Mega Man 3 (NES)

Game Review

Mega Man 3 Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Sibling rivalry

It's fitting that Mega Man 3 introduces our hero's antagonistic, cocksure older brother Proto Man, as the game itself seems to eternally duke it out with its own brother Mega Man 2 for the coveted title of Best in Series. But wherever you may fall on the question, there's no doubt that this third installment in the classic franchise makes a darned strong case for supremacy.

By this point, the Mega Man formula was so well known that Capcom was able to advertise the game with a full-page ad that said in big, blocky text: MEGA MAN 3. ANYTHING ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW?

In fact, we could leave our review at that, as well. Not only do you know what to expect from any classic series Mega Man title by now — non-linear progression through Robot Master stages, a slew of new weapons to play with, great music, fun utilities and a devastating final gauntlet — but Mega Man 3's particular reputation also, no doubt, had many of you grabbing it on day one.

There's a reason it's so adored today, and stands out among all of its impressive predecessors and sequels. In fact, there are many reasons. The Robot Masters are among the best in the series, the music was elevated to an even higher plane of chiptune composition, Mega Man learned a few new ways to maneuver around the levels, and four — arguably five — additional levels were added between the eight main stages and the final fortress.

Whew. And that's just a brief overview. Mega Man 3 had an extremely difficult task in measuring up to the success of Mega Man 2, and some might say that a task like that was impossible. Regardless, the development team absolutely did their best, and left us with a legendary follow-up.

The core gameplay remains the same. You jump with A and fire with B. Pausing the game brings up a menu that lets you select any Robot Master weapons you might have earned, each of which — at least in theory — can make certain parts of the game much easier. Additionally, however, Mega Man can now slide, a quick evasive stunt that can be activated by pressing down and A. Playing with the circle pad can make this a bit too easy to trigger, though, so it might be worth getting used to that D-pad placement all over again.

On top of that, we also have the debut of the aforementioned Proto Man, who plays here a more active version of the role he'd play in the series moving forward: that of friendly antagonist. He beams into three Robot Master stages to challenge you to a mandatory dual, and into a fourth to help you proceed. You'll also square off against him in an isolated boss fight before the fortress stages, as Capcom wanted to make absolutely certain he made an impression on gamers. We think it's safe to say that he did.

The other new character that made a strong impression is Rush, who puts a much more personal face on the utilities from the previous two games, and consequently makes them even more fun to use. Rush is Mega Man's faithful robotic dog, and you begin the game with the ability to use him as a coil to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. Two other upgrades are unlocked as the game progresses, but we'll say more about those later.

The graphics are crisp, the levels varied and colourful, and the boss design is stellar, with some genuinely interesting patterns to suss out and react to. The music, of course, is fantastic, with themes like Gemini Man's, Shadow Man's and Magnet Man's ranking among the best the series has ever had.

Unfortunately, the game does have some issues. They certainly don't keep it from being an all-time classic, but they are worth mentioning.

Perhaps the most annoying is the abundance of slowdown. Certain areas feature so many enemies that the NES hardware simply couldn't handle it, and the game would slow to a crawl. This issue of course remains intact in the game's re-release, and it definitely does affect the sense of momentum that these levels should have. At least one boss fight suffers strongly from it as well, and firing the Gemini Laser nearly anywhere will turn the entire room into a laggy mess. It feels like sloppy coding and design, and isn't up to the standard set by the rest of the game.

Speaking of the weapons, this batch is pretty disappointing for a Mega Man game, with very few of them being much fun to use. The Search Snake crawls along the ground but, for some reason, doesn't affect enemies that are too low to hit with the buster. The Spark Shock paralyzes enemies, but doesn't let you switch to another weapon until the paralysis wears off, limiting its usefulness substantially. And the Top Spin is legendarily glitched, making Mega Man's first contact weapon a nightmare to use against the Robot Master that's supposed to be weak to it. The Rush adapters are similarly disappointing, with the Rush Jet proving to be far too useful, and the Rush Marine being limited to the very, very few water sections in the game.

The additional set of levels before the final fortress are a nice gesture, but in practice they don't feel anywhere near as well polished as the rest of the game. There are, for example, areas of these stages that can trap you if you've run out of fuel for Rush, without providing you with either a way to harvest more or to kill yourself...meaning you'll just have to reset the game. That, at least, gives the Restore Points another boost in usefulness. The recurring boss of these levels also has a very large sprite and a dodgy hitbox, making a few of his patterns very frustrating to fight against without an E-Tank.

