As TCG fanatics will know, Yu-Gi-Oh! is one of the most beloved and longest running out there. Which make perfect sense, really. In the anime itself, the battles are completely preposterous, with Godzilla-esque beasts storming around the virtual battlefield, and it only follows that a real-life version would be a great success.
I found the show hilariously melodramatic at times, but that’s part of its charm. Not to mention the charm of anime in general. Something about the TCG itself captured my imagination from the get-go, though. My younger self was instantly sold on it, after all the talk of level eight dragons and the super cool card art.
Speaking of card art, this has tended to be a stumbling block over the years. That’s always the case with these games; just look at Pokémon and the occasional Grimer’s looking up at that woman as he emerges from that manhole, ban this sick filth now controversy it’s stirred up. As games spread from their native Japan to other regions, the artwork on certain cards has had to be redrawn and censored.
In the Yu-Gi-Oh! world, we’re talking a list as long as the Chrysler Building is tall. Some cards have featured a little too much flesh. Others have been pretty gosh darn aggressive or brutal. Still others have featured the sort of demonic imagery that could have scared Little Jimmy into a coma. Let’s check out twenty of the most disturbing cards ever released, and how they had to be changed.
20 Dark Ruler Ha Des Was Just Too Hornsy For America
Dark Ruler Ha Des, I think we can all agree, isn’t the sort of dude you want to screw with. Look at him there, with his fancy bejewelled outfit and cloak. It’s like the sort of getup Elton John wore back in the sixties. The claws, the malevolent grin… Hell no.
The card A Deal With Dark Ruler is a neat spell, allowing the player to special summon a Berserk Dragon if a high-level monster of theirs was sent to the graveyard this turn. Its artwork is notable for being different to that seen in the anime, and also for being significantly altered for the international release.
The huge curved horns you see were present only on the Japanese version of the card. Overseas, they were replaced with those twin orbs, to avoid supposed Satanic references.
19 Toning Down The Horrors Of 'Final Flame'
As we know, Yu-Gi-Oh! can be pretty darn intense. This is a harsh world, right here, a world where furious slavering dragons try to beat their way past your monsters to swing directly at your sweet, sweet life points. This isn’t Dora The Explorer’s Cutesy Card Game For Preteens, that’s for darn tooting.
As such, a lot of the artwork can be surprisingly shocking. Final Flame is a simple spell card, dealing 600 points of damage to your opponent’s life points when activated. Such burn damage is a staple of a lot of decks, but did they have to take the concept so horrifyingly literally?
The poor guy being ended at the stake certainly illustrated what Final Flame was all about, but I’m glad that this just became Generic Monster With Fire #472 on its international release.
18 Big(ger) In Japan: The Mighty Mammaries Of 'Cure Mermaid'
Now, we all know the old legends of Sirens and mermaids. They put on the whole beautiful, distressing damsels façade, flutter their eyelashes and jack their wonderbras up to their chins, to lure sailors to them. When their victims get close enough, they reveal their true selves. Killing/drowning/eating/whatever else-ing is the order of the day from there.
I’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. I know how this stuff works.
There are several Yu-Gi-Oh! cards that feature these iconic mythical creatures. True to form, they tend to be pretty darn scantily clad, and that sort of thing just doesn’t fly in America. Just check out Cure Mermaid here. After the you’re not going out dressed like that, young lady talk from her pa, this effect monster’s chest went bye bye, and her bust size seems to have shrunk down too.
17 When 'Archfiend Heiress' Gives You The Finger
All Yu-Gi-Oh! players will be familiar with the idea of archetypes. These are a particular type of Monster, which often have a range of support cards and are utilized in themed decks. There are a huge range of different archetypes; anything from an Insect deck to a Toon or Dinosaur-themed deck is possible.
One of the earliest and most enduring archetypes in the game is Archfiends. These guys have been lurking around for a long darn time, the focus of beatdown decks that cost your own lifepoints to run.
With names like Terrorking Archfiend and Archfiend Emperor, the First Lord of Horror, one gets the impression that these guys aren’t to be screwed with either. Archfiend Heiress was even --oh, the horror—accused of giving the finger in her card art. It looked a little that way, anyway, which is why that ball of energy was given the boot.
