It all started with Goku and his then companion, Bulma. They bump (literally) across one another and join forces to complete the 7 mystic Dragon Balls. The Dragon Balls, once completed by an individual, will summon forth Shenlong the dragon god, and the individual in possession of the 7 balls will be granted one wish. This story was told 32 years ago, that’s how old Dragon Ball Z is. The two friends continue their quest to complete the Dragon Balls and on their way form a friendship, or an entourage, that will last for decades. Goku’s entourage is the group consisting of Bulma, Master Roshi, Yamcha, Oolong, Krillin, Tien Shinhan, and Chiaotzu.
Dragon Ball started as a manga, as do most popular Japanese animated characters today. This is the medium used by artists, animators and the creative minds of Japan. Manga is the American equivalent of Marvel and DC comics, and Akira Toriyama is Stan Lee (this comparison is adjusted to appeal to the majority demographic). A manga that started in 1984, it was upgraded to anime in 1986, re-branded as Dragon Ball Z for the sequel, and years later was adapted for film, video games, English dubbed TV shows and any other medium known to man. This article will focus on the video game aspect of Dragon Ball. Here are 10 of the best Dragon Ball video games of all time.
10. Supersonic Warriors
Release Date: June 2004
Platform: Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS
This is a game that’s as surreal as any fanboy of Dragon Ball Z could get from the old Dragon Ball universe, one that’s untarnished by 3D and new age graphics and effects. It stays true to the style of Toriyama and lets the player feel Dragon Ball and nothing else that’s making it fancy. Supersonic Warriors is essentially a fighting game but it has other modes, here are all of them: Story and Z Battle Mode, Challenge and Training Mode, Free Battle and Remote Vs. Mode.
A favorite in the game are the What If scenarios for a character. It is a fantasy game inside a game, and could get very interesting. It’s a nugget in the game that makes the player forget about what really happened and invest on the What If scenario for a long time. Being a game that’s made in 2004, it has a limited number of playable characters, 13 only, with 3 levels. All in all, one can see a total of 28 characters in Supersonic Warriors. A 2D style tournament fighting, but the players can switch levels from the ground to the air, or a ground vs air combat. They also have chi (energy) that charges to 100% and unlocks special abilities including the Certain Kill ability.
9. Advanced Adventure
Release Date: June 2006
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Cool, Pokemon! Let’s get something straight right now, this is not the Pokemon Advanced Adventure game. If it was, Pikachu will get beaten up so bad he won’t want to come out of that poke ball anymore. This is Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, released in the U.S. two years after Japanese kids had their way with it all day and all night. A game exclusive only to Game Boy Advance, Advanced Adventure is made for the more peaceful Dragon Ball fan. There are fewer fight modes here and focuses more on the storyline and the RPG journey. But it is one journey that got this 12 (or 14, depending on where you are) year old game included in this article.
Advanced Adventure offers 30 playable characters, 3 game modes, and one not-so-secret mode. You unlock the extra mode by finishing the story mode. The game modes are Story Mode, One-on-One Mode, Vs Mode, ad the Extra (secret) Mode. This is the perfect game to play when one is just starting to learn Dragon Ball as if there is such a person. As the Story Mode starts right at the beginning where Goku meets Bulma. Like Alice, this game is the rabbit hole. This game is your red pill, Neo.
Release Date: February 2015
Platform: MS Windows, PlayStation 3 & 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
This is the first of only two video games included in this list that was released in this decade. There are at least 12 Dragon Ball video games released since 2010 and the rest of the games in this list were created, developed, and released in the last decade, the 2000s. What does that tell us? That the gamer is not blinded by the flashy graphics, effects, and cinematic feel of the game. We hunger for the substance, the story, and the roots. Or, we’re just OG and all the graphics and grandiose we see in games are all white noise to our OG eyes. By the way, if you don’t know what OG is, then you really are an OG.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse was released sometime in early 2015. Say goodbye to 2D animation and gameplay. Gone were the days where your character can only do so much in terms of movement. Say hello to terrific camera movement, an interactive POV experience, and crisp realistic sounds. The character’s sprites are better than ever, the physical movement more fluid, the ki blasts and kamehamehas more sensational-looking. One can’t really say anything bad about the gameplay in Xenoverse, but it did a decent job with the storyline of the game.
