Mega Man is one of the most enduring characters in gaming. He’s also one of the most prolific. In the character’s 30-year history, he has starred in over 50 different video games. There are no fewer than seven different series of Mega Man games, each of varying quality. That’s not even counting the occasional foray into fighting games, racing, or soccer.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the Blue Bomber, Capcom announced that Mega Man would return for another main installment in Mega Man 11. It’s a return to the franchise’s fast-paced side-scrolling gameplay that celebrates Mega Man’s legacy while also looking toward the future.
With dozens of titles, it can be hard to pick out the Mega Man games that are actually worth your time. Den of Geek has picked the absolute best 25 Mega Man games of all time:
25. Mega Man 6
1994 | Capcom | NES
Many fans would say that the NES Mega Man games have yet to be topped, but virtually no one argues for Mega Man 6. To put it simply, Capcom seemed to phone this one in. None of the music or stages are particularly memorable, and the developers seemed to scrape the very bottom of the barrel for bosses like Plant Man and Yamato Man (whatever a Yamato is). That being said, the gameplay is still tight, and actually holds up better than some of Capcom’s later experiments with Mega Man, like the poorly executed Network Transmission or the later X games.
24. Mega Man 5
1992 | Capcom | NES
Mega Man 5 is another NES game that many fans seem to look down on. Admittedly, it doesn’t have the classic music or robot masters of the second, third, or even fourth game, but it makes up for this with some legitimately fresh ideas like reversing gravity on Gravity Man’s stage and putting Mega Man in a submarine ahead of the boss fight with Wave Man. Some fans still knock it for being the easiest NES game, but considering how brutally difficult many Mega Man games can be, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
23. Mega Man ZX
2006 | Capcom | DS
Mega Man ZX built on the success of the Game Boy Advance’s Mega Man Zero series and put players in the role of biometals based on both Z and X (plus others later). This is one of the deepest Mega Man games released, and among the best looking thanks to the power of the DS. It’s also one of the most unforgiving titles in the entire series, and a confusing map system doesn’t really help. Maybe that’s why the ZX series never really took off after the sequel, Advent.
22. Mega Man 9
2008 | Capcom | PS3, Wii, X360
The return of the original Mega Man series after a 12-year absence was welcome news. Even more exciting was the fact that it was based on the beloved Mega Man 2, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. Mega Man 9 definitely captured the spirit of the first couple games, but in other ways felt kind of lacking. Sliding and the charge buster are sorely missed at times. And those omissions do tend to make the game much harder to the point that some stages feel downright cruel.
21. Mega Man 10
2010 | Capcom | PS3, Wii, X360
Maybe Capcom just needed one game to shake off the rust from the series. While mostly similar to its predecessor, everything from the music to the level design just feels a little bit better than its 9. It still suffers from some of the same problems, like a lack of innovation and excessive difficulty, but not to the same extent as Mega Man 9. Plus, you can play as both Proto Man and Bass.
20. Mega Man X Command Mission
2004 | Capcom | GCN, PS2
Aside from the Battle Network series, Mega Man has largely avoided RPGs, which seems rather odd considering how solid Command Mission is. It’s honestly a pretty generic JRPG in Mega Man X clothes, but design input from Capcom’s Breath of Fire team at least elevated the combat to be slightly more interesting. The change in genre also means it’s among the easiest Mega Man games out there. Most gamers will be able to whiz through the story in about 20 hours.
19. Mega Man Legends
1997 | Capcom | PSX, N64
Despite Mega Man’s age, the series has only dabbled in 3D occasionally with mixed results. Most fans hate what the X series has done with 3D, while Legends is now considered a classic. Maybe it’s the many tweaks Capcom made. With its cutscenes, towns, and upgrades, Mega Man Legends feels more like a Legend of Zelda game than a traditional Mega Man game. It’s just a shame that Capcom seems to have abandoned this subseries.
18. Mega Man ZX Advent
2007| Capcom | DS
Like all Mega Man sequels, Advent is more of an evolution than a revolution. There are more transformations, a much better map system, and overall higher production values, but the action platforming gameplay remains largely the same. Maybe Capcom could have built this subseries up into something really special with another sequel or two, but with more than a decade since this game, it looks like the ZX series has been confined to the scrap heap.
17. Mega Man 8
1997 | Capcom | PSX, SAT
The eighth title in the original Mega Man series is a little controversial among fans. Thanks to its debut on 32-bit consoles, it’s easily the best looking Mega Man game (at least until 11 comes out next year), but the inclusion of anime-inspired FMVs really turned off a lot of players. And even though the game looks phenomenal, it plays almost identically to the previous seven games in the series. Mega Man 8 had the potential to be one of the very best Mega Man games, but its inability to do anything new with the formula kept it somewhere among the middle of the pack.
