Update: We're republishing this piece to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Dragon Quest X's Wii U release in Japan! And while we're at it... Square Enix, where's that offline version in English for Switch?
On 27th May 2021, Yuji Horii's seminal RPG Dragon Quest turned 35. Initially released in the West with the name Dragon Warrior, the Chunsoft-developed first entry in this genre-defining series debuted on Famicom in Japan before migrating to the North American NES three years later, and over the past three-and-a-half decades we've enjoyed another ten mainline games, plus a whole host of spin-offs and side adventures.
All but one of the mainline games has been localised for Nintendo consoles in the West — sometimes multiple times — so we decided it was about time to rank all the mainline Dragon Quest games with the help of you lovely lot. Below you'll find our reader-rated list of the Dragon Quest games, ranked from worst to best at the bottom.
If a game was re-released/remade on more than one console, we've gone with the first version released in the West below and opted to mention other versions in the text. We've included the Japan-only MMORPG Dragon Quest X, too, as it released on no less than four Nintendo platforms in its homeland, and we didn't want to omit it. If you want an English-only list, simply imagine it's not there and voila!
This ranking is formed by Nintendo Life readers' User Ratings for the DQ games on our database and is subject to real time fluctuations even after publication — it's entirely possible to influence the ranking below even if you haven't rated your favourites yet. To do so, simply click on the game you wish to rate and assign a score out of ten on its corresponding Game Page.
Many thanks to everyone who already rated their favourite Dragon Warriors/Quests. Now's the time to roll up your sleeves, assemble your party and roll out on an epic journey to discover the best Dragon Quest game ever...
Available on Switch as Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line, this got a Japan-only remake for Super Famicom where it was bundled with the original game, and this bundle was also ported to a Game Boy Color cart — which was released in North America — as the imaginative titled Dragon Quest I & II.
Set 100 years after the first game, Dragon Warrior II did what any sequel should: it built on what came before and sanded away some rough edges from the original. This second entry is one of the hardest games in the series, so these days — especially with ten other Quests vying for your time and attention — it's probably best left to diehard fans. It remains, however, an important evolutionary step and a game which put DQ on the path to franchise fame and fortune.
The first Dragon Quest title, Dragon Warrior set the template that the heroic series would follow. A huge success in Japan from the get-go, it took many years (and many games) for this classic JRPG series to achieve mainstream success in the West. Fortunately, publisher Enix didn't give up and these days it feels a bit odd to see the word 'Warrior' in this game's title.
This tenth mainline entry took the series into the MMORPG arena and has appeared across four different Nintendo consoles — including Wii U, 3DS and Switch — starting with the Wii in 2012. Unfortunately, Dragon Quest X is the only game in the mainline series never to come to the West and an irritating gap in Nintendo gamers' otherwise bulging DQ library.
Originally a Japanese exclusive until this Nintendo DS remake came to the West, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation might not be as flashy or intricate as something like Dragon Quest IX but that certainly doesn't keep the game from being every bit as charming and engaging. Retaining the 16-bit style of the 1995 Super Famicom original and not deviating a great deal from the classic formula, it upgrades various aspects to make the version we did get in the West look and feel like a much more modern experience. Realms of Revelation is yet another fantastic addition to the impressive DS RPG library and a great way to revisit a classic.
Dragon Warrior III (or Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation) put the cap on a trilogy (at the time) of influential RPGs which would shape the genre. Set prior to the original game, it added plethora of refinements to the turn-based gameplay and open-world adventuring, including a day/night cycle. It got a Super Famicom remake which never came to the West, although an excellent Game Boy Color version did arrive in 2001 (and you can also play it on Switch).
An island-hopping adventure spanning space and time originally released on PlayStation, Dragon Quest VII is a JRPG masterpiece. If you played the original, this 3DS version is as perfect a remake as you could ask for, with beautiful 3D graphics, a smartly streamlined opening, and lots of welcome quality-of-life updates. This journey through Estard showcases great writing, a fun class system, lovely animations and a stellar soundtrack which make for a fully engrossing adventure throughout. It's a massive game, but don't let that scare you off; with short story-style pacing and a huge variety of settings, speech patterns, and scenarios, it feels less like an epic tome and more like a shelf-ful of storybooks stuffed into a little 3DS cart. This game is an absolute pleasure, and a must-play for RPG fans.
The final NES/Famicom entry in Chunsoft's seminal RPG series, 1992's Dragon Warrior IV (or Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen as it's more commonly known these days) would be the last title in the series to arrive in the West for some time. It featured five chapters, each of which concentrates on one of the aforementioned 'chosen' characters. It was also the first of the mainline DQ series to get its own spin-off titles: Torneko no Daibōken: Fushigi no Dungeon featured this game's merchant, Taloon, and was the very first game in Chunsoft's Mystery Dungeon series, no less.
The Nintendo DS is the best way to enjoy the game these days, if you can find it for a reasonable price.
A game made exclusively for Nintendo DS, sometimes you can't help but marvel at how developers are somehow able to squeeze home console-sized RPG epics onto tiny handheld systems with the most modest of specs, and Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies stands as an impressive feat. Boasting a wealth of new gameplay features, Wi-Fi compatibility and multiplayer action as well, this remains a significant milestone in portable gaming and helped increase western interest in this hallowed Japanese RPG series.
The first in the RPG series to come to the Super Famicom, it eventually made its way to the West in the form of this DS remake. That Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride is a finely crafted RPG should come as little surprise given its heritage, but it's arguably the poignant, personal storytelling which elevates this game as one of the very best in a series filled with greats. Innovations such as the collection of monsters along the way would go on to influence other monster-collecting games, and while it lacks refinement in some areas of its design, it's still an epic adventure. The hero of this adventure may only get 'Assist Fighter' billing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but make no mistake, this is one of the best old-school Dragon Quests you can go on.
Originally released on PS2, this 3DS remake is yet another brilliant instalment in the legendary series. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King showcases its trademark style with great music, a memorable roster of characters and all the quality-of-life improvements you’d expect with a more modern remake of an RPG classic. Incredibly, this was the first game in the mainline series to launch in PAL regions, and it was also the first to ditch the 'Warrior' from the North American version.
Unlike some other games in the franchise, its sprightly pace makes it an excellent choice for new players, too. 200-hour grinds are all well and good, but how are you going to fit in all the other 3DS gems?
Originally released for 3DS (and PS4) in Japan, the cumbersomely named Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition is one of the best games Square has ever put its name to, plain and simple — and this Switch release was a fine port, too. Featuring a heartwarming, well-paced narrative supported by a cast of fantastic characters, a dense and interesting overworld packed with dozens of hours of content, and one of the finest soundtracks we’ve heard in a JRPG, it all combines to make this an unforgettable modern classic. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series (or genre) or a returning vet, do yourself a favor and get yourself a copy of Dragon Quest XI as soon as you’re able. This is the epitome of a gift that keeps on giving, and it more than deserves a spot in your Switch library.
Remember, if you haven't rated the games on this list, you can still do so now and your personal rating will count towards the ranking above — and potentially change the ordering even after publication.
Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the DQ ranking above and share a comment about your personal favourite(s) below.