Along with Pokémon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball, Yu-Gi-Oh! was a gateway to the world of anime for a lot of us. Of course, watching it as kids, a good number of us didn't even know that what we were watching was, in fact, anime. Most people who enjoyed the anime also developed an interest in the card game all those kids were playing, called Duel Monsters. Luckily, collecting Yu-Gi-Oh! cards was possible in the real world as well. Although no monsters popped up when you played, collecting cards, building decks, and dueling with friends was still tons of fun.
And watching the characters battle it out episode after episode was equally entertaining. Some duels would even last for a few episodes because one really does need to evaluate their life decisions prior to making a move. Right? There's a lot about this show that's just ridiculous and we don't just mean the hairstyles. The fact is, Yu-Gi-Oh! is pretty cheesy, it had a lot of unnecessary filler, the characters broke the rules countless times, and if we were to get nitpicky we'd find tons of stuff that just doesn't make any sense. But, if there's one thing Yu-Gi-Oh!: Duel Monsters did right it was creating some pretty memorable characters. Today, we took a walk down memory lane, spent some time in the wonderful world of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and hung out with our childhood heroes and villains to bring to you a list of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s 10 most powerful and 10 weakest characters.
20 WEAK: ESPA ROBA
If you have to put on a Long Island Medium type of act to win at Duel Monster,s you’re probably not that much of a duelist. Espa Roba was one of the Battle City competitors Joey Wheeler dueled and defeated pretty early on. Espa pretended to have ESP by having his four little brothers spy on his opponents and then tell him what cards they were holding in their hands.
Eventually, Espa was discovered by Mokuba. Still, despite the cheating, Espa wasn’t a bad guy. He did what he thought he had to do to provide for his brothers. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to make it to the finals.
19 POWERFUL: MAXIMILLION PEGASUS
Of course, we can’t very well make a list of the most powerful Yu-Gi-Oh! characters and not include the creator of Duel Monsters. The president of Industrial Illusions and owner of the Millennium Eye is definitely not to be trifled with.
Appearing as the main antagonist of the "Duelist Kingdom" arc, Pegasus demonstrated the awesome power of his adorable, and at the same time chilling, toon deck. Naturally, being the president of the company that makes the cards, Pegasus also has access to very rare and powerful cards, as well as some that have never been released to the public. And let’s not forget, he defeated Kaiba, though he did play dirty.
18 WEAK: PANIK
Back when the rules of Duel Monsters were as blurry as they can get, Yugi defeated a number of Duelist Kingdom participants with questionable moves. Against Mako Tsunami, he literally used a monster to attack the moon, which was his own field spell card. Similarly, and perhaps even more absurdly, against PaniK, Yugi attacked the floating ring of "The Castle of Dark Illusions," that is he attacked and destroyed a part of a monster.
But, plot conveniences aside, PaniK wasn't exactly a dueling prodigy. He used intimidation tactics to distract and even torture his opponents, so Yugi’s victory, tainted as it was, can be considered poetic justice. PaniK relied on one card and once it was gone he was backed into a corner.
17 POWERFUL: DARTZ
Dartz was the main villain of a surprisingly good filler arc called "Waking the Dragons". Similarly to how Marik and Bakura used Shadow Games, Dartz trapped duelists in a game that put their souls at stake. The spell card "The Seal of Orichalcos" ensured that the duelist who loses the duel would have their soul taken. Dartz’s entire deck was centered around Orichalcos and it proved to be an incredibly powerful deck.
But, aside from being more than a competent duelist, Dartz was also the actual King of Atlantis, president of the ancient organization named Doma, and president of his own company Paradius because, of course he was. This is Yu-Gi-Oh! – every antagonist has his own company.
16 WEAK: ARKANA
The self-proclaimed ultimate Dark Magician user, Arkana challenged Yugi during the Battle City tournament. Claiming to possess a deck tailor-made to counter Yugi’s, Arkana’s strategy was to defeat the King of Games using his very favorite card against him – the "Dark Magician", which Arkana also owned.
Seeing as how Arkana was one of Marik’s Rare Hunters, he trapped Yugi in a Shadow Game. And his connection to Marik is the only thing that made him remotely dangerous. Ultimately, Arkana’s hubris and selfishness led to his demise. His strategy, sacrificing his monsters without a thought, could only get him so far. In the end, Yugi showed him who’s boss when it comes to Dark Magicians.
15 POWERFUL: RAFAEL
Rafael was the most powerful and intimidating of the Doma Swordsmen, and not only because he was a large muscular dude with sick sideburns. Rafael was able to retain his soul after being defeated in a Seal of Orichalcos duel, he was able to see Duel Monster Spirits, and he’s one of the select few who actually managed to defeat Yugi.
