Vampires, bats, whips, spells, castles…what’s the first thing that comes to mind when hearing these words? Elder Scrolls maybe? Twilight perhaps? Of course not! As Halloween approaches and things get spookier, it’s time to take a look at one of the most iconic gaming franchises of all time: Castlevania. A series that has been alive since 1986 is bound to have a wide array of titles, and Castlevania is no exception. While it isn’t quite as big as it was during the NES/SNES era, there are still plenty of quality titles that deserve to be played by any and all game aficionados.
Today, we are going to take a look at the top 5 greatest Castlevania games ever made. While many of you are most likely not going to agree with this list (and I’m sure there will be a LOT of you), it should be noted that this is exclusively my opinion and not the opinion of everyone on the site. That being said, I would still love to hear the changes you would make to this list! Let’s begin!
I realize this is most certainly an odd pick, however it easily deserves the number 5 spot on the list. While The Adventure: ReBirth does nothing to further the series in terms of innovation, it doesn’t necessarily need to. Released as a $10 WiiWare title, ReBirth plays like the older Castlevania games with a fresh coat of paint. The game looks beautiful, the gameplay is simple yet rewarding, and the bosses are fun and challenging. There really isn’t much more to ask for from a game like this, especially considering the asking price. Gamers new to the series will find ReBirth to be a great entry title, as it paints a prettier picture of what the older games were all about. It just goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to produce something awesome.
While the first Castlevania game set the precedent for the now-legendary series, it was Castlevania lll: Dracula’s Curse that represented the best of what the NES Castlevania titles had to offer. The gameplay and visuals remained largely unchanged from the first entry in the series, albeit with the addition of three new playable characters. Grant, Sypha, and Alucard could accompany Trevor on his quest to defeat Dracula, and each one has a completely unique ability set. Grant is very nimble and can scale certain surfaces and change direction mid-jump. Sypha is a mage that uses powerful sub-attacks to wipe out enemies. Alucard is one of the better options in the game, as he can transform into a bat and shoot fireballs from a distance. These characters breathed much needed life into the lore of the series that would continue to grow as future installments were released, especially regarding Alucard and Dracula. Dracula’s Curse is an incredibly solid entry in the series and deserves it’s spot among the best of them on the NES.
3. Super Castlevania lV (SNES)
Super Castlevania lV represents the first major upgrade that the series got, and boy was it a whopper. Gameplay went from being stiff and archaic to fluid and intense, mainly due to the fact that Simon Belmont could now throw his whip in eight different directions instead of only directly in front of him. The enhanced power of the SNES allowed for some truly ground-breaking visuals and backdrops, most notably the spiraling tunnel section that impressed nearly every gamer that experienced it back in 1991. Fan-favorite enemies and bosses were completely overhauled and looked better than ever. One thing that remained the same, however, was the series’ infamous difficulty. The journey to Dracula is certainly no walk in the park this time around, however the added attack options made the difficulty feel less artificial than previous titles.
WHAT?!?!? Symphony of the Night isn’t number 1?!?!? Put your pitch forks down and let me explain. For those that have been living under a rock, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night pioneered the Metroid-vania subgenre. Instead of the traditional set of linear levels, Dracula’s Castle was opened up to the player, and Castlevania fans couldn’t be happier. Incredibly detailed sprites and an amazing soundtrack were icing on the cake to this masterpiece. One of the largest new additions, however, was the ability to level up and find new weapons to use and equip, which was a huge departure from the traditional whip-wielding gameplay of the older titles. Every other aspect of the game was fine-tuned to perfection, including screen sized bosses and a rock filled soundtrack. In fact, there really isn’t anything wrong with this title, as it combines brand-new gameplay elements with near-perfect presentation and atmosphere. Games like this simply only come around once in a blue moon. With that being said, I still think there’s one Castlevania title that stands above them all…
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is the best Castlevania game ever made and stands as one of the finest titles on the Nintendo DS, and that’s saying something. Every single major facet of the Castlevania series has been mastered here; the music is awesome, the Gothic atmosphere is intact, and the gameplay is tight and responsive. The unique hook of collecting the souls of fallen enemies that was introduced in Aria of Sorrow is also back and better than ever. Collected souls act as new abilities and powers that the main character Soma Cruz can equip and use against the creatures of the night. The Metroid-vania style that focuses on exploration returns here as well, giving players the chance to find every soul hidden within the castle while adding some much needed replayability to the series. While it isn’t the most unique title in the series, as it’s essentially a sequel to Aria of Sorrow, its insanely addictive gameplay and gorgeous environments make you forget that it isn’t taking any risks. It’s an absolute must play for any fan of the series and deserves to be in every DS owner’s library.
Disagree with this list? Let me know what you would change! I understand there are a lot of titles I am probably missing like Rondo of Blood, however keep in mind that this only a Top 5 list. With that being said, it’s time to get back to some vampire slaying…