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10 Awesome Video Game Dragons



Legends, fairy tales, and various mythology have served as inspiration for video games for years. Providing a creative base for developers to create expansive fantasy locales, interesting stories, and legions of fantastic creatures to encounter and fight. One creature that has consistently appeared in not only various legends around the world but also in a good number of video game titles, is none other than the giant, fire-breathing lizard: the dragon.

An interesting similarity between dragons depicted in literature and the ones shown in video games is that their characteristics vary from story to story. In some stories, as well as some games, dragons are no more than mindless beasts to serve as a challenge for the hero to overcome. They can also be powerful but intelligent creatures, capable of magic and, can, on occasion, become a powerful ally of the hero. More often in games do we see the former interpretation while books tend to explore how intelligent dragons can evolve, behave or even form their own society (some of which they fight with human partners). As fun as it is to be able to fight a powerful dragon and manage to come out on top, I think there is a goldmine of possibilities for games that take advantage having intelligent or even benevolent dragons in the forefront of gameplay. That being said, there have been a few dragons in gaming that have already met my criteria for not only being fun to fight/fight alongside but also make for interesting characters as well.

For this list, I'm including dragons that appear as both bosses, protagonists, and partners. The only major criteria for this list is that the dragon in question needs to display some form of higher intelligence, this can include the power of speech, magic, or characteristics that make them more of an actual character instead of a mindless creature. As with most lists I do, I am only using examples from games I have played, so if there is a dragon that falls under this category that I do not use, I probably don't know about it. Feel free to let me know in the comments section below if you know of a dragon that meets the requirements of this list. The design of each dragon will also be taken into account.




Arokh


Arokh from the Drakan series is the dragon partner of the game's main heroine, Rynn. He is an elder dragon originally part of the Order of the Flame, a group of dragon knights originally tasked with protecting the world. An order that has been defunct for centuries by the game's start. Though Arokh and his original partner ended the war with their enemy, the Dark Union, he and the rest of his kind opted for eternal sleep after his human companion died. Cut to many years later, when Rynn's village is attacked by unusually organized monsters, who promptly slaughter everyone they come across. All save her brother who is kidnapped for unknown purposes. Desperate to save her only family, Rynn pursues the legendary dragon and finds him in a cave not far from her ruined village. Once awakened Rynn performs the ancient bonding ritual with Arokh that ties both of their lives together and set out on a quest to find her brother and discover the truth behind the attack on her village.

While I admit that this story isn't entirely unique since the whole, lost a knightly order of dragon and man has been done before, both Rynn and Arokh's interactions with each other are what makes it fun to watch. When they first meet, Arokh is none too happy with his new partner, since his last one ended up being the hero of the last war. As a result, he can be a bit cynical and irritated by Rynn's brash attitude. But he sees potential in her and knows her quest is noble so he ultimately decides to join her. While he is very proud of his actions during the war, they have made him more than a few enemies which you encounter in the games. So much so that Rynn even makes fun of him for it (The snark wars that goes on between these two as they get to know each other is hilarious).

As far as the game itself is concerned, controlling Arokh can be fun but also a little frustrating. I love that they give you the ability to mount Arokh whenever you like and fly pretty much the whole length of the map. But as fun as that is, the controls could have been better since fighting aerial monsters can be a big pain. Arokh's design is also pretty basic (walks on four legs, horns, slender build), but I do appreciate his the red color scheme to match Rynn dull red hair. It is also good that his designer found a nice balance between making this dragon appear both friendly and intimidating. There isn't too much else to add but as a dragon, Arokh is a fun character and does develop through both games in the series, and makes the Drakan games worth playing.



Dragon Partner (Panzer Dragoon)


Despite the fact that I have only seen cutscenes from Panzer Dragoon Saga, and only played the final installment of this series, there is no way I cannot at least mention the Dragon Partner from this excellent series on the Sega Saturn. In each installment, set in a post-apocalyptic world where humanity is struggling to make a living in a world full of mutated creatures, a single youth is chosen by a single dragon and they travel to world to uncover the secrets behind the ancient technology scattered across the world and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Though the dragons do not seem capable of actual speech, you get the idea that they are tied to a greater force in their world and have specific criteria for the individuals they pick as their partners (In Saga, they even seem god-like).

