I know that most of you will probably disagree with me on that list, but hear me out:
I rank the games NOT in a way how I feel they are, but in a way they are from a gameplay, design and technological point of view. That means I don’t rate old games lower because they are limited by technology, I rate them according to how much of their respective technology they use.
Furthermore, I have excluded Lords of Shadow, simply because many fans feel it is not a Castlevania game. I personally disagree and I would rank it amongst my favourite games, but this list is, as said, not about my personal taste. To prove that, I have included a list of my personal Castlevania games below this article.
I also omitted the non traditional games like Judgement, the Arcade whipping game and other obscure titles. And as said, I know you will disagree with me but this list does a good job of explaining how and why, so lets start, from worst to best!
- Order of Shadows (2007 – Mobile Phones)
This cellphone game is by far the worst piece of trash to ever bear the Castlevania name. Everything in this game is bad. How bad? Well, it is the worst Castlevania game, so it is worse than any other game on that list. Including the next two…
- The Adventure (1989 – GameBoy)
The first Castlevania game to be released on the original GameBoy is horrible. Sluggish controls, boring level design, way too slow and unfairly hard. The only redeeming factor, likewith so many other games on this list, is the music, which is qutie good, especially the first stage theme, Battle of the Holy.
- Curse of Darkness (2005 – PlayStation 2)
The second game to be released for the PS2 was just garbage. While the story, music and basic idea behind the gameplay were solid, the rest just sucked. Visually it was a huge step backward from what came before, the levels were poorly designed and empty, the overall gameplay was boring and the overall experience shoddy.
- Legends (1998 – GameBoy)
The third game for the classic GameBoy was obviously an attempt to cash in on the popularity of Alucard. This game should not exist. It is a huge step backward from the brilliant second part. Visually it is a downgrade, the music is so-so, the levels are boring and the new concept with the subweapons was silly and not well thought out.
- Haunted Castle (1988 – Arcade)
There are a few things wrong with this game, but we are finally getting into remotely playable territory here. One thing is, it is unfairly hard. Not challengeing, but just unfair. Of coure, it is an arcade game, designed to rob players blind. But that does not excuse the horrible animations, sound effects and slow pace.
- Harmony of Despair (2010 – X-Box 360, PS3)
This quick money grab is a poor excuse for a multiplayer Castlevania game. I understand the idea and the concept behind it, but the execution is just lacking. A sprite resurrection in it’s finest, hardly playable in single player and frustratingly bland in multiplayer. The music however is cool, since most of it are remixed old tunes. It is also not expensive, so that counts as something.
- Harmony of Dissonance (2002 – GameBoy Advance)
This was the second game for the GameBoy Advance and the first game to bring back IGA, the more or less head of Castlevania for the first decade of the 21st century. And man, was it a step back from previous efforts. The visuals are washed out and lack contrast, the level design was so random and repetitive it hurt, the cncept of the second castle was even worse than in the game stat introduced it and the music was exceptionally horrible.
- Castlevania (1999 – N64)
The first 3D Castlevania was met with mixed to positive feedback, but it was lacking some critical points. Visually it was okay, but the slow pacing, horrible camera and just outright unfair difficulty made it hard to love this game. Lucky for us, Konami decided to make a quick cash in of a sequel. More on that shortly…
- Chronicles (2001 – PlayStation)
A remake of the first game released in Japan in 1993 for an obscure PC system found it’s way to the PlayStation in 2001. And it was not half bad. The new mode was easier but looked and sounded horrible, but the overall concept was solid. Not Super Castlevania 4 solid, but solid.
- Vampire Killer (1986 – MSX)
This game was a version of the original game for the MSX2 system. It was different in a way that while it had much better graphics, the gameplay was more exploration based. There was no scrolling, and levles were self contained mini stages where you had to achieve a goal to move on. Not bad for what it was, but not really good either.
- Dracula X Chronicles (2007 – PlayStation Portable)
This compilation of games was lauded by fans for bringing a previously japan exclusive game to the states. Not only that, it also featured a remake of said game with 3D visuals on a 2D plane and it also included Symphony of the Night. But the one that counts here is the remake. And while it was okay, it was slow, uninspired and featured boring and borderline bad music. The contents of the package are great, the remake not so much.
- Dracula X (1995 – Super Nintendo)
This Super Nintendo game got a LOT of slack for being what it was not: A remake of Rondo of Blood. But nobody cared that it was actually a solid game. Sure, it was shorter than Rondo and had less stuff to do than Rondo but all that aside, it was a solid game. The visuals were great, the music was fantastic and the game was tough well balanced and nice to play. It was just a little slow and the final battle was riddiculously unfair, but other than that it was a good game.
- Circle of the Moon (2001 – GameBoy Advance)
The first GameBoy Advance game was developed by the people who made the two N64 titles. It was a “Metroidvania” and a good one at that. Although it was pretty hard, it was well balanced and good fun. The music was good and the visuals were detailed. it was just a little short, and the gameplay maybe was a little bit too fast for Castlevania but nontheless it was a good.
- Simon’s Quest (1988 – NES)
Oh, I head you scream. But let me explain: This game is actually quite good. Sure, the concept of level grinding was a bad decision but the overall game works. ESPECIALLY the japanese version, that had slightly faster day nigth transistion and actually helpful tipps of the NPC characters. Sure, the european and american versions sucked, but there is a patch out there that re-translates the hints and speeds up the day nigth cycle. Download it and play it again and you will realise there is a solid game underneath the horrible translations. Also, it gave us bloody tears
- Lament of Innocence (2003 – PlayStation 2)
What a fantastic first offering for the PlayStation 2. Sure, the game was more Devil May Cry than Castlevania, but it was a solid game with nice visuals, great music and a cool battle system. The level design however was horrible, featuring the same room over and over again, it was very linear and the story was stupid. But considering what came after this one, this is a good game.
