Like you can think of a better one
There are many people who say that Mega Man 2 is the greatest game in the Mega Man franchise. Those people are what I like to refer to as “wrong.” Mega Man 2, while an outstanding piece twitchy platforming fun that corrected many of the unfriendlier aspects of the original game, doesn’t hold a candle to the blessing that is Mega Man 3.
Released in North America in 1990 (and only hitting the EU in 1992 thanks to Nintendo picking up publishing duties), Mega Man 3 was the first game to include the slide feature, introduced us all to Proto Man, and saw the creation of robot’s best friend in the indispensable Rush. It was also the first game with US box art that didn’t depict Mega Man as a guy with a gun. Those four reasons alone are enough to put it at the top of the Mega Man Mega Mountain, but the reason I easily consider it the best the series has ever seen is because of Snake Man, the greatest Robot Master Capcom has ever created.
Snake Man’s origins are quite boring. He was created by Dr. Light to survey topography of uninhabited planets and investigate narrow passages. That’s a goddamn snoozer right there. But even with such a lackluster profession, he has such a badass design. The first Robot Master to be based off an animal and Capcom went straight to the coolest looking creature on the planet. With his long, snake headpiece and giant white shoulder pass, he exemplified what was considered radical, tubular and gnarly in the late 80s, early 90s. But unlike the big-ass shoulder pads regularly worn by Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia, his never went out of style. I’m glad this Robot Master turned evil because something that chill shouldn’t be relegated to sampling the land like a balding 50-year-old with a geology degree from some state school.
Not only is he great, but his level is outstanding. Coated in several shades of green, it features dozens of snakeheads, large and small, that try to kill you as you make your way along an intertwining pathway of snake bodies before heading to the sky to dodge missiles disguised as clouds. If you manage to get through it and beat him, Mega Man gains the Search Snake power-up, allowing him to unleash an army of snakes to take down any robots unlucky enough to stand against him. If the Nazis had him on their side, Indiana Jones would have been fucked.
So yeah, Snake Man is absolutely #1, and there ain’t no one who can tell me otherwise.
Ha, CJ almost stole my pick. Although the revelation between my friend and I (we ran our own Mega Man fansite) that Snake Man was basically “a guy in a snake suit” made me laugh so hard that I’ll never forget it, I do have an actual favorite — Pharaoh Man.
I have a strict set of criteria for Robot Masters and he fulfills it. Great level? Check. Memorable theme? You know it. Cool weapon? Yep, it’s a cool little charge shot that comes up frequently in other games, official or fan made. I know what you’re thinking, his stage is pretty linear, even for Mega Man 4, which at least has some off the beaten path rooms every now and then. But it has a unified tone, and I’m a sucker for those Gemini Man “outside to inside” cave concepts. And those Mummiras and those blue flame torches! Perfection.
If you need more, he punches the shit out of Mega Man in the cartoon. Mic drop!
[Artwork courtesy Maruki]
OK, if we’re being honest, I’m not much of a Mega Man guy. I had a couple of Rockman toys and really liked Mega Man Legends, but beyond that, I’ve never given much time to a Mega Man game… with the exception of Mega Man Zero. Fifteen years ago I practically destroyed my hands obsessively trying to beat Mega Man Zero and Zero 2, and while I’ve moved beyond the trauma of that dark time, I still remember the game’s cool character designs, which were a departure from the louder art that characterized the core series and X.
I also remember Fairy Leviathan. She was the Ice/Water boss of Mega Man Zero, because she was the only female boss character I had seen in any Mega Man title (I would later learn of Splash Woman), and she stuck to that classic anime archetype of the Evil Girl Rival, where some poor waif practically drives herself nuts obsessively trying to murder the hero and getting her butt kicked each time. It struck me as cool in a sad way, which is why I remember Leviathan today.
Also, despite being named “Leviathan”, chick’s tiny! It’s funny because it’s incongruous!
I’m going with Cut Man. While he may be a pushover in terms of challenge and most of the robot masters from the original Mega Man are pretty generic, my reasoning is simply the incredible theme music that accompanies his stage. I’ve heard Stuttering Craig of Screwattack fame recount this same story, but the first time you enter Mega Man, you have no idea what you’re getting into. You select whoever seems the least dangerous (typically Cut Man) and get thrust into this colorful world of some kick ass tunes.
