15 Castlevania Games You Should Be Playing
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Symphony of the Night remains the undisputed king of the Castlevania series, responsible for shaping an entire genre of exploration-based action games. Its continued popularity two decades later fueled an enormously successful new Kickstarter game from its legendary designer, Koji Igarashi.
The very first title in the Castlevania series also hit stores during the first year of the Nintendo Entertainment System's US release. Castlevania's precise action and gothic atmosphere stood head and shoulders above its contemporaries. Facing creepy bosses and a wielding a versatile arsenal, Simon Belmont knocked down the doors of Dracula's castle with aplomb.
3. Castlevania: Bloodlines
Bloodlines has never been one of Castlevania's most beloved games, but the amount of unbridled ingenuity on display in the game's haunted hallways makes it one of the best. If you value experimental ideas, prepare to fall under its spell.
4. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood
For years, Rondo of Blood was spoken about in hushed tones by importers and collectors as the best Castlevania that never left Japan. We finally received English ports of the Turbo Grafx game recently, and the game's branching paths, secret rooms, and superb action lived up to the hype.
5. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Castlevania had a rocky history on the Game Boy, but Igarashi nailed the format with his trilogy of Game Boy Advance games that nearly match his revered Symphony of the Night. Aria of Sorrow is widely considered the best of the bunch.
6. Super Castlevania IV
Like its 8-bit predecessors, Super Castlevania IV was one of the early stars of the Super Nintendo. The game took wonderful advantage of the 16-bit system's graphic innovations like translucency and Mode 7-enabled background rotation. Plus, the supernatural soundtrack was absolutely killer.
7. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
After the success of the Game Boy Advance Castlevania games, the Nintendo DS received its own trio of demon-slaying "Igavanias." Each DS game has its fanbase, but with clever rune-drawing mechanics and classical castle exploration, Dawn of Sorrow may go down in history as the last of the grand style, capital-C Castlevanias.
8. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
The last Castlevania game to arrive on the NES was also the most ambitious. With multiple endings, alternate paths, and a cast of assistant characters, Castlevania III combined the non-linear direction of more experimental Castlevania games with polished action and a sense of purpose. It's also ridiculously difficult in all the right ways.
9. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
We didn't know it at the time, but Order of Ecclesia was Koji Igarashi's swan song in the official Castlevania franchise. With his final game, he revamped the art style, added an enormous difficulty spike over previous DS titles, and let the player explore far beyond the boundaries of Dracula's castle.
10. Akumajou Special – Boku Dracula-kun
Akumajou Special, also known as "I'm Kid Dracula," is a colorful Konami spinoff title that features many of the Castlevania touchstones twisted into campy and cute parodies. It's also an intense action platformer that plays like it received a healthy infusion of Mega Man DNA.
11. Vampire Killer
Vampire Killer is a forgotten offshoot of the Castlevania series, but it still had a powerful impact on several future titles. This MSX 2 game came out the same year as the original NES Castlevania, but it featured drastically different gameplay with open-ended, Metroid-style exploration. It's a theme Castlevania would return to later in more successful iterations.
12. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
Depending on how you look at, Lords of Shadow either saved or ruined the Castlevania franchise. With a gigantic budget and hack-and-slash gameplay reminiscent of God of War, it certainly forged a bold new direction for the series. Taken on its own merits, it's an admirably ambitious game, even if didn't quite capture that ephemeral Castlevania feel.
13. Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth
It was a small adventure on the Wii's digital game service, but it did deliver a proper 2D side-scrolling Castlevania title on a console. The Adventure ReBirth revives the story of Christopher Belmont from a dormant Game Boy game, but this time, the action snaps like a whip. It's a Castlevania back alley well worth exploring.
14. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Although it's often maligned for its confusing translation and esoteric puzzles, Simon's Quest implemented plenty of interesting concepts. Between a day-and-night cycle that strengthened enemies and its fresh RPG leveling elements, Simon's Quest was an awkward, yet important, step for the series.
15. Sexy Parodius
It's not an official Castlevania game, but Sexy Parodius is still an essential experience for fans of the franchise. An entire level in this wacky-shoot-'em up plays out as an extended Castlevania homage, complete with an enormous Medusa-head boss. It's one of the rare times you can see these classic elements in a humorous context. (Image via Shadowserg)