Naruto grimacing ready to fight

The growth of a warrior’s power, earned through a lifetime of training and experience, is the centerpiece of "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippuden." Unsurprisingly, both series feature many powerful shinobi, both good and bad. In many ways, however, the bonds formed in battle eclipse characters’ respective strength levels. As Naruto regularly preaches, his faith in his friends makes him stronger than he ever could have imagined.

Throughout the sprawling "Naruto" saga, we see many different characters team up in all sorts of different ways. Some particularly great teams are made up of several powerful shinobi who work in coordination, but not necessarily as one. Other, more hard-hitting teams are based solely on individual strength and numbers. What unites the best "Naruto" teams is that they’re all more than the sum of their parts. They become carefully orchestrated machines, in which members complement each other, lifting their combined power level to massive heights.

There are great teams on all sides: Some serve the hidden villages, while others pursue evil, and are no less powerful for it. In fact, they’re often even more overwhelming. Which teams pack the biggest punch? Join us as we rank the most powerful teams in "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippuden."

13. Hidan and Kakuzu

Hidan and Kakuzu stare

Hidden Leaf Village’s teams get the most attention, as "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippuden" spotlight them. But the enemies of the hidden villages are just as formidable, especially the Akatsuki. At least two elite hidden village fighters have been required to kill every fallen Akatsuki member. Hidan and Kakuzu make up one of the most fearsome two-man Akatsuki teams around, in large part because Hidan is actually unkillable.

This duo is first seen killing the warrior monk Chiriku to collect a bounty. Chiriku is a great shinobi of the Fire Temple, and was once a member of the elite Twelve Guardian Ninja tasked with guarding the Land of Fire’s daimyo. Hidan then kills another former member of the Twelve, Asuma, one of Hidden Leaf Village’s greatest warriors and the son of the Third Hokage. Asuma is accompanied by Shikamaru, the village’s wunderkind strategist, and he still dies.

Ultimately, Shikamaru is able to dispatch Hidan by splitting the immortal man’s body and burying the separate parts. Kakuzu is just as tough to take down: As he reveals in his final battle, he can essentially gain extra lives by physically adding parts of his fallen enemies to his own body. Naruto is finally able to vanquish him with the newly-invented Rasenshuriken, a jutsu that literally tears matter apart on a cellular level. This duo is mighty, but they also deeply dislike each other, which puts them last on the list.

12. Team 7, version 2

Naruto's second Team 7

The original Team 7, consisting of Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke, is legendary. But after Sasuke joins Orochimaru, the trio becomes a duo. A new member arrives in Sai, a shinobi trained by the clandestine Foundation to be an emotionless killing machine. His jutsu is a unique one, allowing him to paint something, then bring it to life. Throughout the series, he conjures eagles to ride on, tigers to battle, and small spies to gather information. His impressive skills make him one of the village’s most indispensable shinobi, and a perfect addition to Naruto and Sakura’s team.

Captain Yamato, who was also once a member of the Foundation, takes over Team 7 while Kakashi recovers from fighting Deidara. Yamato’s wood-style jutsu is a special kekkei genkai not seen since the First Hokage. Not only can he create houses and bridges out of nothing, he can control Naruto when he’s overpowered by his Nine-Tailed Fox. He boasts water-based skills as well, which makes for a particularly amazing combination. This team never really gels, though, which is why it ranks so low on this list, despite its members’ impressive abilities.

11. The Sound Four

The Sound Four eyeing prey

Orochimaru’s top disciples, the Sound Four do his bidding during two pivotal moments. First, they create a barrier to keep the Third Hokage from escaping Orochimaru during the villain’s attempt to take over Hidden Leaf Village. Their ability to combine to make an impenetrable shield shows off their great teamwork, yet each member is formidable on their own, especially when triggering their curse mark upgrades.

