What Is The Best Castlevania Game of All Time?

Even though we just started playing the original Castlevania for the Together Retro game club less than a week ago, some of our members have already completed it.  And since there are so many other great games in the series on an array of different platforms, I wanted to ask the racketboy community about which Castlevania games stood out to them the most.

Again, in this poll, you can select up to five games in your vote.  Also, feel free to share your thoughts about your game choices in detail in the comments section below.  Also, if you’re up for the discussion, I’d like to hear your thoughts on what Castlevanias are the best for beginners and which ones are the most challenging.

What Are Your Top 5 Castlevanias?

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65 Comments

AngrySquirrel says:

SOTN overrated? That’s the most ridiculous statement ever. In terms of scope and abilities for alucard, it still really hasn’t been surpassed by anything I’ve played, except possibly dawn of sorrow(note-I haven’t played Ecclesia or Portrait yet).

Now, SCIV is overrated, but I wouldn’t call it a shitty game. It’s waay more refined and better than the original Castlevania, for example. But it is ridiculous to rate it over any of the post-SOTN 2d games. Those games just have much better gameplay, with more to do than SCIV. SCIV has clunky animation that makes the platforming a bit clumsy, and very basic gameplay that is virtually unimproved from the original castlevania. 8-way whipping is a gimmick that adds little to the game.

I’ve not yet heard a single good reason why people prefer old-school style castlevanias over the newer ones. Chi no Rondo is the truth, but the rest of those games are just such a step backwards in complexity, I cannot see any other reason to vote for them except nostalgia. And considering that the poll is for the best game, well, its a shame that nostalgia is there to skew the results.

megadan says:

How can people not pick the Dracula X Chronicles for PSP? It has Symphony of the Night on the disk plus revamped version of Rondo of Blood. Its like getting a 2.5d version of best old school Castlevania as well as the quintesential Metroidvania games. Unless you just don’t have a PSP, there is no excuse for a Castlevania fan to not have this game.

greenenergy says:

Why isn’t the PC Engines “Castlevania Rondo of Blood” up for a pick? Or does Dracula X stand for Rondo of Blood??
Anyway, I LOVE THIS SITE!!!

PURE AWESOMENESS!! So much love in here (Artikles, Discussions, News etc!) ^^

racketboy says:

That would be “Akumajo Dracula X: Chi no Rondo” 🙂
And glad you enjoy it 🙂

kevinski says:

There’s no way in Hell that SotN is overrated. If anything, it’s actually underrated in that few modern gamers even know what it is. As has already been mentioned, it’s one of the best games ever released on a console that was much more popular for its 3D games. (SotN is, technically, a 3D game, itself, but I won’t go into that now.)

As for the post-SotN games having “better graphics, better level design, better mechanics, a distinct lack of terrible voice acting” and so much more, give me a break. I’ll admit that PoR and OoE have some more impressive graphical effects, but – overall – they look quite weak compared to SotN. The level design in the newer games, aside from OoE, has largely been terrible and uninspired. The only real exception to that would be OoE, but it reuses most areas, making it feel a bit repetitive.

Better mechanics? I’ll admit that certain aspects of newer Castleroid/Metroidvania games are vastly improved over their SotN counterparts. I like being able to use items in the menu, rather than equipping them and using them during battle. The menu systems, in general, are much better in newer games. However, some of the newer games are needlessly more complex, and I hate the soul system from AoS and DoS, as it’s just tedious. You need a special power to SINK IN WATER? Give me a break. And do keep in mind that newer games obviously see a need to mimic SotN in terms of recurring special abilities throughout the series.

And the voice acting is so bad that it’s good, actually. And certain voices, such as those of Alucard and Death, are actually very well-done.

If anything, SCIV is overrated. That game is awful. It’s aged worse than the NES games, in my opinion. Simon’s just too freaking stiff and lifeless, and his sprite (and the sprites and animations for most enemies) is just terrible. I’ve never understood its appeal. SotN took a lot of things from the Castlevania series and made them better. Flailing the whip around worked so much better in SotN, and Richter’s much easier to control in SotN. Also, each area within the castle has so much that sets it apart from the others. I just feel that most areas in newer games are simply less memorable.

