Pokémon vs. Yu-Gi-Oh!: Which Show Is Better?

Pokémon vs Yu-Gi-Oh!: Which Show Is Better?

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In this article, we are going to compare the Pokémon franchise, the most lucrative media franchise in history, with Yu-Gi-Oh!, another successful Japanese franchise that became a long-lasting phenomenon that is still popular, even today. Let’s see who wins in the Pokémon vs.Yu-Gi-Oh faceoff!

Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! are two shows that are overly different and are very difficult to compare. The former is based on the process of collecting creatures of the same name and having adventures with them, while the other is based on a card game that is quite often used to save the world from evil. When comparing these two shows, it really comes down to what your personal preferences are.

Saying that, there is still a lot more to be said about Pokémon vs.Yu-Gi-Oh. The rest of this article is going to be a comparative analysis of these two popular anime franchises – we are going to compare them based on several criteria. After which, we are going to analyze whether Pokémon could defeat the monsters from Yu-Gi-Oh!.

Pokémon vs. Yu-Gi-Oh!: which franchise is better?

The question of which franchise is better raises the following issue – how to determine whether any franchise is better than the other? There might be some objective criteria (popularity, awards, revenue, reviews), but we all know that not all of them can be properly applied when artistic works are in question. 

Blade Runner was a commercial flop that won only a handful of awards, but is today considered to be one of the best movies in history. Van Gogh’s works were practically worthless during his lifetime, but he is today revered as one of the greatest painters of all time. And these are just some examples that show how difficult it is to evaluate the quality of an artistic work.

This means that comparing them is even more difficult, but we are going to try to do our best for your enjoyment.


The first thing we are going to compare is the animation of these two shows. An important thing to know is that the animation changed over the years and that the standards are now completely different than during the 1990’s, when both these series actually began.

As for Pokémon, the series didn’t experience much change until season 20 – Sun and Moon – which began in 2016; the franchise was in its 19th year of broadcasting at that point. The animation of the original concept (1997-2016) was surprisingly good for a children’s anime. The landscapes might have been a bit generic, but the characters and the Pokémon were really good. Since fights took up a lot of screen time, the animators had to and did do a great job to make them look realistic. Wherever they could, they avoided static and generic moves, so the fights really did look great, even for that time.

Certainly, the quality of animation improved as the years passed, but the original concept was kept the same until 2016, when the animators decided to change the visual look of the characters. We still think that the original design was better, but we do understand that they wanted to refresh the whole thing after almost 20 years. All in all, for a children’s anime, Pokémon had surprisingly good animation.

This is a short video showing the evolution of the Pokémon anime through its opening songs

As for Yu-Gi-Oh!, the show generally sticks to its traditional animation style that first appeared when the anime began back in 1998. That style was quite a bit different than other kid-friendly anime series because Yu-Gi-Oh! wasn’t afraid to tackle some darker elements and stories. Also, despite focusing mainly on younger characters, the show didn’t actually want to portray overly young characters and had a lot of teenagers, adolescents and even adults in focus, which is an important thing to know if you want to fully understand why Yu-Gi-Oh! is like it is. Yes, it was aimed at children and young adults, but the show wasn’t a typical Saturday morning cartoon.

All of this had a lot of influence on the animation and the character designs (especially older female characters; anime fans will know what this means), but we have to state that the franchise didn’t alter its general style all that much throughout the years, despite drastically changing the setting and the timeline. The one thing that did improve is the animation of the monsters, which became much more dynamic and realistic as the show evolved.

A video of a guy explaining Yu-Gi-Oh!, which shows the changes in animation

Generally, the animation styles of both shows have been pretty much consistent throughout their runs, so it all depends on what you prefer. Pokémon is much more kid-friendly and is generally lighter in tone, while Yu-Gi-Oh! wasn’t afraid to become darker and tackle mature topics, which is why its animation style is different. It all depends on your personal preferences, because both shows have a consistent level of quality that you’ll certainly enjoy.


This one’s actually pretty easy to determine, since we have a clear winner in this category.

The Pokémon franchise is not just one of the most popular anime franchises, it is one of the biggest pop-culture brands in general. Thanks to the popularity of the video games, the animated material and the numerous merchandise (trading cards, figurines, clothes, plush toys, etc.) the franchise has, Pokémon is without a doubt one of the most popular series ever. Some of the reasons include the availability of the franchise around the world, the consistency of the whole concept and the kid-friendly idea that was completely new and original when it first came out (although it had some similar predecessors). The owners of the franchise really did their best to keep a consistent level of availability for the franchise and it payed off.

