While CAPCOM has unfortunately cancelled a few Mega Man projects, there are still plenty of excellent games in the series available. Actually, several of Mega Man’s greatest games are available on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console. To help you navigate those choices, we’ve made a special round-up feature.
Original Release: 1987
Wii Points: 500
Mega Man is the very first entry into the series. It introduced the basic gameplay that all later games built upon and has remained as an essential classic in the NES library. Unlike other 2D run-and-gun games like Contra, Mega Man was and is a mix of non-linear and linear game design. Players can tackle the six stages in any order, which gives each the opportunity to have a unique play through each time. At the end of each level is a powerful Robot Master enemy. Upon defeating a Robot Master, Mega Man will acquire his weapon, which can be used in later levels. The Robot Masters exist in a rock-paper-scissors relationship, which gives the game a distinct element of strategy. There are six main stages, followed by the incredibly difficult Dr. Wily’s castle.
Is it Worth Downloading? If you are new to the franchise, you may be better off downloading Mega Man 2 or Mega Man X first. It’s still a great game, but it falls short compared to the later entries. The sequels boast additional features, added levels, and improved balance. Still, the original game’s charms are worth a look. If you have the points to spare after checking out other Mega Man adventures, come back to this one. The especially grueling difficulty may turn off newcomers. The lack of a password option did make the game far more intimidating ages ago, but the Wii’s emulation feature lessen the blow (you can exit and resume the game at any point).
Mega Man 2
Original Release: 1989
Wii Points: 500
Mega Man 2 built on everything the original did and is easily the most recognizable and commonly praised game in the series. It set the standard for having eight levels instead of six and introduced a password system to save your progress (making it far more balanced and less punishing than the first game). It also introduced support items in addition to Robot Master weapons, which could be used to scale to new areas or skip over difficult terrain. The general gameplay is nearly identical to the first game, with abilities restricted to jumping and shooting.
Is it Worth Downloading? Yes, absolutely. Mega Man 2 is perhaps THE quintessential Mega Man game, at least in the classic series. It is the most commonly referred to game in the series, and even if it is concerned somewhat “overrated” by hardcore purists, it is still an excellent choice. The amazing soundtrack, fun and varied levels, and even tighter gameplay make it a great pick. The overpowered weapons are particularly a favorite point for fans.
Mega Man 3
Original Release: 1990
Wii Points: 500
Mega Man 3 arguably offered the most bang for your buck of any of the NES Mega Man titles. The third entry went above and beyond what its predecessors did, by not only offering eight robot master stages, but also by going back and letting you revisit alternate versions of the stages and having you face off against ALL of the bosses from Mega Man 2! Mega Man’s brother Proto Man was introduced as a rival (referred to as Break Man) and Rush, the faithful robot-canine, also made his debut. The run-and-gun style gameplay, the ability to take weapons from bosses, and the emphasis on platforming remained core to the experience and has only been tightened. The slide mechanic, not present in the past two games, also gives the player the option to duck under enemy fire, slip under tight passages, and get around more quickly than ever before.
Is it Worth Downloading? Yes, but it probably won’t be your first pick. Mega Man 3 is my personal favorite entry in the classic series. It lacks the undeniable mainstream appeal of Mega Man 2 but it is still charming and fun to play. The design is sloppier than its predecessor and the weapons are not as powerful or well-implemented, but the unique levels, excellent stage music and incredibly fun enemies make it an excellent choice to go with.
Mega Man 4
Original Release: 1992
Wii Points: 500
Mega Man 4 is where the series started to lose more mainstream appeal, but this entry remains as a solid and fun game even today. Like its immediate predecessor, MM4 has a slew of new features, including support items (the Balloon and Wire items) and the incredibly popular charge shot ability. This was the first time that Mega Man was given the ability to charge his weapon, which has gone on to become a fan-favorite element to the game. Unlike the previous three entries, the Robot Masters were not created by existing characters like Dr. Light or Dr. Cain, but instead by a new character named Dr. Cossack. By this time, the Mega Man canon had expanded and the games began to contain more story elements. Instead of a basic title screen, MM4 actually had an opening cutscene.
Is it Worth Downloading? While not as revered as the previous two entries… yes, this one too is worth a look. Mega Man 4 is one of the most underrated in the classic series. It features catchy stage tunes, excellent level designs, unique and goofy boss enemies, and the same fun, tough-as-nails 2D gameplay. If you are looking to get primed on the series and only have one choice, then you may be better off choosing another game. However, if you like what you see and want to come back for more, then Mega Man 4 is worthy of your points. One of the main draws of the game is the introduction of the Mega Buster charge shot, which has gone on to become a staple of the franchise and a fan favorite.
Mega Man 5
Original Release: 1992
Wii Points: 500
The series lost more steam and credibility with Mega Man 5. Release shortly after the fourth entry, this game was noticeably rushed. It still retained the slide mechanic and charge shot introduced in the third and fourth games respectively and it continued the emphasis on narrative set with the previous game. The opening cutscene reveals the villain to be Mega Man’s brother Proto Man, giving the game more drama (well, as much drama as a NES game could have). The same core mechanics have remained without much change, so by this time gamers and critics started to accuse the series of getting stale. It did introduce Beat as a new character (and as a support item after being unlocked) and it had some unique stage gimmicks.
Is it Worth Downloading? No. Mega Man 5 has its share of problems. The levels are sloppy and only a few are well-designed (Gravity man’s and Star Man’s levels are notable standouts). Most of the boss enemies are more ridiculous than fun and the weapons are almost useless except for a few situations. Enemies like Charge Man and Stone Man are both absolutely worthless. Also, several of the bosses are too easy to beat, making the game unbalanced. Most of the weapons lack the versatility and amusement of the previous games. The music is not as enjoyable or as catchy as previous games and even the core gimmicks have remained the same. The “bait and switch” style story is almost entirely ripped from MM4, complete with the two castle areas linked together one after another. Still, a “bad” Mega Man game is still a good game on its own. A few levels are unique and engaging, like Gravity Man’s stage with its flipped gravity zones and unique platforming sections (running on the ceiling never gets old). It should probably be the lowest on your priority list though.
Mega Man X
Original Release: 1994
Wii Points: 800
Mega Man X is not in the “classic” series like the previous entries, but rather, it is the start of a different set of games. MMX took the run-and-gun gameplay of the classic series, the ability to take boss weapons, and several key design elements (being ability to play stages in any order, etc), but took a radical new approach to it. Players now assumed the role of “X” instead of classic “Mega Man.” The narrative became more prominent and the colorful, fun worlds of the classic series gave way to darker and more dramatic characters and stories. The charge shot mechanic was retained, but X could also climb walls, giving the player a new range of movement options. It also dramatically altered the way the developers could structure levels. The player could also obtain armor upgrades (which grant additional abilities), life upgrades, and energy-storage items. Levels became bigger and even more non-linear, not to mention filled to the brim with secrets.
Is it Worth Downloading? Yes. If you can only pick one game, this one should definitely way heavily in your consideration. Mega Man 2 is considered the essential representative for the classic series, for better or worse, but Mega Man X is arguably the most critically acclaimed game in the entire franchise.