The lights are on
Like Dracula himself, new entries in the storied Castlevania series return year after year. Sometimes these new incarnations return to the series’ traditional action-platforming roots or deliver surprising gameplay evolutions. Other times, they’re dark abominations that should be doused in holy water and impaled with a stake. I’ve lined up every Castlevania game I’ve ever played (pretty much all of them), reflected on them, and ranked each based off my personal preference. Where does your favorite vampire-hunting adventure fall on my list?
25. Castlevania Legends (1998 – Game Boy)To imagine that such a lackluster Castlevania game could release a year after the glorious Symphony of the Night is mind-boggling. Sonia Belmont’s quest to destroy Dracula was originally a prequel to the rest of the series until Konami blasted it from the official timeline. The game was visual step back and suffers from stale gameplay and boring level design. Not even another appearance by the renowned Alucard could save this game.
24. Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (1999 – Nintendo 64)Not even a year passed before Konami churned out this ho-hum sequel to the critically panned Castlevania 64. The gimmick is that you could play as a werewolf character and explore some new areas of the castle. The lycanthropic twist made combat slightly more interesting, but it still sucked overall. What I find most interesting is playing as an older, armor-clad, pistol-wielding version of Henry Oldrey, the little boy players saved in the first Castlevania 64. None of the new bells and whistles could save Legacy of Darkness from being an overall disappointment and perpetuating the series’ 3D curse, though.
23. Castlevania Chronicles (2001 – PlayStation)After the success of Symphony of the Night, folks wanted more Castlevania on the PlayStation. Castlevania Chronicles probably wasn’t what they were expecting. Chronicles is a gussied-up remake of the original Castlevania with a little oil sprinkled on the creaky joints of the rigid gameplay. Simon whips in more directions, but at a severe cost: he inexplicably has neon pink hair. You can do worse than Castlevania Chronicles if you’re a sucker for revisiting classic games with gussied-up graphics, but it’s a lackluster experience.
22. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (2003 – PlayStation 2)Castlevania 64 gave 3D Castlevania games a bad rap, and this PS2 follow-up didn’t do much to alleviate the situation. The game features a decent combat system, interesting-looking environments, and some familiar enemy types, which are the best things I can say about it. Lament of Innocence is painfully linear and focuses on the boring prequel tale of the origins of the Belmont/Dracula feud and the legendary Vampire Killer whip. It was a decent action game for its time, but not a title that deserved the Castlevania name.
21. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (2010 – PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)What this six-player downloadable Castlevania game lacks in interesting game design it makes up for in ambition. Players select series heroes like Alucard, Simon Belmont, and Soma Cruz to team up and whip through huge castle maps. Zooming in and out on the action is a clever way to learn your whereabouts without having to pause the action. Unfortunately, experience-based progression is absent and players can only improve their stats with new equipment, meaning you have to replay level after level to find that rare item you want. I’d love to see more cooperative Castlevania, but please reintroduce the progression and weapon variety we’ve come to love.
20. Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (2005 – PlayStation 2, Xbox)Like Lament of Innocence before it, Curse of Darkness is decent, but doesn’t reflect the overall style and atmosphere of other Castlevania games. Unlike Lament of Innocence’s limited camera control, players can take full control of the view in Curse of Darkness. The biggest improvement is the addition of a pet monster system. Players travel around with everything from a brutish golem to a healing fairy. Leveling these loyal familiars up and plotting their skill trees is a satisfying distraction from the ho-hum battle system.
19. Castlevania: The Adventure (1989 – Game Boy)This handheld experience pales in comparison to its console brethren, but mobile vampire slayers couldn’t have asked for much more at the time. This portable title grants Christopher Belmont the ability to launch fireballs from his whip but took away traditional sub-weapons like axes and holy water. The monochromatic color palette holds back the dreary environments from coming to life, but the Game Boy’s terrific stereo audio provides an aural treat. This brief, forgettable game was later remade into a much more vibrant WiiWare title: Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth.
