Dragon Warrior

aka: DQ, Dragon Quest
NES Specs [ all ]
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(prices updated 9/27 8:28 PM )

Description official description

Once upon a time, the Balls of Light illuminated the kingdom of Alefgard, keeping its winters short and sustaining its peace. However, a man who could tame dragons and hence known as a Dragonlord, became corrupted by his magical studies. He attacked the Tantegel Castle and stole the Balls of Light, causing monsters to roam the land. A valiant hero named Erdrick, who had obtained the Balls of Light for the kingdom in the first place, attempted to defeat the Dragonlord and disappeared without trace. Many years later, during the reign of King Lorik XVI, the Dragonlord abducted Princess Gwaelin, carrying her to Castle Charlock. One day, a knight appears in front of the king, claiming to the be the descendant of Erdrick. He is entrusted with the mission to vanquish the Dragonlord, as the prophet Mahetta has predicted.

Though not the first role-playing game developed by a Japanese company, Dragon Warrior is considered one of the progenitors of the Japanese RPG genre, and the first to appear on a home console. The player navigates a lone pre-made protagonist on a top-down overworld, accessing locations represented by icons, similarly to early Ultima games. As opposed to most other RPGs of the time, dungeons are viewed from an overhead perspective as well. In cities and palaces it is possible to talk to people, rest in inns and buy weapons, armor and items in shops.

When wandering around in the wilderness or through dungeons, the player character encounters randomly appearing enemies. Combat is turn-based, with the player selecting menu options while fighting. It is possible to attack with the equipped weapon, cast one of the few available spells (using up some of the magic energy), use an item, or try to run. All the battles in the game are exclusively one-on-one. Killing monsters yields experience, and the player character's attributes improve automatically when he levels up.

With the exception of the final location, the entire game world is theoretically open for exploration from the beginning. However, the enemies become increasingly tough as the player character attempts to move away from the starting town, effectively limiting him to confined areas determined by his level. The hero has limited hit points, loses them when attacked by enemies, and dies when he runs out of them, at which point he is automatically restored in a nearby town. It is possible to save the game only by talking to the king in the initial castle.


  • ドラゴンクエスト - Japanese spelling
  • 勇者斗恶龙 - Chinese spelling (simplified)

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Credits (NES version)

25 People (23 developers, 2 thanks) · View all

Scenario Writer
Character Designer
Music Composer
CG Design
Scenario Assistant
Assisted by
Title designed by
Manual illustrated by
Special Thanks
Translated by
Revised Text
Technical Support
Programmed by
CG Designed by
Special Thanks to
Copyright 1986 1989
  • Armor Project
  • Bird Studio
  • Chun Soft
[ full credits ]



Average score: 65% (based on 15 ratings)


Average score: 3.1 out of 5 (based on 80 ratings with 4 reviews)

Not all oldies are goodies

The Good
Contrary to a popular belief, Dragon Warrior was not the first Japanese-made RPG. Several companies (such as for example Xtalsoft) had been producing role-playing games on computers for quite a while. It was, however, among the first ones to be released on a console. One thing we can say about it with certainty is that it was the first popular Japanese RPG; probably also the first to be released in the West, where it could be enjoyed by console players who were tired of the complexities of Wizardry or Ultima.

Indeed, the utmost simplicity of Dragon Warrior can seem alluring. It is very easy to pick up and just plunge into action, because the game gives you almost no choices at all. It reduces role-playing to its most basic component: working in order to become stronger. That's a basic challenge; therefore the game's difficulty is actually a plus in my eyes. Otherwise, it utterly dismantles everything Western role-playing had accomplished before. The one thing it spares is a relative openness of the world - something later Japanese RPG gleefully demolished with their artificial exploration-impeding plot devices. Bear in mind, however, that much of the perceived non-linearity of Dragon Warrior is illusionary: try straying from the prescribed path and you'll immediately fall prey to tough monsters you have no chance whatsoever to defeat.

The Bad
When talking about classic genre-defining games, we need to make concessions to their position in history. It's easy to dismiss King's Quest as lacking compared to its successors; but we cannot forget that it was the first adventure with a visually stunning world you could physically explore. You can be bored by Wolfenstein 3D, but no other game of its time had the combination of lightning-fast movement and shooting with textured 3D levels. Playing the first Wizardry is not always fun; but at the time of its release, how many other games allowed you to create your own party of customized adventurers and descend into a deep, dangerous dungeon?

