Since the publication of Beowulf, dragons have captured the popular imagination. Nearly every fantasy story has at least one of the mythical beasts. Though they may have their differences in size, power, or whether they breathe fire, ice, or acid, they all have one thing in common: dragons are almost universally the most powerful beings in the fictional universes they inhabit. They frequently rule their realms as monarchs, and some are even able to break apart the fabric of space and time with their presence. There is something endlessly fascinating about the magnificent yet uncontrollable dragon.
Dragons and dragonslayers are now culturally ubiquitous and are the defining symbol of the fantasy genre. Most recently, Game of Thrones and the Hobbit franchise put dragons back into pop culture in a big way, though much like the legendary creatures themselves, their presence seems timeless. Dragons are found in nearly every ancient mythology; from European folklore to ancient Egypt to legends from India, China, and Persia, every nation and culture seem to have their own dragon tales. Depictions of dragons have some variation: sometimes they are described as benevolent and wise, while in other stories they are bestial and exist only to destroy, and along with the fact that they may breathe fire or possess poison, they may also depicted as giant lizards or serpents. All of these different representations can be grouped together under the category of the dragon.
With few exceptions, dragons are immensely powerful creatures. With that being said, here are 15 of the most powerful and badass dragons of all time, ranked according to their relative power.
15 Smaug (The Hobbit)
Smaug was a fire-drake of the Third Age and the primary antagonist of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Hundreds of years old, Smaug came from the mountains of the north and was the last of the great dragons of Middle Earth. Smaug coveted the enormous wealth amassed by the Dwarven kingdom of Erebor in Lonely Mountain. He seized the mountain, and the many treasures inside of it, killing many Dwarves and taking down the entire army of Erebor. Not content with this, Smaug scorched the area surrounding Lonely Mountain into a wasteland that fittingly became known as the Desolation of Smaug.
Smaug hoarded the Lonely Mountain’s treasures all to himself for over two hundred years, since no army in Middle Earth dared face the terrifying dragon. Even when the company of Dwarves managed to sneak into the mountain, he laid waste to almost the entirety of Lake-town before his defeat at the hands of Bard the Bowman.
An enormous and powerful dragon, Smaug was covered in impenetrable armor immune to most weapons, and was strong enough to crush stone. He was able to breathe fire hot enough to melt metal, and his very body was imbued with fire, glowing in the dark like a furnace. He was the largest dragon of the Third Age and bore such nicknames as “the Magnificent,” “the Tyrannical,” and perhaps best of all, “the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities.”
14 King Ghidorah (Godzilla)
The three-headed dragon kaiju from the Godzilla universe has gone toe-to-toe with the King of All Monsters on multiple occasions and has emerged on top more than once. His name comes from the Japanese word for “hydra.” A wicked, golden, three-headed dragon from outer space, King Ghidorah has destroyed civilizations on several planets for reasons unknown, and tried to destroy Earth and devour humanity but was defeated by a team of three monsters. He is also known for causing the extinction of the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous Period, though he would also be portrayed as being a guardian monster to humanity on one occasion.
King Ghidorah attacked Venus thousands of years ago, wiping out the indigenous civilization and rendering Venus a wasteland. During his attack on Japan, he leveled entire cities effortlessly with his gravity beams. Godzilla and Rodan were only able to defeat him by breaking the mind control the Xiliens had over the monster. The battle ended when Ghidorah flew back into space.
13 Balerion the Black Dread (A Song of Ice and Fire)
Balerion, also named the Black Dread, was one of the three great dragons of Aegon Targaryen I, also known (fittingly) as Aegon the Conquerer in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. Balerion and his brethren were used to conquer most of Westeros during the War of Conquest. He was the largest of all the Targaryen dragons; his fire and scales were both black as night, hence his nickname. His wingspan was so enormous entire towns would be bathed in shadow when he took flight, and his jaws were so wide he could swallow a mammoth whole. “His fangs were as long as bastard-swords,” according to legend.
Riding on Balerion, Aegon was able to conquer six of the seven kingdoms of Westeros, and establish the ruling Targaryen dynasty that would last for over 300 years. Balerion was so powerful and terrifying to his enemies he is one of the few dragons on this list to die from old age - a rarity for dragons in fantasy stories. He died peacefully at around two hundred years old.
