The late Kazuki Takahashi was best known for his acclaimed Yu-Gi-Oh! manga series, but it is the vastly different anime and accompanying trading card game that really popularized the title in exciting new ways. With several anime spin-offs and videogame adaptations also taking shape in the decades following the original manga’s creation, Yu-Gi-Oh! spawned an entire media franchise and it became a household name alongside other popular works of the time, the most notable of these being Pokémon. However, unlike the latter, whose videogame adaptations specifically have evolved substantially over the years, games based on Yu-Gi-Oh! have largely remained the same in terms of structure and gameplay. It is high time that Yu-Gi-Oh! got the Pokémon treatment and went fully open world, where it could truly reach its ultimate potential.
The world of Yu-Gi-Oh! is chock full of interesting and quirky characters, as well as a rich backstory rooted in ancient Egyptian mythology. Its videogame adaptations, on the other hand, have always presented themselves as deck-builders, with very little in the way of world-building, and lacking any meaningful way to interact with the characters. Yu-Gi-Oh! Forbidden Memories is one of the earliest adaptations, presenting an original story while using the characters from the manga. It revolved around the player dueling various opponents, while acquiring new cards to add to their deck in between duels. One of the most memorable videogames in recent years was Yu-Gi-Oh! Legacy of the Duelist, which takes a slightly different approach in that players can play through the most significant duels from the anime and its spin-offs. However, it still followed the same idea, allowing players to collect new cards and build more powerful decks to duel with while lacking any original narrative or innovation to set it apart from other similar Yu-Gi-Oh! games like it. Suffice it to say, the gaming scene has been fairly stagnant when it comes to Yu-Gi-Oh!.
With the success of games like Pokémon Legends: Arceus and the continued evolution of said series for the better, it begs the question of why Yu-Gi-Oh! hasn’t gotten a similar chance to spread its wings and develop itself in a new environment. The idea I am proposing would see a game that retains the basic deck-building mechanic present in all Yu-Gi-Oh! games to date, but with a fully open world map. Using various significant locations from the anime such as Domino City, Academy Island, Duelist Kingdom, etc. as hubs, players would be afforded the opportunity to control a custom character who would be able to travel between these locations and challenge different characters to duels. Besting opponents and developing your deck would lead to friendships and rivalries with well-known characters from the anime, as well as some brand-new ones. Dueling has always been the main attraction of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and it would be a hell of a spectacle to watch these riveting showdowns take place spontaneously in an open world environment. Where previous games were limited in how they presented established characters from the Yu-Gi-Oh! universe, this idea allows for more meaningful and direct interactions and companionship between the player and non-player characters.
Over the course of the anime and its spin-offs, there are several instances where characters come across relics of the past and locations steeped in history. This is something else I would like to see touched upon in an open world Yu-Gi-Oh! game, the chance to explore undiscovered locations and possibly stumble upon ancient and powerful artifacts. An index or codex could keep a record of what has been found, providing some lore for players to sink their teeth into while also fleshing out the universe of Yu-Gi-Oh! and making it feel like an old, lived-in world. It is also established in the anime that monsters were originally depicted on monolithic stone tablets in ancient Egypt. Imagine coming upon a tablet deep underground bearing the likeness of a particularly powerful monster, one who could find a place in your deck if it is defeated. This mechanic would encourage exploration, while also providing a way to acquire rare and unique cards for one’s deck.
This is not to say that run of the mill deck builders can’t be enjoyable as is. Far from it, in fact. However, the untapped potential of Yu-Gi-Oh! is simply too blatant to be left as such, and an open world, fully explorable with a diverse cast of NPCs both friendly and unfriendly, would tap into that potential quite nicely, while also subverting the stagnancy that has pervaded Yu-Gi-Oh! videogame adaptations for some time. We can only dream.
Richard is a freelance writer and content creator based in Ireland. When not drinking whiskey and making a fool of himself, he can be found replaying Mass Effect 2. You can find him on Twitter and on his personal blog.