The Dragon Quest series from Square Enix began in 1986 with the first game's release. It predated even its more successful Square Enix sister Japanese RPG series, Final Fantasy. Throughout its lengthy history, many games have been released across the core series and spin-offs.
In fact, Dragon Quest fans have many different types of games to play in the series. The traditional turn-based JRPGs exist, but also hack-and-slash action games, Pokémon-like creature collectors, puzzle games, and more. The best Dragon Quest games of all time find themselves ranked below across both mainline games and spin-offs based on their gameplay, quality, use of the property, popularity, and more.
1. Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Dragon Quest 11 represents the best in the entire series across the board in almost every category. Combat feels fast and fluid, the characters feel fleshed out with well-written storylines, and the graphics exceed expectations for the series as some of the most colorful and intricate for modern games. Echoes of an Elusive Age elevated Dragon Quest to an award-winning level and set the bar high for every game after it.
2. Dragon Quest 8: Journey of the Cursed King
The complete 3D switch for Dragon Quest 8 on PS2 took the series in a bold new direction. Exploration felt so much better than other games, the cel-shaded visual style impressed, and the characters had more substance than most other entries. This resulted in a high budget and high-quality experience not seen again until years later with the 11th game in the series.
3. Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
The second game for the SNES in the series features the best overall story in the franchise. Its personal and intimate approach lets its cast shine as the strongest to date. Players have immense choices in the plot, including who to marry and where the story goes. Couple this with refinements over the past games, and this represents the strongest classic 2D Dragon Quest game.
4. Dragon Quest Monsters 2
The best spin-off in the series also features some of the most engaging turn-based gameplay. Monsters 2 improved upon everything its Pokémon-style predecessor did, with more monsters, breeding, and much better dungeons. It remains one of the best Pokémon-like games for players to check out decades later.
5. Dragon Quest Builders 2
Minecraft-meets-Dragon Quest works so much better than it ever should. Players explore a vast world made of blocks, which they can craft and customize to their heart’s content. This creativity blends well with the surprising inclusion of a worthy main story and exciting action RPG combat.
6. Dragon Quest Heroes 2
Despite its Dynasty Warriors-style inspiration, this spin-off nails the idea of an open-world action RPG entry in the series. It feels like a complete RPG, with an intricate story, level-up progression system, and fun hack-and-slash gameplay. Heroes 2 remains one of the best spin-offs in the series, which almost feels worthy of being a mainline experience.
7. Dragon Quest 7: Fragments of the Forgotten Past
Perhaps the longest game in the series, the original PlayStation version felt daunting for players going through its time travel-centric plot. But the Nintendo 3DS version modernized the game, offering one of the most jam-packed games in the series. The gigantic storyline and numerous locations provide one of the most expansive games in the series.
8. Dragon Quest X
The only mainline entry never to receive an English version, it also remains one of the most fascinating. It started out as an MMO version, where players create a character and journey across the world alongside other players online. Fortunately, it also received an offline version, which fixes the potentially unsteady future of its online servers.
As an MMO, it features many expansions, side content, minigames, and classes to play as. No other game in the series offers this much player freedom, so hopefully, it gets released in English at some point.
9. Dragon Quest 3: The Seeds of Salvation
The final NES entry in the series refined everything about the previous two games. Much of its gameplay changes to the combat and exploration set in stone what the rest of the series would be like. It also featured an intriguing storyline, which the previous two games featured. If players want to see old-school NES Dragon Quest at its finest, they should play this one.
10. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
Joker 2 took what its predecessor did and improved upon it in several different areas. The graphics look a tad bit better, and further gameplay improvements exist. The massive set of monsters to collect and impressive post-story content help it to be the better of the two Nintendo DS entries.
11. Dragon Quest 9: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
Dragon Quest 9 features the classic look and feel of the older games in the series but with all of the quality and improvements of the modern games. The only issue that prevents this game from going higher is its heavy emphasis on multiplayer for a system like the DS that is now offline. This caused the game to lack the in-depth story and character arcs of other games, even if its gameplay remains one of the tightest in the series.
12. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker
The switch to 3D for the monster-collecting spin-off sub-series went off without much issue. Joker features turn-based gameplay similar to its predecessors, but the 3D graphics have hiccups that make it look messy. If players look past the visual style, it remains one of the sharpest turn-based systems in the series.
13. Dragon Quest 4: Chapters of the Chosen
The fourth entry in the series took a unique approach. Each of its chapters follows a different “chosen” main character. This keeps the storyline and gameplay on its feet. While it feels a bit like a departure from the series to some, the unique changes make it one of the recommended entries to play these days.
14. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
This action take on the series for the Nintendo DS revolutionized the possibilities of the series at the time. Instead of playing as a human, players embarked on a journey as one of the classic blue slime mascot characters. The action gameplay thrills and varies just enough between the slime combat stages and the excellent tank modes.
15. Torneko: The Last Hope
Only one Mystery Dungeon-style Dragon Quest spin-off made its way to North America. Torneko: The Last Hope features the classic merchant character as players guide him through intricate dungeon floors. It represents an intense but fair challenge, as players have to help Torneko survive turn-based encounters and satiate his hunger with food.
16. Dragon Quest 6: Realms of Revelation
The sixth game in the series feels like one of the most basic in the series. It eschews tons of innovation in favor of a classic experience. This means it feels solid to play but doesn’t push the boundaries of what this series could be. Still worth checking out, especially if players get their hands on the Nintendo DS version.
17. Dragon Quest Monsters
While the Pokémon craze swept the globe in the 1990s, Enix wanted in on the fun. This spin-off game gave players the chance to collect iconic monsters like slimes for their party and then battle with them in a turn-based format. It lacks the oomph of its inspiration, but it laid the foundation for much better spin-off games later on.
18. Dragon Quest Builders
This spin-off title takes the Square Enix universe and injects quite a lot of Minecraft into it. Players run around a customizable world where they gather materials, build creations, and even embark on a storyline. This weird idea works well, but its sequel does everything better from start to finish. Because of this, players have almost no reason to check out the first one.
19. Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior)
The entire Dragon Quest franchise started here on the NES with the original game. In fact, it deserves accolades for its status as one of the first JRPGs of all time. Despite this, it also feels quite old and hard to play for those who check it out in the modern age of games. Many features fans know the series for didn’t appear yet.
20. Dragon Quest Wars
This grid-based Nintendo DS game featured strategic battles, similar to a board game. The quick pick-up-and-play nature of this game helped it to be much better than it should have been, given its low price tag at the time of its release. Though it worked well when it came out, it became hard to recommend as online servers shut down for the DS.
21. Dragon Quest 2: Luminaries of the Legendary Line (Dragon Warrior 2)
The second game in the series fell short of what would come later due to its intense difficulty and lack of changes from the original. No part of the game encouraged players to check it out, rather than the first game, which became a problem for a sequel. Even still, it features the iconic turn-based gameplay, so it may be worth a look for some.
22. Theatrhythm Dragon Quest best dragon quest
This spin-off title allows players to check out some of the classic music from the series in an interactive format. Players battle through stages against iconic monsters from the series as they try to slash, bash, and participate while on beat with the music. The Theatrhythm series received better and deeper crossover games later on, though.
Copywriter, experienced editor, website creator, PR associate, consultant
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Experience: Cody Perez started his career as a journalist and creative writer in the tech and gaming spaces in 2011 while in the middle of high school. Since then, he has produced thousands of high-quality, researched articles for some of the largest entertainment websites in the world, including IGN, Destructoid, Siliconera, Digital Trends, DotEsports, and many more. He also was the lead editor at GameRevolution, growing the site to reach its consistent, historical peak of 8 million MUV the entire time he worked there. Cody also helped launch various successful sites, such as VGR (2 million MUV in a year), POKUniverse, and RPGInformer.
Cody brings together his passion for tech and gaming to his work life, so he can enjoy his hobbies nearly 24/7. He has now taken his expertise and experience with subjects like gaming and Pokémon to Wealth of Geeks, where he is often found creating new lists and reviews, or editing older content to bring it up to the company standard.