Don your best Dracula cloak; it’s time to check out the best Castlevania games of all time!
Since the very first Castlevania game released on the NES in 1986, the series has evolved from a fairly straightforward, side-scrolling action adventure style to a more RPG-esque, albeit still side-scrolling – series.
Along with Metroid, it’s been the basis of an entire genre (with the genre itself being known by the portmanteau combining the names of both series: Metroidvania).
With RPG elements being introduced as early as the very first sequel, 1987’s Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, which was a little too ambitious for its own good, the series doesn’t always fit neatly into a genre, however.
Initially the games cast players in the role of vampire hunter Simon Belmont, with Dracula as an antagonist in many of the games.
But the series lore and timelines have expanded way beyond the Belmont clan and even beyond series big bad Dracula himself, spanning hundreds of years of history.
The series is so popular that it’s spawned manga and even a Netflix adaptation of the material.
Konami’s Castlevania games set such a high water mark for quality regardless of genre that it’s a genuinely tough call as to what games we should include as the very best!
In any case, that’s what we’re here for, right? Let’s see what we at Retro Dodo consider to be the best of the best when it comes to Castlevania games.
Table of Contents
First up on our list of the best Castlevania games is Castlevania: The Arcade, an arcade machine that some of you might have remembered from the late 00’s.
We’ve always been a fan of light gun games like Time Crisis, but holding a Light Whip did feel a bit weird. It doesn’t really have that same appeal, and while the concept is trying to tie into the whole ‘Belmont super weapon’ vibe, it just felt a little like a poor-mans Wiimote experience.
The gameplay is sound enough, but it’s basically just an early side scroller thrown onto an arcade machine and doesn’t look like a game from 2009 should do.
If you’re looking for the ultimate Belmont arcade experience, however, then keep scrolling!
As you might have guessed from the title of this entry, Encore of the Night is a game based on the Symphony of the Night, a title you’re definitely going to be seeing further down this list.
It’s essentially a Columns-style game featuring characters from Symphony of the Night, with famous Castlevania faces going up against each other in puzzle madness.
This title was a bit of a gimmick but one that worked. There’s no shortage of block-drop puzzlers out there in the world, but people enjoyed the darker tones and Castlevania theme of this gothic extravaganza.
The graphics aren’t anything special, but the gameplay was easy to grasp and super addictive – the perfect combo for the game to play bus journey home from the office.
Castlevania: Order Of Shadows keeps the mobile Belmont games going, this time bringing Desmond Belmont to our phone screens.
You’ll soon come to realise as you play these games that the general jist of them all is ‘find Dracula, kill Dracula’.
To be fair, it’s a formula that has worked for a long time now, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
The game itself isn’t too hard the first time playing through it. You level up and wield the world-famous whip just like other members of the Belmont clan, and Dracula has a lot of minions he’ll send after you to stop you en route to his final showdown.
When you complete the game, however, a hard mode opens up, and you’ll have the chance to play with the music that featured in the very first Castlevania title.
TLDR; play it through once just to play it again. It gets much better and more challenging!
Castlevania: The Adventure takes the 32nd spot on this list of the best Castlevania games of all time!
You’ll soon be reading about both the original Castlevania and Castlevania III further down this list, and ‘The Adventure’ is set 100 years before the first game and 100 years after the third title.
That’s a headache to understand, isn’t it!
You play as Christopher Belmont, and it’s his turn to try to and kill Dracula.
I bet anyone named ‘Belmont’ wishes they could change their name and just live a normal life!
What gets me riled up about this game is that you can upgrade Christopher’s whip as you move through the game, but when an enemy hits you, the upgrade disappears.
I know that’s the main premise of the mushrooms in the early Mario games, but still, I just wish you could wield a cool whip all the way through the game once you grab those sweet upgrades!
The game only has 4 stages, but it’s super difficult to get to grips with, and not for difficulty reasons.
The game just feels a little poorly made, with Christopher moving as though he’s stuck in treacle and jumping like he’s got Link’s Iron Boots on.
Still, if you have the patience of a Saint (which will probably help in this game what with the holy powers and everything), then give it a go and let us know what you think!
Castlevania Legends might be part of the same legendary series that we all know and love, but the tried and tested formula is a little different.