16 Man, Was 'Soul Of The Pure' Impure
As I say, Yu-Gi-Oh! is quite a darn violent game at heart. It deals with some dark subject matter and some horrifying monsters (wait until you see the Worm Apocalypse creatures later in this list, pure nightmare fuel). It’s all combat, all the time around here.
Still, though. We might be dealing with hideous bests from the depths of Satan’s clogged underworld U-bend, but the cards do tend to avoid being overtly gory.
There aren’t many examples of cards that feature blood (we’ll be taking a look at a few), but there was that time that Soul of the Pure —which is named Angel’s Lifeblood in Japanese—got a little too grisly for the censors. Put that darn knife away, woman, and grab this mystical floating water bubble thing instead.
15 'Dramatic Rescue' Was Way Too Dramatic For Our Innocent Eyes
Speaking of card archetypes, one of the more curious ones is the Amazoness series. These cards focus on Earth Monsters, specializing in buffing themselves and debuffing opponents. This particular card, Dramatic Rescue, can be used for or against an Amazoness deck. It’s activated when a Monster of the archetype is targeted by an effect, sending said Monster back to the owner’s hand and allowing them to Special Summon another Monster.
There are some interesting plays to be made with this, but what’s most important is that art itself. International players didn’t want to see a scantily-clad woman having her hand guillotined. That was all kinds of uncool, apparently. What did we get instead? A woman who actually remembered to put her clothes on before she left the house, tied to a tree.
14 'Designer Frightfur' Is Not For The Squeamish (Or Teddy Bear Lovers)
Yu-Gi-Oh! fans will also be familiar with the Fluffal series of Monsters. They won’t have actually used them, presumably, because you don’t see a lot of these guys. The archetype’s whole deal is super cutesy and adorable stuffed animal-type Monsters. As their appearance suggests, these little guys are about as threatening as a one-legged asthmatic kitten in a coma, but their strength lies in Fusion Summoning.
With all of that said, can we talk about what’s happening here? Designer Frightfur depicts Frightfur Leo, a Fluffal Monster fusion, being torn apart by saws. If you’ve ever had a passive-aggressive sibling who tore your stuffed toys apart, you’ll know just how traumatizing this is. A little fancy glowing effect won’t change that. This is kinda tough to look at.
13 'Darksea Rescue': Like Moby Dick, With More Bloated Drowned Corpses
Yu-Gi-Oh!, then, doesn’t shy away from getting a little morbid. Like the Archfiends we’ve already seen, Zombies are a long-time archetype. They’ve been a staple of the game’s meta for most of its life, favouring a resurrect-from-the-graveyard-and-swarm-the-field playstyle that’s simple and effective.
With that in mind, we’ve got to expect a little morbid subject matter here and there in the cards. Darksea Rescue takes that whole idea a little too far though; the Japanese version features the whole freaking cast of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video mouldering away in the boat.
This being a little too graphic for western audiences, we got a censored version featuring regular ol’ sans rot corpses instead. Darksea Rescue is quite a simple card, a Monster that allows you to draw a card when it is used for a synchro summon.
12 When The 'Fiend Comedian' Rips Your Damn Scalp Off
I sense a bit of a pattern forming here. The more frightening the card name, the more likely you are to lose bowel control from looking at its design. There was no Barney’s The Dinosaur’s Cutesy Tea Party card, but there are a whole lot of Fiends.
Once again, these guys are (generally) predictably dark-themed and evil. These aren’t traits you’d usually associate with comedians., snarky funsters that they are, but Fiend Comedian sure embodies all of that.
This Trap Card sees you either banish every card in the opponent’s graveyard from the game, or send the same number of your own cards to the graveyard (on the outcome of a coin flip). However, the key thing here, I think, is how beautifully horrific the original art was. The more you look at that image, the worse it gets.
11 Chucky’s Got Nothing On 'Gimmick Puppet Dreary Doll'
There are some types of Monster that are really unusable at first. They might be able to be splashed into decks, if particular cards are good enough, but the set they were introduced in just didn’t give them enough space to shine. The Gimmick Puppet cards are one example of this, originally being far too few in number to have a deck themed around them.
