Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III – Which is the Better JRPG Threequel?

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III – Which is the Better JRPG Threequel?

Releasing just 2 years apart, both Final Fantasy III and Dragon Quest III are hugely important games in the grander scale of the development of the JRPG subgenre. While Dragon Quest as a franchise predates Final Fantasy by a year, the two series essentially came up side-by-side to both define and then refine the qualities that are now synonymous with RPGs coming from Japanese game developers. Notably, both games introduce several new mechanics that would go on to influence both their own respective series as well as the RPG genre as a whole, with Final Fantasy III innovating via the introduction of the Job system and Dragon Quest III being one of the first truly non-linear console RPGs. Thanks to their shared qualities, pitting Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III for the best NES game in their series is a tough call.

In comparison to the original games and direct sequels of their respective franchises, both Final Fantasy III and Dragon Quest III improved dramatically over their predecessors. Final Fantasy III gives players near limitless freedom in how they craft their party and build out their skills, while Dragon Quest III affords more freedom to players in how they tackle the adventure at hand. Both of these titles are arguably the best games in their series on the Famicom/NES, and both have had the honor of receiving several remakes and re-releases throughout the years. It’s time to pit these two classic JRPGs against one another to see which is the definitive series threequel.

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: Side-by-Side Comparison

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III

Unlike Final Fantasy III, players in the West were able to experience Dragon Quest III well ahead of any remake or remaster of the title thanks to its arrival on the NES as Dragon Warrior III. In comparison, it would not be until the 2006 Nintendo DS remake of Final Fantasy III that Western players had an official localized release of the game. Interestingly, in the intervening years between the release and remake of Final Fantasy III, the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series became closer than ever before thanks to the merger between publishers Square and Enix to form Square Enix. Though these games were once friendly rivals, they now exist under the same publishing umbrella.

CharacteristicFinal Fantasy IIIDragon Quest III
Release Year19901988
Release PlatformFamicomFamicom
First Localization2006 (Nintendo DS Remake)1991 (Dragon Warrior III)
Total Sales5.75 million units3.9 million units
Number of Remakes/Re-Releases64
Review Aggregate Score7871
Modern Console AvailabilityPS4, Switch, PCSwitch, iOS
Influence on SeriesIntroduction of Job System, Summon MonstersFreedom to tackle Main Quest non-linearly, Swap in/out Party Members
Influence on GenreExpands classes/Jobs to include non-traditional options, auto-targeting in battles after enemies dieIntroduces idea of Jobs instead of traditional classes, open-world exploration
Hours to Complete30-80 hours28-40 hours

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: 5 Must-Know Facts

Here are 5 must-know facts about Final Fantasy III and Dragon Quest III:

  • In the time between Final Fantasy III‘s initial release and its eventual localization, one-time rival publishers Square and Enix successfully merged into Square Enix. The merger is most notable for placing Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy under the same publisher and making Square Enix the definitive name in JRPGs.
  • Interestingly, the Dragon Quest series and Final Fantasy traditionally follow a pattern in their early years where Dragon Quest will be the first to introduce a mechanic and then Final Fantasy will iterate on it and refine it into something arguably better.
  • Both Final Fantasy III and Dragon Quest III are much larger games than their predecessors, with fully completing Final Fantasy III taking upwards of 80 hours if one is to master all of the jobs and do every side quest.
  • Although it holds a special place among fans and even has a high position in some “best of” lists, Dragon Quest III falls short from Final Fantasy III in terms of sales. Additionally, Final Fantasy III has a higher review aggregate score.
  • Dragon Quest III may be the first of the two to be localized, but it unfortunately suffers from this early localization and would only sell about 100,000 copies in North America. Conversely, Final Fantasy III‘s DS remake holds sales figures hovering just above a million copies.

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: From Publisher Rivals to One JRPG Juggernaut

There’s little denying that both Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy have a lasting formative impact on the characteristics of console RPGs, but the two franchises that utilized their competition to spur innovation. With parent companies Enix (Dragon Quest) and Square (Final Fantasy) now existing together as the single company and mega-publisher Square Enix, the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series each have different roles within their parent company’s catalog of IP. Dragon Quest is now the “comfort food” RPG series, adhering to tradition and the simplicity of the genre’s past, while Final Fantasy is the innovator and trend-setter for Square Enix as the company’s flagship franchise.

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: Innovation or Refinement

Speaking of innovation, it is something that the Dragon Quest series was synonymous with in its initial years as a franchise. That said, Dragon Quest may have arrived first, but the original Final Fantasy takes everything that the original Dragon Quest does and improves on it in nearly every conceivable way. This trend repeated itself for years, with each new Dragon Quest being the first game to introduce a new mechanic or innovate within the genre, and a new Final Fantasy coming along a year or two later to improve on the foundation that its main competitor lays. Dragon Quest III is one of the first RPGs to refer to classes as “Jobs”, but it’s Final Fantasy III‘s Job System that gets the credit as the refinement over an initial idea.

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

On the subject of game length, the battle of Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest has a clear victor in the third Final Fantasy. Whereas players can expect to spend anywhere between 30-40 hours beating or 100% completing Dragon Quest III, estimates for a completionist playthrough of Final Fantasy III double the total time to roughly 80 hours. A large part of the necessary time sink for completing Final Fantasy III comes from the more than 20 jobs, which each require a significant time investment to fully level-up. Still, a game being bigger doesn’t always conflate with it being better, and many fans of both games prefer the more straightforward approach of Dragon Quest III (as evidenced by the game’s higher ranking on Famitsu polls).

Final Fantasy III vs Dragon Quest III: Sales and Critical Reception

Across all releases and re-releases (including the SNES remake of the game and Game Boy Color version), Dragon Quest III has just under 4 million units sold in its lifetime. Conversely, Final Fantasy III (which never had a localization until its DS remake and is now available via the Pixel Remasters series) has almost 6 million units sold. Aligning with these differences in sales are the two games’ critical receptions, with Final Fantasy III‘s aggregate score far outshining Dragon Quest III‘s at 78 vs 71, respectively.

Bottom Line

The essential gist of the first several games in the Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy series boils down to this — Dragon Quest does things first, but Final Fantasy does them better. Of course, this sentiment doesn’t necessarily hold true throughout the disparate evolutions that each series took as they continued to grow, but at least in the infancy of both franchises there’s some merit to the idea that Final Fantasy improves on many of the mechanics that Dragon Quest introduces. The third game in each series are each hugely important to both their franchises and the genre as a whole, but if only one can win the title of “Best Threequel”, that honor has to go to Final Fantasy III.

Noy only is Final Fantasy III perhaps the best of the original trilogy of Final Fantasy games (an honor that, for Dragon Quest, arguably still belongs to the original game in the series), its influence continues to be felt throughout both the Final Fantasy franchise and RPGs in general. Without Final Fantasy III, it’s likely that both Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics (both incredible and fan-favorite games in the series) look completely different, while Dragon Quest IV arguably remains much the same with or without Dragon Quest III.

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