I’ve never really been a fan of Rondo. Oddly, I love its SNES counterpart, but Rondo for PC Engine (and the remake for PSP) just never felt right to me from a control standpoint.

My favorite classic-style Castlevania was Bloodlines, and it’s a shame that it’s overlooked in favor of Rondo or SCIV. Its graphics are far more impressive than those in Rondo or SCIV, and the game play just feels right. Rondo and SCIV just really put me off with their controls.

As for the person who asked why DXC wouldn’t get so many votes simply for having a remake of Rondo, as well as the original versions of Rondo and SotN, it’s not so simple. Granted, I’ve never liked Rondo, but this collection just has too many flaws for me to consider it to be the best.

It’s difficult to judge your jumping distance due to the 2.5D approach taken with the graphics. It’s also difficult to see certain enemies, namely bats. The 3D graphics also make it difficult to determine whether or will or will not get hit in certain situations, and I feel that the hit detection is a bit off in some fashion.

To get to the original versions of Rondo and SotN, you’ll have to unlock them by playing through a portion of the remake. Seeing as how the inclusion of these two games was so played up prior to its release, this was disappointing. I bought DXC to play SotN, period.

The emulation on Rondo is just awful, and SotN – while largely okay – has some serious issues that pop up in some situations. These range from random crashing/freezing while using the two extra familiars to being hit by what appears to be absolutely nothing in portions of the game. The sound emulation is a bit off, and PSP Maria is a disappointment both from a boss perspective and from a playable character perspective. She’s just weak, which makes her come off as insignificant in both cases.

Kriztoffer Swank says:

“I’ve not yet heard a single good reason why people prefer old-school style castlevanias over the newer ones.”

Oldschoolvania (that’s right, I went there) is all about platforming. I love me some platforming! Jumping at the very last moment so as not to fall in a pit. Whipping bats and thrown bones so as not to be bumped into deathpits. Those games are fun, and challenging. I call bullshit on the “only liked for nostalgia” theory.

Plus, in addition to the linear, often tough-as-nails, PLATFORMING (when was the last time a Castlevania game had ACTUAL platforming?) gameplay being so much more fun to me, there’s the music in the older games which I deem far superior to EVERYTHING that’s come out since Bloodlines, save for maybe SOTN, which has an excellent score. And I like the more European-style art and atmospherics of the older games, as opposed to the far more Japanese (and often girly) look of the current series.

Like I said, I enjoy the current series, even though I think all the other Metroidvanias pale greatly in comparison to SOTN, but they don’t have a thing on the older games, and that’s NOT nostalgia speaking. I’ve heard the “older games have clunky controls” thing before, and I just don’t get it. They were a core element to the very gameplay style of the original games. Again, having the very far-back pixel of a character’s foot leap off the very near-edge pixel of a platforming just to clear the gap… Jump too soon, you die; jump too late, you die. You don’t get that with the new games AT ALL.

Kriztoffer Swank says:

*platform just to clear the gap

(fixin’ ma typoooo)

Also, going off on what kevinski said, the level/area designing of the later games is ATROCIOUS. The only really well-designed game in this area, in my opinion, is Aria of Sorrow, which is easily the best of the post-SOTN Metroidvanias. In the old games, you didn’t get any of that copy-and-paste bullshit like with the new games (to which Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia are the greatest offenders thus far). The level designing usually took a bit of skill and thought, and the end results were magnificent, and FUN.

Concerning SOTN… What the hell? SOTN’s voice acting was pretty good. I mean, it was BAD, but there are so many great, cheesy lines and expressions there. So many things to quote, and like kevinski said, Alucard and Death had good voice actors. Well, perhaps Alucard didn’t have a good voice ACTOR, but he has a good voice, and his stoic acting worked well for the character of Alucard, I thought. The new voice acting for the PSP port is far worse, and the dialog is written surprisingly worse.

