Character Mode is the primary mode of play when the mission switches focus onto the main character once they have left their vehicle and entered a dungeon (or similarly-named environment). Each game's Character Mode is named after its respective main character (e.g. Jason Mode, Roddy Mode).
In the Character Mode of MetaFight and Blaster Master, the camera zooms in on Kane Gardner (MetaFight) / Jason (Blaster Master) and gives them access to new weapons and abilities, relative to Vehicle Mode, as they explore Dungeons. The pilot is equipped with a nine-level Blaster Rifle (a.k.a. Gun), which gains levels with gun capsules and loses them upon taking damage within dungeons, as well as a bottomless supply of Grenades with short range but an uncapped throw rate. Kane/Jason can move in the cardinal and diagonal directions, but cannot swim in this mode and will lose a life upon falling into a pool of water or lava.
Character Mode gameplay within dungeons typically consists of navigating enemy- and hazard-infested rooms in search of the area's key item, which is guarded by a boss. Only one dungeon, out of several dungeons in each area, holds the item required to progress to the next area, with the other dungeons merely allowing for recovery of life and Gun levels at best, so a degree of trial and error on the player's part is required in order to discover which dungeon contains each area's boss.
Blaster Master 2’s Character Mode is an inversion, as dungeon entrances lead directly to boss arenas, and Jason loses several abilities while in this mode.
Character Mode in Blaster Master: Enemy Below plays similarly to Blaster Master's iteration, though the dungeons are now called Catacombs and the catacombs holding the area's boss must now be unlocked with a Key before they can be entered. Jason is now equipped with a four-level Gun and Grenades by default while exploring catacombs; these weapons can be permanently upgraded by collecting Gun 2 (increases maximum Gun level by five) and Launcher (greatly increases Grenade throw range), respectively, and the pilot can even replace Grenades with an alternate sub-weapon, Shotgun. However, Jason is no longer able to move diagonally, and Grenades have a smaller blast radius and can no longer be thrown without limit (rather, the blast from the previous grenade must now fully dissipate before a new grenade can be thrown).
Character Mode in Blaster Master: Blasting Again applies whenever Roddy is outside of Sophia J-7, but is the primary game mode within Gates. Like previous installments, the pilot takes greatly increased damage from Vehicle Mode enemies, but is healed whenever he returns to the battle tank. Unlike previous installments, Roddy always has access to his full arsenal (rather than having limited access outside of Gates), and he does not take fall damage or instantly die on contact with hazardous fluids.
Roddy is equipped with a six-level Gun (with levels gained via Gun Custom Chips and lost by taking damage anywhere), a Napalm sub-weapon, and the cooldown-based Hypersonic ability; his mobility options include running in the cardinal and diagonal directions, jumping (at the same height as Sophia outside of Gates) and dodging to one side via Side Jump. When playing as Roddy outside of a Gate (which is required in some areas due to Sophia J-7 being used to weigh down a button in order to open a path forward), it is also possible to warp back to Sophia (with Elfie's assistance) via the map screen.
Character Mode gameplay within Gates often consists of going from room to room in search of objectives which must be activated or destroyed in order to open paths in the current area. Paths to one or more objectives are often blocked by lightning barriers which must be disabled by destroying generators elsewhere within the Gate. Once all objectives have been completed in the current Gate, Roddy must then navigate back to the entrance and leave the Gate before he can warp back to Sophia. (Gates containing bosses are a notable exception, providing an exit portal or otherwise sending Roddy and Sophia out of the area without having to backtrack first.)
Character Mode in Blaster Master: Overdrive applies whenever Alex is navigating a Chamber. Grenade now appears as a primary weapon alongside Gun and Homing Missile; in addition, each weapon has five power levels, with this level increasing by collecting GP Generators and decreasing upon taking damage (both increases and decreases apply only to the equipped weapon). Alex himself is able to strafe, aiming independently of his movement in cardinal or diagonal directions, and can deploy devastating Blast Bombs whenever he obtains them from slain enemies.
Character Mode, which is renamed to Top-Down View (or Top View) in Blaster Master Zero, modernizes the core mechanics of Blaster Master's Character Mode. As in the original game, Jason Frudnick can move in the cardinal and diagonal directions and is unable to swim while in a dungeon. However, falling into a pool or pit now deducts health rather than taking away a life, and Jason has gained the ability to strafe.
Jason is once again equipped with a nine-level Blaster Rifle (now with distinct behavior at each level and the ability to switch to any available level on demand) and the Grenade Bomb sub-weapon by default while exploring Dungeons, with the sub-weapon now having limited ammo which can be replenished by collecting Ammo Capsules. The pilot's Gun and sub-weapon capabilities can be augmented by collecting Energy Guard (protects against Gun Level loss) and alternate sub-weapons (Ignition Bomb, Flash Bomb, Turret and Remote Blast) with their own ammo storage.
