The Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game is better than the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Yes, you read that correctly. If you disagree then, well, I only have two words for you: EXODIA OBLITERATE.
This debate has gone on ever since the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game became popular in America in 2002, four years after the Pokémon Trading Card Game. Now, I grew up with Pokémon. I owned a Pokémon card portfolio and showcased my collection of holographic cards on the very first page, and I practically cried upon receiving the exclusive Mewtwo card when Pokémon: The First Movie debuted in theaters.
And yet, when Yu-Gi-Oh! appeared, I found myself abandoning a card game that played a fairly significant part in my life. Why? Well, Yu-Gi-Oh! cards just looked cooler. How could you walk past a Kaiba Starter Deck, and not be allured by the Blue Eyes White Dragon peering into your prepubescent soul? You could not. From the trading card aisle to the cash register, you devised a negotiation with your parents to ensure you would be leaving the store with a Yu-Gi-Oh! Starter Deck. Maybe you agreed to do additional chores, or eat vegetables without complaining (or pretending to throw up), but none of that mattered when you were the first kid to show off your holographic Blue Eyes White Dragon among your friends. For that first week before everyone else came to school with their own holographic Blue Eyes White Dragon (or Dark Magician or Red Eyes Black Dragon), you were the star of your inner circle.
However, what truly separated someone from the Yu-Gi-Oh! basics was owning the five pieces of Exodia the Forbidden One. The card's name practically served as a reminder that you possessed something bigger than the trading card game itself (and that your parents have probably invested more in your Yu-Gi-Oh! card stunting than they would like to admit). Like, this card has the ability to end a game without even being placed on the card field. Having all five pieces of Exodia in your hand during a card duel could easily tie with kissing your crush, getting an extra chicken nugget in your happy meal, and seeing Goku become Super Saiyan for the first time as one of the best childhood memories ever. But the process in which one went about owning an Exodia was challenging. So what if you owned Exodia's left leg or right arm? You still had four pieces to go, and each one was useless on their own. Yet once you owned it there was no turning back. You had what everybody wanted, which meant being slightly paranoid when letting a friend see and hold all five pieces. Sure, you enjoyed the pleasure of your friends viewing you as a living legend, but you always kept those five cards deep within one of your buttoned JNCO Jean pockets, out of fear the school bully would learn of the greatness you possessed.
No card in Pokémon history has ever been desired quite like Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Exodia the Forbidden One. Sure, you could argue Charizard, but let's be real—Exodia not only looks cooler, but he's deadlier. Just look at him. Both his legs and arms are in chains because he's probably destroyed ancient civilizations (in the manga and anime series, the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game originates from Egypt), and he, quite simply, seems pissed because of his imprisonment. So what if Charizard has 120 HP and a Fire Spin attack? What is all of that to a fictional monster whose catch phrase is, "EXODIA OBLITERATE"? Nothing, that's what.
But Yu-Gi-Oh! doesn't just triumph over Pokémon in terms of non dueling stunting. The card game was easy to understand, so kids could prove their worth by actually playing against each other. No one understood how to play the Pokémon card game because there were too many components. Prize cards? Trainer cards? Energy cards? The card game was different from the show and video game entirely. Unlike Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! was fairly straightforward, and players could use the TV show for reference. Plus, Yu-Gi-Oh! had dueling disks. Dueling disks! In retrospect, the dueling disk was undeniably ridiculous. But back then it was a glimpse into a future: a world where three-dimensional monsters would rise from their rectangular prison. (Unfortunately this innovation has yet to come. Apple obviously needs to focus on something other than iPods and MacBooks.) This difference alone makes the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card game better than Pokémon's.
As time has passed, both Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon have lost their luster. As both franchises continued to expand, most of us were entering our first years of high school, now more concerned with relationships, partying, and abandoning our childhood image. We were no longer spending our allowance on trading card packs, but for beer for parties that we prayed would not get raided. But no matter where you go, what you do, or how your life changes, some things remain with you until death. And although someday I may not be able to remember my own name because of old age and memory loss, hopefully I'll always remember this: the Yu-Gi-Oh! Trading Card Game was always better than the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Elijah Watson is a contributing writer who's admittedly way too into Yu-Gi-Oh!. He tweets here.