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Seven years have passed since the end of the Dragonball series, and Goku has settled down and he and Chichi have had their first child, Gohan. All is peaceful until Goku's evil brother, Raditz, lands on the Earth. He tells Goku that he belongs to an alien race known as the Saiyan, and that he was supposed to exterminate all life on the planet so that it could be sold to the highest bidder. However, since Goku hit his head as a kid, he had forgotton his orders and become a peace-loving child. Raditz offers Goku to join him in conquering the universe, but of course Goku turns him down. Angered that he would not do his bidding, Raditz attacks Goku and beats him up badly. Raditz escapes with Gohan knowing that Goku would be forced to follow.

Obviously overpowered, Goku teams up with his arch-rival Piccolo to get his son back. Both attacking at the same time, Goku and Piccolo are still no match for the battle-hardened Raditz. Piccolo tells Goku of a new attack he has been working on, one that should be able to defeat Raditz. However, it takes a long time to charge up, so Goku has to face Raditz alone for five minutes. Goku puts up a good fight, but gets slapped around quite a bit. Piccolo fires his Makankosappo while Raditz is busy with Goku, but he misses. Gohan, enraged by the pain being done to his father, attacks Raditz and greatly weakens him. Goku manages to get Raditz in a hold, and tells Piccolo to charge his attack again. Piccolo fires the Makankosappo a second time, hitting both Raditz and Goku. They both die in a matter of minutes.

Before dying, Raditz is told about the Dragon balls and their power to grant any wish. He signals the other two Saiyain, Nappa and Vegeta, to come to Earth so that they may take the dragonballs for themselves. Their journey to Earth takes one year, giving the Earthlings little time to prepare. Meanwhile in heaven, Goku is given the chance to go down Snake Way to be trained by King Kai. Only one person has managed this, and that is King Yamma. Goku takes up the challenge and tells the people on Earth to wish him back in a year when he will be stronger thanks to King Kai's training. Months have passed on Snake Way, and Goku has yet to find King Kai house. Offered a ride by a passing demon, Goku falls fast asleep. Unfortunately, a bump in the path sends Goku flying off the machine and into Hell. When Goku wakes up, he is confused to find two demons looking over him. They tell him that he has fallen off Snake Way, and that the only way out was to beat them in a contest. Goku easily wins both times, and is shown the exit to Hell. He is surprised to find that the exit is merely King Yamma's desk drawer. However Goku was smart enough to take some of King Yamma's fruit when he was in hell, this increases Goku's speed.

Meanwhile, Piccolo after witnessing Gohan's great power decides to train him himself, much to the worry of the other z-warriors. Piccolo seemingly leaves Gohan on his own to battle wild animals and the elements, but unbeknown to him Piccolo watches over him. Gohan is not to be under-estimated, and soon begins to get stronger and more aware. When Piccolo feels he is ready, he begins a rigorous training routine that leaves Gohan beaten to a pulp. Slowly but surely, Gohan's power is tapped into.

Krillin, Yamcha, Tien, Chaozu, and Yajirobe head off to Kamis tower to train for the arrival of the Saiyans. Their various methods prove to be effective, and they manage to each raise their power levels over a thousand. When Goku finally reaches King Kai's, he undertakes a series of training exercises that seem trivial and pointless to Goku. His first task is to catch King Kai's pet monkey Bubbles, who is used to the high gravity of the planet.

Goku finds that it's quite a chore to chase after something in 10x gravity, but eventually he grows used to the heavy force. Through the use of some clever tricks, Goku captures the monkey. Goku's second task is to beat Gregory, a small flying cricket. However Goku has to hit him with a mallet, which combined with Gregory's speed and the gravity level on the planet proves quite a challenge. After completing these two challenges Goku has to repeat them in a quicker time.

Finally King Kai teaches the 'Spirit Bomb' technique, and Kaio-ken temporal power up technique. Goku has managed to increase his strength and will now be a real challenge for the saiyan warriors. Goku contacts the Z-warriors and instructs them to wish him back to life, unfortunately he still has to get back to Earth, and the only way is back down Snake Way. With Goku's increased ability it will only take a few days, but it means that he will arrive after the saiyan warriors.

A year has passed, and the Saiyans land in a heavily populated city. After destroying it, they head to battle Piccolo and the others. Assessing their opponents, Vegeta notices that one of the warriors, Piccolo, is an alien known as a Namek. The Saiyans unleash six Saibamen, each roughly as powerful as Raditz was. Vegeta suggests that the Earthlings fight the Saibamen one on one, and they agree. Tien is the first to go, and makes short work of the first Saibaman. Yamcha goes next, and appears to be winning until his opponent grabs hold of him and self-destructs killing Yamcha. Growing bored with the situation, Vegeta has all the Saibamen attack at once. The small green aliens prove to be no match for the seasoned Z warriors. With their minions gone, Nappa joins into the fray. Our heros are unable to land many hits, and take a lot of damage. Both Tien and Chaozu sacrifice their lives trying to defeat the muscular Saiyan, but neither succeed.

Krillin tells Vegeta to wait for Goku to arrive, as then they would have a fighting chance. They wait for three hours, but no Goku. The battle resumes. Seeing that Goku might be a problem, Vegeta orders Nappa to kill the others before Goku arrives. The large brute decides to go after Gohan first, and charges a powerful attack. However, Piccolo has grown to love Gohan over the year he had spent training him, and the Namek puts himself in the way of Nappa's attack. Krillin and Gohan are the only survivors when Goku finally joins the battle. Angered by the death of his friends, Goku maintains his cool and stays calm battling Nappa. Vegeta's bodyguard is unable to land any blows, disrespected Vegeta takes Nappa out himself.

Goku and Vegeta square off, beginning their long duel. While Goku manages to hurt Vegeta badly, his repeated use of the Kaio-ken technique puts a great strain on his body. Seeing that he was overpowered, Vegeta transforms himself into an Giant Monkey. Goku is chased around by the giant ape, and with the use of a Taiyoken for distraction, he is able to gather a Spirit Bomb Unfortunately, Vegeta recovers before the attack can be launched, and most of the energy is lost. He grabs onto Goku and breaks every bone in his body, but neglects to notice Yajirobe sneaking up behind him. With one swipe, Vegeta's tail is severed by Yajirobe's sword.

Back in his original form, Vegeta begins to do battle with Gohan. Meanwhile, Goku summons Krillin and gives him the remnants of the Spirit Bomb he had gathered. Just when it looks as if Gohan will be defeated, Krillin launches the ball at Vegeta. He evades it, but Gohan bounces the attack and hits Vegeta from the rear.

Thinking Vegeta is dead, our heroes begin to celebrate. However, they notice Vegeta's body slowly falling to the ground. He is still alive. Vegeta and Gohan resume their battle, and it looks like the Saiyan prince will claim victory. However, Yajirobe intervenes again, and slashes Vegeta in the back with his sword. When he gets over the shock of being slashed from behind, Vegeta kicks the crap out of the fat samurai.

This gives Gohan ample time to stare up at the false moon Vegeta had created and transform into an Giant Monkey himself. With little energy to defend himself, Vegeta is smacked around by Gohan. Having exhausted himself, Vegeta uses a Kienzan to remove Gohan's tail. What he doesn't account for is having enough strength to get out of the way of the monkey's massive body. He is painfully crushed by the ape, who returns to being normal Gohan after a few moments. Vegeta summons his space pod, and tries to crawl to it. Krillin refuses to let him escape, and puts Yajirobe's sword up to Vegeta's throat. Goku begs him to spare the Saiyan's life, and reluctantly Krillin complies. Vowing to return, Vegeta flies away...