12 Kralkatorrik (Guild Wars)
Kralkatorrik is the Elder Crystal Dragon from Guild Wars. It is a thousand feet tall and his wings blot out the sun. In fact, before it awoke from hibernation it was widely believed to be a mountain. His breath has the power to corrupt anything living it touches, turning plants, animals, and elementals into “branded,” twisted, crystalline shadows of their former selves. Terrible storms of black clouds and lightning surround the Elder’s Dragon’s body when it flies. Kralkatorrik is associated with the element of crystal, and can also become a hurricane and a sandstorm.
As one of the five Elder Dragons, Kralkatorrik wakes up every 10,000 years to consume all the magic in the world before going back into hibernation. The Elder Dragons are akin to a primordial force, or an unstoppable natural disaster like an earthquake. Kralkatorrik is described as being twenty times larger than the dragon Glint, and is responsible for the death of Snaff, one of the original members of Destiny’s Edge.
11 Alduin (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Alduin the World-Eater is the main antagonist of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the Nordic God of Destruction. Alduin is the first-born of Akatosh, the most prominent Aedra in the series and the dragon god of time. Using his powers to revive his long-dead dragon brethren, Alduin seeks to restore dragon rule of Mundus. He was defeated in ancient times only by the use of a special Dragon Shout to force him to land and an Elder Scroll to send him forward in time.
Alduin regains his strength by devouring mortal souls in Sovngarde, the Nordic afterlife. He is invincible until the final battle of the game, and unlike other dragons, his soul cannot be absorbed by the Dragonborn. At the end, it’s implied this is because Alduin cannot truly be defeated, since he is immortal, unending, and his destiny is to one day return and fulfill his destiny as the World-Eater.
10 Korabas (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Korabas the Otataral Dragon was the largest of the Eleint, an ancient race of dragons in the ten-part Malazan Book of the Fallen series. She is also called the “Eye of Abnegation,” the center of the storm, where everything must die. She has the aspect of otataral, a magic-nullifying reddish ore, which caused Anti-Magic, which led to all life around her to die instantly. In the Malazan universe, she is the source of all sorcery.
Korabas was selected by the Elder Gods among the Grand Clan to be the Otataral Dragon as a balance to all the other dragons. As a result, all other dragons combined are not a match for her. Because of her aspect of otataral, she cannot be killed with magic but only by “tooth and claw.” The battle to try and kill her once she was freed summoned so many dragons to one place that the Elder Goddess T’iam began to manifest in the desert where they fought, almost destroying the mortal world.
9 Ancalagon the Black (The Silmarillion)
Not much is known about the ancient and mysterious Ancalagon the Black, bred by the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, during the First Age. He is well-known to be the greatest of all dragons in Tolkien’s mythology, and appears in The Silmarillion. He was said to be as big as a mountain, and the largest dragon who ever existed. Like other dragons, Ancalagon could breathe fire, which was said to be hotter than the flames of any other dragon. His breath was so hot that it could melt and consume the Rings of Power, though not the One Ring.
During the War of the Wrath, Eärendil, piloting his Silmaril-bearing ship Vingilot and accompanied by the Eagles of Manwë, fought Ancalagon and the other dragons in a battle that lasted an entire day. In death, when Ancalagon fell from the sky, the impact shattered the towers of Thangorodrim, an artificial volcanic mountain range larger than Mount Everest. The fall of Ancalagon marked the end of the war against Morgoth.
8 Seath the Scaleless (Dark Souls)
Seath is a scaleless albino dragon from the first instalment of Dark Souls. Seath is one of the most important figures in the extensive lore of the game. He was granted the title of duke by Gwyn, Lord of Sunlight, for betraying his own kind and aiding the Lords in the war to defeat the Everlasting Dragons, thus helping end the Age of Ancients and begin the Age of Fire. He was also given a fragment of the powerful Lord Soul.
He was born an albino dragon without the stone scales which granted others of his kind immortality. The wily Seath found another way to achieve immortality however, when he became undead by means of his research into the Primordial Crystal. Seath was driven insane by his research and now conducts hideous experiments in his crystal cave underneath his archives while surrounded by his crystalline creations. His servants, the Channelers, search Lordan for undead beings to be taken back to the Grand Archives and be subjected to Seath’s experiments. He also commands powerful sorcery, able to summon life from nothingness using his powers. It was by this method he created the Moonlight Butterflies.