But perhaps Rafael’s biggest power was his pure heart, which in the world of Yu-Gi-Oh! is of paramount importance. Rafael treated his monsters with respect and care and harbored no negative emotions in his heart, which prevented the Orichalcos from claiming his soul. He was also strong enough to own up to his mistakes and help Yugi defeat Dartz.
14 WEAK: REX RAPTOR
Rex Raptor was among the first duelists to leave Pegasus’ island upon enduring a crushing defeat from Joey Wheeler. Rex’s over-confidence had been evident from the very start of the tournament when he lost his room to Mai Valentine, thinking she’d be an easy opponent. Well, he gravely underestimated both of them, and for that, he paid a steep price.
Rex came back during the "Waking the Dragons" arc together with his new best friend Weevil Underwood. Once again he dueled Joey and once again Joey wiped the floor with him. Over and over again, Rex proves that he’s all talk and no action.
13 POWERFUL: MAI VALENTINE
Mai Valentine is by and large the strongest female character in Yu-Gi-Oh!. The seemingly self-centered, shallow, and cold-hearted duelist has won duels against some of the top duelists out there, including Joey Wheeler and Maximillion Pegasus. She even held her own against Marik after he turned their duel into a Shadow Game and started erasing people from her memories.
Mai’s life hasn’t been easy and she’s had to learn to fend for herself, which is why she may seem a bit uncaring at the beginning. However, she’s proven to have a good heart, which endeared her to Yugi and his friends, as well as the fans.
12 WEAK: BONZ
Bonz likes to put on a tough guy act, what with his spiky hair, zombie aesthetic, and gross attitude, but he hasn’t proven himself to be much of a threat at all. During the Duelist Kingdom tournament, he became Bandit Keith’s lackey to obtain a few cards to even make his zombie deck useful. And even so, Joey Wheeler – an amateur duelist at the time – beat him, despite Bonz having the advantage.
During Battle City, Bonz continued playing dirty to advance in the tournament, but he came across Yami Bakura who showed him what real fear feels like. Of course, Bonz lost the duel and got sent to the Shadow Realm.
11 POWERFUL: YAMI MARIK/MARIK ISHTAR
At the start of the Battle City tournament, we’re introduced to the Egyptian God cards, as well as the main villain Marik Ishtar. The Keeper of the Pharaoh’s Tomb and the leader of the Rare Hunters, Marik proved to be quite the mastermind and caused a lot of trouble for our heroes. His Millennium Rod allowed him to control people's minds, which he often did.
But things took a sharp turn for the worse when an even darker aspect of his personality, Yami Marik, took control during the final stage of the tournament. His incredibly powerful deck included the mighty "Winged Dragon of Ra". He took pleasure in torturing his opponents. His duels with Mai, Joey, and Yugi really showed how ruthless and dangerous he was.
10 WEAK: WEEVIL UNDERWOOD
This little insect is probably among everyone’s least favorite characters and with good reason. He was an underhanded vermin who threw Yugi’s Exodia cards into the ocean, planted a "Paradise Paracide" card in Joey’s deck to cheat his way to victory, and to top it all off, he went against Yugi after he had saved his life.
In truth, Weevil was never confident in his abilities as a duelist and he resorted to despicable tactics in order to ensure his victory. The fact that he’d go to such lengths out of revenge and jealousy only goes to show his weakness as a persona and a duelist.
9 POWERFUL: JOEY WHEELER
Joey Wheeler was always the underdog. He kept going up against impossible odds, stronger opponents, cheating opponents, and even an Egyptian God, yet he still managed to pull through. He always roles with the punches, he never gives up, and he always protects the people he loves. Though it often appears he relies purely on luck, Joey is much smarter than he appears.
Sure, he’s loud, hot-headed, and sarcastic, but he’s more than capable of backing up the trash talk with his excellent dueling skills. After all, he technically defeated Yami Marik – or he would have had Marik’s Shadow Game not rendered him unconscious. Because Joey doesn’t rely on special abilities and money to win, the creator Kazuki Takahashi considers him the strongest character.
8 WEAK: BANDIT KEITH
Bandit Keith was sort of a secondary antagonist during the Duelist Kingdom tournament. He came to the island to exert revenge on Pegasus who publicly embarrassed him by having a child defeat him in a single move. Bandit Keith made it to the semi-finals, but only because he resorted to cheating and stealing to get there.
He beat up Bonz and his friends to take their stars, he stole Joey’s entry card to prevent him from entering their duel, and when that didn’t work, he cheated during the duel by pulling out cards from beneath his wristband. Pegasus didn't much care for this so he dumped him into the ocean.
