Goku has a reputation of being one of the strongest fictional characters in existence, with fan often pitting him up against the like of Superman or other all-powerful figures.
While we’re all used to Goku saving the day and beating the daylights of whatever threat the Earth, universe, or multi-verse are facing, he’s actually had his fair share of losses… some of which are painfully embarrassing.
Since the topic isn’t often discussed among fans, we’ve decided to compile almost of all of Goku’s dramatic losses into a single list, entitled Dragon Ball: Every Fight Goku Lost, Officially Ranked.
We’ll be picking all of our close calls, exhausting defeats and lousiest losses from the series proper, specifically Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, and Dragon Ball Super. While we are definitely huge fans of the franchise’s various movies, we wanted to keep things as pure as possible for this particular list (minus certain specific instances.)
You might be wondering exactly how one should rank losses, and it’s a good question. For this list, we’ve decided to go from the most embarrassing and worthless failures, moving up towards losses that were spectacular in terms of importance and spectacle, along with considering how hard Goku fought. In fact, we’d go as far as to describe the higher ranked losses “well-earned,” if you look at them from a certain point of view. In contrast, the losses that rank the lowest of the low are all endeavors that Goku probably should have won, but for one unworthy reason or another, didn’t.
With that out of the way, let’s get started with Goku’s worst moment…
25 Golden Frieza / Sorbet
The majority of Ressurection F was already so insufferable that we were kind of glad when Goku got what was coming to him. Regardless, this embarrassing moment is ranked at the absolute bottom simply because it just didn’t have to happen.
If Goku hadn’t let his newfound power go to his head, he wouldn’t have been in the predicament he found himself one, nor would he have found himself knocking on the Other World’s door after a single shot from Sorbet (of all people!)
This is why Superman always beats you in theoretical fights, Goku.
Plucked from the original Dragon Ball, this loss should probably rank a wee bit higher than it is, but come on… it’s Yamcha.
The butt of countless jokes for decades (despite recently regaining his honor in FighterZ), Yamcha is treated like a joke character, and yet, he was able to soundly defeat Goku.
Oh, and how did Goku lose? He lowered his guard due to being hungry during the scuffle. Much like the Sorbet debacle, Goku basically got what he deserved. Pathetic.
23 Cell Jr.
Goku didn’t have much luck during the Cell and Android sagas, and the loss against Cell Jr. is one of his worst moments.
The cruel, cackling, blue-tinted spawn of the “perfect being” thoroughly enjoyed the vicious beatdown it administered against our hero, and there really wasn’t anything Goku could do to stop it.
And do you know why he was so helpless against this awful little runt? It’s because he gave Cell (CELL!) a Senzu Bean.
Once again, Goku idiotically sabotages himself.
This is a loss that we would have had no complaints about. Goku genuinely did the best he could, but he was up against someone with a skill-set that he simply wasn’t prepared for. Key word being “would.”
Hit was physically powerful, but it was his master of the Time Skip that threw Goku for a loop. Goku would eventually learn to counter the technique, but it’s what happens after that that makes this match rank so low.
Goku eliminates himself from the battle, taking on a loss that he really shouldn’t have, simply because “it wasn’t fair.”
Despite Frost’s charming, philanthropic and friendly demeanor, it was no surprise to see that he was just as ruthless and conniving as his Universe 7 counterpart, Frieza.
This is something Goku should have known, even without (or perhaps specifically) considering the fact that Frost was far less powerful than Frieza.
And yet, once again, Goku proves his incompetency and lowers his guard, only to get wrecked by someone far weaker than himself. Nice work, dude.
Why does Goku never learn?
20 Perfect Cell
It was hard to rank this particular loss against Perfect Cell… heck, even calling it a “loss” required some extra thought, but we stand by it.
So what exactly happens here: Goku wants Gohan to use his newfound Super Saiyan 2 power to wipe the floor with Cell and finish him off.
Not a bad plan, but it wasn’t happening. So what does Goku do? He lets things go way too far and is then forced to sacrifice himself by using Instant Transmission to get himself and a self-destructing Cell away from Earth.
19 Android 19
To be fair, Goku was struggling from the effects of the dreaded and foretold heart disease, so he wasn’t quite at the level he should have been in any respect.
Still, though, to practically be done in by Android 19, the obese, doll-faced, squeaky-sounding nightmare fuel, is a hard stain to get out.
