The 13 Most Unbelievable Banned Pokemon Cards

What Does It Mean For A Pokemon Card To Be Banned?

For the most part when a card is “banned”, this typically refers to players no longer being allowed to use the card in competitive play whether it’s because the card is blatantly too strong and makes the game borderline unfair or the card is just poorly designed in general and as a result causes a bit too much confusion. However, in other cases when a card is designed terribly enough, it can call for the said card to stop printing altogether or for a rework of the card to be made. This often happens in the translation from Japanese to English as a card will be released in Japanese and the Pokemon community will quickly realize why a card may be problematic and it is then revamped before the English release so that they don’t face the same problem.

Why Would A Pokemon Card Get Banned?

There are several reasons a Pokemon card can get banned. Most commonly, as mentioned before, it’s a result of poorly designed cards transpiring to be highly unfair in competitive play and is therefore disallowed in competitive play. While you could just use the argument of “get good nerd”, the truth is, sometimes a card is just too strong even for the most veteran players. However, other times, cards are banned for some more… questionable reasons. These reasons may include but are not exclusive to:

Card Misprints: on very rare occasions, some cards come off the print line with an error that somehow made it past the several layers of checks and verification that are mandatory before they are even ready for printing, and as a result, the card must be banned and then redesigned or just discontinued. 


Inappropriate Cards: Another thing that happened a lot more back in the day but has definitely seen a few examples in modern Pokemon card history is a card’s art being too inappropriate for the intended audience of children. This may include cultural or religious insensitivity, morbid themes, depictions of gambling, and just general non-child-friendly content. However, because this is such a grey area at times, poor card designs would often slip through the cracks. 


Card Age: This one is just a case of the natural progression of the game meaning as the game progresses, cards from decades ago will inevitably become unplayable because they are just outdated. The card game is constantly evolving and keeping ancient cards in the game can often lead to stagnation. 


Of course, there are other reasons that cards have been banned in the past but for the most part, the ones listed above are the most common. Now, let’s count down the most unbelievable banned cards in the Pokemon TCG.

#13 Magmortar 21/124

This is a relatively recent one, considering a lot of the cards listed below were released in the 90s or early 2000s, coming from the 2012 set Dragons Exalted. When this card was originally revealed in the Japanese set Dragon Blast, it created just a tiny bit of a stir amongst the Pokemon TCG community more because of how appropriate it would be for kids than the card being blatantly insensitive. The card originally featured a Magmortar pointing its cannon arm directly at the player of the card with a menacing look on its face which had some pretty violent undertones to it which some parents weren’t too pleased with. Because of this, when the card was re-released in English, it featured a completely different art, this time with the Magmortar’s cannon being pointed into the air.

Banned Japanese Magmortar vs English Reprint

#12 Arcade Game 83/111

This card comes from the 2000 Pokemon set Neo Genesis and actually saw many other cards like it also getting banned. The Japanese card’s art features a row of slot machines that literally say “slot” on them and as mentioned before the card game is directed at children leaving many parents slightly annoyed by the depiction of gambling in the usually innocent card game. However, it wasn’t the only card that had art like this, the card “Card-Flip Game” from the very same set received similar treatment and when released in English rather than reworking the art, they simply zoomed in on one of the slot machines so that the word “slot” and therefore the inherent implication of gambling was removed.

Banned Japanese “Arcade Game” vs Cropped English Reprint

#11 Blaine’s Quiz Show

Now, this one, coming from the set Unified Minds, was banned from a World Championship of the Pokemon TCG, not because the card was overpowered, not because the card was controversial but because the card was too confusing in a multi-lingual setting. Without diving too deep into the mechanics of the card, the card required a player to call out the name of an attack of one of their Pokemon and the other player would have to guess the Pokemon. As you could imagine, at an event where people from all around the world are playing with cards from their native language, a player guessing the name of a Pokemon solely based on the name of one of its attacks is hard enough, then try guessing that Pokemon based on the name of its attack in a language you don’t even speak. Yeah, pretty difficult.

Banned Blaine’s Quiz Show

#10 Unown 90/214

This is the first entry on the list that was banned because it was simply just too overpowered and it comes from the fairly recent Sun & Moon set Lost Thunder. This card featured the ability “DAMAGE” which would allow the user to automatically win the game if they met the condition of having 66 or more damage counters on their bench. As you could imagine, competitive players were not too fond of the idea of having an automatic win button added to the game which resulted in the card’s ban in 2019.

Banned Unown 90/214

#9 Ancient Mew

Any 90s kid might actually remember seeing if not owning one of these cards when it came out. It was released as a promo for the movie Pokemon The Movie 2000 and was given to anyone who bought tickets for it during the first week of the film’s release. For anyone who remembers the card, you may also remember the fact that the card was completely illegible and that there weren’t actually any words on it. So, when it came to competitive play, banning this card was a no-brainer because nobody has the foggiest idea of what it even does. Regardless, it’s still a pretty cool promo card.

Banned Ancient Mew

#8 Grimer 57/82

This is where the creative choices of the card designers starts to become a little bit more questionable. This card from the 2000 set Team Rocket had to, like a lot of the cards on this list, be reworked for English release thanks to the most minor design choice which made the card super inappropriate for a children’s card game. The Japanese version of this card features a Grimer climbing out of the sewer onto a busy street. Nothing too bad so far, sounds like usual Grimer behavior until you look at Grimer’s eyes and notice that they appear to be looking up the skirt of a passer-by. When the card was re-released in English his line of sight was adjusted so that he was looking straight ahead.

