By Renan Fontes
These are the most powerful Dragon Ball Z characters ranked. The saga had some mighty warriors.
Power Levels, also more accurately known as Battle Power, are those pesky numbers you see fans arguing about all the time in the Dragon Ball fandom. Fans argue about the importance of Power Levels, whether or not they ruined the series, what Akira Toriyama’s intent with them was, and what any given character’s Power Level is on any given day of the week. While there are many fans who completely avoid Power Level debates, there are just as many who dedicate their entire fandom to the series’ number scaling. Like it or not, Power Levels are a part of the Dragon Ball fan culture and deserve some form of acknowledgment and analysis.
Throughout the Saiyan and Freeza arcs, several numbers get tossed out for several characters. It’s easy to look at those numbers on a surface level and move on, but perhaps Toriyama is actually saying something with each Power Level. Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure, but the context behind each number lends itself to a more involved reading. Power Levels may not have a had a place in the series after Freeza, but maybe we can all learn something about their use as a narrative tool by going from each Power Level, lowest to highest.
23 Farmer With Shotgun: 5
5 is an important number when it comes to Power Levels. It’s the first and last number we ever see on a scouter, and both scans symbolize what the scouter would represent for their respective arcs. The latter closes out tool as a cautionary tale but, in the case of the former, Raditz’s scanning of the Farmer at the beginning of DBZ cements a new era for Dragon Ball, one based on numbers. While Toriyama would ultimately use scouters as a means of commenting on the difference between our heroes and Freeza’s army, its origin serves a simple purpose.
The Farmer’s 5 is more than just a joke in the fandom, it’s a precedent. When Raditz scans the Farmer, he’s showing the reader that the average man on Earth has a Battle Power of 5. Immediately, we have a sense for how low the scale can go and, as soon as Raditz scans Piccolo’s Saiyan saga 322, we have an idea of how wide the gap between our main characters and the average civilian is.
22 Master Roshi: 139
Roshi’s 139 isn’t particularly impressive, especially since he’s scanned after the fight with Raditz, but it’s not meant to impress. Like with the Farmer, Roshi’s scanning serves an ulterior motive in the narrative. From the start of Dragon Ball to end of the King Piccolo saga, Roshi is undeniably one of the strongest characters in the story. He won the 21st Budokai, put up a good fight against Tien in the 22nd, and sacrificed his life against Piccolo because no one else possibly could. Things change with time, however.
One of the underlying themes of Dragon Ball has always been paving the way for the next generation, and this was the basis of Roshi’s arc throughout those early chapters. By the time we get to the 23rd Budokai, it’s clear Roshi succeeded in his goal but his Power Level being shorter than Goku and Krillin proves just how much he accomplished. He may not be very powerful, but he got what he wanted.
21 Saibaiman: 1,200
First thing’s first, that’s not a typo. The green little boys you know and love are actually called “Saibaiman,” not “Saibamen,” and, contrary to popular belief within the fandom, they are not as strong as Raditz. Not that they aren’t strong, though. 1,200 isn’t super high, even for the Saiyan saga, but it does act as a benchmark to show us just how strong the Earthlings have gotten in just one year. The arc began with Goku and Piccolo totally outclassed by Raditz, and now their allies can reliably tackle a creature nearly as strong.
There are two other main purposes behind the Saibaman’s Power Level, however. The first is to show us just how strong Vegeta is. After Tien spares his Saibaiman, Vegeta destroys it with just two fingers. The Z-Fighters can fight them reliably, but they can’t finish them with ease. The second is to show us that someone with a weaker Power Level can beat someone with a higher one when poor Yamcha suffers a kamikaze attack.
20 Yamcha: 1,480
Even though it’s easy to scoff at the fact that, with an entire year of training where most of his friends caught up to Raditz, Yamcha didn’t even break 1,500 you need to consider the context of his character. Yamcha has always been the weakest of the Kame School students. While Krillin was able to keep up with Goku up to the 22nd Budokai, Yamcha was outclassed by the 21st.
Throughout Dragon Ball, Yamcha is also consistently used as a benchmark in the Budokais. He’s defeated in by Jackie Chun in the first round of the 21st, he suffers a devastating defeat against Tien in the 22nd, and Kami makes a complete fool of him in the 23rd. Yamcha loses each time, but not because he’s weak. He loses because his role is to show off how strong others are. His 1,480 is no different. That’s a high number for this point in the series, but someone has to be at the bottom.
