The Mega Man series has always been an action game that focuses on "run-and-gun" gameplay. The player takes control of Mega Man X ("X" for short), a Maverick Hunter who seeks to stop Sigma's rebellion against humans. After an introductory stage, the player is presented with a stage selection screen that depicts eight Maverick boss characters.
After the player selects a Maverick to battle, X is teleported into the Maverick's base of operations. The player must dodge obstacles, destroy enemies and other hazards, and keep their life bar as high as possible. Defeating a stage and its boss Maverick rewards X with the boss's weapon, which can be used in a rock-paper-scissors fashion to defeat other boss characters. This mechanic is carried over from the Mega Man Classic series; Capcom maintained the tradition throughout the new series, with a few twists. In the X series, completing a stage may affect the environment of other stages, possibly making them easier or more hazardous.
Also of note is the addition of hidden upgrade capsules in several stages, which display a holographic message from Dr. Light when found, and upgrade one of X's body parts, replacing his original blue armor (resembling that of the original Mega Man) by the white & gold armor seen on the game artwork, and granting X new abilities (such as the chestplate upgrade giving X more armor, his arm upgrade making the X Buster, his primary weapon, more powerful or his leg upgrade allowing him to dash). Fans commonly agree this is one of the best new features in the Mega Man X series (as opposed to the Classic series), because it adds a new layer of gameplay, and X's design after completing the armor shows a heroic tone. Mega Man X can also increase his life energy by obtaining Heart upgrades, one per each Maverick stage.