Originally, Orochimaru was a tall man with extremely translucent-looking pale skin and straight waist-length black hair with the front strands falling to his shoulders. He had a long face with pronounced cheekbones, golden eyes with slits in his pupils, purple markings around his eyes and fang-like teeth - a reference to his snake-like nature. Although he has taken on new bodies repeatedly, he has modified them each to resemble his original form, minus the height differences. He apparently used his Vanishing Facial Copy Technique on his original body so he can wear it over his hosts' faces as a mask.
Orochimaru is sometimes seen sporting different attires. He usually wears plain grey garbs with black pants and a thick purple rope belt tied in a large knot behind his back and blue tomoe-shaped earrings. He is seen wearing a black polo neck under it.
Orochimaru possesses a complex personality, however more often than not he was described as twisted by a large number of people, including Tsunade. Jiraiya speculated that this was due to the fact that both of his parents died when he was at a very young age, along with his horror for Tsunade losing Nawaki and later shedding tears when she lost Dan, imply that Orochimaru grew to disdain the fragility of human life and how it affected those still living, which led him to desire immortality. To that end, the primary purpose of Orochimaru's human experimentation is to test what modifications the human body can endure and harness a subject's unique abilities for himself. Once accomplishing this goal, Orochimaru had hoped to be worthy of the title of "ultimate being", unable to die and able to achieve his secondary goal to learn every ninja technique in the world, which would normally take many lifetimes to obtain.
According to Sasuke, becoming cruel and creed with any good he had as a member of Team Hiruzen gone, Orochimaru's agenda made him develop a god complex and valued himself while delighting in striking terror in his first impressions. Though causing conflict to ease his boredom, Orochimaru seems to have no interest in wars started by others. His charisma also attracts a number of followers, many of which he would not hesitate to send on potential suicide missions if for his own personal benefit, expressing some remorse if they're unable to properly complete a task, having no sentimental attachments to any of them despite their values. Despite this, Orochimaru has genuine interest in the development of his underlings and experiments.
He also had an initial disdain toward Naruto Uzumaki, believing him to be a poor excuse for a ninja until he defeated Kabuto with the Rasengan. Despite attempting to kill Naruto at the time after coming to the realization that he would become a threat to him in the future, Orochimaru became interested in Naruto's development, provoking Naruto through psychological warfare during their battle to see his full abilities at the time. Though coming to hate his home village, orchestrating a few attempts to destroy it, Orochimaru despised his former Akatsuki colleagues more. Throughout Part II of Naruto, if Orochimaru was not busy with Sasuke's development, he would try to cripple the Akatsuki's operations, seen in the "Sai and Sasuke Arc" as well as the "Three-Tails Arc". He expresses delight over the death of Sasori and later convinced Sasuke from killing Team Kakashi so they would thin out the Akatsuki membership.
An aspect of Orochimaru's personality is also his greatest weakness: his arrogance. He truly believed he is immortal at times, attacking recklessly against powerful opponents such as his former teacher and Itachi Uchiha. Both times, he was left crippled in some way since he either wanted to make his opponent suffer, like against Hiruzen, or because he was too uninformed to face his opponent, like against Itachi. Despite his distinct lack of morals, Orochimaru seems to be well-versed in psychological warfare and displays insightful wisdom when disparaging Tobirama for the actions resulting from his policies.
After being revived by Sasuke, his personality changed a bit. While he still wished that he could gain Sasuke's body, he also realized that copying someone completely was a mistake from his observation of Kabuto and displayed interest in Sasuke's "different path". Wanting to see Sasuke's path, he chose to fight alongside the Uchiha instead of ignoring Madara's war like he planned, and even made it a priority to heal Tsunade and the other Kage after their defeat before hurrying to the battlefield. Orochimaru also seem to genuinely care about Sasuke's well being, as he originally thought it was best to take his time figuring out how to battle Tobi but quickly decided against taking his time when Karin sensed Sasuke was on the verge of death. Orochimaru has also shown signs of regret, seemingly saddened by his childhood friend Jiraiya's death.
Ninjutsu Master: Wishing to obtain all of the techniques in the world, Orochimaru has a vast arsenal of techniques at his disposal, ranging from simple offensive ones, which nonetheless become deadly when performed by him, to higher ranking, more complicated ones. Even at a young age, he was able to utilize his former master's signature Shuriken Shadow Clone Jutsu. Orochimaru also exhibited mastery with the Transformation Jutsu, as he was able to view Sasuke's battle with Yoroi Akado during the Chunin Exams, undetected. He was also able to pose as the Fourth Kazekage for weeks, fooling the entire village of the Hidden Sand, including its elite shinobi and the ones closest to the dead Kazekage. When conducting experiments, he is also capable of utilizing medical ninjutsu and would make use of the chakra scalpel.
