlike other side scrollers of the time, Mega Man’s difficulty doesn’t ramp up — it’s there from the beginning, forcing you to become adept with your Buster and earn power-ups on the fly.
Yes, the original Mega Man has less content than its successors, not to mention the scoring system is completely useless, but the stages are great and the boss battles are epic.
Mega Man 9 is playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2.
After a 12-year hiatus, Mega Man returned in Mega Man 9 for PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii in 2008. Brilliantly, Capcom chose to go back to the Blue Bomber's origins, modeling Mega Man 9 after an NES game. The result was an experience tailor-made for longtime fans.
Mega Man 9 features eight Robot Master levels, Wily’s Castle, and a DLC boss (thanks modern gaming). What’s striking about Mega Man 9 is just how demanding the platforming sequences and boss battles are compared to even the earliest Mega Man games. Mega Man 9 offers the most rigorous challenge in the series to date and gets even more trying if you choose to pursue the 50 optional challenge conditions or go speedrunning in Time Attack mode. Even the lowest of three difficulty levels tests your skills.
Though Mega Man 9 dropped the sliding maneuver, you can play as Proto Man, who can not only slide but has a number of other quirks that significantly alter the feel of the campaign, arguably making Mega Man 9 even harder. Mega Man 9 both captures the nostalgia of the excellent early entries in the series and delivers a brand new experience more than worthy of the Mega Man name.
Mega Man 10 and all of its DLC are playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2.
After the rousing success that was Mega Man 9, Capcom returned with Mega Man 10 two years later. Like its predecessor, Mega Man 10 used 8-bit visuals and sounds to relive Mega Man’s glory days. And once again, Capcom delivered a thoroughly enjoyable side-scrolling campaign stuffed with awesome content.
In addition to the eight, expertly designed Robot Master levels, Mega Man 10 has 88 bite-sized levels in its Challenge mode. Keeping with the name, these little tests of skill are no joke. Better yet, Mega Man 10 has three playable characters, incorporating both Proto Man and Bass, each of whom drastically change the feel of the game. But the coolest part of Mega Man 10 are the DLC special stages. The trio of levels are inspired by the underrated and often forgotten Mega Man Game Boy games.
Mega Man 10 isn’t quite as challenging as Mega Man 9 on the default settings, but tweaking the difficulty can create a brutal test of wits and fortitude.
Mega Man 8 is playable in the Mega Man Legacy Collection 2.
An underappreciated gem in series history, Mega Man 8 for the original PlayStation brought 32-bit visuals and a slew of modernized mechanics. Though uneven in places and home to some of the worst voice acting in games, Mega Man 8 offers a unique take on the storied franchise.
Mega Man 8 presents four Robot Masters to the player at first. Once defeated, the remaining four unlock. You can tackle the two groups of four in any order, but Mega Man 8 is certainly more forgiving, as it limits you at first. This forgiveness translates to the rest of the gameplay, which is some of the easiest in the mainline games. The colorful 32-bit visuals further invite you into the world.
The best aspect of Mega Man 8 — and the main reason it's on this list — is the weapons system. With multiple weapons on-screen at once, you can tactically combine abilities to conquer bosses in new ways and make your way through the platforming sections. At Dr. Light’s lab, you have to make critical decisions on what to purchase and add to your arsenal.
More breezy than some other mainline games on this list, Mega Man 8 has a novel sense of style that remains quite charming today.
Mega Man X is playable in the Mega Man X Legacy Collection.
We’re incredibly thankful that Dr. Thomas Light invented X, the robot hero leading the way in the Mega Man X sub-series. The debut game in the sub-series, Mega Man X, remains an absolute wonder today. As the first 16-bit Mega Man game, Mega Man X brought a new splash of color and better animations into the fray, along with a bunch of new abilities made possible by X’s hardware.
Retaining the same core side-scrolling gameplay from the mainline series, Mega Man X feels pretty similar to the numbered entries. The main difference is X’s ability to scale walls and dash. These may sound like small additions, but the levels have far more interesting platforming elements because of them. A fairly robust upgrade system can increase X’s defense and attack numbers.
Mega Man X is a less rigid way to play Mega Man. It still has a pretty steep learning curve and the Robot Masters are a colossal challenge to overcome, but this is Mega Man for those who want more varied platforming and level design.
The Game Boy Advance was home to a myriad of classics. Case in point: The Mega Man Battle Network series. Part action RPG, part card battler, Mega Man Battle Network is radically different than the mainline games. Though not all of the Battle Network games impressed, Mega Man Battle Network 3 is a legitimate gem from the GBA era.
When in battle, you use a deck of Battle Chips to attack enemies across a grid-based playing field. Rife with tactical strategy, Mega Man Battle Network 3 has some of the most engaging and unique gameplay on Game Boy Advance. Outside of battle, you explored the overworld from an isometric perspective and advanced the silly (but fun) story.
There’s a Pokémon-esque collecting loop in play with the Battle Chips, one that is at its best in Battle Network 3. You can even trade Battle Chips and square off against other players. Mirroring Pokémon release models, Battle Network 3 has two versions, Blue and White. If you’re interested in trying this sublime and utterly original Mega Man game, grab the Blue version, which is widely regarded as the best.