16. Mega Man 7
1995 | Capcom | SNES
After pumping out six titles on the NES, Capcom released a single lonely title in the original Mega Man series on the Super Nintendo. The transition to a new platform made the game look significantly better than its predecessors. It also added collectibles known as bolts to buy upgrades, which brought some much-needed depth to the series. Still, these changes couldn’t help the fact that the franchise was getting a little tired at this point, and Capcom seemed to be focusing more of its efforts on the Mega Man X series, which saw much greater popularity in the ‘90s.
15. Mega Man Battle Network
2001 | Capcom | GBA
Battle Network may have been Capcom’s most ambitious Mega Man series. Rather than build on the storyline of the previous games, this RPG series is set in an all-new world in which every aspect of daily life revolves around the internet. You control both a boy in this world, Lan, and his avatar, MegaMan.EXE. Combat is completely overhauled, requiring both fast reflexes and strategy to get through the game’s numerous random tactical battles. Battle Network had five more sequels on the Game Boy Advance, and while it’s great to play through them all if the story hooks you, none ever quite matched the innovation of the first game.
14. Mega Man & Bass
1998 | Capcom | Super Famicom
Mega Man & Bass is an odd game. It has the same graphical style as Mega Man 8, which was released on the original Playstation and the Sega Saturn, yet it was exclusive to the Super Famicom. Originally, it was only released in Japan, and when it did finally come to North America five years later it was ported to the Game Boy Advance. It was also the first game in the main series to add a second playable character. Despite its odd lineage, Mega Man & Bass is widely adored by fans for its changes to the formula, and for quite possibly being the most difficult title to star the original Blue Bomber.
13. Mega Man V
1994 | Capcom | Game Boy
Back in the ‘90s, Capcom released a series of handheld Mega Man games. Each title was largely based on the NES games, but would include bosses from two of those games. For example, the first Game Boy game featured robot masters both from Mega Man and Mega Man 2. All that changed with the final game in the series, though. Capcom introduced eight all new robot masters, the Stardroids, who are based on the planets in the solar system. Add in a robot cat pal, Tango, and this is the long lost 8-bit Mega Man game you never knew you needed to play.
12. Mega Man X3
1995 | Capcom | PSX, SAT, SNES
The third X game didn’t pack quite the punch of the first two, but it did finally add the ability to play as Zero, and for that alone it’s fondly remembered by many Mega Man fans. But if you’re going to check this one out, make sure to play the SNES version. The 16-bit soundtrack fits the game much better than the CD-quality atrocity included in the Playstation and Saturn versions. That’s the version that was included in the Mega Man X Collection, released on the Gamecube and PS2 in 2006. Hopefully Capcom at least includes both versions in the next X collection, due in 2018.
11. Mega Man Zero
2002 | Capcom | GBA
Despite their difficulty, the Mega Man games are largely pretty cheerful, even utopian affairs. Even when they’re attacking you, robots have a friendly, cartoony quality. That’s not the case in Mega Man Zero, though. Set centuries after the X games, Zero now aids a resistance against an evil copy of X, gleefully slashing all who stand in his way with his Z-Saber. Mega Man Zero is seen as a particularly challenging entry in the series, and making it the most difficult Mega Man game was among the developer’s goals. Thankfully, smart use of the cyber elf system, which can slow down enemies and reduce boss health among a variety of other functions, makes finishing the game much more manageable.
10. Mega Man
1987 | Capcom | NES
The very first Mega Man game is a bit of an outlier. For one, it only features six robot masters instead of the usual eight. There’s also a largely meaningless scoring system that hasn’t shown up in any other game since. Finally, there’s the legendarily bad box art, featuring a gun-wielding middle-aged man in golden pajamas. But you’ll still find the building blocks of eventual greatness here. The level design still holds up as some of the best in the series, as do the bosses. And even though it’s rarely mentioned, there are some great songs on the soundtrack, particularly from the Guts Man and Cut Man stages. While Mega Man is mostly remembered for laying the groundwork for the truly great games, it’s a classic title in its own right.
