Halloween is right around the corner, and if you’re like me that of course that means dressing up, going to parties, and buying bags of Halloween candy from the local grocery store at a discounted price the day after. But another part of the Halloween tradition is that I make it a point to play what I consider scary games; not necessarily horror games per se, but games that tend to be a bit a creepy, weird or off putting, such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess or Resident Evil 4. But of all the games I play, one series is so terrifying, so gruesome, that just merely thinking about it makes me uncomfortable. No not Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m talking about a series EVEN more terrifying than that; Castlevania. Oooooooohhhh *flicks lights on and off*
Okay in all seriousness, the Castlevania series is about as terrifying as a box of Count Chocula, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that series is super rad and awesome; kind of like Count Chocula. Since its release on the Famicom in September 1986 (releasing a year later in May of 1987), the Castlevania series has spawned numerous games across numerous systems, merchandise, live concerts, and adoration of fans the world. I’m one of those people; though I had heard of the series before, I didn’t get into until the Game Boy Advance games came out, my first being Aria of Sorrow, after which I made it a point to play the older games as well, and before I knew it became one of my favorite franchises of all time. Everything about the series from the controls to the gameplay, to the gothic art style and the stellar soundtracks (oh lordy are the soundtracks phenomenal), everything about Castlevania is done so beautifully, and while most people associate Konami with Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill, Castlevania is the reason why Konami became part of my prevue.
These days however, it seems like Konami has thrown the baby out with the bath water, as many of Konami’s former talent has left the company to greener pastures, or is on its way out, leaving the future of many of their franchises up in the air with little to no hope of getting sequels anytime soon, unless you count pachinko machines that promise “sexual violence” as sequels (spoiler: I don’t). Still, there are a ton of games that have emulated or paid homage to the Castlevania series in one way or another, so while it is a bummer that Konami seems to want to spend more time playing in their spinning chairs and less time making, you know, games, I can take solace in the fact that games like Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night exist. So, with the spirit of that game in mind, I’m counting down the ten best Castlevania games of all time. The only rule for this list is that they have to be main games in the series (sorry Kid Dracula) and that of course this is my opinion and mine alone. With that established, let’s crack our whips and eat some wall meat.
10. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (Game Boy Advance)
Today, on Extreme Makeover Home Edition...
The GBA Castlevanias are easily some of the best games on the Game Boy Advance and easily some of the best games in the series overall. But as awesome as this sort of trilogy of games were, it’s safe to say that Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is the weakest of the three; The Temple of Doom to Circle of The Moon and Aria of Sorrow’s Raiders of The Lost Ark and The Last Crusade respectively if you will (yes there were only three Indiana Jones movies, I have no idea what you’re talking about). However, much like Temple of Doom, Harmony of Dissonance is still good in its own right, just don’t expect it to change your world.
The first thing you’ll notice about Harmony of Dissonance is the brightness of everything, an intentional decision by the dev team to counteract the lack of a proper backlight on the original Game Boy Advance (the SP would fix that). While it may seem weird that a series that’s known for its gothic theming is incredibly bright, there’s no denying the fact that the bright colors really help the game stand out, the bright and vibrant colors being a nice contrast to the usually dark and eerie castle. Gameplay-wise, outside of a forward and backward dash and a decoration minigame that I barely took part in, Harmony of Dissonance is exactly what you expect from a Castlevania game post Symphony of The Night (though if it ain’t broke, why fix it), and while the music isn’t something I’ll add to my music player anytime soon, it gets the job done by setting the mode perfectly.
Like I said, at the end of the day, Harmony of Dissonance doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but rather polish it to a pristine shine, and that alone is enough to put it on the list; I’d just personal recommend you play some of the other games before this one.
9. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS)
It's just like one of my Japanese animes!