18. Castlevania Puzzle: Encore of the Night (2010 – iOS)This quirky mobile game plops Alucard back in the castle from Symphony of the Night, but requires him to engage in puzzle battles as he moves room to room. The simple gem-matching formula is made more intriguing by gaining new gear and leveling up. It’s a treat being able to hear classic Castlevania tunes and revisit the same castle while engaging in completely new gameplay. While I don’t play it much anymore, this is my go-to puzzle game on my iPhone. If anything, I just love staring at the touched-up Symphony of the Night sprites I’ve come to love so much.
Keep reading to learn about the series' clunky 3D debut and the much-debated NES sequel.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
The Grim Reaper in the first Castlevania. I will never forget trying to make it to that *** with 2x boomerang and dodging all the little medusa heads on the way to the boss fight only to get my ass whooped. The pain....ooooh the pain
Castlevania 4 on SNES was my first Castlevania game ever and it is still one of my very favorite SNES games! The music alone makes it worth playing, but the game play, enemies, and level designs take to another level!
I agree with your top 10, circle of the moon was actually my first castlevania (the series is significantly older than me lol), and I feel in love with it since, I had all of your top 10 and love them all quite a bit. The oly thing I is I would switch Order of Ecclesia and portrait of Ruin, I wasn't all that crazy about that game.
A great article, and from probably the best person to look back through one of the greatest action genre's franchises. I may disagree with some of the points (the twist ending of Aria of Sorrow was amazing in my opinion), but overall pretty spot on with my views. Great job Tim.
When I saw this list I smiled lol. I remember getting Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse for my 4th birthday, and it's still my favorite game of all time. I still have that same copy, and when I get home from work today that's what i'll be doing.
I'll have to come back to this list if I ever decide to jump into this series. I'm pretty sure I remember having a GBA Castlevania and enjoyed it (there were cards involved if I remember correctly) but that was my only experience with Castlevania.
Great list! I'm surprised a little by a few choices being ranked, but hey, it's your list.
Hopefully you'll get around to doing a super replay on SotN. =P
Absolutely love SoTN and Lords of Shadow. Haven't played the handheld games, and I tried Castlevania 3 on Virtual Console, but holy *** is the difficulty brutal, especially when trying to play with the crappy classic controller pro.
I love Castlevania, although I started with the GBA titles. My favorite is definitely Dawn of Sorrows, although I loved Lords of Shadow. Lords of Shadow is one of the most pure fun games I have ever played and I would pop in DoS any day of the week.
Lords of Shadow was one of the finest action games I've played and one of my absolute favourite games this generation. At first the difficulty was daunting, but as I took the time to learn the game's intricacies, I realised that the difficulty was married perfectly to a strategic combat system that forced me to do what I've yearned from an action game for a while - think. Rather than God of War's style of hacking madly at invisible health bars, LoS demanded attention, patience and a knowledge of the capabilities of both Gabriel and his enemies. Also the bosses weren't cheap, with the titan fights being a highlight of the whole game - a perfect blend of challenge, trepidation, awe and empowerment.
The world and its inhabitants was so full of imagination and life that every area was a joy to explore, every plot twist a powerful blow to your perceived reality of the world. Gabriel's subtle transformation throughout the game and its culmination in the end was amazing, wrapping up a story that continually played numerous emotional chords.
That said, I'm hungering like a vegetarian vampire for even confirmation of a sequal.
Ah, Symphony of the Night. The only game I know of where you can go to confession (or hear one), and then get stabbed in the face in the confessional.
Circle of The Moon in the top 10?
I am truly happy right now as it's my favorite game in the series.
No Rondo of Blood? That one should have been represented instead of DXC, and been in the top 3 at the very least. And CV3 should have been the top ranked NES title in there, not 1. (The Japanese version is better, with even better music and fairer difficulty.)
Aria of Sorrow was too low. It, along with Dawn, were superior Metroidvanias to SotN IMO.
I'm totally for Symphony of the Night. But Curse of Darkness deserves better.
Wow! I had not idea that there were so many!
great list tim, i haven't played must castlevania but i'm happy to know the one i have played was in the top 10 (circle of mood) i thought it was a great game back when it first came out and wish i knew where it disappeared to
It's like breeding dogs.... just need to get that excellent bloodline.