Plus, I don’t understand your claims to the graphics of the newer games being better. SOTN appeals to me far more. Far better artistry and time taken on making the backgrounds and sprites look wonderful, and plus it has the advantage of being on a 32-bit console. The controls have always felt more fluid to me in SOTN than the later ones, and in SOTN I actually found myself being excited every time I pick up a new sword, wanting to see what it does. The latter games’ weaponry is mostly boring. And again, the music of the post-SOTN games pales in comparison to SOTN’s, in both composition and obviously sound quality.

As for the few complaints by a few people about Castlevania IV having stiff controls… It’s like you people have never played any of the other older Castlevania games. They’re ALL like that, save for maybe Bloodlines. Again, all part of the design, and it works beautifully. If you put SOTN Alucard in any of those games, it would completely ruin the experience. Plus, Castlevania IV has amazing sprites and background art, and anyone who says otherwise is flat-out wrong on the matter. :] Saying that Bloodlines’ utterly goofy-looking sprites are better than CVIV and Rondo’s is an utter travesty…

kevinski says:

I’ve played the NES installments, and I’m completely aware of the fact that their controls are far more restrictive. The problem with SCIV, however, is that it attempts to give the player far more freedom of movement, yet it still comes off as very stiff. Amusingly, Bloodlines doesn’t allow you to control your jumps in mid-air, yet its controls feel far more natural and aren’t the least bit stiff.

As for the graphics in Bloodlines, I’m referring to the graphical effects used throughout the game. I realize that the color palette isn’t quite as pleasing to the eye. I can understand people preferring the graphics in Rondo, but I’d only really share the same opinion with regard to character sprites, not backgrounds. The color palette in SCIV is far too drab. I honestly can’t stand looking at that game.

glynnahab says:

Oh wow. 35 people voted for Castlevania 64. Poor, misguided souls…

kevinski says:

I’d say that it’s all the more tragic that two people voted for Order of Shadows. Awful, awful game…

Kriztoffer Swank says:

Hey, CV64 and Legacy of Darkness are great games. Far from the best, but I love ’em, and they’re far better than the other two 3D Castlevanias. They also have structure and clever level design, unlike the PS2 games, which had even less thought put into them than Dawn of Sorrow.

CVIV is “drab” I suppose, but it’s that dark Baroque-type look that I adore. It’s the perfect Castlevania in every way, and the eight-way whip is obviously only for attacking. I’m glad they added that yet kept the slow walking movement. I also like being able to change direction mid-air. I’ll never understand the criticisms of this game because I think it’s perfect.

kevinski says:

I do feel that the N64 Castlevania games had good level design. I never really played much of them, though, so I’m not in a position to judge those ones. The only 3D Castlevania game that I’ve played much of is LoI, and it’s just not capable of keeping my attention for very long. It’s just boring. By contrast, I’ve played through the PSP and Saturn versions of SotN lately, and I’m playing through the PSX version right now. There’s just something about it…

SCIV’s problem is that it attempts to give the player more freedom and fails miserably at it.

Take the 8-way whipping, for instance. Bloodlines has multi-directional whipping, but not in eight directions. However, Bloodlines offers far more freedom, as you can swing from pretty much any object that’s above you, rather than these rings that just happen to be conveniently floating near gaps.

Swinging with the whip in SCIV just feels clunky. It’s a mechanic that hasn’t aged well. In the NES installments, there’s nothing that really feels dated. The same goes for whip flailing. It just feels awful in SCIV, but it feels absolutely amazing in SotN.

Kriztoffer Swank says:

I don’t recall there ever being any whip-flailing in SOTN. 😛 Unless there’s some totally awesome weapon an enemy drops that I’ve never grabbed.

Guess we’ll just have to settle on our disagreements. I find the whip-swinging in Bloodlines to not be very good. I mostly play Eric anyway. That miniskirt-wearing fruitcake can whup John’s ass any day.

kevinski says:

I’m talking about playing as Richter in SotN. 😛

And yeah, Eric is awesome.

kevinski says:

Despite my love of Castlevania, I’m not actually a huge fan of whips in the games, anyway. The only whip that I ever really enjoyed using in recent games is Nebula from PoR. That is, hands down, the coolest concept for a whip. Obviously, you can’t flail it, but who cares?

