While Boruto found itself competing against amazing anime in 2022, no show seemed to match the popularity of the Naruto franchise in the 2000s and 2010s.
Of all the villages in the iconic series, it’s arguable that the Hidden Sand was always second only to the Hidden Leaf in terms of representation. An entire arc took place in the village, and the iconic Chunin Exams arc centered around the three sand siblings. As powerful as the inhabitants of the village are, some stand out in particular.
Maki was a skilled and hardworking ninja whose cloth jutsu was both unique and instrumental in aiding the Fourth World Ninja War.
A disciple of Pakura, Maki, like many others, had to come to terms with having her mentor resurrected by Edo Tensei. Maki showed great potential during the World War, but it was mostly as a support ninja. She is certainly useful in battle, but lacks the incredible firepower of other sand shinobi.
Baki was the leader of the Sand Brother team, making him the Sand Village counterpart at the start of Kakashi. He was also a key part of Orochimaru’s strategy to overthrow the Hidden Leaf Village.
Baki is a powerful wind release user and has the ability to turn wind into powerful blades. He’s an exceptional close-range fighter, but the powerful nature of his wind blades was no match for the versatility of many Leaf Village Jonin.
Pakura was a unique burn release master and one of the most important shinobi of Hidden Sand resurrected during the Fourth Great Ninja World War.
The Fourth Great Ninja World War was one of the most iconic arcs in all of Naruto, and Pakura was a powerful threat to Edo Tensei’s army. Any single kekkei genkkai user is a valuable threat to the Shinobi Alliance, but Pakura was dealt with before fans saw if she could match the stronger Sand shinobi.
Lady Chiyo was one of the best puppet users in the series and was the primary teacher for her grandson and future Akatsuki member, Sasori. Together with Sakura, she even managed to defeat Sasori.
Lady Chiyo’s skills were hampered due to her age, but her puppeteer was outstanding even in her advanced years. While his skill in using puppets was arguably better than Kankuro’s, his puppets themselves weren’t as advanced.
Kankuro was the older brother of Gaara, who was arguably the only secondary character more popular than Naruto. Although Kankuro may not have been as popular or strong as Gaara, he was a powerful ninja.
The puppets Kankuro commands are powerful, but the numbers he controlled were never enough to make him a serious enough threat to the main villains of the series. Ultimately, Kankuro was a mid-level character who couldn’t measure up to fellow puppet user Sasori.
Temari is the older brother of sand and a powerful long range wind style user. She was also one half of one of the top Shonen Jump couples, along with her husband Shikamaru.
Temari is also a force on the battlefield, especially in the original series. Not only did she save Shikamaru multiple times in the Rescue Sasuke arc, but she also always found creative uses for her powers. She was never an Akatsuki-level threat, but she was always a long-range master who had to be respected.
Gaara’s father and the fourth Kazekage had a power similar to his son: the ability to control sand. He was clearly a powerful ninja, due to his rise through the Kazekage ranks.
However, Rasa’s record in battle despite his Kazekage status is less than favorable. He was easily defeated by Orochimaru and lost a fairly one-sided battle against Gaara after being revived with Edo Tensei. Ultimately, he was Naruto’s weakest Kazekage.
The Third Kazekage
Around the start of Gaara’s reign, the Third Kazekage was announced as the strongest Kazekage so far. His corpse ended up becoming Sasori’s most powerful puppet.
The Third Kazekage’s magnet output was one of the strongest kekkei genkai in the series. His iron sand could create incredible weapons and was very versatile. However, he was defeated in battle by Sasori and was likely outmatched by the Fifth Kazekage.
Sasori was a powerful member of the Akatsuki who was the first of the Akatsuki to die in battle. The weapons at his disposal and his techniques have made him the most powerful puppet user in Naruto.
Despite Sasori’s demise at the hands of Sakura and Chiyo, he was clearly a powerful ninja worthy of being in the Akatsuki. He not only defeated the Third Kazekage, but felt confident to face Gaara himself before leaving him to Deidara. He’s one of Naruto’s best minor villains for good reason.
Gaara is the Fifth Kazekage, Naruto’s secondary rival behind Sasuke, and the main antagonist of the Chunin Exam arc. With his unique sand release, he became the youngest Kage ever.
Before Naruto or any of the other Genin from the original series even remotely approached Akatsuki level, Gaara was already stronger than a mid-level Akatsuki in Deidara. If he hadn’t saved his village in the middle of battle, he probably would have become the first person in the series to kill an Akatsuki.