Pokémon Go is just one example of the franchise’s popularity

Despite being enormously popular, Yu-Gi-Oh! was never able to reach the heights of the Pokémon franchise, but it was popular than most other anime series of the time, mainly due to the trading card game, which quickly became a global phenomenon. Despite the manga, the anime and all the video games, it’s the trading cards that made Yu-Gi-Oh! the phenomenon it is. The evolution of the card game also helped the growth of the franchise, which is why Yu-Gi-Oh! did manage to reach the top list of the highest-grossing franchises in history, but could not even come close Pokémon.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! owns most of its popularity to the trading card game

Despite Yu-Gi-Oh! being more popular than most anime franchises of its generation, the global phenomenon neve managed to even come close to Pokémon, a franchise that has achieved – and still is achieving – so much that it arguably deserves the title of the most popular franchise in the history of franchises.


We think that the story is by far the most important concept of an artistic work, such as a TV show or a movie. Some people don’t give it much thought, but for us – the story is essential. And this opinion is going to shape our comments on this topic.

The whole Pokémon franchise is based on the concept of catching, training and fighting with creatures called Pokémon. This is what one does in the video games, with the trading cards and – surprise, surprise – in the anime. Ash Ketchum and his friends travel the vast world of Pokémon, where they meet different people, catch and discover new Pokémon and battle other trainers so that they can become the best trainers (or whatever else they want to be) in the world.


100+ Best Pokemon Quotes You Need to Know

This concept was introduced in the anime’s 1997 debut and for 23 years now (and running), it has remained completely unchanged. The movies do add some substance to the whole mythos, but the anime – however interesting and fun it might be – offers almost nothing new with each new season. Sure, there are new Pokémon, new characters, new worlds and new adventures, but it always amounts to the same thing – Ash collecting and training a team of 6 Pokémon to become the regional champion of whatever region he is currently in. There have been some changes recently, but it’s not really such a grand revamp as people might have expected, more like a small tweak.

Again, the writers generally do a great job and the anime series has managed to remain popular, but there is really no real depth or emotional investment in the show, since you already know how things are going to play out.

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Pokémon fights are a fixed motif in the franchise

As far as the story of Yu-Gi-Oh! is concerned, it is based on the characters playing a card game that involved monsters. The game is available to all people around the world and the children can play it anywhere. The game initially consisted of Monster, Spell and Trap cards, all of which are used to win a game by lowering an opponent’s Life Points to zero. The game itself was based on an old Egyptian game, so the mythology has a lot to do with how the game is played and it influences the plot. But, in order to not be just a game-based show, Yu-Gi-Oh! also added an element of saving the world from evil, as different antagonists want to use the cards and the mythology surrounding them to achieve world domination.

This is the basic plot outline that is present in all the seasons of the franchise, despite the setting for each large arc changing; the original series had a real-life setting, GX followed a fantasy-style Dueling Academy, while the future series added a more futuristic/SF setting to the lore. Later seasons also added novelties to the card game which were ultimately explained further in the anime series. The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! is an ever-growing and evolving franchise that still manages to surprise.

A scene from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, one of the several large anime arcs

The stories of these two shows are completely different, but there isn’t a clear winner here – it all comes down to what you prefer. Yu-Gi-Oh! certainly has a more dynamic and evolving premise, but you might encounter a problem with “buying” the whole premise of a card game determining the world’s fate. On the other hand, Pokémon tend to get repetitive despite its adventurous lore, so it’s really your choice. We, personally, like both, but you’ll have to find your own personal preference in this case.


Seeing how both franchises are more than 20 years old, you can just imagine how many different characters have appeared throughout the years. Yet, the way the characters are shaped is very important as it speaks to the overall quality of a show. So, let us see how things stand in this category.

The world of Pokémon is so big that the exact number of characters, both human and non-human, would be very tough to count. Although the series has provided us with a plethora of different characters, a lot of them have been recycled version of older characters – both human and Pokémon – with little to no actual development; just remember that Ash’s Charmander, Chimchar and Tepig all had the same origin stories, with little to no changes in them. The same issue that we discussed in the preceding chapter about the story – the iterative character of the narrative – also translates to the characters. The protagonists did get more emotional development throughout the series, but even that was usually just a variation of some previous thing. When it comes to characters, the Pokémon franchise could certainly do better.

