Capcom recently announced the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection during the Nintendo Direct Mini in June 2022. It contains 10 games from the iconic Gameboy Advance series, with Battlenet 3 from two similar releases to the Pokemon franchise.
Each game follows a young boy named Lan and his partner Mega Man.exe. Mega Man is a NetNavi, which are avatars that roam the Internet and the virtual world as if they were physical spaces. Fans love the Battle Network series because its games are full-fledged RPGs rather than the side-scrolling games Mega Man was originally known for.
The collection is slated for release in 2023, but not all games are of equal quality according to the Mega Man Battle Network fanbase (myself included). There are six main titles included, but which deserve your attention? I’ve put together a list of the best games in the series, from worst to best, to help you prepare for the collection’s eventual release. Even the version differences are enough to justify one on top!
The fourth entry in the series is widely considered a black sheep. This is due to its lack of a compelling story and its narrative structure built around three main tournaments. The plot revolves around an asteroid heading towards Earth, and it’s up to Lan and Mega Man to stop it by proving themselves in tournaments, apparently. It’s not like they’ve saved the world three times so far.
BN4 attempted to master some of the more chaotic aspects of combat from previous games. It introduced the Double Soul system, which replaced the superior style change system that BN2 and BN3 had. It was an interesting concept, Mega Man being able to borrow the various elemental powers of his allies and use them. However, each Double Soul only lasted three turns, while the style change lasted the entire battle. Dual souls were inherently much more limiting.
What really makes this game a slog is that players will need to complete three full games in order to see all of the game’s content. There are twelve different souls split evenly between the Red Sun and Blue Moon versions. Your first playthrough grants you three souls, the second gives you two, and the third unlocks the final one. It’s an incredibly demanding game.
BN4 isn’t a bad game per se (if you’re going to play one, go for Red Sun), but it’s easily the worst game in the franchise due to its repetitive nature and inflexible combat. It’s such a shocking drop that many consider BN3 to be the best of the series.
He’s the one who started it all. Mega Man Battle Network follows Lan and Mega Man as they prepare to solve crimes happening in the city. As they discover the common thread connecting all these crimes, they come face to face with a terrorist group called WWW.
This entry ranks lower mainly because it is simply old and not as polished as later entries. For starters, Mega Man can’t escape Random Battles without using a Specialized Battle Chip. Also, different areas of the internet all look alike, which makes browsing frustrating. A fitting comparison for this game would be as the original Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow games. They set a good foundation but improved dramatically with each subsequent generation (and sometimes even regressed as BN4 did).
Mega Man Battle Network actually received a remake on the Nintendo DS in 2011, but it was never released outside of Japan. In this remake, there was a crossover with the version of Mega Man from the Star Force series. It’s currently unknown if this storyline will be included in the Legacy Collection, but it would be great.
This one is the franchise’s most unique and controversial entry. Lan and Mega Man take on the Nebula crime syndicate as they seek to wreak havoc in the real world and the cyberworld through the use of Dark Battle Chips, programs that can corrupt NetNavis.
What sets BN5 apart are its liberating missions. These are strategy RPG-like games where Lan and his team must free sections of the internet from the corrupt clutches of the Darkloids, Nebula’s inner circle. This is also the first time that players can control other NetNavis besides Mega Man. The premise of the different versions is that Mega Man’s allies are completely different from each other, with veteran Protoman leading one and newcomer Colonel leading the other.
Liberation Missions are fun and a good mix of the traditional Battle Network formula, but don’t expect anything as in-depth as Fire Emblem. He still has a few issues holding him back, like his rigid Double Soul system. Still, this game has a lot of post-game content with extra liberation missions and hard-to-beat bosses. The music is also absolutely fantastic.
There is also a Nintendo DS version called Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team DS which contains both the Protoman and Colonel versions. Here, players can actually earn “Transfer Points” which can be used to bring in a complementary ally from the other version’s team. For example, Protoman and Colonel occupy the role of “leader” in their respective versions, and they can swap places during liberation missions. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be getting the DS version, but rather the separate Game Boy Advance versions. They are both equally balanced builds and you can’t go wrong with either one.
This is the final entry in the series and follows Lan and Mega Man as they move to a new town. WWW has apparently been brought back and they want to control these giant digital creatures called Cybeasts for their own nefarious means.
BN6 is known for its more balanced gameplay. It introduces the Cross system, which is a kind of middle ground between Double Soul from BN4 and BN5, and Style Change from BN2 and BN3. Instead of only lasting three turns like Double Soul does, crosses last the entire battle like the style change. The caveat here is that if Mega Man is hit with an elemental weakness that matches his current cross, he will revert to normal and that cross cannot be used for the rest of the battle. There are 10 total crosses available, split evenly between the two versions.
The game features the very cool Beast Out mechanic. Depending on your build, Mega Man can release the Cybeast absorbed within him. He will transform into a fierce wolf hybrid with Gregar or a fast hawk variant with Falzar. Mega Man gets a massive combat boost, including unflinching armor or the ability to hover over gaps. To balance this, Beast Out only lasts three rounds, like Double Soul.
After many fans were disappointed with BN4 and BN5, it was nice to see BN6 as a return to form. The international versions of this game actually had cut content, including an additional post-game section. Hopefully Capcom can restore it for the Legacy Collection.
This game is set a few months after the first and follows Mega Man and Lan as they take down an evil new organization called Gospel, who are intent on destroying society by recreating a SuperNavi.
It can’t be overstated how drastic an improvement BN2 was over the first game. The Internet now has central hubs that act much like public squares. Mega Man can buy supplies there and talk with NPCs. Each area seems distinct from each other, which makes navigation much less of a pain. Remember how you used to need a specialized Battle Chip to escape Random Battles? Now Mega Man can attempt to escape at any time.
In the first game, Lan could only customize one bullet folder for Mega Man. Here he can alternate and customize between the three. BN2 also features the excellent style change system. Mega Man can choose between several forms like the Shield style, which gives him a small barrier at the start of each battle, or the Custom style, which gives him access to more Battle Chips during his turn. Styles can also be combined with different elements, such as WoodShield or HeatCustom.
Along with the improved quality of life characteristics, BN2 also featured a likable antagonist, which really cemented the entry’s high placement among fans. It is considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best, entries in the franchise.
The best game in the Mega Man Battle Network series is its third installment. WWW makes a comeback and wants to resurrect the evil prototype of the Internet. It’s up to Lan and Mega Man to stop the organization.
BN2’s quality of life improvements continue here, but BN3 introduces the amazing Navi Customizer feature which becomes standard for the rest of the series. Here Mega Man can collect Tetris-like pieces and insert them into a grid. These parts have abilities such as increasing his max health or even giving him the ability to float over holes. However, there are rules he must follow. For example, parts cannot overlap and if that happens, he will be hit with a bug such as his HP depleting during battle.
The story dives deeper into Lan’s family history which is both a story of sadness and hope. Some consider BN3 to be the best of the series, alongside BN2. However, what makes BN3 stand out is its sleeker user interface and vastly superior soundtrack. The latter especially helps elevate the game’s thrilling and heavy story moments.
As for which version of the game you should get, Blue is definitely the best. Both versions have exclusive Battle Chips to collect, but Blue has an extremely overpowered one called FolderBack. Each time Mega Man uses a Battle Chip, it disappears for the rest of the match. With FolderBack, he can recall everyone he’s ever used, including FolderBack itself. The blue version also has an exclusive boss that the white version does, for some reason.
Megaman Battle Network Legacy Collection will launch in 2023 on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.