With the introduction of more Gimmick Puppet Monsters, a deck did start to surface. These things are all a little creepy and bizarre, but none more so than Gimmick Puppet Dreary Doll. Look at this damn thing. A blood-stained, undead doll rising from a coffin? That’s something I do not want in my life.
The censored version is much more presentable, sans blood and in a nice happy Hello Kitty gift box rather than a coffin.
10 Damn It, 'Garvas,' Put Some Pants On
Here in Yu-Gi-Oh! town, it’s all about gender equality. You might think that the majority of cards that were censored for being too revealing were based on female characters, and… well, you’d be right. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that male Monsters can’t stride about with it all swinging proudly in the breeze too, if the fancy takes them.
Granted, Garvas here was never released as a card outside of Japan. He does appear in several video game adaptions of the series, though, such as Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Duelists Of The Roses. In the international versions of the game, his lower body is a darker color, suggesting that the guy is wearing some kind of spiffy pants. He’s also wearing a facial expression that suggests he doesn’t take kindly to the new pants-restricted situation his lower half has going on.
9 You Could Use Some Pants Too, 'Flying Fortress SKY FIRE'
Well, um… I’m not quite sure where to start with this one.
There’s an achingly obvious Beavis and Butthead- type joke to be made here. I’m above that sort of thing, obviously, and I won’t even mention things like crotch-missiles, impressive payloads, weapons of mass destruction or any of that stuff. I’ll leave it to your imaginations, friends. Pick your favorite wang euphemism and run with it.
Flying Fortress SKY FIRE (yep, it insists on having its name capitalized that way) is a super powerful Machine Monster, which can only be summoned by tributing three specific monsters together. If you can get this combo off, though, SKY FIRE can prevent your opponent from Summoning or Setting cards, destroying and burning them for doing so. There’s a lot of power in this guy’s crotch-mounted missile silo, let me tell you.
8 Summoning Hideous Beasts From The Beyond With 'Destiny Board'
Destiny Board is a curious card. In a similar fashion to Exodia, this Trap Card serves as part of an instant win condition. In Exodia’s case, all pieces of Exodia, The Forbidden One must be in the player’s hand at one time, but this one works a little differently.
The player must have all four corresponding Spell Cards active on the field at one time (Spirit Message I, N, A and L), plus the final piece: Destiny Board itself. As you can imagine, this requires a completely unique and super stally deck to pull off.
Destiny Board has changed quite a bit over its lifetime. Originally, it was designed as an out-and-out Ouija board. These, as we know, are really only used by edgy teenagers, who tend to inadvertently summon a demon who tears them several new bodily orifices. This whole concept was a little on the dark side, so the artwork was altered.
7 'Curse Of The Circle': We’re In Creepypasta Territory Now, Friends
If The Da Vinci Code taught us anything, it’s that Tom Hanks’s awful blond hairpiece is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen in cinema. If it’s taught us something else, though, it’s that the pentagram symbol may be a little more innocuous than we’ve come to believe.
Look at Doom, and the liberal amounts of satanic imagery that are a key motif. Symbolism is a confusing business, and signs can be totally different things depending on who you’re asking. There are particular meanings and connotations that certain signs just can’t shake, regardless, and so this pentagram was removed for the international release of Curse of the Circle. Instead, the symbol found on another card, Spellbinding Circle, was featured. This guy will just go ahead and lock an opponent’s monster from being Tributed either way.
6 'Infernity Randomizer': Super Weird, Super Censored
Now, I really don’t know what to make of this art. This is an all-round kooky looking customer we’ve got on our hands, right here. Infernity monsters are always an odd bunch, utilizing a curious combo of an empty hand and graveyard manipulation, but Infernity Randomizer takes the cake.
Look at it. That face reminds me of the Crash Bandicoot franchise’s Ripper Roo, and its body puts me in mind of Bloodborne’s steampunk morphing weapons. If you can picture Ripper Roo wielding one of Bloodborne’s Whirligig Saws, you’ll understand why this image both intrigues and terrifies me.
