The lights are on
Note: This article was originally posted before the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate and Lords of Shadow 2.
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.