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Most Popular Collectible Card Games

Between vintage and digital collectible card games, this game genre continues to bring in millions of dollars every year. The most popular collectible card games on the market today are certainly reflections of that notion.

By Patricia SarkarPublished 5 years ago 9 min read
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Introduced to the world in the year of 1993, collectible card games (or trading card games) created a stepping stone for the gaming world and have continued to do so throughout history. From fantasy, to horror, science fiction and even sports, card game lovers have had access to a variety of different collectible card games that allow them to interact with others in a strategic fashion.

From the birth of collectible card games up until now, they have only grown in popularity. One would imagine that the emergence of video games would put these cards to rest; however, that couldn’t be more false. Playing cards have crossed over into the digital realm, making it possible for e-sport gamers to explore and enjoy this type of play.

Every year, players from all over the world gather at specific events or conjugate online to play and strategize for large monetary prizes and titles. The community is as great or arguably even greater than any other game genre on the market. It’s time to take a journey and discover the most popular collectible card games in history and currently.

Magic: The Gathering

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Magic: The Gathering, created by Wizards of the Coast, is the first trading card game that started the evolution of collectible card games. It was originally created as a means to keep people busy while they wait in line for gaming conventions. It was notably inspired by the Dungeons & Dragons method of tabletop play where imagination is needed to fully enjoy the game.

Since its creation, Magic: The Gathering has paved a way for collectible card games because it is used as a blueprint for all other card games on the market. Its popularity has only grown over the years with weekly tournaments being held at local comic book shops across the world. This game will always be known as the first of its kind.

For tips on getting started, you might want to check out the 10 best Magic: The Gathering packs currently being sold.

Pokémon Trading Card Game

Photo via Pokemon

In the late 90s, Pokémon became one of the most popular anime cartoons in existence. As it made its mark on society, the Pokémon franchise decided to take a step above television and create a trading card game to capitalize their franchise. By 2003, the Pokémon Company had established the card game and released it to the public. By 2016, it was the year’s top-selling toy in the strategic card game class.

The reason why the Pokémon trading card game was immensely popular is because it stemmed into video games as well as ruled our televisions. The late 90s and early 2000s were ruled by Pokémon. As for the trading card game, players are given the opportunity to take the role of a Pokémon trainer and collect as many Pokémon as possible to battle their opponents. With such a large roster of Pokémon, there are many different strategies and scenarios that players can use which makes the game exciting and new during every play.

The Pokémon trading card game gained so much notoriety that The Pokémon Company created Play! Pokémon, which is an official league program where players can battle others for cash prizes and bragging rights. Currently, the largest tournament to date, The Super Trainer Showdown, brings 700 players world-wide to compete for a title.


Photo via Win Condition Games

Inspired by yet another anime cartoon, Yu-Gi-Oh! is another extremely popular and recognizable trading card game that was created in the early 2000’s. In the year 2009, the Guinness World Records named this the top trading card game in the world. Following a similar gaming pattern as Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! game players are given a card pack in which they draw cards from their deck and play them on the field. Each player begins with 8,000 life points with an objective to use their cards to reduce their opponent's life points. Each card has a specific monster on it with different tactics and level of points. Depending on which one you play on the field, it will either help you or harm you. This action duel game continues to make its mark on trading card history as new cards are being developed and new strategies are explored.

World of Warcraft Trading Card Game

Photo via Potomac Distribution

You might recognize the name World of Warcraft as a PC video game and you are not wrong. Gaining its popularity into the streaming world on PC, World of Warcraft also dove into the world of trading card games and has widened its popularity between different audiences.

The World of Warcraft trading card game was introduced to the world in 2006 with the objective of players battling one-on-one or joining others to defeat bosses in a fantasy realm. Each player uses a hero card and a deck consisting of allies and other supporting cards, such as weapons, abilities, armor, items and quests. Depending on your opponents play, you can use cards to defend or attack thus leading to a victory and leading you closer to defeating a boss. With the popularization of this game, World of Warcraft has created the event Darkmoon Fairies which is a tournament that runs Friday through Sunday.


