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Top 25 RPG Dragons (Part 3)

Top 25 RPG Dragons

Nidhogg (Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

Writeup by Zach Wilkerson

A screenshot of Nidhogg in Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward

We had a hard time deciding on the best dragon from Final Fantasy XIV. There’s certainly no shortage of excellent dragons, but even amongst them, Nidhogg soars above the rest. In many ways, Nidhogg becomes the template for the best villains in XIV: someone with evil intentions, but we wholly understand and sympathize with. After all, once we discover all that Nidhogg has gone through, all he’s suffered, and all he’s lost, his rage makes sense. We connect with it.

It’s hard, of course, to disconnect his rage from Estinien’s, one of the other dozens of excellent, gray characters littered throughout the game, and their rivalry defines one of the best stories told in Final Fantasy.

At the end of the day, while we all talk about A Realm Reborn as the beginning of XIV as it is, Heavensward brought the game to another level, and Nidhogg’s almost primalistic rage is a big reason why.

Paarthurnax (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)

Writeup by Greg Delmage

Skyrim's Paarthurnax, a menacing looking dragon looming over the player.

Dragons are not mysterious entities in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: the game kicks off with a fateful encounter with one in Helgen. Moreover, your character is the Dragonborn, a destined warrior able to wield the mighty power of dragons, the Thu’um. This necessitates slaying dragons to build on one of the game’s core mechanics, so your life steadily gets more hairy (er, scaly) after repeated draconic assaults.

That aside, one dragon is integral to the fate of Tamriel and rules the roost at the Throat of the World: Paarthurnax. This wizened dragon, along with several others, nobly betrayed Alduin, the World Eater, and taught the people of Tamriel how to use the Thu’um. What’s interesting about Paarthurnax is that he is a pacifist as dragons go. He chose seclusion to meditate on the Way of the Voice to mitigate the innate greed and power lust all dragons have. Finally, the encounter with Paarthurnax is memorable when you realize he is voiced by Charles Martinet, the longtime former voice actor of Super Mario, among others.

Quark (Lunar: Silver Star Story)

Writeup by Noah Leiter

A screenshot of Quark and the party in Lunar Silver Star Story Complete

Lunar: Silver Star Story‘s Quark is Blue-Eyes White Dragon‘s cooler, less destructive and attention-seeking older brother. And although his piercing steely blues were eventually replaced with Fabio-blonde hair (and a matching happy trail), his immense presence is still worthy of obsession. Quark is, of course, not alone in his colossal presence on this list, but do not be fooled: he is very different from those other dragons. He is a delightful conversationalist, a loving caretaker, and a gifted alchemist — he can turn any edible material into sh… I mean diamonds. He believes in destiny, welcomes those who enter his lair with open arms, and always sends his visitors home with a piece of himself. Quark might look like a big scaly menace, but he has a heart of gold — and a sparkly colon.

Rayquaza (Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire & Emerald)

Writeup by Tim Rattray

The serpent-like dragon Rayquaza flying through the sky

It’s hard to overstate the “cool factor” that Rayquaza brought to Pokémon when it arrived in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. Until then, dragon-typed Pokémon had never looked particularly dragon-like, making Rayquaza the talk of my schoolyard, keeping Pokémon relevant with an era of kids who might’ve otherwise grown out of it. The icing on the cake was just how epic it was to catch after climbing the gargantuan, deteriorating, sealocked Sky Pillar. The remakes, Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, dialed up the epic feeling, making this trek a cinematic post-game storyline wherein you ride a Mega Evolved Rayquaza into space to blow up a meteor. Plus, we can’t forget how impactful Rayquaza’s been outside its own series, notably appearing as a Super Smash Bros. Brawl boss. All this has led to Rayquaza still being what many envision when thinking about Pokémon dragons, admittedly in part due to the liberties the franchise often takes with the concept.

Ryu (Breath of Fire series)

Writeup by Sam-James Gordon

A screeenshot of Ryu and his party crossing a bridge in Breath of Fire III

The Breath of Fire series has been dormant for longer than some of our readers have drawn breaths of oxygen, but it lives on in the hearts and memories of gamers over 30. Ryu is to Breath of Fire as Link is to The Legend of Zelda, in that he is the protagonist of each entry. Similarly, some versions of Ryu exist within the same timeline, despite each version of Ryu being his own man. Ryu is a member of the Dragon Clan, and although his powers manifest uniquely in each game, the gist is that he draws upon draconic powers to toast his foes. The mechanics innovated with each new game, evolving from a simple menu of spells into splicing genes to create new dragon forms.

Seath the Scaleless (Dark Souls)

Writeup by Aleks Franiczek 

Seath the Scaleless dragon in an enraged stance in front of the player in Dark Souls

Dragons are an essential part of Souls lore and its boss roster, but none have had quite the impact on the world’s history as the traitor, Seath, who was ostracized by the Everlasting Dragons for being born without the scales that grant them immortality. Seath is tragic, horrible, and brilliant. His un-dragon-like obsession with science even led to the founding of Sorcery — which includes all those amazing spells you can use to cheese the game. Thanks, Seath!

By the time you encounter Seath in Dark Souls, he has become a paranoid shut-in obsessed with his research into the immortality denied him. The fact that his boss fight plays nothing like other dragon fights in the series is another way that Dark Souls highlights his perpetual otherness. But if there’s any sign that he’s still as much of a dragon as his kin, it’s that you can chop off his tail for a cool weapon: in this case, the beautiful and iconic Moonlight Greatsword.

Tiki (Fire Emblem)

Writeup by Tim Rattray

Fire Emblem's Tiki in human form explaining she is a Divine Dragon.

In Fire Emblem games, if someone seems like they might transform into a dragon, chances are likely that they will. This began with Tiki in the series’ first entry, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, its sequel, Mystery of the Emblem, and finally, Awakening, from which many modern fans best know her. This cross-generational existence across Fire Emblem’s longest-running continuity makes her status as a dragon particularly interesting, since her long lifespan leads to her grieving over the friends she’s lost to time, mirroring how players aged between installments.

But most of all, Tiki is overwhelmingly charming in both her youth and adulthood. We’re essentially talking about the anime-girl-who-is-actually-thousands-of-years-old trope here. Still, she was one of the characters who set the standard for this archetype, so we can’t help but find this trait endearing in a way her imitators haven’t always managed. She may not have a hoard of treasure to protect, but this dragon has something even more important fueling her resolve: her friends.

Water Dragon (Jade Empire)

Writeup by Jimmy Turner

Jade Empire's Water Dragon in her human form, a mysterious woman in a flowing robe with long hair

Jade Empire‘s Water Dragon is not a typical scaled beast. Instead, she is a Goddess, existing to both guide and control water through its cycle to the world and guide souls throughout their cycle along the Great Wheel (Jade Empire‘s take on reincarnation). She also provides guidance for the main protagonist and their companions throughout the events of this BioWare hidden gem. 

Though her true form is that of a giant blue (because water) dragon, she most often takes the form of a human female when interacting with mortals, appearing throughout Jade Empire to assist characters on their quest to bring harmony back to the land (or perhaps seize power if they so desire). The moral route the player chooses ultimately determines the Water Dragon’s fate. Either way, she is one of the most important and memorable NPCs in the game.

Zach Wilkerson

Zach Wilkerson

After avidly following RPGFan for years, Zach joined as a Reviews Editor in 2018, and somehow finds himself helping manage the Features department now. When he's not educating the youth of America, he can often be heard loudly clamoring for Lunar 3 and Suikoden VI.