No other anime has had as big a ripple in the world of gaming as Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and Dragon Ball Super have been licensed to gaming studios since its inception, and, like clockwork, new games have been churned out for the franchise. For many, the games are hit or miss. Some are a masterstroke, but others are Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22, a game dropped into game stores without any fanfare or critical love, or the unfinished Dragon Ball Z Sagas.
With the recent resurgence in Dragon Ball popularity stemming from the anticipation of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, let's take a long look back at the absolutely massive amount of Dragon Ball games and pick out the modern successes, fan-favorite classics, and some hidden gems.
Updated July 27, 2021 by Ben Jessey: Dragon Ball is a perpetually relevant franchise. There has never been a time when fans have stopped consuming some form of DB material. It helps that new Dragon Ball content is always being released, such as the recently-announced movie.
As for the video games, rarely do a few years go by without something coming out. So much so that every collection of the best Dragon Ball games will always have a few significant omissions. For instance, our list was missing a few really popular titles that deserve mention. Therefore, we've updated the piece to add a few more gems.
16 Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit
The first thing to notice about Burst Limit is how beautiful the game looks. Few Dragon Ball titles include character models as stunning as the cel-shaded ones featured in this 2008 fighter. While Burst Limit's visuals are its biggest strength, it's not the only thing the game offers.
Battles provide plenty of substance to go with the game's style as each one plays out at a brisk and enjoyable pace. And even though it might seem simple at first, there is some depth to the gameplay. If only there were more depth to the roster, as one of the few downsides to the title is its small set of characters. But all the main figures pre-Buu saga make the cut.
15 Dragon Ball Z Supersonic Warriors
Most of the best Dragon Ball Z games simply re-tell the tale of the anime. Supersonic Warriors does that, too, yet it also includes multiple 'what if' scenarios. These unique stories play around with the well-known DBZ narrative to provide something different. For instance, at one point in Piccolo's scenario, he brings back and fuses with Demon King Piccolo to gain the strength to take on Buu.
These original storylines are interesting and allow for the spotlight to be shined on less celebrated characters. The gameplay, on the other hand, isn't as groundbreaking, but it's enough to keep you entertained.
14 Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy Of Goku II
It's always nice when the DB franchise experiments with other genres. In fact, some of the best Dragon Ball Z games don't focus solely on fighting, for example, Legacy of Goku II. This 16-bit title is an RPG, which focuses as much on the adventure part of the series as the big battles.
Of course, there are still many fights to be had in the game, but you don't jump from fighting Android 19 to immediately squaring up to Android 18. Instead, you travel around the fascinating world of Dragon Ball, finding things and talking to people. As a result, combat is a little simple, yet it's also oddly satisfying.
13 Dragon Ball: Raging Blast
Raging Blast attempted to take the formula for 3D, action-packed fights to the next level with more cinematic elements and big, flashy, fitting attacks. For the time, and even now, the game is a graphical beauty that does well to capture the feeling of the manga and anime.
Gameplay-wise, Raging Blast doesn't introduce many new elements to the series as it plays similar to the Tenkaichi games. Yet, battles are still fluid and fun, even if the wonky camera can be annoying. Plus, it provides something the anime never did: Super Saiyan 3 Vegeta.
12 Dragon Ball Z: Xenoverse 2
While the Xenoverse titles might not be ranked among the best RPGs of the generation, they're still both solid games. Overall, Xenoverse 2 edges out its predecessor because the sequel includes much more content.
One of the best parts of the game is its story. The title takes the original Dragon Ball Z tale and uses time travel to make some alterations. Unfortunately, fights don't quite hold up to the quality of the narrative, as Xenoverse 2 doesn't provide a very exciting arena fighter experience. Yet, there's still plenty of fun to be had with the title, and it's one of the best Dragon Ball Z games ever.
11 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
There remains an intense division between fans of the Budokai games and the Budokai Tenkaichi fans. Budokai is a fighter, but Tenkaichi, in part because the developers knew it couldn't compete, made Tenkaichi an arena fighter. All DBZ fighting games (until FighterZ) tried to copy the mechanics of both of these games.
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is the best of the Dragon Ball Z arena fighting games. While the gameplay is nothing special and most of the characters feel like model swaps, it is filled with a bazillion characters. Obscure characters, too, that have never been considered before or since. It exists as the ultimate Dragon Ball Z toy box game. Every other arena fighting game to follow has just been following.
10 Dragon Ball: Fusions
Dragon Ball: Fusions is a wild video game that no one expected to like. As a Dragon Ball RPG, it is already a rare beast in the DBZ Universe. It is a crazy RPG game that focuses primarily on fan service, full of references throughout the universe.
The game is a bit of an oddball. It starts very irreverent, but, as it goes on, gets... even more irreverent. It serves as a unique RPG experience, offering fans the sort of stuff they have never seen before. However, it can leave a few fans feeling a little... off.
