Top 10 Dragon Quest Games [Recommendations]

Dragon Quest is one of the most storied franchises in all of gaming. With its colorful characters, polished mechanics, and just flat-out charm, the original Dragon Quest won over Japanese audiences instantly back when it released in 1986. While Square and Nintendo tried to get Western fans onboard with the franchise, most of us English speakers instead favored Final Fantasy with its focus on spectacle. Eventually, Dragon Quest became a niche franchise that only the most hardcore fans were terribly familiar with.

However, throughout the years, word has spread and Dragon Quest is globally viewed as a beloved JRPG franchise alongside Final Fantasy and Tales. If you’re just discovering the franchise for yourself, fear not! We have a list of all ten mainline games in the franchise, ranked in order of lowest to highest priority. That way you have a good base for which games you need to jump on as soon as possible, so you can get ready for Dragon Quest XI later this year!

10. Dragon Quest X: Awakening of the Five Tribes Online

  • System/Platform: Wii, Wii U, Windows PC, Android, 3DS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developers: Square-Enix, Armor Project
  • Release Date: August 2, 2012 (JP)

Kicking off this list is also the series’ very first online entry! You get your choice of five different races (seven now with the current expansions), along with several different job classes to play, and then it’s off to explore the world! Being an online RPG, it’s pretty light on story, and really the appeal comes from forming teams online, finding equipment, and battling progressively stronger and stronger foes.

Being the only Dragon Quest game that has never officially released out of Japan makes this one a bit tricky. If you don’t know a lick of Japanese, then acquiring equipment and communicating with your teammates is going to be pretty tough. Not only that, but for a series that prides itself on adhering to its gameplay traditions, Dragon Quest X has radically different gameplay from all of its predecessors, meaning you might not get a great sense of what the series is like. However, being an MMORPG, it does capture the sense of scale that has come to be expected of Dragon Quest. Hopefully, with a port already announced for the Switch, all of us overseas will finally get to see what all the fuss is about!


9. Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, MSX, MSX 2, Gameboy Color, Wii, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Chunsoft
  • Release Date: December 1990 (US)

The world has been blessed with peace for over a century. That all gets thrown out the window, though, when a monster by the name of Hargon decides one day to destroy the kingdom of Moonbrooke! A neighboring kingdom by the name of Lorasia sends its prince, a descendant of the legendary hero Erdrick, to stop Hargon’s rampage. Along the way, he meets up with his cousins, the prince of the kingdom of Cannock, who’s out on his own journey, and the Princess of Moonbrooke, who managed to survive Hargon’s attack. Can they stop the dastardly demon?

Dragon Quest II is oft overshadowed by its predecessor, which launched the whole franchise, and its sequel, Dragon Quest III, which did a lot to expand the formula of the franchise. However, don’t let that discourage you! Many of the staples of the Dragon Quest franchise, such as gambling games, status effects (a revolution for JRPGs), and pits were all introduced in Dragon Quest II. Also, being a sequel, this is the first time we can see Dragon Quest’s penchant for subtle world building. The country of Lorasia, for example, is a reference to the princess of the first game, who went on to establish her own kingdom with her husband. It’s small, subtle details like this that build up the Dragon Quest games into feeling like there’s an actual history developing when playing, rather than just following a new set of characters around.


8. Dragon Quest

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, NSX, SNES, GameBoy Color, Mobile, Wii, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Chunsoft
  • Release Date: August 1989 (US)

Once upon a time, a warrior by the name of Erdrick saved the world of Alefgard by retrieving the Ball of Light from evil forces. While Erdrick has been long deceased, the nation continued to prosper until the Dragonlord captures the fair Lady Lora and sends monsters to run amok in the world. King Lorik, beside himself as to what to do, eventually sends out a scrawny warrior who comes to visit him, believing him to be the descendant of Erdrick. Can you save Lady Erdrick and bring peace back to Alefgard?

By today’s standards, the original Dragon Quest is going to feel pretty ancient. You only have one character, no magic, no real special abilities, and in order to beat it, you effectively just have to grind until you’re strong enough to take on the next set of high level monsters. However, simple isn’t always bad. It’s almost primal in its sense of progression, because you always feel stronger that first time you take down a monster that once caused you problems. It’s a practice you can still see in modern game design. It’s timeless.


7. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

  • System/Platform: DS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developers: Level-5, Square Enix
  • Release Date: July 11, 2010 (US)

In the floating kingdom of Celestria, angels guard the world tree, Yggdrasil. Like many other trees, Yggdrasil can bear fruit; in this case, they’re called “fyggs”. However, it can only grow fyggs by being nourished by a substance called “Benevolessence”, which is obtained when Celestrians (the angels of Celestria) perform good deeds for the Protectorate, or the mortals who dwell on the land. Fyggs are necessary for the Celestrians to finally return to God’s Land, where they believe they belong. You play as an angel who falls down into the Protectorate and you continue your duties as a Celestrian, gathering benevolessence so that one day you too may head to God’s Land.

For those who wonder how Dragon Quest ended up as an online multiplayer title, look no further than Dragon Quest IX. It combines the traditional Dragon Quest gameplay we all know and love with a bit more of a loot-based focus a la Diablo. A lot of the fun comes from joining up with your friends, entering randomly generated dungeons, and seeing what the big reward is at the end. For those who aren’t into group play though, no worries, as there’s still a meaty storyline to dive into.


6. Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation

  • System/Platform: Super Famicom, DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Heartbear (SNES), ArtePiazza (DS)
  • Release Date: December 9, 1995 (JP), February 14, 2011 (US)

Your journey begins after a strange dream. You, along with two other people you’ve never met, are infiltrating the castle of the evil demon Murdaw. Just before you’re able to land a finishing blow, though, you wake up and find yourself with your dear sister, Tania. Fascinated by this dream, you set off to Reidrock Castle, where you hope to find more information on whoever this Murdaw was, as that dream was just too real. Along the way, you fall into a portal to a world where no one can see you; one thing leads to another and you set off with your new friend Carver to find the Mirror of Ra and bring down Murdaw once and for all.

Much of the appeal of Dragon Quest VI comes from its job-class based battle system. For the first time, rather than picking a single class to play as for the rest of the game, you actually get to switch between classes. This makes for some really diverse gameplay, as a lot of the fun comes from experimenting with unique builds on different characters and seeing what comes from it.

Plus, there’s an ever expanding world to explore. Just when you think you’re stuck, the game introduces a new travel mechanic that opens up an entirely separate section of unseen area. There’s almost a Metroid-esque sense of progression, where the game teases you with a house hiding behind some mountains that you can’t reach, and eventually gives you the proper vehicle to make it across, only to have you rushing back in excitement to see what was hiding. There aren’t many JRPGs that make a game out of just traveling its map quite like Dragon Quest VI.


5. Dragon Quest VII: Fragments of the Forgotten Past

  • System/Platform: Playstation, 3DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Heartbeat, ArtePiazza
  • Release Date: November 1, 2001

The lonely island sits silently in the ocean. A small kingdom by the name of Estard resides there, and they seem to believe that they’re the only ones left on the planet… everyone, except for Prince Kiefer and you, his best friend. In fact, you both are working to build a raft to set out and see the world. Not all is at it seems though, as the discovery of a strange shard opens up the realm to an entirely separate world. You set out to find more shards in order to keep visiting the different islands of the world.

Dragon Quest VII is a big game. So notoriously huge that, in the original Playstation release, it took many players over 100 hours just to complete the first disc! Don’t let that discourage you though. It’s a time sink, to be sure, but you’re not going to be aimlessly wandering. There are so many different new islands to explore, and so many different stories, that, almost more so than in any other game of the franchise, you’re really on a grand, endless adventure.


4. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Playstation, DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developers: Chunsoft, Heartbeat, ArtePiazza (Playstation), Cattle Call (DS)
  • Release Date: October 1992 (US)

Dragon Quest IV is a game told in a series of vignettes. From the saucy, fortune-telling twins Maya and Meena setting out to seek vengeance for their father’s murder, the story of the knight Ragnar investigating the rise of demons in the world, and the story of the Tsareena Alena along with her handlers escaping their own castle, to the simple story of a merchant named Torneko looking to expand his business. However, all their stories collide in their search for the legendary hero (you), who sets out to slay the evil demon Psaro!