- Nature Transformation: Orochimaru, being skilled and diverse in elemental ninjutsu, can use all five elemental chakra nature transformations as well as Yin Release and Yang Release. With the Wind Release, he can level an entire forest with a powerful gust of wind. In the Naruto anime, using Fire Release, he is also able to unleash a simple but powerful fire stream able to repel Naruto enhanced by the Nine-Tails' chakra. He could also use Earth Release to create a clone of mud, which could act as a divergence or substitution against an attack on his behalf.
- Snake Techniques: Orochimaru's trademark trait is his affinity with snakes, in addition to impacting the appearance and composition of his true form, and granting him the ability to extend his limbs to abnormal lengths and to take on snake-like traits in battle, caused him to learn a number of snake-related abilities, including learning Sage Mode. His snake-related techniques have been referred to as Power of the White Snake. One such ability is being able to summon giant snakes to fight alongside him in battle, made possible by the summoning contract tattooed on his arm. This allows him to summon snakes within his vicinity, as opposed to having to place his hand on a surface. If need be, Orochimaru can morph into a giant snake, despite being slightly smaller in size to his larger ones. His signature summon was Manda, a colossal snake which was described as the largest in the world, with immense fighting capabilities. With Striking Shadow Snakes, Orochimaru can instantly call forth snakes from his sleeves and mouth to attack his opponents in large numbers with venomous bites. A stronger variation of this technique was the Multiple Striking Shadow Snakes, in which the summoned snakes grow noticeably in both numbers and size.
- Kenjutsu Practitioner: Orochimaru is also expertly skilled in kenjutsu, able to use the Sword of Kusanagi to fend of the masterful staff-fighting skills of his former teacher in the Third Hokage.
- Fuinjutsu Expert: Although downplayed for much of the series, Orochimaru is also very skilled in the use of fuinjutsu, even in the midst of battle. Most notably, he has been seen using the Five Pronged Seal, to seal off another's access to chakra and thus, rendering them useless. Using this technique, Orochimaru was not only able land a seal on an enraged Naruto, but also completely subdue the Nine-Tails' chakra.
- Summoning Jutsu: Reanimation: Orochimaru is one of the three people capable of performing Summoning Jutsu: Reanimation, further perfecting the technique developed by the Second Hokage, Tobirama Senju. In his first shown use, he reincarnated both the technique's creator and Hashirama Senju to fight against his teacher, Hiruzen Sarutobi. Though Hiruzen sealed the part of his soul that represented his arms to bare him from using Impure World Reincarnation, Orochimaru used the Shinigami Mask during the Fourth Shinobi World War to spiritually restore himself and summoned all four Hokage at once. His prowess with this technique seems to have increased, seemingly from acquiring Kabuto's new knowledge of it, as Tobirama noted that the reincarnated Hokage were now nearly to their full power as opposed to his previous attempt. Using Hashirama's cells, Orochimaru can strengthen his control over the reincarnated Hokage, as seen when he was able to completely immobilize Tobirama who was resisting control for a brief time, though he stated that Hashirama was still able to easily break Orochimaru's restraint.
- Immortality Techniques: Through the use of his "true form" is with his Immortality Jutsu, Orochimaru can transfer his soul to another body and extend his life indefinitely. To use this technique, Orochimaru must leave his former body. Once he has done this, he swallows the new body and transports its current inhabitant to a dimension within himself where he absorbs them, thus allowing him to take over their body. Orochimaru can only perform this technique once every three years, which is also around the time that his new body begins to reject him and forces him to find a new host. Although he might leave their bodies behind, the souls of those whose bodies he has taken always remain within Orochimaru's subconscious. After taking over another body, Orochimaru modifies it to suit his theme of snakes. He can also alter the face and body of his host to take on his own original form.
Taijutsu Expert: Orochimaru is skilled in taijutsu, being able to effortlessly overpower Sasuke with his two-tomoe Sharingan.
- Immense Strength: Orochimaru also showed immense strength, knocking down a tree with only a kick, as well as striking with enough force to destroy part of a large tree, despite being a distance away.
- Enhanced Speed and Reflexes:
- Enhanced Endurance:
- Enhanced Durability:
Senjutsu Expert: During his research on Jugo's clan, Orochimaru eventually tracked down the source of their power when he discovered the Ryuchi Cave and senjutsu. Here, he attempted to learn senjutsu as well as Sage Mode. However, unlike his follower Kabuto, he lacked the strong enough body and chakra reserves to learn Sage Mode but, he does have enough knowledge to both release another person's Sage Mode and absorb the senjutsu chakra inside them as seen with Kabuto.
