Earlier this March, Bandai Namco quietly dropped a small teaser for a new instalment in the Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi series. In spite of how reserved the announcement was, it very quickly broke the internet, hitting almost 200k tweets. This series of 3D arena brawlers, based off of the popular anime and manga series, was last seen back in 2007. While there have been countless Dragon Ball games before and since, this is the first true successor in all that time. As seen by that massive social media response, fans are stoked.
So for those who have been away from the Dragon Ball gaming scene for all this time, or newcomers who are curious, here are a handful of games worth looking at to prepare for the upcoming sequel. While Dragon Ball games have been a mixed bag in terms of critical reviews, they tend to resonate well with fans. Some are more about story, while others offer more action. So with that in mind, here’s a sampling of games to try out in the meantime.
Dragon Ball FighterZ
Starting us off is the 2D fighting game Dragon Ball FighterZ, by Arc System Works. With an eye-catching cel-shaded art style that looks right out of the anime, this game made waves in the fanbase and fighting game community. Even players who had no knowledge of the source material were able to jump right in with its beginner-friendly controls. With high production values, solid balancing and great gameplay, it was no wonder that it won Best Fighting Game at the 2018 Game Awards.
Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not, it’s a solid game to play. The core cast isn’t large, but offers a curated selection of popular characters, and very few of them feel too similar to others. If that’s not enough, the three seasons of DLC offer 20 more characters to the existing 24. That’s 44 super-powered fighters to pick from, and there’s still an active playerbase to try them out on. If you’re more a solo player though, this might be best avoided. There is a story mode, but it relies a lot on fanservice and frankly, isn’t very good.
Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
Released back in 2016 and still getting content updates to this vary day, few games have the staying power of Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2. This sequel to the original title refines everything it did, acting more as a remake. Gameplay takes the form of a high-flying 3D arena battler, navigating a battleground and fighting opponents. There are some light RPG elements thrown in, and also a decent PVP community. While nothing is particularly in-depth, it offers a little bit of everything anyone could want from a Dragon Ball game. In many ways, it’s a spiritual successor to Budokai Tenkaichi, though the simplified controls take away from that a bit.
The original Xenoverse game allowed players to make their own custom character, and go through the Dragon Ball story to fix changes to the timeline. Xenoverse 2, on the other hand, quite literally offers everything the original game did and more. Pretty much every mission from the original game is reused, but with additional features. A newcomer would be able to get a decent grasp for the original story from this, but it can just as easily be ignored. If the story isn’t your thing, there’s a lot of generic missions that can be cleared in co-op. For megafans, you can make your own dream Dragon Ball character, with whatever moveset, outfit and species you desire. What’s more, thanks to DLC, it’s still relevant; DLC recently released based on last year’s excellent Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero movie.
Dragon Ball Z Kakarot
For people who want to know the lore of the series before playing Budokai Tenkaichi 4, this is the easy choice. Dragon Ball Z Kakarot is single-player only, and has you play through the story of Dragon Ball Z through the perspective of multiple characters. Flying through the open-world is relaxing, and a lot of love went into recreating iconic anime scenes. You can take on fearsome opponents, or participate in relaxing side activities. Kakarot takes the world of Dragon Ball Z and makes it your own personal playground.
Gameplay, like Xenoverse and Budokai Tenkaichi, is that of a 3D arena brawler again, though more fleshed out than Xenoverse. As such, this could be close to how Budokai Tenkaichi 4 might end up playing. When it comes to a story experience though, this beats out everything – past Budokai Tenkaichi stories skim through everything. So if you want to know what the heck is the deal with all these screaming blonde people, this is probably quicker than watching the entire anime.
Dragon Ball Legends
Released back in 2018 for mobiles, Dragon Ball Legends puts the action in the palm of your hands. With over 250 characters, this game boasts a huge cast, bigger than even Budokai Tenkaichi 3. Being a mobile game, combat is pretty simple and easy to learn, using a card-based system. On top of that, it has a pretty big playerbase, making PVP easy to hop right into. Story-lovers have a massive, original story to jump into, making it accessible for newcomers and veterans alike.
If this sounds like there’s about to be a catch, well, here it is: it’s a gacha game. What this basically means is that obtaining characters is entirely random chance. Getting those characters to be stronger requires duplicates, too. As such, PVP is just a little bit pay-to-win, which is probably a massive turn-off. Absolutely steer clear if you have any kind of gambling addiction, please. Despite this, you can still access most of the content without paying a penny, so I can still recommend this as a fun distraction. If you want to learn more, their website gives a very comprehensive overview.
Dragon Ball Z Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Yeah, it’s a bit of an obvious pick, huh? Budokai Tenkaichi 3 remains one of the most iconic entries in the series, and for good reason. Boasting an at-the-time record breaking roster size, and releasing for the Wii with online, it was a firm part of thousands of childhoods. Gameplay is like a veritable playground for Dragon Ball fans, allowing for face-offs between unexpected characters. Various series tropes are gameplay elements. These include beam struggles, environmental destruction, and lots of powering up and transformations. Hopefully, all of these awesome things and more will stick around for Budokai Tenkaichi 4.
In spite of this, it should be remembered that this is a PS2-era game. In spite of the 150+ characters, many are reskins of other ones, and a lot of moves are reused. There is an extensive single player mode, but it doesn’t cover the story in-depth at all. Being as old as it is, you’ll also be hard-pressed to find a copy. It was only ever released for the PS2 and Wii, and copies have always been pricy on the aftermarket. If you can find one cheap though, I can guarantee it will prepare you for Budokai Tenkaichi 4.
Of course, it’s hard to tell exactly what Budokai Tenkaichi 4 will be like, with the little information we know of. Heck, we don’t even know if they’ll even call it Budokai Tenkaichi 4. That said, these five games cover a variety of genres and styles that should hopefully prepare anyone. It’s highly likely that the upcoming sequel will be plenty accessible to newcomers as well, but hey – I’m not going to argue against the prospect of having more games to play. However long we’ll be waiting, there’ll be plenty of Dragon Ball games to play in the meantime – far more than I mentioned here. Let’s just hope that the upcoming game is more like it’s predecessor, and not another Jump Force.