Whilst I wait, like Scott Pilgrim for Ramona Flowers, hunched in front of my Xbox for the release of the latest piece of Dragon Age: Origins DLC - Witch Hunt - the one that boasts it'll tie up a whole bunch of loose odds and ends, I realised I had dragons on the brain, which might rather explain this Tuesday's Top Ten.
Let's face it, dragons are pretty damn awesome, but so often they don't get the treatment they deserve when it comes to video games. As it is, here's ten of the best - from evil villain to trusted steed - to provide inspiration to a whole new generation of scaly beastshoping to get some time in the spotlight of interactive entertainment. I've missed a few I know, Narthilargus and Alexstrasza spring to mind, but here's my list. Hit us up in the comments section afterwards with your thoughts.
10. Dragonite - Pokemon Series
We could only really pick one Pokemon, and Charizard is not a dragon. It just happens to look like a dragon. Sure it breathes fire, can fly, probably shares half a heart with a young David Thewlis and if it had a voice it’d probably talk like Sean Connery, but it’s not technically a Dragon-type Pokemon and therefore can’t make this list. Also, it's far too popular and we wanted to highlight the underdog. Dragonite, however, is the bona fide real deal and it can learn pretty much anything. You have to work your ass off to level up your cutesy Dratini into one of these badboys thanks to high EXP requirements and irritatingly high evolution levels, but when you’re done...boy is it worth it. It’s a freaking dragon, in your pocket! It even has 'dragon' in its name.
9. Liu Kang - Mortal Kombat II
Liu Kang doesn’t look much like a dragon, granted, and indeed when Mortal Kombat first hit shelves, the Dragon Warrior was a mere human representative. Come the second game, however, and he could transform into a Chinese dragon for his fatality, ripping off the torso of his opponents and chomping it down to leave only a pair of gory shins left on the screen. He doesn’t fly, he doesn’t even breathe fire; in fact he does very little at all. But when the time for ultimate shaming comes, there’s nothing quite like having him transform into a peckish, winged lizard and watching as he scoffs your opponent down like a Christmas ham.
8. Phalanx - Shadow of the Colossus
Wander’s battle with Phalanx, the Air Sailor, produces one of the most memorable of all of the contests in Shadow of the Colossus. Phalanx is the largest, by far, of the Colossi, and it’s hard to stop jaw hitting floor when it first bursts from the sand, soaring about with massive wings and kept airborne thanks to its large gas bladder sacs. Sadly, it’s also the most peaceful of the Colossi and only notices you when you start jumping on its back and stabbing into its spine at which point all it does is shake itself a little as if you were a minor tick. I actually felt a real pang of sadness after bringing down Phalanx, possibly the most naturally noble creature on this list.
7. Spyro The Dragon - Spyro Series
Spyro doesn’t really look up to much, appearing kind of reminiscent of Shrek’s donkey at a fancy dress party having dunked itself in purple paint, but he can actually kick some serious bottom. First of all, he can fly (in later games anyway), he can breathe fire and he has a pair of horns he can use to ram into enemies. He doesn’t need a sidekick or much of a helping hand, in fact he’s pretty damn effective for such a little guy.
6. Ridley - Metroid Series
Ridley is a little bit like the Energizer Bunny: he just keeps going. No matter how many times Samus tries to kill him, he comes back in various Meta- forms, or as a robot or cyborg or bizarre parasitic disease. He’s probably the most evil dragon on this list, in looks certainly - spiny, sleek and spiky where Dragonite is round and a little bit cuddly – but also because he’s, you know, responsible for mass genocide and killing Samus’ parents.
5. Black Dragon - Heroes of Might and Magic II
I used to play a lot of Heroes II when I was younger and one thing became abundantly clear very quickly: you never mess with a Black Dragon unless you’ve snagged yourself a serious army. One of the scenarios had you start off stranded in the wilderness with only five Black Dragons for company, you could lay waste to half of the map with that kind of firepower. Sure 3DO diluted the formula later on with Bone Dragons and Ghost Dragons and Gold Dragons and every other colour of dragon under the fictional sun, but the Black Dragon always reigned supreme as an utter badass, hence why it's up top as the title pic.
4. Flemeth - Dragon Age: Origins
As well as being an erudite, mystical old woman who talks in rhetoric and in riddles, Flemeth is also something of a shapeshifter. Antagonise her upon returning to her hut in Dragon Age: Origins adn you run the risk of her transforming into a high dragon. We’re talking classic black dragon like the entry above: incinerates foes, able to fly, obscenely strong and durable and easily pissed off. Admittedly she can’t send conversations round in circles whilst inhabiting this form, but she can turn you into Melba toast and decapitate you with any one of her numerous talons. Just don’t fight her too early on or you’ll die. Lots.
3. Singe - Dragon's Lair
This is more like it. As everybody knows, apart from Nintendo who apparently confused dragons with turtles, a villainous dragon’s main aim in life is to kidnap princesses and amass mounds of gold and precious things to pimp out its lair. Singe, the primary antagonist of the aptly named Dragon’s Lair, fits squarely into this mould. He goes and nicks Princess Daphne and locks her up in the high tower of a wizard’s enchanted castle. Plus he was animated by Disney veteran Don Bluth...who’s awesome.
2. Blue Dragon - Panzer Dragoon
Forget Drakengard and Lair, this was where dragon riding kicked off properly. From the moment when you first meet the blue dragon in the original game, the previous rider slipping wounded from his mount and entrusting you to save the world from the black dragon, to the climactic end battle and the footprints in the sand after you’ve been carried to safety, it’s a rollercoaster ride of action packed, dragontastic fun. Saga took the formula and blew it wide open, now you could freely roam dungeons astride your fire-breathing steed. That’s right; you could ride a dragon and use it to smite your enemies. Dragons didn’t have to be evil bosses; Panzer Dragoon showed the world they could be your wingmen too.
1. Bahamut - Final Fantasy Series
Let’s say you’re in a bit of a pickle. You’ve gone wandering into the forest, only to encounter a whole menagerie of evil critters that boast levels far beyond those of you and your party and they decide to have a bit of a rumble. Thankfully, though, you have the ability to call upon the King of the Dragons to summon down beams of death upon your enemies. We couldn’t really have had anyone else here at number one. True, Bahamut doesn’t do much apart from turn up, obliterate everything and fly off, but that’s because he’s probably busy. He’s The Dragon King dammit! Would you hang out with Cloud or Tidus any longer than necessary if you were a Mega Flare-firing, planet-orbiting behemoth? Admittedly that kind of makes him their bitch, but you’d never say that to his face.