Let's get something straight: there is no such thing as a bad Mega Man game for the Nintendo. The six games released for the NES remain the gold standard for consistent quality.However, even among legends there can be only one champion! And that's what I hope to prove today.
VI: MEGA MAN 4
Mega Man 4 marked a major turning point for the franchise. After releasing one of the most difficult trilogies in the history of gaming, Capcom seemingly remembered that their main audience was comprised of young children. Consequently, this game became substantially more forgiving then its predecessors. Mega Man got a devastating charge shot and power ups became far more plentiful.
Depending on how much of a challenge you were willing to tolerate, this might have been where the series finally became approachable. However, for everyone who powered through the first three games, this installment really felt like Capcom was pulling its punches.
V: MEGA MAN 6
Like I said, Mega Man 4 marked a pretty major change in the Mega Man formula. However, that hardly means it was a bad formula. Mega Man 6 fully embraced the easier gameplay, and went crazy with it. Mega Man now had a jet-pack to fly around stages. He had a special power-armor to really lay down the hurt on any enemies unfortunate enough to get in his way. It even boasts some of the best music in the entire franchise!
The final 8-bit installment of Mega Man is a more than satisfying conclusion to this legendary series. Unfortunately, a strong ending isn't enough to put it over the earlier masterpieces.
IV: MEGA MAN 5
By now, it's pretty obvious that I'm giving the last three Mega Man titles a backseat to the earlier entries. Part of this is because of the changes in gameplay, but another reason is that they just aren't as important to gaming history. They are all brilliant, pixelated masterpieces, but they are ultimately only a product of the original games' legacy. They stand on the shoulders of giants, and sadly, it detracts from their otherwise sterling merits.
That said, Mega Man 5 is my favorite of the bunch.
The charge shot was a pretty huge change introduced in 4, but 5 was the only game to really capitalize on it. So much of this game is designed around how well you can time powering up that one weapon. The fact that you could actually beat this game using almost nothing but your default weapon actually added a ton of depth to the game's core mechanics. It encouraged players to master one play-style instead of dabbling in 8, like the previous games. It's refreshingly different, while still retaining all of the most familiar elements of the original games.
III: MEGA MAN
Alright, half way there! So considering how rose-tinted my nostalgia goggles are for the original trio of Mega Man games, you'd probably think the one that started it all would top my list. Wrong! Mega Man is a milestone in gaming history, and the origin of its franchise. But, the best game made for the Nintendo? Absolutely not!
Like most NES series, Mega Man games would become increasingly refined in later installments. Mega Man is an undeniable classic, but it's a little rough around the edges. The smooth implementation of your unique abilities would be far better utilized in its sequels. It's a fun, but bumpy ride from beginning to end.
II: MEGA MAN 3
Mega Man 3 is the game that saved the franchise. Bear with me on this one. 3 introduced us to Proto Man, as well as flesh out the history between Mega Man's creator Dr Light and his eternal nemesis: Dr Wiley. It actually tried to bring some real story elements into a pretty uninspired world. And while that may not seem like much, it sowed the seeds for Mega Man games to become more complex entities, both in narrative and mechanics. If you liked anything that came out of the later Mega Man games and spin offs, you can thank Mega Man 3 for making them possible.
But, if that's not enough for you, I think you'll agree that it's stellar graphics, killer soundtrack, and awesome bosses are all a little better than those in the first game. In fact, as far as I'm concerned there's only one Mega Man title that had better...
I: MEGA MAN 2
Are you even surprised this is taking my top spot? Mega Man 2 may just be the greatest sequel in the history of gaming. It took the original Mega Man's great foundation and revised it to near perfection. Every stage feels just as the unique and inspired as the incredible music and enemies that populate them. And on the subject of music, chances are if there's a tune that goes through your head when you think of Mega Man, it's from this game. Pretty much every track in Mega Man 2 is pure gold.
Additionally, every skill Mega Man acquires has been meticulously accounted for, so that each attack has a variety of uses. And mastering each will be necessary if you want any hope of completing this game. Mega Man 2 is tough. Unforgivingly tough. But, not in a cheap or unfair way. It's a test of your reflexes and skill that demands you take it seriously. In short, it's everything that was great about the games which defined the Nintendo generation. A must-own for anyone who loves games, and easily the greatest Mega Man game ever released for the NES!
Do you agree with my rankings? Post your rebuttals in the comments! I'd love to hear why you think my list is not the perfect list.
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