I love how strange the design for the dragons are as well, with an extra armored head with a small (compared to most dragons) but nimble body. It's also worth noting that a big part of the gameplay revolves around the dragon's ability to alter its form even in the heat of battle, giving it new abilities (and forget dragons breathing fire, firing laser beams is hardcore). What I enjoy so much about this particular dragon (dragons? It is never explained if it is the same one throughout the series, or reincarnations, etc) is just the mystery that surrounds it. To my knowledge it is never truly explained where they come from or what their true purpose actually is but in all honesty, I would be okay with not knowing. It leaves room for a lot of speculation after the game is over and given how rich the world of Panzer Dragoon is already, the number of theories you could make are almost boundless.



Spyro


As cartoony as he looks, Spyro does meet several of my requirements for this list on top of the fact that he is one of the only dragons on this list that is the main protagonist of his own series. Growing up, I loved playing the original Spyro games if only for the fact that it was the only game at the time that put the player in control of a dragon (even though Spyro is considerably younger than most dragons in his games). Despite my eventual disappointment that I was never going to be able to just fly outside of particular stages or that Spyro was never going to get any bigger, I still really enjoy his early games for their sense of humor and Spyro's enjoyable character. Rambunctious, a bit arrogant at times, but always ready to help others and put the bad guys in their place. Not a deep character, sure, but he was entertaining enough to make you want to play more games.

When the Legend of Spyro rebooted the series in 2006, they offered the new twist on the story and they altered Spyro's character, making him more of an idealistic hero type (and giving him the voice of Elijah Wood to boot). One of the major improvements for this new trilogy in regards to Spyro himself was the extensive lore building and explanation behind his trademark abilities. Which turns out, is due to the fact that he belongs to an extremely rare species of dragon that is only born once in a generation. It was pretty cool to see the usually silly games get more serious and ten times more epic but at the same time, I felt that the original charm that drew me to the character and series in the first place was lost with the humor (Sparx the dragonfly acts the main comic relief but most jokes came off as a bit forced). Spyro has since been brought back as one of the characters in the Skylanders franchise and seems to be a combination of the character's original personality and history of the Legends games. Which, in my opinion, serves as a nice balance.


Regardless of how Spyro's character is portrayed, whether he is going on random adventures or a part of an epic story, he has left his mark as one of the most iconic dragons in the video game community and for good reason. Now if only we could see him as a fully grown dragon, then the series will finally be complete.




Wagner (Odin's Sphere)


The dragon race that is shown in the world of Erion is in a sorry state, as either the ultimate prize for warriors or slaves to wizards. Making the king of dragons, Wagner, understandably furious with the various humanoid races that he encounters whether or not they truly mean any harm or not. In the grand scheme of Odin's Sphere's enormous amount of plot, Wagner is a recurring character/boss fight for most of the protagonist's stories and is powerful enough to make a lasting impression. While he is rude, and a bit of a hothead (not surprising since he is a dragon), he is shown to value friendship enough that he goes out to avenge the death of his friend, the dragon Hindel when he is slain by Oswald. And even when his stubbornness results in him fighting most of the cast, he is willing to listen to those that are able to best him in battle, even though he stands by his general hate for anyone other than his own race, believing they have been corrupted for using the soul-eating psyphers.

Out of the other bosses in the game, Wagner is one of the strongest (depending on game difficulty). He can fly to stay out of reach, unleashing a fiery blaze, and even using his wings to create tornadoes that can trap his enemies if they are not careful. Though Wagner is a main boss for the entire game, you can't really hate him for being so angry and distrustful and even the few times he does assist the main characters (after they beat him of course) he demonstrates a noble side to his character that makes him much more than just a dragon.




Archdemon (Dragon Age)


This particular entry took me a long time to decide since I wasn't sure if the character met my requirements. However, much like the dragon partner in Panzer Dragoon, the Archdemon can't speak in the conventional sense but it does, “talk” to the Darkspawn and can be heard and even understood by the Grey Wardens.

