Like every mainline Dragon Quest title, Dragon Quest IV hews closely to its predecessors. If you've played Dragon Quest I through III you'll find IV to be a familiar experience - albeit with some tweaks. And if you're brand-new to the Dragon Quest franchise, well... none of this will be familiar.

This guide will take you through the basics of Dragon Quest IV. If you've played other Dragon Quest games you can probably skip this article and move on to the rest of the walkthrough.


Dragon Quest IV is a turn-based role-playing game. Your objective, like other Dragon Quest games, is to build up a group of warriors and use them to defeat a fiendish villain who is threatening the world. To this end you'll need to explore towns, brave dungeons, speak to NPCs, and kill monsters. In other words, Dragon Quest IV is as quintessentially RPG as RPGs tend to get.

Most RPGs proceed in a linear format, focusing on a single main character and building a party as that character adventures. Dragon Quest IV gets to that point eventually. Unlike most RPGs Dragon Quest IV is broken up into a series of chapters, each giving you primary control over one or more characters. The fifth chapter then puts you in charge of the Hero, and they'll go around the world recruiting the PCs from the previous chapters.

The original Dragon Quest IV had five chapters. The remakes all include an informal sixth chapter, which takes place after you beat the main game.


When your party isn't engaged in combat they're poking around the world. Exploration in Dragon Quest IV takes place in a few different areas:
  • Towns and castles, where you can purchase new equipment, speak to NPCs, and gather items
  • Dungeons, where you can fight enemies, find treasure, and (occasionally) kill boss monsters
  • The world map, which you can use to travel between other locations
As you explore you'll find objects with which you can interact. Some objects, such as treasure chests, wardrobes, and dressers, can be opened and checked for items. Other items, such as pots and barrels, can be destroyed to find items. Whenever you're in town (and occasionally when you're in a dungeon) you should check every piece of furniture and destroy every container you find, as you never know when you'll find a hidden goody of some kind.

If you spend enough time on the world map you'll notice the passage of time. When day turns to night you may find different monsters prowling around in dangerous areas. Night time also changes the towns and castles you visit, and you'll often find NPCs saying different things at different times of the day. Checking a location at night may very well reveal an important clue that you would otherwise miss during the day.

When you're exploring towns and castles you're typically (but not always) safe. If you're on the world map or in a dungeon, however, walking around is an open invitation to get into a battle.


Combat in Dragon Quest IV is turn-based. At the beginning of each round the characters in your party can be issued commands, and then they - and the monsters - will take turns attacking one another. Wipe out the monsters and you'll win the fight; get wiped out and you'll earn a Game Over. You can have a total of four characters in your active party at any given time.

Every combatants in the game has two primary stats: Hit Points (HP) and Magic Points (MP). HP determines the health of the character, while MP determines how much magic they can use. If a character runs out of HP they keel over and die. If a character runs out of MP they can no longer use spells.

Each character in your party can choose from one of four commands at the beginning of a round:
  • Attack - The character uses their equipped weapon to smack an enemy
  • Magic - The character uses a spell to attack an enemy, heal a comrade, or apply buffs or debuffs
  • Items - The character uses an item in their inventory
  • Defend - The character raises their defenses, typically cutting the damage inflicted on them in half
In addition to the options above you can also attempt to Flee at the beginning of a round, before choosing anyone's actions. If successful your team will exit the battle. If unsuccessful no one in your party will get to take a move, and you'll have to endure a round of attacks from the monsters. You can't run from boss battles.

Generally speaking your goal in any given battle is to attack enemies until they run out of HP, without allowing any of your own characters to get knocked out. If you successfully defeat all of the enemies you'll earn experience, which strengthens your characters (and sometimes earns them new spells). You'll also earn gold which you can spend in towns and castles.

It is important to note that enemies appear in groups during combat. When you target a monster you are actually targeting its group. This means that the computer will decide which monster you hit in the group. There's nothing you can do about this besides reducing the group to a single monster. For the purposes of monster spells, your own party is considered a single group.

