Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!

Tournament arcs make up an essential chunk of most anime. They’re often one of the most engaging and enjoyable arcs of a manga given their adrenaline-inducing action sequences, heart-warming wins and losses, and development of characters and story.

Tournament arcs can be light-hearted and fun or have immensely high stakes and plot consequences. Whether it’s a 1v1 between rivals, or an epic showdown between enemies, Tournament arc fights are the most fun, emotional, and memorable parts of any Shonen anime series.

Here is a top 20 list of the best Tournament arcs of all time in anime.

Series & ArcAction, Pacing, EntertainmentEmotional Payoff/StakesImpact on CharactersImpact on StoryOverall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)Total
Naruto: Chunin Exam101010101050
Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament10101010949
DBS: Tournament of Power9988943
Dragon Ball: 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament9988943
Pokemon: World Coronation Series81088943
Fairy Tail: Grand Magic Games81088842
Future Diary: Survival Game8899741
One Piece: Corrida Colosseum8987941
Black Clover: Royal Knights Selection10777940
MHA: U.A. Sports Festival9788840
Yu Gi Oh: Battle City7899740
DBZ: Cell Games8887839
Haikyuu!: Interhigh Volleyball Tournament7988739
Fate/Stay Night: Holy Grail Wars7699738
Record of Ragnarok: Ragnarok8688737
HxH: Heavens Arena8687837
Baki: Maximum Tournament9777636
Assasination Classroom: Kill or Save Battle6888636
Food Wars: Totsuki Autumn Election6687734
Jujutsu Kaisen: Kyoto Goodwill Event7776633

20. Jujutsu Kaisen: Kyoto Sister-School Goodwill Event

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Jujutsu Kaisen: Kyoto Goodwill Event | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment7
Emotional Payoff/Stakes7
Impact on Characters7
Impact on Story6
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)6
Total33

Imagine how many amazing Tournament arcs I have for you if JJK is starting it off at #20. The Kyoto Goodwill Event arc takes us through the competition between the Tokyo and Kyoto Jujutsu students; the underlying agenda for Team Kyoto is to kill Yuji.

There are a lot of cool things that happen in this arc – the showdown between Maki and Mai Zenin, the bromance of Yuji and Todo, Gojo’s Hollow Purple technique, and some Special Grade Curses, but because of the bar that JJK’s other arcs has set, this one isn’t my favorite.

19. Food Wars: Totsuki Autumn Election

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Food Wars: Totsuki Autumn Election | Source: IMDb
Action, Pacing, Entertainment6
Emotional Payoff/Stakes6
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story7
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)7
Total34

Food Wars presents an elimination style food tournament where 60 students compete to gain the title of culinary genius.

The Autumn Election sees the 3-way food war between Ryo, Akira, and Soma, where we not only see how a battle about food can be exciting, but where the characters’ true abilities and potentials brew to the surface.

18. Assasination Classroom: Kill or Save Battle

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Assasination Classroom: Kill or Save Battle | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment6
Emotional Payoff/Stakes8
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)6
Total36

Class 3-E has a paintball war to decide the fate of their teacher, Koro sensei. The Red team is the Kill team and the Blue is the Save faction.

The students join either team with respect to their motives, abilities, and skills. Whichever team wins this school civil war will decide whether they would kill or save their octopus-assassin teacher, who they’ve grown incredibly attached to.

17. Baki: Maximum Tournament

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Baki: Maximum Tournament | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment9
Emotional Payoff/Stakes7
Impact on Characters7
Impact on Story7
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)6
Total36

Baki has a whole ton of tournaments but the Maximum Tournament takes the cake. Baki predictably stomps through multiple fighters like Regan, Zulu, and Igari, but his semi-final and final battles are the best we’ve seen yet in the anime.

Watching Baki give it his all against Retsu and then bulldoze his brother Jack Hanma aka Jack Hammer Hammer proves how far he’s come.

16. Hunter x Hunter: Heaven’s Arena

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
HxH: Heavens Arena | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes6
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story7
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)8
Total37

Hunter x Hunter is probably one of the most beloved Shonen series out there, and Heaven’s Arena is not even one of its best arcs.

