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Every major ninja in Naruto and Naruto Shippuden, ranked from best to worst

Sometimes the best characters aren't the strongest.

Team 7 in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

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The Naruto anime has always had the benefit of being stacked with great characters, with the added benefit that absolutely anyone whip out some unexplainable, epic power at any moment and have it be explained away as a “bloodline jutsu.” Most of the major ninja in Naruto have some sort of unique power or technique that gives them an edge in battle, but this list isn’t just about fighting strength.

We’re ranking every major Naruto ninja based on their narrative strength as well as their overall cool factor. Sure, power might come into it – many of the powers in the show fall firmly in the rule of cool territory – but we’ll be judging these ninja from a complete character point of view. We’ll also be focusing on the characters through Naruto and Naruto Shippuden. No shade on Boruto, but with the story still incomplete it is tough to get a complete picture of the characters.

Every major Naruto ninja, ranked

27) Shino Aburame

Shino in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

In a testament to how great the characters of Naruto are, the lowest-ranked character on our list of Naruto ninja has an incredibly cool power. Shino comes from a long line of weird bug-obsessed ninja and has developed his powers to the point where they live all over and inside of his body. It’s a weird niche but Shino owns it, using the awe-inspiring power of bugs to overcome many stronger foes. If he got a reasonable amount of development or got to take part in some of the show’s more significant moments, he would be far higher on this list.

26) Killer B

Killer B in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Again, don’t be fooled by his ranking here – Killer B is incredibly cool. He bursts into Naruto Shippuden with a rap about having a spiritual beast living within him and proceeds to school Sasuke and his group when they try to capture him. He is also the one who teaches Naruto how to live in harmony with the Nine-Tailed Beast inside him, but that is really the extent of his involvement in the story. Killer B, unfortunately, doesn’t get to do a great deal with his limited time on screen, which keeps him near the bottom of our rankings.

25) Tenten

Tenten in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

It is important to always have the right tool for the job, and Tenten has more ninja tools and weapons than anyone else in the show. Her ability to fight with a nearly limitless assortment of weapons is incredibly fun to watch, as is her obvious skill at using those weapons. However, she is incredibly one-note and doesn’t get much development through the series.

24) Kiba Inuzuka

Kiba in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Growing up, did you wish you had a dog that could understand you? Of course, you did. That idea is pretty much the extent of Kiba’s development. It is a neat trick, of course, but it never gets more unique than a story of a dog and his boy.

23) Kankuro

Kankuro in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Kankuro’s ability to use a puppet to do his bidding is one of the creepier techniques in the Naruto universe. His overall power and strength are fairly low, but he has eyes and ears everywhere. Ultimately, Kankuro is overshadowed by his allies like Temari and Gaara and never manages to be more interesting than he is creepy.

22) Choji Akimichi

Choji in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Shonen characters with a healthy appetite are nothing new, but Choji went and made that a whole personality. The boy likes to eat, which leads to many people underestimating him. However, when he needs to put his head down and get to work, he is a formidable fighter. Again, he is just a bit one-note and doesn’t get much development or impact on the story.

21) Asuma Sarutobi

Asuma in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

There are plenty of great ninja in Naruto, which is part of why Asuma gets lost in the crowd a bit. His most interesting moments are when he is mentoring Shikamaru and when he dies. These make him memorable but there are plenty of great deaths in Naruto. Asuma is undeniably cool, but ultimately he doesn’t add much to the narrative.

20) Ino Yamanaka

Ino in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

If Naruto had been a romantic comedy, Ino would have been one of the main characters. She was best friends with Sakura when they were growing up but they fell out as they competed over who would get to date Sasuke. Her ability to enter her opponent’s mind and control their body is a bit terrifying when you think about it, but she never develops past her rivalry with Sakura.

