Rock & Roll, all night long.
So Mega Man 11’s music isn’t exactly lighting the Mega-world on fire. A shame too, because the Mega Man games boast one of the catchiest 8-bit (and more) soundtracks for a 2D action platformer game filled with theme park setpieces as actual boss levels. Dozens of metal artists and cover bands will always find a way to play tracks like Mega Man 2’s Wily Stage 1 theme in exciting and breathtaking ways.
The OSTs are so monumental there are even concept bands who name themselves after Mega Man’s brother, singing awesome rock ballads about the future robot wars.
Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be a SoundScape video for this yet due to time constraints, so I’ll do the next best thing: write about the best tracks in the OG Mega Man games and why they make an impact in every retro gamer’s lives and earbuds.
“Dr Wily Stage 1” from Mega Man 2
The Mega Man games were never creative with their naming conventions, but the impact of this tune to many young gamers in the late 80s is profound. The high BPM, the catchy jingle, the sense of dread from how “final” this tune sounds when you’re storming the Wily Castle; it’s pure 8-bit synth bliss.
“Flash Man” from Mega Man 2
Among all the Robot Master’s themes, this one is pretty catchy due to the main verse and the very similar-sounding chorus that came out of Metallica’s Seek & Destroy. No, really!
“Wood Man” from Mega Man 2
After the intro, the main beat just brings you to a thub-thumping jungle vibe. Gosh, there are just too many memorable Mega Man 2 tracks to choose from.
“Wily Stage 1” from Mega Man 3
Again with the penultimate stages’ music. This one has a more “jazz-like” and “peppy” vibe to it, but still retains the high octane thrill and dread you get when barging into a big boss’ fortress unannounced.
“Snake Man” from Mega Man 3
Who knew a theme about a wriggly level filled with towers, green snakes, and clouds can house such a memorable melody?
“Shadow Man” from Mega Man 3
I was not expecting a theme for a space ninja to turn out this funky.
“Ending” from Mega Man 3
Holy effin’ tearjerker, Batman. This theme brings in the feels. Back when no one knew what to expect from a Mega Man game, part 3 brings in an epic tale unlike any other, complete with the iconic twist that Mega Man has a long-lost robot brother.
“Dr Cossack Stage 2” from Mega Man 4
Back when there was no internet, no one knew if Dr. Cossack was going to be the big bad of Mega Man 4 or not. This made the last few Cossack stages a lot tenser especially when this music came in.
“Gravity Man” from Mega Man 5
The sci-fi melody of this flip-flopping stage is arguably the only merit this Mega Man sequel has, music-wise. Everything else is rather forgettable.
“Tomahawk Man”, “Knight Man” from Mega Man 6
The Western and medieval leit motifs of both these stages showcase the world tour vibe this Mega Man sequel has.
“Tengu Man (PlayStation version)” from Mega Man 8
This track captures the joys of flying in the sky and being in a sky-based theme stage, clouds and all. There’s a carefree vibe here that warrants multiple listens.
“Frost Man” from Mega Man 8
The duality of this stage astounds many fans. On one hand, it introduces the worst aspects of an auto-scroll Mega Man stage. But on the other, the winterland music sped up to a high tempo coupled by sick bass licks adds a lot of mystique to this sleek and svelte track.
“Pirate Man (Super Famicom version)” from Mega Man & Bass
Maritime level music always has the reverb effect turned on like mad, but what about on 16-bit sound chips? Somehow or other the music makers (Toshihiko Horiyama, Naoshi Mizuta, Akari Kaida) made it work with its kinda-warbly effects and beautiful sombre melody.
Trivia: The “boop” beats during verse after the 30-second mark alternates between the left and right channels of your headphones. That’s pretty amazing sound detailing there.
“Ground Man (Super Famicom version)” from Mega Man & Bass
I never expected a stage in Giza to have such jazzy music. This theme is sure to get your head-bopping, because it’s a rare instance that a Mega Man game that isn’t X has such good music on the SNES.
“We’re The Robots ~Wily Stage 2” & “Galaxy Man” from Mega Man 9
Both Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 have great NES-synth soundtracks that happen to have extra layers not possible back in the day. But if we had to pick one or two tracks that exemplify these neo-retro titles, we’ll go with the cyber-anthem theme in Mega Man 9’s final few stages…
…and this space sentai-influenced theme from Galaxy Man’s stage…
…and this sky-high inspirational ditty from Tornado Man’s stage. There’s just too many tracks to pick here, goddammit!
“Nitro Man” and “Solar Man” from Mega Man 10
Fun fact: Mega Man 10’s Robot Master stage tunes were composed by former composers from Mega Man’s musical past. Almost every songwriter had a hand in the OST to create a series progression of music to culminate the series.
And this proves that musicians like Manami Matsumae and Yasuaki “Bun Bun” Fujita are the cream of the crop for Mega Man tunes. Their respective contributions are the adrenaline-laced “Nitro Man” theme and danger-filled “Solar Man” theme.
So far, these are the best Mega Man tracks I know and love listening to repeatedly on a rainy day. What is your choice picks? Let us know!