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The Best Dragons in Gaming

It was at a press event I attended recently for Dragon's Prophet, a game with over 300 different dragons, that I became fascinated by the way the fantasy creatures are used in video games. Arguably, they're starting to fall into the same pit as zombies and vampires; but in many ways, developers have been able to maintain a certain aura around dragons. They're not overdone, they're not old fashioned, they're just plain awesome.

As mythological monsters, dragons stretch back hundreds of years and stem from both European and Asian culture. The eternal link between dragons and a heroic champion overcoming them was just too obvious to translate into a video game. They've been part of our industry long before gaming was even a conceivable industry to start with.

So with that, here's a collection of some of the best dragons in gaming. It's always tricky attempting one of these lists as people are often offended if their personal favourite doesn't make the cut. But I do feel that most of these chaps have a had a huge impact on not only their games but gaming as a whole. One final thing: these dragons aren't ranked but rather the best of the bunch in no sort of 'quality' order. Aside from the number one choice at the end, everyone could rank them all differently, so I'll leave that to you.

kalameet

Kalameet:

First Appearance: Dark Souls: Prepare to Die edition (2011)
"Even mighty Anor Londo dared not provoke his ire."

Black Dragon Kalameet stands as a visual and mechanical representation of Dark Souls as a game. Brutally difficult to defeat, yet hugely satisfying to fight. This very traditional looking dragon is one of the toughest boss fights in a game synonymous for its tough boss fights. Just type Kalameet into Google and you'll see pages and pages of people asking how to defeat him. 'Patience', as ever, is golden when it comes to this great example of a developer using the image of a dragon to create something truly fearsome. Visually, he's probably the closest creature to a mythological dragon in this collection, the asian influence of the whole game having a direct effect on his design. In the game's storyline he's one of the last everlasting dragons; sure, he's not the everlasting dragon, but immortality's boring. It's through pure awe factor and an undeniable coolness that Kalameet makes this list.

 

singe

Singe:

First appearance: Dragon's Lair (1983)

A game well ahead of its time in many ways, not least in the use of a dragon as a lead antagonist (although certainly not the the first). Singe is a totally literal translation of the mythological and fantasy dragon who keeps the princess captive and fights off the heroic knight. In essence, he's the ultimate bad guy, though he may not seem it. While the actual gaming quality of Dragon's Lair is questionable, there's no denying the game's place in history. Singe will share that place in history as one of the forebears of the 'dragon age'. I have to say though, I've always wondered why dragons seem so keen on human princesses.

 

blood dragon

Blood Dragons:

First Appearance: Far Cry 3 Blood Dragon (2013)

There's not a whole lot you can say about these guys other than they look absolutely incredible! While I tried to focus on characters that have had an actual impact on gaming, I seem to have developed a weakness for these laser shooting, glowing dyno-dragons. I mean, who wouldn't? So the wacky Blood Dragons from the equally wacky game make the list, despite my common sense.

 

deathwing

Deathwing:

First Appearance: World of Warcraft (2004)

"My hatred burns through the cavernous deeps. The world heaves with my torment. Its wretched kingdoms quake beneath my rage. But at last, the whole of Azeroth will break... and all will burn beneath the shadow of my wings."

So now to someone a lot more impactful. Deathwing has been present in WoW lore since the beginning as the classic guardian turned destroyer. His impact on the Warcraft universe is by far the most significant, his actions leading to the complete re-design (the shattering) of Azeroth in the 2010 expansion Cataclysm. So from a single game perspective few NPC dragons have had such a direct influence. His active role in the expansion as the final boss (not to mention his practically random attacks) make him a truly unmissable dragon for a list like this. Plus, he's called Deathwing. That's a good name.

 

alduin

Alduin:

First Appearance: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

"Fools! Treacherous ones! Your hopes all wither! I am your doom"

Gaming's second 'World-Eater' (inspired by Deathwing), Alduin stands out as the best dragon in a game centred on them. While the other primary dragons such as Paarthurnax and even Akatosh are incredibly cool, none are built up as brilliantly as Alduin. Bethesda do a great job of slowly revealing the threat Alduin poses and in turn the threat you pose to him, which in reality is the scariest part of the whole deal. What's more, the final battle against this brilliantly designed dragon is personally one of my favourite boss battles.