Seath is invincible upon the player’s first encounter with him, and inevitably curses and kills the player during this encounter. To top it all off, Seath is responsible for the creation of sorcery in the world of Dark Souls.
7 Bahamut (Dungeons & Dragons)
In Dungeons & Dragons, Bahamut is a powerful dragon deity. A child of the dragon god Io, he is known as the Platinum Dragon and the King of the Good Dragons. As the deity of good dragonkind, he is the deity of wisdom, justice, law, and protection. All good dragons pay homage to Bahamut, and particularly gold, silver, and brass dragons hold him in high regard. He is said to possess silver-white scales and blue cat-like eyes, though his actual color changes according to his mood. His body is described as massive and sinuous.
Bahamut is a core god in the pantheon of D&D, worshiped mainly by good paladins and clerics. He is immortal and is capable of changing his shape into human or animal form to walk the mortal world. The race of the dragonborn view him as their creator god, kings are crowned in his name, and other peoples invoke his rituals and prayers for protection and strength. He also has heightened senses, being able to see, hear, smell, and touch within a distance of 10 miles of himself, his worshipers, or his holy sites.
Bahamut also has three devastating breath weapons: he can breathe ice, can turn any object into a gaseous form of itself, or use his disintegration breath to destroy everything in his path. His realm is a glittering palace that exists in a whirlwind between the first four layers of Mount Celestia. Bahamut’s antithesis, his evil twin sister Tiamat, is the Chromatic Dragon and the Queen of Evil Dragons, with whom he is locked in endless conflict.
6 Nicol Bolas (Magic: The Gathering)
Nicol Bolas is considered by fans to be one of the major antagonists of the Magic: The Gathering lore. He is immortal, also going by the name the Forever Serpent, and at over 25,000 years old he may be the oldest being in existence, not to mention one of the oldest immortals in any franchise. His touch causes a mind-shattering effect, and he is one of the most powerful planeswalkers of the Multiverse. At one point Bolas fought a demonic leviathan for an entire month in a battle that reduced the Empire of Madara to a third of its original size and tore open the first temporal rift. As if that wasn’t enough, he then killed the Empress of Madara and reigned for 400 years as the god-emperor of the country.
During the Dragon War, Nicol Bolas emerged victorious as the most powerful of the five Elder Dragons to survive. Bolas is a master of three of the five mana colors of magic: blue, black, and red. He has many lifetimes’ experience in manipulating these. With his formidable powers and unrivaled intellect, Bolas would easily be able to defeat most beings in the M:TG universe.
5 Omega Shenron (Dragonball GT)
Super Yi Xing Long, commonly known from the English dubs as Omega Shenron, is the final supervillain of Dragonball GT. Omega Shenron is the powered-up result of Syn Shenron absorbing the Dragon Balls into his being and corrupting them with his negative energy. He is the seventh and last of the Shadow Dragons form from the build-up of negative energy inside the Dragon Balls. He is the dragon of absolute destruction, with the goal of destroying all life. He is easily able to defeat most of the main characters and was physically tearing the universe apart from the release of his negative energy.
Omega was capable of regenerating when harmed to a great extent. Even a direct hit from a 10x Kamehameha had no effect. Goku was unable to best Omega, even in his full power Super Saiyan 4 form. Only Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta was able to stand up to him, to which he responded with a technique called the Negative Karma Ball, described as the sum total of humanity’s evil. In the end, it took a Universal Spirit Bomb, a spirit bomb charged with the energy from across the entire universe, to take him down.
4 Akatosh (Elder Scrolls)
Akatosh is many things to many people in the Elder Scrolls series. To most of the population of Tamriel, he is the chief deity of the Nine Divines, or Aedra. To the Elven races, he is known as Auri-El, King of Aldmer, or alternatively Auri-El Time Dragon, king of the gods. The dragons call him Bormahu (father). But whatever name he is given by differing religious traditions, Akatosh is the most prominent god of the Cyrodilic Empire in Elder Scrolls and is generally considered to be the first deity to form. Akatosh is mostly associated with the flow of time and his avatar is depicted as a dragon, leading him to be called the Dragon God of Time.
