20 Best Yu-Gi-Oh! Characters (And Duelists) In The AnimeThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the most influential anime series of this generation.
There’s a good reason why the anime has been going strong for so long – even with new versions of the series.
Not only is the YGO anime one of the best ways to introduce people to new mechanics in the actual card game, but the anime has some pretty crazy battles mixed in.
Many of us grew up watching this anime regardless of whether it was the original one with Yugi, the Duel Academy with Jaden, or 5D, or Zexal. So to throw tribute to my duelist homies, I’m ranking some of the best characters that the anime has to offer.
Bear in mind that most of these characters are rated according to my own opinion of each of them. You might disagree, but we’re all Yu-Gi-Oh! fans at the end of the day.
Friendly Note: I’m mainly focusing on characters from the first Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime, but I’ve taken the liberty to include some absolutely fantastic characters from the sequels.
20. Mai Valentine
Mai was probably the first competent female duelist that we got to see in Yu-Gi-Oh.
The original anime was far too male-centric. And even though I’m a profound hater of the woke movement, it was cool to see a female character that could kick someone’s ass in a duel.
I’m also including Mai on my list because I remember struggling against her deck back in the days of Yu-Gi-Oh 7 Trials to Glory, when the game was extremely popular circa 2005. I respect her as a duelist because she served my own arse for breakfast on more than one occasion.
Man, the original Yu-Gi-Oh anime had some amazing villains.
And I think Dartz was one of the best of the bunch.
In fact, I’d say Dartz has been one of the best-ever antagonists of any Duel Monsters anime. His arc was out of this world!
18. Duke Devlin
Duke was one of those characters that didn’t really have a lot to add to the series. But he’s a fantastic character anyway, as he introduced the Dungeon Dice Monsters game which was a weird mix of D&D and Duel Monsters.
And pretty cool, looking back.
Also, do you remember that time when Duke Devlin beat Joey and made him wear a dog costume? Ah, fun times.
17. Mokuba Kaiba
Mokuba, on his own, isn’t as good of a character.
However, he’s the only character in the series that Seto shows affection towards (logical, being his brother).
The personality dynamics between Seto and Mokuba shaped the Kaiba family throughout the series. So he gets a spot on my list for that sole reason.
I know many of you liked Mokuba for other reasons, but I never grew too fond of his character other than when he interacted with Seto.
16. Ishizu Ishtar
Ishizu was Marik’s sister, the wielder of the Millenium Necklace, and one of the more mystical characters in the original anime.
She wasn’t as much of a skilled duelist as her brother. But her ability to stop his plants and avoid the betrayal of the family was enough to make her memorable.
If you remember the fights against the Doma Swordsmen in the original Yu-Gi-Oh anime, then you probably remember Rafael – even if his name doesn’t come to mind at first.
You know that guy who never lost his soul after losing, and the most successful of the Doma Swordsmen? Yeah?
Well, then you’re thinking of the badass that was Rafael.
14. Yuya Sakaki
Yuya’s dominion of Pendulum summons earns him a very good spot on my list, alongside the fact that he had quite a mild and calmed personality.
And some of the best cards out of any Yu-Gi-Oh protagonist!
13. Rebecca Hawkins
Out of all the characters that came out of Yu-Gi-Oh filler arcs, I have to tell you that Rebecca was always one of my favorites.
She was a very skilled duelist that managed to become a Duel Monsters champion at a very young age, and her appearance on the series shows why she was so good at what she did.
She’s only 12-years old in the anime, making her one of the youngest successful duelists of her generation.
12. Zane Truesdale
Arguably one of the best characters in GX and one of the only three people to have ever bested Jaden Yuki in a duel.
His fantastic deck comprised of mechanic dragons was enough to make my teenage-self envious of his cards and with the hopes of getting them someday. That never happened, as the deck never made its way to my home country. But I still revere Zane as one of the best Yu-Gi-Oh characters ever.
Besides, you all remember how he got revived with no explanation whatsoever? Hilarious stuff, wasn’t it?
11. Alexis Rhodes
Alexis is a must-have on my list. She’s the one anime character that all kids fell in love with, and one of the most talented duelists of the academy in GX.
She was a member of the Obelisk Blue dorm, and one of the best duelists of her generation.
Her character might not have been as compelling as other characters in the series.
But she gave foot to many hilarious interactions with Jaden and other hormone-packed characters in the series. Her skills as a duelist were unparalleled, though, and her talent was only matched by her academic skills.
10. Noah Kaiba
Noah was the only biological son of Seto Kaiba’s father. And boy, was he a work of art.
The little guy was as much of a good duelist as he was an asshole, but credit where it’s due: he really knew how to handle himself in a battle arena.