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow was the second game I ever got for my DS (the first being Nintendogs, but don’t tell anyone I said that), and boy did I make a good choice. A direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow not only took the excellent Tactical Soul system (kill enemies and get there soul, each with a unique ability) of that game and refined it, but also showed off what the DS was capable of. Oh yeah, and it was also a really good game to boot.
The biggest changes Dawn of Sorrow brought to the aforementioned Tactical Soul system was that now you could stack souls of the same enemy to make a soul more powerful (for example, the more Skeleton souls you had, the bigger the bone they would throw), as well as use these souls to upgrade your weapons, with the more powerful weapons needing more rare souls, thus making soul collecting a bit more important. Not only that, but early in the game you get a Doppelganger soul, which lets you switch between two pre-made loadouts for protagonist Soma Cruz (a weapon, armor, accessory, and three souls), meaning that you no longer had to pause the game and switch between the handful of items and abilities that you wanted to use; just assign them to either version A or B, and hit the ‘X’ button to switch between them. Speaking of menus, perhaps the best thing that Dawn of Sorrow brought to the table was that the top screen of the DS was used to check out basic stats and to use a map; yes that’s right. You no longer had to pause the game to check out a map or see what your current level was because it was there on the top screen; I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal and everyone made fun of the DS for it when it first came out, but this went a long way of helping to immerse me in the game’s world, something that few games can say. Combine that with a kick ass soundtrack, which is easily one of my personal favorites in the series, and some nice graphics and art style (shut up, the anime art style is fine you guys), and you’ve got a stellar game.
So why isn’t Dawn of Sorrow higher up on the list you may ask? Well, as much as I love the use of the top screen, the fact that the bottom screen is used to break certain blocks and draw symbols to seal away bosses after you kill them (failing to do so restores some of their health) come off as forced and gimmicky. Thankful, despite them being annoying and breaking the flow these forced touch screen moments don’t take away what’s a really excellent game. I just wish Konami had continued the Tactical Soul system in another game after this (yes I know about Order of Ecclesia, I’ll get to that game later).
8. Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)
"Daddy, what did YOU do during the Great War?"
"Sweetie, you have no idea."
Even by today’s standards, Castlevania: Bloodlines is one of the more unique games in the series. It was the first (and only) Castlevania game to grace the Sega Genesis, one of the earliest games in the series to have a ton of gore and violence (despite being rated GA, which is the equivalent of the ESRB’s E rating), and unlike other games at the time, Bloodlines took place in a slightly modern setting, specifically Europe during World War I. Hell, one of the two playable characters, John Morris, is the son of Quincy Morris, one of the heroes in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, making this the first game in the series to officially acknowledge that the book takes place in the official Castlevania timeline. All of this is enough to set it apart on its own, but the fact that it’s also one of the best “old school” Castlevania games elevates it to something much more.
Unlike previous Castlevania games, Bloodlines doesn’t limit itself to just a castle this time, as you explore all of Europe, including Atlantis and German Munition Plant (complete with German Soldier Skeletons), as you must stop Dracula’s niece Elizabeth Bartleby from bringing her uncle back from the dead. You choose between John Morris and Eric Lecarde, and the difference between them is night and day: Morris plays like a traditional Belmont using the Vampire Killer (which fun fact this is the first game to give the whip that name), while Eric Lecarde uses a spear to pole vault and jump higher. The difference between these two characters combined with the different stages brings something that feels fresh yet familiar at the same time. And while the Genesis sound chip has nothing on the Super Nintendo’s, Bloodlines is one of those games that takes advantage of the Genesis’s sound chip, with many tracks that appeared in this game going on to be considered some of the best in the series (my personal favorite is Iron Blue Intentions). Of course, when the soundtrack is done by legendary Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane, you’re of course going to get something magical in the sound department; by the way, this was the first Castlevania game she worked on, and would go on to be composer for other games in the series such as Symphony of the Night.
