The first Yu-Gi-Oh! season, set in Duelist Kingdom, is an iconic chapter that cemented the beginning of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s rise to popularity as an anime. The characters’ journeys told fascinating stories, all the while not overshadowing the game of Duel Monsters. In awe at the strategies and monsters that our favourite characters possessed, we willingly cheered them on all the way to victory.
The appeal of the Duelist Kingdom Arc lay not only in its gripping narrative and the development of the various Yu-Gi-Oh! characters, but also in the memorable battles that unfolded. Duel after duel, we witnessed the Duel Monsters card game come to life and whether it was Yugi’s Heart of the Cards, Kaiba’s determination to be the best, or Joey’s comedic spirit, each duelist brought a unique flavour to the show.
10 Mako Tsunami
Mako is an honourable Duelist. He wishes to win the Duelist Kingdom tournament and use the prize money to buy a fishing boat and continue his father’s legacy as a legendary fisherman. Mako knows the dangers of the ocean, and therefore possesses a deck that is filled with sea creatures to aid him in his duels.
In Duelist Kingdom, different terrains offer unique bonuses, so Mako would cook fish near cliff edges to attract hungry duelists. When Mako realises that one of the duelists the fish attracted is Yugi, he challenges him to a duel. After his loss to Yugi, we are not reunited with Mako again until his reappearance in Season 2.
9 Bandit Keith
In America, Bandit Keith is a formidable opponent. However, this doesn’t translate over to the Duelist Kingdom. After being humiliated by Pegasus and a child called Sam, Bandit Keith sneaks into Duelist Kingdom to get revenge.
By forming a group of himself, Bonz, Sid and Zygor, they would lure unsuspecting duelists and battle them for their starchips. However, after Bonz’s loss to Joey, Bandit Keith would betray the group and steal the remaining starchips for himself. He would make it to the Semi-Finals of Pegasus’ tournament where he would, despite cheating, lose to Joey and be dumped off the island.
8 Weevil Underwood
You first meet Weevil as he secures the title of Japanese Regional Champion. Following his victory, Pegasus extends an invitation to him, inviting him to partake in the Duelist Kingdom tournament. Interestingly, Weevil possesses an insect-themed deck, a choice that amusingly aligns with his name, given that a weevil is a type of beetle.
Weevil also possesses unsportsmanlike conduct and shows off this sneaky behaviour when he throws Yugi’s Exodia pieces off of the side of the boat while travelling to Pegasus’ island. As an act of revenge, Yugi hunts Weevil down and challenges him to a duel. Weevil proceeds to lose the duel and, as a result, becomes the first competitor to be eliminated.
7 Mai Valentine
When you’re first introduced to Mai’s character, she stands as an arrogant duelist who takes pride in her duelling ability. She seeks to claim the victory of the Duelist Kingdom tournament for fame and the prize money, so she can pursue her dream of travelling. However, you come to realise that her initial self-absorbance is a front due to her growing up an orphan with her Harpie cards being her only friends.
After she was targeted by PaniK, she comes around to Yugi and the gang, and even offers some starchips to Yugi after he surrenders to Kaiba. Yugi then faces Mai in the first round of the tournament, where she helps him overcome his fear of his alter-ego, Yami, after he almost killed Kaiba.
PaniK is a hired player eliminator by Pegasus. He uses brutal tactics to force duelists into battling him, and then intimidates them into wagering all of their starchips. Due to the amount of people PaniK has eliminated from the tournament, he wears two oversized duelling gauntlets to store the starchips he has won from his opponents.
After PaniK targets Mai, Yugi comes to the rescue. After some, perhaps, rule-breaking tactics, Yugi defeats him. Due to the defeat, PaniK turns on the arena’s flame ejectors, in hopes to burn Yugi alive. The millennium puzzle saves Yugi from potential death, and this leads to Yugi sending Panik to the Shadow Realm, never to duel again.
5 Yami Bakura
Bakura is one of Yugi’s highschool friends. He possesses one of the seven Millennium items, the Millennium Ring. An evil spirit lives inside the Millennium Ring and takes control of Bakura’s body whenever it chooses to. This alter-ego, Yami Bakura, is a stealer of souls and wants to secure every Millennium Item to gain unimaginable power.
While not actively participating in the Duelist Kingdom tournament, Yami Bakura sneaks onto the island and eventually challenges Yugi to a shadow game. Yugi wins via an assist by the actual Bakura, and as a result banishes Yami Bakura to the shadow realm. The Millennium Ring, however, finds its way back into the hands of Bakura, who’s evil alter-ego challenges Pegasus to a shadow game and claims his Millennium Eye.
4 Maximillion Pegasus
Maximillion Pegasus is the creator of the game Duel Monsters and is the main antagonist in the Duelist Kingdom arc. He invites all duelists onto his island to compete in a tournament, in hopes of claiming the seven Millennium items and combining them with Kaiba Corp technology, so he can revive his lover, Cecelia.
While Pegasus’ motivation is heartfelt, his actions certainly are not. From using his Millennium Eye to trap souls in the Shadow Realm to cheating his way to victories, Pegasus is a man that would do anything in order to get what he wants. Yugi, however, eventually beats Pegasus by overcoming the power of the Millennium Eye, and true to his word, Pegasus releases the souls he had captured.
3 Joey Wheeler
Joey Wheeler is Yugi’s best friend, and is a fine duelist in his own right. With wins over Mai Valentine, Rex Raptor, Bonz and Bandit Keith, Joey proves himself to be a standout duelist at the Duelist Kingdom tournament.
Joey’s motivation to win the tournament is fuelled by his love for his sister, Serenity, and as a testament to his character, Joey competes in order to win the prize money and fund the surgery she needs. Joey makes it to the finals against Yugi, where they compete in a thrilling duel, however, Yugi comes away as the victor. In a heartwarming moment, Yugi gives Joey the prize money needed to save his sister, completing his honourable quest.
2 Yami Yugi/Yugi Muto
Yugi Muto and his alter-ego Yami are the main protagonists of Yu-Gi-Oh! Upon beating the World Champion Kaiba, he sparks the interest of Maximillion Pegasus. After Pegasus traps his Grandpa, Solomon inside a card, Yugi is forced to compete in the Duelist Kingdom tournament and embarks on a quest to take down Pegasus and release him.
Yugi goes on to beat the likes of Weevil, Ghost Kaiba, Mako Tsunami, and PaniK during the preliminaries of the tournament, finishing his quest for ten starchips in a tag-duel with his partner, Joey. Yugi presses on to win the finals of the tournament and cement himself as King of Games. However, throughout the Duelist Kingdom tournament Yugi’s tactics can often be seen as blatant cheating, bending the rules of the game or cashing in on pure luck of the draw, undermining his skill as a duelist.
1 Seto Kaiba
Seto Kaiba is a passionate duelist and feared business executive, where he uses his position as CEO of Kaiba Corp to advance the technology within the world of Duel Monsters, highlighting the love he has for duelling. His desire to be the best makes for a fantastic rivalry with Yugi as each of their battles become a gripping match of skill.
Before Yugi came along, Kaiba spent years as an undefeated World Champion in Duel Monsters. Despite Yugi’s questionable duelling tactics, Kaiba matches him with his three Blue-Eyes White Dragons as they take each other to their absolute limit, proving Kaiba’s talent as a duelist.
NEXT: The Best Yu-Gi-Oh! References In Other Games