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After 26 Years, Yu-Gi-Oh! Is Still An Incredible Trading Card Game

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After 26 Years, Yu-Gi-Oh! Is Still An Incredible Trading Card Game

On July 6, 2022, Yu-Gi-Oh! creator Kazuki Takahashi died in an apparent snorkelling accident. This untimely passing has left fans mourning a truly inspirational artist in Takahashi-sama, who gave us one of the greatest trading card games of all time. 

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Since its debut in 1996, Konami's Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has reached a global audience with its manga, anime, video games and trading card game series. The core of Takahashi’s Yu-Gi-Oh! revolves around Duel Monsters, the in-universe card game most famously played by the series' original protagonist Yugi Mutou and his rival Seto Kaiba. This simple TCG became a global phenomenon, with kids the world over pitting Dark Magician against Blue Eyes White Dragon.

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As the trading cards evolved (not the Pokémon way), so too did the presence of Yu-Gi-Oh! in other media. From film releases to video games, what started out as the story of a boy and his Ancient Egyptian friend who shares his body (yes, really), went on to become one of the most prominent gaming franchises of all time.

Easter eggs to the series appear in a variety of video game titles, from Borderlands 2 to Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Bayonetta 2 also gets in on the act, with the character Loki, wielding magical cards and wearing a Millennium Puzzle-esque pendant. 

Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light / Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light / Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
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The reason for this widespread recognition is simple: Yu-Gi-Oh! is a fun game that offers a wide variety of cards and styles to play with. From the vanilla Normal Monster cards - which include the aforementioned Dark Magician and Blue Eyes White Dragon - to the more detailed types of Effect, Fusion, Ritual, Link, Xyz and Synchro. Add to these groups a huge variety of Spell and Trap cards, and there’s really no limit to how you can “get your game on”, to quote a lovable slacker. 

The game has introduced new mechanics over the years, to a point where OG players will likely be intimidated by the changes. In fact, things are so different that Change of Heart, a card once banned for being so powerful, is free to use in the current format. However, these evolutions within the game are not to be feared.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel / Credit: Konami
Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel / Credit: Konami
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Then there’s the anime series, which many of us enjoyed watching here in the West as kids thanks to a popular dubbed series. The original series followed Yugi as he attempted to become the King of Games. This run of the show saw many alterations to the game, but the experience was still just as enjoyable.

The show then entered a new phase with Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, which followed Jaden Yuki on his adventures at Duel Academy, a school for young people to study Duel Monsters. While some fans didn’t vibe with this new generation of duelists, it was a new direction for the franchise and produced some memorable moments and fantastic cards.

Things changed further from here, with new series and ideas that took the card game to exciting new places. As excellent as it was to see this development, my personal highlight came with the Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light, which saw Yugi take on a new villain in a duel that was as epic as it was cheesy. There’s something about watching that little rascal pull exactly the right card at exactly the right time that never gets old. 

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Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links / Credit: Konami
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links / Credit: Konami

It’s impossible to tell you everything good about Yu-Gi-Oh! in this article because, mostly, my editor won’t let me drop 16,000 words in an op-ed (the coward). However, one vital aspect of it is in how it differs from Pokémon, in that you aren’t encouraged to “catch ‘em all’. Sure, new sets release regularly, but owning every card is not the goal of Duel Monsters. The goal is to win, and you do that however you like.

Whether you’re down with the Synchro or prefer running Normal Monsters only, this trading card game has you covered. It’s diverse, it’s fun, it’s still going strong after years, and it offers some spectacular art on those little cardboard rectangles. So pick up some packs, build a deck and listen to the heart of the cards. 

Featured Image Credit: Konami / Toei Animation

Topics: Konami

James Daly
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