AngrySquirrel says:

I’m glad to see someone articulate why they think olskoovania is best. That said, platforming?? The platforming in the old castlevanias was average at best, and I can’t say any of it was particularly hard or memorable, with one possible exception: the medusa head areas. However, the post-SOTN games usually have at least one “clock tower” area with the medusa heads where you have to do some tricky jumping, so you can’t really say that medusa head areas are done better in the older games. Other games, even from the 8 and 16-bit eras, have done platforming better than the castlevanias (see: megaman), so I agree with the design evolution away from platforming, at least in the jumping-over-bottomless-pit sense.

As for the argument that stiff controls are good and part of the design, I don’t really know what to say to that. I know I don’t miss the days of making sure I’m just close enough to the ledge to make a jump. Some people may think that this is a skill element, but if you’ve played enough games from that era, it really becomes second nature. Also, there are a lot of modern games that show that you can have fluid animation and challenging platforming sequences at the same time, so to say that stiffness is a good thing just sounds like nostalgia talking.

Music and atmosphere? Purely a matter of taste. The Japanification of the series has rubbed some ppl wrong, but I don’t care about it as long as the gameplay is good. Musicwise, Castlevania has been consistently good post-SOTN, excepting harmony of dissonance I guess. Circle of the Moon and Dawn of Sorrow stand out in my mind, but I never was a soundtrack-buying type, so I’ll defer to others here.

As for level design, if you’re talking about aesthetics, then I defer to what I said before about being a matter of taste. If you’re talking about from a gameplay standpoint, well, I just don’t see your point. The level design has been pretty good IMO of all the newer games, what specifically don’t you like about them that was present in the old games?

“Plus, Castlevania IV has amazing sprites and background art, and anyone who says otherwise is flat-out wrong on the matter. :]”

Amazing in their chunkiness and poor animation, perhaps. Forget Chi no Rondo, even Dracula X on the SNES animated much better than SCIV. Don’t get me wrong, SCIV was great for it’s time, and I do like the game overall (really fun dracula fight at the end), but I find it completely ludicrous that it’s second in this poll. Meanwhile, Circle of the Moon languishes at 12th, behind all 3 NES games. You can’t tell me this isn’t a poll of nostalgia based on those results.

racketboy says:

I agree — the comments have been great 🙂
Thanks, everyone!

Kriztoffer Swank says:

Meh, what more can I say? :] It’ll just be a back-and-forth argument that goes nowhere. I personally can’t even imagine placing COTM within the same league as the NES games. To me that game is like pee-wee baseball compared to the pros. It’s not even my favorite of the Metroidvanias. But oh well, differing opinions.

kevinski says:

Yeah, CotM is week. Awful controls, awful graphics, confusing card magic system that relies on random enemy drops? I agree that CotM has nothing on the NES installments in the series.

The only thing that I really like about CotM is how it changes the enemies in certain areas as you get further into the game, so the difficulty is always considerable, Still, if you’re not enjoying the game as you play, then that’s not such a big deal. And I hated thinking that I was actually making progress, only to be greeted by yet another dead end that contained a HP/MP max up. Gah!

kevinski says:

D’oh! I meant to say that CotM is WEAK, not WEEK.

D says:

That’s easy.
Which Castlevania has eight-way whipping?
SOTN is second place
Chronicles third?

Ah, the hell with it, most Castlevania’s are great.

AngrySquirrel says:

“Meh, what more can I say? :] It’ll just be a back-and-forth argument that goes nowhere. I personally can’t even imagine placing COTM within the same league as the NES games. To me that game is like pee-wee baseball compared to the pros. It’s not even my favorite of the Metroidvanias. But oh well, differing opinions.”

