Best Castlevania Games
Image: Nintendo Life

This was originally ordered by us here at Nintendo Life, but we've rejigged things to transform it into a reader-ranked list governed by each game's User Rating on our games database. As such, it is subject to real-time change as the ratings fluctuate. Feel free to get in there and rate the games you've played if you haven't already. Enjoy!

The Castlevania series has a rich history on Nintendo consoles ever since the original game came first to the Japanese Famicom Disk System way back in 1986, and then to the NES a year later. There may be a significant release or two from Konami's vampire-killing catalogue still missing from Nintendo platforms (we're looking at you, Symphony of the Night), but the vast majority of the series can be found on Nintendo consoles.

But where should you start if you're new to the Castlevania series? Which Castlevania game is the best? Those are tough questions, but we've whipped up a ranked list of the best Castlevania games (on Nintendo consoles) below, as rated by Nintendo Life readers.

The series has many high points, plus a couple of very low ones, and comes in two distinct flavours: the more straightforward right-to-left style of the original games or the more expansive brand of Koji Igarashi-produced games — sometimes referred to as 'IGAvanias' — which combined spiritually with Nintendo's Metroid series to birth an entire genre of 'Metroidvania' video games.

For Switch owners, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection should obviously be your first port of call, with the more recent Castlevania Advance Collection containing one of the very best games in the series, too. And there's always Koji Igarashi's non-affiliated Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night once you've exhausted all the Belmonts below. The Switch version isn't perfect, but it is much improved since launch and is arguably the closest thing fans will get to Symphony of the Night on Switch (until Konami decides to put Symphony of the Night on Switch).

We've included a couple of spin-offs and oddities, too, but that's enough talk. Wipe away those bloody tears, and let's go kill us some vampires.

25. Haunted Castle (Arcade)

Available on Switch as part of Konami's Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection, Haunted Castle is an odd duck. Made exclusively for arcades, it occupies a strange middle ground somewhere between homage, parody, and port and sees Simon Belmont (with a sprite which stands a quarter of the screen tall) rescuing his new bride from the villainous clutches of the Count. The music is by far the best thing about it, but despite looking superficially 'better' than the original, it's an unfairly punishing arcade experience designed to empty your pockets of shiny coins. As such, there's not much fun to be had and ultimately it's not a patch on the original.

If you're interested you can check out the differences between the original NES game, its VS Castlevania arcade port, and Haunted Castle in this video.

24. Castlevania: The Adventure (GB)

The first entry for the series on the Game Boy, and one best left forgotten, Castlevania: The Adventure is a turgid, terminally sluggish approximation of the series' classic gameplay with repetitive, bland level design. Given the host console's limitations, you might be tempted to give it the benefit of the doubt, but the sequel would show what the platform was truly capable of and expose this for the horror that it is. Do yourself a favour, skip this, and start your portable Castlevania adventure with Belmont's Revenge.

23. Castlevania Judgment (Wii)

Set in the Castlevania universe, this 2008 Wii game brought all your favourite characters and monsters together for a momentously rubbish one-on-one 3D fighter with awful controls and questionable character designs. Castlevania Judgment was panned by critics and fans alike on release and time has done nothing to heal the wounds this one inflicted. A miserable pile, indeed.

22. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (NES)

Another game we have fond memories of, despite itself. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest is obtuse, infuriating, and downright cheap at times... but it's got a killer soundtrack and admirably changes things up by building on the original game with new ideas, including a day/night cycle and an intriguing (if ultimately frustrating) non-linear approach. Back in the day it would have been an absolute nightmare, and we totally understand people who lose patience with it, but if you're not opposed to sitting down with a walkthrough and making use of save states, we'd recommend giving Simon's Quest another chance. The soundtrack alone makes it worth a playthrough.

21. Kid Dracula (NES)

Available in the West for the first time via the Castlevania Anniversary Collection, Konami even went to the trouble of localising the Famicom original for us. It's a fun little 8-bit adventure which serves as a fantastic palate cleanser between the epic quests populating the rest of this list. As great as they are, sometimes you need a break from all that samey vampire killing, and Kid Dracula provides a dose of levity amongst all the monsters and bloody tears.

20. Castlevania (N64)

A flawed stab at a polygonal 3D Castlevania, this isn't 'bad' as much as 'crushingly average'. Launching several years into the N64's cycle in 1999, players expected better from a 3D game at the dawning of the new millennium. Camera issues were a perennial problem for games of the era, but the best Castlevania titles have always been characterised by tight controls and Castlevania (yes, it eschewed the '64' colloquially appended to its title) simply wasn't up to snuff. We respect it — from afar — but this one's probably best left in the crypt.

19. Castlevania Legends (GB)

Without knowing that this was the third Castlevania for Game Boy, you could be forgiven for thinking this was the second game before Konami perfected things with Belmont's Revenge. But no, Castlevania Legends was a late release for the ageing console (1997 in Japan, 1998 in the West) — the third and final entry and a less than auspicious farewell to Nintendo's 8-bit handheld. Following the release of the towering Symphony of the Night on PlayStation would have been an unenviable task, to be sure, but even taking into account the platform's inherent limitations this is an intense disappointment. With poor animation, lacklustre sprite work, and equally unimpressive level design, it's hard to believe that this came a whopping seven years after its fantastic predecessor.

Simply put, it wasn't good enough at the time, and despite being a sought-after collector's item these days, it's only got worse with age. It's available on Switch as part of a Nintendo Switch Online subscription now, but we wouldn't. Avoid.

18. Castlevania: Dracula X (SNES)

Known as Vampire's Kiss in the EU, Castlevania: Dracula X is a Super NES remake of the PC Engine original Rondo of Blood, and it doesn't stand up to comparison with the game on which it is based, although it's certainly not bad taken in isolation. It offers solid, old-school Castlevania fare and is worth investigating if you've chewed your way through better games in the series (most notably the original Rondo of Blood). If you're new to the series, we wouldn't start here, though.

Killer box art, mind.

17. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (3DS)

We're not going to sit here and claim that this 2.5D offshoot from the (non-Nintendo) 3D Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games is a must-play. However, we'd be lying if we said we didn't enjoy Mirror of Fate on 3DS. No, it can't hold a candle to the classics in the series, but taken on its own terms, it's a fun, if simplistic, little game from MercurySteam (who would go on to develop the excellent Metroid Dread) that made good use of the system's autostereoscopic 3D and gave us a fresh perspective on some series-favourite characters.

Are we busting to replay it? No, but it certainly doesn't warrant the vitriol it sometimes receives from series stalwarts. You can find it for peanuts these days, and it's worth a look.