19) Hinata Hyuga

Hinata in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

This one is going to upset people, but hear us out. Hinata is one of the most important people in Naruto’s life. She spends their entire lives cheering for and adoring him. She is cute and has an epically cool ability to see anything happening around her, but she, like many female characters in anime, is too defined by her relationship with a man to be an interesting character in her own right.

18) Temari

Temari in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

The tsundere of the Naruto world is Temari, who is part of Gaara’s escort to the Chunin Exams in the Hidden Leaf Village. Her weapons of choice are a giant fan and a healthy dose of contempt for pretty much everyone around her. Her personality is more memorable and impactful than anything she ends up contributing to the plot. Temari is overshadowed by Gaara in terms of plot relevance and ability.

17) Neji Hyuga

Neji in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

When he is first introduced, Neji is an insufferable jerk. He looks down on pretty much everyone who wasn’t born a prodigy at ninjitsu and takes out his frustrations by beating Hinata nearly to death during the Chunin Exams. However, we get to find out more about him as the show goes on, which makes his sacrifice in the final arc of the Naruto anime that much more meaningful.

16) Hiruzen Sarutobi

Hiruzen Sarutobi in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

The Third Hokage is an old man by the time the show starts, but it is clear that he is still a formidable ninja even in his later years. When Orochimaru attacks the Hidden Leaf Village during the Chunin Exams, Hiruzen manages to fight him and the reincarnated First and Second Hokage singlehandedly.

15) Nagato

Nagato in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

When he is introduced as Pain, Nagato is easily the most powerful ninja that Naruto and the others have come across. He is strong enough to take down Jiraiya and even threaten the entire Hidden Leaf Village on his own. While his personality never develops much beyond being angry that his friends were killed, Nagato remains one of the most significant ninja in Naruto simply because of the destruction he caused.

14) Shikamaru Nara

Shikamaru in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Putting effort into things can be a real drag, especially when you’re one of the most intelligent ninja in the world. Shikamaru is lazy and selfish in many ways, but his tactical genius means that he is one of the most capable leaders in the Hidden Leaf Village. With his Shadow Manipulation Jutusu, he can take on opponents several times more powerful than himself, but he really shines when he can help his friends do their best.

13) Madara Uchiha

Madara in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it and Madara Uchiha is evidence of that. He was one of the founding members of the Hidden Leaf Village and ended up as the ultimate antagonist of the anime. Madara is the one who manipulates the events of the series from the very beginning, all in an attempt to put the entire world into a peaceful dream-like state. It takes the combined strength of every ninja from every village to thwart his plan.

12) Orochimaru

Orochimaru in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

The big bad for the Naruto portion of the anime is Orochimaru, a former ninja of the Hidden Leaf Village and a member of the legendary Sannin. With his obsession with snakes and trying to escape death, few Naruto ninja are creepier than Orochimaru, but he never manages to deliver on his potential. In Naruto Shippuden, he is replaced as the show’s antagonist and largely forgotten save for a few late appearances. Still, his impact on the first half of the show is so impressive that he still manages to be one of the best major ninja in Naruto.

11) Itachi Uchiha

Itachi in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Itachi was once the loving older brother to Sasuke, but he gave that up when he slaughtered the rest of their clan before Naruto began. Itachi was one of the strongest ninja of his generation, mastering the Sharingan as well as a host of powerful fighting techniques. For most of the series, Itachi is presented as a villain, but the reasoning behind his actions makes him more of a tragic figure than anyone expects.

10) Gaara

Gaara in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

The One-Tailed Beast’s jinchuriki is introduced as an antagonist, but it quickly becomes apparent that there is far more to him than his seemingly impenetrable defense. The sand that protects him has also prevented him from ever being hugged or feeling real affection, which has led to his seemingly unstable personality during Naruto. By the time the series ends, Gaara has become the leader of the Hidden Sand Village and a more balanced character, giving him some of the most profound development of anyone in the series.

