Nothing’s better than when a long-running series introduces some powerful villain who sets up shop and becomes a reluctant member of the team. It’s developments like these that can often see the hero of a series slowly get pushed to the sidelines as this former bad guy becomes the new fan favorite.
Vegeta has a strong fan club the moment he shows up in Dragon Ball Z. The second the Saiyan lands on Earth he finds himself in a permanent pissing contest with Goku to determine who is the strongest warrior. It’s a tug of war that Goku and Vegeta throw themselves into that is still being fought decades after its inception.
Dragon Ball knows how to have fun with this rivalry and constantly plays with the audience’s expectations in regards to which Saiyan is superior. Who is stronger between Goku and Vegeta is a question that may never see an official answer that satisfies all fans.
In spite of their power levels up for debate, it’s at least possible to break down the various ways in which Goku and Vegeta are different. The two Saiyans may be stuck in such an incendiary rivalry because they have so much in common, but that only makes their differences more interesting.
Here are the 15 Things That Dragon Ball Z’s Goku Can Do That Vegeta Can’t.
15 Go Super Saiyan 3
The final stage of Dragon Ball Z gains a lot of good will by going back to the basics and embracing one of the series’ strongest rivalries, the feud between Goku and Vegeta. Goku and Vegeta manage to square off against each other one last time to settle the debate over who’s the strongest.
Goku and Majin Vegeta deliver a fairly even fight, but it’s after all of this that Goku unveils his new shampoo-friendly Super Saiyan 3 transformation.
Super Saiyan 3 remains the misfit of Super Saiyan transformations throughout Dragon Ball. It only appears a handful of times and it openly has inconvenient time restrictions in place. Dragon Ball GT showcases Vegeta turn into Super Saiyan 4 and Dragon Ball Super reveals him in Super Saiyan Blue mode, yet he still never taps into Super Saiyan 3.
Whether it’s because Vegeta knows the transformation is inefficient or he’s simply incapable of SS3’s specifics, he never makes the leap. It’s also entirely possible that the world just can’t handle Vegeta with that much hair.
14 Gather The Universe’s Energy
One of Goku’s trademark moves that have saved both his ass and the collective ass of the planet is his trusty Spirit Bomb projectile. The Spirit Bomb frequently appears as Goku’s trump card when he’s exhausted all other options.
The overpowered attack has wiped out enough intergalactic enemies that Goku simply has to raise his palms up to the skies and evil forces will start to twitch in fear.
Goku learns the impressive attack from King Kai and he first unleashes it against Vegeta (unsuccessfully, at that). The failsafe requires Goku to collect energy from everyone on the planet, which he then transforms into a massive energy attack.
Since the Spirit Bomb involves everyone voluntarily lend their energy to the user, it’s a move that relies on the goodwill that Goku earns through his kindness. It’s hard to imagine Vegeta’s requests for donated energy get met with the same level of trust. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Vegeta even perform a move that requires he depend on the strength of others.
13 Perform The Kaio-Ken Attack
The Kaio-Ken attack is a trusty staple of Goku’s from back during the earlier sagas of Dragon Ball Z. It’s an endurance boost that’ pushes the body to the limit, often with painful results. It’s a special move that’s taught specifically from King Kai, someone who Vegeta has never trained under. Not only that, but Vegeta has a personal grudge against this attack since Goku uses it against him during their first battle to great effect.
The Kaio-Ken attack is said to be contradictory to the physics of the Super Saiyan transformation, which is why Goku more or less retires this technique after his battle with Frieza. That being said, the Kaio-Ken has seen a recent revival in Dragon Ball Super where Goku is able to strategically combine its boost with the powers of Super Saiyan Blue.
Even now it’s still a move that causes Vegeta’s blood to boil and him to think back on his past defeats. Vegeta is all about developing his own attacks for battle, but it’s easy to see how much he wishes he had a similar boost of speed and energy at his disposal. Do amphetamines work on Saiyans?
12 Die Of Heart Disease
Dragon Ball has a lot of fun pushing the limits of plausibility with the increasingly strong enemies that Goku and company encounter.
These warriors have become so powerful that they’re now literally able to best Gods. Even though Goku and friends might literally seem invincible at times, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still vulnerable to some highly human conditions. In the case of Goku, he happens to suffer from an aggressive, fatal heart virus.
Goku’s heart virus first reveals itself during the Android Saga when he suddenly becomes exhausted and starts to experience chest pains. Even flying takes a lot out of Goku when he’s in this condition and Senzu Beans are completely useless on the matter.
In fact, Goku’s viral condition requires Future Trunks to obtain a vaccine and travel back to the past so that their timeline won’t also be doomed from a dead Goku. Vegeta’s no stranger to incredible anger and raising his blood pressure, but through all this rage the guy’s never even had a mild heart murmur. Goku’s ticker just seems to be more sensitive.
11 Have Childhood Adventures
Goku is a unique character to the Dragon Ball universe in the sense that the audience gets to share his adventures as both a child and an adult. Dragon Ball chronicles Goku’s youth and journey into adulthood, with Dragon Ball Z then marking the next chapter in his life.