The existence of the Archdemon itself is expanded upon in the first game as an Old God, pursued and corrupted by the Darkspawn. As to exactly what the Old Gods have yet to be fully expanded upon (though it is hinted that they are the original dragons of the world), there is a greater connection between them and the Darkspawn than just the latter seeking out and corrupting the former. In fact, it has been hinted at numerous times that the mages that became the first Darkspawn where driven to their corruption by an Old God (Though at the moment this has yet to be confirmed). When an Old God is corrupted by the Darkspawn and becomes an Archdemon, they become the driving force behind the horde's slaughter. Making the undead abominations an even greater threat by organizing them, encouraging them to leave the Deep Roads and kill anything in their path. On top of that, as an ancient dragon god (with a great zombie-like design) not only is it difficult to kill since only a Grey Warden can do it but the lucky Warden who does land the killing blow ends up dying along with it. Though there is still a great deal of mystery surrounding the Old Gods themselves, the Archdemon was a powerful foe and may be more intelligent than it appears.





Paathurmax (Elder Scroll Skyrim)


As awesome as Skyrim is for being expansive, make your own adventure fantasy game, I admit that I find the game a touch overrated. What saved the game for me was some of the sidequests, but most importantly was the portrayal of the dragons that appear throughout the game. Even though Alduin, the world eating dragon did meet several requirements of this list, there was one other dragon that I feel topped him even though fighting him is completely optional to the player. And that is the master of the Grey Beards and former right-hand dragon to Alduin, Paarthurmax. As a character, I just can't help but find this old dragon fascinating. He is one of the only dragons to openly help the Dragonborn to fulfill their destiny, going so far as to fight Alduin himself to buy you time, but his motivations for doing so are left unclear. The Blades insist that as a dragon and former member of Alduin's fold, that it better to kill him before he tries to fill the void left by Alduin's death. However, when you are given the chance to confront him about the Blades' concerns, he actually agrees with them. Explaining that dragons dominate all other creatures by instinct, and though he has been able to temper this instinct through meditation and solitude, it is still very possible that he is simply using the Dragonborn as a means to an end.

This single track of dialogue hinted at an aspect of dragon stories that I have always found intriguing. Their ability to understand the world around them, much like humans do but at the same time still be creatures of instinct and do NOT apologize for it. Cause lets face it, who is going to make them.




Ryu (Breath of Fire)


The aptly named protagonist of all the Breath of Fire games, Ryu is the only other dragon character that serves as the lead for the series he appears in. Though you could debate on how he can count on a list of dragons when he clearly looks human. Despite his physical appearance most of the time, in almost all of the Breath of Fire games Ryu is supposed to be a member of the Dragon clan, a race of dragons that can change between looking human or dragon form (though some of the dragons in this series can look pretty strange). Even these transformation varies from game to game. For example, in Breath of Fire 3, he is the prince of dragons, whereas in Breath of Fire 4 he is half of a dragon god that had been summoned to the human world. Regardless of his origins, Ryu's ability to transform is a key mechanic in the games as he unlocks different transformations as the games progress.

Ryu is your silent protagonist for the first four installments of the series (until 5 which decided to give him a whole bunch of dialogue) but just because he can't talk doesn't make him any less an interesting character. His most consistent character traits are his heroic nature to protect the people who are closest to him and even going out of his way to help complete strangers. He is also a bit naive at times and has a tendency to get into trouble due to misunderstandings (A fine example is when the main heroine Nina, fell off a cliff. He jumped down to save her, forgetting she has wings and falls flat on his face). Some of the games even imply he also has a passion for fishing. What is different about him though is that due to his powers, he also has a bit of a temper. Granted it takes something truly terrible to happen in order to tick him off, but when his berserk button is pressed, the one responsible is not going to be alive for very long. Ryu is very different from the way dragons are traditionally portrayed in media but at the same time respects the various interpretations that have come before. On his own, he is just a fun protagonist that grows and evolves with the narrative. And really, what more can you ask for in a hero than that?



Bahamut (Final Fantasy)


One of the most popular of the Summons in the Final Fantasy series and another dragon king. I was initially not planning on including him on this list for several reasons, one I haven't played most of the Final Fantasy games so I don't know too much about him and two as a summon, I wasn't sure if he was given character to meet the criteria. However, after a bit of research, Bahamut made the cut and then some. Getting him as a summon requires more than a little effort, normally requiring you to either fight a character in the main story, or even the big boy himself. This alone gives him character since he only lets people who have proven their strength summon him. As one of the most powerful plot based summons, his appearance normally has a big effect on the story either as a tool of destruction, an ancient guardian, or an otherworldly creature.

