The complete beginner's guide to Dragon Quest - Part 2: Spinoffs
Hello and welcome to the second half of our essential guide to Dragon Quest! Have you read Part 1 yet? If you haven't, start there! The first part of this guide gives you primer information about the series, as well as recommendations of which main Dragon Quest titles you should try. It's worth a read!
For Part 2, we're going to try and untangle the mess that is the Dragon Quest side games. There are quite a few of these, and many of them have their own genres, plots, mechanics, and so on that are unique to them. Even if you aren't a huge fan of the main Dragon Quest titles, with their old school turn based battles, then you still might fund some enjoyment out of these titles.
I'm going to do things just a little differently than with Part 1… instead of making a recommendations list of every single game, I'm just going to go over the various subseries and offer recommendations on whether or not you should try them as a whole.
There is one caveat, though—this guide will only include titles that have been released in English. This is mainly to cut down on the bloat of games that the average western gamer will not be able to play. There are fan translations for various Dragon Quest games if you really want to try it, but for simplicity's sake, this guide will be mainly about the titles you can go and buy a legal English copy of.
So, let's start to unravel this, shall we?
First, we'll start with the spinoffs that are actually... well, series. These side series have multiple titles of their own, making them fully fledged series.
Dragon Quest Monsters
Titles released in English:
Dragon Warrior Monsters (Game Boy)
Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 Cobi's Journey/Tara's Adventure (Game Boy)
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker (DS)
Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 (DS)
Of all of Dragon Quest's side series, Dragon Quest Monsters is the longest running and most prominent of them. There are quite a few games in this monster catching and breeding series, some of them having cameo characters from mainline Dragon Quest titles (like the original and the Japan only Caravan Heart) while others have their own original characters and plots. While quite a few of these games did make it Westward, we've yet to see any of the 3DS entries make it over.
Is this side series recommended? Definitely! The monster rearing and breeding is quite in depth, and provides a nice twist on the typical Pokemon formula.
Dragon Quest Mystery Dungeon
Titles released in English:
Dragon Warrior Torneko: The Last Hope (PlayStation 1)
The Mystery Dungeon roguelike series is likely well known to anyone that enjoys popular Japanese RPGs. There have been Mystery Dungeon adaptations of many series, including Pokemon, Etrian Odyssey, and Final Fantasy. Dragon Quest is of course no exception, with five Mystery Dungeon titles. In fact, the very first Mystery Dungeon title in Japan was a Dragon Quest spin off! However, only one has made it over here—Torneko: The Last Hope, one of four (!) of the Mystery Dungeon starring the Dragon Quest IV merchant.
Is this side series recommended? I really can't recommend The Last Hope, a semi-expensive PlayStation 1 title when Mystery Dungeon games from other series have released Westward and have modernized mechanics. Even the latest Dragon Quest Mystery Dungeon title was for the Game Boy Advance, and has a chance of feeling outdated compared to say, the latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game.
Dragon Quest Slime
Titles released in English:
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime (DS)
The Dragon Quest Slime series takes the leading character role out of the humans’ hands and places it firmly into the goo of a slime. The slimes games are a bit odd spinoff series, being closer to action adventure games than anything else. There are also sequences where you pit tanks against each other. The series has three titles, but only the now somewhat confusingly named second title of the series made it out of Japan.
Is this side series recommended? Sure! I have not been able to try this game out personally, but I heard little other than good things about Rocket Slime. It’s unique enough to give the DS game a try, and finding a used copy isn’t all that hard to do. Plus, Rocket Slime chock full of slime puns, who doesn’t love those?
Dragon Quest Heroes
Now for the Heroes subseries. Dragon Quest Heroes is an action RPG series that draws heavily from the Musou/Warriors genre… which makes sense, as they’re developed by Dynasty Warriors creators Koei Tecmo. There are plenty of enemies to slash up but most are more than fodder, requiring care and full use of your four man party to defeat. Heroes also goes full in on the fanservice, allowing you to play as various heroes from the series.
Is this side series recommended? If Action RPGs are your thing, then it’s worth a try. The first Dragon Quest Heroes game is a bit rough around the edges and doesn’t offer multiplayer (a shame considering that you have multiple party members on the field), but Heroes II works to rectify those issues.
Dragon Quest Builders
Titles released in English:
Dragon Quest Builders (PlayStation 4, Vita) Our review
Dragon Quest Builders takes a really interesting direction as opposed to many of the other side-series, focusing more on rebuilding towns and defending them with its own twist of the Minecraft formula. Builders is far more than a Minecraft clone, though, with a whole plot revolving around a ‘bad end’ scenario of the original Dragon Quest game. The second game to this Dragon Quest spinoff was only very recently announced.
Is this side series recommended? Yes, even if you’re not a fan of Minecraft. Dragon Quest Builders manages to take that basic building formula and builds a great game around it, with plenty to do and relative freedom to build the kind of town you want.
These titles are, of course, one off standalone titles. That doesn't make them lesser than the actual side series above, but it does make it harder for these games to be localized. Therefore, this list is much shorter.
Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
This is a bit of an odd game, but considering it was originally planned as a launch title for the Wii this is about par for the course. Dragon Quest Swords is an on-rails sword fighting game, wherein players use the Wii Remote to cut down enemies in their path. The main character can also level up in a true RPG fashion, and equip better weapons and armor to make the on-rails segments easier.
Is this title recommended? It’s hard to say. It’s not an outstanding game, but also has a neat little gimmick and Swords is pretty cheap used. I’m not sure if using the Wii Remote Plus will make the game better or not, but I say if it interests you, go ahead and give it a try.
Dragon Quest Wars
Made by Fire Emblem developer Intelligent Systems, Dragon Quest Wars is a simplistic SRPG that involves having a team of monsters infiltrate other teams’ bases, or defeat their own teams of monsters. Dragon Quest Wars had a robust online mode and was the main draw of the game, as the only single player content is a short set of tutorial matches.
Is this title recommended? While you can still buy Dragon Quest Wars on the 3DS shop despite the DSi Shop being shut down earlier this year, considering the main draw of the game is its online mode and even at the game’s peak popularity there probably weren’t many players… it’s not worth it nowadays.
Only in Japan
Before we wrap up, let's take a moment to talk about some of the Dragon Quest side games that never made it out of Japan. Dragon Quest: Battle Monster Road is a series of mostly arcade titles that has players battling monsters in order to earn actual, real-life cards of monsters with data on them. Kenshin Dragon Quest: Yomigaerishi Densetsu no Ken is a stand-alone television title in which players wield a sword controller and slash enemies on the screen, quite similarly to Dragon Quest Swords. Dragon Quest: Monster Parade is a browser game and while you can play it, it's of course only in Japanese. Hoshi no Dragon Quest is an iOS and Android game that's a fully fledged RPG of its own. Finally, Theatrhythm: Dragon Quest is pretty much the same as Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, but with… well, Dragon Quest music and characters.