Any anime fan knows Goku's reputation as one of the most unbelievably strong characters out there. As a Saiyan, he can ascend to greater and greater heights of power through his super transformations, and nearing death in battle only makes him bounce back stronger than ever. And as if he wasn't bad enough on his own, his many friendships give him plenty of allies, easy access to senzu beans, being able to use the fusion technique, and quick power boosters like the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
So yeah, Goku is scary strong. But despite his reputation for being the guy the Dragon Ball series goes out of its way to cater to, Goku has been beaten. Many times, actually. And we're going to prove it to you. Looking through the original Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Super, the movies, GT, and one very special non-canon fight, we're going to look at times when the impossible happened.
These fights aren't ranked since they each have such varying factors behind Goku's defeat. But we're defining "beat" as one on one encounters where the opponent stood tall, and Goku had to retreat, heal up, or wait for a rematch another day. Throughout the franchise, this is 15 Characters Who Have Beaten Goku.
15 KING PICCOLO
Though the grudge between Vegeta and Goku would become what the Dragon Ball franchise is famous for, Goku has had plenty of enemies turn into allies over the course of his adventure. In fact, it almost feels like he has to fight someone before he can be friends with them. But before Vegeta, the biggest threat Goku came up against was King Piccolo, an antagonist whose brood would kill numerous friends of Goku.
Though King Piccolo’s reincarnation into Piccolo Jr. would eventually lead into an alliance between the Saiyan and the Namekian, King Piccolo had no such interest in friendship. He wanted power, while Goku wanted revenge for the death of Krillin. And while Krillin’s death at the hands of Frieza would later be the tipping point that turned Goku Super Saiyan, the first time just wasn’t enough, and King Piccolo dominated Goku. It even appeared Piccolo had killed Goku at first, but instead we learned he had just temporarily stopped his heart.
Dragon Ball Super has already introduced numerous powerful fighters for Goku and his friends to go up against, and naturally Goku himself is having some of the biggest clashes with them. But what might be surprising fans is just how many of these battles from Super Goku is losing. Hit is just the latest of the bunch to score a win, an assassin who Goku encountered during a tournament pitting a team representing Beerus versus one siding with Champa. Goku himself admitted that if Hit hadn't been holding back, Goku might have died during this fight.
But the fact that Hit was forced to restrain himself is exactly why Goku lost. Under the tournament's rules, no killing was allowed. And as an assassin, Hit's powers are at their strongest when going for killing blows, so fighting at a nonlethal style was putting him at a disadvantage. Realizing this, the ever honorable Goku decided he didn't want to win an unfair fight and casually jumped outside the ring to cost himself the match. It was a voluntary loss, and it's stuff like this that made us decide against ranking these losses in any particular order. Hit was obviously extremely powerful and possibly could have ended Goku's life, but the anticlimactic and self-induced loss definitely doesn't make this a very impressive victory for Hit.
13 MERCENARY TAO
Long before power levels and super transformations became the defining method to prove who was strongest, the Dragon Ball franchise was much more like true martial arts, where years of training and proper technique can lead to surprising victories. A muscular man with no fight experience going against someone who had mastered numerous fighting styles can often be a one-sided beating for the bigger man. This was especially true in the original Dragon Ball.
There was never any doubt that Goku is extraordinarily strong. Even as a child, he had a difficult time finding challenging opponents. But his first true defeat wasn't against someone with bulging muscles like Broly, or the power to destroy planets like Buu. It was just a man by the name of Mercenary Tao who tormented local villagers. There're no excuses for Goku's defeat here except his adversary was better trained and Goku didn't have enough time to adapt to his style and find a weak point. The inevitable rematch was much less one-sided, but Mercenary Tao was an early reminder that even a superhuman power like Goku's can be overcome with superior training.
12 MAJIN VEGETA
This will probably be one of the most debated entries on this list, but we're going by the end result, which saw Majin Vegeta leave Goku on the ground after a hard fought fight. Now, Goku was concealing his Super Saiyan 3 transformation at this time for the sake of it being a fair fight, but let's just say Goku had gone SSJ3. As we learned during his fight with Fat Buu, the transformation was using up Goku's limited time he had to visit Earth. So all Vegeta would have had to do was survive long enough for Goku's time to run out, and he likely would have, since Goku would never kill someone he still considered a friend.