There is one positive element to this loss, though, and that’s how well it put over Vegeta and his new Super Saiyan form, creating a truly a legendary moment in the process.
18 Heart Virus
With all due respect to Goku, he legitimately did the best he absolutely could in this fight for his life. A far different showdown than what he was used to, Goku used his will to live, mental acuity and futuristic medicine to overcome this virus, and he did just that.
However, in the original version of the timelines, Trunks’ dreadful future, Goku is unable to survive this medical ordeal and, despite his best efforts, succumbs to the illness.
We really don’t hold it against him, but a loss is a loss.
17 Jackie Chun
Master Roshi, in disguise as Jackie Chun, decided to teach his powerful student a lesson that wouldn’t soon be forgotten.
The lesson was simple: despite his power and training, there’s always someone out there that’ll be better than you, and it was taught through a decisive battle during the Tenkaichi Budokai.
This was a meaningful loss and one that Goku definitely needed to experience. Unfortunately, Roshi’s intended lesson may have had an unintended negative impact on the boy, cultivating an addiction to seeking out greater power.
16 General Blue
This entry is an unusual one, as evaluating the battle between Goku and General Blue isn’t exactly a straightforward affair. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that Goku actually wins this fight, but there’s a reason we’re counting it as a “loss.”
During General Blue and Goku’s battle, Blue fully paralyzes the young fighter by using psychic powers that render him totally defenseless.
If it wasn’t for a nearby mouse (which broke Blue’s concentration), we doubt Goku would have been able to escape his fate.
15 Goku Black
The Future Trunks Saga finally started to turn things around for Super, and a large part of that was thanks to the brilliance of the villains Goku Black and Zamasu.
Goku Black is essentially Goku’s body being used by the fallen Kai, and, as you might imagine, he was quite the threat, even when up against the real Goku.
For some, this intense battle’s conclusion could be described as a draw, but for us, it seems clear that Goku was outmatched and out-thought, though we’ll cut him some slack since the situation was a quite a shock.
As one of Demon King Piccolo’s children, Tambourine is a monstrous and powerful force to be reckoned with, even for abnormally powerful Saiyan children.
In a straightforward battle, Tambourine not only manages to destroy the Flying Nimbus, but he practically beats Goku to his expiration point.
The truth of the matter is that Goku was exhausted after facing off with Tien, but a loss is a loss, and this one was hard to swallow, especially after Tambourine gloated about eliminating Krillin.
This is a weird one to think about, hence its middle of the road position within our rankings, and it’s certainly one of Goku’s strangest “losses.”
In short, Goku wasn’t exactly losing against Captain Ginyu. In fact, he was arguably gaining the upper hand. What happened next, however, is where things get dicey.
Ginyu outsmarts Goku and uses the infamous body switch to catch him off guard.
So while Goku wasn’t defeated in the traditional sense, he certainly lost the battle in terms of tactics and strategy.
Yamcha and Tien often get grouped together as being worthless, and while there’s some merit to that thought, we mustn’t forget that Tien nearly destroyed Cell with a barrage of Kikohos.
Everyone’s favorite three-eyed martial artist was also one of the few to beat Goku in direct combat… even though this World Tournament victory was really thanks to a lucky technicality.
Still, while Tien might not be able to compare with divine ki, he was able to sweep the floor with Goku, despite his official win being the result of a car crash.
Hailing from Dragon Ball GT, Baby was a great concept that was executed poorly (like just about everything else in GT.)
The creation of the long-extinct Tuffles, Baby existed to get revenge against the Saiyans for the destruction of his race, and he almost totally accomplishes this mission.
Goku fought hard against the extremely powerful foe, but his child body couldn’t stand up to the rigors of Super Saiyan 3 for long, which resulted in his painful defeat.
SSJ4 would later change the tide, but it doesn’t erase this loss.
10 Mercenary Tao
A villain from early in the franchise, Mercenary Tao (or “Tao Pai Pai,” depending on your preference) was one of the first characters to pose a real threat to the abnormally strong Goku.
In fact, let’s be brutally honest about the first time these characters faced off against each other: Goku was so dreadfully outfought and overpowered that the only reason he even survived the ordeal was that he had a Dragon Ball on him at the time.
