Castlevania – From worst to best

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:

  1. Legacy of Darkness
  2. Lords of Shadow
  3. Portrait of Ruin
  4. Super Castlevania 4
  5. Symphony of the Night
  6. Belmont’s Revenge
  7. Simon’s Quest
  8. Lament of Innocence
  9. Dawn of Sorrow
  10. Circle of the Moon
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28 Responses to Castlevania – From worst to best

  1. Kristopher says:

    I don’t understand the difference between the list you started the post with, and the “personal” list you ended the post with. Aren’t both a personal opinion of best/worst games?

    I’m always looking forward to a gaming list, but I feel like a lot of personal bias shadowed what was introduced as a unbiased list. For instance, your first entry of Order of Shadows explains its flaws by saying, “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.” You justified saying this game was bad by…saying it was bad.

    There are a lot of opportunities in here to have a nice, put-together list full of legitimate criticisms and praises, and you clearly know the games. Currently, there are spelling errors, empty arguments, and an over-shadowing opinion that confuses (in addition to accusing the reader of disowning your credibility).

    I really do see promise in your ideas, and I think, with some polish, these articles could be even more enjoyable.

    • ezekielrage says:

      AS i have stated, this list is NOT a personal list. It is a list based on gameplay aspects, use of the technology of that time, artistic merits and overall game experience. It has nothing to do with what i personally like or dislike, but as a semi professional game designer, I feel qualyfied to rank those games accordingly, unbiased and on the merits of the game alone, without personal taste.

      that being said, i apologize for the spelling errors as english is NOT my first language (that would be german).

    • Nissad says:

      Ezekialrage, I would like to begin by stating that I enjoyed reading this article as it is always constructive to take in opinions that are outside the norm. That being said, please understand that that both your personal list, and main article are opinions. Its one thing to say that “It is a list based on gameplay aspects, use of the technology of that time, artistic merits and overall game experience.” but at the end of the day only have that statement is non-opinionated. “artistic merits and overall game experience” are judged through an individuals experience and feelings towards given aspects of game. Ergo: opinions. In addition, although I LOVED that SotN wasn’t at the top of this list, it killed me that you ended by stating,”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.” Not only did you unfairly gloss over translation error unlike your descriptions of other games on this list, everything in this statement is an opinion. “BORING gameplay, HILARIOUS writing, and SO-SO RPG elements” are all opinions. “unbalanced gameplay” is less subjective because there are well defined ways of criticizing such things within the gaming community.

      But as I said, I really enjoyed this article. I just felt the need (primarily because of your response to a similar comment) to point out that any ranking of this nature, purpose, and execution will be by nature an opinion. But, that is way people like me seek them out. The reason lists like these bring in so much traffic is because gamers’ like to seek out other opinions of people they trust to have different expertise and understandings of things they enjoy. In conclusion, thank you for braving a well established hierarchy of games, thank you for breaking the norm, and thank you for separating your personal tastes.

      Just understand that these things always contain some opinions (if not many), and that’s why we read them.

  2. owen says:

    The castlevania games have always been rediculously hard but I loved the music in Dracula’s Curse.

  3. Fashion Mage says:

    “2. Lords of Shadow”
    >_>

  4. Firebrand says:

    Ever played Kid Dracula? It’s a Castlevania parody/spinoff game that I feel should’ve been included; in the event that you have played it, where would you rank it?

  5. Adol says:

    Really good ranking, and believe me or not, but I also did every Castlevania game and I do think that your ranking is quiet accurate. I really think that Portrait of Ruin is the best Castlevania ever made too. This game has everything that a Castlevania should have: awesome gameplay, perfectly balanced difficulty, good characters, surprisingly good plot, incredible soundtrack, full of fan service for veterans (Eric L, the final fight, the bonus zone, the duel against the “last Belmont”, many remix), many hours of gameplay, a ton of skills or bonus quest and mode to do, it’s almost perfect. The only flaw is maybe that the last stages are sort of recolored previous one, but it’s still wonderful.