It’s one of the main reasons that this game ended up in our list of rare gameboy games – it was a little too different and, as a result, didn’t do as well with gamers looking or that classic Castlevania vibe.
Sonia Belmont takes the reins in this game, the first of the Belmonts tasked with taking on Drac and making him pay for being a mouldy-old killer.
There’s a lot more vertical play than the other games, plus it’s not the worlds longest game either.
In fact, if you’re used to the classic SNES Castlevania games, then you’ll complete this super quickly.
Still, the Soul Weapons are a nice touch, and Sonia’s ‘Burning Mode’ skill should be enough to send ‘old sharp-teeth’ running to the hills.
If you have a spare $700 to buy a boxed copy, then it would certainly make for a good talking point at your next Retro Gaming party!
A fighting game based on the Castlevania universe… in 3D? Yes, it’s time to bring Castlevania: Judgment into the mix!
When we heard about a fighting title joining the Castlevania canon, we were quite obviously very excited. A Mortal Kombat meets SoulCalibur-esque game with all the best Dracula hunters from the series. It sounded too good to be true.
And to be honest, many people shared the same opinion.
It was too far removed from what we were used to from the Belmonts, a little too ‘out there’ for most people to get on board with.
But, wielding weapons with motion controls actually works in this game, and it’s one you should definitely check out!
There are 14 characters to choose from including Shanoa and the legendary Simon Belmont.
There’s even a new character to discover, but you’ll have to play yourself to figure out who it is!
And yes, Drac is there to cause havoc again too!
The graphics are very slick and the gameplay works very well, making you work up a sweat while playing. It’s not one for a quiet stint of button mashing, but it’s still one of the best Nintendo Wii Fighting games of all time!
You’ll hear us mention Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest quite a few times through this list of the best Castlevania games. Yes, it’s a nostalgic favourite of ours, but it’s definitely one of the worst games in the earlier Castlevania titles.
There’s a reason that it has influenced other games in the series, however, and that’s because it just had too much going on in it.
The game tries to do too much, and future games have hand picked certain elements from Simon’s Quest to focus on, using it as a kind of talent pool of sorts!
The Japanese to English translation isn’t very good, and the whole thing feels a little but cobbled together.
There are some good features, however, such as the enemies you come across causing more damage to the player during the hours of darkness in game. I also think that the devs trying to make more explorative elements in this game probably brought about the idea of the MetroidVania genre, and imagine a world where those kinds of games didn’t exist.
All in all, Simon’s Quest is an example of too many skeletal cooks destroying the soup. Had it been a little simpler, it might have featured further down this list.
But don’t worry, you’ve got lots more exciting games to come!
Haunted Castle might not actually have Castlevania in the title, but it’s a Castlevania title alright!
This game was set in Simon Belmont’s world, or the CGU as we might refer to it from now on (the Castlevania Game Universe for those of you that don’t like abbreviations).
This is a little slice of gaming history too as it was the first Castlevania game to make it onto arcade machines!
Simon is charged with rescuing his wife Selena from the evil grasp of Dracula. I don’t know whether Dracula is good at capturing or the Belmont family are just really bad at staying safe. Maybe they should stop hanging around by open windows at night.
It’s a simple arcade side-scroller with the typical sub-weapons we’d find from the console games and only had 6 levels, but it was a sure-fire hit with bat-whipping fans down at the arcade halls!
Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls is up next, an exciting Castlevania game that bypassed consoles and went straight to smartphones.
And you know what – it’s not half bad!
Grab the whip or wield a sword as you work your way through side-scrolling levels. It feels and plays just like the Castlevania games of old, though you don’t have to change devices while you text your Wife back when she asks if you’ve remembered to take the dog out.
Simon Belmont, Shanoa, and Alucard join a host of other exciting characters in this new adventure, all accompanied by music from Michiru Yamane!
There’s an exciting multiplayer mode in this game too, with players competing to see who can rack up the most kills in a specific amount of time.
Demon killing with people all across the globe. How cool is that!
Graphically, it looks a little like Dead Cells meets Child of Light, and the backgrounds have a lot more depth to them than the Castlevania games of old.
But do the levels have as much class? No, obviously this game can’t beat the GBA or SNES titles further down this list, but we’ve had some fond memories playing GoS!
