Self-awareness is a recurring theme in the Mega Man franchise. Beings with artificial intelligence such as robots and programs are normally bound to their programming and are unable to act or even think to act outside of it, however there have been many exceptions to this rule even among robots who should not be able to think on their own, and with the passage of time, newer model robots have shown an increased amount of independent thinking, eventually reaching complete independence.
Original Mega Man series
- Dr. Light is the father of robotics and his work and legacy is the catalyst that resulted in robots becoming self-aware , though it happened several of hundreds of years after his death.
- Dr. Wily, despite his bitterness towards Dr. Light, also achieved great feats in robots.
- Proto Man, as a prototype to all robots that came after him, shows a great deal of independent thought, seemingly rivaling that of a Reploid. His first act of independent thought came when it was discovered he had a flaw in his energy core. Feeling as though having it tampered with would cause him to change, Proto Man fled rather than submitting to repair. After wandering alone, he was found and repaired by Wily, and willingly served him until he turned on Wily after learning how evil he was. Since then, Proto Man has actively chosen which fights he partakes in, aiding Mega Man and sometimes Bass in various ways. In his story in Mega Man 10, he chose to let Wily die after defeating him rather than saving him, calling it “poetic justice”.
- Mega Man rarely acts outside of his programming, but in Mega Man 7, Mega Man grew weary of Wily's endless pattern of apologizing for his transgressions, only to return to his evil ways shortly afterwards. As a result, Mega Man tried to kill Wily, though he was unable to fire as he was bound to the law of robots not being allowed to harm humans.
- Ballade, despite being made as a Mega Man Killer, sacrificed his life to allow Mega Man to escape by self-destructing to open a way out of the Wily Battleship after realizing the error of his ways. How he was able to make that decision is unknown, and when he was revived (or copied) in Mega Man V and Mega Man 10 it appears he longer possessed such deep thinking.
- Sunstar, despite being found and repaired by Dr. Wily, attacked him upon reactivating. Later, after being defeated by Mega Man, Sunstar had a change of heart after Mega Man showed him mercy and kindness, and helped him escape the Wily Star as his fusion reactor had been damaged in battle. In the Japanese version, he states that while peace was unachievable in his time, Mega Man may be able to achieve it, and says that his explosion will destroy the Wily Star, his final act helping to bring peace despite being made as a doomsday weapon.
- Bass exhibits many traits of self-awareness, and often disobeys Dr. Wily’s orders and has even fought against him on on several different occasions. In his story in Mega Man 10, rather than get his creator to the hospital after his defeat and learning he has influenza, Bass leaves him to die, a decision normal robots should not be able to make.
- King, upon being defeated, showed levels of independent thought when he allowed Proto Man to leave his castle, and even more so when he revealed that he was created by Dr. Wily. After being defeated again and freed from Dr. Wily's brainwashing, King allowed the hero (Mega Man or Bass) to escape, assuring them he would escape as well. In Mega Man’s ending it is revealed that King did indeed escape, and despite what he was made for and who made him, he had seen the errors in his ways and aspired to change, hoping to meet Mega Man again as friends. How King was able to amend his own programming is unknown, though he was built to be more advanced than the average Robot Master.
- Rockman Shadow, having been scrapped by Dr. Wily, rebuilt and upgraded himself, created/activated/reprogrammed the Dimensions, destroyed the world of his time, and traveled back in time with the Dimensions to seek out Mega Man and Bass in hopes that they would defeat him, all on his own accord. While most likely being programmed to destroy Mega Man, which he attempted to achieve, all other actions he took were independent.
- Mega Man X was created with the ability to learn and think on his own, surpassing even the Reploids that were created from him. In that way, X was the closest thing to self-aware in his time and far beyond, and had a decisively great dislike of fighting others for the sake of peace, often outright refusing to fight. His thinking allowed for limitless potential, hence his name (X is a variable), as he could consciousnessly make decisions other Reploids and robot could not.
- Zero, like X, was created to be far more advanced than any other robot before him, though his cognitive abilities have been hampered on a couple occasions due to various circumstances. Initially, upon his creation, Zero suffered from a programming error that made him incredibly violent and unwilling to obey orders from his creator, Dr. Wily, ultimately forcing the doctor to shut Zero down and seal him away. Curiously, this problem was later corrected when Zero was reactivated and infected with the Maverick Virus, which somehow fixed the error in his programming. Since then, Zero has shown levels of self-awareness that are almost on par with X's, although in one non-canon scenario in Mega Man X5, Zero becomes "awakened" after being infected with a much larger dose of the Maverick Virus and reverts to his original purpose: to kill X. However, after a grueling battle between the two, Zero regains control of himself and sacrifices himself to protect X from an incoming attack from Sigma.
- Axl, due to his age, was blindly following Red Alert's orders, even some time after Red met the Professor. But eventually, he made the decision to leave the group, knowing that there was a change and what they're doing is wrong, and later joined the Maverick Hunters. During the conclusion of Mega Man X8, Axl was completely unaffected by any of discouraging remarks about himself and his partners from Lumine, even encouraging X and Zero to ignore his words too, calling lilac-haired reploid their enemy.
- Sigma, though being the most advanced Reploid at the time, was unable to think on levels as high as X. Unfortunately, due to different circumstances depending on which source one pulls from, Sigma eventually came to the decision to lead the Mavericks in a war against humanity.
- Vile has a short circuit in his brain, which makes him crazed and sadistic, even as a Maverick Hunter. Due to this, it was easy to turn Maverick himself despite having once hunted them. In Mega Man Maverick Hunter X, Vile turned Maverick and fought both the Maverick Hunters and Sigma’s rebellion, choosing his own side over others to prove his strength and to settle his grudge against X.
- Cyber Peacock.
- New Generation Reploids possess the DNA of Sigma as part of their copy abilities. Because of this, New Generation Reploids feature a higher level of thinking than a normal Reploid, as they can now decide to become malicious whenever they choose.
Mega Man ZX series