With Bandai Namco’s new release Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot approaching faster than a rampaging Super Saiyan, I’ve found that I’ve been looking towards the recent past for my Dragon Ball fix during the month long waits between chapters of Toyotaro’s new Dragon Ball Super manga. In that situation, it was only a matter of time before I dived head first back into the world of Dragon Ball video games.
Time will tell if Dragon Ball Z Kakarot’s release will alter my feelings on this list at all, but until then — here are what I consider to be the five best Dragon Ball games for your money, presented in no particular order:
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 2
Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (known as known as Dragon Ball Z: Sparking! NEO in Japan) was a fast-paced 3D arena fighter that refined the formula of its predecessor in almost every way. The game not only covered the full Dragon Ball Z and GT TV show experience as well as 12 of the movies and one-off TV specials, but also continued the Budokai series tradition of telling cool ‘What if?’ tales that could previously only been experienced in the imaginations and home-made fictions of the series diehard fans.
With 135 characters and 16 different places those characters can fight, I’ll admit that the game has less characters and locations than its follow-up on the same systems, but it more than makes up for that shortcoming by incorporating far more cinematic cut scenes that more accurately portray the classic Dragon Ball experience.
Budokai Tenkaichi was probably the first time controlling Goku and friends in a 3D environment had felt any good whatsoever, but Budokai Tenkaichi 2 was where this sub-series of games was at its peak.
Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure
2005’s Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure loosely adapts the story from the very start of the original tale until the end of the Piccolo Daimao arc into a sort-of half 2D platformer and half fighting game in the style of something like the TurboGrafx-16 classic Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu.
Seeing these characters brought to life with such fantastic pixel art is a genuine joy and although translated versions of the game lack the iconic “Makafushigi Adventure!” theme song from the original Japanese version, the rest of the soundtrack is still full of delightful original compositions that evoke the style and tone of the original show.
For whatever reason, the adventures of Kid Goku and his friends don’t often get as much attention from fans of later adventures in the series outside of Japan. Because of that, Advanced Adventure is one of a rare handful of games based on that era of Goku’s life.
If you’re a fan of the whole story and really don’t mind the part before it gets all space opera and the other fearsome Saiyan warriors arrive, you really shouldn’t miss out on playing this one.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3
The easy to learn, hard to master Dragon Ball Z Budokai 3 eschewed the complex Japanese arcade style fighting game controls of past Dragon Ball fighting games, opting instead for of a simplified control scheme that lets the player focus on what they and their opponent will do next without having to worry about putting in tricky QCF inputs or dialling in long meta-game combos.
For the first time ever the game also included the RPG-like ‘Dragon Universe’ mode where the player could opt to play as one of 11 different characters and see the story from their perspective, as well as fly around the Dragon World in search of items, capsules, unlockable characters and most importantly the seven mystical Dragon Balls.
Dragon Ball fandom talks about this game to this day as one to remember. The title was even remastered on the PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2012, so it’s quite easy to find.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2 released in 2016 and initially fans were disappointed, seeing the title as something that could basically have been a DLC update for the original game. Over time however, Xenoverse 2 has more than earned its place in Dragon Ball fans hearts around the world with steady content updates that have continued to add new story quests, multi-player missions and character customization options for almost 3 years, with no sign of stopping soon.
2015’s original Dragon Ball Xenoverse was a game that started out as a home console adaptation of the Japan-Korean MMO “Dragon Ball Online”, although the final gameplay was something far more akin to the Budokai Tenkaichi (Sparking!) titles.
In the Xenoverse series, the player creates a custom character from one of the various Dragon Ball races and works with Future Trunks as part of the ‘Time Patrol’, a group that protect Dragon Ball canon and make sure demons don’t change the established history we know and love.
‘Parallel Quest’ missions allow for Time Patrol players to team-up in co-op and take on various canon and non-canon Dragon Ball scenarios together and the changes in history allow the developers at Bandai Namco to take characters from whichever interpretations or adaptations of the series they’d like, or even create some of their own for the craziest ‘What if?’ adventures.
Xenoverse 2 maintains the fun gameplay of the original, but has more of just about everything people loved from the first game, so that puts it on top as the recommendation, but you can’t go wrong with either. Both Xenoverse games have decent, entertaining stories if you’re a Dragon Ball fan. Xenoverse 2 even includes the added bonus of being able to import your character from the first game —and if you do he’ll be an NPC legendary hero and you’ll team up over the course of your XV2 adventure.
It’s fan service, but its good fun. Especially if you can get some friends on board to do multiplayer.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the Dragon Ball game of choice for the fighting game community! Developed by Arc System Works and first released in 2018, the game swept Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite’s legs out under it as the arcade input tag battle game to be playing competitively that year, if you’re into that sort of thing. (I am.)
Upon announcement people everywhere were amazed by the quality of the graphical style and work put into the overall look of the games’ animation, with the release looking the closest to the original Dragon Ball Z animation that a Dragon Ball video game had ever gotten. In fact, the smash hit theatrical release ‘Dragon Ball Super: Broly’ attempted to ape some if it’s style and use it for CG fight material of its own towards the climax of the film.
Returning to some of its Dragon Ball: Super Butoden arcade style fighting game roots so long after Budokai 3 had thrown them away, brought a new life blood to the game series as people who wanted a less casual Dragon Ball experience finally had something new to play.
With 21 characters in the base roster and 14 DLC characters currently released through two season passes, the roster is smaller than most modern Dragon Ball game releases but at the same time every character has a unique and interesting fighting style … even if quite a few of them are just different variants of Goku!
FighterZ can be a complex game when you first encounter it, but well designed and in-depth tutorials take away some of that initial stress when you first start playing and the games mechanics will quickly become second nature and muscle memory if you stick with it.
For the best play experience I suggest you convince a friend to bring their controller round, or hop online and both get good together.I hope you enjoy playing these games as much as I did. If you do please reach out to me through Simfluent’s comment section below, or even one-on-one through Twitter at @LimeyOtoko.