Castlevania: Bloodlines is a pretty short game with only six stages, so if you know what you’re doing, you can probably beat the game in an afternoon. But while it may be a short game, the few hours that you’ll be playing it will some of the most challenging and fun you could possibly have. So take solace Genesis fans, the 16 bit console war is over, but your system had one of the best Castlevania games of all time on it.
7. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (TurboGraphix 16)
Kids, don't whip and drive.
Let’s get this out of the way right now: the Super Nintendo version of Rondo of Blood (called Dracula X) while a decent game, pales in comparison to the vastly superior TurboGraphix 16 game. It might have a pretty good soundtrack, but considering how good the SNES was, even the most mediocre game can have pretty good music. Play it if you have the chance, but don’t go out of your way to play it. Right, now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about how awesome Rondo of Blood is.
Much like Bloodlines, Rondo of Blood is the only Castlevania game to ever release on the TurboGraphix 16 (or PC Engine as it was called in Japan), but unlike Bloodlines, it never initially released outside of Japan. Which is honestly a shame, because this game did more to push the series forward more than any other game before it; in fact I’d argue that it’s because of Rondo of Blood that Koji Igarashi and his team were able to makes Symphony of the Night. Just about everything that Symphony of the Night is praised for (an emphasis on exploration, a deeper story) is present in Rondo of Blood, only a bit linear. You still have levels to complete and bosses to fight at the end, but the game encourages you to explore those stages, as there are hidden passages which lead to hidden levels and secret areas, and if you want to get the best ending of the game, you’re going to have to explore every nook and cranny. This may not be the first game to have a story about a Belmont storming Dracula’s castle to kill the count, but it is one of the first times that said Belmont actually has skin in the game, as Richter Belmont must save his girlfriend and a few local maidens who The Count has kidnapped, including a young girl that can summon a dragon named Maria (who’s actually playable once you save her). Okay fine, it’s basically the plot of every main line Mario game, but whatever it works.
Rondo of Blood is without a doubt one of the most important games in the Castlevania series. It helped lay the groundwork for the game that really changed the series (Symphony of the Night), but it’s also a good game in its own right, as it used the TurboGraphix 16 to its full potential, making the sprites more detailed, the music even more awesome, and having cutscenes to properly tell the story (though in retrospect, the anime cutscenes feel out of place). It may not be my personal favorite, but it definitely shaped the series for years to come. Oh and before you ask: I am aware of the PSP remake, and while I don’t consider it the superior version of the game, it’s still a nice little remake that is definitely worth checking out if you want to slay Dracula on the go and don’t have a Nintendo handheld. It’s also unfortunately the only way you can play it outside of buying a PC Engine yourself or emulating it, as this game never got an international release; it was on the Wii Virtual Console, but since TurboGraphix games aren’t on the Wii U Virtual Console, you’re out of luck.
6. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation 1)
It's just like one of my Japan-oh wait I used that joke already. Damnit.
Hoo boy, I can already tell some of you reading this aren’t going to be happy. But put down your holy water and your whips for a second and hear me out for a bit. I think Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a great game (if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be on this list), and without it most of the games on this list wouldn’t have happened. It did for action adventure games what Super Mario 64 did for the 3D platformer or Resident Evil 4 did for horror games: rewrote the rule book and redefined the genre for years to come, with many games that imitated it, but rarely exceeded the high standard it set. I get all of that, but unfortunately I played Symphony of the Night rather late in life (specifically when it was released on the 360 and PS3), by that time I had already played many of the later games that it inspired and ultimately did better what Symphony started.
