Capcom recently announced the Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection during the June 2022 Nintendo Direct Mini. It contains 10 games from the iconic Gameboy Advance series, with Battle Network 3 onwards having two versions similar to the Pokémon 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 around the Internet and 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 that Mega Man was originally known for.
The collection is due out in 2023, but not all of the games are of equal quality according to the Mega Man Battle Network fanbase (myself included). There are six mainline titles included, but which ones are worth your attention? I’ve put together a list of the best games in the series, from worst to best, to help you prep for the collection’s eventual release. Even version differences are enough to warrant one over the over!
The fourth entry in the series is widely considered a black sheep. That’s 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 the 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 already saved the world three times up to this point.
BN4 tried to rein in some of the more chaotic aspects of the past games’ combat. It introduced the Double Soul system, which replaced the superior Style Change system that BN2 and BN3 had. It was an interesting concept, with Mega Man being able to borrow his allies’ different elemental powers and utilize them. However, each Double Soul lasted for only three turns, while Style Change lasted for the entire battle. Double Souls were inherently just much more limiting.
What really makes this game a slog is that players will need to complete three whole playthroughs 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, with the second giving you two, and the third unlocking the last. It’s a bafflingly demanding game.
BN4 isn’t a bad game per se (if you’re going to play one, go with 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 as many consider BN3 to be the best in the series.
This is the one that started it all. Mega Man Battle Network follows Lan and Mega Man as they get wrapped up in solving crimes happening around town. As they discover the common thread linking all of these crimes, they end up facing a terrorist group called WWW.
This entry ranks lower mostly for just being old and not nearly as polished as later entries. For starters, Mega Man can’t escape from random battles without using a specialized Battle Chip. Furthermore, the different areas around the Internet all look the same, making it frustrating to navigate around. An apt comparison for this game would be like the original Red, Blue, and Yellow Pokémon games. They established a good foundation but substantially improved with each subsequent generation (and sometimes even regressed as BN4 did).
Mega Man Battle Network actually received a remake on the Nintendo DS in 2009, but it was never released outside of Japan. In this remake, there was a crossover event with the version of Mega Man from the Star Force series. It’s currently unknown whether this scenario will be included in the Legacy Collection, but it’d be great.
This one is the most unique and divisive entry in the franchise. Lan and Mega Man face off against the crime syndicate Nebula as they seek to sow chaos throughout both the real world and cyber world through the use of Dark Battle Chips, programs that can corrupt NetNavis.
What makes BN5 stand out is its Liberation Missions. These are strategy RPG-like games where Lan and his team must free sections of the Internet from the corrupted clutches of the Darkloids, Nebula’s inner circle. This is also the first time players can control other NetNavis besides Mega Man. The premise for the different versions is that Mega Man’s allies are completely different between both of them, with the veteran Protoman leading one, and newcomer Colonel leading the other.
The Liberation Missions are fun and a good mixup to the traditional Battle Network formula but don’t go in expecting something as in-depth as Fire Emblem. It still has a few issues that hold it back, like its rigid Double Soul system. Still, this game has plenty of post-game content with extra Liberation Missions and tough bosses to beat. The music is absolutely fantastic as well.
There is also a Nintendo DS version called Mega Man Battle Network 5: Double Team DS which contains both Protoman and Colonel versions. Here, players can actually earn “Transfer Points” which can be used to bring in a complementing ally from the other version’s team. For example, Protoman and Colonel occupy the “leader” role in their respective versions, and they can swap places with each other during Liberation Missions. Unfortunately, it seems like we won’t be getting the DS version, but rather the separate Game Boy Advance ones. They’re both equally balanced versions 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 city. WWW has seemingly 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 sort of middle ground between BN4 and BN5’s Double Soul, and BN2 and BN3’s Style Change. 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 gets hit with an elemental weakness corresponding to his current Cross, then he’ll revert back to normal and that Cross cannot be used for the remainder of the battle. There are 10 total Crosses available, split evenly between both versions.
The game introduces the very cool Beast Out mechanic. Depending on your version, Mega Man can unleash the Cybeast absorbed inside of him. He’ll morph into a violent wolf hybrid with Gregar or a swift hawk variant with Falzar. Mega Man receives a huge boost in combat including non-flinch armor or the ability to float over holes. To balance that, Beast Out only lasts for three turns, similar to Double Soul.
After many fans were underwhelmed with BN4 and BN5, it was nice to see BN6 as a return to form. The international versions of this game actually had content cut out of it, including an extra post-game section. Hopefully, Capcom can restore it for the Legacy Collection.
This game takes place a few months after the first one and follows Mega Man and Lan as they take down a new evil organization called Gospel, which intends to destroy society by recreating a SuperNavi.
It can’t be overstated how much of a drastic improvement BN2 was over the first game. The Internet now has central hubs that act sort of like town squares. Mega Man can buy supplies and speak with NPCs there. Each area looks distinct from one another, making navigation much less painful. Remember how you previously needed a specialized Battle Chip to escape from random battles? Now, Mega Man can attempt to escape any time he wants.
In the first game, Lan only could customize one chip folder for Mega Man. Here, he can alternate and customize between the three of them. BN2 also introduces 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 every battle, or the Custom style, which lets him access more Battle Chips during his turn. The styles can also combine with different elements, such as WoodShield or HeatCustom.
Along with the improved quality of life features, BN2 also featured a sympathetic antagonist, which really cemented the entry’s high placement among fans. It’s 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 return and wants to resurrect the evil prototype of the Internet. It’s up to Lan and Mega Man to stop the organization.
The quality of life improvements from BN2 carry on over here, but BN3 introduces the incredible Navi Customizer feature that becomes a standard one for the rest of the series. Here, Mega Man can collect Tetris-like parts and fit them into a grid. These parts have abilities such as increasing his maximum health or even giving him the ability to float over holes. However, there are rules he must follow. For example, parts can’t overlap and if that happens, he’ll get hit with a bug such as his HP draining during battle.
The story delves more into Lan’s family history which is both a tale of sadness and hope. Some consider BN3 to be the best in the series, alongside BN2. However, what makes BN3 come out on top is its sleeker-looking user interface and the vastly superior soundtrack. The latter especially helps elevate the game’s exciting and heavy story moments.
As for which version of the game you should get, Blue is definitely the better one. Both versions have exclusive Battle Chips to collect, but Blue has an enormously overpowered one called FolderBack. Whenever Mega Man uses up a Battle Chip, it disappears for the rest of the match. With FolderBack, he can recall back all of the ones he’s already used, including FolderBack itself. The Blue version also has an exclusive boss that the White version does, for whatever reason.
Megaman Battle Network Legacy Collection launches sometime in 2023 for PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.