If there's one thing the Dragon Ball franchise is famous for, it's providing a plethora of different transformations for its heroes and villains. Each time a character transforms he (or she) is given an almost entirely new look along with a new set of abilities and and elevated power level.
Usually it's the villains who display their transformations first, forcing heroes like Goku or Gohan to go through some kind of intense emotional and physical trauma which enables them to unlock hidden powers deep within themselves. Then come their own transformations.
In this case, we're looking at every different version of the villain Cell, ranked from weakest to strongest. Some of these aren't necessarily official canon, so a certain level of subjectivity has been applied, but which version of Cell is the deadliest and which versions are just plain lame?
Here is Every Version Of Cell Ranked, Weakest To Strongest.
15 Larval Form
Even cute little baby Cell is still Cell. Where all of Dr. Gero's other creations were mechanical at least in some form, Cell was bio-engineered in a test tube from the cells of a veritable who's who of other Dragon Ball characters including Frieza, Goku, and Piccolo.
As the heroes stood in Dr. Gero's lab and laid their eyes upon Androids 17 and 18 for the first time, little did they know that deep beneath them, in a hidden section of the facility, drifted a small creature in a large vat of liquid who, 17 years later, would emerge, kill Trunks, steal his time machine, and travel backwards to cause the Z fighters a whole mess of trouble.
This form rates bottom of the list for obvious reasons, and it was destroyed pretty quickly by Trunks and Krillin upon a second sweep of the area.
14 Cocoon Form
Poor Cell awoke in his own time to find that not only had his creator been killed years before, but the androids he had been built to absorb in order to attain perfection had already been destroyed by the Trunks of his timeline.
Not one to be easily defeated, Cell sought that version of Trunks out, killed him, and stole his time machine in order to make his way back to a time when the androids were still alive.
In order to survive the trip, Cell had to revert to a cocoon form which resembled a large, spiky coconut. Out of that came a very primitive version of the Cell who would later reveal himself to Piccolo after having absorbed several cities worth of people. That version walked on four legs, but it shed its skin before anyone ever had a chance to see it in motion.
In a "What if?" scenario in the video game Dragon Ball Z: Budokai, after Cell has absorbed Android 17 and has Android 18 directly in his cross hairs, Krillin nobly pushes 18 out of the way and he ends up as Cell's second absorption instead, much to the bio-android's chagrin.
Not only does Cell lose all of his height, he suffers a color change to a much more orange tone, now sports Krillin's emblem on his wings, the six bald dots from Krillin's forehead appear on his own, and his power level also significantly drops.
He becomes so week that Yamcha feels up to the challenge of taking him down. Cell defeats Yamcha only to be destroyed by Tien's tri-beam blast. It all turns out to be Perfect Cell's nightmare as he awaits the beginning of his tournament. He clearly does not hold Krillin or Yamcha in very high regard.
12 Imperfect Cell
It was through this form that audiences were first properly introduced to Cell. Kami was the first to see him from his tower, and the sight alone was enough to scare him into accepting that a fusion with Piccolo was truly the only way to keep the Earth safe from the monster.
The newly fused warrior traveled to confront Cell, and we witnessed firsthand Cell sticking the pointy end of his tail into a grown man and then absorbing him down to nothing. It really was the stuff of nightmares. This version of Cell had to suck up a lot of people to get to a point where he could eventually outmatch both Androids 17 and 18, and even then he was still no match for Android 16.
In this form, he was very skinny with a long set of wings on his back, an insect-like face, and a long tail with a needle like spike at the end through which he absorbed his victims.
11 Perfect Cell (Weighted Form)
Technically, on sheer power alone, this version of Cell should be much closer to the top of the list. This form is basically an imitation of the first level above Super Saiyan that Trunks displayed after Vegeta failed to defeat Cell in his newly perfected state.
On Super Saiyans, the form comes with enlarged, pulsating muscles, a much more untamed version of the trademark Super Saiyan blond spiky hair and pure white eyes. When Cell demonstrated the technique, he only displayed much larger muscles.
The result is the same; the power emanating from the transformation is impressive, but the bulky muscle mass prevents the fighters from moving quickly and therefore leaves them handicapped in battle. Later, against Super Saiyan 2 Gohan, Cell lost all his nerve and attempted the transformation again.
10 Cell Jr.
When Cell learned that the only way to draw out Gohan's true power was to make him angry, he gleefully accepted the challenge. Upon understanding that he couldn't draw out Gohan's hidden rage simply by beating the kid up, he turned his sights on Gohan's friends who had been watching from the sidelines in horror.
It was here that Cell introduced perhaps his most horrifying technique of all: his ability to pop miniature clones of himself out of the pointy stub that used to be his tail. He produced one for each Z fighter and the Cell Jr. platoon savagely attacked the rest of the heroes.
It's difficult to judge the little guys' power levels because it doesn't take too long for Gohan to rip them to shreds, but even Goku and Vegeta in their super saiyan forms appear to be having difficulty, meaning these little guys had big power levels, although Goku was still tired from his own fight against Cell.
9 Cell-X Jr.
The story of Dragon Ball Online took place about 200 years after the end of the original anime, but it still managed to bring back a host of original characters including Goku, Trunks, and, of course, Cell.
While Cell's presentation in this game was a highly mutated version of his original perfect form, the Cell Jrs which he spawned looked very similar to the originals, a few key differences being that they were darker in color and, like their father, there were shiny Xs in the middle of their torsos.
The story went that Cell-X escaped the lab in which he was being experimented on in the future, holed up in a cave, and started creating an army of these little guys. Because of how much stronger this resurrected version of Cell was, it stands to reason that his offspring would share the power augmentation.