Well, here's the thing: Dragon Warrior is definitely not one of those classic genre-defining games. Even if we view Japanese RPGs as a separate genre, this game certainly didn't define it. It did nothing earlier Japanese computer RPGs hadn't already done: in fact, it mercilessly simplified everything even they did. Forget about party-building, character customization, or any variables in combat besides lethargic one-on-one confrontations that Ultima threw overboard years before. Why worry about choices or tactics if the game lets you fight repetitive random monsters over and over again? Instead of caring for variety or replay value, why not just make a game longer by forcing you to grind your sanity to oblivion?

We keep talking about how dumbed-down games are today, and in many ways we are right. But that doesn't mean every single game of the 1980's was a sophisticated construction full of esoteric wisdom. Dragon Warrior is, in fact, startlingly similar to today's casual games with their primitive mechanics stripped down to the bare bones: if it's an RPG then all you need to do is fight, level up, and know that a sword+1 is way better than just a sword.

There are some Japanese RPGs I like, but rarely for being Japanese RPGs. In fact, the best representatives of the genre managed to break away from the stifling formula in gameplay-related aspects, or at least were artistically and dramatically compelling enough to make us forget their boundaries. Only a year later, Final Fantasy brought back character classes, and Phantasy Star created a lovely world and had you manage a colorful anime party. Dragon Warrior is none of the above: it is a simplistic reproduction of very basic mechanics that does nothing new and nothing particularly well.

The Bottom Line
I have a soft spot for old games. I believe that many of them were better than today's blockbusters, and I do think that some groundbreaking titles of the past became undeservedly forgotten as time went by. What I don't think, however, is that Dragon Warrior was one of such titles. On the contrary: its radical simplifications only affected Japanese RPGs in a negative way, becoming a convenient template for lazy design.

NES · by Unicorn Lynx (180491) · 2016

One of a kind RPG

The Good
Dragon Warrior was a leader of its kind. The turn based battle was something that had people wanting more. The classic graphics and sound made the gameplay interesting while fighting the endless battles to strengthen your character.

The Bad
If you think about the story, it seems pretty short. Find the princess in the cave thats right next to the castle, then fight the Dragonlord in the castle you can see across from your own, but it takes you forever to get your level up.

The Bottom Line
Dragon Warrior is definitely a game to play if you are a true RPG player. It has classic RPG roots. Turn based battles, weapon buying, item buying, its a very classic game. Very long but fun. I could never shake the game away, it calls to you while your not playing.

NES · by GNJMSTR (106) · 2004

Rudimentary In Many Ways But Exemplary Overall

The Good
Dragon Warrior was the first real RPG for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). You play as a descendant of the great warrior Erdrick sent to save the princess and slay the evil Dragonlord. Standard RPG conventions abound: purchase equipment, fight random battles to gain levels, talk to NPCs in various towns scattered across the world... This is basically the template for all of the early Japanese RPG titles. I'll admit that I didn't play this game back when it came out. In fact, I didn't even own an NES and, unlike Final Fantasy or Crystalis, I never watched someone play this game either. My opinions therefore are not tainted with nostalgia nor are they informed by the time period in which this game was released.

Amazingly, Enix got a lot of things right. The difficulty here is fairly steep and so every small accomplishment feels monumental. Just making it intact to the second town in the game takes at least an hour and is cause for celebration. Also, surprisingly, the battles don't feel terribly repetitive in the early parts of the game even though they undoubtedly are. Battling cute, colorful slimes or fat bat-like creatures (called Drakees) is not nearly the chore it would seem, even when those battles have to be repeated ad nauseum in order to gain a few levels and a bit of gold for better equipment. But the best part about this game is the feeling of adventure and wanderlust it breeds in the player. Unlike other RPGs of the time, you aren't restricted in where you can go by feeble storyline annoyances such as a broken bridge that can only be fixed by finding a mystical tree, freeing a woodsman, etc etc etc. You can go most places right off the bat. The only thing holding you back is your low level, your lack of strength and defense. It could be said that this works in the same way, but I disagree. Having roadblocks all over the map greatly discourages exploration and makes a game feel very linear. While Dragon Warrior is in many ways as linear as any other early RPG, it never quite feels that way because the map is completely open. The one blocked off part of the map also leads to one of the less linear parts of the game: in order to reach the Dragonlord's castle, you have to collect several items to create a "rainbow bridge." They can be collected in pretty much any order. Another thing that can be done at various times in the game is rescuing the princess. There's nothing stopping you from battling her guard early and in fact so long as you have the sleep spell you've got a chance of defeating him. All of this adds up to creating an experience that is in many ways quite different from other early games of this nature. This game really sends you on an adventure, rather than a walk from one plot point to the next.

