Few games have been able to maintain a strong fanbase for three decades, but the Mega Man games have done just that. The original game arrived on December 17, 1987 for the Nintendo Entertainment System and kicked off a series that has since gone on to include more than 50 games across dozens of platforms.
Mega Man was developed and published by Capcom, a company that had previously focused almost exclusively on arcade titles, with their console games consisting primarily of ports of those arcade games. The company decided to take a different approach with Mega Man, developing it with the home console market in mind. Capcom brought on artist Keiji Inafune, who had previously worked on the company’s Street Fighter franchise, to help design the character of Mega Man. Inafune drew heavily from the anime scene at the time, and also took particular inspiration from the Astro Boy series.
The story of the game focuses on Rock, a helpful robot created by Dr. Light in the year 200X. Dr. Light had created many other assistance robots, but they suddenly started to go berserk. They realize that Dr. Light’s rival, Dr. Wily, has reprogrammed these robots into evil fighters in a plot to take over the world. Rock is converted into a fighting robot himself, becoming Mega Man, in order to defeat the six robot masters (Cut Man, Guts Man, Ice Man, Bomb Man, Fire Man, and Elec Man) and then take on Dr. Wily himself.
Mega Man’s gameplay features action-focused platforming. Mega Man proceeds through the stage by running and jumping, and can take out enemies with his blaster. Upon the defeat of a robot master, he gains that enemy’s power; that power can then be used against other end-stage bosses to great effect.
The original title sold well enough in Japan for Capcom to localize it for an American audience – however, the process was so rushed that the U.S. edition of the game’s cover was drawn up in just six hours. The resulting box art – featuring Mega Man looking more like a middle-aged adult than a young boy and holding a handgun of some sort instead of his arm cannon – became infamous for its poor quality. The development team would go on to blame the terrible box art for initially-poor sales in the U.S. (Notably, though, “Bad Box Art Mega Man” was revived for the crossover fighting title Street Fighter X Tekken.)
Despite a relatively-mediocre commercial performance, Capcom quickly greenlit a sequel, Mega Man 2, which released in 1998 and would become the bestselling title in the franchise. The Mega Man series continues to be one of the most popular of all time, and is one of Capcom’s longest-running series to date. The character of Mega Man in particular continues to be wildly popular, and has starred in his own 1994 cartoon series and multiple comic books, in addition to appearing in numerous other game franchises. Capcom just recently announced the main series will continue on with Mega Man 11, due out in 2018, ensuring the legacy of the franchise will continue on.