The plus side of me playing Symphony of the Night at a much older age however is that I can appreciate a lot of what the game did. For example, this is the first game that did some serious world building, such as explaining why the castle always changes and goes a bit into Dracula and Alucard’s relationship as father and son. While it’s not the first game to have a big area to explore and leveling up (Simon’s Quest did that first), Symphony is the game that got it to work, helped immensely by the fact that the team took a page out of Super Metroid’s playbook and give the player special abilities such as a double jump and the ability to transform into a bat. While you were technically following a linear path, as certain areas couldn’t be accessed without certain abilities or items, it didn’t feel linear. Rather it felt more open than in previous Castlevania games, striking a perfect balance between exploration while at the same time making sure the player didn’t feel lost or unsure of what to do to next; in other words, it steered you in the direction you had to go without ACTUALLY telling you where you needed to go, something that even to this day few games can say they successfully pulled off.
All of this amazing, and even if it didn’t influence later games in the series in the way it did, Symphony of the Night would still be on this list because of how well crafted a game it is. Unfortunately, I also feel that a lot of those later games did what Symphony attempted much better, as some of the mechanics in Symphony, like the magic spells and some of the special abilities just either don’t work or feel out of place, made better by later games. If I had played this when I was younger, Symphony of the Night would probably be much higher, if not number one. But as it stands, I like it, I think it did a lot for the series, but in my eyes it is far from the best game in the series.
5. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS)
CHARLOTTE! JONATHAN! CHARLOTTE! JONATHAN!
.....You'll be hearing that a lot in this game.
I’ll be blunt here: for the life of me I can’t figure out why Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin isn’t talked about that much. Why is that? I mean yeah, it didn’t really push the series in any new direction and the story was kind of uninteresting, but it’s still a solid game that has an interesting two playable character mechanic, a portrait hopping component that takes you different areas outside the castle, and a kickass soundtrack. Oh and it also takes place after Castlevania: Bloodlines; that probably didn’t help it all that much.
Much like Bloodlines, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin takes place while a major global conflict is going on, this time World War II, though unlike Bloodlines, Portrait of Ruin doesn’t really do much with it outside of talking about it in the beginning, a few of the enemy types and areas, a few minor mentions outside of the story. Much like in Bloodlines however, Portrait of Ruin has multiple areas that go beyond a simple castle, such as a pyramid or a forest; and these aren’t small one of rooms either, as these areas are a decent side, complete with unique enemies, items, and music, being treated like any other part of the castle like in previous games. While I personally enjoyed this, I can see why a lot of people weren’t fans of it, as the castle at times felt more like a hub world to find the entrances to these areas rather than a cohesive experience like in previous games. My personal favorite thing about Portrait of Ruin is the that you have two playable characters that you can switch to at any time (like Donkey Kong Country), each with their unique strengths and abilities (again, like Donkey Kong Country); Jonathan Morris, who plays like his dad in Bloodlines (only with more main weapons like swords and sub weapons like throwing stars), and Charlotte Aulin, who’s more magic centric and uses tomes to attack. Though I mainly used Jonathan, I rather liked the idea of switching between the two characters and their vastly different play styles to solve puzzles and progress. Granted, most of the puzzles were mainly using two people to push a giant block, but the game does play around with the concept of two characters a bit, such as some of the bosses requiring you to use one or both of the characters in tandem, using Charlotte’s abilities to transform to get to new areas, or even using both of them together to use some powerful team attacks.
Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that Portrait of Ruin is the best game ever made. Hell as much as I loved it, it’s not what I could call the best game in the series. And yet despite that, I still find myself enjoying it quite a bit, warts and all. I can’t really put my finger on it, but it’s an excellent game that’s often overshadowed by other games, which I find to be a shame as it’s certainly an excellent addition to the Castlevania series.
4. Castlevania: Circle of The Moon (Game Boy Advance)
No! Bad Cerberus! Down Boy!
Launch games for consoles and handhelds serve one purpose and one purpose only: to give you something to play on your new console/handheld on the first day while you wait for developers to have some more time with the new console/handheld to make stuff truly special. The quality of these games can range from terrible to mediocre, with occasionally some of them being really great (SSX, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Mario World and the original Resistance come to mind), but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, because these games will be mostly forgotten about a few years down the line, as they’re nothing more than the appetizers to the main course. Apparently, someone failed to tell Konami this when they made Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for the Game Boy Advance in 2001, as it’s not only one of the best launch games for the handheld, but is also one of the best games on the GBA as well that still holds up today.
