From the start of Goku’s journey as a child being raised by Master Gohan to his eventual rise to becoming a literal Super Saiyan God capable of tapping into unimaginable power, Dragon Ball’s been delivering with its tight combat, heartfelt moments, and engaging side characters throughout.
With several arcs and spinoffs to add to your list, it might get fairly confusing figuring out just where to start. From the shows to the manga, new fans need a timeline to make sense of it all without having to dive into the finer details. Enjoy the series the way you’re meant to without the extra fluff or complicated dates weighing you down.
Pre Dragon Ball
With barely any coverage, some important past events from the beginning get mentioned throughout different series and tie in with the main story eventually.
Even though Dragon Ball’s story centers around Goku, the universe and the characters existing within it predate his arrival on Planet Earth from Planet Vegeta.
As the series progressed, the timeline got more fleshed out and complicated, with most of the history getting some light shed on it as Dragon Ball Super’s manga came out.
A monster said to be evil incarnate assumes a child-like form on its own at Time Immemorial.
Zalama Creates the Super Dragon Balls
A mysterious warrior with the power to create wish-granting items creates the planet-sized Super Dragon Balls and Super Shenron in Universe Six and Seven.
Old Supreme Kai’s Scuffle With Beerus
After a sour meeting with Universe 7’s God of Destruction, Beerus, Old Supreme Kai gets trapped in the Z-sword as punishment.
Moro Attempts To Destroy Universe 7
A violent energy-absorbing villain, capable of threatening Universe Seven’s existence, emerges and is imprisoned by Daikaioh and the South Supreme Kai.
Buu Battles The Daikaioh
Bibidi unleashes the terror named Buu and that being winds up destroying thousands of planets, eventually absorbing Daikaioh and the South Supreme Kai until it’s successfully trapped again by the East Supreme Kai. After absorption, Buu assumes the form of the Daikaioh and retains some good inside him.
Katas’s Son Sent To Earth
A Namekian sends away his son to save him from a devastating drought and storm that kills the entire population, leaving only Guru and Lord Slug behind as the only living survivors on the planet.
Mutaito Seals King Piccolo
Katas’s son trains with Kami (Guardian of Earth) and ultimately decides to remove all evil residing within him only for it to assume its own form and personality known as King Piccolo.
The son ascends the throne and eventually becomes Kami himself. He focuses his efforts on minimizing the damage inflicted on Earth by his evil half.
Master Mutaito, the man who trained Master Roshi, performs the Mafuba and seals away King Piccolo in exchange for his own life.
The Saiyans Leave Planet Sadala
Due to eventual rampant internal conflict and devastation, the Saiyan race immigrates to a new planet and name it Vegeta. They slowly evolve into combat-loving humanoid beings.
Saiyans Tussle With Tuffles
The emperor of the galaxy, King Cold, annexes and enslaves Planet Vegeta and puts it under his son Frieza’s control. Frieza uses the Saiyans as a mercenary force and has them conquer other planets including one that harbored the Tuffle race.
Eventually after conducting a mass genocide, the Saiyans depart while the scientists of the planet create a parasitic life form infused with King Tuffle’s cells, born with the goal to eradicate all Saiyans.
Broly Is Born And Beerus Issues An Order
Fearing the infant Broly’s immense power and potential, Frieza banishes the Saiyan to an inhospitable planet named Vampa, essentially condemning him to death. Beerus visits Frieza and intimidates him into eradicating his mercenary force or else get annihilated himself.
Goku Is Born While Cereal’s Invaded
During the year Planet Vegeta gets destroyed by an increasingly paranoid Frieza, Bardock, and other Saiyans are dispatched to conquer Planet Cereal immediately after his son Kakarot is born.
While eliminating most of the population, Bardock has a change of heart and protects a Namekian named Monaito, and the Cerelian Granolah and his mother.
In a scuffle with Frieza’s brokers and intel group, The Heeter Family, Granolah’s mother loses her life. Bardock returns to Planet Vegeta enraged upon learning of Frieza’s true intentions for his homeland after overhearing a conversation between Elec and Gas.
Unfortunately, his efforts were in vain as he takes the last stand after sending off his son Kakarot to Planet Earth.
Dragon Ball (Son Goku Saga – Piccolo Saga)
Dragon Ball made its debut in 1984 and started the entire series off on a light note. The stakes weren’t that high, and it was fairly lighthearted compared to what came after.
