Dragons in Gaming Lore: A Retrospective

They’re arguably the most feared and respected mythical creature known around the world. Dragons. They’ve pervaded tales  and folklore  in numerous cultures for thousands of years and have become the ultimate villain faced by heroes in fantasy settings. So it’s not surprising that the dragon also has become  a staple character in games, which are known for drawing inspiration from sources that already have a proven draw to audiences.

One such game that has successfully transplanted dragons into its own brand of lore is World of Warcraft. In the upcoming WoW Magazine, the role of the dragons is explored with a 16-page feature introducing each Dragonflight and their connections — from Nozdormu to Deathwing himself. The feature can be previewed online, and looking at it reminded me a bit of just how much dragons have influenced gaming culture.

From MMOs to action and adventure games to micro-games played on a mobile device, dragons have been seen in an incredible number of variations in games. The constant reinvention of their charismatic yet terrifying demeanor keeps their appearance in games fresh and relevant, and you’ll never see me shying away from a shot to slay a dragon. Although almost always respected, we also see the other side of dragons in folklore — wise, empathetic and deadly protective of what they hold dear.

After the cut, let’s take a look at a few of the standout games in which dragons have played a significant role:

  • How could I not mention the Spyro the Dragon series, in its many incarnations, starting for the original Playstation and extending to the latest consoles. The tale that began with the little purple dragon who sought to free his own kind from imprisonment endeared fans and led to more than 30 million units sold during the lifetime of the franchise.
  • The Dungeons and Dragons series has been inspiring a plethora of video games for the PC, consoles and mobile devices for well over 30 years. Hard to believe, in a way, but this goes to show the enduring strength of the title character and the dungeons that he occupies. Some of these games were more successful than others, but they continue to live on — with dragons thriving — through DDO.
  • EverQuest also took a page from fantasy storybooks with major dragon bosses in one of the first majorly successful MMORPGs in the US. The story eventually branched into the introduction of Drakkin, a playable humanoid race descended from dragons who banded together to protect their dwindling numbers.

This is by no means even close to an all-inclusive list, as I would surely fail if I attempted to list all the games in which dragons have played major roles. But it’s a quick glimpse that reaffirms the validity of retaining these mythical beasts as big characters in the gaming world. I’m looking forward to seeing new and innovative ways that dragons continue to remain integral aspects of gaming.

What are some examples of your own favorite dragon-inspired characters in games?


  1. I always liked the FF series which featured dragons or dragon-esque creatures as the main baddies myself. I always thought this was a very amusing position since in Japanese culture, Dragons are actually very benevolent creatures.

  2. OH yes, Cthulhu, but dont’ forget he wasn’t a dragon. Now Dagon on the other hand while not exactly a dragon himself, fits the bill more than Cthulhu. Yes, I’m a Lovecraft freak.

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