- Bloodlines (1994 – Sega Genesis)
The only Castlevania game for a Sega System (No, the Saturn Version of SotN does not count) was quite good. While the story made little to no sense at all, the level design was top, the visuals were great, the music was inspired and the difficulty was tough but fair. Overall, a good game.
- Castlevania (1986 – NES)
The game that started it all is still one of the strongest ones. Nice atmosphere, tough but fair level design, great music – all those things and much more come with the game that started it all. A true classic indeed, and a fantastic game.
- The Adventure Rebirth (2009 – Wii)
There is only one reason this game is higher on this list than Castlevania for the NES: The fact that this game has adjustable difficulty settings. Other than that, this game is as brilliant as the entry above. Fantastic levels, great remixed music and finally a fair and balanced challenge – Everything that was wrong with the GameBoy version of this game is right here. And all that for a fantastic price!
- Legacy of Darkness (2000 – N64)
Some people may think that I lose credibility here, because they dislike this game. But if you examine this title, you will find a true gem of a game here. Not only did it correct all flaws the original N64 game had, it also stocked up on a lot of things. The camera here works perfect and even can be re-adjusted, the difficulty is much more balanced, visually and musically charming, filled with atmosphere and some pretty cool characters, this game oozes quality. Most people jsut hate it because back then it was released as a full prices sequel on the N64, a machine most people didn’t like, while it was just an updated version of a game wegot a year earlier. But if you look behind the bias, you will find a great game here.
- Order of Ecclesia (2008 – DS)
It says a lot for a system if the worst game in a system specific series is this brilliant. Because this game, while the weakest of the DS games, is fantastic. Visually and acoustically fabulous, it shines in terms of level design and characters. The downside is the level select thing, which makes the entire game feel quite disjointed and the fact that it can be frustratingly difficult at some times. However, the main protagonist is awesome!
- Belmont’s Revenge (1991 – GameBoy)
After the atrocity that was the original GameBoy game, this game is the redemption. Absolutely everything this game does is a win. The graphics, the music, the levels, everything is top notch. The only downside is that, like all Classicvanias, this game is rather short. But the time while you are playing it is fantastic, and you will not be disapointed with this!
- Dawn of Sorrow (2005 – DS)
High on the heels of Aria of Sorrow, this DS sequel pushes all the right buttons. It is basically the same game than its predecessor, but it ups the ante, the visuals and the music in all regards. However, the story is campy, the characters silly and it features magic seals, which hurt the game. They are gimmicky and unneccesary and there is a reason they never appeared again.
- Rondo of Blood (1993 – TurboDuo)
While technically and from a balance point of view inferior to the SNES adaptation, this game is still the better one. Simply because it features MUCH more content, two playable characters branching paths, a deeper story, cutscenes, voice acting and a fantastic replay value. This game shines.
- Super Castlevania 4 (1991 – Super NES)
The first SNES game of the series is fantastic. More of a remake to the original game than a full fledged sequel, this game has it all: Brilliant level design, fantastic music, moody and atmospheric visuals, a nice learning curve and challengeing bosses. The only reason it is not higher on the list is the fact that you only have ONE character and ONE linera path.
- Dracula’s Curse (1990 – NES)
Argueably the best of the NES games, it is also one of the best Classicvania titles out there. It features multiple branching paths, some even optional, four characters with different story development and endings, well balanced atmospherical levels, a brilliant soundtrack and challengeing and inspired leveldesign. No wonder most fans consider this to be the best of the Classicvania titles. It is indeed a masterpiece.
- Aria of Sorrow (2003 – GameBoy Advance)
The main difference between this game and it’s DS sequel is, that this game does not feature magic seals. The rest of the changes are just cosmetic. But i ranked it higher for anotehr reason: It was a return to form of the Metroidvania games, it was new with its futuristic setting while keeping true to the core of the game, it was long, had a nice cast and wasn’t as corny as some other entries. Also, the new souls tealing mechanic was brilliant.
- Symphony of the Night (1997 – PlayStation)
Here, I will probably lose a lot of credibility with fans, because this game is what most people consider to be perfect. Funny enough, it is a brilliant game but it has its fair share of flaws. it is way too easy and much too short, a fact the developers knew. So they threw in that inverted castle to artificially prolong the game. The result is a mess. The game is unbalanced, quite slow and has some really bad dialogue and writing. Visually and musically it is outstanding but the boring finale and the hilariously bad writing, paired with unbalanced gameplay and so-so RPG elements bring it down. Sorry, but that is the truth.
- Portrait of Ruin (2006 – DS)
And this is where all the credibility I have left is gone. Are you still reading this, or are you already typing a negative comment and tell me how wrong I am. This game jsut has it all. It is the definition of Castlevania. Not only had it perfected the Metroidvania gameplay, it also featured Classicvania AND elements from the MSX game. Absolutely everything in that game shines. Visuals, music, gameplay, everything in this game is fantastic. No gimmicks, tough challenge, it is fairly balanced, no riddiculous inverted castle or other artificially prolonging elements while still being fairly long, multiple endings and brilliant stage design. Even the corny characters and story are not too shabby in this one. Accept it, this game outdoes all others, even if it’s just by a little…
And that’s that. In case you are still here and not pre-occupied with writing me some hatemail, have a look at MY PERSONAL Top 10 Castlevania games:
- Legacy of Darkness
- Lords of Shadow
- Portrait of Ruin
- Super Castlevania 4
- Symphony of the Night
- Belmont’s Revenge
- Simon’s Quest
- Lament of Innocence
- Dawn of Sorrow
- Circle of the Moon