9) Obito Uchiha

Obito  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

We love a goofy villain who ends up being one of the most terrifying characters in the series, which is what Obito does. He’s introduced as Tobi, an Akatsuki member who doesn’t do much more than complain and flail his arms around. However, he is eventually revealed to be Obito Uchiha, Kakashi’s former friend and one of the main villains of the series. It is a fantastic twist in a final arc that is full of them.

8) Rock Lee

Rock Lee in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Rock Lee dropping his ankle weights to fight against Gaara is the best moment in the Naruto series and it is enough to propel this side character into the top ten best Naruto ninja. Watching Lee then go through his excruciating rehabilitation to become a ninja again is honestly one of the most heartwarming character arcs in the show. Lee shows that through hard work, dedication, and copying almost every aspect of your mentor’s personality, no dream is out of your dreams.

7) Sakura Haruno

Sakura  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Sakura is one of the core members of Team 7, though she never gets quite as much to do as either Naruto or Sasuke. She is a genius when it comes to techniques and studying, able to absorb knowledge better than any other ninja in Naruto. Thanks to her training under Tsunade, she also becomes a skilled medical ninja and has her mentor’s super strength to help her get out of trouble when it finds her. Despite being mainly out of her depth in terms of power, she is always there in the thick of things when trouble starts.

6) Tsunade Senju

Tsunade  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Tsunade is a woman who loves to drink and gamble, despite her famously terrible luck. She is also one of the Sannin, the most skilled medical ninja in the Naruto anime, and the Fifth Hokage, making her one of the most formidable characters in the show. Through her relationship with Jiraiya and Orochimaru, we get glimpses at the past as well as a view of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura’s future relationships.

5) Might Guy

Might Guy  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Might Guy is probably higher on this list than most people would place him, but that’s because they’re focusing on his goofy nature and not him as a character. Guy is the jonin who teaches Lee, Tenten, and Neji, mentoring them as they rise through the ranks of the Hidden Leaf Village. His physical combat abilities are among the best in the world. His enduring smile and enthusiasm are infectious, but when the time comes to fight Madara Uchiha, Guy holds nothing back. He pushes himself so hard his body nearly turns to ash in one of the coolest fights in the show.

4) Jiraiya

Jiraiya  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

Ask anime fans about the death scenes that broke them, and plenty will mention Jiraiya’s fall at the hands of Pain in Naruto Shippuden. However, it isn’t just his end that makes him one of the best ninja in Naruto – it's his life. Jiraiya was one of the legendary Sannin, three ninja who became the most powerful in the Hidden Leaf Village. He taught Naruto the Rasengan and how to access Sage Mode, becoming the boy’s most important teacher and father figure.

3) Sasuke Uchiha

Sasuke  in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

A good rivalry can carry a show and the competition between Sasuke and Naruto is a core theme in the show. Sasuke going rogue becomes one of the best arcs in Naruto, but his tragic backstory and motivation for seeking out his brother make him a compelling character. What puts Sasuke so high on this list is the incredible fight against his older brother Itachi, which easily ranks as one of the best sequences in the anime.

2) Kakashi Hatake

Kakashi in Naruto
Image credit: Pierrot

The Copy Ninja himself, Kakashi is first introduced as a powerful ninja of the jonin rank, but there is more than meets the eye to him. Even before he got his Sharingan Eye which allowed him to replicate nearly every technique used against him, he was considered a prodigy of his generation. The fact that we never see his face only adds to the mystery and cool factor, but his role as Team 7’s primary mentor makes him one of the most important characters in Naruto.

1) Naruto Uzumaki

Image credit: Pierrot

There are more powerful ninja out there. There are smarter ninja out there too. But no one is as unpredictable and stubborn as Naruto. Sure, as the main character he gets far more screentime and development than his peers, which makes it a bit easy to put him at the top of this list, but his overwhelming arsenal of iconic attacks like the Shadow Clone Jutsu and Rasengan, his access to the Nine-Tails Beast’s chakra, and his ability to inspire and rally his allies make him the best ninja in Naruto.

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