Throughout its 25 years of serialization, One Piece has produced some of the highest quality story arcs in anime and manga. Author Eiichiro Oda has a habit of outdoing himself, making each arc better than the last.
Stretches like Alabasta through Enies Lobby, Sabaody through Marineford, and Dressrosa through (so far) Wano are shining examples of this. Yet while many One Piece arcs are consistently impressive and engaging, not all are so well received both critically and commercially.
Note: Since the Wano arc is ongoing, it will not be included on this list.
Pre-time-skip arcs dominate the best in One Piece
1) Enies Lobby
For many One Piece fans, Enies Lobby is the absolute peak of the series. The story and stakes are masterful, and the fights are incredibly engaging and exciting.
The addition of Franky and Robin's side-by-side development and its nearly flawless execution serves as the cherry on top of this masterpiece.
The Marineford arc is the other arc that many fans point to as One Piece's peak. Luffy's solo adventures are incredibly endearing for many, as they demonstrate his indomitable will, which manifests through and introduces Conqueror's Haki formally.
His storyline here is incredibly rewarding, despite his eventual failure in saving his brother, Ace.
3) Whole Cake Island
In terms of completed post-time-skip arcs, Whole Cake Island is the best yet for many One Piece fans. Luffy versus Katakuri and Luffy versus Sanji stand out as the two major highlights of the arc.
The former is incredibly engaging and marks a significant step for Luffy, while the latter draws viewers in emotionally with this fight between former friends.
At one time, Alabasta was mentioned in the same breaths as Enies Lobby and Marineford. While still a quality arc, One Piece's storylines since have somewhat pushed it to the wayside.
All in all, however, Alabasta is still one of the series' inarguable high points and arguably its best-constructed arc as a whole.
Like other post-time-skip One Piece arcs, Dressrosa's main criticism is its length. However, when ignoring this problem, the arc is a masterpiece from start to finish.
Donquixote Doflamingo is still the series' best antagonist for many, and the debut of Gear Fourth is an iconic moment still discussed today and will be for years to come.
6) Arlong Park
Many hardcore fans of the series cite Arlong Park as where they felt the series was indeed something special. Its main limitations are its short length and the quality of choreography in some fights.
However, the emotional stakes and writing are some of the best in the series, even more than 20 years later.
7) Impel Down
Impel Down serves as the appetizer to the main course that is Marineford. It sets the stakes of the war and shows viewers how much Luffy has to suffer to save his brother.
The series also shows the second and latest interaction between him and Blackbeard, who are essentially antitheses of one another.
8) Sabaody Archipelago
The Sabaody Archipelago arc is exciting and of excellent quality for many reasons. It gets viewers excited for the New World and what's to come in its early stages.
In its later stages, it becomes a heartbreaking subversion of expectations with a shocking, saddening, and undoubtedly unexpected ending.
9) Water 7
The Water 7 arc serves as the buildup segment to Enies Lobby, introducing Franky and beginning to touch on Robin's yet-disclosed past. It sets the stage for the conflict, which fully matures into Enies Lobby and shows some of Luffy's hardest decisions as captain yet.
Despite its lack of popularity amongst the anime fanbase, manga readers typically agree that Skypiea is a high point for the series. Enel is an incredibly engaging villain, directly opposing Luffy's ideals and embodiment of freedom.
Loguetown is one of the two shortest arcs in One Piece, yet it is jam-packed with tons of foreshadowing and symbolism for Luffy's goal. The arc sees him likened to Gol D. Roger, the former Pirate King, twice in its five-chapter span.
It also introduces his father, who is formally named and has his significance revealed much later.
12) Thriller Bark
The Thriller Bark arc sees the Straw Hats come into conflict with yet another Shichibukai in the form of Gecko Moriah. It doesn't add a ton to the story overall until its end, but the fights within are incredibly engaging, peaking in a group effort of the Straw Hats versus a literal giant.
The arc's closing moments focused on Zoro also live on in fans' minds as a high point of One Piece.
13) Post-Enies Lobby
The Post-Enies Lobby arc is the first "Post-" arc in One Piece. It sees the Straw Hats receive their new ship, the Thousand Sunny, as well as regain Robin and Usopp as crew members, and bring on Franky.
Coby and Helmeppo also cameo in this arc, alongside Luffy's grandfather, Monkey D. Garp, who reveals his father to be Monkey D. Dragon.
The Revery arc sees the news of the Straw Hat's defeating Big Mom heard worldwide by their companions. It also shows the Revolutionary Army finally beginning to make their move on the World Government.
The two final highlights see the arc introduce Im-sama, one of One Piece's most enigmatic characters, and dub Luffy the world's unofficial Fifth Emperor of the Sea.
15) Drum Island
Drum Island introduces fan-favorite Tony Tony Chopper, and does so in an incredibly endearing way. While the arc isn't the most action-packed, there is one Luffy moment held in incredibly high regard.