Besides, one of the most iconic moments of the original anime came when Yugi managed to beat Noah himself using Seto’s cards. I think everyone who watched the Battle City arc will remember that moment fondly.
9. Yusei Fudo
I know many of you reading this will crucify me for putting Yusei in a worse spot than Jaden… but as I said at the beginning of this article, this is solely based on my opinion. And, sadly, I didn’t enjoy 5D as much as GX. Sue me.
In any case, Yusei deserves a sport on my list because of his fantastic personality, as well as his ability to beat almost any opponent that would get in his way.
His deck was extraordinary and it really went to show the true power of Synchro.
A great character and one of the best protagonists of the series, hands down.
8. Joey Wheeler
Joey Wheeler’s charisma has its own charisma.
But I think the main reason why we love him is because of his drive to always better himself. He started off the series as a rather mediocre duelist, if you ask me. But he grew to become a fantastic sidekick for Yugi.
Besides, let’s all rejoice in the reason why we remember Joey above other characters in the series: the Red-Eyes Black Dragon.
It’s clear that the creators of the anime had a thing for kickass dragon cards, but this fantastic beast was the one we all wanted to have in our decks when we were kids.
7. Mako Tsunami
Mako was always such a cool dude.
His duel with Joey and the introduction of the Legendary Fisherman were massive parts of the original anime. I think he stands as one of the coolest Yu-Gi-Oh characters solely because of his personality. But it’s safe to say that his ocean-themed deck was also one that many people loved when we were all kids.
Do you guys remember that fight where he uses the Atlantis field card alongside his Legendary Fisherman card? Chills.
Marik is one of those characters that you could truly love whether it was in his regular form, or as Yami Marik. Both versions of the character were amazing.
But it’s safe to say that the Yami version was out of this world.
Those duels with the Egyptian God cards truly marked the childhoods of many kids who then went on to ask their parents to get them (Slyfer, Obelisk, and Ra were extremely expensive back in the day, if I may say so myself).
In any case, Marik is one of the best characters in the original series. And one of the best antagonists that have graced the entire Yu-Gi-Oh anime.
Even though Pegasus was basically a cheater, the man was still one of the best duelists in the world.
And his arc in season 1 was just tops.
I can also go into full details about his deck, which I always thought to be one of the coolest in the series. Relinquished was such an intriguing card to have in an age where we didn’t even have XYZ cards. And we barely had any usable Fusions apart from the ones that we saw in the anime (like the Red Eyes Meteor Dragon or the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon).
Plus his toon monsters were incredibly fresh at the time.
4. Yami Bakura
Man, making this list reminded me how much I loved this guy when I was a kid.
I thought he looked like such a badass. And 20-ish years later, here I am thinking the same.
The dude had one of the scariest personalities that you’d love to see in any character. But not only that: the Millenium Staff made him look even more like a badass.
That is, when he’s Yami Bakura, of course.
Regular Bakura was as lame as they come. But hey, let’s focus on his dark side, which is somehow his better side.
3. Jaden Yuki
I know that many people didn’t like Jaden as a character.
But I still think he’s the second-best protagonist of a Yu-Gi-Oh anime after Yugi/Atem.
His interactions with his friends were amazing. And, let’s be honest: his deck was something else.
The fusions, the Elemental Heroes, his combat style – Jaden Yuki truly embodies the heart and soul of a passionate duelist.
As a member of the Slyfer Red Dorm, he started out the series as one of the new guys. But ended up becoming a pivotal member of his academy.
Jaden’s character is also an inspiration to many. And in my opinion, he was much more of an entertaining character than Yugi himself – at least in his non-Yami form, that is.
2. Yami Yugi / Atem
Whenever you hear the words “Yu-Gi-Oh”, it’s natural that your mind instantly thinks of Yugi.
He’s the OG protagonist and one of the more memorable characters of our childhoods – especially if you were like me and truly enjoyed playing this fantastic card game (even though you probably sucked at it as much as I did).
The complete story of the anime ends with us understanding more about Yami. And if you watched the whole series, then you know why I’m also referring to him as Atem.
Yugi’s interactions with Atem are fantastic. And his compelling character brings balance to the anime, but there’s no better character than Atem himself – aside from Kaiba, that is.
1. Seto Kaiba
Is there really more of an emblematic character than Kaiba?
His love-hate relationship with Yugi was probably one of those anime friendships that forged the childhoods of many people reading this.
On top of that, Seto was an absolute badass. As well as one of the most family-focused characters in the original Yu-Gi-Oh series, even though he seemed to love money above all else (but did he really?)
To add to that point, Kaiba was also the man who rocked the legendary Blue-Eyes White Dragon. Back in the day this was basically a legendary card that everyone wanted to snag.
In fact, the BEWD is such a legendary card that newer decks are still being made with it as the focus.