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The best Naruto arcs, ranked

From the Chunin Exams through to the final moments of Naruto Shippuden.

Serious Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

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With over 700 episodes between Naruto and Naruto Shippuden and even more of the original manga, there are plenty of stories crammed into one ninja’s lifetime even before you take into account Boruto: Naruto Next Generations. Across 20 years on the air, there are nearly 50 story arcs in the original anime, but which are the 10 best Naruto arcs, and what makes them stand out from the rest?

For this list, we’ll be including arcs from both Naruto and Naruto Shippuden since they’re simply a continuation of the same storyline that has concluded. Boruto is a very different story and is still ongoing in both the manga and the anime. We would warn you that we’re going to exclude any filler, but honestly, none of the filler episodes are good enough to make it into the 10 best Naruto arcs anyway.

Best Naruto arcs, ranked

10. Akatuski Suppression Mission Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 72-88)

Akatsuki suppression mission screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

Who doesn’t love a good training arc? They’re a staple of the Shonen genre for a reason – they show the characters on the journey to obtain a new level of power. This arc is essentially this, with Naruto training with Kakashi and Yamato to use his Shadow Clones technique to essentially double his training experience. Not only does this training arc give us the appearance of the Rasenshuriken, a more powerful version of Naruto’s signature attack, but it also introduces us to Hidan and Kakuzu, two new members of the Akatsuki Organization.

9. Search for Tsunade Arc (Naruto Episodes 81-100)

Search for Tsunade screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

Tsunade would go on to become one of the most beloved characters in Naruto, but when she’s first introduced she is shown as a drunk with a gambling problem. This arc gives us a taste of the relationship that would develop between Jiraiya and Naruto and shows us the Legendary Sannin in a massive three-way battle involving giant summoned creatures. It also sets up the parallels between Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Orochimaru and Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke.

8. Sasuke Recovery Arc (Naruto Episodes 107-135)

Sasuke vs Naruto screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

We love to watch heroes succeed, but sometimes we need to see them fail. In the aftermath of the Konoha Crush arc and with the Hidden Leaf Village’s resources nearly depleted, Sasuke leaves to seek more power under Orochimaru’s tutelage. This leads many of the young ninja of the village to try to bring him back. The result is some of the best fights in the series’ history that give characters like Neji, Choji, and Kiba a much-needed chance to shine. It culminates in an emotional and intense fight between Naruto and Sasuke at the Valley of the End, which Naruto ultimately loses.

7. The Kazekage’s Rescue Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 1-32)

Sakura punching a puppet
Image credit: Pierrot

Following the time skip that brought a shift in title in the anime, the first thing that Naruto does upon returning to the Hidden Leaf Village is leave to rescue Gaara after he is kidnapped by the Akatsuki. There is a great parallel to the Sasuke Recovery Arc, which gives a sense that Naruto and Sakura could easily fail in this mission. We get to see the fruits of Naruto’s training, but the real highlight is how Sakura shows off the increased strength and skill she has gained while studying under Tsunade.

6. Pain’s Assault Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 152-175)

Pain's Assault screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

After the emotional devastation that was Jiraiya’s death (more on that later), we got to see Pain bring his plan to fruition. He unleashes chaos on the Hidden Leaf Village, forcing Naruto to confront him. Pain plans to obtain the final Tailed Beast that lies within Naruto so the Akatsuki can complete their plan. The battle between the two is suitably tense, especially with Hinata getting a much-needed chance to shine midway through the fight and finally confess her barely-contained love for Naruto.


Related: The voice of Naruto, Maile Flanagan, creates the ultimate list of BEST Naruto fights, characters, and more!


5. The Taming of Nine-Tails and Fateful Encounters Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 243-275)

Naruto and his mother screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

Not long after the five Kage unite to try to confront the threat of the Akatsuki, the Fourth Great Shinobi War breaks out. As he tries to unlock more of the Nine-Tailed Beast’s power, Naruto has a touching encounter with a fragment of his mother that has been hidden away in his mind since he was born. For the first time, he learns the circumstances of his birth and that his mother, despite being absent nearly his entire life, truly loved him.

4. Birth of the Ten-Tails’ Jinchuriki Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 378-393 and 414-424)

Ten-Tailed Beast Arc screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

As Obito absorbs the Tailed Beasts and becomes the Ten-Tails Jinchuriki, two fights break out. The first is the five Kage battling against Madara to finally finish him off, which shows some of the most powerful ninja in existence showing off their full power. However, the most consequential fight takes place between Obito and Naruto, who is joined by his briefly-resurrected father, Minato. It is the first and only encounter between the two as the Fourth Hokage and the future Seventh Hokage fight side-by-side.

3. Kaguya Otsusuki Strikes Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 459-479)

Kaguya in Naruto anime
Image credit: Pierrot

The most powerful figure in the Naruto universe is Kaguya Otsusuki, who is the first being to use chakra and the greatest threat that Naruto ever faced. At the climax of Naruto Shippuden, she manifests and attempts to control every living person in the world. Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, and Obito all battle against her in the most surreal fight in the anime’s run. It is exactly as big and epic as a series like Naruto Shippuden needed to end on.

2. Tale of Jiraiya the Gallant Arc (Naruto Shippuden Episodes 127-133)

Jiraiya's Death screenshot
Image credit: Pierrot

In the long list of tragic anime deaths, Jiraiya is almost always near the top of the list. For hundreds of episodes he had seemed untouchable – despite his haphazard approach to life, Jiraiya was one of the most powerful ninja in existence and had become a father figure as well as a mentor to Naruto. So when he encountered Pain for the first time, fans thought he would figure out a way to survive. Instead, he gave his life to uncover the truth behind Pain’s identity and relay that information back to Naruto, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of everyone who knew him.

1. The Chunin Exams Arc (Naruto Episodes 20-67)

Rock Lee weights
Image credit: Pierrot

If you ask fans what the greatest moment in Naruto is, they’ll probably tell you one that doesn’t even involve the title character. The Chunin Exams Arc is the best Naruto arc ever for plenty of reasons – it expands the lore of the world and introduces the likes of Gaara, Neji, and Temari to the show. However, it wins out among all the other arcs in the show because of the fight between Rock Lee and Gaara. The moment when Rock Lee drops his ankle weights and unleashes his full power against Gaara is easily one of the most jaw-dropping anime moments of all time.


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