Dragon Ball is, simply put, one of the single most iconic franchises of the modern era. Being around since the mid-80s and becoming exceptionally popular in Japan, when the anime received a slight name change and gained a ‘Z’ and then proceeded to make way to Europe and North American at the turn of the millennium, Dragon Ball Z became a global phenomenon that shapes the way many in the west view anime to this day.
Being around for that long and as action-packed the entire franchise is, it couldn’t make for more perfect video game material. To that end, there’s been dozens of Dragon Ball games over the years and a majority of them are, well, bad. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Dragon Ball is one of the single most iconic franchises of the modern era and publishers can get by on name while sacrificing quality. Whatever the case, with that many under the name, someone ought to rank the best Dragon Ball Z games – and we’re here to do just that.
A quick disclaimer in that many of the games have the same pitfalls. The roster and gameplay is always repetitive across every game, so we’re actually going to cancel those as criticisms for the sake of this list sounding, well, repetitive. We’ll also keep it strictly Dragon Ball Z centered; while the games can definitely feature Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball GT, and Dragon Ball Super, they can’t be the primary focus.
But enough about that nonsense. We’re not just dealing with the average Saiyan warrior simulators here — we’ve got the elite titles from across the universe. Here’s the fifteen best Dragon Ball Z games to play while powering up for five episodes.
Coming off the heels of the incredible Budokai 3 (which we’ll see later, don’t worry), Budokai Tenkaichi had a huge hole to fill.
Despite having similar names, the series had nothing to do with one another. Tenkaichi was Dragon Ball’s first real foray into the arena fighter genre, making it a DBZ game to have fully destructible environments over huge battlefields. The new dimensions of the battles came at the cost of the graphics and models looking weirdly shiny and just not looking nearly as appealing as the Budokai games.
While part of Tenkaichi’s ranking is due to being the first arena fighter that would be the direction virtually all DBZ games would go, the game really earns its stripes in the surprisingly overlooked Ultimate Battle mode. Here, you have to take one character and pit them against every single character in the DB/Z/GT canon from weakest all the way up to the strongest, each battle progressively getting tougher, your strategies having to shift semi-frequently, and the AI providing an unexpected challenge.
14. Dragon Ball Z: Burst Limit
Developer: Dimps Publisher: Bandai Namco, Atari Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360
Burst Limit was easily the Dragon Ball Z game with the best looking character models until the last few years. With the PS2 titles giving way to the newer power available on the PS3 and Xbox 360, they were able to capture gorgeous 3D cel shaded models, but the cost is that the fights feel significantly slower than previous titles.
One of the handful of games that stops only part way through the Z saga at Cell, Burst Limit plays very similarly to the first major DBZ console game to ship worldwide, Budokai. The Drama Pieces mechanic aided in the hampering of the fighting pace, which is the opposite of what you want with a roster of warriors who can move faster than the speed of light.
Developer: Spike Publisher: Bandai Namco Platform: PS3, Xbox 360
The best DBZ game of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era, Raging Blast 2 had perhaps the most refined mechanics of a DBZ arena fighter until maybe Xenoverse. The Raging Blast series and the Budokai Tenkaichi series are definitely siblings of each other, much like Burst Limit is to the Budokai series.
This adaptation has an enormous roster of characters, but it’s most notable for three things fans thought they’d never see: Super Saiyan 3 Vegeta, Super Saiyan 3 Broly, and for coming with the lost-to-the-west OVA “The Plan to Eradicate the Super Saiyans” right on the disc. That last point is a big get, as it’s essentially a lost episode that got completely reanimated and re-edited for the western release. You even get the OVA’s main antagonist as a character just for watching it.
Bells and whistles aside, it’s also an okay enough game if you don’t mind it not having a proper story mode. It should be noted that the gap between this entry and the next takes a significant leap in quality so we can really get into the best Dragon Ball Z games.
Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Atari, Bandai Platform: GBA
The handheld DBZ games get overlooked and that’s a crime, as while many of them don’t have the cartridge space to cover the full story, many of them have a much smaller focus and do everything they can in within that.
Supersonic Warriors is a prime example of such, as this GBA title is one of the first and, even to this day, only games to come anywhere close to matching the speed in which the DBZ fights need to feel intense. The game is all combat, breaking its story down by characters, complete with some of the coolest what-if chapters for every playable character.
Supersonic Warriors is fast, furious, and stupendous, if short. Also, this will be far from the last time we’ll see Arc System Works on this list.
The most recent entry on this list, 2020’s DBZ: Kakarot is the first DBZ game to focus on the entire canonical story of the series since the early 2010s. Up until that point, it was commonplace for games to take you through what fans call the “Raditz-to-Buu” story, named for the first villain you’d fight in the game all the way until the final one.