Son Goku Saga
This foot of the journey covers Bulma’s first meeting with Goku, and we slowly get to learn about the main character over a series of a few episodes that show him taking down Emperor Pilaf and participating in his first World Martial Arts Tournament.
Red Ribbon Army Saga
After an upsetting defeat at the hands of Jackie Chun, Goku and the gang have a far more sinister foe to tackle, an army of combatants looking to collect the dragon balls and finally achieve their goal of world domination with the help of Dr.Gero.
After some training with a god responsible for guarding the Earth on his lookout, Goku powers up yet again to face off against the ruthless tyranny of King Piccolo.
With several of his allies massacred by the evildoers, a wish by the end of the arc brings back his old friends from the Otherworld.
The saga concludes with a timeskip, and Goku faces off with a remnant of King Piccolo’s forces, his son Piccolo Jr.
Dragon Ball Z (Saiyan Saga – Buu Saga)
Dragon Ball Z starts off five years after the conclusion of Goku’s fight with Piccolo. Despite ending in a draw we see the titular main character slack off and his focus is now on sustaining a family with his childhood friend Chi-Chi and Son Gohan.
Tensions rise as aliens come to visit the planet Earth, and one of them declares he’s Goku’s brother!
At this point, you find out just why Goku’s so strong as you dive into his checkered past and get an explanation for his good-willed nature. Gohan ends up kidnapped with Goku left helplessly watching it happen.
Despite an unexpected team-up with his former rival Piccolo Jr. switching sides, he still winds up losing the fray to his brother and receives a fatal blow.
With only two years to train with King Kai, Goku got wished back so he could face off against the oncoming looming threat, the dreaded Saiyans.
With so many of the Z-fighters (Tien, Yamcha, Piccolo) losing their lives in the previous battle, Goku, Gohan, and the rest of their remaining forces focus their efforts on finding a planet with Dragon Balls like Planet Namek.
After facing off against the strongest being in the galaxy, Goku taps into a latent ability that grants him immense power and agility. He finally puts an end to Frieza’s reign over the galaxy as the Planet Namek disintegrates and both are left presumably dead.
A mysterious warrior from the future arrives and essentially creates a whole other timeline with his actions, just to prevent the horrible future that was in store for Earth.
In a surprising turn of events, Frieza and Goku come to Planet Earth with the former getting promptly dispatched by the golden-haired combatant from the future.
With grim news to share about Goku’s demise, Trunks provides a cure and returns to his own timeline, vowing to come back after two years and aid the warriors in their fight against the dreaded androids 17 and 18. Unfortunately, due to his meddling, the events that transpired differed and Cell eventually began his rampage on Earth.
The Z-fighters somehow muster up the resolve to train and defeat Cell with an honorable sacrifice that still led up to Goku dying and Gohan’s unimaginable rage-fueled power boost that made him surpass his father in terms of strength. Trunks goes back to his own timeline, left unaffected by any of his actions in the ‘past’ as yet.
Bibidi’s son Babidi collects the energy he needed to revive Majin Buu, and it takes the combined efforts of all of the Z-fighters to take them down. During his training with the Supreme Kai, Gohan frees the Old Supreme Kai from the Z-sword and unlocks his latent potential.
Similar to Kami, Buu expels all the evil from his body, but it manifests into a being of pure evil that absorbs him and kills most of the population on Planet Earth.
Eventually, after facing off against Vegito and losing most of the individuals Super Buu absorbed inside him, the good side of Buu is expelled from his body and Super Buu reverts to his original child-like form, Kid Buu.
Goku and Vegeta team up to take out Buu once and for all despite being dead on Supreme Kai’s planet. Goku concludes the fight by wishing for the return of Kid Buu as a good person.
Dragon Ball Super (Battle Of Gods Saga – Super Hero Saga)
The events of Dragon Ball Super transpire six months after the conclusion of the Buu Saga, and they cover certain events that have shaped the universe and given it more depth than ever before. With several movie tie-ins and new characters that further flesh out the world-building, it’s also rather confusing for most casual fans to get into.
Gods Of The Universe Saga
A dream disturbs the bored God of Destruction Beerus’s slumber, and he sets off to Earth in order to find a Super Saiyan God to battle against. Eventually, he grows fond of the planet’s cuisine and decides to spare the Earthlings despite not getting the fight he wanted.
He decides to begrudgingly train Goku (who’s now a farmer) and Vegeta on his own planet with his angel Whis, in order for them to realize their potential.
Soon after, Frieza returns yet again and plots to overthrow Earth. He uses his new golden form to take out most of the Z-fighters until Goku and Vegeta return to settle the score and kill him.
