The Dragon Ball franchise is one of the most influential and well-known series in the entire genre of animation. Starting humbly with the original Dragon Ball, then transitioning into the action-packed Dragon Ball Z, then going even further beyond into Dragon Ball GT, and finally reaching the current series, Dragon Ball Super.
Within each of these distinct series there are a collection story arcs known as “Sagas,” often named after the main story element or villain at the center of the plot.
With so many series and so many sagas to choose from, it’s totally understandable that not all of them measure up in terms of quality. In fact, quite a large chunk of them are barely better than garbage. On the other hand, some of the sagas are arguably the best the Shonen genre has ever seen.
With so many options and such a varying level of quality, determining the best of the best and the worst of the worst can be a daunting task for fans new and old. Fear not, though, as this is where we come in!
With our list of Dragon Ball: Every Single Saga From The Original Series To Super, Ranked From Worst To Best, we’ve painstakingly combed through every moment of every series, from the fun adventures of the original Dragon Ball to troubled, modern-day Dragon Ball Super, to give the ultimate ranking of saga quality.
When it came to the actual credentials we used to make our judgments, we looked at storytelling, pacing, characters, general plot and more.
Now let’s get started with the absolute lowest quality saga in the franchise’s history.
30 God of Destruction, Beerus Saga
The start to Dragon Ball Super is not only disappointing, but it's easily the worst saga in the entire franchise. Yes, even worse than the Garlic Jr. Saga.
It’s not just that its art and animation are legendarily awful, but rather because it comes off as some cheap knock-off of a far better version, namely the Battle of Gods film, which it is supposedly retelling.
Skip this saga and opt for the film instead. You’ll have better art, pacing and storytelling, and you won’t feel the need to self-destruct.
29 Golden Frieza Saga
Yet another one of Dragon Ball Super’s earliest sagas, the Golden Frieza arc suffers from the same problems as the God of Destruction, Beerus arc.
It has excruciatingly ugly animation and laughably terrible art, but it also fumbles around with retelling a story that, frankly speaking, was already terribly weak to start with.
Again, if you absolutely must trudge through this particular story, go for the movie version, Resurrection F, instead. While it’s only arguably better than the Dragon Ball Super version (considering it’s the same story), at least it’s better paced and less ugly.
28 Copy Vegeta Saga
Dragon Ball Super just can’t get a break, can it?
In this needless filler saga, the gang comes across some “mystic water” (or some such nonsense), but it’s actually an evil alien weapon and it turns into a copy of Vegeta…. Or something.
Here’s the thing about this saga: it’s poorly planned, poorly executed, and generally pointless.
The only good part is that Funimation got Brian Drummond, Vegeta’s Ocean Dub voice actor, to perform as the copy, and that is pretty great.
27 Tien Shinhan Saga
Hailing from the original (and beloved) Dragon Ball, the Tien Shinhan arc is by far the least interesting portion of the series.
Focusing on the Crane School’s hopes of getting revenge against Master Roshi and his pupils, it plays off like a weaker version of the far better Tournament saga, which is more than enough of a foible to trip it up at the start.
It’s not that the characters or intentions are uninteresting, either. It’s just… why do this again when there’s the Tournament saga? It certainly doesn't help that the anime version butchers the pacing of the original manga's arc.
26 Garlic Jr. Saga
It’s probably a shock to some that this isn’t at the bottom of the list, but makes no mistake; the Garlic Jr. Saga is still really bad.
Garlic Jr. himself is an interesting enough villain, and it’s cool to see a lot of the Heavenly Realm and the inner-workings of being Kami, but the saga is poorly paced and feels like it drags on far too long.
Garlic Jr. usually gets the short end of the stick, and this is the reason why. There are really cool moments for sure, but they don’t make sitting through this filler worthwhile.
25 Great Saiyaman Saga
Maybe we’re in the minority here (among fans and the characters within the series), but we think the Great Saiyaman’s helmet is really cool (we never really got the appeal of the bandanna and sunglasses). Still, it’s not enough to elevate the status of this pointless side-story.
