Yu-Gi-Oh! as a manga series was originally created to showcase games in general. It’s in the name, after all, meaning “King of Games”. But it has eventually become the world-famous card game that all weebs and otaku recognize. And for the last decade or two, it basically shares the same element as any popular product franchise: the protagonist changes after the original series ends. Of course, the same goes for its watch order.
On the surface, you’d only have to contend with a linear set of episodes per series, with a few theatrical releases here and there. Pretty straightforward for a Yu-Gi-Oh! watch order right? But when it comes to crossover stuff, reboots, time travel escapades, and parallel dimension adventures, well… we have quite a few suggestions to make.
Okay, we may have mentioned the spin-off protagonist switching thing. But, at least for the two anime adaptations based on the manga characters, the setting is actually in just one universe. The closest comparison we have is Digimon Adventure, where the first and second series differ only by the time passed between. As such, everything directly related to the two will be closely linked, as well as our (hopefully sensible) connection to the other series and related “addendums”.
1. Chronological order
The time-based episode system can get a bit tricky here and there, as multiple series and story arcs involve the very concept of time travel (and sometimes even parallel dimensions). But as a general rule, if the scene is intended to be a flashback, we will still try to arrange it at the time the storyteller told the tale, instead of when the actual event theoretically took place.
Oh and, we’ll completely skip Capsule Monsters. No argument.
Yu-Gi-Oh! (Season 0)
Yu-Gi-Oh! (short film, 30-minute special)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters (Season 1 to Season 3, Episodes 1-144)
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light (recommended timing, not canon)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters (Season 3 to Season 5, Episodes 145-224)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Side of Dimensions (manga-based film, technically canon)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX (All Episodes)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (Episodes 1-80)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time (triple crossover film, canon)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (Episodes 81-154)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Season 1
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Season 2
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (All Episodes)
Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (All Episodes)
Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENƧ (All Episodes)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Go Rush!! (ongoing)
2. Release order
Probably still the same as the chronological order structurally, but inserted in between are crucial theatrical releases set in the very first series but released much, much later on. We’re not sure how this would technically work, but if we theorize that the events are linear, we believe that this should be the best arrangement.
Again, Capsule Monsters is skipped. No questions asked.
Yu-Gi-Oh! Season 0 (1998)
Yu-Gi-Oh! short film (1999)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters (2000-2004)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX (2004-2007)
Yu-GI-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light (2004)
Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (2008-2011)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Bonds Beyond Time (2010)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Season 1 (2011-2012)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal Season 2 (2012-2014)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (2014-2017)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Dark Side of Dimensions (2016)
Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (2017-2019)
Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENƧ (2020-2022)
Yu-Gi-Oh! Go Rush!! (2022- ongoing)
Mutou Yugi is a lover of games, and quite naturally so given that his grandfather is the owner of a hobby game store. One day he attempts to solve a mysterious Egyptian puzzle. When he finally assembled all the pieces into place, a spirit of an unnamed young pharaoh came before him. Before long, this “Yami Yugi” persona became part of him, and allowed him to further unleash the genius game-solving potential inside him.
Other (spin-off) protagonists are also called upon by somewhat similar, but vastly different struggles. Through the adventures of these would-be legendary duelists, they meet new friends and foes, as well as worthy rivals. Bonds of friendship strengthen with each other, and each prominent supporting character also stands up to a variety of different trials and tribulations.
Whatever the challenge may be though, every single one of them will always eventually find the steely resolve to face it head-on.
… By the power of the heart of cards, of course.
The evolution of card rulings
When watching the series from the very beginning, it is important to consider the timeline in which these stories took place. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters at least, still somewhat loosely follows the manga, and as such there were no solid card rules that could make the duels technical. By the time GX came around, there is a bit more order in the fights, but variations were still quite rough.
The first real series that truly “polymerized” technical rules and storytelling magic is 5D’s. At this point, the sophistication level of the actual trading card game became good enough for show-based card effect variations that still remained very close to the real rules. And while opinions about the story varied greatly after 5D’s, the presentation aspect of card rules for each series only got better afterward.
Need something a bit more lighthearted than hardcore card games on motorbikes? Come and hop over to the bandwagon of our best comedy anime list!