That dual-revolver Japanese body didn’t make it past the censors, who didn’t take kindly to the violent reference. The overseas version of Infernity Randomizer, then, sported these twin lightbulb-looking dealies instead.
5 'Elf’s Light?' Elf’s Pants, More Like
Across the whole, wide and wacky world of folklore, teeny pixie creatures feature again and again. They have all kinds of different names: Fairy, doxy, elf, countless others. Generally, these little dudes and dudettes have a similar sort of appearance, but their powers and abilities will differ depending on who’s telling the story.
As will the creatures’ attitudes towards going out in the buff. These are not strictly humans, after all, and so could be seen as exempt to humankind’s strict policy vis a vis popping to the grocery store in your birthday suit. At the same time, though, we don’t want elven ladyparts brazen spread all over our Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, do we? As such, the spell card Elf’s Light was redrawn and the elf given a dainty little outfit to wear.
4 Going To Hell And Back With 'Trial Of Nightmare'
Now, let’s not kid ourselves: that’s an awesome looking sword right there. I’m sure I saw He-Man waving that bad boy about back in the 90s.
On the face of it, Trial of Nightmare really isn’t a big deal. It’s a plain old Fiend Monster, and quite a weak one at that. 1300 attack? My grandma has more than 1300 attack. Even so, you really shouldn’t underestimate this guy.
Originally, this card was dubbed Trial of Hell, and the art was really quite shocking. This monster supposedly passes judgment on people who are locked in coffins, and there it is, letting loose a torrent of blood as it stabs through a coffin.
The card was later toned down, renamed Trial of Nightmare, and the gore removed. They did add those rather beastly red eyes, though, so I guess it’s swings and rondabouts.
3 'Tragedy' (When The Feeling’s Gone And You Can’t Go On)
Oh, man, I regret that snarky headline already. I’m going to have Steps stuck in my head all day now. I remember the Bee Gee’s original, which is even worse. Send help.
Anyway, on with the show. Tragedy is a devious little Trap card that destroys all Defense Position Monsters your opponent controls, when one of yours is switched from Attack to Defense. It’s a little more complex than something like Mirror Force (destroy all your opponent’s Attack position Monsters when one of them declares an attack), but, depending on what they’re running, it can be deadly.
This is all well and good, but just what’s going on with the art? The Japanese edition of Tragedy was depicted by an ominous-looking guillotine. For the international release, this was changed to a shady-looking dude traumatizing a woman. I’m not sure which is the more disturbing.
2 'The Hunter With 7 Weapons' (But No Rifle, That Would Just Be Crazy Talk)
I’m a simple sort of guy. I have no time for double-entendres or any screwing around like that. I shoot from the hip, I keep it real, and all kinds of other redundant 90s phrases that mean the same darn thing. I expect the same of others, too.
When you promise me a Hunter with seven weapons, then, you’d darn well better deliver a hunter with a butt-ton of weapons. Seven, perhaps, if I had to venture a precise number. If not, then you’re just a filthy lying liar.
Fortunately, The Hunter With 7 Weapons delivers on its promise. There he is with his spear, sword, and so forth. The curious thing is that an armed-to-the-teeth Arnold Schwarzenegger type guy is a-okay, as long as he doesn’t have a gun. That would just be outrageous. Outside of Japan, the rifle over his shoulder was switched out for a club.
1 'Faustian Bargain': My, Grandma, What Inappropriate-Looking Thumbs You Have
Faustian Bargain is yet another interesting one. With this spell, you can send a Special Summoned Monster on either side of the field to the graveyard, then Special Summon alevel 4 or below Normal Monster from your hand. This is neat in Normal-based decks, of course, and works super nicely against Special Summon-heavy decks like Zombies.
It’s a fairly niche pick, but one that can be incredibly powerful. I also appreciate the nerdly literary reference to Dr Faustus, Christopher Marlowe’s play about a scholar who trades his soul to Satan for the ability to use magic.
But never mind all of that. We’re really here to talk about the unfortunate design of the green monster’s thumbs. I can’t help but think that someone was havig a bit of a joke here, and it managed to slip past. Not internationally, it didn’t.