Akatosh is the father of all dragons, including the world-destroying Alduin, who claims the title of “First-Born of Akatosh.” Like all the Aedra, Akatosh is immortal and non-corporeal, and rarely interferes directly in the affairs of mortals. He is mainly associated with eternal life, endurance, invincibility, and duty. The Warp in the West and the Dragon Breaks are thought to be the result of Akatosh temporarily losing control over time.
At the end of the Oblivion Crisis, Martin Septim was able to use the Amulet of Kings to summon the spirit of Akatosh and become his avatar, a dragon made of fire. The avatar of Akatosh easily defeated the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon and banished him back to Oblivion.
3 Tathamet (Diablo)
According to various myths in the Diablo universe, Tathamet was formed when Anu, the first being to exist, tried to cast out all evil from himself to achieve a state of purity. These elements coalesced into a seven-headed dragon that was the sum total of all evil. Anu and Tathamet then battled between themselves for countless eons until their energies were depleted. It ended when they both delivered final blows of light and darkness so terrible that it created the universe and killed them both.
Tathamet is an impressive dragon to begin with, being the manifestation of ultimate primordial evil. On top of this, he is the progenitor of hell itself. After his death, his blackened corpse fell down into the darkest corners of reality and the realm of the Burning Hells was born from it. The race of demons was spawned like maggots from his remains and his seven heads spawned the Great Evils.
2 Deathwing (World Of Warcraft)
Deathwing the Destroyer is one of the five Dragon Aspects in the MMORPG World of Warcraft and the leader of the black dragonflight. When Deathwing came out of the very crust of the world of Azeroth itself, his arrival reshaped the world through earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and floods. Whole parts of the world ended up underwater and permanent volcanic fissures were ripped open. This event came to be known as the Shattering, or the Cataclysm.
Deathwing was for all intents and purposes unstoppable. No force on Azeroth could destroy him, and he was only defeated by the other dragons sending adventurers back in time, seizing the Dragon Soul before Neitharion the World-Destroyer (Deathwing’s former moniker) could, and bringing it back to use against him. Without this action, Deathwing would have destroyed the world. Afterward, the other Dragon Aspects were drained of their power, having used it to destroy him.
Deathwing is several millennia old, with enormous physical and magical power. In-game, he has 858 million HP, the highest of any character. He also has control over the land, including magma and lava, and can easily withstand the temperatures inside volcanoes. According to the lore, though the Cataclysm was stopped, the world is still feeling the effects of Deathwing’s return.
1 Mag’ladroth, the Void Dragon (Warhammer 40k)
Mag’ladroth, also called the Void Dragon, is the most powerful of the C’tan, or Star Gods - god-like beings in the Warhammer 40k universe. It is one of the few remaining deities in the Milky Way Galaxy. It is said to be a master of the material realm, associated with oblivion and devastation. Mag’ladroth regularly turned into a cloud of dark light and consumed stars. Being the most powerful of all the Star Gods, it has the ability to create invincible warriors capable of channeling lightning into their opponents.
Mag’ladroth is believed by some Tech-priests to be the actual Machine God worshiped by the Cult of the Machine of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Some Tech-priests believe that the Void Dragon is the same as an unknown entity called the Dragon of Mars, who was imprisoned beneath the surface of Mars by the man who would become the God-Emperor of Mankind. By the 31st millennium, the Dragon of Mars still lies imprisoned beneath the Noctis Labyrinthus, and its true nature remains a mystery, though the description of it gives many clues pointing toward it being a Star God. If true, this would mean not even the God-Emperor of Mankind could kill the Void Dragon.
At one point, an ancient gem that is theorized by the fanbase to be a shard of Mag’ladroth was found by the Necron Arotepk Dynasty after assaulting the Eldar world of Silentia to obtain it. Though it was only a single shard of the Void Dragon, it managed to lay waste to the dynasty and consumed a dozen worlds in a mindless rage. Perhaps even more frightening, some theorize that Mag’ladroth is the only C’tan to never be shattered into shards and may be slumbering intact beneath surface of Mars, which is a terrifying prospect should it ever awaken again.
These qualities make Mag’ladroth the Void Dragon the most powerful dragon in all of fiction.