Koji Igarashi, the man who was in charge of the Castlevania series after Symphony of the Night once said in an interview that he and his team were always trying to bring something new to series, to give a little bit of life and to keep the formula from going stale. What does Circle of the Moon bring to the table (even though Iga didn’t work on it)? Collectable cards which can be used to create a multitude of powerful combinations in battle; suck it Hearthstone. In all seriousness, this card system (called the Dual Set-up System, or DSS for short) was actually pretty cool, and certainly brought a lot of variety to combat. Cards fell in one of two categories, Action and Attribute, and you needed one of each in order to create a powerful magic attack; you weren’t limited either, as any of the 10 Action cards to be combined with any of the 10 Attribute cards (yeah there weren’t that many, but this was a GBA launch game, cut them some slack). For example, combining the Mercury Action card (which grants a strength increase and changes the whip’s elemental attack) with the Salamander Attribute Card (which is the fire elemental) to allow protagonist Nathan Graves to do Fire damage to foes, while combining the Jupiter card with the aforementioned Salamander card adds a protective fireball shield. Each of the 100 combinations has its strengths and weaknesses, and finding out what combination works best for each situation is pretty fun. The best part is these are completely optional and act more as item drops rather than something that you have to get to progress, so if you don’t want to take part of it, you don’t have to (though you will be missing out).
Like Portrait of Ruin, Circle of the Moon doesn’t seem to be mentioned all that much by fans. However, unlike Portrait, there are multiple reasons that Circle of the Moon is often forgotten, such as the fact that it was Game Boy Advance launch title or the fact that Koji Igarashi himself removed it from the Castlevania timeline. But whatever the reason it gets mentioned, Circle of the Moon is still one of my personal favorite games in the series and fills a special place in my heart that I find myself going back to quite a bit. Only for it to kick me in the teeth every time I play it; you know, because it’s a pretty tough game.
3. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (Nintendo DS)
This is just like one of my Japanese ani-damnit I did it again! Coming up with jokes is hard you guys.
The third and final Castlevania game to grace the Nintendo DS and the last main original entry before Konami decided to reboot the series with Lords of Shadow (which we all know how that panned out), Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is one of those games that makes it clear that the team behind it knows what they’re doing and are able to take advantage of the system they’re working with. Everything from the controls to the graphics and sound are perfect and it’s not a stretch to say that this is one of the best looking and sounding games on the DS. But all of that pales in comparison to what really sets Order of Ecclesia apart from other games, and really catapults it into the number 3 slot for me: the Glyph system and protagonist Shanoa, who is one of the few female protagonists in the entire series.
The glyph system is really cool; the way it works is that in Order of Ecclesia, you don’t actually equip weapons on Shanoa, but rather you absorb glyphs, and it is these glyphs that act as your main method of attacking. They come in three categories: main glyphs (which are like swords and axes and the like), sub glyphs (sub weapons) and back glyphs (which act as passive abilities). Although you can have only one back glyph at a time, you can equip up to two main or sub glyphs at a time (one on either arm and assigned to the X and Y buttons), some being fast but weak while others are slow but powerful. You can mix and match these at any time, so if you want you can have a sword glyph on one hand and a throwing knife glyph on the other, or you can have two of the same glyph on both hands to create a really powerful attack, like a giant sword; it may sound simple, but it brings a lot of depth and strategy that the series hadn’t really seen up until that point, with the game actively encouraging to try out new combination, since it’s a much tougher game than most of its predecessors. While this makes the main character Shanoa a complete badass, it also comes at the cost of her memories and her ability to express emotion for a fair portion of the game. Yeah the emotionless amnesiac trope is nothing new, but there’s just something about Shanoa that makes her much more interesting. It’s clear that not everything is on the up and up with the Order of Ecclesia, but she can’t seem to quite put her finger on it, and when her long-time friend and adoptive brother Albus betrays her at the beginning of the game, she has a hard time expressing her obvious anger at him. In a way, Shanoa is a lot like the player throughout in that we have no idea what’s going on either, like why were these random villagers are trapped in various locations or why our mentor seems really keen on using those glyphs and keeps a coffin close by. I won’t spoil anything here, but Shanoa’s journey really stood out to me more than most other characters in the series, and it really helped get invested in the game.