19 Raditz: 1,500
Forget King Piccolo, Freeza, or Majin Buu, the most impactful villain in the series is Raditz. His first appearance completely changed Dragon Ball as we know it. Goku has a son, he isn’t from Earth, and now he’s dead. Just as importantly, numbers are now thrown into the mix and Goku’s 416 is absolutely no match against Raditz’ 1,500. Even combined with Piccolo without weights, they only go up to 824.
Raditz is overwhelming, but he’s not invincible and that’s an important aspect to establish. While Raditz is nearly twice as strong as Goku and Piccolo combined, he still loses. With Raditz, Toriyama is showing the reader that Power Levels aren’t the end all, be all. Raditz had the bigger number, but Goku and Piccolo fought smarter and were able to finish him off nonetheless.
18 Tien: 1,830
As soon as he was introduced in Dragon Ball, Tien’s relevance only kept increasing. He went from the main antagonist in the 22nd Budokai, to the deuteragonist in the King Piccolo saga, and finally served as Goku’s final obstacle during the 23rd Budokai before he could finally face off against Piccolo Jr. By the time the Saiyan invasion comes around, it’s only natural Tien is the strongest of the old school DB gang.
As fitting as it is for Tien to have the strongest Power Level, though, his high number is nothing compared to Nappa’s. Tien is another casualty in the neverending onslaught that is the Nappa battle. Even with his high new Battle Power, he can’t escape the inevitability of defeat and death. He’s one of the cruelest benchmarks in the series. He represents all the innate power of Earth, yet still succumbs to overwhelming Saiyan fury.
17 Nappa: 4,000
Nappa’s Power Level is both a blessing and a curse for the Z-Fighters. On one hand, he’s stronger than all of them save Goku. On the other hand, he’s only 500 points higher than Piccolo meaning it would be possible to defeat him. Of course, that doesn’t happen as Nappa takes down warrior after warrior all on his own, but his 4,000 signifies a wall that can be conquered.
When Goku arrives with a Power Level of over 8,000, (I will not give you the satisfaction of an “over 9,000 reference,”) that’s exactly what happens. Goku comes in, takes Nappa off guard, and throttles him into submission. At the same time, though, Nappa’s Power Level also serves to make Vegeta’s 18,000 looks all the more fearsome. It took the Z-Fighters everything they had to take down Nappa, how can Goku expect to beat Vegeta?
16 Bardock: 10,000
Bardock is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to Saiyan Power Levels. He’s a Low-Class warrior in the same vein as Goku and Raditz, but he’s significantly stronger than the Middle-Class Nappa and only 8,000 points weaker than the Elite Vegeta. In fact, it’s even implied from secondary sources that Bardock’s 10,000 is higher than King Vegeta’s. Of course, this poses a massive succession problem within the narrative but it’s important to consider that Bardock’s Power Level is iffy canon-wise.
The Bardock special’s canonicity has always been dubious on account of it being a Toei venture. Toriyama would later draw Bardock into the manga in a panel implying the events of the film did happen to an extent. That doesn’t mean the moment to moment details did, however, meaning Bardock’s 10,000 could just be Toei trying to hype up their one-off lead. Let’s just agree he’s at least 1,000 and move on.
15 Cui: 18,000
Cui’s introduction is a big moment for both Vegeta and Saiyan biology. Introduced as Vegeta’s pure equal, it’s through Cui that we learn about Zenkais. When a Saiyan is badly injured and battle and recovers, they undergo a sizable power boost. Vegeta’s brutal defeat on Earth pushes him past his prior limits and put him in a position where he can easily blast Cui away without even a proper battle. His screen time is minimal, but Cui and his Power Level introduce us to a concept that ends up being very important for Goku and Vegeta’s growth throughout the Freeza saga.
14 Dodoria: 22,000
Dodoria is the larger half of Freeza’s personal guard. Along with Zarbon, it’s Dodoria’s job to accompany his tyrant and ensure he never needs to lift a finger. He’s muscle in the most literal sense, and his Power Level reflects that. At a whopping 22,000, Dodoria poses a serious threat for Gohan and Krillin when they first get to Namek. Like many villains before him, Dodoria is also a wall that needs to be broken down.