This is the arc where Gon and Killua meet Wing and go through all the basics of Nen and then scale 251 floors and win 200 matches, until Gon faces off against Hisoka.

It’s a great developmental and foundational arc for the main characters, and a set-up for Gon’s rematch against Hisoka.

15. Record of Ragnarok: Ragnarok

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Record of Ragnarok: Ragnarok | Source: IMDb

Any competition between human and gods is bound to be thrilling. But Ragnarok is the ultimate battle that might end in mankind’s destruction.

13 humans pitted against 13 gods on a 1v1 – a battle between souls taking place in Valhalla. Absolutely nothing not to like in this one.

14. Fate/Stay Night: Holy Grail Wars

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Fate/Stay Night | Source: Netflix
Action, Pacing, Entertainment7
Emotional Payoff/Stakes6
Impact on Characters9
Impact on Story9
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)7
Total38

There is no Fate without the Holy Grail Wars. Mages have to summon Servants to fight on their behalf in a – you guessed it – death match. While there are innumerable Holy Grail Wars in the franchise taking place over alternate dimensions, the one from Stay/night is the most memorable.

The Fifth Holy Grail War (2004 A.D.) is the deadliest Holy Grail War and the one that Fate/Stay Night revolves around. It involves Irisviel and Kiritsugu’s daughter Illyasviel von Einzbern and Shirou Emiya, characters that feature heavily in other Fate series.

13. Haikyuu!: Interhigh Volleyball Tournament

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Haikyuu!: Interhigh Volleyball Tournament | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment7
Emotional Payoff/Stakes9
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)7
Total39

In Haikyuu, the winners of the Interhigh Tournament are allowed to go on to play the volleyball nationals.

Given that this is a sports anime, emotions and adrenaline both run high during this preliminary qualifier, with Karasuno High playing impressively against some serious rivals. They defeat Shiratorizawa with a score of 21-19.

12. Dragon Ball Z: Cell Games

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Gohan x Cell | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes8
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story7
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)8
Total39

Having consumed Androids 17 and 18, Cell is all ready to defeat Gohan. This is when we witness the legendary unlimited potential of Goku’s son, Gohan; his Super Saiyan 2, lets him defeat the Cell Juniors almost instantly.

This is also the first time we see father and son fighting together. The emotional impact is huge, especially with the “deaths” of Goku and Future Trunks.

11. Yu Gi Oh: Battle City

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Yu Gi Oh: Battle City | Source: IMDb
Action, Pacing, Entertainment7
Emotional Payoff/Stakes8
Impact on Characters9
Impact on Story9
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)7
Total40

Battle City parts 1 and 2 are probably the most memorable arcs of the Yu Gi Oh franchise. With the overpowered 3 Egyptian God cards and Yugi’s battles against Kaiba and Yami are action-packed and exciting.

The fact that this battle takes place across the city amongst different characters belonging to different races, makes is all the more engaging.

10. My Hero Academia: U.A. Sports Festival

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
MHA: U.A. Sports Festival | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment9
Emotional Payoff/Stakes7
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)8
Total40

The Hero students show off their abilities in competitions ranging from obstacle courses to full-fledged battles with other students.

Hero agents lurk in the audience, scouting for talent. But most of all, watching Midoriya fight Todoroki for the first time was one of the most exciting moments for fans.

9. Black Clover: Royal Knights Selection Exam

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Royal Knights Selection | Source: IMDb

Wizard King Julius arranges a special exam to select the best of the Magic Knights to form the Royal Knights with the goal of defeating the Eye of the Midnight Sun.

The mix of squads and rank of Knights with their diverse personality and powers – or non-powers – is incredibly entertaining, not just because of the range of abilities we see on the field, but because of the team-based competition between characters we’ve all grown to love.

Finral vs. Langris and Rill vs. Yuno were a highlight.

8. One Piece: Corrida Colosseum

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
One Piece: Corrida Colosseum | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes9
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story7
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)9
Total41

The fight for Ace’s Mera Mera no Mi/Flame Flame Devil Fruit! Sabo’s consecutive wins and his eventually getting his brother’s Devil Fruit is truly an emotional scene.

The will of Ace is passed down to Sabo, and he comes to be known in the later arcs as the Flame Emperor.

The fights in this small arc are also thrilling, with the added stakes of Doflamingo wanting to turn the losers into toys.

