The transition from Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z came with some shocking revelations. One of the first and biggest surprises were Goku’s Superman-esque origins, changing him from a Journey to the West homage to one of the last surviving members of a warrior race known as the Saiyans. Their introduction as a nearly extinct race hasn’t stopped Toei or series creator Akira Toriyama from creating new Saiyans though, much to the pleasure or dismay from fans of the series. Nearly every story arc or piece of spinoff material has brought along a new Saiyan and while some of them have gone down in history as beloved characters, some of them flat out suck.
Whether they’re heroes or villains, the Saiyans are best known for being unbelievably strong and battle-crazy. With that in mind, I think it only makes sense to judge them mainly by how strong they are. For the sake of my own sanity, I won’t be rating these characters by their power levels (not that Dragon Ball Super would allow it), but instead by how well they fit into the series’ plot and what they managed to accomplish after their original appearance. This will include what transformations they’ve achieved and who they’ve beat up.
Beware the major spoilers ahead if you haven’t caught up to the most recent episodes of Dragon Ball Super yet.
16 The Abandoned Prince
Remember Vegeta’s little brother? I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t. Tarble first appeared in a Dragon Ball Z special that released in 2008. Despite never once being mentioned throughout the entire series, Tarble shows up and Vegeta reacts like, “Oh, hey”. Apparently, this guy is so weak that his father sent him to a remote planet just to get rid of him.
The whole reason Tarble comes to earth was to seek help after being completely outmatched by Frieza’s henchmen, two characters who are soundly beaten by Goten and Trunks. The real mark of proof behind Tarble’s worthlessness comes from the series itself. Tarble was mentioned briefly during the Battle of Gods movie when they talked about needing one more Saiyan, but that line was completely cut from the Dragon Ball Super version of the story. The only one to love Tarble is his little alien wife.
15 The Original Female Saiyan
You could argue that the title of the original female Saiyan goes to a woman named Fasha, but that’s only if you consider her to be canon in the first place. Whether we agree on what’s canon or not, it’s hard to argue that Gohan’s daughter Pan isn’t one of the worst Dragon Ball characters ever.
If you know her from Dragon Ball GT, she’s the little girl who didn’t do much but whine throughout the series and prevent teen Goten from getting a chance to shine. If you only know her though Super, she’s the baby that once got a whole episode devoted to her and the Pilaf gang which was… weird. The only good moment for Pan came at the end of Dragon Ball Z where she fought in a tournament. That was a moment where she really lived up to being Goku’s grandkid!
14 The Annoying Crazy Uncle
This is the first character on the list to have actually done something, sort of. Goku’s brother Raditz was the one who originally said that Goku was a Saiyan. He warned the heroes that Vegeta was coming. In terms of plot, Raditz served as a great tool to show us where the series was going. As a character, though… he’s lacking.
Aside from the information he gives us, Radtiz doesn’t actually do anything. He was strong, sure. He lost his only fight. You could say that he killed Goku, which is impressive, but he died doing it. He’s never really mentioned again. There’s no “Return of R”. You would think that as the brother of the protagonist, he’d be a little more relevant. Instead, he’ll be remembered as the guy who killed a farmer, kidnapped his own nephew, and nearly suffered a surprise beatdown from him.
13 The Lame Evil Goku
Before there was Goku Black, there was a low-level Saiyan named Turles. Turles answered the question that many fans of Dragon Ball have asked, what if Goku never hit his head as a baby? He’s strong, ruthless aaaand he accomplishes nothing.
Since Turles is a movie exclusive villain, he’s not allowed to do anything that significantly affects the plot of Dragon Ball. This means that despite wiping the floor with Goku and all of his friends, he couldn’t rack up a single kill. Instead, he’s obsessed with growing a giant tree that will bear fruits full of energy. Unfortunately for Turles, he missed the last three arcs where Goku gathers energy from nature to form an energy ball strong enough to beat enemies who think they’ve won.