Please say any other reason that the oleskoolvanias are better than the post-SOTN ones, if you have any. What I’ve heard so far is basically nostalgia for NES-style platforming and “atmosphere,” which is unconvincing IMO for the reasons I said before.

“CotM is week. Awful controls, awful graphics…”

Compared to NES games? Are you serious?

“…confusing card magic system that relies on random enemy drops?

I wasn’t confused. Last I checked, the 8 and 16 bit games had NO magic system. And how is having some cards being based on random drops any different from weapons being based on random drops?

I never said COTM was the best metroidvania – it isn’t, not even on the GBA. But it has deeper gameplay and is longer and better looking than any of castlevania I-IV and Dracula X, all of which are ahead of it in the polls for no good reason I can see (lack of exposure?).

Megavolt says:

My top three:

Castlevania III (superb level design and challenge)
Super Castlevania IV (superb atmosphere and polish; best music in the series)
Castlevania SOTN (great presentation and playability)

“Please say any other reason that the oleskoolvanias are better than the post-SOTN ones, if you have any.”

I don’t know about him, but I certainly have reasons. It starts with the fact that SOTN tries to marry the old school Castlevania approach with a more Metroid-inspired approach. The result is something which is good, but not something which captures the best of those two approachs on their own. SOTN plays it pretty loose in terms of the level design. The challenge and plaforming of old school Castlevania is gone, as are the outdoor environments. You can argue that the platforming of Castlevania was never particularly fluid, but the stage designs themselves were challenging and rewarding to overcome, particularly in CVIII. On the Metroid side of things, SOTN is not nearly as intricate as Super Metroid. Whereas Super Metroid made thoughtful use of virtually every bit of space, SOTN has a lot of open corridors populated by few enemies and it has scant few places where you need to use your abilities (the wolf form was practically useless) to find a powerup. Then there’s the RPG elements, which while adding a sense of depth, hurt the game’s difficulty and come off as a bit sloppily implemented for it.

However, there are certainly good things about SOTN, or else it wouldn’t be my third favorite Castlevania. Alucard feels wonderful to control, the backgrounds are nice to look at, the music is pretty good, and the game has an addictive quality to it. Just that I don’t think it’s the best 2D sidescroller or platformer ever and it’s not quite my favorite Castlevania. What it is is a very good game, and that’s okay too. Otherwise it’s a bit too hack ‘n slash in nature for me to worship at the fount of it like some do.

I certainly like it more than the other Metroid-vanias, however. (I’ve only played the three GBA ones) They’re generally pale imitations of it. One thing I’ll say is that I think AoS actually had a better designed castle. However, it’s hard to argue against the overall aesthetic of SOTN, which is something that its children simply haven’t been able to match.

kevinski says:

“Compared to NES games? Are you serious?”

Compared to other GBA games, actually. The graphics are bland, and the animation is sub-par, even for when the game was originally released.

“I wasn’t confused. Last I checked, the 8 and 16 bit games had NO magic system. And how is having some cards being based on random drops any different from weapons being based on random drops?”

The game makes no effort in explaining how to use the card system. I didn’t have the luxury of reading the game’s manual, either, so I honestly didn’t understand what was going on or what any of the cards were really doing. From what it looked like, I could do a bit more damage with a few of the cards, but I was confused in terms of how to so much as equip them!

“I never said COTM was the best metroidvania – it isn’t, not even on the GBA. But it has deeper gameplay and is longer and better looking than any of castlevania I-IV and Dracula X, all of which are ahead of it in the polls for no good reason I can see (lack of exposure?).”

Assuming that you’re referring to the SNES version of Dracula X, I have to disagree with you there. CotM looks nowhere near as good as Dracula X. I like the colors used within the backgrounds in Dracula X. SCIV was too brown, while the 8-bit installments were just bland-looking.

dee says:

Cmon you know castlevania 64 is a classic i played it when i was about 11 and didn’t beat it until i was like 13 or something that’s why most people never got into it they never got too far. It had to be one of the scariest games ever its dark and vampires can come out of no where and there scary to fight good boss’s 3D and it lets you do a lot of things and doesnt get old

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