Second, when they’re tasked with bringing back Sasuke, the four destroy several jonin. They can only be taken down by the most talented young shinobi of Hidden Leaf Village, with the help of Sand Village’s best and brightest. Jirobo is taken down by Choji, who has to eat his family’s special red food pill, which massively multiplies his power at the risk of killing him, to do so. Neji beats Kidomaru by nearly sacrificing himself and using his genius-level chakra skills. Kiba defeats Sakon (and Ukon) with the help of the legendary puppet master Kankuro. Tayuya falls to the combination of Shikamaru and the incredible Temari.

If you add in Kimimaro, once the leader of the Sound Four and Orochimaru’s choice for a new body before attaining Sasuke, this team would probably rank higher. Kimimaro was the main player in killing the Fourth Kazekage, and even Rock Lee and Gaara only win against him because of his substantial illness. But we’re not counting him, which puts the Sound Four near the bottom of the list.

10. Team Hokage

Team Hokage assembles

It might seem like a little bit of a stretch to include Team Hokage in this roundup, because Team Hokage only exists in a reanimated form. In the case of Hashirama and Tobirama, they’re actually reanimations of reanimations, since the Third Hokage sealed their original reanimations in the Reaper’s stomach, from which Orochimaru extracts this team. But this team is so impressive, it demands attention. The four members of Team Hokage manage to make a Four Red Yang Formation barrier that can contain the Ten Tails and its massive tailed beast balls. This is a jutsu that literally only a team of top Kage can perform.

Really, one need only look at their nicknames to figure out how powerful these fighters are: The God of Shinobi (Hashirama), The Inventor (Tobirama, who invented jutsus like the Shadow Clone, the Flying Raijin, and the Reanimation), The Professor (Hiruzen, who knew every jutsu of his age), and The Yellow Flash (Minato, whose speed and Flying Raijin made him Hokage at a young age). Yet these shinobi also understand the value of teamwork, and coordinate their actions better than any band of four fighters who’ve never met before has a right to.

9. A-B Combo

A and B Double Lariat

A, the Raikage of Hidden Cloud Village, has a counterpart: Killer B. This is apparently a standard practice of the village. They pair their Kage with his perfect complement, then turn that complement into the village’s jinchuriki. B starts off as a misfit, disliked by many, until he tries out for the position of A’s partner. They succeed in performing a Lightning Release: Double Lariat, a move allowing two people of comparable strength to decapitate an enemy. Thus, B and A become brothers.

By himself, A is a powerhouse whose speed is apparently matched only by Minato. His strength is such that he can fight a tailed beast by himself. Killer B, on the other hand, is not only a jinchuriki, but one of the few who can actually control his tailed beast. When combined, their strength is all but unbeatable. The fact that they see each other as brothers, a bond even stronger than that of teammates, makes them even more formidable.

8. Team Guy

Team Guy with training dummies

Team Guy emerges as the strongest Hidden Leaf Village team during the Chunin Exams. This makes sense, since Guy is the strongest shinobi of his generation, excepting, perhaps, Kakashi. There’s not a weak link in this perfectly balanced team. Neji Hyuga’s talents with the Byakugan and the Gentle Fist of the Hyuuga clan give him a reputation for genius. Tenten is one of the greatest weapons experts in Hidden Leaf Village. Her scroll work, which allows her to summon epic weapons, as well as things like metal domes and fiery dragons, is legendary. Then there’s Rock Lee, whose inability to use jutsu leads him to become the greatest taijutsu fighter of his generation.

All three members of Team Guy train harder than anyone else — no doubt because their leader is the hardest-working jonin in the village. So we have a jutsu genius, a weapons master, and a shinobi who is unbeatable in hand-to-hand combat, led by a truly legendary jonin. What a team.

7. Ino-Shika-Cho

Ino Shika Cho get serious

Inoichi Yamanaka, Shikaku Nara, and Chōza Akimichi form the first Ino-Shika-Cho combo. The Yamanaka clan’s ability to take over an enemy’s body works best in conjunction with the Nara clan’s Shadow Possession jutsu. Then, the Akimichi clan’s Expansion jutsu allows that shinobi to grow to gargantuan proportions to finish the job. The Ino-Shika-Cho combination is so perfect, the trio carries it forward through their kids: Ino, Shikamaru, and Choji reprise their parents’ team-up in the Fourth Shinobi World War.

