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Dragon Quest

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This article is about the first game. For the series of the same name, see Dragon Quest (series). For the overall franchise, see Dragon Quest (franchise).
Dragon Quest
Dragon Warrior.jpg
Nintendo Entertainment System box art
Developer Chunsoft
Publisher Enix Corporation (Japan)
Nintendo (North America)
Platform(s) Nintendo Entertainment System, Mobile phones, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch
Release date Famicom/NES:
Japan May 27, 1986
USA August 1989
Mobile phones:
Japan 2004
Japan November 28, 2013
USA September 11, 2014
Europe September 11, 2014
Australia September 11, 2014
Nintendo Switch:
WW: September 27, 2019
Genre Role-playing game
ESRB:ESRB T.svg - Teen
Mode(s) Single player
Media NES icon.png Game Pak

Dragon Quest is the first installment of the Dragon Quest series. It was originally released for the Famicom in Japan in 1986 and for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America in 1989. The game was developed by Chunsoft and published by Enix. In North America, the game was originally known as Dragon Warrior until its remake for iOS and Android devices in 2014. The game received a digital release for the Nintendo Switch in 2019, retaining the title Dragon Quest. The game received several re-releases, most of which are exclusive to Japan. The only other instance where Dragon Quest was released in North America was the Dragon Warrior I & II compilation for Game Boy Color.

The story involves a hero character whose goal is to save the Kingdom of Alefgard and rescue its princess from the evil Dragonlord. Dragon Quest takes place in the same timeline as its two sequels, Dragon Quest II: Luminaries of the Legendary Line and Dragon Quest III: The Seeds of Salvation, although the latter game takes place first chronologically, followed by the first Dragon Quest.



The story's background begins when the kingdom of Alefgard was shrouded in permanent darkness. A brave warrior named Erdrick defeated an evil creature and restored light to the land. In Erdrick's possession was the Ball of Light, which he used to drive away enemies who threatened the kingdom. Erdrick handed the Ball of Light to King Lorik, and Alefgard remained peaceful for a long time. The Ball of Light kept winters short in Alefgard and helped maintain peace and prosperity for the region.

However, there is one man who shunned the Ball of Light's radiance and secluded himself in a mountain cave. One day, while exploring the cave's extensive network of tunnels, the man encountered a sleeping dragon who awoke upon his entrance. He feared the dragon would incinerate him with its fiery breath, but the dragon instead knelt before him and obeyed his commands. This man, who is later discovered to be a dragon, became known as the Dragonlord. One day, after his soul became corrupted by learning magic, the Dragonlord attacked Tantegel Castle and the nearby town of Tantegel with his fleet of dragons and set the town on fire. Riding a large red dragon, the Dragonlord descended upon Tantegel Castle and stole the Ball of Light. Soon, monsters began to appear throughout the entire land, destroying everything in their paths. Much of the land became poisonous marshes, and at least one destroyed town never recovered.

The following day, Erdrick arrived at Tantegel Castle to speak with King Lorik and offered his help to defeat the Dragonlord. After searching the land for clues to the Dragonlord's whereabouts, Erdrick found that the Dragonlord lived on an island that could be accessed only via a magical bridge that only a Rainbow Drop could generate. After venturing to the island, Erdrick was never heard from again. Many years later, during King Lorik XVI's reign, the Dragonlord attacked the kingdom again and captured Princess Gwaelin. Many heroes tried to rescue the princess and recover the Ball of Light from the Dragonlord's castle, called Charlock, but none succeeded. The prophet Mahetta predicted that "One day, a descendant of the valiant Erdrick shall come forth to defeat the Dragonlord." However, when the descendant (the game's hero) arrives, many of the people of Alefgard have forgotten the story of Erdrick, and those few who do remember consider it a myth and do not believe in Mahetta's prophecy. King Lorik starts to mourn the decline of his kingdom.

