A staple of Weekly Shōnen Jump during the '80s and '90s, Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball debuted in 1984. Putting aside the franchise's recent revival, the manga originally ended in 1995, but video game developers and publishers could not resist the urge to grab a piece of that Goku pie. By 1986, the manga earned its first adaptation in the form of a shoot 'em up called Dragon Ball: Dragon Daihikyō for the Super Cassette Vision. The decade of hair metal spawned four games based on Toriyama's serialized comic, but only Dragon Power earned a Western release. Even for those who are massive fans of the franchise, we recommend against seeking this one out. Frankly, it would take nothing short of a magic wish-fulfilling dragon to transform Bandai's nonsensical action game into anything with even a semblance of class.
As Dragon Ball earned an anime and successfully gained a Western audience, Goku began to star in more and more games. Over the last three decades, there have been approximately one million Dragon Ball Z adaptations, and around 5% of those are worth playing. Fans should be familiar with the likes of Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Xenoverse, and the fantastic Dragon Ball FighterZ; however, these standout releases are merely the tip of a muddy and uneven iceberg. While exceptions do exist, Dragon Ball's gameography primarily consists of 2D or 3D fighters, although there tends to be a preference for the latter.
Toriyama's creation has blossomed into such a magnificent tree, certain branches have to be ignored to preserve our own sanity. One can only play through another iteration of the Frieza Saga so many times before losing their mind! 15 Dragon Ball video games fans pretend don’t exist (and 15 great ones everyone forgets about)!
30 Great: Hyper Dimension
Before Arc System Works brought 2.5D back to Toriyama's franchise, hardware limitations meant most Dragon Ball Z titles had to make do with copying the likes of Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Published in 1996, Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension marked a turning point in the franchise's video game career. Following the manga's main storyline and featuring a decent roster, TOSE Software Co. took the elements which worked in the Butōden series and perfected the gameplay. Out of countless Dragon Ball Z gaming adaptations, this is easily the most influential.
29 Terrible: The Legacy Of Goku
Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II holds a special place in the hearts of many fans, but this particular franchise went through some growing pains. On the surface, 2002's handheld action-adventure title boasts most of the same features as its successor, but The Legacy of Goku is simply frustrating to play. Everyone's favorite Saiyan is reduced to a Link clone who cannot even survive a fight against an average wolf; as a consequence, battles largely devolve to spamming ranged attacks to protect Kakarot's fragile health. Commencing from the first episode and concluding with the Frieza Saga, The Legacy of Goku tries to pass itself off as an RPG, but the side quests break the storyline's rhythm.
28 Great: Raging Blast 2
Wedged between Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi and Xenoverse, Raging Blast came and went without garnering much in the way of fanfare. Controversially replacing a traditional campaign with Galaxy Mode, which boils down to an array of what-if battles, Raging Blast 2 deserves a slightly kinder faith than the Saiyan trash heap. While overly complicated and encumbered by a confusing tutorial, the robust combat mechanics are more fleshed out than the Budokai series and the characters feel distinctive. Galaxy Mode suffers from too many absurd difficulty spikes to act as anything more than a mild distraction, but Raging Blast 2's saving grace rests in its expansive customization system.
27 Terrible: Raging Blast
Adapting a beloved storyline amounts to little when the content is not handled well. With certain actions altering the course of a battle, Raging Blast promises to offer a new perspective on Goku's journey; unfortunately, the arcs are rushed and can only be followed by those familiar with the source material. Spike's 3D fighter looks the part and measures up surprisingly well to Xenoverse, but a pretty exterior does not mask Raging Blast's rotten core. With the sequel refining the combat mechanics and ditching the unengaging campaign, Raging Blast has no reason to exist.
26 Great: Revenge Of King Piccolo
Due to Dragon Ball Z debuting prior to its predecessor in the West, Dragon Ball has never been given a fair shake. By and large, games prioritize the sequel above the original. As tends to be the case, Nintendo is the outlier of this trend and has published multiple Dragon Ball focused titles. Rather than dropping another mediocre fighter, Revenge of King Piccolo is a beat 'em up available on the Wii. Released in the same year as Raging Blast, the system's weaker hardware did not hamper the game's overall quality.
