The extended Dragon Ball franchise is responsible for popularizing a lot of ideas in modern shonen anime. Characters that dedicated themselves to growing stronger through rigorous physical and mental training, fights that involve characters professing their personal philosophies before punching someone through a mountain, and, most of all, transformations that drastically increase a warrior’s power. Dragon Ball didn’t invent the idea of heroes and villains taking multiple forms, but it definitely made it mainstream.
Starting with the Great Ape transformation way back in the earliest days of the original Dragon Ball, the series goes on to introduce countless different forms for its main heroes and villains. Of course, like most things in Dragon Ball, all of these different ideas can be a bit difficult to keep track of after a while. There are several different iterations of Super Saiyan, some of which are non-canonical now, transformations that differ based on which character uses them, and some transformations that are permanent and others that are temporary. Of course, these transformations are completely different from fusion, which is another way that characters in the Dragon Ball universe can power up.
Even if a transformation isn’t guaranteed to make one character stronger than another, different transformations do have a general strength relative to each other. These 25 transformations aren’t just some of the strongest in Dragon Ball, they’re also the most iconic. Here are the 25 most memorable and powerful transformations in all of Dragon Ball, in order from weakest to strongest.
25 Great Namekian
Appearing in the original Dragon Ball anime and then in the non-canonical Lord Slug film, the Great Namekian transformation allows a Namekian fighter to grow to a giant size without decreasing the speed or accuracy of their movements. Piccolo Jr. uses this technique against Goku when they fought in the 23rd World Martial Arts tournament and Lord Slug relies heavily on the transformation after he regains his youth. It’s easily one of the strongest abilities available to Namekians and it’s a shame that it doesn’t appear more regularly in the lengthy franchise.
24 Great Ape
The first ever battle-focused transformation to appear in Dragon Ball and the one that earned the Saiyan race much of its fame in-universe is the Great Ape transformation. A Saiyan can achieve this form only while staring at the full moon and while they have a tail, but the destructive power this transformation grants them makes its limited use more than worth it. While untrained Saiyans aren’t able to control themselves in this state, more practiced warriors like Vegeta can more effectively use the power and size the Great Ape transformation grants him.
Existing somewhere between a technique and a time-constrained transformation, the Kaioken is Goku’s first method of multiplying his power. Taught to him by King Kai, this transformation allows Goku to push his body beyond its limits for the briefest of moments. Using the Kaioken repeatedly or at too great a magnitude will cause Goku’s body to tear itself apart and he may find himself unable to control his own energy. Unlike most transformations in Dragon Ball, this one carries repercussions if misused, and that makes it add tension to every fight where it’s used.
22 Freeza’s Second Form
Freeza’s second form makes him appear more like his father, King Cold, with scary horns and a sizable stature. In this state, Freeza can devastate most opponents with his enhanced physical strength and even impale them with his horns. His strength and stature are so great in this form that the usually stretchable Saiyan armor cannot accommodate it and rips apart during the transformation. It may only be a fraction of his true abilities, but Freeza’s second form raised the stakes significantly on Namek and further established Freeza as one of the strongest fighters in the series.
21 Freeza’s Third Form
Freeza’s third form is easily the most intense of his many appearances. This transformation elongates his skull, hunches him over, and gives him an appearance similar to the Xenomorph from the Alien films. This state easily overpowers Piccolo, who had easily dealt with Freeza’s second form, and almost completely overwhelms powered-up Vegeta. Even if this third form is often forgotten about or under-represented in broader Dragon Ball media, it raised the stakes on Namek and made Freeza’s final form feel all the more undefeatable.
20 Freeza’s True Form
Freeza’s iconic true form is seared into the mind of anyone who watched Dragon Ball Z as a kid. Deceptively small and sleek, this is, in fact, Freeza’s natural state and his previous forms were merely a means of keeping him from overexerting himself. While he’s already a lethal fighter in his true form, he can draw on all of his power at once and bulk up for even more devastating attacks. Freeza’s true form pushed Goku into achieving the even more iconic Super Saiyan transformation and is perhaps one of the best character designs in all of Dragon Ball.
19 Super Namekian
The Super Namekian transformation is one of the least-explored transformations in Dragon Ball, but also one of the strongest. While many erroneously think that it’s a fusion, as Piccolo achieved it by fusing with Kami, it’s actually a state Namekians can achieve after tireless training. As Piccolo and Kami are the result of a Super Namekian splitting themselves up, their fusion actually returned Piccolo to this transformed state. As a Super Namekian, Piccolo becomes stronger than most untrained Super Saiyans and could match the power of Androids 17 and 18, making him one of the strongest fighters on Earth.