Unlike most of the previous entries on this list, this saga isn’t really “bad,” per se, it’s just painfully mediocre and unfulfilling.
While it’s nice to spend time with a more grown-up Gohan and seeing how he lives his life, but… come on, let’s get to the next major story, ya know?
24 Super 17 Saga
Dragon Ball GT is notorious within the community for its inferior quality when compared to its predecessors, and although it does have some worthwhile gems, the Super 17 Saga is not one of them. Not even close.
Like most things in GT, the concept is interesting but the execution is terrible.
The idea of two deceased, evil scientists working together to create an evil Android 17, and then having it fuse with the other 17 to become Super 17 is awesome, but the saga is way too short and all over the place for it to have any meaning.
23 Other World Saga
The Other World adventures of the angelic Goku living it up in the after life is one of those delightfully kooky Dragon Ball concepts that’s hard not to like. Unfortunately, much like the Great Saiyaman Saga, it’s hampered by being generally pointless.
While we get to meet a collection of new and interesting characters, including the fan-favorite Pikkon, you just can’t shake the feeling that this saga solely exists to waste time before the next big plotline. And the sad truth is that that is exactly what it is doing.
22 Universe 6 Saga
The multiverse concept in Dragon Ball Super is one of its most intriguing elements, and it was a great basis for the Universe 6 arc.
Thanks to a tournament between Universe 6 and 7, we get to meet cool new characters like Hit and discover that Saiyans still exist! There’s also Frost, Frieza’s supposedly virtuous doppelganger.
What makes this saga falter is that, despite its impressive world building, it’s a lazy plot that exists solely for exposition… and probably buying time for the following saga.
21 Red Ribbon Army Saga
The Red Ribbon Army was a serious threat in the original Dragon Ball, but they wouldn’t reach their full potential and impact until Dragon Ball Z (where Dr. Gero and his vengeance would be retconned into the plotline.)
Unfortunately, despite some charming character moments, the Red Ribbon Army saga just doesn’t measure up to the incredibly influential and impactful sagas that preceded it (and would follow it.)
Even when compared to the rest of the franchise, it feels like more of a footnote in terms of overall enjoyment and plot.
20 Fortuneteller Baba Saga
The Fortuneteller Baba Saga is short, but it’s intrinsically tied into the overarching plot of acquiring the titular Dragon Balls. It also has a fantastic sequence featuring Goku’s Grandpa Gohan, which also manages to do some critical world-building in regards to the Other World and the land of the living.
Other than that, though, there’s not really much overall merit to the arc, and it isn’t exactly worth watching in its entirety. If you’re trying to do a speedy a viewing of the original series, you should just skip to the critical parts of this saga and then move on.
19 World Tournament Saga
This brief saga acts as a prelude to the Buu Saga, as it puts all of the major players into action. It also has an absolutely hilarious “recap” of the Cell Games, produced by the ever-reliable Mr. Satan, that recounts exactly who saved the Earth from Cell (spoiler alert: it was Hercule.)
It’s always fun to see the characters just living their lives (as opposed to being in battle). It’s a nice change of pace.
Sadly, for all of the enjoyable parts of this story, it really is nothing more than a prelude to the imminent Buu Saga.
18 Black Star Dragon Balls Saga
Dragon Ball GT’s very first saga, and the very first warning sign that something was off about the show.
In an attempt to do a throwback to the original series, Goku is transformed back into a kid and is then sent on an intergalactic quest to acquire the Black Star Dragon Balls.
While there’s nothing wrong with that concept, Goku as a kid isn’t a welcome change, and the adventure itself doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original Dragon Ball.
It’s not painful like the Super 17 Saga, but it’s boring, and that’s not good for Dragon Ball.
17 Ginyu Saga
We struggled with ranking the so-called “Ginyu Saga,” as it’s only seven episodes long and really isn’t too far divorced from either the Namek or Frieza Sagas. But, then again, it contains some of the absolute best battles in the franchise, and it maintains the overall tension and threat of Frieza’s overwhelming force while combining it with Goku’s glorious arrival, creating an utterly euphoric viewing experience in the process.