But these are minor gripes, and while they're definitely noteworthy we don't feel that they detract much from the actual experience of playing the game, which is still one of Mega Man's finest outings, and one we couldn't be happier to have on the go.


It's no exaggeration at all to say that Mega Man 3 was one of the shining jewels in the NES library. The fact that many gamers don't even consider this the series' peak says more about the quality of the series overall than it does about any shortcomings to be found here. Unfortunately the game does suffer from some slowdown, a glitchy weapon and relatively careless level design, but those are all easily outweighed by everything Mega Man 3 gets right. Fans of the blue bomber can argue rankings all day — it's fun! — but there's no arguing against the fact that this is a must buy for all of them.

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User Comments (46)



Ralizah said:

In my opinion, the integration of useful functions in Rush (especially after the confusingly-named "Item 1, 2, 3, etc.") and the increased presence of Protoman, in addition to the awesome bosses, make this one the best of the old games.

It's definitely my favorite.



Pichuka97 said:

I never gave this one a chance before because I loved the second one so I will definitely pick this up soon.



TKOWL said:

"Unfortunately the game does suffer from some slowdown, a glitchy weapon and relatively careless level design"

I'm sorry, those are all the things that ruin the game for me. I've never seen any appeal to Mega Man 3 at all besides some of the music, and every time I play it I find it a massive chore to do so.

Definitely passing until 4 comes out.



Chomposaur said:

can anyone who has purchased the game confirm that this runs in 60hz on the Europeon 3DS console ? Im used to playing the 50hz version on the Wii



Dpullam said:

I would personally prefer to play this game on a big screen instead of my 3DS. Even so, I'm not sure if I would buy it either way since I'm not a fan of fast reflex games. It's good to see it still holds up though.



Romeo said:

hurry the **** up, europe!!!!
damn : (

please.. i want this!!
still no release date... and im still wondering why it wasn't released on the same exact day over here, i just don't get it



TheDreamingHawk said:

This is my favorite as it doesn't have a useless boss wepon like MM2 (Yes, top spin is terrible, but it can shield you from airborne enemies, kill the final boss, and makes mega man look goofy when switching screens! Unlike wood shield which did hardly any damage to bosses.)



Aerona said:

I didn't like it much when I played it... The Proto Man fights were always kinda silly 'cause he would just keep jumping around, and it didn't help matters when I couldn't find a sub weapon I enjoyed. I hated Gemini Man's stage... and then you have to pretty much go back for more before Wiley, yeah. My favorite one is nine, with ten, five, two, and the original close behind.



paburrows said:

I remember when I was in the 8th grade visiting Universal Studios Los Angeles and was so excited to find out that Nintendo was holding some sort of traveling thing where they were letting people try out games that hadn't been released yet and Mega Man 3 was one of those games. It was so awesome!



idork99 said:

Mega Man 2, Mega Man 3...whichever your preference they're both solid, classic games IMO. Personally, the third one stands out the most from all of the series as it was the first blue bomber game I was introduced to. Solid gameplay, excellent music...this one is a jewel in my eye



Tasuki said:

Great review Phil. This is probably my favorite Megaman game. Even with the points that Phil pointed out the fact is they never bothered me. Yeah some of the weapons were bad but over all the positives out weigh the negatives.

Going to pick up this game for sure next month when I have the money.



WaveBoy said:

What did it do better than 2? The tighter zippity controls, faster ladder climbing, introduction to Rush(beats out the 1,2 & 3 Item, Dr.Wily's crazy-tough 'return' stages and it's got Snake man. Mega Man 2 however does everything else better and comes off as the most epic, up beat, colorful, creative and most memorable Mega Man out there combined with it's flawless soundtrack.

Meanwhile MM3 is the polar opposite in tone, i've always disliked it's darker less colorful approach(simular to MM10's, yet 10 leaned more towards being sad in sound, which captured the entire scenario involving the sick & infected Robots), semi-dissapointing soundtrack when paired with MM2's, and it's easily got some of the worst Robot Masters around....Hard and Needle being the most forgettable. I've always slightly prefered 4 over this one aside from Dr.Cossacks & Wily's crummy castles. Then again, i tend to shift between the two.
As far as the 6 'NES' games are concerned.

2 > 1 > 4+3 > 5

MM6 shall be hitting the Wavester's KingHippo mail box any day now, can't wait to finally tackle this final mixed bag of an entry in the original Nes series! Like many, i missed out on it since it was released shorty before the NES bit the 8-bit dust. Centaur man will be my first.



