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Top 17 Dragon Ball Z arcs ranked (canon only)

The series logo for Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
The series logo for Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Joseph Brogan
ANALYST

The various Dragon Ball Z arcs which make up the story are great, yet not all Dragon Ball Z arcs are created equal. With so many distinguishing factors, some arcs are certainly more memorable than others.

This can’t be helped when you have such a high octane show where new strength and abilities are built upon the old.

Dragon Ball Z is arguably the world’s most popular anime ever, spanning generations of audience members and captivating even today’s young viewers. Truly, Dragon Ball Z is timeless entertainment which can always be enjoyed. This article takes a look at some of the best arcs that the anime has had so far.


Top 17 canonical arcs in the overall Dragon Ball Z anime

Ranking the Dragon Ball Z arcs is no easy task, but we do have some clear winners and losers to help get things rolling.

While technically part of the Dragon Ball Z story chronologically, this article will not rank the Gods of the Universe Saga featuring Beerus and Golden Frieza.


17) Great Saiyaman Saga

Gohan in his Great Saiyaman outfit as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Gohan in his Great Saiyaman outfit as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

The Great Saiyaman Saga is without a doubt the worst Dragon Ball Z arc. The arc really serves no purpose other than highlighting Gohan’s “normal” life and his occasional superhero antics. It’s just a sad arc to make fans sit through as it forces them to accept Teen Gohan is gone and would never come back.


16) Raditz Saga

Raditz steps on his brother Goku during their fight in the opening episodes of Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Raditz steps on his brother Goku during their fight in the opening episodes of Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

The Raditz Saga is the introductory Dragon Ball Z arc, serving to reintroduce Goku and friends to watchers who haven’t seen the original Dragon Ball. It also introduces viewers new and old alike to Goku’s son, Gohan.

The introduction of Raditz and the other Saiyans also serves to make this arc slightly more tolerable than the Great Saiyaman Saga. Although the Raditz fight is a great introduction to Dragon Ball Z's fast paced action, the arcs quality is incredibly average outside of that fight.


15) Peaceful World Saga

Serving as the wrap-up Dragon Ball Z arc, the Peaceful World Saga isn’t necessarily bad or low quality as the prior two. The arc really only serves to show us everyone’s doing well and moving forward with their lives, as well as setting up Goku training Uub.

It's still satisfying and fulfilling in its own right, but the Peaceful World Saga just doesn't bring enough to the table to be high up on this list. Perhaps a continuation with Goku training Uub could change that, but until then, it's one of the worst Dragon Ball Z arcs.


14) World Tournament Saga

Yamu and Spopovich, the "antagonists" of the World Tournament Saga. (Image via Toei Animation)
Yamu and Spopovich, the "antagonists" of the World Tournament Saga. (Image via Toei Animation)

Much like Peaceful World Saga, the World Tournament Saga is another Dragon Ball Z arc that while entertaining, isn't as high a quality as other Dragon Ball Z arcs.

The arc introduces the Supreme Kais, as well as setting up the Buu Sagas and giving us shades of SSJ2 Teen Gohan. While nearly every fan welcomes these two developments, the World Tournament Saga is just a chore to sit through outside of a few moments.


13) Captain Ginyu Saga

The Captain Ginyu Saga is yet another Dragon Ball Z arc that is entertaining, but falls flat compared to other arcs. The battles we get from this arc are great and super memorable. The way in which Ginyu defeated is also ingenious and very memorable.

Overall a great arc, but unfortunately the quality benchmark Toriyama sets in Dragon Ball Z is quite high.


12) Trunks Saga

Future Trunks as seen in his Dragon Ball Z debut. (Image via Toei Animation)
Future Trunks as seen in his Dragon Ball Z debut. (Image via Toei Animation)

The Trunks Saga introduces one of the franchise's most beloved characters, whom the arc is eponymous for. It’s a fan favorite Dragon Ball Z arc and while we get a great action sequence of Trunks vs Frieza and King Cold, not much else happens. The shorter, less dense arcs just fall flat compared to other parts of the story.


11) Babidi Saga

The Babidi Saga is another mainly setup arc that finds itself home to some fan favorite action sequences. This Dragon Ball Z arc has the honor of housing Majin Vegeta vs. Goku, a fight which every DBZ fan fell in love with instantly. The mood surrounding Majin Buu’s arrival is also expertly crafted through this quick arc.


