Ranking Mega Mans 1 -7

1. Mega Man II – Easily one of the Top 10 video games of all time, Mega Man II is flawless. The boss design is flawless, the weapon and item designs are flawless, and the levels and enemies are designed flawlessly around said weapons and items. Also benefits from having the best soundtrack of any NES game, bar none. As an added bonus, Mega Man II is the only game on this list with adjustable difficulty settings, which some of the other games in the series would have benefited from tremendously (Mega Man IV, I’m looking in your direction). Quit your job this instant so you can go home and play Mega Man II.

2. Mega Man III – Almost as good as the second one, but not quite. Mega Man III introduces sliding, as well as the robot dog Rush, both of which would be tremendously important in the games to come. Mega Man III is mostly fun as all hell, but (without spoiling anything) there’s a weird and different middle portion of the game that has some neat ideas, to be sure, but that I’m not all that crazy about in the final analysis. A couple of the specials weapons seriously suck (damn you, Gemini Laser!). Be warned, Mega Man III is extremely difficult, and that turned me off of it for years. It is, however, more forgiving than II, particularly when you get a Game Over.

3. Mega Man – The first game in the series sometimes feels as though it’s a proof of concept for Mega Mans generally than its own game. There are only six robot masters instead of eight. There aren’t any energy tanks. There is only one non-weapon item. Granted, it’s outrageously useful, but still And, most crucially, there are no passwords of any kind. You either gotta save states, or you gotta suck it up and try to get through the whole dang game in one sitting. We forgive Mega Man for all of these things, though, because it is still fun as all heck. The special weapons are all cool and the levels are all well-designed brutality. Play the heck out of Mega Man, but don’t expect to beat it ever, or even get any good at it.

4. Mega Man V – The first three games in the series are universally considered the best ones, by far, but the later installments are still pretty damn good, and each contains many a highlight. Mega Man V rises to the top of this pack by easing off of the difficulty somewhat, having some really cool ideas going on in its levels, and by making the Mega Buster (Mega Man’s default weapon, now and forever) more powerful and more satisfying. Mega Man V is one of the most accessible games of the original series, and arguably a better point of entry for new players than I or III. It’s still plenty hard, though, and a satisfying playthrough for the diehards.

5. Mega Man VII – The only game in the classic series to be released on SNES, Mega Man VII is a little weird and a little unsatisfying. There’s a lot more plot than the other games in the series, the eight robot masters are divided into two sections of four robot masters each for no real reason, and there’s a shitload of powerups that you need to find, including the Rush upgrades (which you are historically given for defeating certain robot masters). In short, it’s classic series Mega Man done up like it’s a Mega Man X game, which was the style at the time, sure, but it doesn’t serve Mega Man VII all that well. Mega Man VII still has a lot going for it, but it’s trying too hard to be different.

6. Mega Man IV – While not displaying the idea drain of later games in the series, Mega Man IV is still something of a chore to get through because it’s so stupid fucking hard. Right from the very beginning, this game will kill you over and over and over again. I have fond memories of playing Mega Man IV fresh out of college, when my gaming masochism was at its peak, but when I play it these days I tend to get pretty stuck pretty quickly. Make no mistake, the level design here is very clever, but it’s clever in the service of getting you as dead as possible, as quickly as possible. That said, many of the robot masters here are pretty cool, and feel like they were designed outside the box.

7. Mega Man VI – Moreso than even Mega Man VII, Mega Man VI gives the impression that the development team was dam near out of ideas. This is understandable given the rate at which Capcom was cranking these bad boys out, but with Mega Man VI the result is a game that does almost nothing to distinguish itself from its brethren. The robot masters, in particular, seem like rehashed robot masters from games gone by. Even the ones that seem fresh and clever (Centaur Man, for example) act in some familiar-ass patterns. Mega Man VI is nothing new, but in a way this only underscores the genius of Mega Man. It’s always fun, even when it can’t possibly measure up to itself.

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