8 Semi-Perfect Cell
Semi-Perfect Cell didn't last very long, but he was the favorite version of series creator Akira Toriyama. However, his editor at the time thought that the character looked weird in this form, and rushed the artist to bring his final form to fruition.
This was the only version of Cell from the original story that didn't sport the trade mark wings. His muscles grew considerably from his Imperfect version and his face took on a shape that was a lot more human, albeit still without a nose.
In this form, Cell was easily capable of overpowering Android 16, whom he'd had problems defeating just moments before. He still got beaten down by a newly supercharged Vegeta, but he fooled the prince by playing to his Saiyan pride, and achieved hisPerfect form regardless. Vegeta may or may not have learned a lesson.
7 Perfect Cell
Despite the Z fighters' best efforts (and thanks to Vegeta's lack thereof), Cell was able to absorb Android 18 and attain his Perfect form. This form is similar to his Semi-Perfect form but differs in a few key ways: his face looks far more human in that he has normal mouth with human lips and, for the first time in the creature's existence, a nose. He regains his wings and his tail shrinks to almost nothing; just a small stinger at the base of his back.
This was the form that lasted longest and it was upon attaining it that the villain made the decision to launch the infamous Cell Games tournament. Basically, having achieved this form, Cell was convinced that he had become unbeatable and that the only person who could give him any sort of entertainment was Goku, but he was open to the idea of being proven wrong.
6 Semi-Perfect Cell With Bomb Activated
No matter how hard he tried, Cell just could not get the better of the newly transformed Super Saiyan 2 Gohan. His defeat was so complete that he vomited Android 18 and reverted to his Semi-Perfect form, which seemed to mean that victory was at hand and that the Z fighters had little left to worry about.
Little did they know that, much like he had done with Android 16, Gero had planted a very powerful bomb inside of Cell's body in case of emergency. Super Saiyan 2 Gohan's power proved to be just such a situation, and having lost his upper hand completely, Cell wasted no time in activating it.
Not only was the bomb strong enough to kill Goku, but had the hero not teleported him off of the planet he would have destroyed it along with all of its inhabitants and indeed the solar system around it. Talk about a weapon of mass destruction.
5 Super Perfect Cell
Just as the team was simultaneously celebrating victory and mourning the loss of their shining star Goku, poor Trunks was hit by an energy blast from an unseen source and killed instantly. When the smoke cleared, there stood Cell, in his perfect form, grinning that self-satisfied grin.
It turned out that though the bomb had decimated cell, it had not destroyed the computer chip in his brain that gave him his regenerative abilities. Because of the Saiyan genes he possessed, he was now far stronger, having brought himself back from the brink of death.
It took the combined might of an injured Super Saiyan 2 Gohan and his dead father (you really have to watch it) both launching a Kamehameha wave to finally defeat the monster for good.
4 Majin Cell
The video game Dragon Ball Z: Budokai followed the anime's story faithfully, but it threw in some extra padding just to make the game interesting. During the Buu saga in the game, Babidi resurrects Frieza and Cell, imbuing them with his special brand of power-up mind control and pitting them against the player.
We have to assume that a resurrected Cell would have all the strength of his super perfect form, and because Babidi's magic has been shown to draw out the hidden potential of those under its power much in the same way the Grand Elder Guru was shown to be capable of doing earlier in the series, it stands to reason that this version of Cell would be even more powerful than any seen in the anime or manga.
If you thought Imperfect Cell was creepy, you should see what was done to him in the Dragon Ball Online and Super Dragon Ball Heroes games. There are two different versions of this Cell due to the different approaches to the story taken by the two games.
In one version, Cell is resurrected the games' main antagonist Towa with the hopes of gathering Goku's DNA from the creature. In the other version, a time-displaced 2-star Dark Dragon Ball fuses with the creature during the Cell Games and causes the transformation, making him capable of easily overpowering SSJ2 Gohan.
Cell-X arguably looks far more menacing than anything shown in the original canon. He sports two extra legs attached to a spider-like rear, out of which he spawns Cell-X Jrs. The plating on his head is separated into four parts instead of two, and his eyes glow red or yellow, depending on the game. His power level is also vastly superior to that of his original perfect form.
The Dragon Ball franchise has had a lot of fusions. There was even an entire video game dedicated to the concept. In the mythos, there are two ways to fuse: one is through the use of a magical pair of earrings, the other is through a dance so ridiculous that it initially turns Vegeta off.
The game Dragon Ball Fusion gave us the result of a pairing of Dragon Ball's most popular villains, Cell and Frieza, using the latter technique. The result is a small purple and black humanoid with Cell's insect-like armor and dotted print pattern coupled with Frieza's facial features, tail and fighting stance.
We don't get very much of Cellza, but given that it is a fusion between two of the most fearsome evils the galaxy has ever seen, we have to imagine that the only thing scarier might be...
1 Cell when he absorbed Goku
It was only for a very, very brief moment, but it happened. During the much maligned Dragon Ball GT, Goku (still in his kid body) was tricked into going to Hell, where he was confronted by Cell and Frieza, who had been spending their time plotting against him.
Goku easily overpowered the pair, but not before Cell caught him momentarily off guard - just long enough to suck him up through his tail. The result still looked like Cell, albeit with his body trembling uncontrollably and a lightning aura surrounding him that very much resembled that of a Super Saiyan.
Before Goku escaped (it really didn't take that long), Cell exclaimed that the power he'd absorbed was almost too much for him to control. Goku pretty much laughed the whole experience off, as he does most things.
Were there any version of Cell that we might have missed in Dragon Ball? Let us know in the comments!