The final SNES entry of the Mega Man X series brings together everything established in the first two games, with a few fun new wrinkles to keep things interesting. It also added a few minor 3D polygon effects that have made the actual cartridge ridiculously rare and expensive. Not every innovation turns out to be worthwhile.
The premise of Mega Man X3 is the same as the previous Mega Man X games: you’re given 8 maverick robots to hunt down in any order you choose. Like its predecessors, you can find life upgrades, sub tanks, and armor upgrades among these stages, but X3 turns things up a notch with new ride armor types and secondary armor upgrades.
The ride armors are a cool concept that isn’t as fleshed out as it could be. Each of the four has special attributes, and almost every stage lets you use them at least one time if they’re unlocked, but they’re usually available for a short time and primarily to find other secrets. You don’t get to rip through entire stages with these special armors or anything.
The special upgrades give X massive bonuses, such as health regeneration or the ability to dash twice in the air, but you can only have one installed. This makes for a pretty interesting choice, though it is undermined by the well-known existence of the ultimate armor, which gives all four upgrades but can only be obtained if you did not previously obtain any. This kind of tension not to use significant upgrades is a bit problematic.
Of course, the meat of any Mega Man game is its boss and weapon selection. X3’s are fine, but really nothing special. Like many later Mega Man games, the weapons are all pretty gimmicky and, aside from use against bosses, the X-Buster is often the best weapon for the job. And as with other X games, the correct weapon is primarily useful because it will stun bosses rather than doing major damage.
While Mega Man X3 is undeniably a fun game, it feels a bit uninspired. All the extra stuff to find does keep it interesting longer than it may have otherwise been, but after this game, it became clear the series needed some kind of shakeup. Due to its rarity and special hardware, X3 has become one of the more sought-after SNES cartridges, but that’s not because the game itself is all that special.