Transformations and power-ups are a staple of anime, and Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball franchise is partially to thank for that. As the series went on, the stakes got higher and higher, and protagonist Goku has had to power up to match the increasingly powerful enemies.
Goku has not only trained to get stronger - he's also achieved quite a few transformations in the process, including the Super Saiyan form, which blew everyone's minds when it was first revealed. Since then, he has achieved the power of a god and even managed to push farther than it. Suffice to say, transformations are a big part of Goku's strength as a fighter.
But it's not just cool transformations and forms; Goku has had some lame and downright bad power-ups in his fighting career. Not to mention the fact that he used to uncontrollably turn into a giant ape during a full moon! Regardless, Goku's transformations haven't all been great, but they are still an essential part of his fighting prowess.
Because of this, we decided to look at all of Goku's forms and rank them. We're only looking at the canon forms, meaning those in the Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball Super series.
Good and bad, here are Goku's 9 Best (And 7 WORST) Transformations, Ranked.
The first time Goku's hair turned gold, every Dragon Ball Z fan went nuts. He went Super Saiyan - a form said to be nothing more than a legend amongst the Saiyan people. Nothing was the same after this point. The Super Saiyan form is awesome for both its power and how it changed the course of the franchise.
The Super Saiyan form multiplies Goku's power by 50x its normal potential, a multiplier that can be mastered and increased even further. The Super Saiyan form is, of course, only the tip of the Saiyan iceburg, but it still deserves credit as the series' most popular form, both by fans and Saiyans. It might not be the most powerful Saiyan form, but you have to respect the "classics."
This one is really more of a setback than a transformation. During the Frieza Saga, Goku faces Captain Ginyu, the leader and strongest fighter of the Ginyu Force. The two are seemingly evenly matched, but Ginyu suspects Goku is hiding his real power and decides to use his body change technique to steal that power. Ginyu injures himself before switching bodies to weaken his opponent.
We can technically count both Ginyu and Goku as part of this "transformation," since both are the weakest Goku has been. In Ginyu's body, Goku is both injured and severely downgraded, dropping from his usual power level. In Goku's body, Ginyu is only able to access a fraction of Goku's power level, making the switch seemingly useless.
Super Saiyan 2 was Gohan to defeat Perfect Cell and Goku has used the transformation to take on incredibly powerful enemies. Unlike the second and third stages of Super Saiyan, Super Saiyan 2 is a full level of ascension. In this form, Goku's hair becomes spikier and his base form power is multiplied by 100.
In this form, he was evenly matched with Majin Vegeta at Super Saiyan 2, and the form has been used to take on Lord Beerus in Dragon Ball Super. Though it's not the strongest Super Saiyan form that Goku has achieved, it's still a form with little downside.
With 100 times his normal power and seemingly little to no stamina drain, SS2 is one of Goku's best and most powerful forms.
In the early days of Dragon Ball and even the first saga of Dragon Ball Z, the most powerful Saiyan technique known was the Great Ape form. After exposing looking at the moon, a Saiyan will turn into a gigantic tailed ape with red eyes and an appetite for destruction. In this form, their power is increased tenfold, but they lose all control of themselves.
Though the form is powerful and was used as the Saiyan's main tool of planetary conquest, it has its drawbacks. For one thing, controlling the form, both its transformation and the mindlessness of it, is difficult. Further, in the scope of the series, the Great Ape form is rather weak and is generally forgotten for the remainder of the series after the Saiyan Saga.
Say what you will about the long hair and caveman brow, but we think Super Saiyan 3 is awesome. It's so powerful that it took Goku about four minutes of screen time to actually transform. With this form comes a 400x power increase, a power aura with crackling bio-electricity and of course that sweet hair.
Aside from the fused Gotenks, Goku is the only Saiyan to achieve this form, and boy, is it powerful. Goku uses this form to hold off Majin Buu while Trunks finds the Dragon Radar, easily handling the villain for a short time.