If you're still skeptical, let's look at it from Vegeta's side: SSJ3 Goku had a fairly even match against Fat Buu, so we can assume they were close in power. Majin Vegeta later fought Fat Buu and got beat down. Rather than take defeat, Majin Vegeta sacrificed himself to try and kill Buu and blew them both to pieces. So it's reasonable to assume if Goku had used SSJ3 against Vegeta, Vegeta would have used that same technique. And since Goku can't regenerate like Buu, it likely would have left him dead(er), and we'd still be including it on this list.
Facts are facts, and Goku prefers a fair fight, while Vegeta is willing to play dirty. So whether it was the kamikaze detonation or the sucker punch to the back of the head, Vegeta's pride wasn't letting him lose this fight.
While the parody series Dragon Ball Z: Abridged has treated Raditz like the biggest joke of the Saiyan race, Goku’s long lost brother with the rock star hair really was quite formidable when he first arrived. During his initial run in with Goku, Raditz quickly asserted his power by laying out his little brother—with one hit.
All it took was a knee to the stomach and Goku was on his back and could only helplessly watch as Gohan was kidnapped right in front of him. The swift beating made Goku realize he was no match for his evil older brother, and he turned to an uneasy alliance in his former rival Piccolo to even the odds. From there, the fight escalated into an unfair contest to measure since it was two on one, but Raditz was still clearly stronger than both of his challengers. And despite his death and short-lived duration in the series, he succeeded in driving Goku to such desperation that the newly dubbed Kakarot succumbed to his first death in the entire franchise while sacrificing himself to restrain Raditz.
10 JACKIE CHUN
To fans of Dragon Ball Z alone, Master Roshi is probably remembered as nothing more than the old pervy guy who lives with a turtle. But like many of the characters who originated in the original Dragon Ball, he was once a far more important character and able to keep up with the fighting ability of the most powerful characters around. But to Goku, this warrior side of Master Roshi was known as the alias Jackie Chun, a name Roshi went by complete with different hair and clothes so Goku would think there were lots of people out there who could still beat him. While in reality, Goku was already stronger than almost everyone around at this point.
This is another loss that came within the rules of a tournament, but this was one of Goku’s few truly decisive tournament losses. This wasn’t a fight he lost by technicality or by some trick of the rules. He just clashed against a superior fighter this time around. And yeah, Master Roshi barely won and might have even lost a rematch had one happened a day later, but this was one of Goku’s earliest experiences of technique and training tipping the balance of power.
9 ANDROID 19
It's losses like this one that made us decide against trying to rank these defeats. In the canon of the series, this was Goku's first loss since becoming a Super Saiyan. And it was a bad loss, too. If not for the intervention of Vegeta, Goku very likely could have died during this encounter. He was left helpless on the ground with 19 quickly sapping all his energy, and barely any damage done to his opponent. But in retrospect, this fight was even more humiliating because of how weak we quickly learned 19 was.
In truth, it wasn't 19 that defeated Goku, but the heart virus that Future Trunks warned of. It was just really bad timing that the negative effects kicked in right while he was in the middle of a fight. As Vegeta demonstrated, a healthy Super Saiyan would have no problem dismantling this android. Unfortunately, a bad heart means Android 19 joins the elite list of fighters who got the better of Goku.
Dragon Ball GT might have a bad reputation among a lot of the fans of the franchise, but one area that it did well in was creating new and interesting villains. The evil dragons were a good balance against over use of the dragon balls, and the villains of Hell escaping back to Earth was another intriguing move. But probably the best remembered villain from GT would have to be Baby, who had more episodes devoted to him than any other villain in the infamous series. Like the other villains, Baby's strength felt like a counter to what the characters had taken for granted since the Saiyan's lust for power was exactly what made Baby such a huge threat when he took control of their bodies.