A number of dungeons which were dead ends in the original Blaster Master have now been populated with optional items which are usually guarded by mid-bosses and enemy rush rooms (which send a large number of a single type of mutant in a series of waves). Starting in Area 3, one item-holding dungeon in each area is now shrouded in darkness which can only be dispelled with a Flash Bomb (or similar light-generating ability).
In all dungeons, both enemies and bosses now have weaknesses to specific Gun Levels, but can also be stunned by some other Gun Levels and Flash Bomb without taking increased damage. Whenever a mutant is hit by its weakness (which deals double damage) or is otherwise stunned, it is frozen in place for 1.5 seconds before becoming immune to subsequent stuns for 5 seconds (10 seconds for bosses). Note: enemy weaknesses to Gun Levels are almost entirely removed in Destroyer Mode, usually being replaced by invulnerability to all but one level (or Gun Level 0: Blaster if the vulnerability cannot be accessed).
Character Mode in Blaster Master Zero 2 is once again referred to as Top-Down View, but now applies not only to Dungeons but also to a number of Planetoids. Jason retains his standard movement abilities from the previous title, but can now utilize certain Blast Counters, especially Shift-Up Attacker, to move faster or dodge enemy attacks. Blast Counters, drawing from a new CP resource that recharges over time and via use of specific Gun Levels, allow Jason to punish both enemy and boss attacks with devastating counter-attacks. Enemy composition and move sets have been retooled around this new technique, with certain new mutants being very dangerous if Jason does not have enough CP to take them down with a Blast Counter.
Jason's other default weapons include a rebalanced eight-level Gun and the Grenade Bomb sub-weapon, with Energy Guard once again appearing as the primary Gun upgrade. Elemental sub-weapons (Torch Bomb, Flash Striker and Absolute Comet) are now available alongside a number of alternate non-elemental sub-weapons (Proximity Mine, Flash Sphere, Reactive Comet and Accel Charger). Elemental sub-weapons, which have half the ammo capacity of their non-elemental variants, are imbued with fire, lightning or ice and inflict unique status effects (burning, shock and freeze, respectively) to enemies they hit. These effects, which are extremely effective against certain types of enemies and hazards, can also be inherited by specific Gun Levels, usually by shooting through the respective sub-weapon's projectile or area of effect.
Dead-end dungeons without rewards do not appear in this installment --- (almost) all locations in which Top-Down View activates will contain at least one item of use to the player character, and collecting that item will usually return the pilot to the dungeon entrance, either directly or via a return portal generated by Fred. As well, enemy rush rooms are more frequent, now appearing in the middle of a dungeon/planetoid or serving as its final room, and can spawn more than one type of mutant.
In Top-Down View, enemies and bosses have weaknesses to specific Gun Levels or Blast Counters, but can also be stunned by some other Gun Levels or Blast Counters. Stunning an enemy will immobilize it for 1.5 seconds by default (~2 seconds against shocked enemies), while hitting that enemy with its weakness will deal double damage and immobilize it for 3 seconds. Hitting an enemy with both a weakness and a stun vulnerability in rapid succession (before either stun wears off) will trigger a super-stun, stopping it from moving for a total of 4 seconds by default (~5 seconds against shocked enemies). Regardless of which type of stun is applied, the enemy will become immune to further stuns from any source for 5 seconds once it wears off (10 seconds for bosses)
There is a similarly-named game mode in Blaster Master Zero and Blaster Master Zero 2, called EX Character Mode, which can be initiated via the Extra option on the title screen. However, this is only accessible if the player has obtained any of the DLC characters: Gunvolt, Ekoro, Shantae and Shovel Knight in the first game; or Copen and Empress in the second game.
In Blaster Master Zero's variant of this mode, players select one of the aforementioned characters and play through the game with them. Guest characters drive a SOPHIA III recolored to match their palette and use their abilities from their games when outside the vehicle in both Vehicle Mode and Character Mode areas, with Character Mode-specific abilities usually drawing on a character-specific resource which replaces Jason's Gun power mechanic. While guest characters are unable to use Jason-specific items (alternate sub-weapons and Energy Guard), they still must be obtained in order to access Area 9.
Blaster Master Zero 2's variant of EX Character Mode makes more drastic changes when playing as a guest character. Gaia-SOPHIA is replaced by a character-specific Metal Attacker with the same functionality, and Jason's non-default sub-weapons and Blast Counters are swapped out for unique upgrades (usually with thematic similarity to the item being replaced), rather than merely having no effect. All Capsules (not just Life Capsules as in the previous title) as well as Life Ups and SP Ups are reskinned to look like items from the guest character's original game. Unlike in Normal Mode, there are no prerequisites for entering Area Ω in EX Character Mode.