The 12 games of Christmas #3: Mega Man 3

I know I’ve told this story before, but I received Mega Man 3 as a gift on Christmas morning 1990. By the middle of the afternoon, I’d already beaten it, much to my mother’s consternation — the idea that I’d already finished such an expensive gift so quickly really irritated her. But she didn’t realize that Mega Man 3 was fantastic and that I fully intended to play it over and over again. Which I did. Money well invested, I would say.


Mega Man 3 proved that whatever dark alchemy used to create Mega Man 2 wasn’t simply a fluke, or some sort of formula that would vanish forever at the stroke of midnight. Here we had Capcom recapturing the greatness of Mega Man’s breakout title and building on an already amazing creation. Sure, some of the new elements here change the nature of parts of the game — the ability to slide opens new tactical possibilities while losing some of the mechanical purity of the first two titles — and the weapons aren’t as useful as in the previous game (though some might argue Metal Blade was too useful).

Nevertheless, for every possible down side, Mega Man 3 introduced a number of upsides. The remixed stages you have to complete before taking on Dr. Wily’s lair aren’t simply padding, they rework each stage to create new and more challenging scenarios for play mechanics you might otherwise take for granted. The music, expectedly, rocks. The graphics extend the depth and quality of Mega Man 2‘s characters to the backgrounds and environments, offering a wider array of visuals and characters. If ever you needed a case for the importance of giving developers a little more room to stretch, compare the visual improvements afforded by Mega Man 3‘s more advanced mapper chip to the great but limited visuals in the previous game.


Despite the upgrade, Mega Man 3 didn’t compromise the series’ underlying cartoon weirdness. Those bug-eyed Disney robots became even wackier — grenades dashing at you in a suicide run, penguin generators that looked like shaved ice makers, and more. All goofy, and all the weirder for how hostile and deadly they were.

The next year, I opened up a copy of Mega Man 4 for Christmas, kicking off a tradition that… ended abruptly, because the Super NES came along and made NES Mega Man feel tragically limited. But it was fun while it lasted.

6 thoughts on “The 12 games of Christmas #3: Mega Man 3

  1. Whoa, you beat it in one day?

    It was the opposite for me, it took me weeks to beat MM3, but I finished MM2 in one day.
    MM3 was my first, though.

    • I cut my teeth on the original before MM2 came out, so MM3 was a cakewalk by comparison. Continues! Heath refills! Such luxury!

  2. I played the original game first-I was sucked in by ads that Capcom ran for its early titles-and was awful at it. A friend of mine made a bit more progress, but I don’t remember him beating it.

    Unfortunately, that put me off the rest of the series for a long time. I miss the ability to discover a great and innovative game like The Guardian Legend, but the flipside of that aspect of the old gaming scene was that you’d often step on a land mine. For me, that took the form of games that were so hard that I couldn’t make any significant progress into the game.

  3. I also got Mega Man 3 for Christmas that year. I remember it being sold out everywhere and really difficult to find right up to the last minute. My parents kept asking me if I’d like another game (really, any other game). After discovering MM2 and replaying it all summer, then beating the original on rentals since the stores didn’t have that in stock either, my heart was really set on the sequel, so I’d reply, “No, all I want for Christmas is Mega Man 3.” Somehow my parents came through and were able to catch a shipment a day or two before the holiday.

    Man, I was such a spoiled brat, but this game didn’t disappoint. I wonder how many kids put their parents through the same thing with amiibos or whatever this year. Some things never change.

  4. I’ve said elsewhere that it would be interesting to see a ROM hack of Mega Man 2 that works in some of the better-balanced weapons from later in the series (swap the Metal Blade for the Shadow Star and the Time Stopper for the Flash Stopper, mmmmaybe swap the Leaf Shield for one of the later versions that’s mobile, and…do SOMETHING with the Atomic Fire to make it useful for something other than trying to two-shot Wood Man, failing, and finishing him off with Metal Blade instead).

    • (Adding: MM2, of course, DOES have the best-balanced weapons in the series, internally, but the more refined versions in the later games were improvements in their various ways.)

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