This form might be one of Goku's most powerful, but it eats up energy like crazy, shown when it takes up Goku's limited time among the living. Despite this drawback, it's one of the coolest and most powerful transformations in Goku's arsenal.
Did you know that Kaio-Ken translates to "Fist of the Kind of Worlds"? As awesome as that sounds, in retrospect, the Kaio-Ken technique is sort of weak. Sure, Kaio-Ken, as well as its multiplied forms, helped Goku defeat plenty of foes, but like the Great Ape form, it's rather weak in the larger scale of the series. In fact, the Kaio-Ken almost seems like a placeholder for stronger forms to come.
Further, though the form would later be used to increase other forms (we'll get to those later), it takes a severe toll on Goku's body in almost all versions. The form, which he learned from King Kai, was strong enough to defeat Nappa and help Goku defeat Vegeta, but pales in comparison to the Super Saiyan form that would come soon after.
Confused? That's understandable since this form seems like a step back from SS3. However, Akira Toriyama himself has stated that when the original Super Saiyan form is mastered, it can be stronger than SS2 and SS3. This is because the Full Power Super Saiyan pushes the Super Saiyan form to its peak potential, and paired with a peak potential base form, this transformation is more powerful and more efficient than other Saiyan forms.
This form increases power without increasing ki consumption, which is why we tend to see Goku power up to just Super Saiyan when facing a tough foe. Of course, he also tends to go straight for Super Saiyan Blue, but we'll get to that.
The Full Power Super Saiyan is the most powerful a regular Super Saiyan can get, but requires a lot of training to master.
When training to fight Cell, Goku, Gohan, Trunk,s and Vegeta spend time in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, taking a year to push past the Saiyan form into something even stronger. Though Gohan was the first to achieve Super Saiyan 2 during his fight with cell, Goku and the others managed to push their Super Saiyan forms to a second stage.
This second stage, sometimes known as Super Saiyan Second Grade, is a forced increasing of power output, channeling Goku's ki into his body to inflate his muscles, upping his strength and speed. Though it has its uses, this form is merely a boost in power and it severly drains the Goku's ki. However, as bad as this form is on the Saiyan, there are worse still.
In both Battle of Gods and Dragon Ball Super, Goku achieved the form of Super Saiyan God. This is an unorthodox transformation because it requires the power five other Saiyan to achieve and only lasts a short amount of time. Goku used this form to battle against Lord Beerus, with the battle lasting so long that the form timed out. However, the battle didn't end there, since Goku was able to tap into the god-like power after the form had ended and continue to fight Beerus.
This form is known as Saiyan Beyond God and is the base form for Super Saiyan Blue. In this form, Goku is able to tap into latent god power left behind from his Super Saiyan God transformation and utilize it in his base form. It's not quite as powerful as Super Saiyan god itself, but it's still massively powerful, leading in to an even stronger form.
Like the Second Grade Super Saiyan, the next level up has a ton of drawbacks. The muscles are inflated even further, increasing strength, but not speed. In fact, this form actually slows down the user, increasing their muscle mass to the point of weighing them down. Like its predecessor, it also uses up a ton of stamina, quickly burning through ki.
Goku is only shown using this form once when he was training with Gohan in the hyperbolic time chamber. He was attempting to push to Super Saiyan 2, but only managed to inflate his muscles and slow himself down. Goku deemed the form useless and never used it again. Trunks was a bit slow on this uptake and managed to get his butt kicked by cell when using this "100% strength" form.
Originally known as the overly complicated "Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan," this form is the next level up from a Beyond God Saiyan. Boy, that was a mouthful! With god power integrated into his base form, Goku goes Super Saiyan, resulting in a Super Saiyan form with blue hair. In this form, Goku is stronger than any other previous Super Saiyan forms, has a calmer mind, and consumes ki at a slower rate - though his stamina gets eaten up slightly quicker.