    The yes, your ranking is pretty accurate. Maybe I’ll just put Dracula’s Curse in front of Aria of Sorrow, and Rondo of Blood in front of Castlevania IV, with also an higher rank for Simon Quest but that’s pretty much it. Good job 😉

  6. Austin says:

    Personally, I think Super Castlevania 4 was the best. The control was perfect, it had amazing scenery and gameplay, and much attention was given to detail. And it is a classic, “Non-metroidvania and non-3D. Classic, linear, and to beat it, you have to have skill. In games like Symphony of the night, there are always easier ways around obstacles, like turning into a bat/mist and fly around the enemies, level up, etc. But Super Castlevania 4 was just all in the concept of the player vs the game, and that to me, is what Castlevania is all about.

  7. John says:

    Lords of Shadow is your personal favorite? You are one sick fuck.

  8. YYYo says:

    I’m surprised you talked about the reversed castle in Sotn, but not about the 4 final zones in PoR that recycled many structures from various levels.
    Though, PoR was easier than Sotn, the levels were pretty linear and the enemy placement horrible. There was no need to do secondary duties. Was pretty much a rush-game.
    Honestly, i think is one of the weakest of the metroidvanias.
    However, you didn’t take in mind much aspects of the other games. Silly.
    So, i can’t consider it a good list.

    • Werten32 says:

      \which one one of the weakest? ah NVM just stop complaining cause you have an opinion different from anthers opinion. And WTF do you mean he didn’t take aspects of the other games?

  9. Soldano says:

    I dont think this list is stupid, in fact it makes some pretty interesting points. Legacy and Darkness and Lament of Innocence were good games i had fun playing them but they felt unfinished, unpolished.

    I was not impressed by portrait of ruin though. For me it was goid but nothing out of tje ordinary. I thought circle of the moon was much better and is the most under-rated of all.

  10. daniel says:

    this is my list 1 simons quest 2 castlevania 64 3 mirror of fate 4 castlevania (nes) 5 circle of the moon x 6 castlevania 3 7super castlevania 4 8 dracula x 9 sega genesis castlevania 10 symphony of the nigth. i like playing with a belmont, a whip, a cross some axes or dagger, an-on-fire-whip some belnades´ ice alucard fireballs and never ever swords, thats why sotn 10 and dodnt even care for lod, which i would acrually like to try given the reviews. also looking forward for loshadow because of graphics, probably ps2 games too but i loved so much castlevania 64 id rather play it again and again without memory card, yes im good at climbing, jumping and carrying nitros without dieing.

  11. daniel says:

    castlevania 64 graphics are more beautifull than majoras mask, without using expanssion pack, and its dinamics. by the way, the camera is dracula following you didnt you noticed it, its just about getting on the trip. level 1 is just like a 3d simons quest. level 2 is like climbing to frankenstain on ctlvnia3 level 3, the manssion, come on like castlevania nes on 3d, vampires are you kidding me, its amazing, wait theres a crazy ftankenstain out there, not to mention the 3 headed dogs, and one on fire, wait i forgot the dragon skeleton just before on level 2, a tunnel just like frankenstain course on cstlvania nes, wait a 3d metroidvania on level 5 looking for explosives and stuff…… are you still dont getting it, ok red skellwtons and swinging axes, couldnt miss right, and then a clock hall room, awesome, probably inspiration for every other castlevania enviroment there after. have you even throun axes, the best axe ever, not to mention daggers or e even the cross. grim reaper with wings, 3d blades and a hell fish, i need no more, wait, clock tower is fun and dracula, classic, just to find out hes not it, neither malus, crazy dragon artropod on the desert with blazzing lazer shots and blasts is, had to eat all the chiken and beef and special. whip on 3d, redder and longer wvery time, a short sword for short distance, its an artwork, ambient 10 camera 10 its dracula following music 10 action 10 etc. thats whi its name is plain castlevania, those sotn lovers, sorry i like nintendo better than sony, hate to wait wile loading.

  12. Mike says:

    I thought this was a completely legit list until I saw Legacy of Darkness was your #1 personal favorite. If that’s a joke, that’s a pretty sick joke.

