The Castlevania series has a long, storied legacy. Starting as some of the most successful sidescrolling platformers ever made, turning into some of the worst third person action games ever made, and then ending up as some pretty okay third person action games, the franchise has definitely seen its share of ups and downs. With such a varied catalogue that covers both polarities and everything in between, it's difficult to pinpoint just how all the Castlevania games rank against each other over the years. Well don't worry, we did all the work for you.
You don't have to seek out a descendant of the Belmont clan, or in some cases extremely strained ties, to the bloodline. Start collecting hearts, grab some holy water, and get ready to crack the shit out of your whip. We're ranking all the Castlevania games from worst to best.
22 Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE. Although it had some revolutionary ideas for the time, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is actually one of the worst games ever made, period. The anticipated sequel to the incredibly good (even by today’s standards), original Castlevania, Simon’s Quest gets bogged down in a lot of poor design choices and gameplay mechanics that make most gamers throw the cartridge out the window after the first few minutes.
The game is effectively crippled by a few of its integral mechanics: the day night cycle is announced by a lengthy in game message that pauses gameplay, progression is cryptic thanks to nonsensical items and misinformation fed to you by the town’s people, and an incredibly underwhelming battle against Dracula easily make Simon’s Quest the worst game in the Castlevania series.
21 Castlevania: The Adventure
The first Belmont adventure that could be taken on the go, Castlevania: The Adventure was the series entry on Nintendo’s industry changing Game Boy handheld. The games graphics are descent for the Game Boy in 1989, as you can tell what’s going on and animations are smooth. The soundtrack is okay, although some of the tunes start to really ware on the ear after you hear them on loop for a while.
Aside from the name, the whip, and Dracula, the game doesn’t really have too many similarities to the series; there are no sub weapons, enemies are largely uninspired, and the fight with Dracula is ridiculously underwhelming. I know that some of the game’s weaker points are due to the limited hardware and development practices when the game was released, but in the scope of the series, it’s pretty bad.
20 Castlevania 64
Easily one of the worst in the series, Castlevania 64 was one of the worst games on the console. Graphics were muddy, misshapen, and sharp; a collage of muddy colors and crappy textures. The controls didn’t fare much better as trying to hit anything with your whip is an extreme chore, thanks to the awkward button mapping and horrible camera.
Richter controlled like a tank on crutches and was prone to cheap hits due to the jump into 3D for the series. Plus, it has that lovely N64 aesthetic, meaning that it looks like total poop most of the time. Combine this with the crappy enemy design, awful boss fights, and just general, “Oh my God why did I pay money to put myself through this” and you can plainly see why Castlevania 64 scores so low.
19 Castlevania: Legacy Of Darkness
It’s like Konami saw that everyone hated the first Castlevania 64, and decided to make it even worse, add more characters, and release it again. In addition to the awful controls, clunky combat, and nonsensical storyline, the camera is just awful. So. Damn. Awful. It's so damn awful that it completely ruins any of the positives that the game might've had hidden within it.
There are no redeeming qualities for Legacy Of Darkness. In fact, if you’re thinking about playing it, I strongly advise against it; you can collect items for a certain puzzle in the wrong order, requiring you to erase your save and start over from the beginning. I'd actually play the original N64 Castlevania over this, but I'd be more willing to drive myself off a bridge instead, preferably with a trunk full of these cartridges.
18 Castlevania Legends
The last Castlevania to be released on the Game Boy, you’d figure that Legends would probably be the best. Unfortunately, the game has many shortcomings that make Belmont’s Revenge, released six years earlier, superior. The soundtrack is vastly inferior to most of the series, the level design is bland and uninspired, and the gameplay feels boringly flat. So much so that longtime producer Koji Igarashi publicly proclaimed that it was an “embarrassment to the series.” Ouch.
Legends may have been unfairly judged, being released just a few years after the incredible Symphony Of The Night, but the fact that it’s predecessor released multiple years before it is a better game, Legends will always remain one of the series’ biggest follies. Best avoided, even with a ten foot pole.
17 Castlevania: Lament Of Innocence
Konami’s best attempt to cash in on Capcom’s success with Devil May Cry, Castlevania: Lament Of Innocence is a poor substitute for Dante’s dual pistol, sword swinging action. Following yet another descendant of the Belmont clan, this one being particularly whiney, Lament Of Innocence sees more whip wielding action in a castle as you take on a lackluster story with forgettable characters.
