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10 Best Castlevania Games Ranked

In this list, we’re going to take a look at the 10 best Castlevania games ranked from worst to best. What image comes to mind when you think of a vampire? Do you imagine a demonic creature with horns and bat-like wings, blood dripping from its claws and fangs? The more elegant, archetypal villain popularized by Bram Stoker and other novelists? Perhaps even the sparkly, perpetually-youthful vampires of the Twilight saga?

For me, the ultimate representation of a vampire has always been Count Dracula as he appears in the Castlevania games. Handsome and hungry, he terrorizes the peasantry with monsters born of his unfathomable rage and sorrow. His castle seems impenetrable, his reputation as foreboding as the stone walls that surround him. He’s the stuff of bad dreams, but the heroes of Castlevania are forever determined to put an end to the nightmares he inspires.

If you’re looking to immerse yourself in the world of vampires (and vampire hunting), Castlevania is undoubtedly the best place to turn. With 30 main series games, a handful of spin-offs, and a popular animated series on Netflix, you have plenty of options. A few titles stand out against the rest of the series, though, being praised as the best Castlevania games in the franchise’s 34-year history. In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the 10 best Castlevania games, ranking them from worst to best.

Castlevania Games Ranked From Worst to Best

If you’re looking for a good starting point for the series, or if you’re just wondering how your favorite game compares to other titles, read on!

10. Castlevania

Castlevania 1
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: September 26, 1986
  • Platform(s): NES, GBA

Starting our list is the original Castlevania, which became an instant NES hit due to its challenging gameplay and striking audiovisuals. The plot is relatively simple, featuring a basic campaign in which Simon Belmont enters Castlevania on his quest to defeat Count Dracula. The game’s release lined up with the 90th anniversary of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, seemingly a stroke of fate for fans of the horror genre.

Castlevania games ranked

Castlevania is a 2D action-platformer that combines jumping, crouching, and climbing with challenging combat. Players use Simon’s abilities and weapons in line with a range of other items to move through the game’s 18 onerous levels in pursuit of the ultimate villain. After players have finished the game, they can restart the campaign at a higher difficulty.

Castlevania was widely praised by both critics and fans, receiving positive reception even in subsequent re-releases for new consoles. It definitely stands out enough to make it into our top ten, which only goes to show how amazing the rest of the titles are.

9. Bloodlines

Bloodlines
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: December 1993
  • Platform(s): Sega Genesis

Bloodlines is one of the few games in the series that doesn’t focus on a named member of the Belmont clan. As the name suggests, Bloodlines follows the descendants of the series’ iconic characters and explores themes of family, destiny, and revival. Players take on the roles of John Morris, a distant relative of the Belmont family, and Eric Lecarde, who lost his girlfriend when Count Dracula’s niece came back to life. Faced with an ever-increasing army of vampires, the two must prevent the resurrection of Dracula himself and the renewed subjugation of Europe.

The gameplay is relatively similar to earlier Castlevania games, still relying on platforming mechanics to get through the levels. One notable feature is that the levels can be slightly different depending on which character players choose — John and Eric have different swinging/jumping abilities, meaning that different paths must be taken to overcome their respective obstacles. Bloodlines also makes abundant use of special effects, with certain environmental features incorporated into the game’s mechanics.

8. Portrait of Ruin

Portrait of Ruin
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: December 5, 2006
  • Platform(s): Nintendo DS

Portrait of Ruin continues the story of Bloodlines, following protagonists Jonathan (John Morris’s son) and Charlotte (a distant descendant of the Belnades family) as they venture into Castlevania to defeat its new vampire lord. The villain Brauner has the ability to create magical paintings that contain pocket dimensions, which he uses to manipulate the castle and siphon power from its residents. Jonathan and Charlotte must work together to uncover the castle’s secrets and unlock the true power of the Vampire Killer whip, using both to defeat their adversaries once and for all.

The game builds on the two-character gameplay introduced in its predecessor, Dawn of Sorrow, allowing players to swap freely between Jonathan and Charlotte as they progress through levels. Each character offers their unique strengths and weaknesses, but can work together for certain special moves needed to overcome enemies and obstacles. The two characters also allow for cooperative multiplayer, in which two players can work together on unlockable stages in “Boss Rush” mode.

7. Dawn of Sorrow

Dawn of Sorrow
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: October 4, 2005
  • Platform(s): Nintendo DS, Mobile

Dawn of Sorrow is a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow, taking place a year after the previous game’s events. Soma Cruz believes that he’s lost his powers after returning from the Chaotic Realm, and decides to hang up the mantle. Things are peaceful until he’s attacked by a woman named Celia and subsequently absorbs her monsters’ souls. Realizing that his powers have merely been lying dormant — and that Celia wishes to see the dark lord reincarnated — he pursues her to put an end to her machinations.

The game expands on Aria of Sorrow’s Tactical Soul system, which grants players additional abilities based on the monster souls they’ve absorbed. The abilities change depending on the type and number of souls they currently possess. New to Dawn of Sorrow is the Magic Seal system, which players can use to defeat boss monsters more easily by blocking their health regeneration. The game also introduces a multi-character option in its unlockable Julius Mode. It allows players to play through an alternate version of the campaign as Julius Belmont, Yoko Belnades, and Alucard.

6. Order of Ecclesia

Order of Ecclesia
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: October 21, 2008
  • Platform(s): Nintendo DS

Order of Ecclesia is the last Castlevania game for the Nintendo DS, and is set after Symphony of the Night. In the void created by the Belmont clan’s disappearance, several vampire-hunting organizations have arisen to combat Dracula’s eventual return. One such organization is the Order of Ecclesia, who has created three Dominus glyphs that a chosen vessel can use to defeat Dracula. Protagonist Shanoa is set to begin the ritual that would make her the Dominus vessel when her former mentor steals the glyphs. With the fate of the world in the balance, she leaves to seek him out and keep the glyphs falling into the wrong hands.