12 The Humiliated King
From what we hear about King Vegeta, he sounds like a boss. He was a powerful Saiyan who banded his race together and led the charge in taking over a planet where he ruled as king. At the time that Raditz appears on earth, King Vegeta is supposedly ten times as powerful.
The biggest problem with the King of all Saiyans is that whenever we see him, it’s only in a flashback to show how strong someone else is. Frieza kills him with one punch. Beerus stomps on his head over, bringing him an unsatisfactory pillow. At least his son gets treated slightly better, but that still doesn't mean that he deserves to be ranked any higher on this list than he actually is.
11 The Bald Terror
Nappa is like Raditz, but better. While Raditz existed mainly to show everyone how strong Saiyans are, Nappa does this way better by killing major characters.
At the time he appeared, Nappa was pretty scary. He was this big musclehead who easily bested all of the warrior's we'd seen grow to be so strong. Even Chaotzu's kamikaze attack was only strong enough to irritate him. He looked to be unbeatable. And he was, at least until Goku came in to save the day and throw him around like he was nothing. After that, Nappa (and almost everyone else) became little more than cannon fodder. When you think about it, it was merciful that Vegeta put him out of his misery shortly after.
10 The Legendary Crybaby
When I was a kid, Broly was one of the coolest things to ever happen in all of Dragon Ball. A new Saiyan with a level of power never seen before. As soon as I heard of the “Legendary Super Saiyan”, I assumed nothing could be better, but my feelings changed as time went on.
Outside of his cameos in video games, Broly has only appeared in two movies (we don’t speak about Bio Broly). His whole story is basically that he got triggered by baby Goku’s crying. Did he become a being of unlimited power from a lack of sleep? That’s dumb. Really dumb. The worst thing about his character is that no piece of media has ever tried to transform him into anything more. All he ever does is scream Kakarot and go berserk. Even if it was cool once, it’s definitely gotten stale.
9 The Savage Martyr
To be clear, Bardock is easily one of my all-time favorite characters in the Dragon Ball franchise. Having said that, I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t overrated.
Bardock's mostly known for the animated special which featured him. He’s essentially a blend between his son Goku and Turles. It’s hard to not root for Bardock as he takes on Frieza’s army in a huge space battle.
The problem with Bardock is that outside of the context of the special, he’s really nothing special. Despite how noble he seems, Bardock is far closer in personality to his son Raditz rather than Goku. He’s not anything to brag about in terms of strength either, barely being able to rival Vegeta’s dad. As much as I love Bardock, he’s just another Saiyan that happens to look exactly like Goku.
8 The Super Saiyan Bargain Bin
I have a problem with these two. They haven’t done anything wrong, but I’ve always felt that Goten and Trunks could do so much more for the series than they have so far.
You can probably guess why these two made it this high on the list. If I kept them separate, both Goten and Trunks would be somewhere near the bottom of this list for being equally useless. Together, these tykes helped introduce one of Dragon Ball’s most exciting concepts: fusion.
While it didn’t last long, Goten and Trunks combined to create one of the series strongest warriors at the time, Gotenks. Not only could he go toe to toe with Super Buu, but he could also become a Super Saiyan 3, a form that only Goku managed to reach. If fusion lasted more than 30 minutes long, maybe he could’ve actually done something with it.
7 The Hopeful Student
Dragon Ball Super gave us a look at a whole new universe with its own planet full of Saiyans. Although they look a lot weaker than the Saiyans we’ve grown up with, they’re quickly proving to be just as capable in a fight.
Cabba was the first alternate universe Saiyan we were introduced to, and he’s basically the son Vegeta should’ve had. He uses a fighting stance similar to Vegeta’s classic style and he even knows Galick Gun. As strong as he is, Vegeta did have to teach him to go Super Saiyan, but he caught on extremely quickly. Cabba was starting to look pretty good during the tournament of power arc as well until Frieza put a stop to it. Hopefully, his universe doesn’t get destroyed so we can see him get even stronger.
6 The Ultimate Half Saiyan
Goku’s firstborn son has built a major reputation for himself over the years. Ever since the Cell Games arc, many have declared him to be the best character in Dragon Ball and I can’t really blame them.
Personally, I’ve always had a thing against Gohan. Fans praise him for attaining Super Saiyan 2 while, I blame him for getting Goku killed. When people marveled at his new power during the Majin Buu arc, I complained about the way he wasted time and got absorbed. Ironically, the time I liked him most was during his controversial time as a crimefighting superhero.
Gohan went through some hard times recently, but it looks like he’s finally regaining some of that former glory, his new strength nearly matching his old man’s.
5 The Genderbent Broly
Dragon Ball Super managed to finally make the legendary Super Saiyan canon, albeit in a way that nobody expected.
Like Cabba, Kale is a Saiyan from an alternate universe. She’s a typical defenseless girl, but she hulks out whenever she’s angry and becomes an outraged beast with a design and techniques strikingly similar to Broly.
The similarities between the two characters end here. The major difference between the two characters is that Kale actually gets to go through character development. There’s a small storyline about her learning to control her extreme powers. Kale is also WAY stronger than Broly was at the time of his appearance, managing to tank direct attacks from Goku in his Super Saiyan Blue state. She’s a nice bit of fan service, while also bringing some originality to the Dragon Ball universe.
4 The Big Sister Saiyan
I would never want Goku to get a divorce from Chi-Chi; She’s a great woman and the two go well together. If it ever did magically happen though, I’d desperately want Caulifla to be his new love interest.
Caulifla is everything I imagined a female Saiyan to be. She’s powerful, just as battle-crazy as Goku and she has some of the craziest hair I’ve ever seen in the series to date. If Cabba is Vegeta’s student, Caulifla has been Goku’s ever since the two met and she’s already managed to outclass Cabba in nearly every way.
The only thing that could possibly make her any cooler would be if she fused. Wait, she did what?!
3 The One True Rival
It can be really hard to be a Vegeta fan sometimes. No matter how hard he works, the spotlight will always shine on Goku because he’s the main character.
It’s because of his role as second banana, however, that makes Vegeta so impressive. At the start of nearly every arc, Vegeta is shown to be stronger than Goku. If it were any other series, he’d get to defeat the villain before Goku even has a chance to meet him sometimes. The two work off of each other perfectly because they’re biologically programmed to as Saiyans. Goku can get distracted with guys like Hit or Jiren all he wants because we all know that when he eventually surpasses them, Vegeta will be back on top with a new level of power for Goku to catch up to.
2 The Future Warrior
While the Trunks we have now might serve little to no purpose other than being one half of a whole character, the original Trunks was someone far more impressive. Coming from an alternate future where Goku passed away, a powerless Trunks was forced to endure the death of all of his friends and nearly all of his family at the hands of two emotionless androids. Trunks appeared as a mysterious, sword-wielding Super Saiyan and made short work of Frieza and his father.
What makes Trunks so strong is that he faces a lot of what our main cast does in a world without Goku. When Goku Black appeared, Trunks held him off for six months until his mother could finish working on the time machine. He even managed to be the one to finish off a merged Zamasu, stealing the spotlight from Goku. That’s one of the most impressive feats of all.
1 The Saiyan Of Earth
There was little to no way that Goku wouldn’t be ranked as the best on this list. While Saiyans are mostly known for their strength, we’ve come to see two clear sides to them. Nobody does a better job of displaying these two sides than Goku.
You can easily paint Goku as a strong hero. It’s just as easy, however, to see him as one of the most evil Saiyans ever created in the series. Goku purposely lets Vegeta live. He could come back and destroy everything in an instant. Goku doesn’t care though, he just wants to fight.
He fooled around with him too much the second time and let the whole planet get destroyed, leaving the gods to fix his mistake. The tournament of power was his bright idea. Every universe is fighting for the right to exist all because Goku wanted to have some fun fights.