This is a case where the sum of a team is far greater than its individual parts — though those individual parts are pretty impressive. At a young age, Shikamaru emerges as a leading strategist for the Great Shinobi Army. Ino becomes Tsunade’s student after Sakura, and is able to use her family’s telepathic abilities to relay messages through the army. Moreover, her rivalry with Sakura propels the latter girl into becoming Tsunade’s successor. Finally, Choji, because of his size and his Expansion jutsu, is one of the most physically powerful fighters in all of Hidden Leaf Village.

6. The Three Sand Siblings

Three Sand Siblings in charge

The world of "Naruto" shifts when the Three Sand Siblings appear in Hidden Leaf Village during the Chunin Exams. Gaara sends a chill down the spine of nearly everybody, especially when he threatens to kill his own teammate — everybody, that is, except for Sasuke, who senses he finally has a rival. Gaara is obviously the leader of the trio, as a bloodthirsty shinobi with a demon inside him and an impressive degree of control over sand.

Yet Kankuro is also a devastating fighter. As a puppet master, he is matched by nobody except Granny Chiyo and Sasori, who both die at the beginning of his journey. Temari is just as formidable, wielding the wind like she owns it. With her fan, she defeats Tenten handily during the Chunin Exams, and takes out curse-mark-form Tayuya.

These three lack teamwork, but they represent Sand Village like no other team could. With Kankuro’s puppets (a village specialty), Temari’s wind-based chakra (Sand being the hidden village of the Land of Wind), and Gaara’s inimitable ability to control sand, they’re a force to be reckoned with. Gaara himself is so strong, he becomes Kazekage of Sand Village during the jump from "Naruto" to "Shippuden."

5. Team Taka

Team Taka wearing black

After Sasuke kills Orochimaru, he officially becomes a shinobi without a master and is free to achieve his goals. First, he wants to kill his brother Itachi. Then, he wants to destroy Hidden Leaf Village. To accomplish this, he needs teammates, so Sasuke makes his own team. He names it Team Hebi (snake) before changing its name to Team Taka (hawk). Given his familiarity with Orochimaru’s operations, Sasuke knows who Orochimaru’s strongest shinobi are and where to find them. Team Taka is recruited to the Akatsuki and ends up fighting the Eight Tails to a standstill (B and the Eight Tails only escape through trickery). They proceed to infiltrate the Five Kage Summit and destroy anybody who gets in their way.

This is an all-MVP team. First we have Suigetsu, a swordsman of Mist Village, who can turn into water and eventually wields the Executioner’s Blade. Then there’s Jugo, the shinobi whose powerful transformation Orochimaru replicates through curse marks. Jugo’s is stronger, though more erratic. Finally, there’s Karin, the only other Uzumaki in the current timeline. Her sensory ability allows her to find any target’s chakra signature — plus, she has the Uzumaki clan’s storied life force, which allows others to heal by biting her. It’s so strong, it restores a bisected Tsunade.

This is a disorganized and egotistical team, kept together only by a devotion to Sasuke. Yet they’re frightfully powerful, and led by the second-most powerful shinobi in the land.

4. The Legendary Sannin (aka Team Hiruzen)

Three Legendary Sannin summoning

The Legendary Sannin are already a storied unit by the time "Naruto" begins. Their name inspires fear and respect among all. Of course, these renowned warriors started as young genin on Hiruzen Sarutobi’s team: Back then, they were just Orochimaru, Tsunade, and Jiraiya. During the Second Shinobi World War, their feats were many and impressive. The jutsu they wield are powerful, but they also have summoning powers allowing them to call forth massive beasts. The fact that they were the only Hidden Leaf shinobi to survive a battle with Hanzo of the Salamander led him to dub them the Three Sannin.

