mega man x

Every Mega Man X Ranked Worst to Best

There are 8 games in the Mega Man X series, and if you’re ever played any of those games you know that some rank among the best platformers of all time and some are just… woof. Just, real dogs. They kept getting better until they started getting progressively and rapidly worse.

A few years ago they released the Mega Man X Collection 1, featuring X1-4 and its partner, the Mega Man X Collection 2, featuring X5-8. If you’re trying to pick out which one of those to buy (or both), or if you just want to know which Mega Man X games are worth your time and which to skip, this is the article for you.

Worst: Mega Man X7

This game is extraordinarily bad. It’s the first (and second-to-last) 3D Mega Man X game. It features bizarre camera angles, terrible combat, a forgettable 3rd character no one asked for or wanted, some of the worst voice acting in video game history and is ill-conceived from beginning to end. Also, the 3D looks infinitely worse than the sprite-based 2D of any of the tens of Mega Man games across multiple Mega Man series.

Let’s talk about the bosses. The Mega Man X series started running out of ideas for its signature Animal + Elemental damage type bosses for its games around Mega Man X5, beginning to repeat concepts. By Mega Man X7 they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel. There is a boss in this game called Tornado Tonion, and it’s an onion that makes tornadoes. Why? I assume someone made these robots. Who would make an onion that shoots tornadoes? Mega Man X7 also features such winners as Ride Boarski and Snipe Anteater, who is an Anteater and also a sniper for some reason.

Worst: Mega Man X8

Mega Man X8 improves upon many of the worst aspects of Mega Man X7, like the terrible combat, the terrible camera angles and the terrible 3d. However, it doesn’t improve on those aspects enough to make it better than any of the 2d Mega Man X games. This series was legitimately dead after Mega Man X6, Mega Man X7 was a mean-spirited defilement of its corpse, and Mega Man X8 was air escaping the body. The 3d still looks unbelievably bad, by the way. Also, against all odds they kept Axl as a playable character, who no one wanted or liked.

Let’s talk about the bosses in this one because while they’re better than the bizarre trainwreck that was Mega Man X7’s lineup, it’s still full of oddities like Earthrock Trilobyte. Bamboo Pandamonium and Avalanche Yeti may not be the most uh, inspired designs of all time, but at least they make sense.

Worst: Mega Man X6

Are you noticing a pattern here? The final installments of the Mega Man X series were an unnecessary insult to the legacy of what had once been the best action platforming series around. Mega Man X6 was the bleak, bland, repetitive followup to Mega Man X5. Fans had hoped Mega Man X5 would be a forgivable minor dip in quality for an otherwise winning series, but Mega Man X6 confirmed everyone’s deepest fears: they were completely out of ideas and grasping for straws at how to squeeze any more creativity out of the totally stripped out mine that the Mega Man X series had become.

It was just such a formulaic retread of every other Mega Man X game. Remember Mega Man X5’s Grizzly Slash the shameless copy of Mega Man X4’s Slash Beast (already a pretty stupid concept)? Well, if you liked that, then you’ll love Blizzard Wolfang, who is exactly the same design but ice now. Remember Magma Dragoon and how cool he was? Well check it out, we heard you liked fire themes combined with mythical creatures so now we’ve got Blaze Heatnix, who’s exactly like Magma Dragoon but without any of the creativity or personality.

Also, the level designs suck and they’re tedious and the story is bad.

Mediocre: Mega Man X5

Mega Man X5 was alright. It was a solid C+ followup to Mega Man X4. Its main problem was some corporate committee thought (I imagine), “everyone liked Mega Man X4 so let’s make exactly Mega Man X4 again, but watered down, and put some twists on it that kind of differentiate it slightly but ultimately make it worse”

Mega Man X4 had added a few different armor choices for X, so Mega Man X5 decided to double down and give X a bunch of different armor choices, but most of them sucked. They thought people loved collecting the secret items in levels like heart tanks and whatnot, so they decided to hide all these civilians in every level, which totally threw off the balance and made the levels have too much hidden stuff to the point it was more chore than fun.

The best thing about this game was that its bosses were named after all the band members of Guns ‘N Roses, but they took that away for the collection so now I don’t even know what positive thing to say about it.