So maybe this saga doesn’t stand perfectly on its own two legs, but when watched in context, it’s truly awesome. Plus the antics of Captain Ginyu and his force are hilarious.
16 Shadow Dragon Saga
The final saga of GT, the Shadow Dragons were extremely powerful villains borne out of the Z Fighters’ overuse of the Dragon Balls.
Like all things GT, this is a great concept, but it’s not executed as well it should have been.
Still, it’s hard to not be sucked in by the premise, and it features arguably the best action in GT. Plus, we get to see Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta and, let’s be real, he’s one of the coolest characers in the franchise.
15 Tournament Saga
Dragon Ball’s Tournament Saga isn’t just a great a moment in the franchise. It essentially created an entire trope or, at the very least, refined it into form it takes today.
The idea of a “tournament saga” is one of the most widely used sequences in anime and manga, and it’s mind-boggling to consider that it’s modern take was basically born here.
It’s not really a surprise, though, as Dragon Ball’s tournament saga is a fantastic piece of storytelling filled with exciting action.
14 Trunks Saga
This miniscule “saga” introduced the world to one of the most popular characters in the entire franchise of Dragon Ball: Trunks.
Maybe it was his attitude, or the fact that he was a Super Saiyan. Maybe it was his sword.
Either way, watching this mysterious kid from the future absolutely wreck Frieza, King Cold and an entire legion of their best troops is one of the most legendary sequences in Dragon Ball Z.
This is a rare case of a saga solely existing to set up the next major arc, but actually being worthwhile and exciting in its own right.
13 Android Saga
The start of the Android Saga is borderline frightening. Trunks warns the Z Fighters of an apocalyptic future where almighty Androids wipe just about everyone out, so our heroes train until the fateful day.
There are twists and turns regarding the Androids and who created them, and we get to see Vegeta at his most Vegeta-y i.e. his incredible Super Saiyan transformation and the ruthless, smug cruelty he displays as he dismantles the pathetic Android 19.
It’s a great and well-paced saga, but it unfortunately loses its steam near the end, holding it back from a higher ranking.
12 Baby Saga
The Baby Saga of GT follows the series’ track record of really cool ideas that don’t reach their full potential, but it does it the best.
Baby is a weapon created by the extinct Tuffles, whose only purpose is to get revenge on the Saiyans.
Deftly tying into the Black Star Saga while expertly reintroducing beloved characters (and thrusting them into action), Baby was a real and memorable threat that nearly succeeded in his goal… if it weren’t for the awesome Super Saiyan 4 transformation (which he is basically responsible for creating.)
11 Future Trunks Saga
This is the moment when Dragon Ball Super finally got serious.
Admittedly, the Future Trunks Saga is a heavy-handed overdose of fan service: we get fan-favorite sword-wielding Future Trunks, and evil Goku and even Vegito. What makes this saga so much more than cheap fan-pleasing, though, is that it actually contains a worthwhile story with one of the franchise’s greatest and most complex villains.
Zamasu and Goku Black are truly outstanding villains with a great story backing them up, and that adds more than enough gravitas and purpose to this saga to rank it as high as this.
10 Buu Saga
The last major storyline of DBZ, the Buu Saga is… well… one of the weakest. It’s not bad, but it’s bloated and drags on. It also feels like someone is trying to sell us toys with the Fusion concept and the new transformations and characters.
There’s still a lot of merit, though. The SSJ3 transformation (particularly the dub) is amazing, as is the incredible conclusion to Vegeta’s character arc with his selfless sacrifice. We can’t forget Ultimate Gohan, either.
Buu himself isn’t an interesting villain, and the overall story isn’t great, but the level of spectacle is top tier.
9 Emperor Pilaf Saga
There’s not really any doom and gloom or even serious tension, action or drama in Dragon Ball’s first saga, but it doesn’t matter. This is Dragon Ball at its most pure and, arguably, its most timeless.
This is a “mystical adventure” following a kooky cast of characters out to acquire the mysterious “Dragon Balls,” and it’s the epitome of fun. It’s also laugh-out-loud hilarious, even to this day.
While the original Dragon Ball might not be for everyone, it’s impossible to deny how fantastic the Pilaf Saga really is.
