No other anime has had as big a ripple in the world of gaming as Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and Dragon Ball Super have been licensed to gaming studios since its inception, and, like clockwork, new games have been churned out for the franchise. For many, the games are hit or miss. Some are a masterstroke, but others are Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22, a game dropped into game stores without any fanfare or critical love, or the unfinished Dragon Ball Z Sagas.
But let's ignore those video games. There's enough negativity and hostility in the world of games. Rather than stomping down what we hate, let's raise that which we love. There have been some incredible Dragon Ball Z games to hit the market, so let's look to their high, shining legacy instead.
10 Dragon Ball Z: Xenoverse 2
Dragon Ball Z: Xenoverse and its sequel are the most overrated Dragon Ball Z games ever made. It never at any point reaches the zenith of its potential. Few characters play differently, the tier-list is so unbalanced that some characters are completely useless, and the story modes, while interesting, are underwhelming.
Of the two, the sequel is superior, since it manages to improve upon the whole experience of Xenoverse. It's a perfectly suitable arena fighter with RPG gameplay elements.
9 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
There remains an intense division between fans of the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai games and the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi fans. Budokai is a fighter, but Tenkaichi, in part because the developers knew it couldn't compete, made Tenkaichi an arena fighter. All DBZ fighting games (until FighterZ) tried to copy the mechanics of both of these games.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is the best of the Dragon Ball Z arena fighting games. While the gameplay is nothing special and most of the characters feel like model swaps, it is filled with a bazillion characters. Obscure characters, too, that have never been considered before or since. It exists as the ultimate Dragon Ball Z toy box game. Every other arena fighting game to follow has just been following.
8 Dragon Ball: Fusions
Dragon Ball: Fusions is a wild video game that no one expected to like. As a Dragon Ball RPG, it is already a rare beast in the DBZ Universe. It is a crazy RPG game that focuses primarily on fan service, full of references throughout the universe.
The game is a bit of an oddball. It starts very irreverent, but, as it goes on, gets... even more irreverent. It serves as a unique RPG experience, offering fans the sort of stuff they have never seen before. However, it can leave a few fans feeling a little... off.
7 Super Dragon Ball Z
When it came out for the PlayStation 2, many fans didn't really care for Super Dragon Ball Z. The fast-paced gameplay of the Budokai and Budokai Tenkaichi series left fans hoping Super Dragon Ball Z would be a fun, exciting action game...but what they got was a far slower-paced, technical fighter...with FAR fewer characters than expected or wanted. Tenkaichi 3 had over 150 characters! Who cares about this game?
But as time passed on, fans of competent, well-structured fighting games re-discovered the game, and remembered "Wait, this game was made by Akira Nishitani -- you know, the guy who made Street Fighter II. And you can tell. Plus, you get to play Chi-Chi.
6 Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure
There are very few Dragon Ball games out there. DBZ, yes, but not Dragon Ball. The old-school series is often neglected for the more over-the-top action, and fans who go back to the old series often don't care for the softer, comedic tone of Dragon Ball.
Which is why many fans made a huge mistake overlooking Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, a Gameboy Advance beat-em-up game where you play from the start of the series to the final fight with King Piccolo. Through a combination of platforming stages, flying stages, and fighting stages, the game boasts incredible variety even before considering you can play through the game using multiple characters.
For the fans who appreciated it in its day, it came right when over-saturation of Dragon Ball Z was hitting its peak. It offered variety to remember that, yes, Goku's adventure didn't just start with Radditz and end with Buu.
5 Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury
Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku II almost made this list. For many Americans growing up in the early Toonami era of Dragon Ball Z, Legacy of Goku II was the only good Dragon Ball Z game. Sadly, when the Budokai series came out, many had forgotten these old-school games in order to focus on the new 3D fighting game entries.
Which is why many didn't play Buu's Fury, Legacy of Goku II's sequel. It took all the great gameplay of the prior games -- western RPG gameplay, for example -- and made it even better. Plus, it has digital renditions of Bruce Faulconer's Dragon Ball Z music, which, for many growing up with the series, is a huge dose of nostalgia.
4 Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans
Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans for the DS is often forgotten by fans of the series. It isn't the first adventure game to tell the story of the Saiyans -- or even the first RPG to tell the Saiyan Saga.
While that doesn't sound like a lot of content, it starts in the Dragon Ball era and adds a lot of content to pad things out. However, what it offers is a complex, interesting JRPG gameplay system. For fans sick of DBZ fighters, this game is great.
3 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden 2
To many modern players, it may seem borderline blasphemy to place some ancient, 2D fighting game above the like of Budokai Tenkaichi or Xenoverse. Other people who might've been on the old school internet might recognize the sprites as being omnipresent on forum signatures since the early '00s.
But few have actually played this incredible SNES fighting game. Among SNES fighters, this game was superb. It features stages so massive with so many different environments the game needed a split-screen. While it features far fewer characters than modern Dragon Ball Z games, none of them feel like model swaps. It also features a unique story that leads to some strange plot threads involving Bojack.
But the gameplay was the peak. Beam struggles. Intense speed. Fast-paced counters. For fans of old-school fighters, Super Butoden 2 remains a nostalgic reminder of both how far the franchise has come and all the promise it held in the pre-Budokai era.
That also said, another amazing game worth playing from this era is Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension. It's an incredibly unique fighting game worth playing as well, and can be considered an honorary 3.5 on this list.
2 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
For a while, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 was the best fighting game in the series. It featured a terrific balance of characters, gameplay mechanics, fast-paced action, story mode, and just plain fun of any Dragon Ball Z game around. No other game has managed to integrate a rock-paper-scissors mechanic as well as Budokai 3. No other game (save for the final one) has featured a cast of well-balanced Dragon Ball Z fighters like Budokai 3 has.
Budokai 3 exists as a love-letter to the whole franchise, featuring characters from the franchise's entire timeline. It offered fans a way to compete against one another (in a sense) in the pre-online heavy days of video games. It made the less-appreciated Dragon Ball GT cool -- arguably more so than anything has before or since. It made character transformations feel valuable. Added a ton of customization to the game. And --
Honestly, it still holds up. Some of these games on this list are here more for what they represented than how fun they are to play. Not Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3. That game remains a flawless experience.
1 Dragon Ball FighterZ
So how many Dragon Ball Z fighting games are played competitively?
When Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced, fans went wild. It had been years since the last intense, gameplay focused fighting game for the series came out. This game is an incredible fighting game, focused on intense, balanced gameplay, technical fighting-focused combat, and an immense cast of characters from throughout the Dragon Ball saga.
While a relatively recent game, it has quickly become regarded as one of the best fighting games of the modern era. Not just Dragon Ball Z fighting game. One of the best. Period. It transcends the limits of just being one of the best Dragon Ball Z video games. It's just one of the best games. Period.