Unfortunately, one of the main gimmicks of GT was Goku being transformed back into a child, which made his body unable to handle as much power as he could before. So when it came time to tangle with Baby, Goku was unable to utilize his Super Saiyan 3 form effectively and was defeated without much of a challenge for Baby’s multiplying power. Goku was even nearly killed during the initial encounter, and only survived due to being rescued by Kibito Kai.
Yes, the guy who dies in the very first arc of Dragon Ball Z once defeated Goku. Nowadays, Tien is regarded as little better than his fellow Dragon Ball originals Yamcha, Master Roshi, and Oolong. But all of them were once feared for their power, and Tien was perhaps the most promising of the bunch. His first fight with Goku saw him demonstrate all sorts of techniques fans who exclusively watched DBZ would never think of, such as the ability to grow extra arms to fight with.
This victory was yet another that took place within a tournament, and was honestly the most luck-based of the bunch in its finish. As is usual in the series' tournaments, landing outside the ring meant defeat. So it was a critical moment when Tien and Goku were both high in the air and falling fast towards the Earth. Whoever hit first was going to lose. Despite his failing energy, Goku emitted enough of a Kamehameha to slow his descent so that Tien was poised to land first. But as luck would have it, the two fell right past a city street and a car zoomed by right as Goku passed, hitting him and knocking him down into the street first. Despite Tien's impressive fighting performance, his victory was really a fluke, and when the two fought again next year, Goku would prove that by beating Tien in far more conclusive circumstances.
In case the earlier mentioned Majin Vegeta victory still didn’t have you convinced, there’s no denying the first fight between Goku and Vegeta went the Saiyan Prince’s way. Even with all the training he got from King Kai, Vegeta proved to be the most powerful antagonistic Saiyan Goku had encountered thus far, and continuously had new tricks to counter Goku’s techniques. The most effective maneuver was definitely Vegeta utilizing his Saiyan tail to transform into a Great Ape. No amount of super speed or strength could counter Vegeta’s Great Ape form crushing Goku between his hands.
Of course, anyone who’s seen the series knows the fight didn’t end there. Gohan, Krillin, and Yajirobe all interfered on Goku’s behalf to remove Vegeta’s tail and take away his Great Ape form. But the damage was done, and Goku was left helpless for the rest of the fight. Despite the good guys standing tall at the end, in the one on one portion of this encounter, Vegeta asserted his will and was surely on the way to literally ripping Goku apart.
5 PERFECT CELL
Even though this fight didn't see Goku getting beaten unconscious as several others on this list have, it was still shocking to witness. And the funny thing is Goku himself gave away the ending to this fight before it ever happened, telling his friends that he didn't have a chance against Cell. Maybe Goku slacked off in training because he felt confident Gohan could handle this, or maybe he really did do everything he could to prepare and it still wasn't enough. Regardless, the end result was Goku forfeiting in the middle of the Cell Games after he realized his clash with Cell was going against his favor.
But Cell's triumph over Goku doesn't end there. Due to being a sore loser once he realized he couldn't defeat Gohan, Cell decided to detonate himself and destroy the Earth. Goku wasn't having that though, and was forced to use Instant Transmission to take the blast away from his friends, even though it meant sacrificing himself. This gives Cell an even bigger distinction in the franchise—he's one of only two characters to have killed Goku. The other? That was another sacrifice from Goku when he restrained Raditz while Piccolo killed them both.
If we’re talking about someone getting “beaten” in the most literal definition of the word, we can’t really leave out two characters who have periodically left Goku bruised and seeing stars. The spouses of Goku and Vegeta have shown no shortage of bravery in standing up to some of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, and that includes their own husbands. And since Goku met Chi-Chi and Bulma when they were both kids, that means he’s had many years of enduring their tempers.
From the first day that Goku met Chi-Chi, she was shoving him off the Flying Nimbus in midair for using some… unusual methods of determining her gender. And Bulma nearly killed Goku the second she met him, inadvertently ramming into him with her car, and opening fire on him with a gun when he began to fight back.