Audiences get to see Goku go from rabid orphan to responsible grandparent. The character’s journey even comes full circle in the sense that Gohan steps up to the plate to continue his father’s legacy. There was even a time when Gohan was supposed to officially graduate to Dragon Ball Z’s main character after the end of the Cell Saga.
Goku experiences so many adventures throughout his lifetime that there are just as many people that prefer his younger quests to those that are bigger fans of his adult adventures.
On the other hand, a few glimpses of Vegeta’s time as a child are shown via flashbacks, but the Saiyan prince’s younger years never really get fleshed out. “Vegeta: The Early Years” would surely be full of action, yet it’s a page from the Saiyan’s book that will have to remain a mystery for now.
10 Have An Alias
The name “Goku” just rolls off the tongue like silk, but believe it or not, it’s actually not the Saiyan’s real name. The majority of the Saiyan race would spend their days on Planet Vegeta, but Goku undergoes a Superman-esque origin story that takes him away from his home planet.
Goku spends the first quarter of his life with no idea that he’s from another planet and apart of something much bigger. Then enter Dragon Ball Z and its galactic scope that begins to establish the Saiyans.
The name “Goku” comes courtesy of Goku’s foster guardian, Grandpa Gohan. It’s a name that has enough significance to the fighter that he goes on to name his two children Gohan and Goten.
However, Vegeta is quick to remind Goku of his alien heritage and constantly refers to him as his “real” name, Kakarot. Goku may be content sticking with his Earth name, but his fused form Vegito still pulls from his original, Saiyan title.
Vegeta on the other hand only has the one name to go by, which is probably the best for someone of royal standing. The Vegeta clan runs the show, so why try to hide that?
9 Get Turned Into A Child
Goku gets 153 episodes to mess around as a child in Dragon Ball, but the events of Dragon Ball GT see Goku return to his youthful roots in a highly unconventional way. The series kicks off when Goku gets a number of years shaved off his life courtesy of the unprecedented power of the Black Star Dragon Balls.
The Black Star Dragon Balls are a creation of the Nameless Namekian and they have capabilities far beyond that of the normal variety. Emperor Pilaf assembles these relics in order to wish for world domination, but when Goku intervenes, Pilaf accidentally wishes for him to be turned back into a child.
Maybe more people would be fans of Dragon Ball GT if it were to feature a pint-sized Vegeta instead. At the least, it would help get rid of that awful haircut and horrendous mustache that his character has at the start of the series.
8 Win A World Martial Arts Tournament
Transformations and tournaments; that’s Dragon Ball in a nutshell. Even though the Dragon Ball franchise has evolved and changed through the years, a certain staple that’s never left the property is its need for tournaments. How else is everyone supposed to know who’s the strongest?
Even now in Dragon Ball Super the characters are in the middle of a tournament that looks like it might last for over 50 episodes. Every arc throughout the series finds a way to shoehorn in some sort of tournament, for better or worse.
The most popular of these competitions is one of Dragon Ball’s biggest traditions, the World Martial Arts Tournament. For the longest time this endurance test of strength was the measure for the greatest warrior. Goku first enters in the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament, but he doesn’t come in first place until the 23rd edition.
Goku also takes the top spot in the Other World Tournament for deceased fighters in the afterlife. Vegeta makes a strong go at the 25th installment of the tournament, but the activities of Babidi interrupt the fights. Regardless, Vegeta has never been able to take home the gold in this martial arts showdown.
7 Ride A Flying Cloud
Before Goku becomes insanely overpowered during his later years in life, there’s a nice simplicity in how basic his abilities are during the start of Dragon Ball.
It’s hard to think of a time in Dragon Ball when mere flight was an impossible task for these characters, but the material starts from a much more grounded place. Young Goku has no idea how to defy the laws of gravity, but his answer to this is the handy Flying Nimbus.
The Flying Nimbus is basically a cloud that allows someone who is pure of heart to pilot it around. Even when Goku outgrows the companion he still keeps it in the family by passing it onto Gohan and Goten and it still makes a frequent appearance in the series’ opening and closing sequences. Vegeta never gets to pilot any clouds throughout the series.
Besides, even if Vegeta has the kind of pure heart necessary to ride the Nimbus, does that really seem like a mode of transportation that he’d use? It’s easier to picture Vegeta catch a ride on the bus or the subway than cramming himself onto some poofy yellow cloud.
6 Turn Into A Super Saiyan God The Traditional Way
The first big arc of Dragon Ball Super deals with the reveal of a legendary Super Saiyan God who is able to finally give the God of Destruction, Beerus, a worthy competitor. Beerus is so determined to face this rumored warrior that he’s willing to destroy the Earth if he doesn’t receive a satisfying challenge.
Beerus’ arrival is met with initial confusion, as this mythical Super Saiyan God doesn’t appear to exist. Eventually it comes to pass that a ritual needs to be performed in order to awaken this Super Saiyan God.