During Vegeta’s early portion of the Freeza saga, he systematically takes out Cui, Dodoria, and Zarbon all while getting Zenkais to keep him strong enough to pose a threat. Cui is introduced as Vegeta’s equal who he’s now surpassed, but Dodoria was someone always stronger than Vegeta. Thanks to his recent Zenkais, however, it’s clear Vegeta is ahead of Dodoria’s 22,000 and makes quick work of him before moving on.
13 Zarbon: 23,000
Cui and Dodoria were both easy wins for Vegeta, and their Power Levels reflected that. Once Vegeta gets to Zarbon, however, his luck takes a nosedive. Even though Vegeta is sitting at a Power Level of 24,000 at this point, Zarbon is able to transform into his monster form taking him from 23,000 to somewhere between 28,000 and 55,000 depending on the source. Naturally, Vegeta is instantly taken down and served one of his bigger defeats in the arc.
Narratively, Zarbon’s transformation shows us how beneficial transformation can be for one’s strength. There’s no concrete answer on what his transformed state’s Power Level is, but his feats clearly demonstrate that he’s able to overpower Vegeta with such a simple act. On top of that, Zarbon mentions that Freeza, too, can transform, reminding the audience that any Power Level Freeza has is going to increase by a considerable amount.
12 Ginyu-Goku: 23,000
Upon noticing that Goku’s Power Level trumps his own when the former uses Kaioken, Captain Ginyu decides that he needs to switch bodies with Goku immediately. Ginyu mortally wounds himself and then uses his Change technique, securing himself a Saiyan body. Unfortunately, while Goku has an innate amount of power and can fluctuate his Ki at will, Ginyu has absolutely no idea how to do that and is left with a body significantly weaker than the one he just tossed away.
Toriyama is effectively using Ginyu as a tool to show just how unreliable Power Levels are. Goku was able of tapping into a power higher than Captain Ginyu’s, but it wasn’t inherent. As long as someone can control their Ki, what their Power Level is hardly matters. Ginyu doesn’t realize this, so he ends up stuck in a body he has no clue how to use, ultimately leading to his defeat.
11 Nail: 42,000
The most interesting thing about Nail is that, if he wanted to, he could have solved most of the Freeza saga by himself. At a resting 42,000, Nail was stronger than Cui, Dodoria, Zarbon, Vegeta, and most of the Ginyu Force. His Power Level, likely enhanced by Guru’s ability to unlock one’s potential, shows us just how strong a Namekian can be. More importantly, it’s a quick explanation to how Piccolo gets so strong after merging with Nail.
While this doesn’t need any explanation to be narratively satisfying as it’s introduced as a forbidden technique, it does satiate those fans who demand in-universe explanations for everything. Nail’s high Battle Power, along with Piccolo taking advantage of a sacred ritual, pushes the latter to new heights, allowing a Namekian to receive some much needed catharsis against Freeza.
10 Krillin: 75,000
In an arc where nobody but Goku gets a chance to train, the other characters need a way of getting strong, fast. There’s where Guru, otherwise known as Saichoro, comes in. When Krillin first arrives on Namek with Gohan, he’s in the low two thousands at best when it comes to Power Level. The two could only image train on their way to the planet, so they weren’t able to make considerable gains. They do, however, have several fearsome opponents to wade through. Thanks to Guru’s ability to release one’s inner potential, they’re able to keep up.
Throughout Namek, Krillin’s Power Level keeps growing considerably until it peaks at 75,000 during the fight with Freeza. While this number doesn’t even come close to Freeza’s, it allows Krillin to actually get some decent hits on the tyrant. More importantly, it reinforces the idea that Power Level discrepancy isn’t that big a deal. With the Taiyoken and Kienzan, Krillin manages to put Freeza into a corner more than once. Pure skill can handle raw strength.
9 Captain Ginyu: 120,000
Captain Ginyu is the strongest member of Freeza’s entourage and the final obstacles our heroes have to face before they get to tackle Namek’s self appointed final boss. At 120,000, Ginyu is stronger than every main character save for Goku at this point. Toriyama makes it a habit of showing us that Power Level means nothing in the face of smart fighting, however. Ginyu body swaps with Goku without considering how to utilize his new techniques and is beaten by a combined assault from Gohan, Krillin, and Vegeta. He could have defeated three of the four main characters, but instead chose to act on impulse, dooming him completely and reducing his 120,000 to a piece of trivia.