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Ash remains the protagonist of the anime series even after more than 20 years

Yu-Gi-Oh!, on the other hand, has been much more diverse with its characters. First of all, they had much more depth, as the show wasn’t that much focused on the youngest of viewers. The topics were much more mature, the issues darker and the threats far more tangible. This meant that the characters were far better developed and were faced with real problems, which certainly made the show more interesting. Also, they grew and evolved, which is best seen in the example of Yūgi’s rival, Seto Kaiba, who went through a lot of changes in the course of the original series.

But, aside from that, with Yu-Gi-Oh! being expansive as it is, the different narrative arcs introduced completely different protagonists and while there was some typecasting, they were all stand-alone characters that were different from the predecessors they had been modeled after. This is a very strong point for Yu-Gi-Oh!, as it did a lot more with its protagonists than the Pokémon franchise.

The same could be said for the antagonists as well. They were far more diverse and actually threatening in the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, which was an amazing thing to do to keep the audiences interesting. Whether it’s the original series or some later iterations, the antagonists always had something original to them and although they had similar motivations (but hey, antagonists usually do), they were quite distinct and this is why we loved them so much.

The protagonists of the Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s anime series

To sum it up, Yu-Gi-Oh! has done a much better job with its characters, both in terms of development and evolution, as well as in diversity. The Pokémon franchise keeps repeating itself, which makes sense since they want to attract new audiences to a well-established format, while Yu-Gi-Oh! opted for more diversity in every aspect, which certainly made the show more colorful and interesting.

Continuity and development

This category is related to the former two in the sense that it shows just how the whole story and the characters fit into the general picture and how it all adds up to one narrative unit.

With Pokémon, there are practically no continuity issues since the whole narrative is one single unit where the series and regions just follow each other in a linear fashion. Everything that happens happens according to a classical narrative structure and everything is part of a single narrative continuity. The movies might cause a bit of confusion from time to time, but if you read up on them, you’ll be able to fit them into the continuity without any problems. This is a great thing for every fan because you won’t have any problems following the story, but Pokémon does have a problem with his non-problematic continuity.

Namely, Pokémon is one of those “endless anime” stories with no predetermined goal and with the possibility of adding new creatures and regions – forever. There is no common threat, there is no goal except to be the best in each region and this means that there is no development whatsoever. Once a region is “done”, the same thing starts over in the next region and this is a circle that keeps repeating itself since 1997.

The recent Pokémon Journeys anime did change some elements of the show, but it’s more of a tweak than an actual revamp

Due to the changes and diversity of the franchise, Yu-Gi-Oh! is very hard to perceive as a single narrative unit, yet – it’s not impossible (there have been crossovers, after all). The whole franchise could be regarded as one large multiverse, which is definitely something modern audiences are used to, so there’s really no trouble there. All one has to do is connect the dots and the franchise suddenly becomes much clearer (see the video above, where the guy explains everything). The main “issue” here is that the changes were, sometimes, quite radical and that some later seasons seemed quite foreign to their predecessors.

The original series and GX were relatively similar, with the latter’s new “academic” format being a welcome novelty. But, from 5D’s to Sevens, the show shifted to a more SF-based setting with a lot of futuristic elements that reflected the trading card game novelties, but seemed quite odd when compared to the down-to-earth narrative of the original anime and GX. That isn’t bad per se, but it didn’t really fit into the continuity back then (okay, now, we’re used to it, but it was odd back in the day!) and it took some time to get used to it. This might (have) be(en) a problem for some fans, but it’s a fact we have to live with, whether we like it or not.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal was a show that changed a lot in how we perceive the whole franchise

Finally, we can conclude that Pokémon doesn’t have continuity issues, while Yu-Gi-Oh! managed to sort out its continuity with time. If you like a more steady, fixed approach, Pokémon is definitely the franchise for you, but if you like something with more diversity, than you should check out Yu-Gi-Oh!. Just be careful what you wish for, since the diversity is really upped to the maximum in the world of Yu-Gi-Oh!


As far as franchising goes, it is a process of expanding a certain brand and both Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! have made some moves in that direction. We are now going to see how successful they have been.

Pokémon started off as a monster collecting video game and soon produces an anime series, trading cards, figurines, spin-off video games, different types of merchandise and even a live-action movie. As far as franchising goes, Pokémon has really done an amazing job and has become one of the foremost brands in modern pop-culture. This is shown in their revenue (est. $103 billion), which makes them the highest-grossing media franchise in the world.