Goku learned a valuable lesson that day, and he’s lucky that he lived long enough to think about it.
Janemba, an strange mix between the devil, Cell, and Majin Buu, may be a mere movie villain, but he’s one that demonstrated a level of power that few others could measure up to.
Assuming full control of the Other World and the laws that govern it, Janemba was a deadly foe and Goku knew it.
Despite starting out playfully, Goku got serious when he had to and unleashed Super Saiyan 3 in the hopes of ending things fast.
Unfortunately, despite this earnest display of pure power, he was no match for the beast, but we can’t say he didn’t try.
Kale, the new Broly before we actually got a new Broly, is a berserk Super Saiyan from Universe 6, and one that has seemingly unlimited power.
Posing a danger to not only herself, but every one around her, her relentless and explosive rage needed to be contained quickly.
Goku did his best, but even his extensive powers weren’t capable of subduing the beast. Instead, it was the stoic and solemn Jiren who had to rein in the titanic Saiyan, while a battered Goku lay defeated in a pile of rubble.
The fight against Raditz was radical for a number of reasons, not the least of which involved Goku teaming up with his equally powerful nemesis and still getting the tar beat out of him to the point where the only option left was to sacrifice himself.
Despite the impressive power of both Goku and Piccolo, neither one of them (even with the help of the latently-mighty Gohan) were a match against Raditz and had essentially lost the battle.
Though they eventually came out on top… Goku had to take a loss in the form of a Special Beam Cannon.
6 King Piccolo
The first truly powerful and frightening villain of the entire Dragon Ball franchise, King Piccolo was essentially the devil himself and almost no one could measure up to him… not even Goku.
Goku was as brave as possible, using all of the power available to him, fully knowing that he probably still wasn’t a match for the evil King. Indeed, he wasn’t.
While King Piccolo essentially dismantles the poor boy, the reason this loss ranks so high is that Goku truly stood against evil, despite the cost.
“Goku didn’t lose!”
Except he did. Yes, it was incredibly close, and both men were beaten and broken in ways that nothing has ever come close to again, but Goku was unquestionably defeated.
Goky had every bone in his body was broken and every well of energy totally exhausted. Meanwhile, Vegeta, despite being in terrible shape, was at least able to crawl and escape, something Goku had no chance of.
Regardless, Goku went all in with this battle, giving everything he had (including “the weasel’s last fart”), but still lost, but that’s what makes it so great.
4 Fused Zamasu
Earlier in this list, we lamented and lambasted the losses that Goku should have been able to avoid if he wasn’t so careless or idiotic. The battle against the many forms of Zamasu, however, is a different case all together.
Upon his apparent “defeat” the almighty deity literally became the entire universe.
At this point, there was absolutely nothing that Goku, Vegeta, or anyone else could do to defeat Zamasu.
A truly humbling moment for our heroes, they need only take solace in the fact that they did everything they could… it just wasn’t enough.
3 Majin Vegeta
The long-awaited rematch between Vegeta and Goku, despite its sinister purpose, was exactly the kind of long, drawn-out slug fest that fans (and Vegeta) had been craving for years.
After a brutal battle, Goku was dealt a loss at the hands of his long-time rival… although it’s likely because he didn’t use his Super Saiyan 3 powers. And the fact that Vegeta had tricked Goku into believing the fight was over.
Regardless, Goku did the best he could and knew that he needed to save that power for a later time, so this was a respectable, calculated loss in the name of the greater good.
For all the failings of Jiren as a worthwhile character, there’s no denying his absurd level of might (despite the immense suspension of disbelief that’s required.)
Aside from the Ultra Instinct fluke, Goku wasn’t really a match for Jiren in any capacity, but that didn’t stop him from using every last drop of his power to defy the stoic warrior.
While Goku would later achieve victory with the help of his allies, it’s his loss against this foe that really proves the kind of man Goku is.
Man versus god.
That’s what this match is, and no matter how badly the scales were tipped in Beerus’ favor, Goku would not let him destroy his world.
While Goku certainly has gone all out elsewhere on this list, this particular battle is one that he must have known there was absolutely no chance of winning. In truth, there wasn’t, but that didn't stop him from fighting like there was, though.
For a man to battle this hard against an immovable embodiment of a cosmic concept while knowing that there isn’t a chance at victory makes this the ultimate loss.