The Bad
There is plenty that could distract and annoy those weaned on recent RPGs. DW is a HARD game. It will repeatedly and gleefully kick your ass at every turn. It isn't a difficult game in that there are no real puzzles to solve or complicated things to do during battles, but if you aren't the right level for the area you are wandering around in, expect to have your ass handed to you. Secondly, many things that gamers now would take for granted are things that DW does not do for you. For instance, you have to select an option from a menu in order to walk down a flight of stairs. You can't just push yourself onto the stairs icon and have the game automatically sends you down to the next floor (or up as the case may be). You have very limited room in your inventory, you can only carry six healing herbs or torches and you need some light source in order to navigate the dungeons. Mapping dungeons is a requirement. Probably the worst thing about DW is that there will be times where you'll need to find certain items in order to advance and you'll have no idea where to look for them. Many of the people that have things that you need are completely unhelpful in telling you what it is they are looking for (like the guy who just says you failed your task every time you talk to him). Also, there will be one point in the game where you'll need to do some serious leveling up in order to advance and it will take a LONG time to do this. I never really minded all the level grinding in this game until I got to this part. It's about halfway through, right before you start looking for Erdrick's items. It was the one time where I actually resented the difficulty of the game and felt the tediousness of building levels.

The Bottom Line
Despite its many short-comings, DW really delivers a great and refreshing role-playing experience. While the storyline is fairly rudimentary and the gameplay is fairly basic, Dragon Warrior has a lot of charm, and its sense of adventure more than makes up for any of its problems. If you want to actually feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and wayfaring this is definitely the NES RPG to play.

NES · by mobiusclimber (235) · 2007

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Green dragon Donatello (453) Mar 19th, 2013
Is the PC-98 version really an official release? Trypticon (11013) Sep 8th, 2010


1001 Video Games

The NES version of Dragon Quest appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Nintendo Power

Nintendo eventually gave away a free copy of Dragon Warrior to everyone who subscribed to Nintendo Power.


  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • November 1997 (Issue 100) - ranked #8 (Titles That Revolutionized Console Gaming) (NES version)
  • Game Informer
    • August 2001 (Issue #100) - #37 in the "Top 100 Games of All Time" poll
  • Information also contributed by Satoshi Kunsai

    Related Games

    Dragon Warrior IV
    Released 1990 on NES
    Dragon Warrior III
    Released 1988 on NES
    Dragon Warrior II
    Released 1987 on NES, 1988 on MSX
    Dragon Warrior VII
    Released 2000 on PlayStation
    Dragon Quest IV: Michibikareshi Monotachi
    Released 2001 on PlayStation
    Dragon Warrior III
    Released 1996 on SNES, Game Boy Color, 2010 on BREW...
    Dragon Dice
    Released 1997 on Windows

    Related Sites +

    • Dragon Warrior 1 Shrine
      Shrine dedicated to the great NES game. Includes maps, item chart, boss guide enemy guide, walkthroughs, and everything related to the game
    • Dragon Warrior I @ Dragon's Den
      Very comprehensive fansite with hints, manuals and other information.
    • Dragon Warrior shrine
      In-depth information to the Dragon Warrior series on this fan-made site.
    • Howard & Nester do Dragon Warrior
      A regular feature in Nintendo Power magazine, Howard & Nester was a comic strip about two game whizzes who would one-up each other, while disclosing hints and tips, in the settings of various recently-released games for the NES platform. In the January/February 1990 two-page installment, Howard and Nester employ different approaches toward retrieving the Stone of Sunlight from Tantegel Castle.
    • Kingdom of Alefgard
      A Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior fansite.
    • OC ReMix Game Profile
      Fan remixes of music from <em>Dragon Warrior</em>.

    Identifiers +


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    Contributors to this Entry

    Game added by Unicorn Lynx.

    Additional contributors: PCGamer77, Roedie, purestylin, Guy Chapman, Alaka, Pseudo_Intellectual, General Error, —-, Patrick Bregger, Thomas Thompson, FatherJack.

    Game added May 18th, 2003. Last modified September 1st, 2023.