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Pokémon are exceptionally popular around the world

Unlike Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! started off as a manga and then expanded into other fields. The anime was a big hit, the video games had a certain following, but it’s the trading card game that really did it for Yu-Gi-Oh!, making it a global and well-known brand. Children all around the world bought the cards, played with them, traded them and even participated in tournaments. This is is a good example of franchising, although Yu-Gi-Oh! did not do it as successful and as expansive as Pokémon. It did earn more than $20,000,000,0000 since 1996, so who are we to judge? It cannot compete with Pokémon, but it still did a great job if you ask us.

YuGiOh blog1
Yu-Gi-Oh! video games never became that popular, but they have their following

As far as franchising goes, Pokémon are clear winners when compared to Yu-Gi-Oh!. Not only is the whole franchise more popular, but it also earned around five times more money, which is enough for us.


We think that we have given you a thorough analysis of the two franchises and that we have compared every relevant category. The Pokémon franchise clearly wins when franchising and popularity are concerned, while the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise wins in the story and character categories. The animation and the continuity categories are pretty much tied and they depend on your personal preferences, especially the latter, which can be a bit confusing when Yu-Gi-Oh! is concerned.

Pokémon vs. Yu-Gi-Oh!: the bottom line

These two franchises are, intrinsically very different. They don’t have the same foundations, they never evolved in the same way, even the target audiences aren’t completely identical. This all reflects the sometimes major differences between these two franchises, which is why we do not think that it’s a fair comparison. It would be like comparing an apple to a chicken sandwich – sure, both are food, but they’re not really in the same category, are they? The same goes with these two franchises. Each of them has its qualities, as well as downsides, so it’s really up to you.

Some of you might like the lighter, kid-friendly tone and stable continuity of the Pokémon franchise, while others might like the more mature tone and diversity of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. A third group – like us – might like both, so go figure… we do encourage you to check out both of them and then decide on which one you prefer.

Are Pokémon stronger than the monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh!?

Now that we’ve given you a thorough overview and comparison of the two franchises, we can also tell you whether the creatures from Pokémon are stronger than the monsters in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Okay, you might argue that the latter’s monsters are just normal cards, but if you’ve followed the original arc closely, you’ll know that the ancient Egyptians actually summoned real monsters and fought with them, so we have a foundation for this part.

To give you a straightforward answer – no Pokémon could match up against some of the stronger monsters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. Why? Let us explain.

The Pokémon franchise divides its creatures in different groups, which could be summed up as “regular” and “special”. The “regular” creatures are common and have a normal evolution pattern with regular powers. “Special” creatures are specific for some reason – mostly because they are both rare and especially strong – and fall out of the normal category. We are now going to see how we can compare these two categories for each of the franchises.

In the Pokémon, “special” Pokémon are Legendary and Mythical Pokémon. These Pokémon are very rare and extremely powerful. The strongest among them is Arceus, who is considered to be the creator and god of the world of Pokémon. So, in our comparison, we are going to use Arceus, since he is the most potent Pokémon we know.

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Arceus is considered to be the god of the Pokémon world

The monsters of Yu-Gi-Oh! are quite different. Okay, they can also be divided into several different groups, but their power levels are organised in such a different way that it is even difficult to start comparing them with Pokémon. We just don’t know where to start.

The Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise has a lot of different monsters and they rank them by the number of starts on the cards and their ATK/DEF power (potentially even the effects they have). Since it’s a petty self-contained scale, we don’t actually know how to compare it properly with a Pokémon’s stats. We can only assume that the monsters from Yu-Gi-Oh! are stronger from level 6 and onwards, when compared to Pokémon, but even that is not necessarily, as there are surely weaker monsters that are stronger than some strong Pokémon.

The Winged Dragon of Ra, one of the franchise’s mightiest monsters

If we compare some of the most powerful monsters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise, like the Egyptian God Cards (Slifer, Obelisk and Ra), to Arceus, the latter wouldn’t even stand a chance. These guys are so powerful that it’s just ridiculous and there are tons of similar monster cards. And that is just the top tier; there are even weaker monsters that would easily wipe the floor with Arceus, simply because they are so powerful. A lot of them are like the kaijū from Japanese movie, so it’s really not a fair fight.

And that is why Pokémon are weaker. Certainly, some Pokémon could beat some of the monsters, but if it comes down to the actual champions in each franchise, Pokémon simply don’t stand a chance.

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