    Okay, I understand everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. That’s great that you really liked Legacy of Darkness. Personally I despise that game Somehow it managed to be even worse than CV64. Somehow. It is honestly my least favorite game in the series. Absolutely atrocious IMO. But hey I’m glad you liked it.

    I absolutely LOVED Order of Ecclesia. Easily in my top 3. Lords of Shadow was amazing, and Mirror of Fate might just be my absolute favorite (I haven’t finished it yet though. I just got it because I’ve been avoiding for the last year because of so many bad reviews, only to find out it’s actually amazing.) Also, Harmony of Dissonance, despite sub-par music, is fantastic. Portrait of Ruin was also good but if there was more of it, I would’ve liked it much more.

    Good lists overall.

    • Ezekiel Rage says:

      That’s why I made two lists, one delving into game design and design choices from a non personal point of view and one just listing my personal favorites. Also I like the Lords of Shadow games but I wanted to stick with the classic releases for this one^^

  13. Jason Baker says:

    Even with the horrible “magic seals” Dawn of Sorrow is the best CV on DS. PoR is shit, and I won’t even mention the 3 one.

  14. acmhawaii says:

    Interesting list. I enjoyed reading it and the parts we disagree gave me something to ponder. There’s a lot of typos though. Could you fix them? Shouldn’t take too long. Any browser you edit in should have spellcheck included.

  15. Doumah says:

    Really loved reading your list, and I really liked the fact that your review of the games takes into consideration the time that each title came out. Furthermore it is always nice to come across fellow Legacy of Darkness/CV64 fans. I too consider LoD to be my most enjoyable CV experience, as well as one of the most atmospheric games of the series.

    Having said that, I have to admit that I really, honestly don’t get your love for Portrait of Ruin. Seriously now, when you criticized SotN saying: “So they threw in that inverted castle to artificially prolong the game” did you actually totally forgot about PoR’s last 4 areas? I personally felt massively disappointed when I saw the same sprites, textures, enemies etc to be shamelessly repeated. Honestly it is beyond me why you don’t also consider the 4 final areas of PoR to be an “artificial prolonging”. Criticizing (the indeed overrated) SotN but turning the blind eye to PoR’s equally insulting cheap means of stretching gameplay time, shows me that you are having double standards, and this is the only point which (for me) harms your credibility.

    Apart from that, as I already said, I thoroughly enjoyed your list and I am always glad to read from people whose thoughts and opinions are outside the “norm”.

    • Ezekiel Rage says:

      I don’t have a problem with the idea of the inverted castle or repeated stages per se. I actually like that idea. The problem is that in SOTN it was just poorly made. In SOTN they flipped the map and added a bunch of enemies with three tracks of music. In PoR they redided parts of the level layouts, carefully crafted new ways through the old stages, new music and different setups for each repeated stage. Much more work went into those four repeated stages than the inverted castle.

      If they would have gone and flipped the layout of the map instead of the entire map, it would have been better. Why are candles upside down? Why are the floor and the sky upside down when the cutscene and the game CLEARLY show that the inverted castle is inverted in the real world? Most rooms clearly were not designed with the inverted layout in mind, resulting in some terrible gameplay elements. Those are some problems the game suffers from and part of the reason why I think the inverted castle is bad while the repeats in PoR are okay.

  16. Balashi says:

    POR is my favorite as well! Hands down favorite!

  17. Sean says:

    Any Castlevania list without SOTN as number 1 is just wrong. I understand that it may not be your favorite game, but the game is absolutely brilliant. I don’t understand how you can critique it on the inverted castle. That is such a pivotal part of the game that many people cite as one of the greatest video game revelations of all time. Just consider how difficult it must’ve been to plan an entire video game environment (a quite large environment at that) that will be playable upside down while maintaining the beautiful level designs that Castlevania has been known for. It also changed the landscape of the series with the addition of RPG elements. Other than the cheesy dialogue, which some find actually very fitting with the nostalgia of the series, the game is flawless.

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