Megaman 3 Review (NES)

Megaman vs Dr. Wily, Round 3

By 1990, the Nintendo Entertainment System had already peaked. The Turbografix-16 and Sega Genesis were out and vastly outperforming the limited tech of the Nintendo. Still, the NES was still able to hold its own very well that year thanks to yet another batch of excellent games, most notably Megaman 3.

Even according to its own project manager, Megaman 3 was rushed.  Many ideas started for it were left unfinished and glossed over. As a result, Megaman 3 is much less polished than 2 and manages somehow to be even easier than 2 was in it’s dumbed down American “normal” mode.

All this said, Megaman 3 is remembered for being one of the best games in the series and a strong excuse why many oldschool gamers keep that NES toaster close to their television.

Does Megaman 3 really deserve all the attention it garners?


Megaman 3 has no in-game explanation of the plot. To learn it, you have to actually read the Japanese manual, as the US manual is absurdly inaccurate.

It is the year 2010. After being defeated twice, Dr. Wily claims to be a changed man, and wants to team up with Dr. Light once again to build robots to benefit mankind.

Dr. Wily and Dr. Light work together on a “peace-keeping” robot named Gamma, a massive Robot so powerful that once finished,would be able to stop anyone who tried to take over the world as Wily did. Gamma uses a special new form of power generated from newly discovered, extremely rare and valuable energy crystals.

As the two doctor’s search, they discover that there are eight energy crystals being guarded by yet another set of crazed robot masters.

Megaman is sent in once again to defeat the robots and retrieve the crystals, all the while being shadowed by a mysterious red robot that seems to only fight Megaman to test him. What is the secret to this mystery? Has Wily truly changed? What will happen when Gamma is finished?


Megaman 3 is very good looking for NES standards. Backgrounds are much more detailed than the previous two games and large enemy sprites are the norm. Megaman looks the same as always, but the robot masters this time around are all appealing to look at. Megaman 3 has some of the most varied stages of any game in the series. Gemini Man’s stage is a very cool multi-colored cavern that seems to be in space or something. It’s awesome.

The only stage I don’t understand at all is Top Man’s. It’s not Top themed at all, instead more like a greenhouse growing….something. No idea what his stage is. Maybe he’s the “top” of pot-growing? Regardless, it’s still a nicely designed stage with a cool theme.  Top Man himself though? One of the lamest bosses in the series.


Once again, the soundtrack is nothing short of amazing. Many of the tracks from the game are amongst the catchiest, most memorable chiptunes you’ll ever hear. Just like 2, many cover bands the world over remix Megaman 3. The title theme in particular just might be one of the best melodies used for any game’s title screen ever. I consider it a must-listen for anyone who is a fan of 8-bit.

A special treat for you as you read: One of my favorite arranged versions of the awesome intro sequence.


Megaman 3 plays identically to Megaman 2 – you run, shoot, jump and climb ladders. You progress through the stages fight each robot master and gaining their powers. Even by Megaman 3 this was old hat. Megaman 3 built upon Megaman 2 by adding two new features to the gameplay – sliding and Rush.

New for Megaman 3, by pressing down and B Megaman will slide, allowing him a quick boost in speed and maneuverability. In addition, sliding reduce Mergaman’s height from two spaces to one, allowing him to access narrow areas he normally would not be able to and also to avoid some attacks he would not if he were standing. As Megaman can jump out of a slide, the speed boost and the reduction in side greatly add to Megaman’s agility in battle.

The other major addition is Rush, Megaman’s robodog sidekick. Rush doesn’t directly aid Megaman in combat but rather serves the same role the three Items did in 2 in that he provides a platform for Megaman to gain access to otherwise unreachable areas. Rush has three forms: Rush Coil, Rush Jet, and Rush Marine.

Rush Coil is basically a springboard that allows Megaman to preform a super jump that Mario would be jealous of. Rush Jet is the most useful as it provides Megaman with the ability to fly anywhere on the screen, over spikes, enemies, pitfalls and just about anything else. The final form for Rush is the Rush Marine, which acts the same as the Rush Jet, but only in water. Of the three this is used the least as there are only a handful of underwater sections in the entire game.


The controls for Megaman 3 are almost identical to those from 2. The d-pad moves, B shoots, A jumps, Start pauses, select does nothing. As said above, sliding is now preformed by pressing down and B.


Megaman 3 is much less frustrating than the average Megaman game as long as you don’t use the Top Spin. This almighty useless weapon spins Megaman like a top for his arms and legs to slam into foes, but you’ll almost always collide with them causing you just as much damage. It really sucks. The level design this time around is a little easier than Megaman 2’s, especially if you make good use of the Rush Jet.

If you’re still having difficulties with the game and are playing the NES or Famicom version, Get out a second controller and some tape. Megaman 3 has a set of beta-tester shortcuts mapped to the buttons of the second controller that when held, greatly reduce the game’s difficulty.

Hold right on the d-pad of controller 2 and jump with controller 1 to preform a jump that even outperforms the boost Rush Coil offers!

Hold up on the d-pad of controller 2 and jump with controller 1 to freeze sprite frames. Not very useful, but kind of cool.

Hold up on the d-pad of controller 2 and A on controller 2 as well to completely freeze all robots on the screen including Megaman. You’ll either need a friend, a foot, or some tape to do this. This is helpful as Megaman can still fire even though he can’t move, but your enemies can’t do anything.

There are a number of other tricks for the game, but these are the most useful, and then of course there’s Game Genie…

System availability and price

Rockman 3 on the Famicom usually runs about $25.

