With the news of a Netflix-funded Castlevania anime series floating around like a spectre in the night, now is the perfect time to look back at Castlevania’s colorful past and do the impossible. Grab your sturdiest whip, because we’re ranking 20 of the best Castlevania games ever to grace a gamepad with their sullen vampire angst.
Andy Moore is a gaming freelancer based in the UK. When he’s not writing, he can be found staring blankly out of the nearest window, or spending way too much time on Twitter.
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20. Castlevania Judgment: The black sheep of the Castlevania family, Judgment's polarizing departure from the conventional platforming template raised more than a few eyebrows. And whilst there's plenty to dislike about this fighting game spinoff, like the stubborn camera angles and obtuse Wii remote controls, watching the best of Castlevania's cast square off in this over-the-top brawler is the perfect way to see who is the strongest fighter in the series. Turns out it's Trevor Belmont.
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19. Castlevania: Harmony of Despair: A slimmed down take on the traditional formula, Harmony of Despair stripped away the layered exploration of the series to focus on its multiplayer boss-rush mode. With challenging bosses, a bucket load of fan service, and the ability to play with your buds, Harmony of Despair had a lot to offer, but it could never quench the thirst fans had for a traditional sequel.
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18. Castlevania Legends: Considered as an "embarrassment" by series producer Koji Igarashi, this Game Boy entry into the series was disowned from the Castlevania canon due to its poor performance on the handheld console. Despite the limitations of Game Boy holding it back, Legacy still manages to offer a compelling, if somewhat watered-down experience with its winding levels and signature difficulty curve.
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17. Castlevania: The Adventure (ReBirth): A remake of the 1989 Game Boy title of the same name, ReBirth irons out the kinks of the original and adds a fresh lick of paint in the process. Whilst this entry doesn't stray too far from the linear path of the Castlevania format, it does play host to one of the most frustrating levels in the history of the game: Stage 3. In this little slice of hell everything is made of bones, including the enemies, the walls, the ceiling, and the floor, all bones, and the assorted human debris in this hellscape wants you dead by any means necessary.
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16. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2: Lords of Shadow 2 was supposed to be the magnum opus—the ultimate iteration of its predecessor that took a fantastic twist to the aged franchise and made it immortal. But it didn't. Whilst the snappy combat from the first Lords of Shadow remained largely intact, the rest of the game was encumbered with a vague plot and a number of antagonizing stealth sections.
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15. Castlevania: The genesis of the Castlevania franchise, this NES classic kicked more teenage ass in the '80s than your average high-school bully, inspiring a generation with its unforgiving gameplay and gothic menagerie of undead horrors. Not many people can claim to have had the skill (or the patience) to conquer this game, and whilst its no-nonsense approach is a little coarse by today's standards, the original Castlevania commands a lot of respect for laying down the foundations for the rest of the series.
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14. Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles (Rondo of Blood): This PSP remaster of the definitive version of Rondo of Blood for the SNES brought the rigid classic back from obscurity, with a cleaner 2.5D perspective and a whole bunch of minor improvements. Not only that, but the remaster harbors a number of secrets on top of the base game, including the ability to unlock and play the entirety of Symphony of the Night, essentially making Dracula X Chronicles into a laser-focused care package for anyone looking to play the best of what Castlevania has to offer.
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13. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon: Making use of the extra might of the Game Boy Advance, Circle of the Moon ditched the lethargy of the previous handheld games and delivered a faster, more responsive Castlevania experience. Fights were faster, tenser and required a greater level of skill to succeed, bringing back the spark that captivated fans with games like Symphony of the Night. While not technically a Belmont, the aptly named protagonist Nathan Graves proved he can vanquish the undead with the best of them.
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12. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence: Lament of Innocence heads back to the very origin of evil itself, when Dracula had yet to don the flowing cape and need for ridiculously convoluted conspiracies. Whilst its obtuse camera angles often led to a number of frustrating deaths, this third person PS2 entry was a decent prequel that answered a number of questions about the Belmonts, Dracula, and the origins of the signature Vampire Killer whip.
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11. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia: Order of Ecclesia ditches the weathered mugs of the Belmont clan in favor of Shanoa, an amnesiac with the strange ability to perform great feats of strength using glyphs. Whilst the old guard might be gone, this fresh-faced DS title doesn't forget about its roots, boasting a suitably masochistic difficulty curve that was more than enough to satisfy long time fans of series.