10 Best Pop Culture References In 'Yu-Gi-Oh!' Cards
Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the longer running series in Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump, and has since spawned many anime series, films, and even a real life card game over its run.
With as much content as this series has made over the years, and with as much content is needed to support an ever evolving card game based on the series, it means that some of the cards were able to play around with their premises and source material.
In fact, some of the cards in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game are straight references to big outside things in pop culture like super hero comics, video games, and even Japanese Tokusatsu programs like Super Sentai and Kamen Rider.
Read on to find out which were the best pop culture references in the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game.
SLIDE 1/10 – A WILD MONSTER APPEARS!
Function: If your opponent controls a monster and you control no monsters: Special Summon from your hand, 1 monster with an original Level of 10 or lower that cannot be Normal Summoned/Set, ignoring its Summoning conditions. It is unaffected by the effects of your cards, except for its own effects and this card's, also shuffle it into the Deckduring your opponent's next End Phase. For the rest of this turn, you cannot Normal Summon/Set or Special Summon monsters, and your opponent takes no damage.
When you stumble on a wild Pokemon in the Pokemon video game series, the statement "A wild Pokemon appears!" and while this card doesn't reference it in the visuals, and is most likely a joke by the translators, this is still a fun little reference to an outside series.
SLIDE 2/10 – DO A BARREL ROLL
Function: When a Spell Card, Trap Card, or monster effect is activated: Tributeall "Mecha Phantom Beast Tokens" you control; negate the activation, and if you do, destroy it.
This Do A Barrel Roll trap card both references Nintendo's Starfox series in both visuals and card name. The name references a common Starfox meme in which the character Peppy Hare tells the player to "Do a Barrel Roll!" in the tutorial stage in Nintendo 64.
SLIDE 3/10 – UNEXPECTED DAI
Function: If you control no monsters: Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from the Deck.
This spell card references the opening scene in James Cameron's The Terminator, in which the T-800 first goes back in time to the present day in order to assassinate Sarah Conner. He appears in the same crouched position in the beginning of the film as the monster does in this card art. But this isn't the only reference to the film in the cards.
SLIDE 4/10 – SCRAP FACTORY
Function: All "Scrap" monsters gain 200 ATK and DEF. When a face-up "Scrap" monster(s) on the field is destroyed by a card effect and sent to the Graveyard (except during the Damage Step): You can Special Summon 1 "Scrap" monster from your Deck. You can only use this effect of "Scrap Factory" once per turn.
This spell card's art references a scene from much later in the film, where Sarah Connor is trying to take down the T-800. They end up in a factory, much like the one depicted here, where the T-800 ends up in the boiling metal. But before he dissolves forever, he gives a thumbs up to say he's okay to John and Sarah, and that's referenced here with the same thumbs up.
SLIDE 5/10 – VAMPIRE HUNTER
Function: At the start of the Damage Step if this card battles a DARK monster, destroy that monster.
Since Konami owns the publishing and distribution rights to the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, some of the cards reference their own video games. Such is Vampire Hunter, which is a monster that directly references the Castlevania series. Not only is the art reminiscent of that series, the monster's whip, attire, and castle sitting in the background are all images synonymous with Konami's famous video game series about the Belmonts, a family of vampire hunters.
SLIDE 6/10 – GOE GOE THE GALLANT NINJA
Function: When this card inflicts Battle Damage to your opponent: Your opponent must discard 2 random cards. Your opponent must have at least 5 cards in their hand for you to activate and to resolve this effect.
Goe Goe the Gallant Ninja is a direct reference to another lost Konami series, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. In that series, the main character is known for his orange and yellow ninja outfit as well as his purple spiky poof on the top of his head. The card art for this directly references that design, right down to his corncob pipe weapon.
SLIDE 7/10 – TACTICAL ESPIONAGE EXPERT
Function: When this card is Normal Summoned successfully, no Trap Cards can be activated.
Like the other two Konami references, Tactical Espionage Action directly references the Metal Gear Solid video game series published by Konami. This series follows Solid Snake, a spy who goes on stealth missions in order to gather intel. The card art directly references this by giving the expert the same outfit Sold Snake wears. A major motif in the original series is Snake hiding around a corner waiting for the opportunity to strike, so this card perfectly captures it in one lovely tribute.
SLIDE 8/10 – KAIJU CAPTURE MISSION
Function: Once per turn, if there are less than 3 Kaiju Counters on this card: You can target 1 "Kaiju" monster on the field; change it to face-downDefense Position, then place 1 Kaiju Counter on this card (max. 3). If this card in your possession is destroyed by an opponent's card and sent to your Graveyard: You can draw 2 cards. You can only use this effect of "Kaiju Capture Mission" once per turn.
Kaiju Capture Mission is referencing many Tokusatsu kaiju monsters like Godzilla, King Ghidorah, and so on. In fact, kaiju are such a popular form a movie monster, they were used most recently, by name, in the Pacific Rim film series.
SLIDE 9/10 – ELEMENTAL HERO BUBBLEMAN
Function: If this is the only card in your hand, you can Special Summon it (from your hand). When this card is Summoned: You can draw 2 cards. You must control no other cards and have no cards in your hand to activateand to resolve this effect.
The Elemental HERO series of monster cards are based on the idea of superheroes in the West, with each taking on an element and a different costume. But the only card to directly be influenced by a Western comics character is Elemental HERO Bubbleman. Although this character doesn't share the same color as DC Comics' Batman, it shares the very same cowl and cape as the famous superhero. Thanks to Batman's line of action figures that featured him in wacky outfits release years back, it isn't too hard to imagine Batman in a suit like this either.
SLIDE 10/10 – INZEKTOR EXA-BEETLE
Function: When this card is Xyz Summoned: You can target 1 monster in either player's Graveyard; equip that target to this card. This card gains ATKand DEF equal to half the original ATK and DEF of the monster equipped by this effect. Once per turn: You can detach 1 Xyz Materialfrom this card to target 1 face-up card on each side of the field; sendthose targets to the Graveyard.
The Inzektor series of monsters was introduced late into the card game's lifespan, and are a arace of humanoid type monsters wearing insect-themed armor. This is a reference to Japan's famous Tokusatsu series, Kamen Rider, where the titular heroes all transform into insect-armored superheros. Exa-Beetle is referencing Kamen Rider Kabuto specifically, but other cards in the series reference every season of the series to date and even has a spell card, Final Inzektion, where several heroes untie to fire a cannon.