Let’s countdown the 10 greatest Dragon Ball video games of all time.
10. Dragon Ball Z: Super Butōden 2 (Super Nintendo, 1993)
Featuring crisp sprites, extended battle fields that required a manga-style split-screen, and the first appearance of movie characters in a video game, Super Butōden 2 is one of the most expansive fighting games of the SNES era.
Most impressive of all is the game’s branching story mode, in which player decisions guide alternate retellings of the Cell Saga, Bojack Unbound, and The Legendary Super Saiyan/Broly – Second Coming.
This is also the only game which does not feature Goku as a default character (though exclusively in the Japanese version), as at the time of the game’s publication, he was dead in the manga.
9. Dragon Ball Z: Hyper Dimension (Super Nintendo, 1996)
Covering the Frieza Saga thru the Buu Saga and showcasing a darker, more detailed art style than its contemporaries, Hyper Dimension was the final Dragon Ball game released for Nintendo’s 16-bit console.
Hyper Dimension differed from most fighting games by not only allowing players to fight on multi-tiered stages (featuring a ‘flying’ plane and a ‘ground’ plane), but also by combining players special meter and health bar, allowing them to recharge this meter through out the match.
As it covered the Buu Saga, Hyper Dimension featured the very first video game appearances of both Vegito and Majin Buu.
8. Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku II (Game Boy Advance, 2003)
Improving upon the Action/RPG system of its predecessor and continuing the series’story with a retelling of the Android and Cell Sagas, Legacy of Goku II was everything fans could hope for in a sequel.
Surprisingly, while the game bears his name, players spend the least amount of time playing as Goku, as the game introduces a host of new playable characters, including Piccolo, Vegeta, Gohan, and Trunks.
Despite being developed by an American studio, the game has gone on to see worldwide acclaim, even seeing a release in Japan under the title “Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku II International.”
7. Super Dragon Ball Z (Arcade, 2005 / PlayStation 2, 2006)
Developed in cooperation with long-time Capcom fighting game producer Noritaka Funamizu, Super Dragon Ball Z is the series’ foray into traditional fighting gameplay.
Debuting in Japanese arcades, the game features all the hallmarks of classic fighting games, from quarter-circle-forward-inputs to secret, unlockable boss characters.
The distinctive, sun-washed look of the game comes from the choice to closely follow the original manga colors rather than those of the anime series.
6. Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warriors (Game Boy Color, 2002)
Deviating from the long-established and rightfully-expected line of traditional fighting games, Legendary Super Warriors swapped special inputs for a card-based battle system.
The game covers all of Dragon Ball Z, from the Saiyan Saga to the end of the Kid Buu Saga, and allows players to take control of over 25 different playable characters.
Curiously, despite the platform’s popularity, this was the only Dragon Ball game released for the Game Boy Color.
5. Dragon Ball: Advanced Adventure (Game Boy Advance, 2004)
One of the rare video games focusing on Goku’s early Dragon Ball exploits, Advanced Adventures is a criminally slept-on title for the Game Boy Advance.
The game features a robust story mode which consists of three different gameplay types: platforming segments, auto-scrolling Flying Nimbus segments, and one-on-one fights.
With over 30 playable characters, Advanced Adventures is a rare success in capturing Dragon Ball’s sense of adventure rather than its iconic combat.
Plus, the game’s absolutely gorgeous sprite work and fluid animation make this one of the most visually impressive titles in the entire GBA library.
4. Dragon Ball GT: Final Bout (PlayStation, 1997)
(Though many undoubtedly remember being blown away by the first US release of a Dragon Ball game, and a fully-rendered 3D one at that…even if the overall product was an overall mess of a fighting game.)
4. (For real this time) JUMP Ultimate Stars! (Nintendo DS, 2006)
While not strictly a Dragon Ball game, the cast of Shonen Jump’s arguably most popular series is wide represented in the ambitious manga crossover fighter.
JUMP Ultimate Stars brings characters from across Shonen Jump’s entire history together for a multi-platform fighting game best described as ‘anime Super Smash Bros.’
Players create ‘decks’ in the form of manga pages, combining panels taken directly from the pages of a character’s respective series to create a team of fighters, assists, and stat bonuses to use in both a robust single-player mode and addictive multiplayer matches, all of which take place within the confines of a manga page.
Best of all, each character, from Bleach’s Ichigo, to Toriko’s titular hero, to Goku himself all retain their own unique identities in both their playstyles and in their beautiful sprite work.
Unfortunately, this game never got a Western release, so import copies and translation guides remain the only way to play this masterpiece.
3. Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 2 (PlayStation 2 / Gamecube, 2003)
Upon making the leap to the sixth console generation, the Z fighters starred in a trio of highly lauded 3D fighters known as the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai series, known for its expansive rosters and customizable capsule-battle system.
The series’ second entry brought with it with a cel-shaded art style, an expanded story mode, and alternative costumes and forms for almost every character including new absorption forms for Majin Buu based on Vegeta, Cell, Frieza, and Tien and Yamcha, and two curious ‘what if’ fusions in the form of Tiencha (Tien and Yamcha) and Gokule (Goku and the world’s savior, Hercule aka Mr. Satan). T
Though the third game in the series is the most technically polished and features the largest number of playable characters, the second game narrowly beats out its successor simply due to the amount of fan service presented for Dragon Ball fans.
2. Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot (PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Windows, 2020)
Throughout the years, nearly every Dragon Ball game has retreaded the basic story beats of the series, such as Raditz’s arrival on Earth, Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan, and Majin Buu’s eventual defeat at the hands of an Earth-powered Spirit Bomb.
However, it was not until Kakarot that players were given the chance to experience not only the story, but also the world of Dragon Ball itself.
Another buffet of fan service, Kakarot features a staggering amount of detail in its setting and a previously-unseen freedom in exploration and combat.
While the gameplay may be less than perfect, the experience of Kakarot is sure to leave die-hard Dragon Ball fans more than satisfied and most likely begging for more.
1. Dragon Ball FighterZ (PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / Nintendo Switch / Windows, 2018)
At its core, Dragon Ball is a series about fighting. The series is defined by it’s faster-than-the-eye brawls and colorful blasts of energy, along with the sense of struggle, defeat, and victory that comes from pushing oneself to be better.
In FighterZ, players are given what is, in one humble Bounding into Comics reporter’s opinion, the perfect simulator of Dragon Ball’s combat.
Matches are fast paced and lightning fast, energy beams and explosions litter the screen, and thanks to the game’s story, fights are decided by skill rather than power scaling.
This is to say nothing of the beautiful art direction, which captures the bright colors of the anime and combines them with the power and visual flash seen in the imagination of fans.
Add to that an ‘easy combo’ mechanic built in that not only helps new players get acclimated to the game, but also factors into the competitive strategies of veteran players, and the end result is a Dragon Ball experience that’s both inviting, visually vibrant, and amazingly exciting to see in action.
What are your favorite Dragon Ball video games?