18 Semi-Perfect Cell
Cell’s transformation to his Semi-Perfect form after absorbing Android 17 is one of the most intense moments in the entire series. 17’s assimilation into Cell transformed him from a bug-man into a hulking brute of a fighter. His power multiplied past most other characters, and only a Saiyan with a mastery of the Super Saiyan transformation could stand against him. Cell’s Semi-Perfect form doesn’t get a lot of appreciation in the extended Dragon Ball universe, as it’s often skipped over in games and other side media, but it is still an incredibly strong and scary transformation.
17 Super Saiyan
Here it is, what is hands down the most iconic form in all of Dragon Ball, the Super Saiyan transformation. This transformation gave Goku the strength to defeat the space tyrant Freeza only minutes after obtaining it. However, mastering this state lets a Saiyan grow far stronger, and easily defeat the likes of Semi-Perfect Cell. The spiky blond hair and incredible strength of the Super Saiyan transformation is literally the stuff of legends in the Dragon Ball universe, and obtaining it brings an almost unparalleled level of power.
16 Perfect Cell
Cell’s Perfect form was one of the most anticipated in all of Dragon Ball. Imperfect Cell hinted at the transformation, but at the time few fans saw how he could ever hope to obtain it. Of course, the conniving villain sneakily powered up, consumed the Androids, and then underwent a transformation that let him use nearly every technique seen so far in the series and with much higher proficiency. Perfect Cell stood at the pinnacle of all living things and it took Gohan confronting his insecurities and tapping into an unheard of transformation to defeat the perfect villain.
15 Super Saiyan 2
Super Saiyan 2 was one of the most surprising transformations in the series. It didn’t have a proper name until well after its introduction when Gohan used it to defeat Perfect Cell. This transformation pushes a Saiyan beyond the limits of a Super Saiyan, and appears in some of the best moments in the series; like Gohan’s victory over Cell and Goku and Vegeta’s second fight. Even if the impact of the transformation dissipated somewhat with the host of transformations introduced in Dragon Ball Super, it is still one of the most notable in the entire series.
14 Ultimate Gohan
Gohan’s Ultimate form – or Mystic form depending on translation – allows him to utilize the speed and power of his Super Saiyan 2 transformation without the additional burden on his body. He reached this state after Old Kai performed a ritual on Gohan that unlocked all of his remaining potential. As Ultimate Gohan, he can face off against the likes of Super Buu with ease before the pink monster absorbs Gotenks and Piccolo. Ultimate Gohan’s power is comparable to that of Super Saiyan 3 and, so long as Gohan stays in fighting form, few can stand against him.
13 Super Saiyan 3
Super Saiyan 3 is one of the most visually distinct transformations in all of Dragon Ball, as well as one of the rarest. The transformation makes a Saiyan’s blond hair extend to an incredible length, as well as boost their power tremendously for a limited time. Only people training under unusual circumstances can reach this form, such as when Goten and Trunks are fused together. The strain of this transformation will drain all of a Saiyan’s energy before too long, though, making it one of the most high risk, high reward transformations in the series.
12 Super Saiyan Anger
The Super Saiyan Anger transformation is unique to Future Trunks, and give him enough power to hold his own against the likes of Goku Black and Fused Zamasu. This form is visually distinct from Future Trunks' by slight lengthening of his hair, and the blue coloring at the center of his usual Super Saiyan aura. As Future Trunks does not possess the godly energy of the other combatants involved in the Goku Black Saga, he develops this transformation as a means of closing the gap between them.
11 Super Saiyan God
A Saiyan can only use the Super Saiyan God transformation after five other Saiyans grant the warrior their power. This ritual transforms a Saiyan’s energy into godly ki, and allows them to sense the energy of other divine beings. Additionally, this transformation boosts a Saiyan’s abilities considerably while simultaneously turning their eyes and hair crimson. This is also one of the easiest Saiyan transformations to maintain and allows a fighter to engage in longer battles without running out of stamina quickly. It may take help for a Saiyan to get here, but the Super Saiyan God form is definitely worth it.
10 Potential Unleashed Ultimate Gohan
After training with Piccolo for the Tournament of Power, Gohan is able to push his Ultimate Form to a new level that’s far beyond what he was previously capable of. In this enhanced form, Gohan is able to keep up with his father in his Super Saiyan Blue state, and in the manga, he can go toe to toe with the fused-warrior Kefla. Gohan is almost undefeatable in this form and his only weakness at this level is his own overconfidence or naivete.
9 Golden Freeza
Freeza’s enhanced form, which he achieved after working out for the first time in his life, again makes the villain one of the strongest beings in the Dragon Ball universe. While transformed, Freeza can battle against Goku and Vegeta in their Super Saiyan Blue forms and even hold his own against a transformed Broly for over an hour. Granted, this form can drain the space tyrant’s stamina rather quickly, but his mental training in the underworld all but relieved the transformation of this weakness.
8 Super Saiyan Rosé
Super Saiyan Rosé is the transformation that occurs when a Saiyan who naturally has godly ki tries to transform into a Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan. As such, only Goku Black is able to utilize this incredible transformation. Super Saiyan Rosé allows Goku Black to channel his energy into complex weapons, create clones of himself, and literally rip reality apart. This transformation makes the already powerful Goku Black a divine threat that can end all of humanity at any moment.
7 Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan
The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan transformation – or Super Saiyan Blue for short – happens when a Super Saiyan God attempts to transform into a Super Saiyan. This grants them an incredible amount of power and, unlike the other Super Saiyan transformations, is surprisingly tranquil. This form lets a Saiyan enhance all of their abilities, so long as they make sure not to burn through their stamina too quickly. This transformation is a staple of Dragon Ball Super, and Super Saiyan Blue appears in nearly every major battle of this sequel series.
6 God Of Destruction Mode
The God of Destruction Mode is only available to individuals who are God of Destruction candidates, such as Toppo from Universe 11. Even then, Toppo can only activate this transformation after abandoning his mortal ideals and fulling committing to eternity as an agent of destruction. On top of giving him a slick tribal tattoo, this form heightens his physical strength and lets Toppo utilize the annihilating powers of a destroyer god. This transformation can only happen when Toppo disregards his beliefs, and he was only defeated when Vegeta further committed to his own values.
5 Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Kaioken
Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Kaioken – or just Super Saiyan Blue Kaioken – combines one of the newest and oldest transformations in Dragon Ball. This transformation multiplies Goku’s strength, once he’s reached his limit in Super Saiyan Blue. While this transformation only lasts for a brief while and is incredibly taxing on Goku, it does let him quickly close the power gap between him and any opponent. With such devastating power and a distinctive blue and red aura, this transformation quickly became a fan favorite when it premiered in Dragon Ball Super.
4 Super Saiyan Blue Evolved
Brought forth by his frustrations at Goku unlocking the Ultra Instinct transformations, Vegeta pushes his Super Saiyan Blue transformation into the Super Saiyan Blue Evolved form. This transformation allows him to resist and repel Toppo’s God of Destruction energy and increase his own attack strength. It’s too soon to say if this transformation has any affordances besides a general power up, but after years of playing catch up, it’s great that Vegeta finally has a unique transformation that’s all his own. It’s also a way more visually appealing shade of blue than the normal Super Saiyan Blue transformation.
3 Legendary Super Saiyan
Regular Saiyans can transform into a Super Saiyan after enough training and emotional hardship, while only a Saiyan foretold by prophecy can activate the Legendary Super Saiyan transformation. The raw power this transformation grants a fighter is without comparison, and in exchange for their sense of reason, a Legendary Super Saiyan can take on nearly any foe. The only limiting factor on this transformation is a Saiyan’s combat experience and willingness to forget their sense of reason, which is why Broly’s transformation is stronger than Kale’s. This prophesied transformation is almost entirely without compare.
2 Ultra Instinct -Sign-
Ultra Instinct -Sign- is the incomplete Ultra Instinct transformation Goku acquires towards the beginning of the Tournament of Power. This transformation holds only the defensive capabilities of the true form, which lets Goku dodge most attacks with ease. However, to damage opponents, Goku needs to spend time charging attacks or else his blows won’t have much power behind them. Even with this weakness, Ultra Instinct -Sign- allowed Goku to hold his own against Jiren for a while and defeat the fused-Saiyan warrior Kefla.
1 Ultra Instinct
Goku undergoes the Ultra Instinct transformation near the end of the Tournament of Power, and it might make him the strongest being in any of the multiple universes. This form allows Goku to easily overpower Jiren in offense, defense, and speed. It is nothing short of the pinnacle of combat ability, and its only weakness is that those who have not mastered it will nearly perish after using it for too long. The Ultra Instinct transformation makes Goku stronger than he’s ever been before, and culminates his lifetime of honing his fighting abilities.