As the dreaded night of Halloween continues to loom ever closer, we are now turning our attention to the Castlevania franchise, which recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary. All of this week there'll be features looking at the series, as we join the hunt to take Dracula down once and for all.
In previous features we've produced lists of games in no particular order, such as our N64 and GBA favourites: now we're getting off the fence with our top 10 Castlevania titles. The criteria was that only Castlevania games released on Nintendo systems could be included, which includes titles that have been released on the Wii Virtual Console, while one game that served as a spoof of the series also makes the cut. Our series experts Damien McFerran, Corbie Dilliard, Marcel van Duyn and Christopher Ingram all put forward their cases: below is the final result, in descending order.
10. Castlevania: The Adventure Rebirth (WiiWare) — For some of our younger readers, this WiiWare release is potentially their first experience of 'old-school' Castlevania gaming. Drawing on inspiration from the older titles, particularly the first entry in the series on Game Boy, this downloadable offering is a solid experience, with some wonderful 16-bit style sprites.
9. Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA) — A launch title for the Game Boy Advance, this entry in the series boasted strong 2D gameplay, also following the non-linear 'Metroidvania' style first pioneered in the PlayStation exclusive Symphony of the Night. The visuals didn't push the GBA hardware, but the gameplay, along with a variety of spells and items, made this a mighty exclusive for the handheld.
8. Kid Dracula (Game Boy) — Ok, so this isn't directly Castlevania, but it is a Konami produced parody. There was a NES version that was only available in Japan, but our team voted for the more commonly known Game Boy entry, as it's packed with the charm and playability so typical of the famous handheld. An awesome musical score rounds out the package, and a 3DS Virtual Console release can't come soon enough.
7. Castlevania (NES) — The original, now over 25 years old. For NES owners at the time, this is a game that was a wonder for its dark, gothic feel. The staples of the series, whipping monters, gathering hearts as item ammo, tracking down hidden pork chops to recharge health, all started here. Still fun for a retro gaming session but fiendishly difficult: all of your ninja gaming skills are needed to defeat this title.
6. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS) — We have an inkling that some will consider this a controversial choice, but the strengths of this title meant it earned its place on our list. The first Castlevania game on the DS, it carried across some features from its GBA forebears and utilised an exploratory style, along with special items and weapons. Yes, the cutscenes have a generic anime style, but we're more interested in the gameplay, which is rather magnificent.
5. Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) — The third and final entry on the GBA, Aria of Sorrow was an appropriate finale to the trilogy. With neat mechanics of soul collecting adding diversity and replay value, this title took strong elements from the previous two GBA games and produced a top-notch handheld gaming experience.
4. Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (TurboGrafx-16) — For Castlevania enthusiasts in love with the classic style of gameplay, without any distracting skills or souls to collect, this title stands tall. Exclusive to the TurboGrafx-16 (also known as the PC Engine) and only originally released in Japan, this title took advantage of that console's CD based technology, along with terrific game-design, to provide a classic Castlevania experience. Not to be confused with the inferior SNES port, importers would pay as much as $250 for a copy of this game in the '90s. Thankfully, gamers in all regions can now enjoy this wonderful game, in its original glory, courtesy of the Wii Virtual Console.
3. Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy) — While the first Castlevania title on the Game Boy was a fairly average experience, this sequel truly got the very best out of the handheld. Impressive visuals and a terrific soundtrack were supported by exemplary gameplay. If ever proof is needed that quality gaming doesn't necessarily require technological power, this title answers any doubts.
2. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse (NES) — The final entry of the NES trilogy, this title took the gameplay principles established in the original and took them forward with panasche. Longer levels, amazing 8-bit graphics, four playable characters with different sets of abilities, as well as a level of challenge suited for the most skilled gamers, this is a truly impressive achievement on modest hardware. A must for fans of the series.
1. Super Castlevania IV (SNES) — So here it is, in our opinion the finest Castlevania game to grace a Nintendo console. Following the linear gameplay of its predecessors, this title utilised every ounce of power that the SNES had to offer, and combined lovely visuals and music with gloriously crafted gameplay. An experience to be remembered from start to finish, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
So, that's our top 10 Castlevania games from Nintendo systems. In a series with such a rich history, some excellent titles were excluded, so we'd love to hear your opinions on the list or any of the games that have missed out. Sound off in the comments below, and you can also vote for your favourite on our Facebook poll.