Main story

The game begins when the hero assumes the role of a stranger who arrives at Tantegel Castle. A castle guard tells him that a dragon has captured the princess and is holding her captive in a distant cave. Determined to rescue the princess and defeat the Dragonlord, he discovers an ancient tablet hidden inside a desert cave; carved on the tablet is a message from Erdrick that outlines what the hero needs to do to follow in Erdrick's footsteps and defeat the Dragonlord. The hero eventually rescues Princess Gwaelin, but realizes that in order to restore light to Alefgard, he must defeat the Dragonlord at Charlock Castle. After the hero collects a series of relics, he creates a bridge to reach Charlock and fights his way through the castle before finally confronting the Dragonlord. At this point the hero is given a dialogue choice – to side with the Dragonlord or to challenge him. If the player chooses the former, the game ends, the hero is put to sleep, and the game freezes. In the Game Boy Color remake, the hero instead wakes up from a bad dream. If players choose to fight, a final battle between the hero and the Dragonlord commences.

Once the hero defeats the Dragonlord he reclaims the Ball of Light, eradicating all monsters in Alefgard, and triumphantly returns to Tantegel Castle where King Lorik offers his kingdom as a reward. The hero declines and instead wishes to find his own kingdom. The hero, accompanied by Princess Gwaelin, set off in search of a new land.


Battling a Slime in the Nintendo Entertainment System version

Before starting the game, the player is presented with a menu with three options: starting a new game, continuing an existing game, or changing the message speed. If the player starts a new quest, they must input a name for the hero character. The name has an effect on the hero's initial ability scores and his statistical growth during his adventure. Each stat falls into one of two categories, one with faster growth than the other, and the game determines which path each stat uses with a formula based on the kana or letters in the character's name.

The game starts in King Lorik's chamber in Tantegel Castle, where the hero receives information about the Dragonlord and the stolen Balls of Light. After receiving some items and gold, the hero sets out on his quest. He spends a lot of his adventure talking to townspeople and gathering information on how to progress in his adventure. Whenever the hero stops moving, a status window appears on-screen, showing his current experience level (LV) and the number of hit points (HP), magic points (MP), gold (G), and experience points (E). This display is also shown during battles.

There are no restrictions as to where the hero can travel on the world map. As the hero roams around the world map or a dungeon, he encounters individual monsters at random. On the world map, the encounter rate is the lowest on fields but the highest in forests and on hills. Enemies that are farther from Tantegel Castle become increasingly more powerful, so to safely progress to later areas, the hero must defeat enemies to earn experience points. These gradually add toward leveling up the hero, improving his strength, agility, speed, and the ability to use magic spells. The caves which the hero explores are dark and require the use of a torch or the RADIENT spell to display a temporary field of vision around him.

Battles are turn-based, and they are fought from a first-person perspective while the hero remains off-screen. The hero can utilize four commands during battle:

  • Fight: The hero attacks the enemy with his weapon (or fists if he is unequipped).
  • Run: The hero tries to escape from a battle. This command is usually used if the hero is low on HP.
  • Spell: The hero uses magic that can either heal him or damage the enemy.
  • Item: The hero can use herbs to replenish his HP.

During combat, if the monster attacks the hero, he takes damage and loses HP. If the hero is low on health, the display turns red. If the hero's HP falls to zero, he dies, and is taken back to King Lorik to be resurrected, and loses half of his gold as punishment. Every time a spell is used, the hero's MP decreases, and every spells costs a different amount of MP. The hero can recover both his HP and MP by resting at an inn in a town. As the hero earns more gold, he can purchase items and improved weapons and armor at stores located in towns. The hero has limited inventory space, so he must manage his collection along the way.

Alternate versions and re-releases

In several of its re-releases, Dragon Quest was bundled with Dragon Quest II.

