The Dark counterparts are a series of DARK monsters that is identified by an existing non-DARK counterpart and 「ダーク」 in their Japanese name. Dark counterparts also have a twisted, sinister appearance compared to their original forms, which can be especially striking if the original form was that of a benevolent monster. Almost all Dark counterparts share the same ATK, DEF, and Level with their non-DARK counterparts.
Dark counterparts were first released in the OCG and TCG in Phantom Darkness, but dated back to the anime with "Paladin of Dark Dragon". The TCG exclusive Dark counterpart monsters were introduced in OCG in the Extra Pack.
Dark counterparts have no external support but are highly playable and powerful, particularly "Dark Armed Dragon", which supported one of the most competitive tournament Decks around ("Tele-DAD"). "Dark Armed Dragon" can also be supported by Monarch Spell/Trap cards, such as being searched by "Return of the Monarchs" or being revealed while in your hand to activate "Tenacity of the Monarchs", due to having 2800 ATK and 1000 DEF.
Dark counterparts usually have effects similar to their counterparts (with the exceptions of "Dark Grepher" and "Dark Valkyria", whose counterparts are Normal Monsters), but reworked to go with the theme of manipulating DARK monsters you own or control, typically either Summoning them, sending them to the Graveyard, or banishing them (from the Graveyard) to trigger effects.
Although they do not explicitly support Dark counterparts, several cards released in Phantom Darkness work very well with them. "Doomsday Horror" gains power from banished DARK monsters and can "reload" your Graveyard with the banished DARK monsters. "Escape from the Dark Dimension" can Special Summon one of the banished DARK monsters, and "Allure of Darkness" increases your draw power while banishing another DARK monster. "Veil of Darkness" can also vastly increase a DARK-user's draw power while flooding the Graveyard with DARK monsters to use as a resource.
The deck itself has no natural play style on it's own, and alone the Dark Counterparts cannot make a functioning deck. However many players from Phantom Darkness until now have found decks or strategies to support these cards. Or sometimes it is better to say that the Dark Counterparts help those decks instead.
"Destiny HERO" was a fantastic choice for the deck, as cards like "Destiny HERO - Malicious", "Destiny HERO - Plasma" and "Destiny HERO - Disk Commander" would have great effects for DARK monsters, and could easy be sent to the Graveyard with "Destiny Draw" and then Destiny HEROs like "Malicious" or "Destiny HERO - Fear Monger" could manipulate the Graveyard for cards like "Dark Armed Dragon", "The Dark Creator", and "Darklord Zerato".
While this is a perfect example of playing the Dark Counterparts in a deck, this is not set in stone. Other DARK decks or decks with large DARK monster Engines can also find use for these cards. As long as they have DARK monsters can easily manipulate the Graveyard or place a lot of themselves in the Graveyard at a fairly quick pace.
As you would expect from a deck that relies on the Graveyard, cards like "Masked HERO Dark Law" and "Macro Cosmos" will extremely disrupt the deck. Also your cards send a lot of cards from the deck to the Graveyard, Add cards from your deck to your hand, and Draw Cards. So "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" and "Thunder King Rai-Oh" will slow your deck down.
"Dark Armed Dragon" is one of your most powerful and easy to summon monsters in your deck. However If you no longer can manipulate your Graveyard, or you have so many DARK monsters in your Graveyard you cannot possibly have only 3 left in a Late Game state. The card will no longer have use outside of a Banish outlet for "Allure of Darkness". This will also a more frequent occurrence as long as Dark Armed Dragon remains Limited in the "TCG".
Most decks that use a large number of Dark Counterparts usually have to play a large amount of Monsters and Spells. At the same time either a handful or no Trap Cards. This means any play that you make that gets interrupted might leave you entirely defenseless.
"Adreus, Keeper of Armageddon" is seen as the Dark counterpart of "Tiras, Keeper of Genesis", both cards sharing rank, ATK, DEF and having a similar name. However not having "Dark" in its name and being of a different type ("Adreus" being a Fiend and "Tiras" a Fairy) result in "Adreus" not being placed in the series.
"Shadowpriestess of Ohm" is occasionally placed within this series, since she is a DARK monster with an effect related to other DARK monsters and bears a strong resemblance to another existing card ("Lady of Faith" and "Elemental Mistress Doriado"), as well as having been released in Phantom Darkness alongside many of the Dark counterparts. However they possess differences in ATK and level, and as a result, she is not a Dark counterpart.
"Darkflare Dragon" is often considered a Dark counterpart to "Lightpulsar Dragon", since it is a DARK monster and has "Dark" in its name. However they possess differences in ATK, DEF and level, and as a result, it is not a Dark counterpart. Also, judging from the story of Dragons Collide in the official site, "Darkflare Dragon" is more of a companion or comrade to "Lightpulsar Dragon", than a counterpart.
Trap cards that may fit are "Dark Mirror Force" and "Darkfall". For the former, the effect is somewhat reversed from the original and with the latter the effect is just watered down. However, the effect has nothing to do with DARK monsters.
Archetypes composed of DARK monsters based on previous monsters, like "Malefic", "lswarm", "Shaddoll", and "Twilightsworn" are not considered part of the series because they lack the main attribute that defines a card as being part of the series: having "Dark" in its name (sometimes also sharing the ATK, DEF and Level with their non-DARK counterpart). Instead those archetypes' attributes and appearance transform their members into different versions of the original card, like Corrupted versions ("Malefic" and "Twilightsworn") or infected versions ("lswarm" and "Shaddoll").
In Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, the ZEXAL power allows the user to create "Zexal Weapon" cards, while its dark counterpart, Dark ZEXAL allows the user to create "Dark Zexal Weapon" cards, though only one was observed when the power was used.
Monsters of the "Empower" archetype have the attributes of Dark counterpart monsters, such as "Aether, the Evil Empowering Dragon" and "Dragonox, the Empowered Warrior", because they share the same stats and similar effects as their counterparts, however, they lack the "Dark" in their name. Due to this, they don't fit in the series.
"Twilightsworn" monsters were introduced in Code of the Duelist as Dark counterparts to existing "Lightsworn", following the corruption of "Lightsworn" monsters at the hands of "Grapha, Dragon Lord of Dark World", as seen in the artwork of "Dark World Brainwashing".
The "Lightray" Series can be thought of as the inverse of Dark Counterparts, as they represent LIGHT versions of existing monsters that exhibit synergy. "Warrior Dai Grepher" has both a DARK counterpart and a "Lightray" counterpart.