Castlevania Chronicles is a bit of an amalgamation of Castlevania’s past, consisting of an updated version of the very first Castlevania game in the series, and a remake of the the same game with new levels and elements.
Expect lots of Simon Belmont vs Dracula, undead minions, and dark and dingy levels spread throughout Dracula’s castle.
The levels that you know and love have had extras thrown in for good measure – it feels familiar in part, but the updated graphics and indeed the extra levels thrown into the remade version of the game provide some extra interest that keeps things feeling fresh.
This game serves as a bit of a nod towards the Sharp X68000, throwing homage to a slice of gaming history.
This is a great updated compilation, but there’s nothing that new here to make this game appear further down our list other than enhancements to the original raw material.
Castlevania: Dracula X takes the 25th spot in this list of the best Castlevania games of all time!
Dracula has always been feared no matter what medium he’s in, but the Belmonts aren’t scared of some sharp teeth and a big cape.
And to be honest, he definitely (and quite literally) bit off more than he could chew when he tried to go up against Sonia Belmont, and thus the feud to rule all feuds began.
Incapable of staying dead, Drac is back, and this time he’s goading the Belmont clan into sending forth their newest hunter by stealing their relatives.
Come on, Dracula – just get a day job at a blood bank or something!
The side scrolling levels are exactly what you’d expect from a 1995 SNES game; they’re bright but not insanely textured and boast some tricky elements that will test your patience just like those giraffes do in Disney’s The Lion King.
Do I like this game? Sure, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking, rather a fun play through for fans who want to tick every title off the list.
Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge isn’t the world’s longest game by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a little slice of DMG mastery that fans of both the franchise and Ninty’s famous handheld should definitely be checking out .
We’re talking your full fill of demons, ghosties, and of course, vampires.
It wouldn’t be Castlevania without ol’ Bat Boy and his minions causing havoc now, would it?
Christopher Belmont is the protagonist in the first Castlevania title to hit the Gameboy, and Dracula is still up to his evil schemes.
I mean, why does he keep antagonising the Belmonts? Why does he think it’s a good idea to capture Christopher’s son, for instance.
There are only 4 levels, but you can complete them in any order, so I guess that gives you multiple different ways of playing.
Throw Holy Water (or Holy Juice as my cousin calls it) at enemies and, of course, use that all-powerful whip to chop the wings off bats from a distance!
Castlevania: Curse Of Darkness takes our 23rd spot in this list of the best Castlevania games of all time, an exciting title that sees players taking charge of one of Dracula’s servants that defected and turned good.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – you must have to be mad to give up dark powers, right? Well, our main man Hector is still a Devil Forgemaster even if he does want to live out his days in the quiet of the country, and as a Forgemaster, he can create familiars.
I don’t mean people that he recognises; I mean creatures to fight alongside you in battles!
As you might expect from a game that has already introduced a brand new type of living weapon into the mix, there’s more choice than just the Belmont whip to wield in this game.
Players even have the chance to make their own weapons which is amazing, though a shield and axe has always served me just fine!
Pull off epic combos and make sure you put a stop to the servant of Dracula that’s chasing you before he finishes you off! Time to get those familiars into action, folks!
Castlevania: Harmony Of Despair is up next, a game that boasts a co-op mode for you and your friends to slay baddies together!
There’s even a multiplayer VS mode too if you want to fight against your friends – the perfect way to punish your friends when they’re not pulling their weight in the co-op mode!
I really like the premise of working together with friends to take down Castlevania. It all feels a little Gauntlet: Dark Legacy, though the gameplay is more in-depth as you can use each players individual powers to help each other out.
Douse some fire so that someone else can move through and open a door on a lower level for someone else to move through – you get the idea!
And you’ll need to find people who can work fast, as each level myst be completed within 30 minutes. Game on!
If you’ve ever wondered why the Belmonts and Dracula have always been at each others throats and want to know more about that altercation that started when Sonia Belmont got all up in Drac’s grill, then Castlevania: Lament of Innocence will explain everything you need to know.
And yes, we see where the whip comes into play for the first time.
It’s crazy how such a simple weapon has become such a hit with gamers everywhere, and while the whip of alchemy doesn’t exactly sound like a brutal weapon, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of it!
