Vampires are a classic and incredibly versatile type of monster across all kinds of media—they’re certainly not just limited to videogames. A big part of that undoubtedly stems from how many cultures around the world have variations on the vampire present in their folklore—usually in the form of some sort of otherworldly something that swoops in and saps the life force of humans and/or animals before slipping off into the night when they’ve finished. Sometimes these beings are little more than monstrous animals, sometimes they’re overdramatic goth fashion plates, and sometimes they’re just regular people who like to chill out with a bloody Mary every now and then. You can find a pretty diverse range of vampires in games of course. Maybe too diverse, depending on how you feel about Reebok shoes and alien bug robots, but we’ll get to those in a bit.
Must like the haunted house list, I really just need to get Castlevania out of the way since it’s one of the easier pulls. Dracula’s kind of the James Bond of the vampire world: He’s super sexy, super quotable, and has had so many faces and identities over the years that it can be a little hard to keep track(ula) of ‘em all, much less agree on which one’s the “best” of the lot. Even within the Castlevania series Dracula himself has taken a few twists and turns, moving from the realm of generic evil end boss to sympathetic hero. And don’t forget Kid Dracula, which is 100% not canon but definitely, definitely should be. Dracula could definitely stand to have a little more impish charm in his backstory.
Even if you have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of games, you could be forgiven for letting Drac’s Night Out slip through the cracks. This game was finished to the point of having box art and a nonsensical tag line (“The Game that Pumps You Up”), but it never actually made it onto store shelves. If you’re curious to know what we all missed out on, Drac’s Night Out follows Dracula as he eludes villages en route out of his castle to find his love interest, Mina. He does this while wearing Reebok Pumps and picking up Reebok-branded power ups. It’s tempting to blame the early ‘90s for this nonsensical product placement, but let’s not forget about the Rockstar Thirstcutter vehicle from Mad Max earlier this year. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Wait, scratch that. I can’t make this an all-Dracula list or else I won’t have anything to write about next year.
There are several vampires of note in the Legacy of Kain series, but the titular immortal himself may be more interesting than all the others put together. Even when you’re playing as an anti-hero in most games, the character will often end up doing the Right Thing. They will make what is painted as the good and noble choice, because they are at heart good and noble themselves. That’s not quite the case with Kain. While the player can at one point choose to have Kain sacrifice himself to eliminate all other vampires and the threat they pose to humans, in the series’ canon he instead chooses to use his vampirism to his advantage and essentially take over the world. Apparently, having a good heart doesn’t do you any good once it’s stopped beating.
Brahms is almost the exact opposite of Kain. He’s King of the Vampires and the enemy of Odin and the Norse pantheon, but that’s not actually a bad thing in the context of the game. Odin manipulates countless mortal lives for his own benefit and Brahms doesn’t have much patience for that kind of coldness and disrespect. He isn’t a monstrous villain who kills and tortures captive enemies, nor is he the kind of foe who shouts taunts and insults. Sure, he may look like an off-model Tekken character trying to invoke Sonic the Hedgehog, but he’s actually a pretty nice dude.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that a videogame based on a popular pre-existing vampire roleplaying franchise would have more than a handful of unique and appealing vampire characters to interact with. Therese and Jeanette Voerman are the most popular choice, but in my opinion her sexy schoolgirl routine is just a little too played out. Gary Golden, on the other hand, has originality to spare. He was an actor during Hollywood’s Golden Age, and although he became immortal his career met a premature end when he was initiated into the Nosferatu clan, a family of vampires which (as you may be able to tell based on their name) aren’t known for their good looks.
Given how many games depict vampires as objects of desire, there are surprisingly few where you can straight up date them. Enter Diabolik Lovers, an otome game (a visual novel targeting a primarily straight female audience) where the player can pursue a romantic relationship with one of the preternaturally handsome Sakamaki brothers while residing in their family estate. Every single one of them is at least a little bit terrifying in terms of either their personalities or their interests and this game by no means offers a model for anything resembling healthy relationships, but fantasies can be messy things that way.
One of the more popular theories surrounding The Order: 1886 is that Sir Galahad and all of the members of the Order are vampires, or have at least borrowed vampiric powers through the ingestion of the mysterious substance known as Blackwater. Blackwater lends those who ingest it inhumanly fast healing, strength and near-immortality. This substance is made by mixing one’s own blood with water in the Holy Grail, which I would say definitely qualifies those imbibing as vampires, even if their powers do come from a holy relic.
Not only is Babette a 300 year old vampire, assassin and master alchemist, but she doesn’t look at day over 10 years old. She loves to talk about how easy it is to get away with murder (quite literally) when you look like a child, but when you find her hanging out with the Dark Brotherhood and tending to a giant spider named Lis it’s pretty hard to mistake her for the wide-eyed innocent the rest of the world apparently sees.
Technically speaking, Vamp is not really a vampire. He just drank his family’s blood to survive once and developed a taste for it as a result (who wouldn’t?). He also just happens to have a whole bunch of superpowers, including the ability to survive being shot in the head. So, you know, he’s not really a vampire, he’s just mumble mumble handwave nanomachines, because this is Metal Gear Solid we’re talking about. Kojima and co. have done some rather tasteless things with Vamp’s character, making his bisexuality a punchline on more than one occasion, but separated from those more unfortunate moments he remains one of the most intriguing opponents players face in the entire series.
Biyarky’s second attack is called “Blood Suck” which to me means that they definitely qualify as a vampire. But Biyarky’s first attack is called “Photon Cannon” which to me means that they definitely qualify as the coolest vampire ever. I mean okay, maybe they’re not wearing Reebok Pumps or anything, but I’d say they’re doing okay for themselves regardless.
Janine Hawkins is a games writer based in sunny Canada. You can find her written and video work on HealerArcherMage.com or follow her on Twitter @bleatingheart.