Cut Man’s stage theme is the best piece of music in the original title, perhaps even the entire series. It starts with a short repetition of a high-pitched siren sound before exploding into a dramatic tone of foreboding and action. If there was going to be anything that set the stage for how awesome Mega Man is, Cut Man’s theme is it.
Apart from that, I also really like his weapon. Yeah, Elec Man’s weapon can be used to cheese out most of the enemies with the pause trick, but having a razor boomerang that can deal two or three hits on bosses is awesome. It also really wrecks house on Wily and Wily is a pain in the ass in the first game.
Occams Electric Toothbrush
I remember as a kid feeling bad for Wood Man. I mean, he’s made of wood. That’s a rough gig in a world of robot masters. Cut Man has giant scissors on his head and Flame Man is a living Zippo lighter. Wood Man is a tree trunk. Even his special focuses on defense. Leaf Shield. That doesn’t sound very intimidating. But there was something special about Wood Man. He was connected to his zone. He was a protector of the forest. He cared. This is a quote from his wiki:
Wood Man enjoys the world’s natural beauty, and often goes hiking and mountaineering in his spare time.
Sounds a lot like us, doesn’t it? Enjoying the world’s natural beauty. Discovering new places. Making memories and creating moments. And Mega Man killed him. Multiple times. I hate doing Wood Man’s level. You seem like such a dick running through this robot forest murdering everything. Then you get to Wood Man and of course, he’s super pissed. You’ve killed all his friends. But a leaf shield isn’t much of a defense against atomic fire. What a shame. What a damn shame.
“Sheep Man, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed you the most, you would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”
Yellow Devil is one of the most influential and important bosses in my life, video game or otherwise.
Unless you are also old enough to have played Mega Man 1 when it was initially released, you’ll just have to imagine how shocking it was to have this gigantic douche kick your ass for the first time. While giant bosses are the norm by today’s standards, seeing a boss this big back then was pretty darn impressive.
Today’s youth may also struggle to imagine a time before the internet, but that was how it was in 1987. All we knew of games is what we got in instruction booklets and magazines, so there was no way for any of us kids to know what the Yellow Devil was, how beat it, if it was the last boss of the game, or anything else about this damn thing.
All we knew was that, after weeks of constant practice, we had finally beaten all six levels of this hard-as-balls game, and that we were now on a mission to kill some Einstein looking dude in a UFO. His stage was tough, but after a few continues later, we got through it. Then we entered a dark room, and seconds later, boulders appeared out of thin air and killed us.
In a way, this experience made perfect sense to me and my fellow nerds. By this point in our young lives, we had become well acquainted with motto ~ “Life is unfair. You have every reason to give up. But thankfully, your own happiness is meaningless, so you might as well keep suffering through, as that’s the only way to see what happens next.”
And so we did. After a few torturous afternoons of death and practice, we finally figured out the flight pattern of these seemingly random yellow boulders. If you survive against them for long enough, you see that they seem to be forming the shape of… a fat man with no neck? This was weird news, but it gave us hope, as most of the time, fat men can be killed, whereas boulders cannot.
Wait a minute, that’s not a fat man! That’s a cyclops! That shoots eye lasers! And its eye only stays open for a split second before it disappears! Were we supposed to shoot the eye? It disappeared before we had the chance to find out!! THEN THOSE GODDAMN SHIT TITS BOULDERS CAME FUCKING BACK??
HOW THE FUCK ARE WE EVER SUPPOSED TO BEAT THIS THING?!?!
Of course, we did beat it eventually. Later, we got so good that we could beat it without even taking a hit. The amazing feeling of being completely destroyed by impossible odds at first, only to perceive to the point of total victory, is what I most closely associate with the Mega Man series, and may of my other favorite things in life. Mega Man‘s developers seem to agree, which is probably why they’ve included some form of “Devil” boss in nearly every iteration of the Mega Man franchise to date.
Mega Man Battle Network 2 and the Battle Network series as a whole (even though 4-6 are weak shit) is better than classic Mega Man games. Fight me.
