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As Dragon Ball"s primary protagonist, Son Goku has fought countless characters over the years in tournaments, rounds of friendly sparring, and more often than not, climactic battles where losing wasn"t an option. Characters like Yamcha and Krillin are often made fun of for how much they"ve died over the course of the series, but Goku"s had his fair share of deaths too, with four characters, in particular, standing out as the only ones (as of Dragon Ball Super"s latest manga arc) who have been able to send Goku to the afterlife.
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Of course, this doesn"t mean that other characters didn"t get close to killing the Saiyan themselves, though many of them learned the hard way that Goku doesn"t go down easily.
Throughout Dragon Ball, Goku faced many threats, from the entirety of the Red Ribbon Army to King Piccolo. And yet despite just how powerful each of his enemies were, his first death didn"t come until the start of Dragon Ball Z, where he sacrificed himself by holding Raditz in place so that Piccolo"s Special Beam Cannon wouldn"t miss its mark.
Of course, the Special Beam Cannon not only pierced Raditz"s body but Goku"s as well, giving the Saiyan his first taste of the afterlife. It"s ironic that Piccolo, the first evildoer who succeeded in killing Goku, slowly became one of Goku"s greatest allies after accomplishing the one goal that even his father couldn"t.
When Goku and Vegeta first met in combat, Vegeta had Goku outmatched. After he transformed into a Great Ape, Goku found himself overwhelmed.
If it weren"t for the combined efforts of Yajirobe, Gohan, and Krillin, Goku would"ve been crushed by his colossal foe.
Unlike many Dragon Ball villains, Frieza was given multiple chances to kill Goku, and yet he failed twice. When he and Goku fought on Namek, he almost defeated Goku with his superior power but made the mistake of killing Krillin and triggering Goku"s first Super Saiyan transformation, which guaranteed his defeat.
Years later, he got another chance to take Goku down after Sorbet"s ring laser caught the Saiyan off guard. Though the ring laser didn"t kill him, it left him weakened at Frieza"s feet. Frieza proceeded to torture him, and just before he prepared to finish Goku off for good, Vegeta came to his rescue, ensuring that Goku was given a Senzu Bean. As if it wasn"t already frustrating enough that Vegeta didn"t get to land the final blow on Frieza in Resurrection "F", it was just as frustrating for Universe 7"s emperor that he didn"t get the revenge that he felt so entitled to.
7 Killed Goku: Cell
Dr. Gero created a number of androids for the sole purpose of destroying Goku, and yet Cell was his only creation that managed to do so.
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It"s ironic that the only reason Goku lost his life to Cell was that Gohan refused to finish Cell off immediately after unlocking his superior Super Saiyan 2 powers, giving Cell the opening he needed to turn himself into a living bomb. The only thing that saved Earth was Goku using Instant Transmission to move both Cell and himself to King Kai"s Planet, where Cell exploded, obliterating Goku and marking the start of his 7-year stay in Other World.
As Goku and Beerus" rematch came to its conclusion, Beerus struck Goku down and sent him falling back to Earth before hurling a Sphere of Destruction at him, so big that it would not only destroy Goku but the rest of the planet as well.
Beerus made no intention to stop the attack or divert it, and if not for Goku using every last bit of his remaining energy to nullify it, he would"ve been done for.
5 Killed Goku: Hit
After Zamasu"s defeat, it wasn"t long before Goku became bored with his lack of competition on Earth. Though Vegeta was a perfect sparring partner for him, he was off tending to the family that he"d neglected years prior, and Gohan had already committed to the life of a scholar. The Saiyan was so desperate for a challenge that he arranged his own assassination, forcing Hit to travel to Earth and actually attempt to kill him.
The job was a walk in the park for Hit, who used his Time Skip abilities to deliver a crushing blow to Goku"s heart that took him down in an instant. If it wasn"t for the ki blast that Goku shot into the air just before he died, his heart wouldn"t have been revied, and another character would"ve had to take over for him in Dragon Ball Super.
Seconds after Kid Buu appeared before Goku and Vegeta, his first instinct was to destroy Earth with his Planet Burst attack. If it weren"t for Kibito Kai teleporting to Earth and transporting Goku to the Sacred World of the Kai (along with Vegeta, Dende, Hercule, Bee, and Majin Buu), he would"ve been destroyed before having the chance to go toe-to-toe with Kid Buu. And while they all aided him during his fight against Majin Buu"s purest form, he still put up more resistance than any other villain in Dragon Ball Z.
When Goku hurled a Spirit Bomb at Kid Buu, he was able to deflect it right back, and if it weren"t for Dende using Namek"s Dragon Balls to restore Goku"s energy, he would"ve been vaporized by his own attack. Despite a deflected Spirit Bomb triggering Ultra Instinct for Goku in Dragon Ball Super, this wouldn"t have been the case here, since, at the time of his fight with Kid Buu, he lacked the divine training and god ki that seem to be prerequisites for such a powerful technique not meant for mortals in the first place.
3 Came Close: Android 19
While Cell was Dr. Gero"s only creation that managed to kill Goku, Android 19 came pretty close. It wasn"t even that Android 19 possessed more power than Goku; during the first half of their match, Goku"s Super Saiyan form was more than enough to put the pressure on his artificial opponent, but it also strengthened the heart virus that went on to claim Goku"s life in a future timeline. This allowed Android 19 to pin him to the floor, where he then proceeded to drain Goku"s energy.
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With Dr. Gero standing by to prevent the other Z-Fighters from intervening, Goku came within seconds of certain death. If it weren"t for Vegeta coming in at the last second to force Android 19 off of Goku, the Saiyan would"ve been killed while his closest friends could do nothing but watch.
While Goku Black was unsuccessful in killing the Goku that viewers all know and love, he actually did succeed in killing a version of Goku in an alternate timeline after using the Super Dragon Balls to swap bodies with the Saiyan warrior. This gave Zamasu all of Goku"s power and left Goku with Zamasu"s weaker body that wasn"t even stronger than a Super Saiyan 2. He took Goku completely off guard, appearing at his home and killing him along with Chi-Chi and Goten.
It was a complicated plan, and by no means was it fair, but in the end, Goku Black cemented himself as one of the few characters that actually succeeded in sending Goku to Other World.
1 Came Close: Mercenary Tao
During Goku"s first encounter with Mercenary Tao, the Crane School assassin outclassed the Turtle School"s mightiest disciple in every way, forcing the young Saiyan to rely on the Kamehameha in an effort to finish him off. Mercenary Tao not only survived the attack but fired back with one of his own: the infamous Dodon Ray.
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Tao"s Dodon Ray struck Goku where his heart was and would"ve granted him an instant death if not for the Four-Star Dragon Ball that was tucked away in his shirt, which prevented Tao"s attack from penetrating Goku"s flesh.