25 Terrible: Ultimate Tenkaichi
Desperately yearning to be uttered in the same breath as any of the Budokai Tenkaichi titles, Spike's 2011 3D fighter boasts arguably the most authentic visuals out of any Dragon Ball Z game and features an excellent environment destruction gimmick. Serving as a precursor to Xenoverse, gamers can even create their own character to play through a new narrative. Good intentions are only half the battle, and Ultimate Tenkaichi amounts to a mishmash of interesting but shallow ideas. The previously mentioned Hero Mode feels like an afterthought, while the simplistic combat drags the long campaign into the mud.
24 Great: Budokai
After 1997's Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout, developers took a break from Toriyama's concluded series. Console gamers would have to bide their time for five years before Bandai returned to the license; thankfully, Budokai was worth the wait. Outclassed by later entries in the series, 2002's fighter was unlike anything the franchise had birthed up to that point. Finally, the technology could keep up with Dragon Ball Z's flashy battles and stunning animation! Admittedly, Budokai gradually became obsolete due to Budokai Tenkaichi, but it was fun for its day.
23 Terrible: Budokai 2
Bolstered by Budokai's decent showing, many were expecting the sequel to smoothen the gameplay and improve the story mode. Instead, Budokai 2 was so disappointing, Bandai Namco omitted the sequel from 2012's Dragon Ball Z: Budokai HD Collection. In comparison with its predecessor, the cel-shaded graphics were the only aspect that experienced a discernible enhancement, but everything else took a noticeable step-back. Budokai 2 has its share of fans, but the borderline unfair AI and the campaign's unnecessary board game mechanic could have done with some more polish.
22 Great: Legendary Super Warriors
Once every blue moon, a studio goes against the grain and refuses to throw Goku into a generic fighter. Published for the Game Boy Color, Legendary Super Warriors is an astounding accomplishment. A turn-based strategy game based on a card system, Banpresto stuffed more than 30 chapters into Nintendo's handheld system. Boasting 28 playable characters with multiple transformations, Legendary Super Warriors proved an RPG twist on the license was tenable. Characters are picked automatically for the initial playthrough, but the roster opens up during subsequent campaigns.
21 Terrible: Sagas
While Sony and Nintendo fans made due with Budokai Tenkaichi, proud Xbox owners craving a Dragon Ball experience were left with 2005's Sagas. Visually repugnant and more one-dimensional than Goku's characterization in Dragon Ball Super, Atari's game barely qualifies as a beat 'em up. Boasting six playable characters, chapters amount to running around a bland terrain while Saibamen take potshots at the player. With three play styles and unlockable abilities, Sagas had the potential to be a fun romp, but the unresponsive control scheme turns everything into a chore.
20 Great: Dragon Ball Heroes
If its treatment of Dragon Ball Heroes is anything to go by, Bandai Namco clearly does not care about making money. Introduced in 2010, Dimps' children's card game has been nothing short of a runaway success in Japan; however, Western audiences have been deemed unworthy of a port. Assuming foreign arcades are simply not a viable option for Japanese studios, there is no excuse for refusing to translate the Nintendo 3DS titles based on Dragon Ball Heroes! Toriyama's property is hardly an unknown quantity, so a port would surely sell like hotcakes!
19 Terrible: Plan To Eradicate The Saiyans
Speaking of card games published only in Japan, during 1993, Dragon Ball Z Side Story: Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans was released for the Famicom. Introducing a new villain for the Saiyans to defeat, Bandai's game was eventually adapted into an OVA series and later remade as a companion piece to 2010's Raging Blast 2. Ranking among the weaker Dragon Ball Z movies, Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans fares even worse as a video game. Even for the time, the graphics failed to impress, but the luck-based battle mechanics were the biggest problem.
18 Great: Supersonic Warriors
Dragon Ball FighterZ was not the first time Toriyama's property fell into Arc System Works' lap. Published for the Game Boy Advance, at the time, Supersonic Warriors was unquestionably the best Dragon Ball Z game to play on the go. Like the studio's recent work, a small but balanced roster was favored instead of an extensive line-up of clones. Besides recreating the manga's main sagas, Arc System Works included a what-if scenario for each character. Unhampered by the hardware's limitations, Supersonic Warriors controls splendidly and offers a surprising amount of depth.
17 Terrible: Ultimate Battle 22
A 2003 PlayStation exclusive, Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 was destroyed by Western critics! Earning a 1.2 from GameSpot and averaging a Metacritic score of 25, it is safe to say TOSE Software Co.'s game failed to impress. Japanese and European players might have fonder memories of Ultimate Battle 22, chiefly due to the fact the game was actually created and published in these regions during the '90s. Seeking to earn a quick buck off unsuspecting gamers, Atari waited nearly a decade before dropping this stinker on an outdated console.