Despite being mostly a summon, Bahamut has been given a bit of characterization over the years, namely his general to an intense dislike for the human race. Some incarnations of him go out of their way in order to stop the protagonists from succeeding in their quest. The reasons for this, of course, vary depending on the story or but there is a good chance that Bahamut is actually afraid of what a human would do if they found a way to use his immense destructive power. Hinting that while he is powerful, he doesn't fight because he craves destruction but just wants to prevent letting his power fall into the wrong hands. A noble ideal but doesn't cause any less grief for the many players who have to fight him in order to get him as a summon.




Seath the Scaleless (Dark Souls)


Talk about a dragon with a self-image problem. Seath is one of the last of the Eternal Dragon race born without the scales of immortality like the rest of his kind. Infuriated by this disability, he betrayed the rest of the dragons to Gwyn and the other owners of the Lord Souls and assisted them in the effective genocide of his own people and stealing the Primordial Crystal. As a reward for his assistance, Gwyn granted the dragon the title of Duke and even gave him a Lord soul fragment. What sets Seath apart from the other dragon bosses in Dark Souls is his extensive character history and how the knowledge of it plays into his boss fight. Like most of the game's story, it is something you learn bit by bit from other characters and item descriptions. But what you find out is the story of a very intelligent dragon who literally drove both himself and those around him mad in search of the immortality that should have been his birthright.

Unlike some of the other Lord Soul owners who eventually went mad after having been undead for so long, Seath went crazy after researching the Scales of Immortality which he was never able to gain. Having gone completely off the deep end, the dragon finally managed to achieve immortality after experimenting with the Primordial Crystal going so far as to kidnap the women of his dukedom to be his test subjects turning them into horrific monsters, the Prisaca. The only way to do any damage to him at all is to find the Crystal and shattering it before wailing on the crystallized abomination that Seath has become. After learning so much about this dragon, it would have been really cool to see what kind of character he was before he went crazy (even if he ended up just being an obsessive jerk). He may not have all the basic characteristics of a dragon, but scaleless or not he is one of the most fascinating characters in the game.




Grigori (Dragon's Dogma)

Out of all the good things in Skyrim, I feel that this is what Alduin should have been since Grigori has more or less the same purpose in the story of Dragon's Dogma. Every couple hundred years or so, this monstrous dragon is released into the world to bring about the apocalypse, hordes of monsters following in his wake. However, instead of facing a mortal born with a dragon's soul (for some reason?) he finds a human who is willing to stand up to him and steals their heart. Surprisingly, this doesn't kill them but turns them into the immortal Arisen which will eventually travel the land in order to seek him out in search of their heart. You get a certain yin and yang vibe from these two characters. That even the dragon knows he can't just come into the world and destroy everything unless there is someone there to potentially stop him. He may not appear very much aside from his initial encounter all the way to where you fight him, but he makes a very powerful first impression and an even better boss fight. Long before you get to fighting Grigori, you get the feeling that he is always testing you. Not just with your physical skills but your will as well. For example, he gives you a proposition of offering a single sacrifice which will allow you to keep your immortality and send him back where he came from. He even mentions that choosing to do so will give you money and status in the land, but ultimately he leaves the decision in your hands. Surprising since he has spent most of the game trying to lure you to his lair in the first place.


Unlike other world destroying dragons though, from his dialogue, it doesn't seem that Grigori hates humanity at all. He may not like them but depending on your decisions he seems to hold a certain amount of respect for humans that surpass his expectations. He only destroys cause it is what he was created for (His origin and ultimate purpose is a mystery) making him seem more like a force of nature than evil incarnate. This provides an interesting dilemma in the story going forward and allows the eventual boss fight with Grigori to feel grand and spectacular. The type of fight any fantasy lover would hope for when fighting a mighty dragon.


We hope you've enjoyed this list! If there are any other video game dragons that you feel belong on this list, let us know in the comments section below!


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