Megaman 3 on the NES goes for around $15

It is also on the Wii for 500 points.


No ESRB at the time, but today it would be E. This is a great starting game for casual Megaman fans as it is by far the easiest title, even without exploiting the second controller tricks.


While Keiji Inafune has never directly said so, it’s pretty obvious the insperation for Megaman’s sidekick robot dog Rush came from Friender, the robo-dog sidekick to Casshern of the 1973 anime series Neo-Human Casshern. You just need to watch the opening sequence for that anime to see the influences.

In an interview with Nintendo Power in the October 2007 issue, series creator Keiji Inafune explained that he was disappointed with: “…what went into the game and what was behind the release of the game.” He also stated that he was forced to put the game out before he thought it was ready and during the game’s production, the developers lost the main planner, so Inafune had to take over that job for completing the game. Inafune concluded, “I knew that if we had more time to polish it, we could do a lot of things better, make it a better game, but the company (Capcom) said that we needed to release it. The whole environment behind what went into the production of the game is what I least favored. Numbers one and two – I really wanted to make the games; I was so excited about them. Number three – it just turned very different.”

Evidence of the game’s rushed devolopment cycle are everywhere in Megaman 3, but I’ll narrow them down to a few key examples.

Exhibit A: The lack of an intro

Megaman 3 is the only NES game other than Megaman 1 to completely lack an introduction sequence. When you turn on the power, the titlescreen simply appears without explaining the story at all. The game features a brilliant titlescreen theme that plays for nearly a minute before looping, but the only way to hear all of it is to simply put the controller down and stare at a static titlescreen.

Exhibit B: Protoman

In Megaman 3, Protoman appears in front of Megaman several times, at first hiding his true identity by wearing a Sniper Joe-like mask and using the name “Breakman”. As you fight him each time, the game does nothing to explain what’s going on, or even who Protoman is at the end of the game. To me, this is a big sign of a rushed development.

Exhibit C: Musical cues suddenly get cut off

There are a few tracks that normally get cut off unless you preform the up and A trick with the second controller. The first is Protoman’s whistle. Normally only the first part will play and then cut out. The second example is Dr. Wily’s theme on the mapscreen. Again, it cuts off at roughly only half way through it. The final example is the worst.

After the mysterious shadowy figure that had been watching Megaman throughout the game saves him at the end of the game, the full version of Protoman’s theme plays as each Dr. Light Number robot scrolls by the screen.  The full Protoman theme is a treat to hear, but it gets cut off right in the middle! What the hell Capcom?!

Exhibit D: Unused sprites and other oddities in the ROM

Megaman 3 is teeming with unused sprites, only discovered through modern NES compilers and hex editors. In Gemini Man’s stage, there was originally to be a large Saturn-like planet in the background that would shimmer in multiple colors. Other examples include a Magnet Missile sprite as the Magnets turned on an angle, something that does not occur in the final game.

There are many other examples. If you are curious, you can read all the examples discovered here:

Even given its raid development shortcomings, Megaman 3 ending being a huge hit for Capcom when it was released in 1990, outselling nearly every other third party game that year. The wild success of two Megaman games in a row assured Capcom that a fourth would also sell well, so development of Megaman 4 was quickly scheduled, but the soon to be released Super Famicom would serve as a large growing pain for Megaman…



The addition of the slide greatly increases Megaman’s agility and is a lot of fun to use

Password system returns

The longest Megaman game ever made at 21 stages.

More classic Megaman tunes and one of the best titlescreen themes in videogame history


Almost complete lack of an in-game story. That opening sequence music is AMAZING, but the only way to hear it is to stare at the static title screen.

Many other musical oddities you cannot hear without special means, such as Protoman’s whistle playing part way, the Wily theme, and the epilogue. These tunes all get strangely cut off mid way through.

Far too easy.

The Top Spin sucks


To me, the constant debate if Megaman 2 is better than 3 is irrelevant. They’re both must own, must play games that have timeless appeal. Megaman 3 is the first game where the US boxart even slightly resembles the blue bomber! As they say, third time’s a charm. Will Megaman 4 best it? Find out next time!


Platform: Famicom, Nintendo Entertainment System

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: September 28, 1990

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Also from the developer: Megaman 2, Megaman X, Street Fighter, Bionic Commando

ESRB: N/A, but would be “E’

Buy or skip: Buy
Bonus content

Here’s some Megaman 3 beadsprites I made a while bac. Hope you enjoy!

and the robot master select screen

As if I needed another reason to love Megaman 3, I found this randomly on google image search.

Enough said.

4 Responses to “Megaman 3 Review (NES)”

  1. Excellent, excellent review. See that? It was so good I had to say “excellent” twice.

  2. Mega Man 3 is a weird game for me, it’s one of my favorites but once I clear the 4 Doc Robots the “unfinished” nature of the game really hits home starting with the random “Break Man” fight that in retrospect really feels like it was supposed to be part of a story scene that’s missing. The Wily levels that follow are kind of uninspired with several of them being glorified boss gates, with not very impressive bosses behind them save for maybe the reprise of the Yellow Devil.

    Wily himself isn’t much of a challenge with the use of the proper equipment and the Top Spin finishing move is funny, but anti-climactic.

    But the soundtrack, the robot masters, the additions of Rush, Protoman and the slide are all incredible. Every time I play the game I find myself wondering how amazing it would have been if they had the time to finish it like they intended since it’s so amazing the way it already is. Inafune has said that he would like to go back and finish it properly someday, it’s unfortunate that’s definitely not going to happen now.

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