8 Gohan: 200,000
Like Krillin, Gohan also gets a power boost from Guru that allows him to keep up with the foes on Namek. Unlike Krillin, however, Gohan’s boost is much higher, giving him considerable leeway when they finally start fighting Freeza. Before Piccolo shows up, it’s Gohan who ends up doing the most damage to Freeza’s second form. It’s also worth mentioning that Gohan is biologically half Saiyan which gives him some much needed advantages.
To start, he’s naturally stronger than everyone at the series at this point. Goku’s Power Level as a child is stated to be 10 in Daizenshuu 7 while Gohan’s went as high as 1,307 during the fight with Raditz. It’s also more than likely he experience a Zenkai after being pushed to near death during his fight with Recoome. According to V-Jump, Gohan’s Battle Power even exceeded 200,000 during the fight with Freeza thanks to a temporary rage boost.
7 Vegeta: 250,000
Believe it or not, this is the last Power Level we ever get for Vegeta during the series. After his Zenkai from Recoome, Vegeta goes from 30,000 to 250,000 and that’s where he sits for most of the Freeza fight. Of course, it’s not even close to Freeza’s 530,000 and Vegeta ends up suffering for it. During Freeza’s second and third forms, Vegeta is the character who gets the most overwhelmed, even refusing to fight Freeza until he can force another Zenkai onto himself.
When he finally does get this new Zenkai, he’s immediately throttled by Freeza. The anime gives him a better showing, but the manga has Freeza manhandle him completely. It’s speculated that Vegeta was sitting at 2,000,000 once Freeza transformed into his final form, but it barely means anything. Vegeta’s final fight isn’t about his Power Level, it’s about Freeza breaking him one last time.
6 Freeza: 530,000
530,000. It’s the highest Power Level we actually have concrete confirmation for and it belongs to none other than Lord Freeza. By the time Gohan, Krillin, Vegeta, and Dende are confronted by Freeza, none of them are close enough in Power Level to confidently fight him off. It would make sense for Freeza to pick everyone off here, but Vegeta actually takes Freeza’s Power Level and ability to transform into account to devise a rather clever strategy.
Knowing that Freeza will just transform if they push him back hard enough, Vegeta goads Freeza into transforming into his second form almost immediately. This way, the main characters will save stamina while waiting for Goku and Piccolo to arrive and can survive longer. A high Power Level is frightening, but that doesn’t mean you can strategize around it.
5 Piccolo: 1,000,000
It’s worth noting that Piccolo never gets an official Power Level confirmation after the Saiyan saga. Out of all the entries on this list, this is the only one that has no source. So why it include it? Just because it doesn’t have a source, doesn’t mean there isn’t evidence. Piccolo’s Power Level isn’t definitely 1,000,000 by the time he fights Freeza, but it has to be at least 1,000,000 for their fight to make sense.
When Freeza transforms for the first time, he states that his Battle Power is over 1,000,000. Despite this, Gohan and Krillin manage to put up a good fight and wear Freeza down a bit. Once Piccolo shows up, he dominates the fight completely and forces Freeza into transforming into his third form. Naturally, Piccolo must have been close to 1,000,000. With the numbers getting so high, though, it’s no wonder Toriyama dropped Power Levels as soon as Trunks defeated Freeza.
4 Final Form Freeza (50%): 60,000,000
Goku’s final fight with Freeza is easily the single longest battle in Dragon Ball, pushing both characters to their absolute limits. At 60,000,000, no one but Goku can put up a fight. While Freeza breaks a sweat and is takes as many blows as he gives, he’s hiding a cruel fact throughout most of their fight: he’s only fighting at half power. While Goku pushes himself to the absolute limits of Kaioken, Freeza is handicapping himself the whole time.
When Goku realizes this, we see him demoralized for a split second before he jumps back in, determined to do everything he can to defeat Freeza. They’re evenly matched, but it’s only for the time being. How can you fight someone you know is just waiting to destroy you?