Beerus and Universe Six’s God of Destruction Champa organize a tournament to decide who keeps Universe Seven’s Earth. Universe Seven ultimately succeeds, but the tournament is interrupted by the Creator of the Multiverse Zen-oh who expresses the desire to host a tournament on a far grander scale with all 12 universes.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Trunks makes a comeback from his future only to share how devastated his timeline is because a Supreme Kai’s apprentice Zamasu makes a wish to trade bodies with Goku and terrorizes the mortal inhabitants to punish them for using time travel.
Trunks takes Goku and Vegeta to the future and their combined efforts keep Goku Black at bay. After merging with a past version of himself, Zamasu eventually overpowers the trio but ultimately loses the bout and gets annihilated while the timeline gets split again since he was eradicated from the future and past.
Now that the Earth was safe and Trunks went back to his future timeline yet again, Goku and the rest of the Z-fighters who were worthy enough to be on Universe Seven’s team took on the other universes in Zen-oh’s Tournament of Power.
Universe Seven ultimately comes out on top and Goku uses the Super Dragon Balls to restore all the universes that were threatened to get wiped out by Zen-Oh.
Universe Seven Saga
The saga kicks off with a movie tie-in that covers Goku and Vegeta’s meeting with the legendary Super Saiyan of their universe, Broly, and their efforts to subdue him. They eventually succeed at swaying him toward their side and Broly returned to his cozy life on Vampa.
Soon after the events of the movie, the Galactic Patrol recruits Goku, Vegeta, and Buu in order to reign in Moro. They seek the Daikaioh inside Buu’s help since he assumes control over Buu after sending the danger Moro poses.
Moro winds up using the dragon balls to wish for his youth back and powers up exponentially until Goku receives a massive power boost from a village boy named Uub on Earth. Eventually, their collective effort proves fruitful and they overcome this colossal threat.
Following their efforts to subdue Moro, Granolah the Celerean uses Monaito’s dragon balls to wish himself to be the strongest in the universe in order to take out Frieza and his forces.
The duo winds up traveling to Planet Cereal and faces off against the Heeters and Granolah. They manage to subdue their foes until the battle gets overwhelming for both Goku and Vegeta and then Frieza suddenly makes an appearance and destroys Gas after taking out Granolah, and his old rivals.
The saga concludes with the events that transpire on Earth as the Red Ribbon Army’s remnants attempt to revive Dr. Gero’s greatest achievement, the bio-organism known as Cell with the help of his grandson Dr. Hedo.
After Piccolo fakes abducting Pan to motivate Gohan to fight against Hedo’s androids, the Z-fighters face off against Cell Max and pull off a close victory with the help of Gamma 1 and Gamma 2.
Dragon Ball GT (Black Star Dragon Balls Saga – Shadow Dragon Saga)
Depending on what you want to believe, whether GT is canon or not is still debatable, but according to the official sources, it is canon at the moment. The series will act as a sequel to the events that transpire during Dragon Ball Super and takes place ten years after.
Black Star Dragon Balls Saga
Ten years after the events of Dragon Ball Super, Goku is training with Uub but gets wished back into a child by the Pilaf gang and winds up joining Trunks and his granddaughter Pan on an adventure across space to find the scattered black star dragon balls that became corrupted after continued usage.
The crew returns from space only to find the inhabitants of Earth have been corrupted by the parasitic organism Baby, a being meant the exact revenge on behalf of the Tuffles, who want to wipe out every Saiyan alive. Eventually Goku and co. overcome the odds and wipe him out.
Super 17 Saga
One year after Baby’s onslaught, Dr. Gero and Dr. Miyuu team up together in Hell and make their own version of Android 17.
Hell Fighter 17 and Android 17 eventually merge to form Super 17, but not before wiping out and killing some of Goku’s allies in the process. With some grit and determination, their tyranny’s put to an end by Goku.
Shadow Dragon Saga
Following the events of the last arc, the Z-fighters aim to revive and restore the Earth’s inhabitants with the use of the dragon balls, but something goes wrong. The balls end up shattering after they make their wish and dragons wreak havoc on the world.
It takes the combined effort of Goku and Vegeta to subdue the threat and put an end to the menace caused by using the dragon balls far too much.
Shenron informs Goku that he is the catalyst for the Earth attracting such powerful foes and thus Goku decides to leave with him to an undisclosed location.
Next: Dragon Ball Z: Every Version Of Goku From Weakest To Strongest, Officially Ranked