With there being well over 9000 video games based on Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball manga and subsequent anime, narrowing down the list to the best 10 titles of all time is far from an easy feat. Admittedly, this is less about being spoilt for choice and more a case of there just being a ton of mediocre Dragon Ball games that barely try to stick out from the crowd.
In 1986, Epoch published Dragon Ball: Dragon Daihikyō for the Super Cassette Vision, marking the iconic series' first foray into gaming. Similar to most of Dragon Ball's earliest titles, the shoot'em up - yes, shoot'em up - never made it out of Japan. While the West needed around another decade to truly catch Goku fever, nowadays, a year can barely pass without a Saiyan-themed fighting game or RPG hitting shelves. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot has already been announced for 2020.
Without any further ado, here are the 10 best Dragon Ball titles of all time! Unfortunately, some beloved games failed to make the cut, so please bear in mind that any such list is always subjective.
9 Super Dragon Ball Heroes: World Mission
In Japan, Dragon Ball Heroes is a hugely popular arcade trading game that debuted in 2010. Putting aside the occasional insane clip of a Super Saiyan 4 Gohan or Broly hitting YouTube, Western players had to wait until 2019 to get a proper taste of the spin-off series.
World Mission takes place in a universe where Dragon Ball exists as an anime that spawned a popular card game. Once the virtual and real worlds begin to collide, the protagonist must collect cards of their favorite Z-fighters to battle a wild plethora of villains. The story is cheesy, the turn-based gameplay has depth but is also incredibly repetitive, and there are hundreds upon hundreds of cards to collect. The last part earns World Mission a spot on this list.
8 Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Following the Budokai Tenkaichi series, Dragon Ball's console games hit a bit of a rough spell. Burst Limit has solid combat but suffers from a limited roster, Ultimate Tenkaichi may as well have "out of ideas" stamped on the box cover, and Battle of Z is a decent team-based action-RPG pretending to be a fighting game.
Xenoverse 2 is the best of a rather sad bunch, but 2017's sequel improves just enough on its predecessor to be worth recommending. Based on Dragon Ball Online, Xenoverse 2 shines through its deep customization system and quantity (if not quality) of content. The combat is fine but lacks the depth to support a campaign that can easily last 20 hours.
7 Dragon Ball Z: The Legend
Dating back to the mid-'90s, Dragon Ball Z: The Legend is the franchise's only worthwhile PlayStation 1 release. Developed by BEC and Tose Software, The Legend runs through the entirety of Dragon Ball Z's main arcs and features a respectful roster of over 30 fighters.
The gameplay mainly takes the shape of team battles, as both sides try to swing the momentum in their favor. While still technically a fighter, The Legend injects an element of strategy into proceedings, as there is no point in winning your fight if the rest of the team is on the receiving end of a demolition. Graphically, 1996's title boasts stunning 2D sprites and impressive 3D backgrounds.
6 Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warriors
Surprisingly, Toriyama's license is more consistent on handheld systems than home consoles. The Game Boy Color may not possess the power of a PlayStation 2 or a GameCube, but the system's limitations meant Banpresto had to think outside the box when creating Legendary Super Warriors.
The end result is a highly respectable fighting game that blends turn-based mechanics with a card system. Characters are leveled up by assigning attack, support, and defense cards; however, each fighter is limited to only a few upgrades per playthrough. Legendary Super Warriors boasts a robust campaign and a ton of replayability, even if the unique gameplay may not be for everyone. The Super Famicom's Dragon Ball Z: Super Saiya Densetsu also deserves a special mention, as it explored some similar ideas to Legendary Super Warriors.
5 Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension
Hyper Dimension is the most influential and important Dragon Ball fighting game of all time. Super Butōden is the only one that comes close, but Hyper Dimension improves on so many aspects of the experience that 1996's release completely overshadows everything that came before and most of what was published after.
Covering all of Dragon Ball Z's main Sagas, Hyper Dimension has only ten playable fighters; that said, all the characters play distinctively enough to require each to be individually mastered. Along with an extensive array of special or situational moves, the combat is dynamic and highly responsive. Even after all these years, Hyper Dimension remains fantastic.
4 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
Released in 2004, Budokai 3 was the pinnacle of Dimps' run of 2D fighting games on the PlayStation 2. With tight combat mechanics, gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, and an expansive "Story Mode" boasting campaigns for eleven different characters, Budokai 3 is everything a fan of the series could possibly desire.
Compared to other 2D fighters, Budokai 3 is just slightly above average. Stacked up against other Dragon Ball or even anime fighting games in general? Budokai 3 is nothing short of brilliant.
3 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Deciding whether to give the edge to Budokai Tenkaichi 3 or Budokai 3 was the most difficult part of compiling this list. In the end, the former receives the nod due to truly feeling like the ultimate love letter to the series, even if the 3D combat is less refined than Budokai 3's mechanics.
Budokai Tenkaichi 3 boasts one of the biggest rosters in a fighting game of all time, while the "Dragon History" mode covers the original Dragon Ball, Z, GT, the movies, and even includes some "What If" scenarios. While the combat is not particularly complex and the roster share most of the combo attacks, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 adapts the license's trademark visual spectacle better than most other titles.
2 Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku 2 & Buu's Fury
Considering the Game Boy Advance's The Legacy of Goku has a better chance of landing on a list commemorating the worst Dragon Ball games, the sequels securing such a high spot is honestly remarkable. Focusing on the Cell and Majin Buu Sagas respectively, The Legacy of Goku 2 and Buu's Fury highlight the source material's sense of adventure that is often left unrepresented by the majority of adaptations.
Action-RPGs with multiple playable characters, side quests, unlockable attacks, and temporary transformations, The Legacy of Goku series should be considered a must-play for not only fans of the franchise, but also anyone searching for a fun handheld experience. Buu's Fury introduces elements like assignable stat points and equipment but also requires more grinding than The Legacy of Goku 2.
1 Dragon Ball FighterZ
OK - is anyone surprised? Arc System Works' Dragon Ball FighterZ is, without doubt, the best-crafted game based on Toriyama's franchise. Speaking solely in terms of gameplay, FighterZ is comfortably ahead of the pack. Boasting a visual style that often threatens to surpass Dragon Ball Super's animation, the extremely fluid combat system is accessible and a totally accurate representation of the source material.
FighterZ allowed Dragon Ball to finally be accepted into the competitive scene, something that none of the previous releases ever came close to accomplishing. Due to the single-player campaign overstaying its welcome, FighterZ mostly shines as a multiplayer title. Depending on what someone is seeking, Budokai Tenkaichi 3, The Legacy of Goku 2, or Budokai 3 can be just as rewarding.