  • 1986 - Also released for the MSX and PC-9801.
  • 1993 - Remade for the Japan-exclusive Super Famicom title, Dragon Quest I + II.
  • 1998 - A remake, BS Dragon Quest, was broadcast over Satellaview in Japan.
  • 1999/2000 - Remade for the Game Boy Color compilation, Dragon Warrior I & II, which also released in North America. The version uses a different translation, and several names were changed.
  • 2004 - The game was remade for mobile phones, and is graphically based on the Super Famicom remake of Dragon Quest III.
  • 2011 - The game and its two sequels, Dragon Quest II and Dragon Quest III, were re-released on the Japan-exclusive Wii compilation, Dragon Quest 25th Anniversary Collection. It includes original copies of the games' strategy guides, original artwork and material on the games' development
  • 2013/2014 - Re-released for Android and iOS devices; this version is based on the 2004 mobile phone remake.
  • 2019 - A remake of the game was released for the Nintendo eShop

Regional differences

There are several regional differences between the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System versions of Dragon Quest. The Famicom version uses a password-based system, while the Nintendo Entertainment System release uses a battery-backed system (known in the game as an "Adventure Log" in the "Imperial Scrolls of Honor"). As such, the Nintendo Entertainment System version allows the hero to return to King Lorik to save his game progress. It also provides the option to delete or duplicate a saved quest.

In the Famicom version, characters always face forward, so players must choose a command and then a direction in which to perform that action. In the North American version, the hero turns to face the direction he is moving, making direction selection unnecessary. In the NES version, players use menu commands to talk to people, check their status, search beneath their feet, use items, take treasure chests, open doors, and go up or down stairs. In some later remakes, certain commands were assigned to buttons, navigating stairs became automatic, and the hero's speed was increased.


The release of Dragon Quest has been noted as a notable turning point in video game history, especially for RPGs. Many of its development techniques used were intended to compensate for hardware limitations, but contemporary RPG developers continue to use these techniques despite technological advances that made them unnecessary.[1] Dragon Quest introduced the damsel-in-distress storyline that many RPGs follow,[2] although Dragon Quest has a twist in that its actual objective is not revealed until the princess is rescued.[3] The game's 2D graphic style was used by most RPGs until the advent of 3D graphics, and its top-down perspective has become "a dead giveaway to an RPG".[2] The game featured elements still found in most RPGs, such as the ability to upgrade equipment, major quests that intertwine with minor subquests, an incremental spell system, use of hit points and experience points, and a medieval theme. Although Dragon Quest laid the fundamentals on which Final Fantasy was based, it was not as successful in the North American market like Final Fantasy.

In the Nintendo Power's November 2010 issue, in celebration of the NES' 25th anniversary in North America, Horii recalled the making of Dragon Quest. Horiii was a fan of basic RPG mechanics, and wanted to simplify the interfaces; he said that many other RPGs' interfaces at the time "were so complicated that they intimidated new users". He said that Dragon Quest's simplified gameplay made the game appealing to people and made the franchise successful. He had been told that the NES lacked sufficient capacity for RPGs, which further motivated him to make one.

Dragon Quest is a national phenomenon in Japan, inspiring spinoff media and figurines. The video game industry has called it Japan's national game.[4] Several games such as Glory of Heracles, {{wp|Legend of the Ghost Lion}] and Mother were inspired by Dragon Quest's success.

Many aspects of pop culture still reference Dragon Quest. On April Fools' Day 2012, Google added a Dragon Quest-inspired 8-bit option to Google Maps.[5]

Dragon Quest Builders is an alternate sequel to the first game. Its story takes place over 100 years after the consequences of Erdrick, who instead accepts Dragonlord's offer to rule half the world.


For this subject's image gallery, see Gallery:Dragon Quest.


  1. "Dragon Warrior I & II". (archived).
  2. a b "15 Most Influential Games of All Time. GameSpot.
  3. "East and West, Warrior and Quest: A Dragon Quest Retrospective". (archived).
  4. "2009】『ドラクエ』は藤子さんになれたらいい――堀井氏が基調講演" (in Japanese). Famitsu. Published September 1, 2009.
  5. "Google Maps: Dragon Quest edition!". Destructoid. Published March 31, 2012.