Mega Man games are notorious for their difficulty. They are not impossibly hard, but they do reward precise timing and superb platforming skills. Capcom’s shooter is a series which is often frustrating to newcomers, but which usually reveals itself as a brilliant piece of level design the more time you spend with it.
Mega Man's main attraction is its pack of robot masters, big bosses whose theme reflects the design of their respective stage, and who Mega Man must defeat to collect its signature weapon. We thought we would go through the entire roster to pick the five bosses that stand at both ends of the spectrum: Who’s the easiest, and who’s the toughest? The only criteria is this one: the difficulty is judged by only using the Mega Buster as a weapon. After all, any Mega Man boss becomes a wimp when you have the proper tool.
10 EASIEST: Top Man (Mega Man 3)
The very concept of a robot based on a spin toy is laughable, and Top Man himself does nothing to shut up his detractors. His attack pattern is incredibly easy to dodge, consisting of three very slow spinning tops being thrown in your general direction. He also seems to be more vulnerable to the Mega Buster than everyone else, so he’s really just there to be the first guy to go down and start the cycle of weapons collecting. Defeat this guy, steal his weapon, and the rest of the bosses should be gravy.
9 HARDEST: Ice Man (Mega Man)
The problem with Ice Man, despite its fairly constant pattern, is the precision required. Any mistake in the timing of your jumps means contact with Ice Man’s deadly Ice Slasher, which in turn results in one third of your health vanishing instantly. So three blunders and you’re out, while it takes about nine times that to get rid of the pesky robot in a parka. Plus, if you try to put some distance between the two of you to have some more reaction time, Ice Man will move right next to you, so good luck with dodging those point-blank ice pellets.
8 EASIEST: Frost Man (Mega Man 8)
Frost Man is an intimidating fellow because of how imposing he is. He’s probably one of the largest bosses in the series, so A+ to the guy when it comes to first impressions. When the battle starts, his size becomes a liability: Like most giants, he is incredibly slow. He’s slow to move, but he’s also slow to attack. So once you have witnessed his arsenal once, all that’s left to do is to carefully dodge the slow-as-molasses attacks and you’re well on your way. Once again, a superb presentation, but a lacking execution.
7 HARDEST: Wood Man (Mega Man 2)
The main concern with Wood Man is that he almost feels cheap at times. He will often shield himself, which renders the robot master invulnerable. Otherwise, he’ll make leaves rain down from the ceiling in an erratic pattern, at which point you think that these can be dodged with focus and concentration. But surprise! While you’re trying to evade the leaves, Wood Man launches his own shield at you, so you basically have no choice but the take the hit. You won’t have many opportunities to hurt this guy, so be quick when they pass.
6 EASIEST: Toad Man (Mega Man 4)
Featuring an unavoidable Rain Flush attack, Toad Man should be a pain to deal with, right? The problem is that you can prevent him from ever executing this attack if you just keep shooting at him, which is pretty much what you are supposed to do against a robot master anyway. Otherwise, he just jumps, like a toad, and that’s easy to dodge if you just slide right past him. Not that toads were exactly threatening anyway, but neither is wood, and yet Capcom managed to make that work.
5 HARDEST: Pharaoh Man (Mega Man 4)
Pharaoh Man is a difficult beast because of three reasons. The first one is his arena’s layout, which is three platforms in the shape of a pyramid. The second reason is his signature attack, which by itself is bigger than Mega Man. These two combine to form the third big issue: Pharaoh Man will not always launch his attack from the same spot, forcing you to be quick and decide if you want to go high on the stage to jump over it, or take your chances at the bottom and slide underneath. Better pick fast, because on top of everything, Pharaoh Man is incredibly quick.
4 EASIEST: Bubble Man (Mega Man 2)
When you enter Bubble Man’s arena, you think “Oh, spikes on the ceiling! This guy means business!” It should have been dangerous, but it seems like Bubble Man decided to rest on his laurels after such a design effort, so he spends his entire boss fight floating away, shooting harpoons (which is dangerous, but easily avoidable), and bubbles (which are cute and not much of a threat). Out of all the dangerous things to hang out in the water, bubbles were probably the least menacing thing Capcom could pick.
3 HARDEST: Elec Man (Mega Man)
Elec Man combines the worst of two bosses. His attacks are as erratic, if not more than Wood Man. The bolts he shoots at you will never come from the same place, and there’s no pattern which you can learn. The damage his bolt does, however, is closer to Ice Man. Each attack can take away one-third of your life gauge, so what are you supposed to do? The best you can hope for is to keep shooting and jump around. Maybe you’ll get lucky!
2 EASIEST: Chill Penguin (Mega Man X)
The only boss from the “X” subseries on both sides of this list, Chill Penguin acts more like a tutorial than anything else. His most unpredictable attack is his jump, and even that is easily dodged by just walking away. Everything else can be avoided with a constant wall jump. So that’s it: Shoot, and jump, and there’s a good chance he won’t be able to touch you at all. Even his stage is not much to write home about, which leaves Ice Man as the undefeated robot master of the cold elements.
1 HARDEST: Shadow Man (Mega Man 3)
This robot master is just way too fast. The speed at which he goes makes it hard to think on your feet, and even though there is a method to his madness, its patterns are such that you would need Jedi reflex to dodge them all. What’s more frustrating is the way that Shadow Man baits your muscle memory. As he slides at you, a normal reaction would be to jump over the incoming obstacle. Shadow Man knows that, so he jumps too at the last second. This battle is both stressful and frustrating, a combo which makes it the toughest in the whole series.