7. Future Diary: Survival Game

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Future Diary: Survival Game | Source: Official Website
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes8
Impact on Characters9
Impact on Story9
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)7
Total41

The Survival Game in Future Diary is a battle royale hosted by Deus Ex Machina to choose his successor as the God of Time and Space.

Yuki and Yuno make the game really interesting to watch – as if the premise of unhinged characters in a death game isn’t rivetting enough.

6. Fairy Tail: Grand Magic Games

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Fairy Tail: Grand Magic Games | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes10
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)8
Total42

The Grand Magic Games determine the strongest guild in Fiore. Some might find this Tournament arc a bit overrated, but the GMG showed how far the Fairy Tail characters have come since Tenrou Island.

It also had a good amount of backstory and lore.

5. Pokemon: World Coronation Series

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Pokemon: World Coronation Series | Source: Official Website
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes10
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)9
Total43

No other moment in the history of Pokemon has been better than Ash winning against Leon in the World Coronation Series.

The World Coronation Series is an anime-only arc of Pokemon that witnesses Ash being crowned the new Monarch. Gigantamax Pikachu takes the cup.

4. Dragon Ball: 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Goku x Piccolo | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment8
Emotional Payoff/Stakes10
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)9
Total43

The 23rd World Martial Arts Tournament is the best martial arts tournament in Dragon Ball. It’s the final arc of the original DB series, which in itself makes it iconic.

But the climax of Goku vs. Piccolo Jr. is a trip, with Goku mastering the art of flight and dodging Piccolo’s final attack at the last moment. We all wanted to see Goku win and that’s exactly what happened.

3. Dragon Ball Super: Tournament of Power

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Team Universe 7 | Source: Fandom
Action, Pacing, Entertainment9
Emotional Payoff/Stakes9
Impact on Characters8
Impact on Story8
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)9
Total43

Although the Tournament of Power arc in DBS was a little predictable, this is the arc that Goku uses Ultra Instinct! It is also when Vegeta goes beyond his limits to unlock Super Saiyan God SS Evolved.

Being the last arc of DBS, it did have a lot of pressure to deliver in all aspects, but it only does so in terms of the fights itself – which are great, don’t get me wrong – but it does little in terms of substance.

The stakes are a little too high – the universes that lose are wiped from literal existence. Still a killer Tournament arc.

2. Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Yu Yu Hakusho: Dark Tournament | Source: Crunchyroll
Action, Pacing, Entertainment10
Emotional Payoff/Stakes10
Impact on Characters10
Impact on Story10
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)9
Total49

Dark Tournament is one of those classic Tournament arcs that contains all the basic elements of one – and some more. Much more.

The battle for a single wish is fought by Team Yusuke and Team Toguro against demons that get stronger with every fight.

From character development and well-paced, non-repetitive action sequences, to deadly beasts and final bosses, Togashi kind of showed everyone how Tournament arcs should be done.

1. Naruto: Chunin Exam

Best Tournament Arcs of All Time in Anime, Ranked!
Naruto: Chunin Exam | Source: Crunchyroll
Action, Pacing, Entertainment10
Emotional Payoff/Stakes10
Impact on Characters10
Impact on Story10
Overall Quality (Memorability, Animation, etc)10
Total50

Naruto’s Chunin Exam arc is the best Tournament arc of all time in anime. The Rock Lee vs. Gaara fight, well-balanced stakes, distributed character development, exposition of the in-world magic system, and impact on the rest of the series, puts Naruto a league apart.

Just the pure genius of the fights between Lee and Gaara, Shikamaru and Temari, Naruto and Neji… the choreography, suspense, action, and animation are so good that even anime fans today can enjoy it with 100% excitement.

The arc also established numerous characters that would become important later, along with their abilities, personality, and personal motivations.

Most of all, the Rock Lee and Gaara fight is one of the most iconic and memorable fights in all of anime. This definitely warrants Naruto topping the list.

Vansh Gulati

Vansh Gulati

Meet our very own Hinata Shoyo! - There is no anime or manga that he’s not aware of. Also the go-to guy for all things Epic at EML. He’s on a journey to discover life one bottle of sake at a time!
Ps...anime is not a cartoon!

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