Banned Japanese Grimer vs English Redesign

Need To Sell Your Pokemon Cards Fast?

We’ll Take Them Off Your Hands!

Sell Now!

#7 Imakuni?’s Doduo

This is likely one of the most ridiculous reasons a card has been banned from competitive play or rather one of the most ridiculous cards to ever be made. This card was banned from competitive play as soon as it was designed as it says in bright red bold letters at the bottom of the card “this card cannot be used at official tournaments” so let’s explain why. First of all, this card’s ability “Frenzied Escape” requires the player to throw the card as far as they can when retreating. Then its attack “Harmonize” deals 30 damage on the condition that the player sings a song from beginning to end and the damage is only dealt once this song has reached its conclusion.

Banned Imakuni’s Doduo

#6 Sabrina’s Gengar

This is one of the more disturbing entries on the list. It’s not one of the most horrific things you’ll ever see but for a children’s card game, it’s pretty morbid which is what led to its eventual redesign when it was released in English. This card from the vintage set Gym Heroes originally featured a Gengar standing ominously in front of a graveyard. For obvious reasons in the English print of the card, the graveyard was removed, and instead, there was just a grey void put in place of it.

Look Closely To See The Cemetery In The Background Of The Japanese Card

#5 Archeops 110/108

Funnily enough, this card was released twice (once in Noble Victories and once in Dark Explorers) in English and managed to get banned on both occasions for its slightly game-breaking ability. This ability wasn’t designed by accident either, it was completely intentional. This Archeops was given the ability “Hidden Power” which means that both players can no longer evolve their Pokemon which would completely stunt the entire gameplan of any deck that relied on evolving Pokemon.

Archeops 110/108

#4 Lysandre’s Trump Card

Here we have yet another case of some terrible card design leading to some terrible, meta-destroying mechanics that would lead to the card’s eventual ban from all official tournaments in 2015. This card, depicting the leader of Team Flare, allowed each player to shuffle their discard pile into their deck. This may not sound extremely problematic at first glance but when you take into account that this could essentially mean that you won’t run out of cards for a hell of a long time, it made beating your opponent by milling them completely impossible. Then, you also start to realize that this means that people can eat through their deck and just draw away with little to no repercussions as well as being able to play previously discarded trainer cards. This would make games last stupidly long and nobody really wants to play a 12-hour game of Pokemon so the card was inevitably banned from competitive play.

Banned Lysandre’s Trump Card

#3 Misty’s Tears

This is one of those cards that have you wondering, “what were the artists even thinking when they made this?” because the fact that this card even made it off the print line is shocking in itself. In the Japanese print of this card from the set Leader’s Stadium, it depicted Misty from the Pokemon series holding her trusty Staryu. Pretty tame right? Not when you realize that Misty is completely naked, her arm being the only thing obstructing any explicit nudity. Coupled with the fact that Misty is supposed to be an underage girl, you can probably understand why this card received massive amounts of criticism. The card was then redesigned completely in English and they seemed to scrap not only the nudity but the Staryu altogether and instead replaced it with a Squirtle wiping her tears away.

Misty’s Tears’ Inappropriate Japanese Design Which Was Banned

#2 Koga’s Ninja Trick

Koga’s Ninja Trick was a card from the Japanese set Gym Expansion 2 or Gym Challenge in English. When you look at the card there isn’t anything inherently wrong, instead what led to its ban was an unfortunate, cultural misunderstanding. The card features a Golbat flying over a piece of furniture that bears a symbol that would lead to this card’s minor redesign in English. What was supposed to be an omote manji, a Buddhist symbol was misinterpreted as a Swastika, the symbol brandished by the Nazi party. Of course, the artist of this card Sumiyoshi Kizuki did not intend for people to take offense to this card and it was slightly redesigned in English to instead feature a much less controversial symbol.

Banned Japanese Koga’s Ninja Trick

#1 Jynx 31/102

Finally, we have the Jynx from the base set of Pokemon which was not only redesigned in this card but was redesigned across all Pokemon products in the future of Pokemon. The Japanese version of this card features the original design of Jynx which was not the now iconic purple color but instead black. This was of course deemed extremely, racially insensitive leading to an immediate redesign and rerelease of the card in the English base set in 1999. However, prior to the redesign, this version of Jynx would, unfortunately, go on to make an appearance in the “Holiday Hi-Jynx” episode of the anime. This episode would then go on to receive brutal criticism from the Carole Boston Weatherford titled: “Politically Incorrect Pokemon”.

Original Jynx Design vs Reworked Jynx Design

Sell Your Pokemon Cards Fast With WeBuyPokeCards

Sell Now!

Related Posts

What To Read Next

Are New Pokemon Cards Worth Anything?

Are New Pokemon Cards Worth Anything?

If you’ve ever watched a video of someone opening vintage Pokemon cards you probably see prices in the tens of thousands of dollars popping up all over the screen and it can make the value of more recent Pokemon cards look pretty measly.

The 5 Best Sleeves for Pokemon Cards

The 5 Best Sleeves for Pokemon Cards

To some, they may just be colourful cardboard, but for you, Pokemon cards are collectables. And when you’re collecting something, you want to ensure they’re safe and protected to preserve their condition. You can’t start that process with cards unless you use card sleeves.

The 10 Most Valuable Misprinted Pokemon Cards

The 10 Most Valuable Misprinted Pokemon Cards

Opening a Pokemon TCG pack is always an exciting moment. You never know if you’ll get your favorite or valuable chase card until you’ve opened the pack. And as you pull the cards out and eagerly go through each one, you notice that one or more of them has a defect. What now?