But it’s their devastating slaps that both women are known best for, and Goku has been the recipient of them for sure. He probably had it the worst from Bulma in Battle of Gods when Goku mocked Vegeta’s fury over Beerus striking Bulma. Goku suggested whenever it looked like they were in trouble, they should just hit Bulma so Vegeta would power up. Suffice to say, neither Bulma nor her husband appreciated that suggestion, and Goku got a few well deserved slaps for making light of the matter. Throughout the franchise, no one has been beating Goku around for longer than Chi-Chi and Bulma.
3 GOLDEN FRIEZA
You might be kind of iffy on this one since Goku wound up killing Golden Frieza in the end, but don't forget the circumstances that led up to that finish. Goku was so overconfident and giving in to his typical flaw of wanting to give everyone a fair fight that he allowed himself to be put into a position where he was going to be killed. In their one on one fight, Frieza left Goku lying helpless on the ground. Not only that, but even after Vegeta stepped in, Frieza still won by simultaneously killing Vegeta and destroying the Earth.
Sure, Goku got the kill in the end, but it was only after being saved by Vegeta, having his strength restored by a senzu bean, and Whis being merciful enough to utilize his time travel powers. Goku was beat, people. Without his friends, he was a dead Saiyan in this encounter. And the sad thing is, Goku learned nothing from this. After being chastised by Beerus and Whis for his unwillingness to let go of his competitive grudge with Vegeta that kept them from fighting alongside each other, Goku laughed off the reprimand, meaning this will likely happen again.
Here's that special fight we mentioned at the start of this article. Screw Attack's Death Battle series theorized how not one, but two fights of Goku vs Superman would go, and Goku lost them both. Obviously this fight isn't canon to anything, but it got a lot of notice from fans and had some really strong reactions, so it's definitely worth a mention here. Two iconic characters who are among the last survivors from their destroyed home planets, growing up to be two of the most powerful characters in the world of fiction? You're darn right fans wanted to see this, and like the outcomes or not, the Death Battle team made a pretty good argument for Superman's triumph.
The first fight took place years ago, and capped Goku's power at the Super Saiyan 4 transformation. Not knowing that Superman derived strength from the sun, Goku inadvertently knocked his opponent into what would have been certain death for any other character. Unfortunately for Goku, it just allowed Superman to power up, plow through a desperation Kamehameha, and destroy Goku along with planet Earth.
Round two took place about a year ago, meaning this time Super Saiyan God could be factored in for the difference maker. Superman used the Dragon Balls to wish the Earth and Goku back into existence, and the fight began again with Goku utilizing his new form. This one was a much shorter encounter. Goku quickly dished out his best, but fearing the Earth would accidently be destroyed again, Superman didn't play games this time and used his heat vision to destroy Goku's brain. The message was clear—no one beats Superman. It honestly shouldn't be too surprising. Bombs, gods, and armies have all failed to defeat the son of Krypton, so how could a lone Saiyan do what so many others couldn't?
Though we’ve said numerous times that this list isn’t meant to be a ranking, we of course have to end things with a memorable loss (saving Android 19 for last didn’t feel quite as climactic). Anyone who has been paying attention to events in the Dragon Ball franchise lately knows that Beerus is currently one of the most powerful characters ever. And yes, much more powerful than Goku. But then, Goku has beaten foes stronger than himself before, like gathering Earth’s energy for a spirit bomb to defeat Kid Buu. So it’s not as if there’s no way he could ever beat Beerus. And yet, in Battle of Gods, even with his friends helping him power up into a Super Saiyan God, Goku still lost.
What makes this a loss worth saving for last is that Beerus revealed after he won that he wasn’t even using his full power against Goku. This wasn’t like some of the earlier entries where he came up short, but it could be anyone’s win in a rematch. This was simply Goku getting totally outclassed to the point he granted Beerus permission to fulfill his threat to destroy the Earth if he wanted to. And though Goku can now become a Super Saiyan God at will, it’s not as if his friends granting him another power up could lead to a sure victory in a rematch. Beerus is one of the few opponents Goku has faced with a reliable friend of his own. Should trouble arise, Whis has not only demonstrated that he can throw Beerus around, but he can also rewind time to avert an undesirable outcome. So suffice to say, Goku really stood no chance in this encounter.
Which of these fights was your favorite to watch? Discuss it in the comments, and tell us who you think had the most impressive victory over Goku!