 

spyro

Spyro:

First Appearance: Spyro the Dragon (1998)

So he's not exactly bad-ass like all the other dragons on this list, he's not really all that lovable and, in reality, his games have never represented anything near the pinnacle of gaming. Yet Spyro has got to be one of, if not the, most famous dragons is gaming history. For me, as I'm sure is the case for many others, it's simply the amount of good times I've had with the little guy. The PS1 games, while never truly great, had a certain charm and appeal that made them so easily playable. Spyro also has that 'David (of vs Goliath fame)' air about him which will always earn some fans. His inclusion in toy-platformer Skylanders has upset many fans, but personally I find it's always good to see elements of gaming's past making waves in the present. There's no denying, though, that the little purple guy has been ripped to shreds by marketing companies over the years, somewhat lessening his overall appeal.

 

bahamut

Bahamut:

First Appearance: Final Fantasy (1987)

"The Dragon King"

The Joker, Lex Luthor, or John Cena of the list is Bahamut, the Dragon that just can't stay away. Bahamut has been in every core Final Fantasy game except FFII. He's an important narrative figure in just about every other game, is the strongest storyline summon in all of them and even has his own game! If that doesn't earn him a place as one of the best dragons in gaming then I don't know what would. As if his basic form isn't awesome enough, the series has seen various versions of Bahamut including Neo, Zero and just about every other weird Japanese translation. Bahamut is simply one of the coolest dragons ever. Don't believe me? Watch one of his ridiculous attack animations and feel your eyes burn with joy (and ultra-bright light).

 

bowser

Bowser:

First appearance: Super Mario Bros (1985)

I know, this is me cheating. Bowser really isn't a dragon. Sure, he looks quite like one, breathes fireballs, lives in a lava land and even steals princesses. But he's a koopa, unfortunately. Ask my 6 year old self who the best dragon ever is, however, and he'd have said Bowser in an instant. I know there are others out there who would say the same! His ever-watching state, his cool anti-Mario outlook on life, not to mention those killer eyebrows. He's a brilliant bad guy in every sense of the word. Like everything in the world of Mario it's hard to define why, but Bowser is easily one of the best dragons in gaming. In my imagination at the very least.

 

charizard

Charizard:

First appearance: Pokemon Red and Blue (1998)

'Go Charizard!'

Remember back at the beginning I said all of these could be ranked differently? Well here's the number one that I believe anyone would struggle to deny is the best dragon in video game history. Charizard represents everything that's great about Pokemon; that big final evolution of Charmander that completely changes the way you play, whilst making everything beautifully simple for you. Sure, he's more than a little overpowered in the early games, but that's what makes him so memorable. That and the flaming tail, that's like a nostalgia buffet right there. As well as being the second most famous (although possibly first) dragon in gaming history, he's easily the coolest and most popular. In many ways it was his reptilian form, long wings and fire breathing attacks that inspired the plethora of dragons of the 21st century. There's only one Charizard. Well, aside from the millions of others.

 

A fitting way to end the list I think. I know there are many, many more dragons and some that others will think should replace the ones on this list. Any of the dragons from monster hunter, for instance. Or maybe Liu Kang's Dragon Bite fatality, that might count? Zhaitan from guild wars 2 easily wins the most outrageous design award. The dragon ride in Panzer Dragoon is often noted as a great dragon. Too many! All I know is, there's only going to be more to consider once Dragon's Prophet is released, it's got 300 of the things. Thanks for reading, and despite my previous words I'd love to hear your thoughts on the best dragons in the comments below.

RGDfleet | 7th June, 2013
Misterwoot's picture
If you're going to include Neltharian (Deathwing to you and me) you should also give honourable mentions to his kids Nefarian and Onyxia.

I know they deserve it for the giggles they caused in 40 man Vanilla raids

Nefs Class calls were one of the great mechanics back in the day. I still remember the nerd screams when ReDeYe (the hardcore raid guild I was in on Runetotem EU back then until TBC) finally downed him.
RGDfleet's picture
Big bad daddy is always going to be the top dog (or dragon) though, eh?

They're both great dragons though!

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