Kakarot is the fully realized version of what an action-adventure DBZ game should feel like, complete with an open world and lots to see. It’s a pity the game feels lacking and while we said we wouldn’t use repetitiveness as a critique for any of these, this game is an exception if only because it fully expects you to invest 80+ hours into it.
Still, Kakarot is charming, visually stunning, and if this sort of game continues, has loads of potential to get better.
Developer: Banpresto Publisher: Infogrames, Banpresto Platform: Game Boy Color
Essentially the complete opposite of the previous entry, Legendary Super Warriors is a turn-based, card-centric fighting game on the Game Boy Color. While it doesn’t have the lightning fast kinetic energy as Supersonic Warriors, this game stands out for its unique combat system and absolute lack of a learning curve. Thankfully, there’s no penalty for losing, and you’ll lose a lot as this game goes all the way from Nappa to Buu.
The graphics are simple, but charming as hell because everyone’s so small, though it does take a second to figure out the combat’s rules. It also might have the worst soundtrack of any DBZ game given the limited nature of the GBC. Nonetheless, it feels different in a good way to play a DBZ game that makes you stop and think of things tactically when you’re used to fighters moving faster than light.
Legendary Super Warriors is a criminally underrated game that has some of the depth and difficulty that many Z games lack, and is unfortunately one of the most buried of the best DBZ games.
9. Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku II
Developer: Webfoot Technologies Publisher: Atari Platform: GBA
The first Legacy of Goku game might be one of the worst action-adventure games you can play, especially on the GBA. Its sequel, however, learned from every single facet of that game to the point that the improvement is exponential. They even managed to fit flying across the entirety of the DBZ world map into a GBA cartridge.
This game picks up where the original stopped, taking you through the entirety of the Android and Cell sagas while operating much closer to an RPG by allowing you to give your characters stat-altering items. Despite the name, you get to play as five total characters and not just play the canonical story, but do all kinds of dumb fun sidequests and somehow fit in movie villains to really seal the deal.
Legacy of Goku II is a bit of a grindfest, but it’s still one of the best Dragon Ball Z games to date.
8. Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2
Developer: Cavia, Arc System Works Publisher: Atari, Bandai Platform: DS
How do you improve on the superlative fighting of Supersonic Warriors on a screen as small as the GBA? Well, you wait until you have two screens. Supersonic Warriors 2 for the Nintendo DS once again improves on things from its previous entry while giving even more modes and characters.
The crisp fighting has returned and is even better, but the biggest addition may very well be the second screen itself. It may be strange for a game that operates at such an incredibly rapid pace to work better with something else to keep track of, but because of that, the second screen is used to declutter the main screen and give you options at the touch of a stylus/finger, making combat that much smoother.
Add the newer levels to story mode and what ifs, and you’ve got another exceptional handheld DBZ delight.
A Dragon Ball Z RPG made by Monolith Soft, the same folks who would go on to do the critically acclaimed Xenoblade Chronicles? Welcome to Attack of the Saiyans, one of the greatest diamonds in the rough of a very deep rough of obscure DBZ games. Released in 2009 on the Nintendo DS, it covers an overlooked era from the final fight of Dragon Ball to the end of the Saiyan saga.
Because this segment of time is an afterthought even in the most dedicated fan’s mind, it is rife with potential for all sorts of adventures. Half of the playable characters are humans, who are outclassed for nearly the entirety of Z, giving an excellent chance to explore them at their best.
Attack of the Saiyans is an old school style JRPG for all the good and bad that comes with that and is absolutely worth the time if you can track down a copy.
The Dragon Ball franchise at its most “why the hell not,” Dragon Ball Fusions gives you the opportunity to take an enormous roster of characters and fuse them together however you want. Of course, everyone can’t fuse with everyone, but each character has more than enough cool combos with them, but especially your player character, who can fuse with literally anybody. To say that this game is zany and wholly original is an understatement.
Someone made a wish on the Dragon Balls for a world like this to take form, so you and your rival, Pinich, travel across the weird new Dragon Ball universe to understand and master fusion enough to take down whatever plot Cell and Frieza have going on. The art style is entirely unique, as it’s based on the chibi style, with every character kind of looking like kids. The combat system is like a 5-on-5 tactical game of marbles and is an utter delight.
A game that knows it’s absurdly goofy from the jump and revels in that fact, Fusions is one of the most fun games on the 3DS, period.
It’s sort of difficult to explain just how big a deal the first Dragon Ball Xenoverse was to fans. After years of playing the same canonical story on repeat, that game shook things up by having time travel be the central point to fix wrinkles in the by that point well-known Z timeline – and doing so with your own custom character.