If I had to compile a list of the best DS, Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia would definitely be on that list. It’s pretty, it’s fun, and it’s tough as nails in the good way. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Even if Konami doesn’t make a Castlevania in this style again (Mirrror of Fate doesn’t count, shut up) at least I still have Order of Ecclesia to come back to.
2. Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)
When a problem comes along, you must whip it!
So fun fact about Super Castlevania IV: this was one of the earliest games released for the Super Nintendo. It was released in North America on December 4, 1991, a five months before we would get The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past and about three years before we got Super Metroid. Why am I telling you all of this? Because Super Castlevania IV is not only my favorite “pre-Symphony of the Night” game in the series, but it’s one of the best games on the Super Nintendo, up there with the likes of Super Mario World, Super Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to The Past.
Super Castlevania IV plays a lot like the original Castlevania (which makes sense since this is technically a remake), but what sets Super Castlevania IV from the original is the effectiveness of the whip. No longer does it go in one direction; now you can swing it around in eight directions and can be used reflect projectiles, hit enemies on stairs, or even use it to swing across gaps (which one level uses quite well). But just because the whip is super powerful, doesn’t mean the game is a cakewalk, as enemies are more active and move around more, with some enemies even popping out of the ground suddenly, occasionally surprising me a few times. Combine that with some tricky platforming, and you have a game that while not the toughest game ever, can be really challenging if you aren’t careful, which I like since even though your whip is super powerful now, it’s not the end all solution and you still need to rely on your wits and skill as a player to make it through. Also, while I’m on the subject of what’s powerful and what’s not, I know a lot of people in recent years have dumped on this game for making the sub weapons next to useless (which is strange, since I never really heard that until Egoraptor made that video about it), and while I do agree that the whip makes some of the sub weapons like the Axe and Holy Water redudnant, at the same time, sub-weapons were never really meant to be the end all solution to beating games, but rather a complement and overcome the short comings of the weapon, and they still do that here to an extent. It’s just not as important this time around, but believe me; when you die and lose the range and versatility of the whip and have to find some powerups to get it back to normal, you’re going to be happy that you have that Knife or Cross.
As good as the original Castlevania was, it could be downright frustrating (and not in the good way) at times with its slow movements, stiff controls, and not being able to do anything on the stairs. Super Castlevania IV is basically the original in its purest, but with better controls and the versatility of the whip, thus fixing the few problems that the original had. It can be a bit tough at times, but it never feels like the game is working against you as the player. Combined with some great levels, some really nice graphics, and one of the most kickass soundtracks I’ve ever heard (seriously, check it out), and you can see why this game often ends up on so many “Best of” lists. If nothing else, it’s worth playing for one of the most badass final boss fights in any game.
1. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (Game Boy Advance)
Sorry guys: this game is too awesome for me to make a lame joke about it.
Remember back earlier on this list when I said that there were some games in the series that did what Symphony of the Night did much better? Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow was the game that I was talking about. Released in 2003 on the Game Boy Advance, this is the definitive Castlevania game, taking everything that makes the series so memorable and amps it up to 11. The game looks gorgeous with some of the best sprite work I’ve seen on the GBA. While individual tracks don’t hold a candle to “Vampire Killer” or “Iron Blue Intentions” Aria of Sorrow’s soundtrack as a whole is one of the best that the series has ever seen, matching the modern setting the game takes place in (well mainly futuristic, as the game takes place in 2035), while at the same time feel classical. The castle, while no Skyrim, is one of the biggest the series has ever seen, with each area being an absolute blast explore. And most important of all, the game’s main mechanic, the Tactical Soul System, is one of the most fun mechanics I’ve ever seen in a Castlevania game.