8 Namek Saga
The Namek Saga starts with filler, but it isn’t wasteful. In fact, it only builds excitement for when our heroes finally make it to the alien world, and it totally pays off… just not in the way you expect.
Featuring our first introduction to Frieza and his deadly cohorts, the Namek Saga is a tightly written story that maintains a level of tension and terror that few other moments in the franchise measure up to.
Seeing the overwhelming evil on display while knowing that Krillin and Gohan were powerless to stop it made for a seriously nerve-wracking and excellent experience.
7 Peaceful World Saga
The final saga in Dragon Ball Z, “Peaceful World” is boring to some and pointless to others. There are no major developments. There isn’t a serious plot. And yet… it still feels like the perfect conclusion to the series.
It’s a fitting epilogue, and it’s wonderful to see our beloved characters truly experiencing genuine peace… but those aren’t the reasons it ranks so high on this list.
No, the real reason we hold this saga in such high regard is due to how impactful its emotional punch is.
If a DBZ fan claims they didn’t shed a tear, they’re lying.
6 Piccolo Jr. Saga
Piccolo Jr. is the reincarnation/child of Demon King Piccolo, the first ultra-powerful villain in the franchise (who we’ll be getting to in a bit.)
This Saga basically leads directly into Dragon Ball Z, and it’s filled with incredible drama, storytelling and action that not only sets the stage for the next series, but also acts as the perfect conclusion to Dragon Ball itself.
Plus, who could say no to watching Piccolo be an outright villainous and dreaded nemesis? Not a single soul.
5 Cell Saga
Once the Cell Saga starts, it makes the Android Saga feel like a lame prologue.
Cell is a fantastic concept: a villain created from the cells of the heroes and villains who possesses all of their powers (and then some.)
While the storytelling is occasionally sloppy, the Cell Saga probably has the most fan-favorite moments out of any other in DBZ. We get Gohan taking center stage, Super Saiyan 2, Vegeta’s Final Flash, Tien actually doing something and Piccolo’s glorious beatdown of Imperfect Cell.
Even though the show continued, Cell’s demise would have been the perfect ending to the series.
4 Demon King Piccolo Saga
The Demon King Piccolo Saga was the first time that the Dragon Ball franchise got genuinely serious.
While there was plenty of action in preceding sagas, it was (for the most part) buffered with humor and a lighthearted tone… but that isn’t exactly the case with Demon King Piccolo.
With beloved characters being sent to their graves and Goku barely surviving his own encounters with the Demon King, the tension is insanely high… as is the level of enjoyment. This is Dragon Ball at its best.
3 Universe Survival Saga
We had our doubts that Dragon Ball Super would ever reach the heights of its predecessors, but with its final saga, it almost exceeded them.
The Universe Survival Saga is the tightest arc in the entirety of DBS, and is coupled with gorgeous animation and well-developed characters, the high-stakes tournament for the sake of the multiverse is one of the best moments of the entire franchise.
It’s not without weak moments, but it’s a small price to pay for the insane conclusion of the tournament, with hated enemies uniting and giving they’re all in the name of their universe’s survival.
2 Saiyan Saga
The first saga of Dragon Ball Z is also one of its best. Before there were elaborate transformations and casual displays of cosmos-smashing power, there was just a group of fighters who trained as hard as they could and gave everything they had to defeat incredibly powerful and evil invaders.
The stakes were extremely high, and with characters dropping left and right (including Goku himself!), the entire situation seemed supremely hopeless.
The spirit of what makes the entire series (even franchise) work was born in the crucible of the Saiyan Saga.
This changed everything.
1 Frieza Saga
The Saiyan Saga might have gotten the ball rolling on what DBZ was all about, but the Frieza Saga finalized it for all time.
The pacing would never be better. The direness of the situation would never feel more real. This was truly truly the apex of the series and perhaps the very concept of the franchise itself.
You are totally invested in seeing Frieza get what he deserves, no matter how impossible it may seem. And when that long-awaited Super Saiyan transformation occurs, you’ll know what it means to be fully satisfied by the power of great storytelling.