Photo via CoolStuffInc

Created by the same man who made Magic: The Gathering, Netrunner drew from the cyberpunk genre and was recognized by its balanced game play and impressive artwork. In 1999, it was labeled “The Millennium's Most Underrated Game” by Pyramid Magazine.

The card game unfolds as a cyberspace combat between a global, mega corporation and a hacker. This giant corporation is on the mission to complete one of its hidden agendas, as the hacker tries to steal its data and ruin its plans. Hackers must use special programs to hack into their security system which is displayed as points and levels on the cards. As the collectible card game grew more popular, Netrunner launched an alternate reality game which broke into the online gaming market, and gained a front page spot on The New York Times.

Legends of the Five Rings

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With an evolving plot and intense gaming objective, Legend of the Five Rings is one of the most popular collectible card games in history. When you first play the game, you take on leadership as one of the “Great Clans,” and casted into conflict against another clan. The way you fight out your conflicts decide the fate of the society that you are defending. Ultimately, the game players have a choice of whether they are going to fight with honor or by unsavory means—whichever way to lead their clan to victory.

In the game itself, players are given two decks—the dynasty deck which contains characters, and the conflict deck, which contains weapons and other equipment. The way a player can win is by combining specific cards to strengthen your chosen character and defeating the facing opponent. In addition, there are also dynasty and fate cards which can determine the journey that you take as a player and how their story unfolds.

Star Wars: Customizable Card Game

Photo via Scott Nonnenberg

Created for the Star Wars fan base, this collectible card game allows players to decide whether they are with the dark side or the Force. To this date, the Star Wars Players Committee has created new “virtual cards” to keep up to date with the technological advances that we have undergone in the past decade. Star Wars has grown into a digital card game that can also be printed and played at home and therefore free to play.

The objective of the game is to take over either the dark side or the Force, depending on which side you align yourself with. You can play with characters such as Darth Vader, Yoda, Luke Skywalker, and R2D2 to name a few. The popularity of the game had players stuck in rotation for hours which made this game among the top selling collectible card games in history. The Player's Committee now holds multiple official tournaments each year with a World Championship taking place in Toronto.


Photo via Red Bull

Hearthstone falls under the game genre of digital collectible card games, and is without a doubt the current most popular one. One reason that this has gained immense popularity is because it is available on two platforms: PC and mobile. As it was released in 2014, it followed the same game format as its peer collectible games, similar to the ones mentioned before. It currently has 5.2 million Twitch followers which is highly respectable among the gaming world.

With the overwhelming amount of players who actively play this game, there is a tournament in which gamers can test their skills among the best in the world. The Hearthstone World Championship features players from all over the world who compete online for spots in several World Championships and the chance to win a title and recognition in the e-sports community.


Photo via Shadowverse

As one of the newer collectible card games, Shadowverse was released in 2016 and is constantly evolving in the form of a consistent content release schedule. As more players discover and play this game, the company gathers user information to make frequent changes to widen the playing field and for players to create new strategies.

Since Shadowverse is used only on an online platform, it has gained recognition in the e-sports world from companies such as Echo Fox, Tempo Storm, and Panda Global. Other than Hearthstone, Shadowverse is the only collectible card game that involves team play, revolutionizing the game entirely.

The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Photo via Gamepedia

This collectible card game is known as a competitive strategy card game set in Elder Scrolls Universe. Each player is given a craft deck that features characters with different abilities and powerful allies from across the gaming universe. During game play, players follow a story-rich campaign and can go down different paths that lead them to a variety of different outcomes of the game.

The Elder Scrolls: Legendsfeatures hundreds of cards with unique abilities and special keywords that let you drop your opponents health and power through the enemies defenses. The battlefield that you play on is split through the middle and features different lanes that depend on which attack the player uses, making for a different game play each time. Considering all of the intricacies of the game, it's no surprise this ranks amongst the most popular collectible card games out there today.


About the Creator

Patricia Sarkar

Raised on a steady diet of makeup and games. Eager to share my experiences with the world and make a difference, article by article! :)

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