Kaiba Is Yu-Gi-Oh’s Most Important Character (Not Yugi) For One Reason

While Yugi may be the protagonist of the first Yu-Gi-Oh! anime, its most important character is actually Seto Kaiba by a wide margin. This may be surprising given that Yugi lends his name both to the franchise itself and the card game based on it. But while Yugi may be the face of the series, Kaiba had a much more lasting impact on the rules of the game. Given how massive the card game is to this day, Kaiba has actually had more impact on the franchise than its ostensible main character.

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In Yu-Gi-Oh!’s first season, known as Duelist Kingdom, the game is much looser with its rules. Pretty much any monster could be summoned to the field for no cost, except for Fusion and Ritual monsters. Also depending on where duels were played, different monsters would get inherent boosts or debuffs. This fit with the generally more flexible game mechanics, with cards being able to interact in ways outside their standard effects. For instance, in one game Yugi can’t beat a water strategy until he uses his monster to attack the moon, lowering tides and weakening an opponent’s water monsters. These games were entertaining to watch, but impossible to translate into a real-life game. Kaiba changed that forever.



Kaiba Shaped the Way Yu-Gi-Oh!‘s Game Is Played

Kaiba watches a duel

In Yu-Gi-Oh!’s second season, Kaiba hosts a large competition known as the Battle City Tournament in which he institutes a new set of rules to the game. These rules include many tournament-specific guidelines such as players having to wager their rarest card when dueling. But more importantly, it also included many rules that would make the game more balanced going forward, such as forcing players to tribute summon powerful monsters and increasing the life point total to 4000 instead of 2000. With these new rules being introduced, the more freeform games of Duelist Kingdom were made a thing of the past, giving way to the form of the game that persisted throughout most of the franchise’s history.

Later Yu-Gi-Oh! series would add their own new wild twists to the game, such as new summoning mechanics and types of monsters. But these new rules kept the general basis of Kaiba’s Battle City rules system. With this more codified rule system in place, games became more about card interactions based on the cards’ actual effects rather than their general themes. Some of the craziest parts of Duelist Kingdom’s matches were even adapted to fit Kaiba’s rule system as well, with terrain buffs being turned into Field spells and Attack the Moon becoming its own card.

Without Kaiba, the style of gameplay the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise is known for would have never come into being. It is implied in later series that Kaiba is also a major force behind making the game of Duel Monsters as ubiquitous as it becomes in all parts of Yu-Gi-Oh!’s society. All of this makes Kaiba’s impact on the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise much larger than Yugi’s and makes him the most important character in the series.

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