Characters keep their injuries between battles. If you're not close to an Inn, where you can restore everyone's health in exchange for gold, you should use spells or items via the menu to replenish HP. You can automate this process by choosing Heal All from the Misc. sub-menu, though this only works if you have spellcasters with healing spells in your party.

If a character gets knocked out in combat you can revive them with particular spells or items later on in the game, though early in Dragon Quest IV you'll need to drag them to a Church. Churches are located in towns and castles. If your entire party gets wiped out you'll be sent to the last Church you visited, and your Hero will be revived... though you'll need to pay the priest in the Church to revive everyone else.

Items, Equipment, and Inventory

While exploring you'll occasionally pick up or purchase items. Items can be single-use restoratives, multi-use items that cast spells, pieces of equipment that will strengthen your characters, or key items needed to progress the plot. You'll rely heavily on items throughout the game.

When visiting a Weapon or Armor Shop you can check how a new weapon or piece of armor will affect your character's stats by highlighting their character screen on the store menu. Pay close attention to the numbers, or you may wind up buying inferior equipment by mistake. Higher is always better in Dragon Quest IV.

Each character has twelve item slots in their personal inventory. Any equipment worn by the character takes up these slots, leaving around seven or eight slots for other items. If characters in your party can't hold an item it will be sent to the Bag, which can hold any number of items. You can transfer items in and out of the Bag between battles, but you can never use items inside the Bag when fighting monsters. 


In the original Dragon Quest IV (Famicom and NES version) you could only manually control the Hero in Chapter 5. This has changed in the remakes, and you can freely control all of your party members, save for the occasional, temporary NPC who joins. That said, you can still leave your other party members up to the whims of their programming, and that's where Tactics come in.

There are six different settings you can choose for your party members. They are as follows:
  • Show No Mercy - The character uses the most powerful attacks for a given situation, regardless of MP cost.
  • Fight Wisely - The character uses a balanced approach between offense and defense.
  • Watch My Back - The character sticks to support spells rather than offense or defense.
  • Don't Use Magic - The character will act without using MP. This can include using any multi-use items they have in their inventory, such as staffs that cast spells.
  • Focus On Healing - The character uses spells or multi-use items to restore any teammates that have taken damage.
  • Follow Orders - The character is manually controlled by the player.
You can apply Tactics at the beginning of each round, before you begin the attack phase. You can choose to apply the same Tactics to your whole party, or apply different Tactics individually. Note that you can never apply Tactics to the Hero.

Tactics are best used when fighting random enemies in the field. Your computer-controlled characters will occasionally make stupid decisions, and you don't want that to happen during boss battles. Make sure you deactivate any Tactics when you run into an enemy that's a cut above the rest.

The Wagon

For the first four chapters of Dragon Quest IV you'll have a set party of adventurers. Get a short way into the fifth chapter, however, and you'll gain the wagon. The wagon will allow you to swap out your team members whenever you're on the world map. Occasionally the wagon will follow you into dungeons, as well, and as long as it is around, you can choose your party however you like. Your party composition can be changed via the Line-Up option in the Misc sub-menu.

It's important to note that your whole party is considered part of battles when the wagon is present. This means that you can swap, say, a collapsed party member for a fresh one at any time you like. It's not a huge distinction when you're on the world map, but there are a few late-game battles where being able to swap between your whole party can prove quite useful.


Dragon Quest IV is a lengthy game, like most RPGs, and you probably can't finish it in one sitting. This means saving your game and coming back to it later. Dragon Quest IV follows the Dragon Quest trend of not allowing you to save anywhere you like, however, and you'll need to visit a Church to save. Speak to the priest and choose the first option. (Note that not every Church allows you to save. The ones that don't are in the minority, however.)

The remakes of Dragon Quest IV have another option for saving, as well: Quick Saves. Found in the Misc. sub-menu, Quick Saving allows you to immediately save your game. This will shut the game down, and when you reload your save file the Quick Save will be deleted. For the most part you don't want to use Quick Saves unless you're in a hurry and need to immediately turn your game off.

That covers the basics. Shall we get on with the game?