Yu-Gi-Oh! is a Japanese manga series primarily about gaming, more specifically about the fictional game of Duel Monsters, written and illustrated by Kazuki Takahashi.
In its initial run, it was published as a serialized series in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine, from September 1996 to March 2004.
Yu-Gi-Oh! follows as its protagonist Yugi Mutou solves the ancient Millennium Puzzle, and awakens the spirit of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh that resides within the puzzle.
The spirit becomes Yugi’s alter-ego, possessing his body and engaging in dangerous games where he gambles with his life on the line.
The initial manga spawned a media conglomerate including several spin-off series in both manga and anime, as well as the highly popular trading card game “Yu-Gi-Oh!” based on the game “Duel Monsters” played within the series.
Western audiences are most likely familiar with the animated series “Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters”, which aired between April 2000 and September 2004. The show adapts the original run of the manga, after the events of volume 7, and also includes several series of original content.
“Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters” ran for 224 episodes, across 5 seasons, and we’re going to break them down in a definitive Yu-Gi-Oh! watch order.
Season One - Duelist Kingdom!
Season One follows Yugi Mutou, alongside his cast of friends, Joey Wheeler, Tristan Taylor, and Tea Gardner travel to the Duelist Kingdom.
A Duel Monsters competition hosted by the eccentric Maximillion Pegasus, the creator of Duel Monsters itself, where Yugi must fight to save the stolen stole of his Grandfather.
Yugi must duel against famous duelists from around the world, like the famed Seto Kaiba, the genius behind the multi-national gaming company Kaiba Corporation. Or the mysterious Ryou Bakura, and his evil Millenium Ring.
Season Two - Battle City!
In season two, Yugi begins to learn and understand more of the secrets of his Millenium Puzzle, and discovers the spirit he has learned to cohabitate with has no memories of his past.
Yugi enters Seto Kaiba’s Battle City tournament, in order to attain the three Egyptian God Cards. Three powerful Duel Monsters cards, that may be the way to uncovering the secrets of the Pharaoh’s past.
Yugi also begins to encounter more people who wield the mystical power of the Millenium Items. Marik Ishtar, the wicked wielder of the Millennium Rod, and his older sister Ishizu Ishtar, the reserved oracle who wields the Millennium Necklace.
Season Three - Noah’s Saga and the King of Games!
The first 24 episodes of season three depict an original story to the animated series, that sees Yugi and friends enter a virtual world created by Noah, the adoptive brother of Seto Kaiba and legitimate heir to the Kaiba Corporation.
Following the events of this original arc, the cast return for the final moments of the Battle City tournament. Here only a small number of finalists remain, who must duel to decide who will walk away with the title “King of Games”.
Season Four - Waking the Dragon!
Season four is the second original arc to the animated series. In this season, Yugi encounters the followers of the ancient Order of Orichalcos, who drain power from the Egyptian God cards, and begin stealing souls to revive an ancient beast.
Yugi, Joey, and Seto Kaiba are each imbued with the power of a legendary dragon card, so that they might fight the Order of the Orichalcas, and defeat their evil leader, Dartz.
Season Five - The KaibaCorp Grand Championship and the Dawn of the Duel!
The final original arc to the animated series comes at the start of season five. This story sees Yugi and his friends join the KaibaCorp Grand Championship. Taking on duelists from across the globe, with both new and recurring challenges ahead.
The remaining part of season five depicts the Dawn of the Duel story arc. This story sees Yugi and friends take on the returning Ryou Bakura, who has been overcome by the dark spirit that possesses his Millenium Ring.
The season sees Yugi take on his most trying challenges to date, as he has to battle the immense power of Zorc, the Dark One. But what challenges could await Yugi beyond that? Yugi faces his final test, both as his skill as a duelist, but as a friend as well.
A number of animated movies have been released following the end of the show. The first of which is set between the events of the third and fourth season, however, it does not make any impact on the rest of the series.
As such, any of the main series movies can each be watched following the end of the original series.
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light sees Yugi and the Pharaoh take on the Egyptian lord of the dead, Anubis, and his most valuable treasure, the Pyramid of Light. A devastating battle takes place, as Anubis enacts a deadly plan 5,000 years in the making.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Bonds Beyond Time is the second movie to be released following the end of the original series.
It sees Yugi travel upon an adventure through time, alongside Jaden Yuki and Yusei Fudo, the main protagonists of the spin-off shows Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side of Dimensions is the final film to feature characters from the original series. This film introduces Diva, a young man with an aptitude for Duel Monsters, who wields the ability to “Dimension Summon”.
A new mechanic in the world of Duel Monsters, that allows you to summon powerful monsters with ease.
In 2006, 4Kids Entertainment released Yu-Gi-Oh! Capsule Monsters. The miniseries was released exclusively to Western audiences, making it the only Yu-Gi-Oh! Series not to be released in Japan.
Capsule Monsters is an original story, to feature the characters depicted in Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters, although is not considered to be strictly canon.
As such, it is not imperative to watch alongside the original series, but can be watched at any point. We recommend you watch it after the original series, if at all.
After the massively popular release of the original series, Yu-Gi-Oh! Spawned several spin-offs, which are still being released to this day. These should be watched in chronological release order, following the original series.
The shows are as following:
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters GX (2004)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s (2008)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal (2011)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V (2014)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS (2017)
- Yu-Gi-Oh! Sevens (2020)