With the exception of the last three endgame bosses, every enemy and boss in the game has a soul that you can obtain, much like an item drop. Each of these souls can be equipped on protagonist Soma and come in one of four categories: Bullet Soul (a projectile of some kind), Guardian Soul (defensive souls like transformations and shields), Enchanted Souls (passive buffs like increased attack and whatnot), and Ability Souls (think abilities like the Double Jump in past games). Admittedly, some of the soul’s abilities are lame or don’t make any sense (like the ability to recover health while jumping and taking damage), but that honestly isn’t the point. For the first in the series, the various monsters that you fight in the castle aren’t just obstacles in the way that you need to destroy, but something that you as the player actively seeking out in the hope of trying out a new ability; even to this day I still find myself going back to play Aria of Sorrow and try out some new combination of souls.
The story is another part of the game that I absolutely loved. You play as Soma Cruz, an exchange student visiting Japan (or just plain old Japanese student in the Japanese version). One night, while off to check out a lunar eclipse with his childhood friend Mina, the two of them are transported into the eclipse, which contains Dracula’s Castle. After discovering that he has the ability to uncover the souls of monster, Soma sets out to get himself and Mina out of the eclipse, lest they both die a painful death. It’s a simple narrative on paper, but what makes the story so great is Soma himself; he comes off as rude and a massive dick at times, but it’s kind of warranted. He’s not some stoic badass vampire hunter or the son of Dracula himself, but some high school kid who just discovered that he has that dark power and that everything he knows has been a lie, and as Soma explores more of Dracula’s Castle, he begins to understand more about who he really is (which I won’t spoil here, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same), and that he’s in control of his power, and not the other way around. That at the end of the day, Soma’s choices are his and his alone, that no one’s fate is truly ever set in stone, and that people can change. And that was something that hit close to home for me, both when I first played the game as a teenager and now as a young adult, starting a new career path that I never thought I would.
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is both my favorite Castlevania game and is easily in my top ten favorite games of all time, alongside other games like Half-Life 2 and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. It’s a wonderful game that really hits all the right bases with me: fun an inventive gameplay, a kickass soundtrack, and a compelling story that kept me invested. While I often replay games once in awhile depending on my mood, there are some games that I always find myself making a concentrated effort to play again, and Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is one of those games due to how good it really is. In fact once, I’m done writing this up, I’m going to play it again. Just because it’s that wonderful.
Seriously you guys. Look how awesome this is.
Seriously you guys. Look how awesome this is.
So yeah, that’s what I
think are the best Castlevania games
of all time. Normally this is the part where I ask if everyone agrees or
disagrees with me, but I know all of you are going to disagree with me,
especially with Symphony of the Night.
But that’s okay, because much like the dark foreboding castle that we explore
in each game, what Castlevania fans
think is the best game changes from person to person: some people prefer the
old school style action of the original, others prefer the exploration aspects
of Symphony, while others like the
series third dimensional outings. And for the most part, none of these opinions
are wrong (unless your favorite is Mirror
of Fate or Lords of Shadow 2)
because at the end of the day, the series has a different impact on each person,
and no two people will ever like the same thing. But it’s okay, because at the
end of the day, whether it’s 2D, 3D, linear or open, whenever we as gamers see
that dark opposing castle, we all think one thing: Castlevania has called us back to fight zombies and bats, crack walls
and eat the meat inside, and send Dracula back in his coffin for a nice long dirt
nap. And whether the next game is made by Konami or by Koji Igarashi himself,
the spirit of the Castlevania series will
live on for years to come.