Collect orbs and relics using the abilities you pick up along the way, gaining access to new abilities through careful use of the previous skills you’ve learned through the many trials and tribulations you’ll face.
We love a good secret here at Retro Dodo Towers, and Lament of Innocence is choc-a-bloc with them.
Honestly, there are a whopping five secret bosses to uncover as well as all the enemies that you know about in the game.
Talk about the gift that keeps on giving!
Let’s keep the skull rolling with Castlevania: Order Of Ecclesia, a cracking title for the Nintendo DS that, like Final Fantasy IX in our list of the best Final Fantasy games, took gamers back to the ‘good old days’ of Castlevania gameplay.
I’m not saying that it feels archaic to play or anything; rather than bringing new ideas into play, it picks upon key elements of the early games that made the series so great and champions them for new players.
Instead of picking up specific weapons, players use items called glyphs in order to attack, mixing and matching them to come up with more powerful combo attacks.
The level set up feels more old-school too, with an overworld map playing host to smaller playable areas that players must traverse through.
Don’t worry though, it’s still a bona fide RPG through and through, with players levelling up as they progress and side-quests a plenty to embark upon.
I used to enjoy playing the race to complete the levels while playing multiplayer against my mates back in the day too over Wi-Fi. I never won (I was too meticulous), but it was good fun!
Plus, the storyline featuring Shonoa tracking down tomes instead of the Belmonts fighting Dracula is a nice little twist. Sometimes a change is as good as a rest, and this story is definitely one that fans will take to with ease.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood needs no introduction, especially if you’ve skipped ahead and already checked out the 2.5D version below!
As one of the best games on the PC Engine and Turbografx-16 (which are technically the same console), it regularly makes the rounds as one of the most influential games of the 90s.
And you know what, we all fully get behind that statement. No time limits to worry about, multiple endings to play through, and a fantastic colour palate – it’s got everything you need!
Join Richer Belmont as he heads out on a quest to save Maria.
To be honest, I’m not sure why Maria needs saving as she’s the one who has a pet tiger as a weapon. Talk about being savage!
Throw daggers, swish your whip, and destroy Dracula. It’s a tried and tested formula and one you’re about to read a heck of a lot about during this article. Konami sure knew how to make action/horror titles back in the day alright!
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness takes the 18th spot on this list of the best Castlevania games of all time, and it was a huge success back on the N64 .
If you’ve played the first 3D Castlevania game (which you’re definitely going to see in slot number 12 below, then this prequel will be right up your horrifying, ghoul-strewn street.
This game isn’t just a prequel, however; it’s also a sort of ‘reimagining’ of the original Castlevania game, with newly redesigned levels with characters that never made the original cut being brought back for fans to enjoy!
So what’s the story here?
Well, the game is set in 1844, and Dracula has decimated a local village. You play as Cornell, a character is no ordinary man.
In fact, he’s a Wolf Man!
Track your sister down using your canine senses, battling demons and eventually coming face to snout with Dracula himself.
And, if you complete the game twice, then an updated version of the original game becomes available to play. You better get gaming, as it’s a tough cookie to unlock!
And don’t worry, there’s no more Wolf Man to worry about anymore – you’re back in control of the one and only Richter Belmont again!
It’s time to whip evil into shape!
Richter is out on a mission to save his girl Annette. Dracula took the wrong guy’s girlfriend this time, and Annette surely won’t forgive Richter in a hurry if she becomes a vampire!
One thing I love about this game is the amount of unlockable content available too. If anything, I’d like to know how Dracula keeps unlocking the ‘no-die’ life hack; that’s something I’d quite like in my box of tricks!
The N64 classic Castlevania takes the 16th spot in our list of the best Castlevania games of all time!
I can still remember the Nintendo Official Magazine copy that I had with the Castlevania Skull on the front of it. It got so much battering from me reading about this game over and over again that the pages were falling apart!
This Castlevania outing was a big deal for the franchise as it was the first 3D game in the canon. Plus, there were 2 different characters to play as.
With the option of choosing the Belmont Clan heir Reinhardt Schneider or the magical orphan girl Carrie Fernandez, players had two ways of playing and twice the value for money.
And with Reinhardt swishing that famous whip that we all know and love, Dracula’s minions better start running for cover!