10) Kid Buu Saga

While the wrap-up Dragon Ball Z arc makes for a memorable conclusion, it just isn’t good enough as a whole to stand up to other arcs. Vegeta swallowing his pride and accepting that Goku is stronger is a fantastic moment, as is the massive Spirit Bomb Goku defeats Kid Buu with. Yet these moments simply can’t make up for an arc which feels somewhat rushed.


9) Majin Buu Saga

Majin Buu as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Majin Buu as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

Taking place canonically immediately after the Babidi Saga, the Majin Buu Saga is well renowned and remembered for a few key points.

Viewers see the birth of Gotenks (another fan favorite character), the terrifying power Majin Buu holds (as well as his humanity), and Vegeta’s amazing and heartbreaking sacrifice. Truly one of the better Dragon Ball Z arcs.


8) Namek Saga

The Namek Saga is arguably one of the higher octane and quality Dragon Ball Z arcs around. This arc is extremely fast paced from the beginning, detailing Gohan and Krillin, Vegeta, and Frieza’s attempts to gather the Dragon Balls.

Viewers also get a great tease at the power within Gohan when he meets Guru during this arc, which can be seen blossom in a later Dragon Ball Z arc.


7) Androids Saga

Androids 17 and 18 as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Androids 17 and 18 as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

Much like the Namek Saga, the Androids Saga is an incredibly fast paced and engaging Dragon Ball Z arc. Toriyama leans almost horror in this arc’s writing, with cities of people suddenly disappearing and Trunks and Bulma discovering a second time machine.

Fans also get a few good fights this arc between the Z Fighters and the various Androids.


6) Imperfect Cell Saga

The Imperfect Cell Saga does a great job of capitalizing on Cell’s terrifyingly creepy behavior and looks. This arc does a great job of painting him to be a weird, unsettling, almighty villain in Dragon Ball Z.

The arc also features great fights such as the one between Tien Shinhan vs. Semi-Perfect Cell, and Piccolo vs. Android 17.


5) Fusion Saga

The Fusion Saga hosts too many fan favorites to not be in the top 5 Dragon Ball Z arcs. Vegito gets introduced, as well as Mystic Gohan, which is one of the most beloved forms in all of DBZ.

Super Buu is also well renowned, especially for his extinction attack launched from the Lookout during this arc.


4) Perfect Cell Saga

The Perfect Cell Saga truly displays Perfect Cell as an absolute powerhouse force to be reckoned with. Trunks' Ascended Super Saiyan form is no match for Cell in his perfect state, and it truly strikes fear into viewers’ hearts. Truly one of the best Dragon Ball Z arcs.


3) Vegeta Saga

The Vegeta Saga is the first full fledged Dragon Ball Z arc, and it delivers in a way first time viewers could never imagine. The debut of the Kaioken and Spirit Bomb are amazing to watch, as is the final showdown in which Gohan rebounds a Spirit Bomb into Vegeta.

Goku’s forgiveness of Vegeta also sets the tone for Goku’s character and the rest of the series very well.


2) Frieza Saga

Frieza's final form, as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Frieza's final form, as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

For many fans, the Frieza Saga is the undoubted best Dragon Ball Z arc, period. While this article obviously disagrees with that claim, it’s still incredibly respectable, justified, and fair.

The Frieza Saga provides fans with so many great fight moments, as well as the suspense of Frieza’s form escalation throughout. Super Saiyan’s introduction also needs almost no explanation whatsoever for why it’s so great.


1) Cell Games Saga

Teen Gohan after awakening his Super Saiyan 2 form, as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)
Teen Gohan after awakening his Super Saiyan 2 form, as seen in Dragon Ball Z. (Image via Toei Animation)

The Cell Games Saga is easily one of, if not the best, story arc in all of Dragon Ball Z. The fights this arc has are fantastic, even if there are only two main ones. It’s also great seeing Cell’s perceived superiority come back to bite him.

Gohan’s SSJ2 transformation is arguably more engaging than Goku’s SSJ transformation as well. Overall, this entire arc is just a masterpiece and is more than qualified to hold the top spot amongst Dragon Ball Z arcs.


Edited by Abu Amjad Khan
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