It's somewhat difficult to determine if this form is stronger than Super Saiyan God itself, but here's our take. Since Super Saiyan God requires a full ritual, taking the power of five Saiyans, and Super Saiyan Blue only takes a fraction of that and multiplies it, then Super Saiyan Blue is still not the peak of god power in a Saiyan. Feel free to debate this theory, but Super Saiyan Blue is awesome regardless.
Though it's essentially the same technique as the previous entry, the times ten multiplier gave Goku some real trouble after the tournament. The x10 Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken was enough to keep up with Hit, but the assassin eventually won the match, thanks partly to Goku upping the challenge to help him improve mid-battle. Not only was this form not enough to defeat Hit, but it also made him better - not to mention the side effects it had on Goku's body.
A little while after the tournament, Goku experienced delayed onset ki disorder due to the stress that x10 Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken put on his body. As a result Goku had trouble flying, teleporting, and was weak enough that Piccolo could probably defeat him. The form might be powerful, but the first time it was used, the side-effects were not worth losing the match.
We've got to hand it to Dragon Ball Super and Super Saiyan Blue, since they managed to make the Kaio-Ken cool again. In the tournament against universe 6, Goku faces a tough enemy with the ability to jump forward in time, Hit. In order to combat his unbelievable speed, Goku unleashes a technique he had been planning to use on Lord Beerus, activating the Kaio-Ken with his Super Saiyan Blue form.
This technique is risky, but pays off, and as long as Goku trains with it carefully, he can use it without fail. However, it does take a bit of a toll on the body when using multipliers of the Kaio-Ken (we'll get to that). This form is awesome not just because of the power-boost, but also because it was Goku's creative ace-in-the-hole against Hit.
Super Saiyan God is responsible for giving Goku the Super Saiyan Blue form, and all the power-ups that followed, but in retrospect, it's not all the great of a form. Sure, it's undeniably the most powerful Super Saiyan form (since it uses all the power of the god rather than a fraction), but there's something kind of lame about it.
First of all, the slimming down and red hair aren't really cool looking, and the fact that the form requires the help of five other Saiyans (one of which was Gohan and Videl's unborn child) makes it feel more like a one-shot form than anything else.
Along with the short time limit, the form seems like a rather unreliable transformation. Plus the rules of Super Saiyan God don't seem all that defined, since Goku randomly uses the form in the middle of the Tournament of Power and no one is sure how.
Okay, you're probably getting tired of these, but we promise this is the last one. The X20 Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken is the result of Goku training and honing the very same technique that once screwed up his ki control. With the x20 version, Goku has clearly mastered the effects on his body caused by using Kaio-Ken with Super Saiyan Blue. Though it's still risky, Goku has yet again proved he's the best by pushing his limits.
This technique was used in the Tournament of Power to fight Jiren and to push back the spirit bomb that was deflected towards him. Both times the form may not have been enough to combat Jiren, but Goku still managed to come back stronger, which we'll get to soon. As for the the X20 Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken, it is easily a reliable form for Goku now that he's mastered it.
Last but not least we come to Goku's latest form, Ultra Instinct - a technique that is hard for even gods to master. While fighting Jiren the grey in the Tournament of Power, Goku finds him to be an impossibly powerful enemy. The gods in the rafters seem to agree, fearing him to be the prophesied being who can surpass a god. After falling victim to his own spirit bomb, Goku returns in the Ultra Instinct form, giving Jiren a run for his money.
This form requires no Super Saiyan transformation and seems to be more of a state of being than anything else, implied by the "instinct" part of its name. The technique is shown giving Goku the ability to react to any attack without the need to acknowledge it, his body adapting to the fight automatically. Though the form dissipated quickly and we've yet to see its full potential, we're excited to see just how powerful Ultra Instinct can be.
Which of Goku's Dragon Ball transformations do you think is the strongest? Let us know in the comments!