16 Great: Advanced Adventure
Another underrated gem on the Game Boy Advance, Dimps pulled out all the bells and whistles for this beat 'em up. Possessing five different modes, Advanced Adventure's main campaign follows Dragon Ball's storyline, although the Piccolo Junior arc slipped through the cracks. Split across 16 levels, Goku wacks his way through faceless minions on route to a one-on-one boss battle. Rather than just sticking to the same mechanics, Advanced Adventure switches to a simplistic 2D fighter for its more intense matches. After completing the story with both Goku and Krillin, replayability comes in the form of an extensive roster of unlockable characters.
15 Terrible: Final Bout
Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout scribbled its name into the franchise's history by being the first to fully embrace 3D. Sadly, ambition does not always produce results. With the exception of the absurdly brilliant soundtrack, Final Bout has aged horribly. Due to its blocky textures, Final Bout's animation looks worse than the previous year's Hyper Dimension. At the end of the day, graphics are not everything; so, how does the gameplay hold up? Actually, Final Bout has not lost a beat! Matches are just as enjoyable today as they were when Bandai published this trainwreck in 1997.
14 Great: Origins
Anime fans who prefer Dragon Ball over its more action-oriented sequel, the Nintendo DS should be your system of choice. Perhaps due to the series being more popular in Japan and the country's appreciation for handheld gaming, Nintendo published quite a number of Dragon Ball exclusives on the console. 2008's Origins is simply one of many. A top-down platformer with cute graphics and a ton of collectibles, Game Republic created an enjoyable, albeit forgettable, experience. 2010's sequel offers more of the same.
13 Terrible: Infinite World
A telltale sign that a game might be destined for mediocrity is when studios cannot be bothered to port it to the current generation. A PlayStation 2 exclusive released two years after Sony launched the console's successor, Infinite World mercifully put an end to Atari's run with the license. Published a year after the highly regarded Budokai Tenkaichi 3, Infinite World dumped down the mechanics and attempted to distract customers with an array of painfully boring minigames. For a PlayStation 2 title, the graphics are rather nice, but the shallow gameplay and shortage of modes made Infinite World feel rather pointless.
12 Great: Fusions
Dragon Ball Fusions distills fanservice into its most basic form. A turn-based RPG that intertwines classic arcs from the series into a brand new adventure, Bandai Namco's Nintendo 3DS exclusive must be among the most endearing projects to be associated with the Dragon Ball brand. Who has not wished to fuse Brolly with Beerus? Or, Goku with Gohan? Fusions exists to scratch an itch only partially sedated by fanart. After a couple of hours, battles start to blend into one, but this monotony is quickly broken up by a funny scene or a cool transformation.
11 Terrible: Dragonball Evolution
Despite failing to land a spot on this list, the PlayStation Portable's Shin Budokai games provide an adequate handheld alternative to the console titles. Based on the same engine, Dragonball Evolution: The Game is a slight improvement over its source, but the existence of a gigantic turd does not suddenly transform a medium one into chocolate. Sticking exclusively to the movie's cast, Dragonball Evolution boasts a pathetic roster of 11 playable characters. This would not be a problem if the fighters controlled any differently, but they might as well be the same character.
10 Great: Dragon Ball Online
Another potentially great game that sadly never went global, Dragon Ball Online lasted for approximately three years before shutting down its servers. Set more than 200 years after Dragon Ball Z, Toriyama lent his creative talents to the story's development and the design of the characters. Quite a bit of Xenoverse's lore and world-building is actually based on Dragon Ball Online, but the competitive MMORPG scene proved to unforgiving. Was that all she wrote for Dragon Ball Online? No! The MMO swallowed a senzu bean and sprang back to life.
9 Terrible: Taiketsu
Dragon Ball loves Nintendo's handheld consoles, but the anime's sequel series has not fared quite so well. Primarily associated with frantic battles for survival, Dragon Ball Z lives and breathes a genre that seldom produced anything of note on the Game Boy Advance. Dragon Ball Z: Taiketsu presents a convincing argument for being the worst fighting game starring everyone's favorite Saiyan and Goku. Aping Tekken's technical combat mechanics, Taiketsu has neither the inclination or talent to replicate Bandai Namco's winning formula.