Foot77 said:

This looks like a awesome game, I've never played it before, but now it's got me thinking...... Might have to pick this up after Gunman Clive and Go Series Undead Storm...




This is the best megaman game capcom has ever created, period. It has everything you want, a pretty long game, a classic soundtrack, the best robot in the series protoman/blues, no more weird items for rockman as you now have rush, the best enemy robot in the series shadowman, etc etc etc etc. I would easily give this a 10/10 as it is just awesome from all angles.




@Peacock So, you're passing the jewel masterpiece in favor of the golden turd? Megaman 4 has nothing against 3, and I really liked the dark tone the game has, also, the level design is flawless to me.



SparkOfSpirit said:

The megabuster broke MM4-6.

MM3 is the best classic Mega Man. Better controls, balanced weapons, Rush, Protoman and the awesome slide all add a lot to the series. I also don't see a problem with the level design and in fact enjoy the Wily stages WAY more than the ones in 2. Sure they're tricky but Rush is there to help if you get stuck.

The music is massively underrated, too. Magnet Man, Shadow Man, Top Man, Snake Man, Spark Man, and Gemini Man have excellent themes.

It is one of my favorite NES games, and I really don't see what 4-6 did better than any of the first 3. Good review, even if I'd give it a 10!



WaveBoy said:

I agree, the mega buster was the worst thing that ever happened to mega man, plus 3 has MM2's Wily castle beat aside from the Bosses. I think it's safe to say that MM2 has the worst Wily stages is the entire series...It's really 2's only downfall, otherwise it's brilliant!



Urbanhispanic said:

I LOVE Mega Man 3. It is my favorite of the series. To me, it tops MM2 because it gave me more of a challenge (even if you play MM2 on hard mode.) I have always felt it was the most balanced game of the six games and gave me the most fun as well. Yes, MM2 is the clear favorite for some of you and that is why the debate of whether 2 or 3 is the best in the series will continue to rage on long after we pass this world lol



Urbanhispanic said:

@ everyone who mentioned the Mega Buster:

I thought it was a cool idea when part 4 came out but I felt the game design didn't properly implement it so it ended up being more of a chore to charge it up to shoot enemies when it was faster to repeatedly shoot your main weapon to destroy enemies.



Urbanhispanic said:


Actually, the Wily Stages in Mega Man 2 weren't that bad. I liked the first stage for its music and how you had to work your way to the top to be "ambushed" by the flying dragon. The second and third stages had different layouts and interesting bosses (c'mon the Gutsman tank was the last thing you'd expect to encounter.) The infamous fourth stage, however, I would say is the one that lacked a good design (a somewhat barren obstacle course), not enough enemies to shoot and facing the end boss.

it's just my opinion but MM2 is still a great game.



Tasuki said:

I dont know why so many people say the megabuster broke Megaman 4 onward. I never used a charge shot when I play those games.



WaveBoy said:

Oh dont get me wrong, i absolutely loved the Dragon(most frightening and suprising Mega Man boss ever!), Giant Guts man Tank, 'Alien' Wily and to a much lesser extent that...Um, frustrating Tri-gun machine thingy that had everybody pulling their hair out. But the stages themselves just didn't quite do it for me, I prefered the unique layout to the Wily Stages in MM1 combined with the bright orange and blue design, rather than the dreary mechanical & muddly look of 2's.

I didn't like having to charge up the mega buster to take out an enemie, it just didn't feel satisfying for some reason, especially when it's required to get past certain enemies during the stages. It basically puts the game to a hault. Skull Man's stage was such a clunky disaster. For me, Dive man & his stage were the highlite of MM4.

And who could forget Toad man's 'Goonie' Truffle rain dance.



ouroborous said:

top 3 megaman games (8 and x3 are pretty much tied though):
1. mm3 (NES)
2. mm8 (PS1)
3. mmX3 (PS1 port with added boss FMVs)

If you want to count the Tron Bonne megaman Legends game as the unofficial Megaman Legends 3, then it would seem that megaman hits his stride in about the third of any series (Those being MM, MMX and MML). On the other hand, prehaps the sadly cancelled MML3 for 3DS would have been the cream of the crop for that series.
As for other series, MMBN 2 was probably my favourite, the MMZ games were pretty much even across the board, and MMZX only had two entries which were also pretty much even. Don't know if anyone played any of the star force games, I hear there's no point.



SparkOfSpirit said:

@Tasuki like WaveBoy said it killed the pacing. It also made the primary weapon more powerful than the other weapons which gives less incentive to use them. Let's also not forget the incessant noise. As a whole I never really liked its inclusion in the classic series though Protoman used it well in 9 and 10.

