Dragon Ball Z's "Saiyan Saga" is one of the most iconic arcs in anime. It marked Piccolo's turning point from brooding baddie to begrudging ally, introduced fan-favorite martial arts master King Ka, and revealed the intergalactic origins of the now internationally famous Son Goku. The "Saiyan Saga" also introduced audiences to the franchise's villain-turned-hero Vegeta and his subordinate, the monstrous mountain of muscle Nappa.
Since his first appearance in Episode 5, Nappa has cultivated an unshakable, devoted fan base.He's made cameos and full appearances in Dragon Ball GT and Dragon Ball Super, and he's appeared in numerous Dragon Ball films and video games. However, despite his dedicated following and low-key popularity, Nappa is also unfairly dismissed as something of a stock character or -- much worse -- a punchline.
It's true that Nappa was effortlessly dispatched by Goku upon the latter's return from Other World and that Nappa's power was empirically inferior to Vegeta's, but Nappa proved himself as the arc's superior villain by virtue of one important metric: body count.
Between Episode 24, "The Power of Nappa" and Episode 28, "Goku's Arrival," Nappa -- with the brief help of six Saibamen minions -- took the lives of Yamcha, Tien Shinhan and Piccolo. These three held the topmost positions of power among the six Z Fighters available to challenge the Saiyan threat, and Nappa defeated each of them without a qualm.
What's more, Nappa survived Chiaotzu's devastating self-destruct attack. Chiaotzu's sacrifice -- coupled with the inconsequential damage inflicted upon Nappa -- struck a significant blow to the Dragon Team's morale, solidifying Nappa as indomitable in their estimation.
Nappa's brutality also wasn't limited to dealing with the Z Fighters. Throughout his time on Earth, Nappa destroyed two cities and their populations. Considering all this, the number of deaths to Nappa's credit puts him on par with Androids 17 and 18, and even with the monstrous Cell.
It's undeniable Vegeta was the ever-looming shadow behind each of Nappa's battles, and that the former eventually took center stage as the "Saiyan Saga's" main antagonist (namely, by snuffing out Nappa like a candle). However, it was Nappa who not only put an end to the greatest number of heroes but wreaked the most havoc doing so.
Broadly speaking, antagonists have only one integral function: remove anyone -- be they heroes, other villains or innocent bystanders -- standing in the way of their ultimate goal. To that end, Nappa was the more frightening of the Saiyan duo. He not only wiped out half the Z Fighters but demoralized the remaining half, plus razed two cities while the world looked on in terror. Rather than labor under the misnomer of a typical meatheaded henchman, Nappa deserves to be recognized as a force of terror and power very much on par with Vegeta.