The Dragon Quest series has spanned over thirty years and is regarded as one of the greatest RPG series of all time. It is more popular in its home country than even the Final Fantasy series is and has had some of the most talented artists and developers working on it since the series began.
In typical Dragon Quest fashion, character development and complicated storytelling has never been at the forefront of series. However, it is about taking you on a grand adventure in the role of a hero and solving the world’s evils as you go.
While many other RPGs are trying their best to streamline and reinvent the genre for a modern audience Dragon Quest is series that isn’t afraid to stay true to its roots and is all the better for it. For those interested in taking up the Dragon Quest series for themselves let’s rank the mainline games from worst to best.
11 Dragon Quest X
Dragon Quest X is the only game in the series that took on the massively multiplayer online RPG genre. Similarly to Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, Dragon Quest X allowed players to join others in online quests using the familiar DQ series lore and backdrop.
Unfortunately, this entry wasn’t as engaging or as focused as the single-player experience and worse still, it never saw a western release. There has been some demand to see this title released outside of Japan so there is a possibility that Square-Enix will listen.
10 Dragon Quest II: Luminaries Of The Legendary Line
From a visual standpoint, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line doesn’t look much had changed from the original title. Only a year had passed with its release in 1987 but a lot of work went into refining the RPG experience.
The execution of its storytelling, music and art direction were all noticeably improved over the first title. However, Dragon Quest II is notoriously difficult to the point of being unfair and as a result, is one of the least enjoyable entries in the series.
9 Dragon Quest I
The first Dragon Quest is still an 8-bit classic of an RPG and would lay the groundwork for Japan’s biggest role-playing series of all time. Famed Manga artist Akira Toriyama’s distinct style was put to use as he took the lead on character design helping to bring the descendant of Eldrick and his friends to life.
Originally released as Dragon Warrior in the west the game introduced many of the genre’s design mechanics making it one of the most influential RPGs ever made. As a piece of gaming history, Dragon Quest is as relevant as it gets but it’s showing its age now and requires a lot of patience to get through.
8 Dragon Quest III: The Seeds Of Salvation
Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation is often regarded as one of the most favorite RPGs of all time in Japan. It featured several significant improvements and innovations over the first two games in the series such as a day and night system and an in-game banking system.
Dragon Quest III’s popularity was so great that the developing studio Enix made sure that the game would never be released on a school day again. Where the original is the most influential to the genre the third title was easily the most innovative and way ahead of its time making it one of the most highly regarded RPGs ever made.
7 Dragon Quest VI: Realms Of Revelation
As far as gameplay mechanics go, Dragon Quest VI Realms of Revelation was a huge step up for the series. Even when compared to Dragon Quest V which was also released on the Super Nintendo, the sixth entry’s innovations seemed a generation apart.
Visually it looks like is predecessors and Dragon Quest VI’s story was fairly standard for the series but it wasn’t without its moments. The class system was more refined and the real and dream world settings will reminded players of The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past.
6 Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels Of The Starry Skies
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies was released on the Nintendo DS in 2009. Following on from the hugely popular Dragon Quest VIII on the PS2 it seemed like a tall order that the ninth entry would live up to the lofty expectations of a DQ title on a weaker system.
However, DQIX did things not thought possible by squeezing every last bit of processing power out the system and it was a fantastic title scoring perfect scores in Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu. It is let down quite a bit by the amount of monotonous grinding needed to unlock job classes and better equipment for your characters.
5 Dragon Quest VII: Fragments Of A Forgotten Past
Dragon Quest VII: Fragments Of A Forgotten Past was originally released for the PlayStation and later for the Nintendo 3DS. It is one of the lengthiest entries in the series with clocking in anywhere between 80 and 100 hours of gameplay.
An old school RPG such as this means there is some unavoidable repetition, but the game’s narrative world-building is developed in an incredibly original and satisfying way. You’re tasked with journeying to the world’s different continents and freeing it of evil by time-traveling to a forgotten past. It’s on these continents that the plot develops through vignettes and NPC interactions it feels for more organic than your average JRPG.
4 Dragon Quest IV: Chapters Of The Chosen
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters Of The Chosen was the last game in the series to appear on the NES but was the first game in the “Zenithia” trilogy – all three of which were remastered for the Nintendo DS.
Similarly to Final Fantasy VI, each character in the game is given their own chapter in the early stages of the game explaining their backstory. You will then take on the role of the main character building a team of the characters that you were introduced to in previous chapters. It was a groundbreaking way to tell a story on such a limited console.
3 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey Of The Cursed King
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey Of The Cursed King was released in the west on the PlayStation 2 in 2005/6. It was the first game to be released under the Square and Enix merger and came bundled with a Final Fantasy XII demo to help boost sales.
DQ8 was developed by RPG masters Level-5 and the massive, beautiful, and vibrant world pushed the PS2 to its absolute limits. There’s no complex story to get to grips with and there’s a lot of level-grinding involved but the sense of grandiose adventure and fun was unrivaled at the time.
2 Dragon Quest V: Hand Of The Heavenly Bride
Dragon Quest V: Hand Of The Heavenly Bride was the second game in the “Zenithi” trilogy and is often praised as having the best story in the series. It is also the first in the series to introduce the recruitable Dragon Quest: Monsters mechanics. In addition, there is a feature film in the works based on DQ5 set to be released later in 2019.
The game’s story was divided into different periods of time spanning generations and the plot develops through your character’s marriage to a girl of your choosing. Eventually, your character, his wife and your grown-up children will venture out and defeat evil together.
1 Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age
The most recent entry and by far most accessible is Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age. It was released worldwide in 2018 on the PlayStation 4 is set to get a definitive edition complete with new quests and orchestral music for the Nintendo Switch set to be released on September 2019.
Dragon Quest XI does a fantastic job of combining the traditional elements of classic RPGs with beautifully modernized visuals. The game’s narrative is pure high fantasy in the Dragon Quest mold but offers up enough twists and turns in its execution 'of a save the world' scenario to keep things interesting. DQXI is the perfect entry point and arguably the best game in the series.