Anime comes in many genres. We've seen superheroes in My Hero Academia, horror in Death Note, and even cooking in Food Wars! Back in the 2000s, anime based on trading card games was all the rage. Some anime inspired trading cards, such as Pokemon, yet there's a separate genre. Think more along the lines of Yu-Gi-Oh!, where the card game was an essential part to the story itself. Not only did Yu-Gi-Oh! become a staple of the genre, but it is one of the most well known anime of all time.
Some series came out with actual trading cards, where fans could collect cards and play the game. Considering some of the shows aired on channels like Cartoon Network, it was probably how kids first saw anime. While this genre is more aimed at children, it's still worth looking back at. In order of our least to most favorite, here are the ten best anime based on trading card games.
10 Battle Spirits
Directed by Akira Nishimori, Battle Spirits takes inspiration from Bandai's Battle Spirits trading card game. A young boy named Dan Bashin is taken to the alternate world of Grand Rolo by two mysterious siblings, Yuuki and Kajitsu Momose. He soon learns he has been chosen as a core soldier, because he bears the light of the red core. Dan and the other soldiers have a responsibility to save Grand Rolo from Otherworld King, who has been exploiting them. Like Future Card Buddyfight, the show came after the game. This borrows from similar tropes of the genre, but fans of the game should give this a watch.
Aikatsu! takes place Starlight Academy, an elite school that teaches girls how to be entertainment idols. Aoi Kiriya and her best friend, Ichigo, apply in attempt to emulate their favorite idol, Mizuki Kanzaki. To audition, the girls need Aikatsu cards, which contain dresses and accessories worn by famous idols. This anime will appeal to those who like fashion and dress up, while still incorporating the trading card element. Plus the outfits are so colorful and adorable!
8 Cardfight!! Vanguard
As a shy kid who gets bullied often, Aichi Sendou has a difficult time in middle school. But he actually wields Blaster Blade, a rare card in Cardfight!! Vanguard. When his prized possession is stolen, he stops at nothing to get the card back. He then challenges the thief to a gaming duel. Unlike other games that require training to achieve mastery, Cardfight!! Vanguard is played by everyone on Earth and Planet Cray. This anime has been dubbed a rip-off of Yu-Gi-Oh, the intergalactic element adds a sci-fi twist, and it's cool to see the new cards unveiled throughout the series. And some characters cameo in episode four of Future Card Buddyfight.
7 Duel Masters
From 2006-2007, Takara Tomy produced an anime adaptation of the manga Duel Masters. The plot follows Shobu Kirifuda, a kid who excels in a card game called Duel Masters. His father was a famous dueler -- also known as a Kaijudo Master -- and he wants to be like him. To reach this goal, Shobu needs to win a local tournament. It's very similar to other animes of the genre, where a young protagonist simply seeks to get better at the game. This series isn't as well known, probably because it's aimed at younger audiences due to it's basic plot. But even older fans of the genre should give it a try.
6 Bakugan Battle Brawlers
One day, cards fell out of the sky. Dan Kuso grabbed one and created a game called Bakugan with his friend Shun. Along with his other friends, they form a team called the Bakugan Battle Brawlers. Conflict arises when they stumble upon the actual Bakugan, and must fight for Vestroia, the Bakugan's home dimension. The duelists are called Battle Brawlers. Because it aired Cartoon Network, the series became popular with American and Canadian audiences. The series has its own line of video games, toys, and electronics. The strategic card game uses miniature figures that represent the Bakugan and onto special Gate cards, where the objective is to collect three Gate cards.
5 Selector Infected WIXOSS
In this case, the card game preceded the anime. WIXOSS is a popular trading card game in which players battle against each other with fighters known as LRIGs with their cards support them. Some LRIGs can communicate with their owners, and the girls chosen to wield them are Selectors. These selectors are granted any wish after victory, but if they lose three times, their wish will be turned into a curse! The main series revolved around this game is selector infected WIXOSS, which follows Ruko Kominato. She becomes a Selector after receiving Tama, a LRIG. Following Ruko's battles and adventures keeps the story going, and you'll wonder about the dark and sinister reality of the WIXOSS universe.
4 Cardcaptor Sakura
Although Cardcaptor Sakura caters to the magical girl and romance genre, it features trading cards as well. In the city of Tomoeda, ten year old Sakura Kinomoto accidentally sets magical cards called Clow Cards free from a book in her basement. Cerberus, the guardian of the cards, chooses Sakura to find them. Along with her best friend, Tomoyo Daidouji, she sets off to battle each card's magical personification and seal it away. The original manga features 19 cards, whereas the anime features 52, and eventually Sakura creates a 53rd card. The series also has two film adaptations from 1999 and 2000.
While many of these animes premiered in the 00's, Chihayafuru is more recent, airing from 2011-2012. Meet tomboy Chihaya Ayase, who then meets transfer student Arata Wataya. Arata introduces her to a card game called Karuta. Along with Arata's friend named Taichi Mashima, they all get into the game. Although the three drift apart, Chihaya reunites with Taichi in high school. While Chihaya dreams of being the best Karuta player, she longs to meet Arata again. Karuta is inspired by a form of Japanese poetry called Hundred Poets. In order to succeed at the game, you must complete the first line of the poem with the corresponding second line. The combination of trading cards and literature makes this anime both unique and educational.
2 Z/X: Ignition
Despite its short run of only twelve episodes, Z/X: Ignition made its mark as a trading card anime. Portals that lead to parallel emerge, and strange creatures begin invade the human world. Five invasion forces called come from these five Black Points battle each other to destroy the other timelines. While the finale is predictable, this story is original, combining supernatural and action elements to produce a story unlike any other. Additionally the action is fast-paced and entertaining, and the fights are particularly animated well.
We obviously saved the best for last. As mentioned, Yu-Gi-Oh! is the most well-known anime in this genre, so it has a rightful place as number one. We probably don't even need to give you a synopsis. The manga was serialized for a whole eight years, selling 40 million copies! The anime franchise has a whopping ten spin offs, four animated films, and over twenty video games. And of course the game was a smash hit, and you can still find the cards being sold in stores. To this day, the adventures of Yugi Mutou and Duel Monsters remain legendary.