9 Super Dragon Ball Z
When it came out for the PlayStation 2, many fans didn't really care for Super Dragon Ball Z. The fast-paced gameplay of the Budokai and Budokai Tenkaichi series left fans hoping Super Dragon Ball Z would be a fun, exciting action game...but what they got was a far slower-paced, technical fighter...with FAR fewer characters than expected or wanted. Tenkaichi 3 had over 150 characters! Who cares about this game?
But as time passed on, fans of competent, well-structured fighting games re-discovered the game, and remembered "Wait, this game was made by Akira Nishitani — you know, the guy who made Street Fighter II." And you can tell. Plus, you get to play Chi-Chi.
8 Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure
There are very few Dragon Ball games out there. DBZ, yes, but not Dragon Ball. The old-school series is often neglected for the more over-the-top action, and fans who go back to the old series often don't care for the softer, comedic tone of Dragon Ball.
Which is why many fans made a huge mistake overlooking Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure, a Gameboy Advance beat-em-up game where you play from the start of the series to the final fight with King Piccolo. Through a combination of platforming stages, flying stages, and fighting stages, the game boasts incredible variety even before considering you can play through the game using multiple characters. It's one of the best Dragon Ball handheld titles.
7 Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury
For many Americans growing up in the early Toonami era of Dragon Ball Z, Legacy of Goku II was the only good Dragon Ball Z game. Sadly, when the Budokai series came out, many had forgotten these old-school games in order to focus on the new 3D fighting game entries.
Which is why many didn't play Buu's Fury, Legacy of Goku II's sequel. It took all the great gameplay of the prior games -- western RPG gameplay, for example -- and made it even better. Plus, it has digital renditions of Bruce Faulconer's Dragon Ball Z music, which, for many growing up with the series, is a huge dose of nostalgia.
6 Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans
Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans for the DS is often forgotten by fans of the series. It isn't the first adventure game to tell the story of the Saiyans -- or even the first RPG to tell the Saiyan Saga.
While that doesn't sound like a lot of content, it starts in the Dragon Ball era and adds a lot of content to pad things out. However, what it offers is a complex, interesting JRPG gameplay system. For fans sick of DBZ fighters, this game is great.
5 Dragon Ball Z: Infinite World
As the PlayStation 2 neared its demise in 2008, one last Dragon Ball game was released to add to the already fantastic lineup the PS2 was known for. This game is essentially like a Budokai 4, taking most good elements from Budokai 3 and tweaking some major flaws.
The exclusion of the "Dragon Rush" feature from Budokai is entirely left out here, which is seen as a huge plus. While not nearly as popular as its predecessors, garnering quite a few low review scores from game critics, this game is loved by many fans and stands as one of the most underrated and underplayed games in the franchise.
4 Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden 2
To many modern players, it may seem like borderline blasphemy to place some ancient, 2D fighting game above the like of Budokai Tenkaichi or Xenoverse. Other people who might've been on the old school internet might recognize the sprites as being omnipresent on forum signatures since the early '00s.
But few have actually played this incredible SNES fighting game. Among SNES fighters, this game was superb. It features stages so massive with so many different environments the game needed a split-screen. While it features far fewer characters than modern Dragon Ball Z games, none of them feel like model swaps. It also features a unique story that leads to some strange plot threads involving Bojack.
3 Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot
The newest entry in the long list of Dragon Ball games is the highly anticipated Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. It attempts to do what has been done countless times, having the player punch and ki-blast their way through Dragon Ball's all too loveable story, but this time adding in some key RPG elements and polishing the 3D battle system.
Kakarot is a fantastic single-player experience that really appeals to die-hard fans, and one of the only downsides is the lack of content for players who haven't grown up with this anime titan. The RPG elements are fun and intuitive, but get extremely repetitive and stale pretty quickly. But, looking past the minor flaws, this is a must-play for any aspiring Saiyan warrior.
2 Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3
For a while, Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 was the best fighting game in the series. It featured a terrific balance of characters, gameplay mechanics, fast-paced action, story mode, and just plain fun of any Dragon Ball Z game around. No other game has managed to integrate a rock-paper-scissors mechanic as well as Budokai 3. No other game (save for the final one) has featured a cast of well-balanced Dragon Ball Z fighters like Budokai 3 has.
Budokai 3 exists as a love letter to the whole franchise, featuring characters from the franchise's entire timeline. It offered fans a way to compete against one another (in a sense) in the pre-online heavy days of video games. It made the less-appreciated Dragon Ball GT cool — arguably more so than anything has before or since. It made character transformations feel valuable.
1 Dragon Ball FighterZ
So how many Dragon Ball Z fighting games are played competitively? Yes, FighterZ has such a balanced, responsive, and technical fighting system that the game is used in Esports. But the 2D title is also very easy for less-experienced fighting game fans to enjoy. And it's arguably the purest fighter ever released under the Dragon Ball banner.
Battles are fast, fluid, and look beautiful. Plus, the best characters feel distinct from each other and not just like mere remodels. The game even attempts to deliver a unique storyline, and while it's not the best Dragon Ball narrative ever told, it's still compelling.
The Dragon Ball FighterZ is a game that not only took the Dragon Ball community by storm, but also marked its introduction to fighting games.