God Of War would come a few years later and become one of gaming’s most popular franchises; Lament Of Innocence was the continuation of the decline of a once proud series. It’s a largely forgettable third person action game with fixed cameras, lackluster enemies and bosses, and the Castlevania name pasted to the cover. I guess it makes sense when you think about the treatment Konami gives most of its series these days.
16 Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow - Mirror Of Fate
A 3D sidescroller that appeared on the last generation of consoles, as well as Nintendo’s 3DS, Mirror Of Fate is a subpar entry when compared to the excellence of the franchises origins. To jump from a third person action game to a sidescrolling reboot is a bold move, and it didn’t pay off for the series this time around.Why they figured that deviating from the goodness of the original 2D by making the game interchangeable with any other sidescroller, instead of making it feel like a real Castlevania game, is beyond me.
The game does feature multiple characters, some fun bosses, and some interesting level design. However, for the most part, it just comes out feeling meh. Instead of a reinvention, Mirror Of Fate becomes a study in mediocrity fairly quickly, and doesn’t move on for the rest of the game.
15 Castlevania: Curse Of Darkness
Another PS2, fixed camera, generic third person action game with the Castlevania name attached to it. It’s sad that the series decided to put out so many lackluster games, because honestly they weren’t even trying at this point and decided to staple a beloved franchise's seal to it. The game is an improvement over Lament Of Innocence in a few ways, including the soundtrack and the combat not being as much a snooze fest.
However, the environments are still repetitive and poorly designed, the colors are muddy and mute, and the game just feels generally lacking. It was a small step forward, but it was still way too many steps behind the other classic games in the series. An unfortunate decline into mediocrity for a once legendary series.
14 Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge
A huge improvement over its predecessor, Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge is one of the finer action games on the Game Boy. The character movement is still slow and the enemies aren’t the most original, but the soundtrack is excellent, especially for Nintendo’s original handheld, and sub weapons make an appearance again. The graphical enhancements are also something to be noted, as the game only came out a few years after The Adventure.
The game featured four levels that had different themes and could be completed in any order, much like the Mega Man series stage selection. All around a pretty good Game Boy game, but when considering the entire Castlevania catalogue, it’s not one of the best. Still, a solid Game Boy experience for anyone who still may be lugging around a grey brick.
13 Castlevania: Bloodlines
The Sega Genesis’s foray into the Belmont family, Bloodlines takes what was right about Super Castlevania IV and mixes it with its own slew of oddities and problems. Players can choose one of two characters, both distant relatives of the Belmont family line, which can alter the way that the game is played and progressed through. A descent soundtrack and excellent graphics (for the time) make Bloodlines a welcome addition to the Castlevania family.
Combat is responsive, enemies are quick and challenging, and the level design and detail made it a graphical showcase for the Sega Genesis. However, some of the boss encounters feel uninspired and the level progression can be confusing when playing with the different characters. For some reason, the classic formula just feels like a miss when designed for Sega's 90s offering.
12 Castlevania: Harmony Of Dissonance
Released just a year after Circle Of The Moon, Castlevania: Harmony Of Dissonance is another Game Boy Advance exclusive release in the series. Although the game had better graphics, some superb level design, and some more flavor to its foes, the game is widely considered to be the worst of the three Game Boy Advance entries in the series.
Even though some of the areas were well designed, the entirety of the map was inferior to Circle Of The Moon, despite coming after it in the series. The soundtrack also pales in comparison to some of the other titles in the series, making it a so-so entry, though it's one that is still worth picking up. Definitely not the worst you can do when picking a Castlevania game, but not the best by a long shot.
11 Castlevania: Portrait Of Ruin
Following the tradition of previous handheld entries, Portrait Of Ruin came out a year after Dawn Of Sorrow. Improving on its predecessor, the game features more varied, expertly designed environments, fun and interesting weapons, and excellent enemy and boss design.
Yet, with all its cool features and lovely visuals, it just feels lacking as compared to Dawn Of Sorrow in some ways. Maybe it’s nostalgia rearing its ugly head, but Dawn Of Sorrow will always stand out as the superior DS experience for me. You can't really go wrong with the series' return back to the 2D platforming, especially with all the sexy bells and whistles. But still, it pales in comparison to the superior handheld entries.
10 Castlevania: Order Of Ecclesia
The third and final DS entry of the Castlevania series, Order Of Ecclesia is another example of the domination of 2D platforming that Konami used to be capable of. While not superior to Dawn Of Sorrow, Order Of Ecclesia does a lot of things right. It’s easily the most visually appealing of the Nintendo DS Castlevania games and has a lot of fun mechanics that set it apart.