It might not seem like such a big deal today, but seeing this game in 3D felt like Christmas had come early ever single day. The gameplay just exploded with so many more possibilities, and we finally got to dive into this world in a much more immersive way.
The Castlevania: Anniversary Collection is up next, a collection of the most famous titles in Konami’s back catalogue.
Or should that be ‘batalogue’…
Gamers who grab this collection have access to 7 games from the main Castlevania series including the original Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and Castlevania III, Dracula’s Curse.
Dive into Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: The Adventure, Castlevania: Belmont’s Revenge, and Castlevania: Bloodlines.
There’s also an english release of Kid Dracula, a spin-off to the main Castlevania canon that isn’t included in our list today.
That’s 8 games for the price of one – not bad, right?
This release dropped as part of the celebrations for Konami’s 50th Anniversary and is a fantastic look at how much the company has achieved over the years.
It’s also a brilliant collection that captures the eternal struggle between the Belmonts and Dracula, one of the greatest gaming stories of all time!
The Castlevania: Advance Collection comes in at Number 14 in our list of the best Castlevania games of all time!
As you might guess from the name, this compendium contains three of the best Gameboy advance games of all time that you’re about to read about further down this list.
We’re talking Harmony of Dissonance, Circle Of The Moon, and Aria Of Sorrow.
Plus, there’s also Castlevania: Dracula X added into the mix for good measure too!
So why should you buy this collection instead of playing the original games?
Well, I’d always recommend grabbing the original games to play on the GBA as it just feels right, but, the rewind feature on this game is something that evens the score a little bit with Dracula.
Like in Prince of Persia, you can rewind a little bit when you’re about to die. No Drac isn’t the only one that comes back to life.
Look to the helpful encyclopedia to know more about the enemies in game, and save at any point.
So, this collection makes these games easier, which might be a good thing if you’re finding the originals too tough!
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow sees gamers heading back to the 11th century in a 3D reboot of those early classic Castlevania games.
And the whip has had an upgrade too – get ready to use Gabriel Belmont’s ‘Combat Cross’ against undead cretins galore!
Like Kratos’ Blades of Chaos, Gabriel can use it to reach new areas, either by scaling walls or slicing open new paths in order to progress on foot.
Add a bit of holy water into the equation, and you’ve got everything you need to bring your beloved back to life and save her from the armies of the dead!
There have been so many characters in this series and indeed in this game alone, so it’s a great thing that players have access to a guide of just who the heck everyone is.
And, like Navi in Ocarina of Time, you can use the guide to get helpful hints when going up against bosses.
Use your magical abilities to obtain the God Mask and defeat the Lords of Shadow. It’s the makings of an epic fantasy tale and a game that you’re going to find seriously hard to put down!
The second of three original Game Boy Advance Castlevania titles, Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance – while still an excellent game in its own right – doesn’t quite measure up to the others.
Though still preferable – in our opinion – to any of the 3D Castlevania entries, where Harmony of Dissonance falls down slightly is in too much backtracking over its convoluted castle map, lack of save points and very few secret rooms to discover.
However, Harmony of Dissonance is still a brilliant game with an awful lot of gameplay hours packed onto the tiny GBA cartridge – and it’s well worth spending time with.
It just goes to show that even the slightly disappointing entries in the Castlevania series are still head and shoulders above similar games in the Metroidvania genre.
Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow: Mirror Of Fate takes the 11th spot in this list of the best Castlevania games, bringing stereoscopic 3D gameplay into the mix.
It’s a little weird having a 3D 2D side-scroller (that made my head hurt), and while it’s a newer title compared to the older side-scrollers, the gameplay is very similar to the early Castlevania games.
And, in a bit of homage to what Simon’s Quest tried to do, Mirror of Fate actually gets the MetroidVania-style exploration elements right, with players moving into past areas to find new abilities and previously inaccessible areas.
The gameplay gives players a much better insight into Simon’s backstory and his Belmont lineage. The cutscenes are fantastic and even though the gameplay does have that old-school side-scroller vibe about it, the game does benefit from the power of Ninty’s mighty handheld.
If you love games like Metroid Dread and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, then give this 3DS classic a go!
Also known as Castlevania: The New Generation in PAL regions, Castlevania: Bloodlines is one of the more action-oriented titles in the series.