7. Legacy Of Goku 2
Release Date: June 2003
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Legacy of Goku 2 is another Dragon Ball game more dedicated to RPG than anything else. Of course, it still has the elements a Dragon Ball game has, it’s not Dragon Ball without the fighting. Legacy of Goku 2 is like the Godfather II of Dragon Ball video games. Actually, the Godfather II of Dragon Ball video games is further down the list. But, having said that, Legacy of Goku 2 is a more refined, upgraded, and a noticeable improvement on the first offering. It could even go out of the Dragon Ball world, and be arguably included in the conversation of all-time video games that was way better than the original.
We all know the usual improvements, these are expectations from a sequel game from the original. A longer storyline, longer story mode, more challenging enemies, better graphics, better control, and some easter eggs. A big difference from the first is that here in part 2, one can control multiple characters. Now, you can play Gohan, Piccolo, Trunks, and Vegeta. They also made it easier to explore the locations in the second game. The fight sequence is also better as they repaired some bugs and made enhancements. The easter egg in this game is that you can unlock Mr. Satan.
6. Budokai Tenkaichi 2
Release Date: November 2006
Platform: PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360
Budokai Tenkaichi 2 and Budokai Tenkaichi 3 will forever pose a heated debate between gamers and Dragon Ball fans. On one hand, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 immerses the player into the story and makes them invested not only timewise, but also visually, intellectually, and emotionally. It’s not the feeling of reading a story, it’s a deep dive into the story, it’s almost like living in it. On the other hand, the dismissive hardcore Budokai Tenkaichi 3 fan would just say well, there are more characters in BT3. Those few words drive to the point, they are not wrong on that one. If you ever get stuck in the middle of this kind of conversation and want it to stop, just agree to them both, then ask what they think are their Top 5 Dragon Ball video games of all-time. That will surely put an end to the argument.
With different versions and releases of Dragon Ball fighting games available, most of them are barely even good, Budokai Tenkaichi 2 defies this sad expectation. What we found lacking in the original, BT2 clearly took note of and improved, adjusted, trashed, and added with such passion that this game became one of the best ever Dragon Ball video games of all time.
5. Super Dragon Ball Z
Release Date: July 2006
Platform: PlayStation 2
A video game that has a popular arcade version, Super Dragon Ball Z is more the traditional fighting video game rather than the regular Dragon Ball fighting games we are accustomed to. Street Fighter is more on a jump, attack, sweep combos, whereas Tekken is where players never use the jump button and master each character’s special combo moves with a rather complicated set of buttons to memorize. Mortal Kombat is just more on the gorey and macabre-like finishing moves.
The fighting style of Super Dragon Ball Z was designed to make the player get closer to their opponent and not just rely on their ki blasts and distance moves. Why would we do that if we can fly off, get cracking on those ki blasts and hope the enemy doesn’t know how to block or counter. This game is a morphing, an evolution from the traditional fight sequence, that for the longest time, sounded like an abhorring idea and an insult to the Dragon Ball games. But, surprisingly, it worked, and it stuck. Fans liked it, it was a refreshing change, and a good one. Now this game is one of the best ever produced fighting game from Dragon Ball.
4. Attack of the Saiyans
Release Date: November 2009
Platform: Nintendo DS
Remember the Xenosaga and Xenoblade role-playing games? These are elaborate RPGs that boasts of wide storylines, attention to graphic detail, and protagonists teeming with charisma, flair, and just the right amount of mysteriousness not to be too weird or too dark. Xenosaga and Xenoblade have stories in their own stories. Missions and side-missions, Main quests and alternate or optional quests. Both games are creations of the brilliant minds working under the name Monolith Soft. Dragon Ball Attack of the Saiyans was a game released in 2009 for Nintendo DS, it’s another handheld action-rpg from Dragon Ball, but not quite.