Chopper's backstory also marked, up to this point, easily the best in One Piece and still is currently ranked incredibly high amongst fans.
The Jaya arc serves as the buildup to the Skypiea arc and has one of Luffy's best "one-punch" moments in One Piece. It's not incredibly exciting, but it does serve a purpose in the story at large by introducing Blackbeard and Montblanc Noland via flashback.
17) Reverse Mountain
Reverse Mountain serves as the other shortest arc in One Piece alongside Loguetown, yet both are incredibly important. It introduces Laboon, who plays a crucial role in Brook's backstory when he's introduced in Thriller Bark.
Crocus also gives fans an incredibly crucial moment of foreshadowing in the arc's final pages, though not much happens outside of these points.
18) Little Garden
Little Garden introduces Dory and Broggy, two fan-favorite characters, and formally introduces Baroque Works and setting up Alabasta. The fights here are solid, though not the series' best, and fans often point to Dory and Broggy as the highlights of this short and sweet One Piece arc.
19) Amazon Lily
Amazon Lily is engaging in the sense that it immediately follows Sabaody, which sees the Straw Hats' first loss. The arc loses some steam in the middle, despite solid fights with Luffy versus the Hancock sisters being present.
In its final stages, the arc somewhat redeems itself by setting up Marineford.
20) Romance Dawn
Romance Dawn serves as the first arc in One Piece, and while not the series' best, it's certainly not its worst. It introduces Zoro, establishing him as the vice-captain of the crew, as well as Coby and Helmeppo, who play more prominent roles later on.
As far as introductory arcs go, it's well-written, but there are many much better arcs throughout One Piece at large.
The Post-War arc sees the fallout from Marineford, mainly focusing on the emotional impact of Ace's death on Luffy and others. In particular, the protagonist's pain is engaging to watch, with Ace having died in his arms, and his eventual remembrance of his friends is rewarding.
The Ace-Sabo-Luffy flashbacks are also more than welcome, yet the arc as a whole isn't near One Piece's peaks.
22) Whiskey Peak
Speaking of peaks, Whiskey Peak is also far from a high point in One Piece at large. Its main highlight is Zoro essentially soloing the lower end of Baroque Works' soldiers, yet it isn't too engaging beyond that.
The setup for Alabasta via introductions of Princess Vivi Nefertari and servant Igaram aside, not much of significance or intrigue happens.
The Baratie's main saving grace is its introduction of Dracule Mihawk and his fight with Zoro, which follows. The former wins outright with little to no struggle, and the latter instills this fight within him, remembering the promise he makes to Luffy in loss even a thousand chapters later.
Outside of this fight, the arc is somewhat a letdown, and the only other true highlight is Sanji joining the crew.
25) Orange Town
Orange Town introduces Nami, who eventually becomes the Straw Hat navigator, as well as Buggy, who becomes something of a frenemy for Luffy. Like many early One Piece arcs, it certainly isn't the series' best, yet it's also not its worst.
The fights here are at least some of the more interesting and engaging in said early arcs.
26) Syrup Village
Syrup Village is another early One Piece arc centered around the introduction of Usopp. It is vital in the sense of it seeing the Straw Hats receive the Going Merry, a bonafide pirate ship.
Outside of this, the fights are somewhat dull, the characters and enemies relatively forgettable, and overall, it isn't a highlight of the series.
27) Punk Hazard
The post-time-skip section of One Piece is somewhat a point of contention amongst certain fans. Many feel that the overall quality of the series drops, and Punk Hazard is one of two arcs pointed at within the argument.
It's far from the series' best but is not the worst, as it sets the stage for the Straw Hats' fighting a Yonko and feels like the first genuine post-time-skip arc.
28) Fish-Man Island
On the other hand, Fish-Man Island is often criticized as slow, boring, and a rehash of the East Blue saga. It mainly reintroduces the Straw Hats post timeskip within a fighting context, and for some characters, they're Flanderized to a certain degree.
While the arc's fights are at times exciting, they're also tedious and feel somewhat unnecessary besides serving as demonstrations.
29) Return to Sabaody
If Fish-Man Island is a reintroduction of the Straw Hats from a fighting perspective, then Return to Sabaody is their character-centric reintroduction. The arc drags on the crew's reunion, emphasizing their key traits while allowing them to show how they've changed.
It's somewhat boring, though it isn't universally panned like the last entry on this list.
30) Long Ring Long Land
Almost no One Piece fan enjoys the Long Ring Long Land arc, which sees the Straw Hat pirates and the Foxy pirates engage in a Davy Back Fight. It's essentially a series of games where crew members are the prize, and even the final fight between Luffy and Foxy isn't enough to redeem the arc.
It's slow, tedious, and in the end, offers no real impact on or development of the One Piece story at large.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion.