Since the first issue was published in 1984, Dragon Ball’s story of a boy named Goku going on adventures with his newfound friends and aiming to become a martial arts champion captured the hearts of many. Even today, the series continues to be published with Dragon Ball Super that has expanded the lore and it’s characters in a whole new way.
But while many readers today are enjoying Frieza’s return and his powerful new form, the original Dragon Ball volumes contained some of the most fun and action packed stories in Shonen Jump history. And though there was only nine sagas in total, it doesn’t stop them from being great for fans and newcomers to enjoy.
9/9 General Blue
Introduced in the Red Ribbon Army saga, General Blue presented himself as a vain antagonist who wraps up a trilogy of story arcs surrounding the lethal organization. With their eyes set on pirate treasure hidden at the bottom of the ocean, General Blue and his men chase after Goku and co to grab the loot for themselves while attempting to take them down for good.
While he may not have been the most memorable out of the villains featured in the entire series, his psychic powers and martial arts skills along with his personality does at least make him unique among the army’s staff. Furthermore, it was a great break to see Goku and company go on a very different adventure compared to their previous martial arts-based antics.
8/9 Fortune Teller Baba
After Goku manages to defeat Mercenary Tao, he, Yamcha, and Krillin must seek the final Dragon Ball from Baba, Master Rochi’s sister and fortune-teller who can locate it for them. But they soon find themselves having to fight her warriors if they want her to seek it out for them.
Seeing iconic monsters popularized by Universal Pictures like the mummy, the invisible man, and vampires with a touch of Akira Toriyama’s humor made this an unusual and fun series of bouts. It also ended on a surprisingly touching note as Goku reunited with someone dear to him, making it a uniquely lovely moment for fans.
7/9 Emperor Pilaf
Emperor Pilaf reappeared in Dragon Ball Super after he and his two cronies made a wish that turned them into children, but even before that, he was always a villain it was hard to take seriously. But his saga is an important one, as it not also sees Goku starting his incredible journey, but sees him meeting some of the characters who would remain his best friends.
This beginning arc introduced Goku’s uncanny ability as a fighter as he quickly learns to use the Kamehameha, and it’s easy to see why so many fell in love with him as he shrugged off every threat that came his way, especially from Pilaf. His characteristics would also better those who met him too, as Yamcha and Oolong became his friends and saw Goku have a connection with people for the first time since the passing of his Grandpa Gohan.
6/9 Tournament Saga
The first of what would be many fights set at the World Martial Arts Tournament, this one remained an important one as it saw some earlier characters reuniting and the introduction of a couple of new ones. This included Krillin, who would start out as a competitive student with Goku before the two eventually became childhood friends.
While the arc was a fun and entertaining introduction to the iconic stage, it also showed the development of the characters as they grew to become serious and mature people. And although they would eventually lose out to Jackie Chun (who was Master Roshi in disguise), they would go on to learn from their defeat to return as seasoned and determined warriors. Their master may have been tough on them, but that is just one of his many secrets that made him such an experienced veteran in the ring.
5/9 Red Ribbon Army
After Goku’s defeat in the final match of the World Martial Arts Tournament, he continues his adventure to find his grandpa’s beloved Dragon Ball. However, he soon finds himself confronting the Red Ribbon Army, who made their debut in this first of three sagas that make up their major storyline.
While those like Commander Red will play a significant role in future volumes, it would be the introduction of the androids and the many soldiers who make up their ranks that made this an enjoyable and entertaining read. Those who enjoyed the recent movie, Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, will fall in love after reading back to the history of the series and how the army’s debut started.
4/9 Piccolo Jr
A massive time skip occurs after Goku manages to defeat King Piccolo with one of the most violent blows in Dragon Ball history. But the villain’s younger, reincarnated self would return, and now grown up, Goku and Piccolo must fight it out.
While fans today know about Piccolo’s redemption arc, it was great to see how this powerful and terrifying Namekian started out as he cruelly fought with Goku and the other fighters. It would also see them at their most bloodied and exhausted as they don’t budge for the top spot, even after the arena gets blown to bits, and they get heavily injured.
3/9 Commander Red
Many will know of Commander Red and his legacy as his son revived the Red Ribbon Army in the recently released movie in the series that taught some things to fans they may haven’t known about the dangerous group. The ruthless leader may not have been a skilled fighter, but his influence bought in some frightening soldiers and mercenaries to do his bidding.
Though named after him, what made this saga a true spectacle was to see Goku take on the powerful and cruel Mercenary Tao as it showed a rare moment of the character’s defeat. But it was a worthwhile redemption for the young hero as he avenged the death of Bora in a brilliantly fun rematch that literally blew up in the mercenary’s face.
2/9 Tien Shinhan
Master Roshi’s old rival, The Crane Hermit, introduced the world to his pupils, Chiaotzu and Tien Shinhan, who started out as powerful foes for Goku and co. Dedicated fans will know of their change of heart as they eventually become allies who later helped to protect the Earth from time-traveling threats and powerful Saiyan warriors.
Seeing the young warriors going up against two powerful fighters who use a series of dirty tricks to make it to the top spot in their early days made their fights that much more entertaining as everyone wanted Goku and Krillin to beat them, which is something that fans of the recent series may not have known about Tien and Chiaotzu. Even as they have a change of heart throughout their encounters, it was satisfying to see Goku land such a devastating blow to an arrogant Tien, even at the cost of losing the match.
1/9 King Piccolo
Taking place just after the Tien Shinhan saga, this arc opens up with the dramatic death of Krillin and sets King Piccolo and his soldiers as the most dangerous threat that the heroes have faced yet. Being able to spawn minions and use dangerous ki blast, he was one of the few villains to get their wish from the Dragon Balls and became even more powerful in his younger body.
Losing to such a dangerous and ruthless antagonist, Goku would recover to fight him that made this a truly violent and entertaining saga as he attempted to avenge the death of Krillin. Even with his newfound power, Goku and King Piccolo pushed themselves to their limits that would only continue in the Piccolo Jr saga that made him a nearly undefeatable force.