So I’m not gonna lie – I came to this post not to share my love for a Robot Master, but to ridicule one. Something can still be your favorite if you like to mock it. Don’t argue with me. Clown Man deserves that ridicule. Other Robo-Masters (short for Robot Masters, for future reference) have cool themes and powers: One has a pair of scissors on his head; one is a top; one is a vacuum cleaner. Isn’t that dope as shit? But Clown Man? Really, a clown? I don’t expect the greatest ideas on Earth after eight iterations of the franchise, but they could have at least tried.
I mean, look at him. He’s a clown. Allegedly, he was an amusement park robot before Dr. Wily reprogrammed him to fight. Why was Dr. Wily in an amusement park? Why’d he pick the shittiest piece of machinery? WHAT THE FUCK IS ON HIS FINGER THAT HE SNIFFS IT SO MUCH?!
But look past the surface. Look beyond his stupid spinning attack, his telescopic punch, and the Thunder Claw. Beyond the robo-clown makeup and welded-on robo-clown smile. You’ll find a pained figure; a dark figure underneath the painted visage. You see, it’s all fun and games at first – after all, he’s a clown. It’s his sole purpose in life. “I’m Clown Man,” he boasts at your first meeting. His taunt? Crucial. “Yo, geeky!” he rudely remarks. You’re devastated. But he continues: “I’ll make you join my men!” Confused, you begin to pummel him. Things aren’t going well for Clown Man. Things rarely go well for Clown Man. “Ouch!” he proclaims as the onslaught intensifies. “What are you doing!? Mommy!! What have you done to me??” His dark past is revealed.
Are you afraid of clowns? You should be. With his dying breath, Clown Man swears not revenge, nor begs forgiveness for his sins. Instead, his final wish does more damage than flying fists and trapeze-kicks could ever do. “See you in my dreams.” He explodes. His pain is over. Yours has just begun. I just killed him, you muse to yourself. How could he possibly see me in his dreams?
You carry on…but something is missing. The vigor and resolve you once had for eliminating your robotic foes is gone. You fight each remaining Rob-Master (short for Robo-Master, for future reference), but can’t help but remember what Clown Man said. You look over your shoulder. You act more guarded in public. Your sleep comes fitfully. You don’t eat. Can he see me now? When will he stop dreaming? When will my nightmares stop?
Clown Man doesn’t quite have the visual panache that other Ro-Masters (short for Rob-Masters, for future reference) boast. His attacks aren’t as creative. He’s not as fast. As strong. As intimidating. No, what Clown Man lacks in brawn, he makes up for with brain. Clown Man gets into your skull, latches on, and never relents. For while Cut Man can leave scars on the skin, Clown Man can leave scars that dwell well below the dermis. And that makes him the most dangerous foe of all.
Plus, ARMS totally jacked his design.
I don’t know what everyone else is talking about (no, really, I’m not a big Mega Man fan) but the obvious greatest Mega Man Robot Master is Dr. Wily. Hear me out.
Dr. Light makes like, what, four or five robots throughout the entire Mega Man series, and a few lousy upgrades for the Mega Men’s pew pew arms. Meanwhile, Dr. Wily is over here cranking out robot after robot with cool new features, yet he doesn’t get the respect he deserves because eventually Mega Man defeats his creations and steals said hot new features.
In a way Dr. Light is a lot like Steve Jobs, he made one really solid device that lags behind the competition but eventually steals their innovations and integrates them into his device, and everyone loves him for it. We all know Dr. Wily and his army of androids are the true innovators. Get fucked Dr. Light.
Robo Panda Z
After much deliberating over the entirety of Mega Man X, trying to decide on the best of its evil robot animals (that aren’t Chill Penguin), I came to the realization that just can’t bring myself to talk about the game. Instead, let’s talk briefly about the real MVP’s – the rejects.
Because for every good – or even potentially good – Robot Master, there were literally hundreds of horrid scrap-metal monstrosities that would never see the light of day. Mega Man 2 alone had 8,370 entries! Some of the images from the Mega Man 6 contest above have stuck with me after all these years, lodged deep in my subconscious. Whether it’s basic enemies with a Mega Buster strapped to it, a Transformers knock-off, or a robot made out of rotary phones, it was these legions of castoffs that made the games possible, and I’m certainly thankful for that.
Except Optic Man. He doesn’t blink or anything, and it’s seriously creepy.
I concede. Balloon Man is way better than Snake Man, and he’d probably be easier to take out than Air Man, whom I cannot defeat!