While Goku's best friend Krillin has a bad rap for being owned on the battlefield, Goku, the most iconic character in the Dragon Ball franchise, has endured an untimely demise more than once in both Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball Super. Here are all the times Goku has died over the course of the Dragon Ball franchise, ranked by both importance and intensity, from DBZ to Dragon Ball Super.
Goku vs. Hit
The most recent time Goku has died in the prime Dragon Ball timeline was against the Universe 6 assassin Hit. Goku and the Z Fighters first faced off against Hit in the Tournament of Destruction between Universes 6 and 7 in Super. Impressed by how much of a challenge Hit gave him, with his ability to skip through time, Goku hired Hit after the tournament to come to Universe 7 and hunt him down.
Reasoning that Hit held back during the tournament since he couldn't employ lethal force, Goku made himself the assassin's contracted target for the chance to fight him all-out. Hit was successful in completing his contract by stopping Goku's heart with a special energy attack, with a subsequent energy blast serving as a makeshift defibrillator after Piccolo declared him dead on the scene. The brief, fake-out nature of it all places this death at the bottom of the list.
Goku vs. Zamasu
Dragon Ball's darkest timelines have largely revolved around the deaths of Goku and Super provided perhaps the bleakest yet as Universe 10's aspiring Supreme Kai targeted Universe 7 by taking over Goku's body from a divergent timeline. While the body itself lived on and Kai proclaimed himself Goku Black before invading Future Trunks' timeline, the Super Saiyan God's consciousness was presumably erased for good.
In a macabre twist, the first thing Goku Black did was brutally murder this timeline's Chi-Chi and Goten, with the storyline showing the dark side of Kais while the tragedy served as the impetus for Future Trunks to canonically return to the franchise.
Goku's Heart Virus
Goku's most tragic death of all wasn't against a physical opponent but from a rare heart virus, which he succumbed to six months before the arrival of Androids 17 and 18. Without Goku, the Z Fighters were completely wiped out by the synthetic warriors, with only Gohan surviving and training his timeline's Trunks to become the future's best hope.
Trunks managed to save the prime timeline by traveling back in time with the cure for Goku's heart virus. After not experiencing any symptoms, Goku stopped taking the medicine and nearly succumbed to the virus in the heat of battle. Luckily, he resumed taking the medicine again and was cured of the disease as the consequences from tampering with time became increasingly apparent.
Goku vs. Raditz
While Goku was the undisputed champion of the original Dragon Ball, the sequel anime series Dragon Ball Z kicked off with a bold move: killing its protagonist against the series' first major antagonist, Raditz. The Saiyan villain was revealed to be Goku's long-lost brother and visibly outmatched Goku and Piccolo, forcing the two to work together.
This culminated in Goku restraining his older brother, allowing Piccolo to strike them both with the full brunt of his new attack Special Beam Cannon, knowing it would kill them both. While everyone planned to resurrect Goku with the Dragon Balls, the moment signaled that DBZ would be darker and more action-packed than its predecessor, immediately raising the stakes.
Goku vs. Cell
One of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Dragon Ball was Goku's heroic sacrifice fighting the vile Cell during the foe's Cell Games martial arts tournament in DBZ. After Gohan hit Cell so hard that he forcibly ejected Android 18, the synthetic villain self-destructed and nearly took Earth with him -- until Goku transported himself and Cell to King Kai's planet to minimize casualties.
While Goku knew he was facing his own death, he offered his son words of encouragement in one of the franchise's most emotionally poignant moments while telling the Z Fighters to let him rest in peace this time -- at least for several years.