Naruto is known for its impressive Jutsus and thrilling battles, but what truly stays with fans are the heartbreaking deaths of beloved characters.
While the classic anime phase saw fewer character departures, each loss significantly impacted molding our young genins into adults who would confront the darkest horrors of war. Let’s recall the saddest deaths in the anime, listed chronologically.
Saddest Deaths in Naruto
When we were introduced to Kakashi Hatake, he showed the profound impact of losing his friends to war. Watching him grapple with these memories over numerous episodes makes it heart-wrenching, especially when we witness the tragedy unfold firsthand: the death of Rin Nohara.
Rin, the kunoichi, pleaded with Kakashi to end her life. Kidnapped and with the Isobu Three-Tailed Beast sealed inside her, she became a pawn in a plot to destroy Konoha. Not wanting to be the cause of such a tragedy, she asked Kakashi to take her life. Tragically, she died at the hands of her friend, unaware that Obito was watching in shock.
2. Naruto’s parents – Minato and Kushina
Rin’s death sets off a chain of pain for Obito, causing many victims, with the saddest being Naruto’s parents. While the first scene of the anime briefly touches on their death, Naruto only learns the whole truth as he grows up during a challenging fight in Naruto Shippuden.
In a poignant reunion, Kushina Uzumaki reveals how much she looked forward to Naruto’s birth and what he meant to her and Minato, the Fourth Hokage.
The couple chose to sacrifice themselves, primarily to protect their son from a direct attack by Kurama. The only solution was to seal the creature in Naruto’s womb, but not before a tearful farewell that brought many to tears.
3. Haku and Zabuza Momochi
Haku and Zabuza Momochi serve as the first adversaries for Team 7, hired to assassinate the builder of the Naruto Bridge. Despite the atrocities committed by the Demon of the Hidden Mist, Haku saw only his positive qualities and sacrificed himself to protect him in one of the most touching moments in the anime.
Surprisingly, Zabuza, previously portrayed as a heartless monster, was deeply moved and chose to do the right thing at least once in his life—to avenge his pupil, even if it meant his own demise. In a final act of respect, Zabuza was laid to rest beside Haku, illustrating that everyone has the potential for redemption.
4. The Third Hokage, Hiruzen
The Third Hokage was a kind, elderly man who diligently oversaw everything in the Leaf Village to ensure the well-being of its residents. Most notably, he indirectly looked out for Naruto during the lonely years of his orphaned childhood, consistently covering up the misdeeds of an emotionally wounded boy.
This is why his death, following a prolonged battle against one of his former students, was so poignant. After all Hiruzen’s sacrifices for Konoha, witnessing him confront his old comrades and Orochimaru was heart-wrenching. He fought for the people of the village until the very end, and his passing deeply affected everyone in the community.
5. Asuma Sarutobi
We didn’t follow much into Asuma’s life until Naruto Shippuden. Still, just as we started to connect with the charismatic teacher, his life was abruptly cut short by members of Akatsuki.
Asuma had formed a deep bond with his students—Ino, Chouji, and Shikamaru—and his departure left everyone grieving and seeking revenge. This was particularly true for Shikamaru, who was aware of Asuma’s romantic involvement with Kurenai and the child they were expecting. It became a pivotal moment that made the Akatsuki’s pursuit even more personal.
The next tragic loss orchestrated by the Akatsuki hit hard, affecting the emotions of all Naruto fans—the wise and eccentric Jiraiya. This ninja always endeavored to conceal his personal life. Still, gradually, we uncovered the depth of his care for his godson, Naruto, and a trio of ninjas he encountered in the Village of Rain.
The old sannin carried a heavy burden of guilt, feeling as though he had let down the Rain ninjas, and the ultimate confrontation against Pain brought all his remorse to the surface. Naruto and a legion of fans experienced profound and sorrowful grief following his demise.
7. Itachi Uchiha
Itachi faced an impossible choice – commit a terrible crime or let his village plunge into civil war. Out of loyalty to the Hokage and love for the village, he agreed to wipe out his own clan, the Uchihas. However, he could not harm his beloved little brother, Sasuke.
To protect Sasuke from the horrible truth, Itachi made Sasuke hate him, never revealing his true motives. Sasuke grew up seeking vengeance, which ultimately led to Itachi’s death at his brother’s hand. Itachi died with a smile, having achieved his goal of protecting Sasuke and their village from further bloodshed at the cost of his clan and his own life.
Though Sasuke later uncovered the truth, Itachi’s sacrifices prevented untold violence. Driven by devotion and forced to endure such pain, Itachi remains a complex and tragic figure.
Nagato’s demise was deemed necessary—after destroying Konoha, the temporary demise of beloved characters, and the definitive murder of Jiraiya. But Konan? That felt like too much.
After her friend’s sacrifice, Konan chose to forsake the path of hatred and defend Nagato’s legacy. She didn’t want to witness her friend being manipulated to incite wars once again. However, Tobi had different intentions. He tracked down the kunoichi and, after an unfair confrontation, callously ended Konan’s life on a whim. It was heart-wrenching to witness someone perish with unwavering loyalty to those she loved.
9. Neji Hyuga
Neji grew up angry, believing he was trapped by destiny to serve the main branch of his family. This resentment ran so deep that he once tried to harm his cousin Hinata seriously. However, Neji underwent a major change of heart. He saved Hinata years later during the Fourth Great Ninja War without hesitation.
Though Neji had battled against his prescribed fate, he ultimately chose how he died – protecting Hinata and the next generation of his clan. His sacrifice was deeply felt as one of the most painful losses of the war. Once so bitter, Neji grew into one of the Leaf Village’s most skilled shinobi, defined by devotion rather than hatred. He remains an example of overcoming one’s demons to embrace one’s better nature.
10. Shikaku Nara and Inoichi Yamanaka
As the Ninja War raged, Madara devised a ruthless strategy – destroy the Alliance’s command base to cripple its forces. Stationed there, two brilliant Leaf shinobi, Shikaku Nara and Inoichi Yamanaka, realized they faced imminent death. As destruction loomed, they selflessly focused on formulating a winning counterattack for the Alliance rather than attempting escape. With little time left, these fathers sacrificed themselves to give their children a future.
When the base was decimated, killing Shikaku and Inoichi, their last instructions rang in their sons’ minds. Though crushed with grief, Shikamaru and Ino suppressed their tears, steadying their resolve to make their dads’ sacrifice count.
United with their comrades, they followed the battle plan left by two courageous fathers now gone. Even staring down doom, the elder shinobi thought first of victory and then family, exhibiting the highest ideals of their village – perseverance, and devotion no matter the odds.
11. Obito Uchiha
Obito’s tale unfolds with a tragic beginning and concludes with a sorrowful demise. Under Kakashi’s command, he was the initial ninja to meet his end—crushed beneath a stone while attempting to rescue his friends. In reality, he survived and witnessed the world crumbling around him.
As the years passed, the accumulated pain overwhelmed him, leading him to envision a world of illusion where no one would need to endure suffering again. His journey paralleled Naruto’s trajectory, but the weight of his suffering drove him down a destructive path.
It wasn’t until he confronted Naruto that he comprehended the extent of the harm he had caused. Obito met his end with dignity, striving to thwart Kaguya’s plans and end the chaos.