Ask any person about the first anime that got them absolutely hooked, and chances are that the majority of people will name one anime that has stood the test of time as one of the most legendary shows of all time — Dragon Ball Z. The story of the Z Fighters as they endure countless challenges and always manage to come out on top is easily one of Japan’s most popular IPs, and one need only look at its rampant popularity in the West to understand why this is the case.
A large part of why Dragon Ball Z has attained such a massive fanbase is definitely due to the characters, with Goku being an obvious mention. The pure-hearted Saiyan warrior has been at the center of pretty much every major conflict in the series, and for good reason. The power escalations In Dragon Ball have pretty much always been insanely high, and the manner in which he’s transformed to magnify his strength and beat his enemies against all odds is truly a thing of wonder. But what is Goku’s strongest form?
Updated on December 2nd, 2021 by Patrick Mocella: Being the main character in a series that loves to introduce new transformations more often than most entertainment franchises, Goku has had a lot of transformations over the years. Some of these have been used a minuscule number of times, which causes fans to forget about them over time.
Not every transformation is iconic to the anime juggernaut as Super Saiyan God or Super Saiyan 3. Many of these are variants of the original Super Saiyan transformation but there are key details that make them different from the one Goku used on Frieza on Namek.
Super Saiyan Second Grade
The first of many Goku transformations in the Cell Saga that is sometimes forgotten by DBZ fans. Super Saiyan Second Grade is often remembered by fans when used by Vegeta. He calls himself Super Vegeta when in this state and while it is similar to the original Super Saiyan transformation, there are some differences.
Notably, Goku in this form concentrates his ki into his muscles so that he grows bulkier and gets significant increases to his speed and power. We don’t see Goku use this Super Saiyan variant against any enemies, instead, he attains this while training with Gohan in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber.
Super Saiyan Third Grade
Another offshoot of the regular Super Saiyan form, Super Saiyan Grade 3 is only truly used by Future Trunks in his fight with Perfect Cell but as Goku shows in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, he can attain this form as well.
This form is similar to Super Saiyan Second Grade in that Goku’s Ki is forced into his body but the difference here is that 100% of the user’s strength and stamina is utilized. While this is great, there is a massive decrease in speed due to the excess muscle mass. This is what causes Goku to abandon any hope of using this form and he instead focused his attention elsewhere.
Full Power Super Saiyan
Realizing that the other offshoots of the original Super Saiyan form weren’t sufficient enough to beat Cell, Goku and Gohan trained to reach a different level of power than the Briefs family. This was known as Full Power Super Saiyan and while it may not be as powerful as the other variants, there are some key advantages.
As one can tell from Goku and Gohan’s softer facial expressions when they exit the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Full Power Super Saiyan is able to have their users remain much more controlled in this form due to a mastery of their ki. Best of all though is that compared to other forms, Goku doesn’t put a massive strain on his body with this transformation and his stamina and ki do not suffer any major loss. This was the form Goku chose to use in his fight with Perfect Cell and it served him pretty well until he sent Gohan in his place.
Super Saiyan 2
While Super Saiyan 2 is associated most with Goku’s son Gohan, it’s worth noting that Goku has used the form as well, including for his epic rematch with Vegeta in the Buu Saga.
As many are aware, this form of Super Saiyan has sparks of electricity surrounding it at all times and multiplies the base power of the user by 100. Unlike other forms used by Trunks and Vegeta in the Cell Saga, this form has no disadvantages to speed and stamina while also increasing the user’s ki and strength by an immense amount. Funnily enough, series creator Akira Toriyama would admit that he totally forgot about this form as time went on and thought this was actually the long-haired Super Saiyan 3.
Although this can arguably not be considered a true “transformation” but instead a technique that could, in theory, be learned by anybody, it is such an iconic look for Goku and makes a major impact when introduced in the Saiyan Saga that we will include it.
Giving Goku a red aura and a more intense demeanor, the Kaioken is used to help Goku close the power gap between himself and Vegeta in their first fight and to help Goku defeat Nappa with ease. Even better, the Kaioken can be multiplied for more power and speed but the higher one goes the strain on the body increases. This makes the form one of the best in the series in a dramatic sense since there is a real physical struggle for Goku to maintain the Kaioken.
The first form Goku ever transforms into in the series is the Great Ape, which is triggered when Goku looks at a full moon while imprisoned by Emperor Pilaf.
As this is technically the first-ever Dragon Ball arc, watching Goku turn into something so frightening was definitely surprising, and showed a small peek into Goku’s limitless strength.
Watching Frieza explode Krillin’s body in front of his eyes was the last straw for Goku, who truly lost all sense of reason and gave in to his anger at that very moment.
The result is easily one of the most iconic moments in Dragon Ball Z, as Goku finally fulfills the prophecy and transforms into a Super Saiyan. This powerup finally allows him to get the upper hand on Frieza and defeat the tyrant once and for all.
Super Saiyan 3
Gohan might’ve been the pioneer of Super Saiyan 2, but it was the Buu arc that finally put this spotlight back on Goku again in a pretty prominent manner.
Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan 3 is easily the stuff of legends, and people who saw the English dub were privy to one of the most iconic voice performances of all time, as Sean Schemmel screams for what feels like forever as Goku strains his entire body to reach this incredibly powerful state.
Super Saiyan God
The introduction of Dragon Ball Super brought with it a whole host of new possibilities and Super Saiyan God was the gateway into another series of powerful transformations.
This transformation kicked off the starting moments of Dragon Ball Super and gave fans a glimpse of what was to come in this new and exciting chapter of Dragon Ball. This transformation is notable for being one of the few where Goku requires external help to reach it as a ritual with many Saiyans is needed for him to become a god.
Super Saiyan Blue
While Goku’s Super Saiyan God form was certainly quite neat, it was the ascended version of this form that was used for the majority of the series. Watching the protagonist finally get his ki under control and achieve this new form was certainly a treat to witness in every sense of the word.
However, Goku didn’t stop there. He decided to combine this powerful form with a classic technique that provided for one of the best moments in Dragon Ball Super.
Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken
For the longest part, the Kaio-ken had been forgotten for the most part of Dragon Ball. The technique made its most memorable appearance during Goku’s fight against Vegeta. However, after a few fleeting showcases in the Frieza Saga, the technique was pretty much forgotten after the introduction of the Super Saiyan form.
Thankfully, Dragon Ball Super brought this iconic technique back during Goku’s fight against Hit, which was an amazing moment indeed. Watching Goku combine the new and old facets of Dragon Ball to gain the upper hand in his battle was quite an interesting thing to witness indeed.
Watching Goku transform into an imperfect Ultra Instinct form felt like a breath of fresh air, and fans couldn’t wait for the moment when Goku would master this form once and for all and finally give Jiren the beatdown he deserved.
So, it goes without saying that watching Goku transform into the perfected form of Ultra Instinct was easily one of the best moments in Dragon Ball history. The sheer increase in his power was a thing of wonder, and watching Jiren get completely schooled by Goku after having the upper hand throughout the battle was a treat to witness in every sense of the word.
Super Saiyan 4
Dragon Ball GT might not be a show that most fans remember fondly, but one can’t deny that the series definitely had its moments. One such part is definitely when Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan 4, gaining his adult body back in the process.
The design of Super Saiyan 4 is definitely quite unique, with most people arguing that it makes the Super Saiyan designs of Dragon Ball Super look lazy in comparison. This, combined with Goku’s increase in power, made for quite an amazing transformation indeed.
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