Don’t even get us started with this series. We loved it — absolutely, freaking, loved it.
It’s no secret that Naruto is a series full of highs and lows. One second your fanboying out over the many iconic characters only to cringe at their actions a few seconds later. And it only got worse as the series progressed.
Creator of the series Masashi Kishimoto is a genius who sculpted childhoods, no doubt about it. But by golly, did he frustrate a lot, if not all of his fans along the way. So let’s rank the arcs and try to pinpoint just where the series went wrong.
19 Fourth Shinobi World War: Confrontation (Shippuden)
The war arcs are easily some of the worst in the series, and no, it’s not even because they’re really that bad. So many classic villains and rumored legends show up. Zabuza, Haku and the Seven Swordsmen of the Mist, Hanzo the Salamander, Kimmimaro, the list goes on. But it all feels so “meh.”
Like Kishimoto just had too much on his plate and didn’t know how to balance out this many potentially great moments. In the end we just get a lot of lukewarm encounters over the course of too many episodes.
18 Fourth Shinobi World War: Countdown (Shippuden)
Once you get the Fourth Shinobi War hate train going there really isn’t anyway to stop it. “Countdown” for the most part is actually worse than “Confrontation,” but is saved by a few exceptional moments. Team seven reuniting destroys the nostalgia gauge and the fight between Tobi and Konan, while short lived, is still crazy entertaining.
But what truly steals the show in this arc is Kisame Hoshigaki, who takes himself out in a moment of sacrifice -- a decision that garners so much respect for his character. Everything else in this arc sucks, though.
17 Birth of the Ten-Tails Jinchuriki (Shippuden)
The disappointment continued to pile on as the Shinobi World War progressed. First, Tobi being Obito, that’s still a no-no for us (and probably a lot of fans) but that’s a rant for another day. Second, making him the Ten-Tails Jinchuriki was a colossal mistake and a waste of time, as he wouldn’t be the Jinchuriki for long.
Madara and Might Guy are the only reasons this arc is even watchable/readable, but truth be told, this one is a giant stinker.
16 Tenchi Bridge Reconnaissance Mission (Shippuden)
At the time, this arc was absolutely ripped apart by the fanbase. Most people couldn’t stand the sight of Sai Yamanaka, the newest addition to team seven and based on appearance and personality, an on-the-nose Sasuke clone. Plus, Yamato, the new leader for Team Seven was no Kakashi.
In retrospect though, this arc is pretty enjoyable. Naruto’s distaste towards Sai gets a good laugh and his all-out fight against Orochimaru is one of the most underrated in the series.
15 The Perfect Day for a Wedding (Shippuden)
Whether you were team NaruSaku or NaruHina, you still had to agree that Kishimto did our main character right in the last few episodes of Shippuden. This arc was full of a lot of really cool callbacks like seeing Iruka chosen to represent Naruto’s father -- despite his lack of presence in practically all of Shippuden.
It was also nice to see the drastic development of all the characters we grew up loving. Most of them much more mature at this point and on the cusp of their very own adult lives.
14 Kaguya Otsutsuki Strikes (Shippuden)
This arc is garbage for 90% of it. Kaguya is one of the worst villains in the series, if not the worst for taking out Madara Uchiha, the best villain, in the process of her once again rising to power.
The fight against her sucks too, as it’s just a hodgepodge of overpowered abilities going off left and right. Buuuuuut, this arc does also include the final, final fight between Naruto and Sasuke. And excuse my language, but that fight was the bee’s knees.
13 Mecha Naruto (Shippuden)
You won’t see any other filler-arcs turn up on this list, but “Mecha Naruto” is just a hoot of an arc. Created by Orochimaru, Mecha Naruto was one robot you didn’t want to mess with. He had Nine Tails-esque powers, lasers, formidability in Taijutsu and could turn into a car.
In addition to some well-engaging battles, this arc was also packed with a lot of great comedy -- it might be the funniest arc overall in Shippuden.
12 Search for Tsunade (Original)
Even the original series had some slouchers every now and then, but they were few. The “Search for Tsunade” starts off electric with a fight between Akatsuki members Itachi and Kisame against Hidden Leaf upper management, Kakashi, Kurenai and Asuma. Plus, we get a ridiculously hype and heavily foreshadowed battle between brothers.
There’s still some great moments in the end, like Naruto versus Kabuto, but this is easily the weakest arc in the original series.
11 Five Kage Summit (Shippuden)
Hype. It’s the only word that comes to mind when thinking back to this arc. Sasuke takes on all the five Kage and the entire time you feel like any small mistake could be his last. Tobi, now proclaiming to be the fated Madara Uchiha, declares war on all the nations. And Danzo, who may be the most underrated villain in the series, takes on our favorite Uchiha.