This ritual requires the assistance of five Saiyans who then offer up their energy to another Saiyan who’s pure of heart. Goku goes this route to achieve the power-up, but while the specifics of how Vegeta achieves the form are never shown, it appears that he taps into that energy through a different method.
Vegeta returns from his six months of training with Whis and is now capable of going Super Saiyan Blue. It’s safe to say that Vegeta somehow unlocks Super Saiyan God levels through his raw power alone, skipping the team aspect that Goku needs for his transformation.
Speed is a funny thing throughout the Dragon Ball series. The title shows off superhuman agility in a number of creative ways, whether it’s through after image techniques or the direct manipulation of time. Goku manages to completely rebalance the speed scales after Frieza’s destruction of Namek forces him to make a pit stop on Yardrat.
During Goku’s detour in space he comes into mastery of the Instant Transmission technique, which is essentially just a fancy word for teleportation. All that Goku requires is someone’s energy source to lock onto and he’s able to appear at their location.
It’s such a powerful ability that it not only can whip Goku to the other side of the universe, but also back and forth from the afterlife. It’s a tactic that Cell also happens to use to dangerous effect after watching Goku perform the technique. Vegeta is plenty fast, but he’s not at the level where he can simply appear at another planet in the blink of an eye.
4 Teaches Children Through Japanese PSAs
Goku and Vegeta are equals in many ways, but it’s pretty undeniable that when it comes to the hero department and filling the position of role model, Goku is the one more qualified for the job. Goku’s friendly demeanor and the trust that he earns among the youth make him uniquely suitable to be a teacher and impart safety tips.
While it might make more sense for Goku to teach children about the importance of stretching before battle or how to properly respect your opponent, his leadership abilities are instead taken outside of the battlefield.
In June of 1988, two PSAs were produced in Japan where Goku is the central figure who tries to teach children about safety. “Goku Traffic Safety” and “Goku Fire Fighting Regiment” prepare children for proper etiquette when in traffic or a burning building, where the life lessons come from the trusted figure of Goku.
Vegeta comfortably fills the role of villain or anti-hero at best. Plenty of children may prefer him to Goku, but it’s unlikely that the violent Saiyan would be used as an educational tool.
3 Have An Evil Doppleganger
The arrival of “Goku Black” is one of the more satisfying arcs from out of Dragon Ball Super. The saga involves a new villain who shows up to completely overpower everyone and then threaten them with destruction. Oh yeah, and this new bad guy also looks identical to Goku.
The series has a lot of fun as it plays with the mystery of this conundrum and how exactly it’s possible that an evil version of Goku is loose on the universe. The answer also manages to not disappoint as it involves disgruntled Supreme Kais, alternate timelines, body stealing, and fusion.
Vegeta himself is no stranger to evil tendencies, but he’s never had to fight against another version of himself. The Tree of Might’s Turles has fun with a villainous Saiyan that looks a lot like Goku, but Dragon Ball Super literally has Goku fight against an evil doppleganger of himself and it’s every bit as awesome as it should be.
2 Go Ultra Instinct
The latest stunt from out of Dragon Ball Super that causes everyone to freak out naturally revolves around the series’ newest transformation. The series’ Tournament of Power arc scours the multiverse for the strongest collection of fighters that the Dragon Ball team has ever seen.
Universe 11’s Jiren is definitely the standout of these new threats. No one seems to be able to even partially injure the fighter, but Goku gets the closest as a result of his fancy new Ultra Instinct transformation.
Interestingly, Ultra Instinct isn’t a skill specific to Saiyans and it’s actually a technique more common for Gods of Destruction or Supreme Kais. It’s a technique that both Beerus and Whis have and even though Goku briefly taps into this state of zen, it’s far too volatile for him to control or use to his advantage.
At this point, Goku is the only mortal that can achieve this form, but Vegeta oddly doesn’t seem bitter over this. It’s entirely possible that Vegeta might also know how to tap into this ability, but until there’s any concrete evidence of that it’s merely speculation. Maybe Vegeta is just tired of fawning over Goku’s new tricks like everyone else.
1 Perform The Kamehameha
It’s likely that even those who have never seen an episode of Dragon Ball before have a vague understanding of the Kamehameha attack. It’s a ridiculous move that somehow manages to escape the series it comes from and become a universal piece of pop culture. Everyone loves to put their hands together and shout out an absurd phrase. Everyone except Vegeta, that is.
Goku’s classic Kamehameha attack—otherwise known as the Turtle Destruction Wave—is the signature move of Master Roshi. If someone trains under Roshi, it stands to reason that they know how to fire this energy wave. Goku learns it in his younger years and never turns his back on it.
The Kamehameha has become one of the most common moves from out of Dragon Ball, with everyone from Krillin to Goten knowing how to pull off the attack. Vegeta has plenty of strong equivalents to the energy wave, but throughout the hundreds of episodes of Dragon Ball, Vegeta never performs the official move of the Turtle School.
Are there any more differences out there between these two famous Dragon Ball Z Saiyans that we missed? Pop a Senzu Bean, power up that energy, and sound off in the comments below!