7 POWERFUL: YAMI BAKURA/THIEF KING BAKURA
When Marik was finally defeated we were all wondering where the story will take our heroes next and who could possibly be worse than even Marik. Well, the answer to that question turned out to be: Ancient Egypt and Yami Bakura.
During the "Dawn of the Duel" arc, our heroes found themselves in Ancient Egypt where Bakura waged war against Pharaoh Atem. Bakura proved to be a fierce opponent with a monster strong enough to stand alongside the Egyptian Gods. Oh, and during the final Shadow Game between Yami Bakura and Yami Yugi, Bakura fused with Zorc the Dark One, a creature so powerful that it took the combined power of three Egyptian Gods, The Creator of Light, to finally stop him.
6 WEAK: TEA GARDNER
Tea Gardner is the heart of her little group of friends. She’s always there to cheer on both Yugi and Joey when they encounter difficult opponents, she cares deeply for her friends, and she’s always looking on the bright side. She often acts as the voice of reason to the group, especially in regards to Joey and Tristan.
However, while Tea is essential to the group, she’s not a particularly strong character. Her dueling skills aren’t the best because, well, she’s not a duelist. Though she does stand up for her beliefs, her preachy attitude can get irritating at times because sometimes, even in Yu-Gi-Oh! the power of friendship cannot save the day.
5 POWERFUL: SETO KAIBA
Seto Kaiba, the unofficial secondary protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh!, is one of the show’s most popular characters. The smug, pretentious, and rude president of KaibaCorp is the arch-enemy of Yugi Muto from whom he wishes to take the title of King of Games. He was without a doubt one of the most powerful and skilled duelists out there even before he obtained "Obelisk the Tormentor".
Wielding three "Blue-Eyes White Dragons," Kaiba is almost unstoppable. His deck is packed with all kinds of powerful cards and he stops at nothing to achieve his goals. He’s one of the select few who’ve actually managed to defeat Yugi.
4 WEAK: TRISTAN TAYLOR
Much like Tea Gardner, Tristan Taylor never really displayed an aptitude for or interest in Duel Monsters. He followed his friends where ever the dueling took them, cheered from the sidelines, and provided comic relief more often than not.
Though he’s not much of a duelist, Tristan isn’t physically weak. In fact, he is quite possibly the strongest in his group of friends. However, when he picks up a duel disk and a deck of cards he’s mediocre at best. During the "Virtual World" arc, he was easily defeated by one of the Big Five and subsequently trapped in the body of a robotic monkey.
3 POWERFUL: YUGI MUTO
Yugi Muto is the spiky-haired protagonist of Yu-Gi-Oh!, the owner of the Millennium Puzzle and thus host to the spirit of Pharaoh Atem, the King of Games, and overall just a bundle of joy and sweetness. But don’t be fooled by his tiny stature and those big kind eyes, Yugi Muto is a force to be reckoned with.
Though Yugi’s had the Pharaoh’s help throughout most of his duels, he’s proven that he can hold his own even without Yami Yugi, as well as against him. In the final arc, Yugi defeated Yami Bakura and the Pharaoh himself. Yugi may lack confidence in his own skill at times, but that’s never stopped him from doing the right thing, and that takes strength.
2 WEAK: SERENITY WHEELER
Joey Wheeler’s little sister Serenity has been a plot point since the very beginning. One of the reasons Joey entered Pegasus’ tournament was to win the prize money for his sister’s eye surgery. During the "Battle City" arc, Serenity officially joined Joey’s group of friends and cheered on her big brother from the sidelines.
Unfortunately, the talent for Duel Monsters apparently doesn’t run in the family. In the "Virtual World" arc, Tristan, Duke, and Serenity were forced into a duel against one of the Big Five and Serenity proved to be nothing but a liability. She just barely managed to win with the help of Joey and Duke.
1 POWERFUL: YAMI YUGI/PHARAOH ATEM
Sharing the title of King of Games with young Yugi Muto, Yami Yugi exists within the Millennium Puzzle and usually takes over once the duel starts. However, he does consult with Yugi so they can come up with a strategy together. Yami Yugi is the spirit of the great Egyptian Pharaoh Atem who, as we’ve seen in the "Dawn of the Duel" arc, was a great leader and an equally great duelist.
Yami Yugi has a strong bond with his monsters, especially his Dark Magician, he's the wielder of all three Egyptian Gods, and you can always count on him to have something up his sleeve. The only one to win a duel against Yami Yugi fair and square is Yugi Muto.