What Makes Super Saiyan Better Than Ultra Instinct?

Every Dragon Ball fan remembers where they were the first time they saw Goku reach Ultra Instinct against Jiren during the tournament of Power. That moment revitalized the hype around Dragon Ball Super in a way that hadn’t been around since DBZ ended.

Ultra Instinct was an important moment for DB fans that shouldn’t be understated, but even years later, with multiple UI power ups under Goku’s belt, his new form just can’t quite measure up to the greatness that is the original Super Saiyan. Between its iconic blonde-haired look, its influential introductory arc, and the mysterious lore behind it, the original Super Saiyan form is still cooler than Ultra Instinct to this day.

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10 SSJ is Connected to Goku’s Saiyan Heritage

Goku First Turned Super Saiyan in DBZ Episode 95: “Transformed at Last”

Super Saiyan is a form specific to the saiyan race. That fact differentiates it from Ultra Instinct, which is a technique that can be learned by anyone with sufficient training.

Goku learning that he was actually a member of an alien race at the start of DBZ was a major revelation that culminated in him being the first to unlock his race of people’s innate potential. This is powerful because Goku was essentially a saiyan outcast, and grew up as a human on Earth instead of a member of his own race like Vegeta and Raditz had.

9 Its Introduction Sequence Was More Emotionally Powerful

Super Saiyan Goku gets angry on Planet Namek in Dragon Ball Z.

“I am the warrior you’ve heard of in legends, pure of heart and awakened by fury, that’s what I am. I am the Super Saiyan, Son Goku!”

Goku’s initial transformation into Super Saiyan is one of the most iconic scenes in the entire Dragon Ball franchise. It was the result of the highest stakes battle Goku had ever been a part of up to that point – and it truly felt that way. Goku’s friends were dying all around him, and he was entirely at Frieza’s mercy.

After witnessing the death of his best friend, Krillin, Goku snapped, and his transformation was complete. This solidified the idea that a super saiyan was about more than just pure physical power – there was a psychological element to it that couldn’t be reached by just anybody.

8 It Was Something Completely New in the Series

Super Saiyan Goku sizes up Frieza in the Limited Color Dragon Ball Z manga.

Ultra Instinct made a splash for fans when it was first shown off, but its impact was automatically stunted by the simple fact that Goku had never done anything like it before. Goku received power ups through training before, but nothing as drastic as Super Saiyan had ever occurred in Dragon Ball before it.

The true impact of Super Saiyan was in its novelty, and that’s a luxury UI never had the opportunity to enjoy. Since then, transformations have become an integral part of the Dragon Ball formula. As unique as UI was to other previous forms in the series, nothing can match the feeling of Goku’s very first transformation.

7 It Was Foreshadowed Long Before it Appeared

Nappa and Vegeta get ready to travel to Earth in Dragon Ball Z

  • Vegeta first mentions the idea of the Super Saiyan transformation in chapter 204 in the manga, as he is headed to Earth with Nappa.

A big thing that gave SSJ so much impact was how it was foreshadowed and referred to long before it actually showed up. In a way, the entirety of DBZ was a build up to Super Saiyan after Goku’s saiyan heritage was established in the first episode, and Vegeta referenced SSJ shortly afterward.

Ultra Instinct was foreshadowed in its own way by Whis as well, but the reason SSJ was treated better is a bit more subtle. That’s because UI was never actually mentioned by name, it was only a sort of unnamed technique that Whis was teaching Goku. The foreshadowing of SSJ was more impactful because the term Super Saiyan had been thrown around a number of times before by Vegeta, making the fact that Goku finally reached it feel more satisfying in the long run.

6 SSJ Felt More Well-Earned Than UI

Goku undergoes gravity training in Dragon Ball Z.

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Both SSJ and UI are the results of Goku’s hard work and training in martial arts throughout his life. Similarly, Goku had been training relentlessly in the years leading up until the point that he reached both forms. Even though Goku undoubtedly went through a lot of training to ultimately have the capacity to achieve UI, it came at a point in the series when the idea of the near-death power up was already well established.