Orochimaru goes on to defy Hidden Leaf, inventing horrid and powerful jutsu-science blends. Eventually, he founds his own hidden village. Tsunade becomes the Fifth Hokage, and a famous medical ninja. Jiraiya becomes the Toad Sage, a warrior so feared, even the powerful Kisame-Itachi team decides to retreat, rather than fight him. This is all impressive enough on its own, but when you take into account their students — Sakura under Tsunade, Sasuke under Orochimaru, and Naruto under Jiraiya — then this team might just muster the most power in the whole series … even if they are a constant study in discord.

3. The Ame orphans

Young peace-loving Ame orphans

Hidden Rain Village is located between greater kingdoms, and is therefore ravaged by crossfire. The Ame orphans, being Hidden Rain natives bereaved by the Second Shinobi World War, know this well. When the Sannin come across them, Orochimaru tells Jiraiya they should kill the orphans. But Jiraiya sees it as his duty to try and help innocents who have been victimized by their war. Thus, he trains Nagato, Konan, and Yahiko into capable young shinobi.

The three orphans eventually form the Akatsuki, and plan to bring peace to the land by opposing war — through force, if necessary. This spirals entirely out of control: Obito manipulates events to allow him to utilize Nagato’s Rinnegan as part of a plan to enslave all of mankind in the Infinite Tsukuyomi. In that way, "peace" will be achieved.

Yahiko’s death deeply affects his fellow Ame orphans, even after they become criminals. Nagato becomes Pain, using his Rinnegan to create a nearly undefeatable team of six connected avatars known as the Six Paths of Pain. Pain is so strong, he nearly destroys Hidden Leaf Village, stopping only when Naruto appeals to his inner goodness. Konan, not to be ignored, can transform herself into pieces of paper, splitting and congealing to dodge blows, create objects, and fight. The Ame orphans change the world … but not the way they originally thought they would.

2. Kisame and Itachi

Kisame and Itachi in battle

Of all the Akatsuki duos, Kisame and Itachi are the most powerful. Yes, Pain and Konan destroy Hidden Leaf Village. But Pain’s Rinnegan comes from Madara, and he’s only doing Obito’s bidding. When Obito wants the Rinnegan, he easily defeats Konan to take it. Itachi, in contrast, somehow manages to stay alive while being an Akatsuki double agent. When he returns to Hidden Leaf Village looking for Naruto, he defeats Kakashi with a single look. Since Itachi is arguably stronger than Sasuke, and certainly more strategic and forward-looking, he’s undoubtedly one of the top shinobi in the world.

Kisame is no slouch either. He killed his former master, a great Ninja Swordsman of the Mist, and took the chakra-cutting sword Samehada. Kisame is so strong, Guy has to open six of the Eight Gates against a 30% power clone, then has to open a seventh to defeat a sword-less, full-powered Kisame. Moreover, Kisame can absorb others’ chakra. His power, combined with Samehada, has given him a terrifying nickname: "Tailed Beast without a Tail." If properly motivated and in full health, this duo can take down nearly any other shinobi team in the land.

1. Team 7

Team 7 reunited

The original Team 7, consisting of Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke, is destined for greatness from the very start. They go on to achieve it, despite the fact that they’re apart for a good chunk of "Naruto" and "Naruto: Shippuden." Trained and led by Kakashi Hatake, Team 7 isn’t always harmonious: Naruto and Sasuke’s rivalry often leads them to use their most powerful jutsu against each other, while a love triangle nearly tears the team apart. Yet their commitment to each other drives the entire world of "Naruto."

Individually, Team 7’s members easily climb to the top of the heap as far as strength is concerned. Add in Kakashi, with his Mangekyo Sharingan and jutsu knowledge, and you’ve got four of the most fearsome fighters around. Yet they also complement each other. Naruto and Sasuke work so well together, in fact, that their combo creates a new attack in the battle against Madara. Sakura becomes such a strong medical ninja, she can revive them past the point of all others’ skill. Kakashi is able to teach Sasuke his jutsu, Chidori, and conceives of a teaching technique that allows Naruto to gain years of practice in just a few days. Alone, they’ve impressive. Together, they’re unstoppable.

Team 7 literally saves the world by toppling foes no mere mortals should be able to defeat. They do that not as individual shinobi, but as a team whose connection is more powerful than even the most legendary jutsu.