What makes Dragon Quest IV work is its diversity. For example, Torneko’s chapter actually involves minimum fighting, and is more about figuring out how to maximize your profit at the end of the day. Alena’s chapter culminates in a tournament and encountering a gauntlet of various foes. But throughout these smaller stories, you get hints of the bigger tale, like people name-dropping Psaro and references to other events that are occurring in the world. It’s the best example of the Dragon Quest franchise’s biggest strengths: world-building.


3. Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation

  • System/Platform: Famicom, NES, Super Famicom, GameBoy Color, Mobile, Wii, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developers: Chunsoft, Heartbeat (Super Famicom), TOSE (GameBoy Color)
  • Release Date: March 12, 1992 (US)

In a rare twist for the franchise, Dragon Quest III is actually a prequel to the original game! Despite this though, technically, it takes place in a different world that’s strangely similar to ours, with continents structured after the geography of Earth and country names like Romaly and Portoa that are suspiciously close to real nations. You play as the prince of Aliahan, and have been summoned by your father to defeat the archfiend Baramos, who has awakened after years of slumber and is set to destroy the world! You then must assemble a team and set out on a journey across the planet!

While most in the Western world have a soft spot for Dragon Quest VIII, in Japan, Dragon Quest III is considered the time-honored classic. In fact, when it originally came out, it was so popular that students were skipping school to go buy the game, causing Enix at the time to start a policy of only releasing Dragon Quest games on weekends. And it’s easy to see why: Dragon Quest III set the standard by which all other games in the series follow. Most of what we love about the franchise, like building characters based on classes, twist-stories, and general charm of the characters; were really established in this game. If you can track down a copy, it still holds up.


2. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

  • System/Platform: PS2, 3DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Level-5
  • Release Date: November 15, 2005 (US)

A mysterious caravan is traveling across the world in search of a jester named Dhoulmagus. Heading this cavaran is you, the hero, along with your bandit buddy Yangus and a portly frog man by the name of Trode. Supposedly, Trode was originally human but had a spell cast on him by Dhoulmagus that changed him to this new form. Along the way, you encounter the debutante Jessica and the flippant knight Angelo, who both appear to have a bone to pick with Dhoulmagus. Can you all work together to stop Dhoulmagus’ rampage?

What sets apart Dragon Quest VIII from all the other games in the series is the sense of scale. Other Dragon Quest games have certainly been big, but they were limited by the technology and captured their sense of adventure through the situations. Dragon Quest VIII has the great pacing of the other games, but with a world that actually feels as big as the story itself. It’s the first time we get to actually visit a sprawling mountainscape or glistening springs, rather than just imagine them. It’s a grand, epic world that demands attention.


1. Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

  • System/Platform: Super Famicom, Playstation 2, DS, Android & iOS
  • Publisher: Square-Enix
  • Developer: Chunsoft, Matrix Software (PS2), ArtePiazza (DS)
  • Release Date: September 27, 1992 (JP), February 17, 2009

You, still a young child, and your father, Pankraz, travel to the city of Wheabrook on an unknown mission. There, you meet up with your dad’s old friend Santos, along with a young girl by the name of Bianca. Being the only other kid your age, you become fast friends with her and start exploring the nearby ruins of Uptaten Towers. There, you discover a mysterious Golden Orb. After this, one thing leads to another, and you are separated from your loved ones for over 10 years, only to finally return and continue the work set out by your father.

What makes Dragon Quest V so special is that it is, in essence, a story about family. Much of the game is about subtly establishing those connections, either through small actions, like Pankraz stopping the game momentarily to heal your wounds after battle, or when you engage in party talk with Bianca when you’re both adults and she nervously responds to you as if you were a schoolyard crush. Plenty of games can promise a sweeping, globe-trotting adventure, few can say they’re about an emotional journey. It’s about growing up, taking the reins from your father, and eventually settling down with your own family.


Final Thoughts

We’ve barely scratched the surface for what the Dragon Quest franchise has to offer. In the past two years alone, we’ve seen the release of Dragon Quest Builders, a Minecraft-style building game, and Dragon Quest Heroes, a Dynasty Warriors-style beat-‘em up. Heck, we could fill out an entire separate list based off the Dragon Quest Monsters line alone! Please, let us know about your favorite Dragon Quest games in the comments below!

Matt Knodle

Writer

Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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