The weapon fit way more in the Mega Man X series.



rayword45 said:

I read the first sure as sucker. Whoops.

Also, in my opinion, I really like the level design and the bosses too. This is what I'd put as a 10 over MM2.




@KeeperBvK The problem with 4 is that the megabuster was too powerful that it ruined the game, in 5 and 6 it was powerful alright but it was toned down so that you didn't kill everything in the game with a single shot; also, it has the cheapest boss in the entire series (including x and zero): TOAD MAN. That's another problem 4 has, in jewels like 1, 2 or 3 if you faced certain bosses with only the mega buster, you were crazy as hell, examples: elecman, quickman, shadowman, hardman, iceman, etc. those bastards can kill you pretty quick if you aren't careful enough to dodge their attacks. 4 is the cheapest in the series, it was so damn easy that I didn't use any special weapon to defeat any of the bosses, just the mega buster at full charge.




@WaveBoy I liked the wily stages in 2, but I agree, they are so long and tedious that it backfires on the game, like you said bosses like the dragon, the guts-tank, alien wily are just awesome and feel very rewarding to destroy; MM1, MM3, MM9 AND MM10 are superior in that way, the wily stages in those are just much more fun to play; and yeah, in the nes entries the mega buster just feels too weird for its own good, it totally broke 4, in 5 and 6 they toned it down but not enough to make some bosses easier with it. The games where the mega buster feels right are megaman 7, megaman 8 and megaman and bass, that is all.



DaveGX said:

Honestly i don't think ic an argue that the mega buster was all that bad for this series considering some of the enemies and their attack patterns that usually take several hits til they're done, excluding sub bosses. The main thing I always did was charge up and run with it so it wouldn't slow down the game. Ya just gotta know how to use it. But here, how's this for a challenge... Ya ever go through any of these games, no robot master pattern in particular and face em without a robot master weapon equipped? That's what i used to through my 1st tries and then wait until ya face em again the 2nd time ebfore Wiley to see who's weapon does what; Some of my fondest memories through this series back in the day. It's amazing some of these games you come back to and find it feels harder than when you 1st experienced it. Still by far 1 of my most favorites, though. #4 topped it for me just slightly.



MrL1193 said:

In my opinion, 2 was a major improvement over 1, but it still feels rough and unpolished to me. The regular stages in 2 were decent for the most part, though I find Heat Man's and Crash Man's stages to be pretty bland. The first couple Wily stages were fine too, but the game loses steam toward the end with the repetitive stage music, the awkward Wily 4 boss, the bland rematch stage and Wily Machine, and the utterly underwhelming final stage and boss (in terms of gameplay, at least). And it doesn't help that the game's only boss theme is not one of my favorites.

3 had its issues, certainly, but it really felt like one of the more satisfying games to finish--partly due to its length and difficulty. The stages have a good amount of variety, and the Wily stages have a more satisfying conclusion. The soundtrack was great too; Snake Man's and Shadow Man's themes are among my favorites, and the Wily stage themes really help to build tension (particularly in the last two "stages"). And although 3 did suffer from slowdown, it didn't have nearly as much flickering as 1 and 2.



Windy said:

I'm going to wait and see if it gets a 3D Classic release since Ive already played it.



Awesoman said:

Mega Man 2 is the definite classic. This one is pretty good too but it hasn't aged quite as well. The slowdown is annoying and the weapons aren't as interesting. Proto Man was a cool character; I remember wanting to finish this game desparately to find out what his secret was.



Magrane said:

Mega Man 3 definitely outdid Mega Man 2 in terms of fun, challenge, colors and a more interesting story. It gets "darker" from this point on.

One note for Nintendo Life: I love Phillip Reed's writing, love for retro games and excellent game reviews, but could we have a NON-Mega Man fan write the rest of the Virtual Console Mega Man reviews? It'd be nice to have a non-biased reviewer take a look at these retro games and maybe even offer a perspective that some of us retro gamers might be overlooking.



Philip_J_Reed said:

One note for Nintendo Life: I love Phillip Reed's writing, love for retro games and excellent game reviews, but could we have a NON-Mega Man fan write the rest of the Virtual Console Mega Man reviews?

I've only written two! All of the other reviews, including the Wii VC releases of MM2 and 3, are by other reviewers, so check them out if you do want a second opinion.



Magrane said:

Philip - understandable! It's just that I know your love for the franchise (at least as high as mine!) but you're right, there are VC reviews on this site too.

No offense taken, I hope.

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