Mega Man, the Blue Bomber, was Capcom’s unofficial mascot in the late 1980s, when 2D platformers were all the rage. The original series with the same name was groundbreaking. It was interesting that you could choose which stage to play in any order, that you could steal weapons, and that the difficulty level was hard but not unfair.
Its SNES spin-off, Mega Man X, pretty much took the same formula and turned it up to 11 to make things faster and better. 16-bit graphics with lots of rich colours. Each level has its own secrets and is made in a creative way to cover more space vertically. Pieces of X-Armor that give you a huge boost to your abilities. The wall-climbing and dash moves that speed up the game and are essential for getting past the dangerous obstacles. A soundtrack that rocks. A big story in which robots called “reploids” live with humans and fight with each other. Since the 1990s, these are the main things that have made Mega Man X a franchise that fans all over the world love.
Well, at least most of them. Like the first Mega Man, some games lost their way halfway through. So, in honour of the recent announcement that the Mega Man X Legacy Collection will be out in July, we’re going to rank every Mega Man X game from the worst to the best.
Mega Man X7 (PS2)
Let’s start with the Mega barrel’s bottom. The game Mega Man X7 is a pile of garbage. It’s not necessary to switch to 3D mode, and it doesn’t add anything to the game. Its auto-aiming system makes the game too easy and depends more on quick trigger fingers than on skill or reflexes. The level design and boss fights are also at best mediocre.
On the plus side, the idea of adding a new main character, Axl, is interesting, and Red, the main bad guy, looks cool. This hot mess doesn’t have much else going for it.
Mega Man X-Treme (Game Boy)
At best, this Gameboy Color game is just okay. The player controls X and fights four bosses from Mega Man X1 and four bosses from Mega Man X2. This is basically a mix of the first two games. If you want to see what an X game would look like with NES graphics, this is the only thing you need.
Mega Man X6
The first game Keiji Inafune wasn’t a part of is broken. There are parts of the game where you can get stuck on a level and have to start over and go back to the screen where you choose your character. The balance of the game is off. For example, the boss’s projectiles can be destroyed by your regular shots. But there are also stages like Blazing Heatnix’s “donuts of doom” that are almost impossible to complete with just your normal weapons.
Even so, there are some good things to say about this broken platformer. Some of the levels have interesting settings and tricks. The new Blade Armor and Ninja Armor that X can collect are pretty cool and very useful, and the fight with Gate, the second-to-last boss, is a good mix of fun and challenge.
Mega Man X-Treme 2 (Game Boy)
This Gameboy Color game is another one of the average ones, but at least it has two different ways to play. With a mix of stages and bosses from X1, X2, and X3 remixed for the small Game Boy screen, the developers did a great job of squeezing everything in. They also added some new things to the stages to make them feel a little more fresh.
Mega Man X3 (SNES, PlayStation)
Mega Man X3 has everything, including the kitchen sink. There are a lot of power-ups and Ride Armors in the game, and there are a lot more fights because you have to deal with three sub-bosses. You can even play as Zero for a little while. However, it just feels more like padding and doesn’t equate to good level design. The stages here are lukewarm at best, the bosses are not that varied, and playing as Zero is not as different as playing as X save for the Z-saber charge move.
If you have to play one version, play the PlayStation version. There is a load time, but when you think about it, the music is much better.
Mega Man X5
This fifth game was supposed to be the last X game before the series moved on to Mega Man Zero. However, Capcom wanted to get as much money as possible out of the franchise in the early 2000s, so they kept making new games in the series.
X5 had new ideas, like a time limit that decides which ending or path you’ll take if you don’t beat the eight Mavericks in time. X also has a new armour system where he needs to collect pieces for the whole thing to work instead of each piece giving him a power-up on its own. Best of all, this is the first Mega Man X game where the characters can duck and crouch.
Okay, even with that small change, the game is still fun and gives it a sense of closure before the next Mega Man spin-off. It may not be completely new, but it’s a nice note in the history of Mega Man.
Mega Man X Command Mission (PS2, Xbox, GameCube)
Who would have thought that the only spin-off of a spin-off of a platform game would be better than most of its peers? During the height of the PS2 JRPG craze, Capcom decided to change the way Mega Man X fights by making it a turn-based game. Mega Man X Command Mission is the result.
With new reploids joining your party and a plot that involves other Mavericks, the game showed that its universe can grow beyond the “stop Sigma’s evil plan” story. The battle system is fun and can be played over and over again. As you get further into the game and recruit more Maverick hunters and support reploids with different play styles, you actually look forward to more battles.
Mega Man X8
Bad to the bone! After the evil X7, this game is a breath of fresh air. The platforming has been turned up to 11, and it’s both hard and fun. Even though the story in X8 is confusing, I liked the cutscenes and voice acting.
Add some great music that lives up to the name “Rock Man,” and your ears will be happy. X8 has a lot of things to do over and over again, a lot of things to unlock, and secrets to keep you playing. You can even find and play as Alia, Layer, and Palette, the three navigators.
The X series has taken a big step forward with X8. Now… can we please get X9? I’d rather see more of this than the X series going retro. If you like Mega Man and missed out on this game 10 years ago, it’s time to dust off your PS2 and head to eBay to get a copy of this great game.