9. Mega Man Powered Up
2006 | Capcom | PSP
Powered Up was Capcom’s attempt to bring the original Mega Man game more in line with its sequels with an-all new chibi art-style and the inclusion of two brand new robot masters. But the really exciting additions to this remake are the ability to play as defeated robot masters and create your own levels. Sadly, Powered Up was only released on the PSP when the install base was especially low. Critical response was great, but sales were extremely poor, leading Capcom to cancel a proposed sequel and forever leave Mega Man fans wondering about the remakes that could have been.
8. Mega Man Legends 2
2000 | Capcom | GBA
The second (and so far final) Legends game fixed every issue players had with the first game. The world was larger, quests were more involved, and the new mini-games and assist characters made the game feel deeper than ever. Legends seemed poised to be Capcom’s next big franchise, and then the company just dropped it. A third title in the series was announced for the 3DS in 2010, but Capcom infamously canceled it due to perceived lack of interest from fans. Make no mistake though, a lot people would be very, very interested in Mega Man Legends 3.
7. Mega Man Zero 3
2004 | Capcom | GBA
All four of the Mega Man Zero games are excellent, but the third title is often seen as the pinnacle of the series. Cyber Elves were re-tooled to give a constant boost to Zero with fewer drawbacks, while customization chips let players outfit Zero with abilities that best fit their playstyle. It’s an easy-to-learn update that doesn’t lean too far toward oversimplification like the changes in Mega Man Zero 4. And while Mega Man Zero 3 is a challenging game, it’s a little less frustrating than the first two Zero titles.
6. Mega Man X
1993 | Capcom | SNES
After six games on the NES that saw few differences between them, the first Mega Man X brought the innovation that the series badly needed. Of course, the game looked much better on the SNES, but it also played faster thanks to the additions of a dash, the ability to climb up walls, and upgradeable capsules. And the soundtrack still stands out as one of the best of the 16-bit era. Some of the later X titles featured some odd design choices that made them a chore to play, but you really can’t go wrong with the original.
5. Mega Man X4
1997 | Capcom | PSX, SAT
Though it hobbled along for four more entries (so far), Mega Man X4 is easily the last great game in the X subseries. While Zero was more or less an extra life in the previous game, he was a fully playable character here, effectively doubling the length of the game so you could play as both X and Zero. And the transition to the 32-bit consoles made X4 look much better than the first three games in the series. How Capcom screwed up the subsequent games so badly will forever be a mystery.
4. Mega Man 4
1992 | Capcom | NES
Some gamers argue that Mega Man 4 was the beginning of a decline in the original series. The ability to charge up the mega buster fundamentally changed how the title was played. Some might say that it broke the game. Replaying Mega Man 4 now, the charged up mega buster feels like an evolution the series needed. And it’s a natural addition when taking on memorable bosses like Skull Man, Pharaoh Man, and Dust Man (who has one of the best stage themes in the whole franchise). The original series may have gone downhill after this fourth entry, but part 4 still stands out as one of the best games the franchise has to offer.
3. Mega Man X2
1994 | Capcom | SNES
For whatever reason, Capcom seems to need a warm up game in a series before making a truly classic title. Street Fighter II? Resident Evil 2? Marvel vs. Capcom 2? A lot of people loved the originals, but the sequels are what cemented the legacy of these franchises. Mega Man X2 is no exception to this rule. As great as the first X game was, the sequel improves on it in every way, with bigger levels, better enemy designs, and the inclusion of 3D graphics throughout.
2. Mega Man 3
1990 | Capcom | NES
First, Mega Man 3 has what’s quite possibly the best opening theme in all of gaming, even 27 years later. Every stage brought something new to the table, and robot masters like Shadow Man, Snake Man, and Gemini Man are easily among the best in the entire series. And just when you think you’re done, all eight of the robot masters from Mega Man 2 show up before the final fight with Dr. Wily. Add in the debuts of the slide mechanic and Mega Man’s loyal dog, Rush, and it’s easy to see why Mega Man 3 remains one of the very best games in the franchise.
1. Mega Man 2
1988 | Capcom | NES
Mega Man 2 isn’t just the finest Mega Man game ever made, it’s one of the best video games ever created. All eight of the game’s robot masters are iconic, and their levels are among the most innovative and memorable of the NES era. Then there’s the Mecha Dragon boss in Dr. Wily’s castle, another all-time favorite from the golden age of 8-bit gaming. And who could forget the music? Every single level’s theme is distinctive and still holds up 30 years later. It’s like each track seems to perfectly match what you’re doing in a given level. Yes, it’s a challenging game, but unlike many later Mega Man games, it never feels unfair. Mega Man 2 can be conquered with skill, and finally beating it still feels like a real accomplishment all these years later.