Goku has shown off this capacity to miraculously reach a new level of power just when things look dire, and Ultra Instinct is only the latest example of that. In comparison, SSJ gave a sense of a surprising hidden potential that Goku always had within him, and all his effort throughout the series gave him the ability to tap into it.

5 It Drastically Changes Goku’s Appearance

As cool as Goku’s white hair and grey eyes are in UI, they just aren’t as jarring a visual change as Super Saiyan’s iconic blonde hair and blue eyes. Goku’s distinctive hairstyle had already made him one of anime’s most recognizable characters, so seeing the dramatic change from black to blonde really highlighted the power increase he received as a Super Saiyan.

In some ways, UI’s more reserved transformation was a welcome change from the plethora of other Super Saiyan forms that came before it in Super. From SSJ3 to SSJ Blue, Super Saiyan saw a number of alterations after the original form was introduced, and part of UI’s draw was that the change was a bit more subtle. The only reason things ever went that far was because of how difficult it was for Toriyama to recapture the same magic that was the beloved original Super Saiyan form.

4 It’s Part of One of the Greatest Arcs in Shonen History

Goku and Frieza standing back to back and fighting in anime Dragon Ball Z

  • Goku’s fight with Frieza is one of the longest anime fights of all time, lasting around 19 episodes total.

The Frieza saga is not only the peak of Dragon Ball for many, it’s arguably the greatest arc in shonen anime history. It was highly influential to the series that came after it, with Frieza in particular having a heavy influence on pretty much every other shonen villain since.

This is in contrast to the Tournament of Power arc where Ultra Instinct was first revealed. While it was a stand-out arc for Dragon Ball Super, the TOP lacked the emotional buildup of the entire Namek and Ginyu Sagas that led up to the fight with Frieza.

3 No One Taught Goku How To Become a Super Saiyan

Dragon Ball Super's Goku, Vegeta, and Whis during a joint training session

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Ultra Instinct is a form that Goku was actually training specifically to reach for quite a while, even if he didn’t realize it. That’s ultimately what Whis was teaching Goku to accomplish on Beerus’ planet when he told him that his body would have to act without conscious thought.

That’s more than can be said for Super Saiyan, which isn’t something that anyone was even certain existed other than Vegeta, much less something that had been achieved. Goku truly broke new ground when he reached SSJ for the first time, making it more a product of his own astronomical growth throughout the franchise rather than the product of specialized practice.

2 It’s Legendary Status Is Obvious & Unmatched

Goku Goes Super Saiyan For The First Time DBZ

“A Super Saiyan appears once every thousand years… a Saiyan who overcomes the wall which no warrior, no matter how gifted, can overcome.”

From as early as the Saiyan Saga, the idea of the Super Saiyan was implanted into fans’ minds. As the Namek and Frieza Sagas commenced, the “Legendary Super Saiyan” was expanded on through hints dropped by Frieza and Vegeta, making it sound like a mythical concept that was rooted more in folktales than in reality.

In the fight with Frieza, Vegeta made an active effort to become a Super Saiyan and even presumed he had actually become one after Krillin nearly killed him for a zenkai boost. That entire situation gave the idea of the Super Saiyan even more weight, so that when Goku finally emerged with his spiky blonde hair and blue eyes, it was even more legendary.

1 Super Saiyan is Way More Iconic

  • Akira Toriyama reportedly chose to give Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation blonde hair because it was easier to draw in the manga than black hair.

There’s no transformation in anime more iconic than Super Saiyan. Even people who know nothing about Dragon Ball or anime know what it means when Goku powers up, his hair stands on its end, and a golden aura surrounds him.

Super Saiyan is so well known that it has been referenced, paid homage to, and parodied in numerous non-Dragon Ball related media. That includes IPs as varied as South Park, Kim Possible, and the WWE video game series. Dragon Ball has truly taken over the world, and Goku’s Super Saiyan transformation is an integral factor in its popularity.

Dragon Ball Z TV Show Poster

Dragon Ball Z

With the help of the powerful Dragonballs, a team of fighters led by the saiyan warrior Goku defend the planet earth from extraterrestrial enemies.

Release Date
September 13, 1996

Akira Toriyama

Sean Schemmel , Brian Drummond , Christopher Sabat , Scott McNeil


Toei Animation

Number of Episodes

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