The Dragon Quest series has incredible monster designs across its many games, and these are the best.
By Will Bertazzo Lambert
Published 8 hours ago
Of all the many things the Dragon Quest series does better than any of its?genre brethren, monster design is probably at the top of the list. With the combination of Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama’s unmatched ability to?draw impactful stylized creature designs and lifelong Dragon Quest designer Yuji Horii’s knack for memorable encounters,?it’s no wonder that?the series’ common enemies stick out more than entire characters in lesser JRPGs.
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Such a high standard of quality makes it difficult to narrow the best down to only these, but the enemies ranked here deserve to be celebrated for all the smiles they?brought to random encounters.
Starting off with an underrated specimen, the Gruffons and their variants have only appeared in Dragon Quest IX, but these unprolific demons make the most of their?relatively short time in the spotlight with their?strong bodies and weak minds. One look at these lovable loafs is enough to know they’re not the brightest, so it’s hard not to forgive them for attacking since they?don’t appear to know any better. Plus, their dopey faces are too endearing not to smile at.
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Although they?seem fully committed to the physical tank archetype, the Gruffons can actually learn the powerful Zammle spell but need to study it for a century before they can use it because of their extreme laziness. It makes the older Gruffons a real challenge, but it’s also just really funny.
It wouldn’t be a list of the best Dragon Quest enemies without a dragon, so why not add one of the?strongest?ones in the series? The first Pruslas was an endgame boss in Dragon Quest IV but they returned as a regular enemy in X and XI, so they technically count.
But, don’t get fooled into thinking their drop in status made them weak, or you’ll end up flattened under their club. Pruslases can use these clubs to?target individual characters or the entire party, all while blocking your attacks.?Their smug little faces?show they’re all too aware of how hard they are to kill, but since they drop the?highly valuable serpent’s soul crafting item, the challenge is well worth taking.
Any?fantasy game?with sailing gameplay better have a Kraken-like enemy, and there’s no better example of why than the Tentaculars. They can attack multiple times per round thanks to their ten appendages and can probably tank your party’s strongest attacks like they’re nothing. They’re?so powerful that Dragon Quest XI built an entire boss fight around one and it turned out to be one of the best in the game, making you balance fighting off the tentacles with damaging the creature itself.
The Tentaculars have cut several Dragon Quest adventures short, but those who can best them are rewarded with high experience gain and some rare item drops. Facing these sea monsters is always a thrill, thanks to the high risk and high reward.
Take a dragon, give it an axe big enough to cleave a house in two, and top it off with a smug “you mad, bro?” grin and you’ve got a Hacksaurus. The mainline games?cast them as tough late-game enemies with swift axe attacks and fire breath that can hit the whole party and drop seeds of strength, which can permanently increase a character’s attack power. However, the Monsters sub-series is where the Hacksauruses really shine.
This monster collecting sub-series that follows the Pokemon tradition has featured these destructive dragons in every entry ！ and as?one of the most consistently powerful creatures, no less.?The Hacksaurus’ elite nature even extends to the few mainline Dragon Quest games that also include monster recruitment. Good luck completing all?of Dragon Quest VIII’s monster arena challenges without this?excellent?Hacksaur.
The Hunter Mechs?stand out as the most widely seen technological threat in Dragon Quest’s European fantasy setting,?and what a threat they are. Most Dragon Quest monsters have a goofy side to their appearances and while that’s somewhat true with the Mechs’ four suction cup feet and anachronistic medieval weaponry, its design is much more focused on its threatening presence with its bulky spiked frame and cold unfeeling mono-eye.
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Its look?effectively sells it as an artificial creature with no purpose but to kill, and?it has the arsenal to do it, too. With multiple attacks per turn, they can do single-target damage with their sword and crossbow, hit the whole party with their ocular laser beam, and debuff player characters to?stop them from hitting back, depending on the game.
Again, it’s crazy how Toriyama can take such simple design ideas and make them unforgettable. In actuality, these horned blue one-eyed giants are just as inspired by the Japanese oni as they are by the Greek cyclops. This can be best seen in how their appearance combines the former’s animalistic claws, horns, and fangs with evidence of their namesake’s more human personality implied by the Cyclopses’ posture and big dopey grin.
In battle, the Cyclopses rarely do much beyond stomping on their prey and flailing their giant clubs around, but it’s hard to treat that as a bad thing when they don’t really need much more than that to consistently be the most dangerous monster in almost any area they’re found.
One of Akira Toriyama’s greatest artistic qualities is his ability to take generic concepts and turn them into icons without deviating from their central idea. This can be seen in any of the simple but memorable designs originating from the first Dragon Quest game, especially the Golem.
Popular media has had far too many interpretations of this classical Jewish?myth, but these hulking brick men with their cylindrical head and mysterious yellow eyes stand out amongst them all.?Granted, their ample physical strength is of little concern to players who know to exploit their weakness to sleep spells, but that’s actually a clever reference to the original Golem legend, which describes the Golem’s death as “sleep[ing] the dreamless sleep of clay.” This tanky foe is almost paradoxical in its depth and simplicity.
People never seem to talk about how cute Drackies are, and that’s just not right. Bats have to be the most overused enemy archetype in all of gaming, but all it takes is a big face, wide innocent smile, antennae, and some low-level magic to turn them from?clich└ to classic. Their combat capabilities may not be as top-tier as their designs since the Drackies are one of the earliest encounters in any Dragon Quest game they’re in (and their variations don’t get much stronger), but they serve an important purpose as players’ introduction to flying type monsters.
Their weak stature and presence in the early game allow players to learn how to?counterplay their?type’s high speed and evasion with bows and other avian weaknesses in an unthreatening environment. The Dragon Quest experience would not be the same without Drackies.
These felines are aptly named as it’s hard?to find anything about them that isn’t great. They have the cutest kittens, make the best mounts, and they’re the most important?units in games with monster recruitment hands down.
But if that’s not enough, the Great Sabrecats?can also be some of the series’ greatest companions as shown in Dragon Quest V. In this game, the hero adopts one as a cub and forms?one of the most touching lifelong bonds in a game full of them.?Despite only appearing in five mainline games, these kitties have left more of a mark than monsters that have been there since the start.
Nobody could be at the top of Dragon Quest’s monster roster?other than the Slimes. They began as a simple design for the games’ weakest enemy?with nothing more than a fun shape and a lovable face that only Akira Toriyama could draw,?then quickly became one of the greatest gaming icons of all time. Although?the broader slime family is easily the most diverse in the series, the happy blue droplets remain the face of the franchise.
They’ve sold incalculable amounts of merchandise,?cameoed in other popular games, starred in their own spin-off series, influenced more games than can be named, and apparently taste delicious according to an official panel at PAX West 2019. The slime is so great that it even became a mascot for the Nintendo Power magazine during the early 2000s despite not being a Nintendo property.?It’s a true testament to Dragon Quest’s staying power that even its weakest?creature can accomplish such amazing feats.
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About The Author
Will Bertazzo Lambert
(13 Articles Published)
Will Bertazzo Lambert is an experienced writer who’s held a passion for gaming since he was old enough to hold a controller. His talent has been honed writing for such publications as Smashboards, Honey’s Anime and We Got This Covered. He is always on the hunt for gaming’s next major hits and overlooked gems.
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