It’s been over 25 years for the Castlevania franchise which got its start a long time ago on the NES and has since thrived into one of the most epic series out there. Things were going just fine with the simple hunt for Dracula in the NES, SNES and Genesis games, but then things went over the top with Symphony of the Night for PlayStation. After dragging a little in 3D, the series found its footing with several epic new adventures and has now reclaimed its stature thanks to a little something called Lords of Shadow.
Instead of rattling off random memories, we've decided to count off the ten greatest Castlevania experiences out there. You might not agree with every choice but there’s no question that they are all quality entries that are well worth checking out. Let the Castlevanias commence!
10. Castlevania the Adventure ReBirth (2009, WiiWare) – While Konami was working on the highly anticipated Lords of Shadow, series producer Koji Igarashi executed his latest adventure in the series as a release for WiiWare that hunkered back to the classic 16-bit days. Memories of Castlevania IV and Bloodlines easily stemmed from this adventure, packing impressive graphics, a quality soundtrack, and plenty of stuff to whip into oblivion. For $10, it’s a solid purchase for the Wii.
9. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (2006, Nintendo DS) – The Nintendo DS is HOW old? It’s hard to believe that the dual screen handheld has been around for so long! Still, when Castlevania made its debut on it, it was a fetching adventure featuring two great characters, an awesome Boss Rush mode, exquisite gameplay that balanced adventure with traditional action, and solid presentation. You can find it pretty cheap nowadays and play it to your heart’s content on your 3DS.
8. Castlevania (1986, NES) – The original game that started it all can’t be kept off this list. It still has a classic nostalgia to it that makes it addictive to play today. Running through a castle and taking on enemies while strategically jumping on platforms and battling bosses never gets old. And that music? It still takes us back to a simpler time in gameplay. If you can’t find an old cartridge version, you can download it on the Wii Shop Channel for five dollars. Now if we could just get a 3DS version.
7. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2003, Game Boy Advance) – The Game Boy Advance got three quality Castlevania adventures, each one packed with the same style of gameplay that made Symphony of the Night so outstanding. Out of all of them Aria of Sorrow is a personal favorite. Taking place in the future (rather than the past, for a change), the game features splendid background design along with epic boss encounters and the kind of gameplay you can easily invest in for hours on end. Whip it good!
6. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (2010, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) – There are some who were skeptical that Mercurysteam and Kojima Productions could pull off an epic Castlevania adventure, but they nailed it with Lords of Shadow. The first fully enjoyable 3D Castlevania game, well, ever, this one features top notch voice acting (Sir Patrick Stewart!), along with unparalleled graphic design and solid gameplay. We think the story's adventurous tone that’s right up there with the best of adventure films, and are glad the team is working on a sequel.
5. Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (2007, PlayStation Portable) – The original Dracula X came out in Japan in 1993 for the TurboDuo, but it was heralded as one of the CD system’s better games. Fourteen years later, Konami released a modified version of it for PSP and it pays off big time with great production values, classic gameplay, and challenging bosses to take down. It also contains the original TurboDuo games as an unlockable bonus as well as a full version of Symphony of the Night. Best of all, you can download it today for dirt-cheap on your PlayStation Vita. Can’t beat that.
4. Castlevania Bloodlines (1994, Sega Genesis) – A long time ago, Sega Genesis owners were concerned that they would never get a taste of Castlevania. But their worries didn’t last long as Konami delivered the elegant Bloodlines, a game featuring two completely different characters fighting during the early 1900s to take on a resurrected Dracula. Featuring excellent visuals (they really pushed the Genesis hardware at the time), a terrific soundtrack and fun Castlevania gameplay, the game was really something back then. Konami was rumored to be working on a PSP update, but it never surfaced. Maybe on the Vita?
3. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1990, NES) – Though the original Castlevania remains a favorite and Simon’s Quest wasn’t a bad spin-off, our favorite chapter on the NES had to be Dracula’s Curse. Not only did it contain all the great traditional Castlevania elements we’ve come to know and love, but it also included some new characters including a wall-jumping pirate and a mysterious hunter, each equipped with their own special abilities. This one is not to be missed.
2. Super Castlevania IV (1991, SNES) – When the SNES first surfaced, many folks didn’t know what Nintendo’s take on 16-bit would be like... and they were pleasantly surprised. As part of the third party push for the system, Konami released Super Castlevania IV, one of the best adventures ever concocted. Featuring amazing (at the time) Mode 7 effects, a superb array of Castlevania-esque tunes and top-notch tweaks to the gameplay (being able to fling a whip around freely is pretty awesome), it really set the stage for Konami’s progress into greatness with the series. We’re going to play it again right now, in fact.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997, PlayStation) – Everything that could’ve possibly worked in the right way for Castlevania’s debut on the PlayStation absolutely did. The soundtrack? Epic. The graphics? Mind blowing. The new Metroid-style adventure approach? Very cool, to say the least. The ability to find and equip weapons? Nutty, especially when you came across the right ones.
And then the castle flips over and the second half of your quest begins. What?!
The game as a whole really changed the way we looked at Castlevania forever. Who knew that the series could be this deep and involving? If there's one minor quibble, it's probably the voice acting. “Die monster!” Yeah, right. Other than that, perfect all the way around, and available for download on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Nothing beats it.