Genius Intellect: From his childhood days, Orochimaru was identified as a genius shinobi and a once-in-a-generation prodigy. During his lifetime, his associations with powerful shinobi and groups, such as his tutoring by the Third Hokage and his stints with both the Root and Akatsuki organizations, as well as his later solo exploits into gaining knowledge, allowed him to develop and gain access to vast amounts of information.
- Master Planner and Manipulator: Orochimaru is a master planner and manipulator. For years, he evaded capture from both the Hidden Leaf and the Akatsuki, all the while setting up a network of fully supplied hideouts throughout various countries. He was also able to manipulate the entire village of the Hidden Sand into invading the Leaf Village, by posing as the Fourth Kazekage without anyone noticing, having killed the real one before the invasion. He was capable of manipulating multiple people into becoming his willing pawns and guinea pigs for his experiments, using a combination of manipulation, insight into a victim's past and the promise of power to gain their loyalty. The greatest examples of this are Kabuto and Kimimaro, who idolized the Sannin and showed nothing but absolute loyalty and respect for him. He even developed a fail-safe in case he was ever killed or sealed in the form of his cursed seals. At some point in time, Orochimaru and Kabuto learned that Tobi was not the real Madara Uchiha, although it would ultimately be Kabuto who would use this knowledge to his full advantage.
- Experimentations Expert: In his quest to decipher all of the world's secrets, Orochimaru has preformed extensive research throughout his years. He has conducted countless experiments on himself and the bodies of other individuals, to further comprehend their abilities. Such examples include him discovering the workings of Jugo's clan's abilities and his subsequent development of the cursed seal, the extensive research done to Hashirama Senju's cells, and the development and subsequent transfer of Danzo's Sharingan embedded arm, among many others. In addition to the enhancements made to himself, he is also capable of genetically modifying and cloning other test subjects. Most notably, Orochimaru was able to rewrite Yamato's DNA to match that of Hashirama's in the attempt to recreate his considerable powers. Although Yamato survived the procedure, he was a success among many failures. Orochimaru also tested on Danzo Shimura, infusing the latter with Hashirama's cells in an attempt to maximise his usage of Izanagi. Even from a very small sample, Orochimaru could cultivate cells to recreate the origin, as shown with what he did with the horn of Gyuki. The horn itself not only grew to its original size, but also produced vast amounts of chakra identical to the latter. Although it was later put into use by Kabuto, the extracted chakra was potent enough to create a pseudo-jinchūriki, with power equal to that of a true jinchuriki. Due to the experiments and research on Shin Uchiha, Orochimaru deciphered many secrets to human genetics, making all his research on similar matters much simpler by extension. Kabuto once noted that, in order to prevent anyone from gaining knowledge from his test subjects, Orochimaru could protect the cellular structure of his experiments.
Body Modifications: Over the years, Orochimaru has conducted various experiments on his own body, thus modifying it greatly. This in turn has granted him an exponential increase in his bodies physical durability, speed, strength, and survival capabilities. It is also because of these experiments, Orochimaru is completely invulnerable to conventional techniques.
Immense Chakra Power: Orochimaru has been noted, on many occasions, to have extremely foul and powerful chakra. Upon releasing his chakra, it causes a heavy effect on the atmosphere, causing dense surges of wind to uproar. When fighting his former sensei, Hiruzen Sarutobi, the sheer force of both individuals' releasing their chakra caused the building they were fighting upon to crack. Likewise, his chakra alone can incite fear into his foes, causing them to hallucinate or render them incapable of breathing. In addition, Orochimaru has shown considerable chakra control. During the three years his hands were sealed by Hiruzen, preventing Orochimaru from performing hand signs, the Sannin was still able to perform various less-complicated yet powerful techniques.
Master of Stealth:
Espionage, Escapism, Subterfuge and Tracking Expert: He possesses immense skills at subterfuge, escapism, espionage, and tracking, being able to track Kabuto Yakushi for years unnoticed by everyone all while he trained him to be a more powerful shinobi under his tutelage.
Chakra Absorption Jutsu: He can quickly absorb chakra through physical contact, taking back all of his chakra from Kabuto instantly.
- Unnamed Parents (deceased)
- Kabuto Yakushi (Right-handed Man)
- The Sound Five
- Sasuke Uchiha (Former protégé)
- Team Kakashi
- Hiruzen Sarutobi (Former teacher)
- Team Karakura
- Team Natsu
- Elric Brothers