Attack of the Saiyans was created by the same minds who created and developed the vast universe of Xenosaga and Xenoblade. Monolith Soft’s incentive is that they did not have to create and develop a story and a world from scratch, this universe already exists. They just fine-tuned everything else. This is the main reason why Attack of the Saiyans is as good as people say it is. The storylines are the Saiyan Saga and the Piccolo Jr. Saga. A player can control a number of characters like Goku, Gohan, Krillin, and Yamcha. Since it’s made by Monolith Soft, people almost expect a sequel, just like with Xenoblade and Xenosaga, but it never happened.Well, let’s just say “never say never” for now.
3. Xenoverse 2
Release Date: October 2016
Platform: MS Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Here we are again with the endless debate on what’s the better version. The logical answer is the second game, it’s not like the movies. It’s a game that you just need to fix and improve, not a whole other story that you need to be at par with or better than the original. Thinking about it, video game sequels entail more work than movie sequels. You have to fix what needs fixing, and contend with a meatier storyline, and the annoying challenge of continuity. Budokai Tenkaichi is cursed with this debate, but thankfully, Xenoverse is not. Mostly unanimously, fans would say that Xenoverse 2 is a better version of the original, in all aspects of the game. For one, they blew up the what-if scenarios into a game of its own.
MMO fighting is the new kid on the block, and just like any other kid, it’s still unpredictable and restless. Xenoverse did not bow down to that fact, instead, it embraced it. From the what-ifs to the character creations, Xenoverse 2 just works. From an old core of 30-year old characters, the new age of technology in gaming managed to add to the luster that is Dragon Ball. Of course, that shine is limited to what the first Xenoverse offered, and that truth is what held Xenoverse 2 back from being the best Dragon Ball game of all time.
2. Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Release Date: November 2007
Platform: PS2, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360
Budokai Tenkaichi 3 has the largest number of characters than any other Dragon Ball game ever created, how can it not be better than Budokai Tenkaichi 2? They did that, true, but the storyline suffered for it. How can something be the best if it makes compromises? See, there really is no end to this argument. It’s a debate that kids generations long after we’re dead would still probably fight over. But we have to put this to rest, for now. The runner-up for best Dragon Ball video game of all time is not Budokai Tenkaichi 2, it is Budokai Tenkaichi 3. This is more on the technical aspect of the two games and the overall appeal it has on the gamer, in general. Not to mention this vote negates the little-known fact that OGs like substance and good stories rather than advances in graphics and technology.
Both games, while created at the height of the revolutionary time of the digital age, stayed faithful to its manga and anime roots. It could have easily succumbed to the ambrosia of the new age, but it didn’t. It stayed strong and true. This is why these are two of the best games in Dragon Ball history. If BT3’s storyline was a little better, it would have bumped the top spot down to #2, don’t say I told you so BT2 die- hard-worshipper!
1. Budokai 3
Release Date: November 2004
Platform: PlayStation 2
Budokai 3 is the Godfather II of all video game sequels. Technically, it should be called the Godfather III of all sequels, but that third film was so bad (no offense Al Pacino) it would do no justice to the best Dragon Ball video game of all time. So, again, announcing the Godfather II of all video game sequels, Dragon Ball Budokai 3! There really is nothing to it, Budokai 3 is simply just the best of the lot. We can rant and rave all day long about storylines, graphics, and fight sequences, 3D and online capability, cinematography and in-game deep dive feels.
The facts are still there, the game was created before all that mumbo jumbo. Where the game itself is the only thing that matters. The purity of it, the simple and complex feel of it, the easy but never boring feeling while playing it. The familiar cushion, a blanket that no other traditional gamer can deny. Some would say that this is where the bias is, the cripple nostalgia that stops new games from being #1 of all time. Sometimes, there are some things that can never be explained. But in the world of video games and in the Dragon Ball universe, it’s as much a truth as it is a lie. When the graphics and technology stop being a distraction for us gamers, when it helps rather than misdirects, then we have finally got ourselves an all-time great created in this day and age of multimedia gaming.