8 Great: Super Dragon Ball Z
Released less than four months before Budokai Tenkaichi 2, Super Dragon Ball Z might be the most criminally underappreciated fighter of the PlayStation 2 era. Just to be clear, we are referring to the console's entire lineup and not merely the ones based on Toriyama's property. At the time, Dragon Ball Z games sacrificed depth for fanservice and a massive roster of characters who essentially controlled the same way. A port of an arcade game, Super Dragon Ball Z is a traditional fighter and comes with a steep learning curve. If viewed as simply a fighting game, this 2006 release is only bested by Dragon Ball FighterZ.
7 Terrible: The Legend
Taking into account the amount of Dragon Ball games which merely try to copy titles like Budokai and Hyper Dimension, The Legend deserves to be cut some slack for taking a unique approach. Focusing on team battles and a momentum meter, matches boil down to a tug of war. Each fighter's stamina is determined by a ki bar, so team management plays a vital part in securing any victory. Unfortunately, The Legend never really amounts to more than button mashing, and battles frequently divulge into a blurry mess of moving objects.
6 Great: Burst Limit
Following a strong showing during the sixth generation, Dragon Ball Z languished for nearly a decade before returning to the public eye with Xenoverse. While there were a couple of stinkers, both Burst Limit and Raging Blast 2 boasted better gameplay than 2015's action-RPG. Serving as the license's seventh generation debut, Burst Limit was the logical next step for the Budokai Tenkaichi series. Despite selling relatively well and impressing critics, Burst Limit is seldom mentioned among the franchise's greatest games. In hindsight, Dragon Ball Z needed to take a break to avoid fatiguing its core audience.
5 Terrible: Battle Of Z
Greatly hyped up by Bandai Namco, 2014's Battle of Z coincided with renewed interest in the brand due to the announcement of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods. At long last, Goku was back and (hopefully) better than ever! Then, the game was released and reviews seemed to be even harsher than usual. Battle of Z's biggest issue was that it was marketed as a typical 3D fighter when the actual game places far more emphasis on building a solid team than stringing combos. If the strategy elements were pushed to the forefront and expanded upon, Battle of Z could have been something special. In its current state, the lack of depth is too apparent to ignore.
4 Great: Attack Of The Saiyans
Another entry, another enjoyable handheld game. Developed by Monolith Soft and published on the Nintendo DS, Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans is a turn-based RPG. Rather than sprinkling half-baked customization options to instill an illusion of depth, Attack of the Saiyans decided to make circumvent any real-time combat. Split into exploration and battles, JRPG veterans are unlikely to be tested by anything the story throws at them, but the mechanics are perfectly serviceable. While it does not even compare positively to some of the weakest Final Fantasy titles, Attack of the Saiyans should keep fans entertained for a couple of hours.
3 Terrible: Dragon Ball Z For Kinect
On paper, a Dragon Ball Z game centering around the player physically performing the moves sounds almost too good to be true. Dragon Ball For Kinect proves dreams are made to be broken. While Microsoft's motion control peripheral eventually turned into a joke, the Kinect got off to a reasonably promising start. As with any new technology, certain kinks needed to be ironed out, but the accessory seemed set for a bright future. In 2012, the device was simply not ready to carry an entire project, especially one which fans have been rehearsing for since the mid-'90s.
2 Great: Super Butōden 2
Predating Budokai and Xenoverse by decades, the Super Butōden series set the standard for 2D fighters based on Dragon Ball Z. A vast improvement over its decent predecessor, Super Butōden 2 gained quite a following due to its campaign having branching paths. Depending on the outcome of a battle, the story would change accordingly. This added a ton of replayability to what was already a solid fighter. The detailed sprite art and accessible gameplay made Super Butōden 2 the ideal launching pad for fans unaccustomed with the genre.
1 Terrible: Super Butōden 3
How did things end up this way? Remember that point about Super Butōden 2's story mode being the best part of the entire game? Well, the sequel realized it would be pointless to try and outdo its predecessor, so a campaign was ditched in its entirety. While definitely a peculiar move, Super Butōden 3 would have been fine if the studio introduced something new to fill the void or expanded upon the roster. Unfortunately, neither of those things transpired. Instead, Tournament Mode is practically the only content worth playing and that was already available in Super Butōden 2.