As if it need be said, Mega Man 2 is the owner of one of gaming’s most important and beloved soundtracks. Capcom’s original game might have laid the groundwork for using arranged themes to give stages unique character, but like most aspects of Mega Man, Mega Man 2 ran with the idea and improved upon this element in every possible way.
As is now well known to those who love gaming history, Mega Man 2 was a project of love Capcom granted permission to be made in between other games. The original Mega Man did well enough on the Famicom, but not enough to secure it the thirty-year legacy and releases that it enjoys to this very day. Mega Man 2 did become that game that would secure the franchise’s future, and it’s all thanks to the original team pouring their soul into the game they wanted to make.
This includes composer Takashi Tateishi. While he was not around for the first game, replacing the iconic Manami Matsumae from the first Mega Man, the edge his music brings to Mega Man 2 is every bit as important as its tight gameplay, fantastic art, perfect learning curve, and impeccable level design.
Music is simply one of the many aspects of Mega Man 2 that make it a classic and a masterpiece of video game lore, and today, we’re going to dig through each of the Robot Master’s assigned theme songs and rank them. No easy task considering that there isn’t a dud in the bunch. Every theme sits comfortably and permanently in my writing BGM playlist, so it’s a task that is more akin to picking your preferred child rather than sifting out your favorites from the stinkers.
And we’re only looking at the Robot Master themes as well, meaning that the true champion of the music score, Dr. Wily Stage 1, and the iconic title scroll theme are not under consideration.
Also, remember that you can pick up and enjoy Mega Man 2 and the rest of the NES games when they launch on the Nintendo Switch on May 22 in the Mega Man Legacy Collection. If you’re listening to the sweet tunes of Mega Man 2 for the first time today, then consider this an introduction to the series which, as a whole, practically invented gaming soundtracks.
There are plenty more songs to find in the other games as well.
8. Heat Man
Myehhhh… I take it back. Not all of the theme songs in Mega Man 2 are good. Heat Man’s is a bit weird and out of place in an otherwise flawless collection of songs, which is a shame because he’s my favorite Robot Master! Most Mega Man theme songs contain two different cues, and the opening in Heat Man’s is fine enough. That unmistakable barrage of notes delivers exactly what it needs, which is the image of a burning fire or a roasting oven.
However, the second cue doesn’t really follow up on the feelings of heat, and the overall theme fails to really go anywhere. After one or two loops, that introduction starts to run its course, and the disappearing blocks in Heat Man’s stage guarantee you’ll be hearing this theme quite a bit. It really starts to grate after a while.
7. Air Man
This is where the “good” theme songs start, and Air Man’s makes the cut. I’ve always enjoyed playing his stage, especially the appearing and disappearing Goblin heads. However, something has to appear on the bottom of the list, and this is the song on the playlist I’m most likely to fast-forward through if I’m not in the mood.
Not that it doesn’t have character or anything. Air Man’s theme’s two segments clash between the serious opening cue and the fun and fantastical second half, swapping between the images of a militarized airspace and the enjoyment you can get from the freedom of the skies.
While Air Man’s theme isn’t the most iconic in the soundtrack, the Robot Master did spawn one of the game’s most popular pop-culture memes, the Japanese song I Cannot Defeat Airman.
6. Quick Man
This is a theme that fills me with rage and anxiety. Quick Man’s stage crushes the rest as most memorable in the game thanks to those one-hit lasers that will kill any who are unprepared for their destruction. As an adult, I have the patterns down perfectly, but making them natural took more deaths and failures than I care to admit along the way.
All the while, this loop is playing in the background, and it is impossible to untie that stress from this music. Quick Man’s stage is an underground power facility, I believe, and the music does a good job of working electrical buzzes and sparks in between its notes. The second half of the loop also has a nice upbeat compared to the somewhat downtrodden low beats of the first half.
It’s almost like the music is encouraging you, telling you life will get better once you get past those damned lasers.
5. Wood Man
Wood Man’s is a perfect place to close out the bottom half of these themes because it fills me with a bit of conflict. As said before, all of Mega Man 2’s theme songs have two different cues that rotate upon one another, and Wood Man’s is no different. However, the two loops are a little too similar here, failing to deliver the variety found in other songs and becoming a bit repetitive once Wood Man kicks your butt for the umpteenth time.
However, even though this theme gets a bit repetitive, I do like the music. Would you rather have a variety of things your not fond of, or would you rather have something you enjoy over and over again?
Wood Man’s theme is relatively aggressive with a nice natural and frontier sound to it. Plus, that intro is really sweet. Shame it couldn’t be worked into the loop further.
4. Flash Man
Choosing between these next four is tough. Flash Man’s theme sadly has to place on the bottom just because something has to.
Flash Man’s stage takes place in an underground crystal cave, and the music perfectly captures that in the instrument choice. The opening cue sets up a dangerous feeling of diving underground thanks to the echo left ringing in your ear after every note, and the loop itself is both dark and catchy at the same time.
3. Crash Man
Crash Man’s theme is Mega Man 2’s “The Last Jedi” of the soundtrack. This jazzy, swinging theme is the boldest of all these songs, taking crazy risks by daring to be different, and fans will either fall into the category of loving it or hating it.
Naturally, I love it since I’m placing it at number 3, but I do admit that it doesn’t really fit the mold for an NES action game. It’s just such a fun and infectious tune that implants itself my brain every time I hear it.
It does fit with the theme of the stage though, which is an ever constant climb. When you’re moving up in a video game, inspiring upbeat music is always the best, and Crash Man’s theme is second to none in that department.
2. Metal Man
Metal Man’s theme is everything you want to hear in an NES action game. It’s fast, it’s aggressive, it’s catchy, and it’s immediately recognizable the second those first few notes kick in. I hear this song, and I immediately think of rotating gears, factory lines, and machines being slapped together on assembly lines.
Unlike Crash Man’s theme, this is a tune I can see working in just about any other 8-bit title out there. In that regard, Crash Man’s beats out Metal Man for originality and risks, but I still give the edge to Metal Man overall.
However, neither of them hold a candle to the top of today’s list, a theme that trounces even the best and brightest competition out there.
1. Bubble Man
It really wasn’t all that hard to pick my favorite. Even before Dr. Wily 1, Bubble Man’s theme was the first song that flipped the switch in my brain that made me realize Mega Man music is just that fantastic. Bubble Man’s theme is the most open to interpretation and remixes with some genuinely brilliant remixes out there, everything from punk rock to fully orchestrated triumphs.
In the context of the game, it’s close to Crash Man in its bold originality, sounding more like a fun day at the waterpark rather than a tune from an NES action title. Bubble Man’s stage rises to meet its music by being the most fun in the game thanks to those sweet zero-g underwater jumps. The spikes sure are stressful and all, but at the end of the day, you had a good time because Bubble Man himself is a bit of a pushover.
I realize that opinions will be all over the place on this list. So, what are your favorite themes from Mega Man 2?