This game was released prior to the evolution to exploration and RPG elements that occurred with series milestone, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
It’s an excellent game too: set around the events of World War I, Bloodlines is surprisingly gory for its day – and fell foul of censors in PAL territories.
Hence the name change – the reference to ‘blood’ in the title wasn’t even acceptable for us vulnerable Europeans and Aussies!).
Unusually for the earlier Castlevania titles, Bloodlines features two characters to choose from – each of which has unique abilities that’ll determine their path through some of the stages.
It also added a slightly less linear feel than the other action-focused titles in the series up to that point. Naturally, it also appears on our very own list of the Best Sega Genesis games!
A continuation of the story from Castlevania: Bloodlines, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin moves the action ahead in time to World War II.
One of the most interesting features of Portrait of Ruin is the ability to freely switch between two characters, who can also combine their powers in order to progress through the story.
Interestingly, the ‘Portrait’ of the title comes into play with the characters able to explore beyond the traditional castle setting by entering different paintings.
Plus, there’s a great deal of variety in the environments on offer.
A Boss Rush mode, a number of single player variant modes and even a co-operative multiplayer mode are included.
The main story has multiple endings and even unlockable characters that can be used in the separate modes too.
All in all, that makes this second DS Castlevania title a fully featured package and undoubtedly one of the best Castlevania games.
Here’s where it all started – the original Castlevania!
Though dated in many ways by today’s standards, the three-and-a-half decade old Castlevania still plays surprisingly well and isn’t as unfairly tough as many games of the era.
Though it plays fair in terms of its challenge for the most part, it’s actually still a pretty difficult game.
It’s a compelling experience though – and series mainstays such as the whip, multi-directional stage design, interesting secondary weapons and even hidden collectables all made an appearance here.
Despite the limitations of the hardware, the soundtrack is also superb.
Though Castlevania hasn’t aged as gracefully as the other games featured here, it’s still a game that’s well worth playing – and has more than earned a spot on the Best Castlevania Games list, as well as featuring in our Best NES games list too.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse takes the 7th spot in our list of the best Castlevania games of all time!
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest was an impressive but overly ambitious attempt to bring non-linear gameplay and RPG elements to the series. It also suffered from poor Japanese-to-English translation, making progress all but impossible unless players used a guide.
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, however, took the series back to its roots.
However, despite a more action-oriented focus, Castlevania III features branching paths and even multiple endings.
It’s an impressive feat for a game of its era. Story-wise. Castlevania III is, perhaps confusingly, a prequel to the very first game – with superb visuals and music that really push the 8-bit hardware.
As a swansong for the series on the NES, Castlevania III makes sure that it goes out with a bang!
Ok, so there’s a major spoiler alert coming up in this next section, so if you want to play Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2 and the Lords of Shadow series without knowing any secrets, then keep on scrolling.
This game follows Gabriel Belmont – aka Dracula!
Dracula is a Belmont? What a bombshell, right!
I love playing as the bad guy, especially when the bad guy becomes the good guy because an more evil villain is on the horizon.
I get the same feeling playing this game that I got when I first saw the 3D Castlevania adventure on the N64. It’s incredible, and finding all of Drac’s powers in a bid to have a showdown with the devil is absolutely epic.
It feels a little like finding Samus’ abilities in Metroid Prime on the Gamecube and makes that sweet battle at the end all the better – you’ve earned your victory by the time you get there!
If you enjoyed the first title, then there’s a whole host of new abilities to and savage weapons to wield. Oh, and don’t forget you’re a vampire, so you can use some undead voodoo powers on your enemies too!
And yeah, drinking blood gets your health back!
The first Castlevania game on Nintendo’s DS handheld, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is a sequel to the 2003 GBA game, Aria of Sorrow.
It’s another example of the exploration-based, RPG-style gameplay that the Castlevania series came to be known for.
It boasts some superb use of the double screen console’s capabilities, including the use of ‘Magic Seals’, which see players using the DS touchscreen to actually draw patterns to a time limit in order to fully defeat the game’s bosses.
As with the other games in the series from the PS1 and beyond (arguably even going back to the SNES and Genesis entries), the pixel art visuals are absolutely beautiful, though they’re in a slightly divisive, more animé-esque style.