Also, when I say it was just Mega Man X4 again, I mean it. I mean, Mega Man X has a bad habit of recycling boss concepts, but compare these if you will. Mega Man X4 had Slash Beast, a lion with like, uh, slash powers. Mega Man X5 has Grizzly Slash, a grizzly bear with slash powers. Mega Man X4 had Magma Dragoon, the fire-themed dragon robot. Mega Man X5 has Burn Dinorex, a fire-themed Dino robot. Mega Man X5 is like the Chinese similar but legally distinct knockoff of Mega Man X4.

mega man x best
Two totally different characters, I guess

Good: Mega Man X1

Mega Man X1 gets extra points for being the original, but when I look back at the totality of the series, I think, iconic and fresh as Mega Man X1 was, I enjoy X2 and 3 more when it comes to the SNES ones. See, back before things started going downhill with Mega Man X6 and beyond, every Mega Man X game was better than the last. The formula got more polished, the graphical style got more refined, the stages and bosses got more creative, and the story got more interesting. X1 gets points for being the jumping-off point for all of that and having some of the most memorable bosses, but when you compare it to even Mega Man X2, it’s like the skeleton of a Mega Man X game.

Good: Mega Man X3

Mega Man X3 was the last Mega Man X game on SNES and the formula was starting to feel a little stale. X3 was pretty good though; it spiced up the formula by allowing you to play as Zero for the first time (albeit as just a guest character), and it let you gets Zero’s saber as a super secret in-game powerup, which was pretty cool.

The switcheroo of the bad guys from newcomer Dr. Doppler back to twist-ending Sigma virus was still kind of fresh because Sigma hadn’t become a Saturday Morning Cartoon villain yet, so you actually didn’t suspect Sigma would be the last boss but then bam, he was and, more than that, he was riding a giant mech. Where Mega Man X3 failed was that its bosses and levels were kind of forgettable.

Good: Mega Man X2

X2 was probably the best of the SNES Mega Man X games. As much as I’ve been bagging on this series for its weird and stupid boss concepts, Mega Man X2’s weird and stupid boss concepts were totally cool. They had an oddly conceptualized snail boss whose power was to turn things into crystals which made absolutely no sense but he was totally awesome. Also, there was an Ostrich who could run fast, a weird trash crocodile who shot sawblades and a moose who lived in a volcano for some reason.

X2 just basically improved upon X1 successfully. Everything about it was a little more polished and a little more well-executed. The stages were original, inventive, memorable and fun and not just your typical “fire stage” “ice stage” “forest stage” etc, which the series ultimately defaulted back to later on. You had a stage inside a garbage dump, a stage in a missile silo, some kind of gigantic urban tank. It was cool. They took the concept of collecting armor and added a little twist where you also got a super move and a secret shoryuken move, before they went totally bonkers with all the different armors and powerups.

Best: Mega Man X4

Mega Man X4 took everything that was great about the SNES Mega Man’s and brought them to the next level for Playstation. Zero became a fully playable character with his own distinct playstyle and upgrades. Anime cutscenes came into the game, turning the action-platformer with a story series into a legitimate storytelling franchise where the plot was actually a huge part of the appeal.

The bosses weren’t totally devoid of inspiration yet and you had memorable bosses who actually started having their own dialog and personality, like Magma Dragoon and Storm Owl and that weird mushroom thing. The graphics were a huge improvement and everything about the game was just… good. When I was a kid I must’ve played through Mega Man X4 dozens of times. None of the other Mega Man X games even come close, before or after.

Conclusion

Mega Man X was a once great series that didn’t know when to call it quits and tried to keep itself on life support way too long. It should have let itself die gracefully after Mega Man X6, or at least taken a long hiatus so it could figure out exactly what it needed to do to evolve which, it turned out, wasn’t “transition to bad 3d”. If they’d waited 10 years or so, maybe they could have been the ones to think up the randomized metroidvania idea of Mega Man X Corrupted, which looks like a better game than the last 4 Mega Man X games combined.

Oh, by the way, returning to the concept of Mega Man X Collection, you probably already guessed this by now, but if you’re going to buy one, get Collection 1 (X1-4) and skip Collection 2 (X5-8).

Author

  • Ryan Night

    Ryan Night is an ex-game industry producer with over a decade of experience writing guides for RPGs. Previously an early contributor at gamefaqs.com, Ryan has been serving the RPG community with video game guides since 2001. As the owner of Bright Rock Media, Ryan has written over 600 guides for RPGs of all kinds, from Final Fantasy Tactics to Tales of Arise.

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