Dragon's Lair is a laserdisc video game published by Cinematronics in 1983. In the game, the protagonist Dirk the Daring is a knight attempting to rescue Princess Daphne from the evil dragon Singe who has locked the princess in the foul wizard Mordroc's castle. It featured animation by ex-Disney animator Don Bluth. Most other games of the era represented the character as a sprite, which consisted of a series of pixels displayed in succession. Due to hardware limitations of the era, artists were greatly restricted in the detail they could achieve using that technique; the resolution, framerate and number of frames were severely constrained. Dragon's Lair overcame those limitations by tapping into the vast storage potential of the LaserDisc, but imposed other limitations on the actual gameplay. The success of the game sparked numerous home ports, sequels and related games. In the 21st century it has been repackaged in a number of formats (such as for the iPhone) as a "retro" or historic game. It is currently one of only three video games (along with Pong and Pac-Man) in storage at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The first sequel (disregarding the Escape from Singe's Castle as one) Dragon's Lair II: Time Warp was released in 1991 by Leland Corporation. It is regarded as the first "true" sequel to Dragon's Lair and takes place years after it. Dirk has married Daphne, and the marriage has produced several children. When Daphne is kidnapped by the evil wizard Mordroc in order to be forced into marriage, Dirk's children are clearly upset by the abduction of their mother, and Dirk must once again save her. Home ports of the game were announced for the Philips CD-i, 3DO Interactive Multiplayer, and Jaguar CD. However, only the CD-i version was actually released, though non-playable demos of the 3DO and Jaguar CD versions appear on those consoles' respective versions of Brain Dead 13. The game was later ported to the Wii as part of the compilation release Dragon's Lair Trilogy.
Dragon's Lair III: The Curse of Mordread was made for Amiga and DOS in 1993, mixing original footage with scenes from Time Warp that were not included in the original PC release due to memory constraints. The game also included a newly produced "Blackbeard the Pirate" stage that was originally intended to be in the arcade game but was never completed.
Dragon's Lair 3D: Return to the Lair was developed in 2002, as a 3D interpretation of the game developed by Dragonstone Software and released by Ubisoft for Microsoft Windows, Xbox, GameCube and the PlayStation 2. It is based on the original Dragon's Lair, and follows a similar story as Dirk must enter Mordroc's castle to rescue Princess Daphne from a dragon. Many of the characters and locations from the 1983 original make appearances in the game, along with new puzzles, rooms and enemies. The game uses cel shading to mimic the distinctive style of the original. Bluth produced two new animated sequences for the opening and ending of the game.
In 2005, Digital Leisure created a new Dragon's Lair III which utilized 3D footage from Dragon's Lair 3D, but controlled via a system like the original arcade games.
Dragon's Lair also led to the creation of 1984's Space Ace, another game animated by Don Bluth and his crew. Space Ace was also a ROM and disc upgrade kit for the Dragon's Lair cabinets, complete with new control panel overlay, side art and header.
Dirk the Daring is the main protagonist of the first game and subsequent franchise. He is a valiant knight of the kingdom, Dirk was entrusted with the rescue of Princess Daphne from the clutches of Mordroc and Singe because all other knights were killed. He becomes heir to the throne upon saving Princess Daphne; following her rescue, Dirk and Daphne were married. In the original Dragon's Lair, Dirk was voiced by the game's director. Retro Gamer included him on their list of top 50 game characters in the category "Top Ten Forces of Good" and called him "without a doubt, the epytome of the heroic knight."
The game led to the creation of a short-lived television cartoon series, Dragon's Lair by Ruby-Spears Productions where Dirk the Daring was voiced by Bob Sarlatte and the unseen storyteller that narrates each episode is voiced by Clive Revill. Changes in the TV series included the originally nameless Dragon was given the name Singe (voiced by Arthur Burghardt), Princess Daphne (voiced by Ellen Gerstell) now wore a long pink dress, and included some exclusive characters like Princess Daphne's father King Ethelred (voiced by Fred Travalena), Dirk the Daring's horse Bertram (vocal effects provided by Peter Cullen), Dirk the Daring's squire Timothy (voiced by Michael Mish), and Dirk the Daring's rival Sir Hubert Blunt (voiced by Peter Cullen). Several enemies from the original game also make their appearance as adversaries, such as the Lizard King, the Phantom Knight, the Giddy Goons, and the Mudmen. Thirteen half-hour episodes were produced and aired on the ABC network from September 8, 1984, to April 27, 1985. It was last aired on the USA Cartoon Express between the late '80s and the early '90s. The show was generally run of the mill, but boasted an unusual feature: to keep the show in the spirit of the game, before each commercial break the storyteller would ask what the viewer would do to solve the problem facing Dirk. After the commercial break, the outcomes of the various choices were shown before Dirk acts on the correct idea (with the occasional exception) to save the day.
A comic book miniseries based on the game, but incorporating elements from the cartoon series as well, like Dirk's horse Bertram, was released in 2003 by Crossgen Publishing, concurrent with a mini series based on Space Ace. Arcana Studio published the entire comic book series in 2006, as there were three issues that were never before published.