Fancy graphics are fine, but all gamers know in their hearts that nothing will ever top the drama of Final Fantasy VII or the pure physicality of Super Mario Bros. 3. Playboy’s Retro Gaming articles look at why we love the classics and give you your nostalgia fix.

As a huge fan of the Blue Bomber’s adventures, I for one am very excited about the new Mega Man Legacy Collection. These games were already updated graphically in the previous Anniversary Collection a while back, but the newest collection comes with a ton of new features. Besides, I’ll always jump at another excuse to play some of my favorite old Nintendo games again.

Looking back through all of the concept art and reading the character bios included in the collection made me realize that some Mega Man villains are way better than others. There are tons of awesome robot masters in the core Mega Man games, and the mavericks from the Mega Man X series seem criminally underrated and misrepresented among fans. So here they are: the cream of the crop from one of best game franchises of all time.

’Mega Man 3’
Sure, the idea for Snake Man may not seem that original, but I have to give credit for the killer looking character design and awesome stage that uses its boss’s theme well. This robot master was originally made to get into narrow spaces and can give the player a slippery challenge.

For those diving in unprepared, this fight can result in a few embarrassing deaths. Defeating him grants an extremely useful weapon in the form of the Search Snake and also gives Mega Man that awesome dark green hue for his armor—but why did it have to be snakes!?

’Mega Man X2’
Morph Moth is a mysterious boss who resides in a junkyard, feeding off of deactivated robots. He seems creepy at first, dangling in the center of the screen on a long chain as a mass of metal bits with big eyes, until he ascends and destroys the ceiling.

Once the maverick has gone through his change, his appearance is that of a bright and colorful creature—OK, an evil butterfly. Morph Moth is more dangerous in his first form, doing a decent bit of damage and sporting various attacks that are quite hard to dodge, but a little fire will clear out this infestation for good.

’Mega Man 2’
This robot master was originally meant to be a significant rival to Mega Man, but he often gets lost in the mix, remembered more for his super difficult stage and that excellent boss fight music. I remember him mostly for being the only character whose portrait actually goes outside of the borders though, thinking that was a mistake.

Quick Man is no slouch though, as his weakness will only remove half of his health and beating him without it is quite the feat. He is the fastest boss and possesses what is possibly the most unpredictable pattern in the series’ history. I’m sure he gets a lot of jokes about being called Quick Man, but the real reason is because he makes quick work of unskilled players.

’Mega Man 2’
OK, so Metal Man is possibly one of the easiest bosses in the series—especially if the player knows about his jumping pattern—but he has a great design and looks menacing at least, what with the glowing red eyes and all.

He made it this high on the list though because of the weapon he offers. The Metal Blade is a weapon I almost never switched from once I got it, as it is helpful against most of the bosses and will even kill the former owner in two hits on the second encounter with him. Metal Man is a true glass cannon, but he gives the gift that keeps on killing.

’Mega Man 4’
One of the few robot masters constructed just for combat, Skull Man is a tactician and lover of horror movies (no, really). To represent his tactical side the boss mimics the player, attacking and moving only when Mega Man does, but this does not apply to jumping in place, which creates the opportunity for some very interesting strategies to take him down.

He grants the player the Skull Barrier, which is not liked by many, but I found several uses for it. Skull Man has decent music and a neat stage, but his design gives him a big boost, especially with those skull-shaped shoulder pads. Skulls are cool.

’Mega Man X2’
Some robots are turned evil or reprogrammed, but others, like Wheel Gator, are so evil naturally that they don’t even get along with even their fellow mavericks. Other than just having a cool design, this boss is quite intimidating, as his stage is a giant tank tearing through a city and his fight takes place in a large vat of oil.

Much like Jaws, not being able to see the villain makes for a scary encounter. The player mostly moves up the walls out of fear and dodges the wheel attacks until the gator leaps from the liquid, causing the few moments just before that to be some of the most tense in the series.

’Mega Man 3’
I loved shuriken (ninja) stars when I was a kid, so it is no surprise that I would like a bad guy with a giant one on his forehead. The creators must have wanted Shadow Man to be pure hype, so they made him an alien, ninja, and a robot. What is not to like?

Plus, I always thought he looked like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a bonus. His attacks show off these ninja skills with slides, clones, and even, uh, frogs? This is a cool boss fight with good accompanying music that will be fun multiple times. It is true he can be a little tough, but it is hard to take anyone whose weakness is spinning tops too seriously.

’Mega Man X’
This boss that most players take on first in Mega Man X leaves some of the best memories. Although many do not think much of his design, this cold bird has an interesting array of attacks that includes making ice sculptures and sliding on his belly, which can be quite startling to those fighting this fowl for the first time.

His pattern is a bit simple, but it is also amazingly fun and this boss makes good use of weather manipulation and the giant hook in the ceiling. The weapon X takes from him, Shotgun Ice, is quite useful in the early parts of the game, but the best surprise is that beating this maverick actually affects the stages of some other bosses. This was an awesome realization when I first noticed it and still makes me smile anytime I play through it.

’Mega Man X4’
Magma Dragoon isn’t the only traitor in the MMX series, but he is the one I hate the most for not being a playable character. Not only is the fight against this maverick a fun opener for the game, but killing him feels so rewarding for anyone following the story, especially since his motivation was to prove he was better than the heroes.

He does give the player Rising Fire, a weapon that is quite useful in a lot of situations. Additionally, Capcom has put numerous blatant references to their Street Fighter franchise in this series, and Dragoon looks like their first attempt at a slightly more subtle one. Not only is the dragon wearing prayer beads and sporting a symbol usually seen on Akuma, but many of his attacks are similar to those in the fighting game as well.

’Mega Man 4’
This has been a tough list with a lot of stiff competition, but Pharaoh Man takes the lead with authority, and it has nothing to do with him sucker punching Mega Man in the cartoon. His Egyptian themed stage was not the most visually appealing, but it was challenging, and it had a rewarding alternate path and some great music. His weapon, the Pharaoh Shot, is hard to dodge and will serve the player well.

The real reason this boss is the most deserving of the title “robot master” though is because of how difficult he can be. Not only does Pharaoh Man look intimidating, but players who have not prepared to face him will most likely fail, as he is constantly moving across an uneven surface, his attacks are hard to dodge, and he does a lot of damage. Only the mastery of time itself can slow the epic beat down this boss lays on Mega Man, but even death cannot stop this kind of awesome.

Writing in the dirty South, recovering internet addict Stephen Wilds wakes up every night wrestling with nightmares of Silent Hill and stray commas. You may follow his exploits on Twitter @StephenWilds.

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