Any time a series inspires an entire genre of games, you know they’re doing something right. One half of the inspiration behind the ever-popular Metroidvania genre of games, Castlevania does a lot of things well and arguably includes the most battles against Count Dracula featured in any gaming series.
Any game that makes you beat Dracula that many times deserves a place in history, wouldn’t you agree?
Castlevania’s gaming catalog includes a few misses, but there are plenty of all-time classics to make up for them.
Today, let us take a look back at the best vampire-hunting, ghoul-slaying, whip-brandishing series in gaming history.
Castlevania – NES, 1986
Castlevania would mature as a franchise over the years and add a lot of technological wizardry to its arsenal, but the heart and soul of the game has always been horror.
The original Castlevania is a classic side-scrolling beat-em-up platformer that has you adventuring through Dracula’s castle. You play Simon Belmont, a soon-to-be iconic character who wields a whip called “Vampire Killer” (one of the most aptly-named weapons ever).
This game defined the aesthetic of the series, mixing gothic horror with monster movie flourishes and the tight combat and slick control scheme quickly endeared itself to gamers. The level of challenge never wavered, and the Belmonts vs Vampires war was set into motion.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – NES, 1989
Dracula’s Curse is a near perfect action game. Even the notoriously difficult underground path to Dracula’s castle is basically optional, and one of the has an ability that makes the whole “stepping on deadly debris” thing a breeze.
This is a game about choice. Protagonist Trevor Belmont can take several different paths to get to the end and can team up with one of three distinct vampire slayers to join his battle against the Count.
The addition of these extra characters opens up new combat options and ways to navigate through the castle. Considering that the castle in this game is approximately three times as big as the first one, this is a good thing. Dracula’s Curse is one of the bastions of 8-bit gaming.
Castlevania: Bloodlines – Genesis, 1994
Bloodlines is the first game in the series that allowed gamers to play as a second, distinct vampire hunter – Eric Lecarde right from the beginning. The introduction of the spear-wielding Eric would later open the door for memorable characters like Alucard, and the open-world story of the game would help the franchise break away from the confines of Dracula’s castle.
The gameplay is classic Castlevania, and the level design is better than it had ever been. Bloodlines pushed the Genesis hardware to the limit with some fantastic graphics, rewarding exploration, precise combat and memorable music that is fun to experience even on repeated playthroughs.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood – PC Engine CD, 1993
There is perhaps no game that encapsulates everything that is great about Castlevania than Rondo of. It has fantastic graphics, demanding but fair platforming, a ton of rewards for the curious explorers and some truly memorable graphics and music.
Rondo also features some of the best set-pieces in the Castlevania series, breaking new ground for what a linear action game is capable of. Rondo is endlessly replayable and fun right from the beginning fight in the smoldering ruins of a familiar village to the acrobatic Crouching Tiger style battle versus Death against the backdrop of a mean clock tower.
Rondo demands inch-perfect skill from its players and rewards innovative and daring gameplay decisions. Adding to the mythos of the game, Rondo of Blood was a rare game that could only be acquired via import for many years. It’s probably the best Castlevania game, and definitely one of the best games of all time.
Super Castlevania IV: SNES, 1991
Super Castlevania IV was like an updated version of the original 8-bit adventure for the 16-bit console generation. Simon Belmont looks absolutely massive here, and the action is decidedly slower to compensate for how absolutely unstoppable he appears.
As is a staple of the series, Super Castlevania IV featured fantastic music, some great graphical effects and all of the fun that comes from essentially being inside a haunted house where everything wants to kill you.
Castlevania: Symphony of The Night – PlayStation, 1997
Castlevania Symphony of The Night is the other game that is lauded by fans as the best of the series, and for good. Symphony took the series in a bold new direction and in the process, redefined an entire genre of gaming.
Symphony draws heavily from the series’ past and other classic RPG games like Metroid and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link to create a loving homage to ten years of vampire hunting and a striking testament to what 2D graphics can achieve in an era where the industry was pivoting to 3D.
The addition of several RPG and inventory systems made the Castlevania classic hack-and-slash platforming feel fresh and vital. The lovingly detailed 2D graphics make the action look delectable and silky smooth. Even though the game wasn’t punishingly difficult like previous iterations, the high production values and memorable music make this an absolutely unmissable adventure.
Castlevania now has a popular animation series on Netflix that many fans and critics have enjoyed. If you are one of these people, hopefully, this list has inspired you to go back and play through some of the best platforming action gaming has to offer. Thanks for reading, and be sure to check back for more articles in the series. Make sure you stop and shop browse our online store of used video games for sale.
What are you waiting for? Pick up your controller and enter the fight – Count Dracula awaits you, young vampire hunter!
Until next time, happy hunting!