The inclusion of a ‘Julius Mode’ unlocks when the story is completed. It slightly remixes the game with a new choice of playable characters and gives Dawn of Sorrow great longevity.
This one even features on our Best Nintendo DS games list!
As the first Castlevania title on the GBA and the first Castlevania to adopt the ‘Metroidvania’ style of RPG-esque exploration and upgrades since 1997’s Symphony of the Night, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon had a lot to live up to.
It’s a testament to Konami’s developers that it truly did achieve its full potential – despite the visuals initially being a bit too dark for the vanilla Game Boy Advance.
With the lit screen of the Game Boy Advance SP giving the game a new lease of life, it ensured that the Symphony of the Night-style gameplay was here to stay for the series.
Circle of the Moon has a unique gameplay feature – not seen in any other Castlevania title – called the Dual Set-up System.
Essentially, this sees players combining magic cards found on their adventure to activate unique powers for use in battling the numerous enemies in the castle.
Additionally, four extra gameplay modes are included, with the first unlocked after completion of the main story, which add further twists to the main gameplay.
Considering that Circle of the Moon is one of the earliest releases for the then-new Game Boy Advance, it’s an impressively fully featured title. It goes without saying that it remains one of the best Castlevania games of all time.
The third GBA Castlevania title – after Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance – Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is the absolute pinnacle of the series on Nintendo’s handheld.
It introduced a new feature – the Tactical Soul system – which saw players absorb the souls of enemies to collect and use new abilities, which gave Aria of Sorrow a unique and addictive feel.
The visuals, audio and level design are superb – with gameplay that is less challenging than many titles in the series, given how powerful the character can become over the course of the game.
Of course, in our opinion this just makes Aria of Sorrow even more fun to play.
As with the other GBA titles, Aria of Sorrow also features numerous bonus game modes to keep players going even after the relatively short – by Castlevania standards – main story is completed.
In terms of the more ‘Metroidvania’ style titles, Aria of Sorrow is easily one of the very best games in the series.
It definitely earns its place in the top three on the list of the best Castlevania games (it’s also featured on our Best Game Boy Advance games list, fairly unsurprisingly!).
A much more straightforward and linear hack ‘n slash title than even Castlevania III on the NES, Super Castlevania IV doesn’t feature the branching paths of its predecessor.
Neither does it champion the more RPG-style elements of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
Yet Super Castlevania IV – the first 16-bit Castlevania title and one of the earliest games for the SNES. It makes such great use of the added audiovisual capabilities of its host hardware that it’s impossible not to be drawn in by its incredibly atmospheric visuals and superb soundtrack.
There are gameplay innovations here too: it’s possible to have control over Simon’s whip to a far greater extent than in the previous games and it can even be used defensively.
The graphical effects made possible by the SNES – such as impressively dizzying rotating stages that take advantage of Mode 7 – also give the game a unique look and feel, marking it out as a unique entry in the series and the undoubted high point for the more action-oriented entries in the Castlevania series.
Not only one of the very best Castlevania games, but also one of the best games of all time, period – so you won’t be surprised to find it on our list of the Best SNES games either.
The Belmont’s have spoken and Dracula has held up his score card. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is officially the best Castlevania game of all time!
It’s almost unbelievable with hindsight to think that the news of a new 2D Castlevania being released in 1997 wasn’t treated with universal excitement or anticipation.
In the mid to late 90s, 2D was being treated as old fashioned and dated; as far as the gaming media and many players were concerned, 3D was the present and the future. And that was that.
This meant that sales figures for the game initially showed a lukewarm reception too.
Yet Symphony of the Night was such a triumph of artistry in terms of audio, visuals and gameplay design.
It didn’t just completely revitalise and change the future of the Castlevania series – it actually helped to spawn an entire gaming genre (as mentioned several times in this very article: Metroidvania).
The gothic visuals have aged as gracefully as a centuries-old vampire and the melodramatic storyline and dialogue have even become meme-worthy (see our ‘What is a Man’ in Castlevania? article for more on this!), further cementing Symphony of the Night’s position in popular culture.Best
Symphony of the Night quite rightly occupies one of the top spots on our Best PS1 games list and is regarded as an absolute masterpiece these days.
It’s undoubtedly the most important and influential game in the Castlevania series – the rightful owner of the top spot on the Best Castlevania Games list.
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.