2016’s Xenoverse 2 expands on everything in the original and has a staggering amount of content, especially if you want to squad up and take on multiplayer with friends. The game features an original story, focused on a faction called the Time Breakers headed by the demonic Towa and Mira, who managed to escape in the previous game. They mess with the original timeline to recruit all the baddies to their cause, forcing you to make your own legend once again.
A Dragon Ball Z game with loads of content that still gets support and new characters to this day, Xenoverse 2 keeps you busy.
Imagine a world where any scenario in Dragon Ball/Z/GT can take place, any characters can meet, and essentially anything can happen. That’s Budokai Tenkaichi 3, the pinnacle of the DBZ arena-based fighters that boasts an unheard of and absolutely insane 161 characters. With all those characters, Tenkaichi 3 is essentially the greatest Dragon Ball toy box ever assembled with every action figure you could ever want.
The game is hilariously unbalanced and that actually works to its benefit. With so many characters, there are incredible amounts of power discrepancy among everyone, just like it does in the show. If there’s anyone with a name in the pre-Dragon Ball Super canon, they’re in this game (even ones without, like Frieza Soldier!). Unfortunately, with so many characters, many of them just feel like palette swaps of others and ironically give it little variance.
Though it may not be the best DBZ game exactly, Budokai Tenkaichi 3 is undoubtedly one of the best DBZ experiences you can have.
3. Dragon Ball Z: Buu’s Fury
Developer: Webfoot Technologies Publisher: Atari Platform: GBA
While Attack of the Saiyans might be for the more devoted fans and gamers, Buu’s Fury is there to be the more casual handheld action-adventure RPG for the rest of us. Essentially Legacy of Goku III in all but name, it picks up where Legacy of Goku II left off and covers the last third of the Z story to its epic finale while improving on everything from the Legacy of Goku series. You know a game is set to be nuts when it starts you off closer to level 100 than level 1.
This title in the LoG series finally lets you allocate your stats however you desire upon leveling up, allowing for truly broken RPG elements to shine through. It even has equitable gear that has stats, for some reason, but the only ones you’ll really need are the weighted arm and leg bands, which assist in leveling you up to an absurd degree and eliminates any real need for traditional grinding.
It can be said of all the games in the series, but the sprite artwork is awesome, Bruce Faulconer’s iconic English dub score is perfect for an adventure game, and while the battles can come across incredibly easy thanks to the broken mechanics, it can again be argued one of the whole points of DBZ is differences in power. So play this power fantasy to your heart’s content (and it has lots of content to be content with).
Should anyone ever ask what the perfect Dragon Ball Z game should have, simply point them to Budokai 3. It boasts a full open map of the entire DBZ world for you to freely fly over, a stupid good combat system, a healthy helping of characters, and beautiful anime-esque cel shading, but perhaps most importantly, a robust character-centric story mode that is never the same for any character and has all kinds of secret routes for you to explore.
This game has all the perfect elements, even if some of it still falters a bit. The capsule skill system, which is a holdover from the previous two Budokai titles, is still iffy at best, but at the very least they’ve finally tweaked it in a way that isn’t inhibitive. If a character isn’t playable in Dragon Universe, the game’s story mode, then they tend to fall behind in how fun they are to play.
Regardless, the time sink, charm factor, and great combat factor on this one is real. This PS2 era title that’s the final form of the Budokai series is arguably still the closest we’ve come to the most comprehensive DBZ game and was, for over a decade, the best Dragon Ball Z game out there.
1. Dragon Ball FighterZ
Developer: Arc System Works Publisher: Bandai Namco Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
The previous entry has the memories and nostalgia factor going for it, but even the biggest of Budokai 3 fans has to admit FighterZ is the single greatest game to focus on Dragon Ball Z.
While it can be argued that FighterZ is a fighting game first and a DBZ game second, there’s no doubt that that works to its benefit by having a fully realized fighting system that’s so incredibly fun to play that even non-DBZ fans can get drawn in based on game mechanics alone. The art and graphics are undisputedly the best and most fluid any character has looked in any DBZ game, down to looking even better than the anime at times.
Dragon Ball FighterZ even has an original story to boot. Set some time after the Buu saga, there’s some new phenomenon where mindless copies of the Z Fighters, as well as their greatest villains, are running around wreaking havoc. It’s up to you to strengthen your bond with the Z gang and find out how to stop the mysterious (and chaotic) Android 21 and her new army. Not only that, but there’s three different sides to play from the story – the good guys, a squad of revived evil folk led by Frieza, and then the Androids themselves to put it all together.
Even beyond story modes, the fighting system is so in-depth, you’ll mostly spend your time just trying to find how to master its deceptively simple dimensions. All this while enjoying the sheer amount of love poured into it from the developers, who are clearly huge DBZ fans.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is nearly flawless in its vision, helping it become the best Dragon Ball Z game of all time.
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