Although the majority of gameplay is similar to that of other Castlevania titles, Order of Ecclesia includes a Glyph system similar to the Tactical Soul systems in Aria and Dawn of Sorrow. Throughout the levels, players collect Glyph symbols that can be equipped to Shanoa’s arms and back, giving her unique abilities that can be used to defeat enemies and solve puzzles.

5. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse

Draculas Curse
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: September 1, 1990
  • Platform(s): NES

If you’re a fan of the animated Castlevania series, you’re already familiar with the plot of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse. As Count Dracula terrorizes Europe with his army of monsters, the Church of Wallachia must appeal to the once-exiled Belmont family to end his horrific campaign. Trevor Belmont, who now wields the Vampire Killer whip, is accompanied by Sypha Belnades (a powerful elemental sorceress), Grant Danasty (an agile pirate), and Alucard (Dracula’s dhampir son). Together, they embark on a quest to defeat Dracula and return peace to the country that turned its back on his family so long ago.

Draculas Curse Gameplay - best Castlevania games

Following the disappointing release of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, the game returns to its roots by dropping the RPG mechanics of its immediate predecessor and incorporating the action-platformer gameplay of the first game. The campaign is non-linear, leaving players to determine their own path through the game’s sixteen stages. Trevor is the primary player character throughout the campaign, but can team up with one of his three companions — the game’s final cutscene changes slightly depending on which companion is with him at the end of the game.

The game’s return to form was highly welcomed by fans and critics, with many players citing it as one of their favorite Castlevania games to date. With how influential the story has been on the franchise as a whole, Dracula’s Curse easily earned its place in our top five.

4. Rondo of Blood/Dracula X

Dracula X 1
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: October 23, 2007
  • Platform(s): PSP

Rondo of Blood is the tenth installment of the Castlevania series, and follows Richter Belmont in his efforts to save his beloved Annette from Dracula’s servant, Shaft. Along the way, he has the opportunity to save several other women kidnapped for Dracula’s feeding. The plot is relatively straightforward but has received a few remakes for the SNES and PSP with modified graphics, added levels, and a few alternate gameplay elements.

Dracula X

The gameplay is similar to that of previous Castlevania titles, though it does incorporate a few mechanics from later titles. The game returns to a more linear campaign and features a second playable character with abilities unique from Richter’s. It also offers untimed exploration and alternate endings to certain levels.

3. Aria of Sorrow

Aria of Sorrow
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: May 6, 2003
  • Platform(s): GBA, Mobile

Aria of Sorrow is the predecessor to Dawn of Sorrow and marks the first time we see Soma Cruz as a protagonist. The story is set in 2035 and follows Soma as he crosses a portal into Dracula’s castle. While in this other realm, he discovers that he has a mysterious ability to absorb the souls of monsters, and that this ability may be connected to Dracula’s death over thirty years ago.

Aria of Sorrow introduces the Tactical Soul system, allowing players to take advantage of Soma’s soul-absorbing abilities. Players can possess four different types of souls, each offering additional moves on top of Soma’s primary skills. Some soul types are more powerful than others, allowing for varied gameplay depending on players’ skill. The game also features a New Game+ option called Julius Mode, which lets players play through the campaign a second time as Julius Belmont.

2. Super Castlevania IV

Super Castlevania IV
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: December 4, 1991
  • Platform(s): SNES

For our number two spot, we’re returning to retro consoles with Super Castlevania IV, widely considered to be one of the best video games of all time. The story once again follows Simon Belmont on his quest to defeat Count Dracula, albeit with a cleaner look and a few more streamlined gameplay mechanics.

In Super Castlevania IV, Simon has directional control over his whip. He can attack in eight directions and swing the whip above his head, making it easier to hit enemies, block projectiles, and progress through more complex and challenging levels. In addition to regular item upgrades, players can also obtain whip upgrades needed to pass certain environmental obstacles.

1. Symphony of the Night

Symphony of the Night
  • Developer: Konami
  • Release Date: March 20, 1997
  • Platform(s): PlayStation, Xbox 360, PSP, PS4, Mobile

This brings us to our number one spot and my own personal favorite Castlevania game. Many of you won’t be surprised to see Symphony of the Night receiving top billing, as many fans consider it to be the best game in the series. The game is praised for its compelling story, charming audiovisuals, non-linear gameplay, and successful incorporation of light RPG elements (something that wasn’t so successful in earlier titles). 

Symphony of the Night 1

Symphony of the Night is the immediate successor to Rondo of Blood, starting during one of the previous game’s endings. Richter Belmont has gone missing, and Dracula’s castle has reappeared in his absence. When Alucard comes to destroy the castle, he meets up with Richter’s old companion, Maria Renard. Together, the two seek out Richter and attempt to bring down the castle that may be holding him prisoner.

The non-linear/sequential gameplay of Symphony of the Night allows players to explore the world at their own pace while keeping certain areas locked until specific abilities are obtained. This approach would go on to become a staple of the Metroidvania genre, making Symphony of the Night iconic and well-deserving of our top spot.

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Related Reading

Thanks for checking out our list of the 10 best Castlevania games ranked! With the series being so expansive, I don’t doubt that many fans will have differing opinions on these rankings. If you have any thoughts about our list or would like to share your enthusiasm for any of the titles we’ve mentioned here, please leave us a comment!

Happy gaming!

 

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