This arc was bananas and it was one of the few times in Shippuden that we felt real threat to our heroes and the philosophies that shaped them.
10 Tales of Jiraiya the Gallant (Shippuden)
Talk about an emotional rollercoaster of an arc. Here, we’re formally introduced to Pain, who besides Madara of course, is the greatest villain in Shippuden -- that is until he’s not, but more on that later.
Everything is perfect here -- the fights, intro and iconic demise of a character so great that Kishimoto didn’t even disgrace him with a dumb zombie revival. This is definitely one of the highest points for Shippuden. The only issue I find with it is it doesn’t have as much re-watchability as many other great arcs.
9 Fourth Shinobi World War: Climax (Shippuden)
The Shinobi World War sucked for the most part -- a common theme amongst many arcs in Shippuden. But like many of those arcs that sucked for the most part, it did have one redeemable quality, and in this instance it was one of the best redeemable qualities in the entire series -- Madara, freaking, Uchiha.
Where to even begin with this man. After taking on an entire army of elite shinobi soldiers he brings down a meteor -- and guess what? That meteor is followed by another meteor!? Is there really anything else to say?
8 Itachi Pursuit Mission (Shippuden)
This arc is crazy slept on -- sure, many would likely give it its dues. But to us, this is Shippuden at its best. It starts off with Orochimaru versus Sasuke and while that doesn’t live up to the incredibly immense hype, it’s still a great time nonetheless.
The real showstopper in this arc is Deidara and his best bud Tobi. These two are such great villains when paired together, it’s like an anime version of Pinky and the Brain. The Tobi mystery is built up to an all-time high and that fight between Deidara and Sasuke still gives us chills.
7 Versus Momoshiki (Boruto)
We gotta give Boruto some love, but I’m guessing a lot of you didn’t expect this much love. Yup, above Madara’s introduction and that explosive battle between Deidara and Sasuke because the first arc of Boruto is actually a real treat.
Our new protagonists take on Momoshiki, a relative of Kaguya who is better when it comes to villainy. Sure, a lot of the same events transpire here — Chunin Exams and such — but everything feels like it was given a loving touch again to create one fantastic arc that sits amongst the series’ best.
6 Fated Battle Between Brothers (Shippuden)
We were somewhat underwhelmed when this behind-hyped up battle reached its conclusion. “What’s up with Itachi?” “Was he sick?” Why did Orochimaru just burst out of Sasuke’s shoulder?” were just some of the questions that deflated the arc for us at the time. In retrospect, this is the one that changed everything.
Itachi wasn’t even fighting Sasuke, he was putting a plan into motion that he had been carefully crafting for what seemed like his entire life. We still believe this is a hate-it or love-it arc, though.
5 Pain’s Assault (Shippuden)
It’s time for top five territory y’all, and to start if off is one of the most controversial arcs in the entire series -- the Pain arc. No one really has any arguments about the first portion, that stuff is golden. What most people take issue with is the ending.
After tearing up the entire Leaf Village and leaving several main characters in the grave -- Pain, the villain of the arc revives everyone after a motivational speech from Naruto.
4 Akatsuki Suppression (Shippuden)
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the best arc in all of Shippuden, and the funniest part is it’s one nobody would’ve expected at the time. This arc had it all: laughs, tears and some rawer than raw fights that felt like the best in the series.
The villains here, Hidan and Kakazu aren’t even all that great if we had to be honest, but they feel real. Their actions directly result in some of the hardest hitting moments in the series and a fight involving Shikamaru that remains one of the best.
3 Land of Waves (Original)
And now, onto the OG’s.
What to be said of the Land of Wave except absolute perfection. There’s just so many scenes to talk about! We also love that throughout this entire arc you feel like the main characters actually have a chance at pushing up daisies. This is a must watch for literally anyone, get your momma in the room.
2 Chunin Exams (Original)
You almost don’t want to place anything above the Land of Waves, but if that arc is perfection, the Chunin Exams is perfection squared; there is just so much juicy nostalgia packed into this arc!!
Every episode of this arc is brilliant in every way -- unforgettable fights from the brutal Sasuke versus Zaku to the hilariously casual Shikamaru versus Temari. If you weren’t a fan of the series by this point you were definitely sold in this arc.
1 Sasuke Recovery Mission (Original)
But there’s just nothing that will ever top this behemoth. This is one of the best arcs in anime, period. Every great character from the Hidden Leaf gets their own time to shine here, with Neji, Choji and Rock Lee stealing the show. And it only gets better when the once foe, now friend Hidden Sand Village crew shows up.
Whatever happened to those food pills that Choji ate? Isn’t it weird that those things never showed up again?