However, the story is a bit muddled and the protagonist becomes forgettable after a time. The item and gameplay are fun but nothing crazy, and the castle design isn’t the greatest. Still a solid DS game, but not the best on Nintendo’s two screened handheld. Again, like most of the entries this far up on the list, the 2D platformers are not bad by any means, they're just not as superior as some of the other entries higher on this list.
9 Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow
The first 3D Castlevania on the last generation of systems, Lords Of Shadow is a standout third person action game wearing the Castlevania insignia. The story is interesting, gameplay is tight and engaging, and the game looks gorgeous for the era of consoles that it was designed for.
Even though the game is a solid 3D action game, it’s just that, a 3D action game. You could easily take the franchise name away and simply leave Lords Of Shadow, and I doubt few would notice. It’s good, but it’s not 2D Castlevania good. That said, if you're looking for a third person action game for the previous era's consoles packed with vampires, monsters, and other crazy Castlevania fodder, this series will definitely do.
8 Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow 2
After many gamers were dissatisfied with Mirror Of Fate, the series decided to jump back to third person action, and what a wise decision it was. The combat is the real standout this time around, with fluid, personal melee occupying most of the game’s time. The game also looks excellent for the previous generation of consoles.
Lords Of Shadow 2 does seem to fall off about halfway through though, leaving you feeling like you’re just playing another third person action game. Again, it’s not that it’s bad; it’s not just particularly Castlevania. As I mentioned above, the series is really pretty great for what it is, generic third person action with a recognizable name that'll bring in the bucks, but in the grand scope of a series as storied as Castlevania, you can do better when youi're looking for a Belmont lineage simulator.
The original and still one of the best, Castlevania is a textbook example of how to make an excellent platformer. With the added gothic elements, enemies, and set pieces, the game remains a study in convincingly spooky design. The controls are tight, the sub-weapons are varied and useful, and boss encounters are challengingly well constructed.
Usually, the origin of many a game series may pale in comparison to those that have followed in its formulaic footsteps, but the original Castlevania is still a fun, well made game. The fact that it also started the Belmont clan’s endless battle against a fictional shape shifting vampire and his many loony cronies makes it doubly rare in the world of video games. Always worth a play in the modern day and a valuable part of any collectors library.
6 Castlevania: Circle Of The Moon
An excellent game, Circle Of The Moon was the first Castlevania on the Game Boy Advance system. With a killer soundtrack, tight controls, and excellent enemy design, Circle Of The Moon is a real joy to play. The addition of effect cards made the combat that much better, as did the sub weapons and item’s available for use. The story is also well constructed, with a variety of cutscenes and environments driving the tone and narrative home, all in the palm of your hand.
Featured as one of the Game Boy Advance’s launch titles, Circle Of The Moon set the tone for what Nintendo fans could expect out of their classic series on Nintendo’s (then), new handheld. The game is still worth a play through today for fans of the series, or fans of the genre in general.
5 Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
The finest Castlevania made for the NES, and quite possibly one of the best games on Nintendo’s history making console, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is an excellent continuation of the series. Following yet another descendant of the Belmont clan, the whip cracking action is back, this time with the addition of a few more playable characters.
With some of the most beautifully designed environments and most devastatingly brutal enemies, Dracula’s Curse is the epitome of why gamers used to worship Konami before they became the industry’s mustachioed villain. If you’re going to play any of the original NES trilogy, you owe it to yourself to skip right to the Belmont’s third attempt to finally bring Dracula down. Definitely don't play the second one, just use that as a coaster or frisbee for your dog instead.
4 Castlevania: Aria Of Sorrow
The best of the Game Boy Advance entries, Aria Of Sorrow is easily comparable to Symphony Of The Night, one of the best titles in the series. Enemy and boss design is top notch, the castle is well constructed and fun to explore, and sub weapons are contained in armor and items that must be equipped to be used.
Visually stunning for the Game Boy Advance, Aria Of Sorrow is one of the handheld’s best looking games available. With fun enemies, excellent items and weapons, and a catchy soundtrack, Aria Of Sorrow is one of the best in the series. If you’re going to play any of the GamebBoy Advance titles, make it this one. Actually, this is a pretty worthy pick if you're going to be playing any of the Castlevania series, but there are a few that are more worthy of your button-worn fingers.
3 Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow
From the first couple seconds of the animated opening, you know that Dawn Of Sorrow is going to be something special. Picking up after Aria Of Sorrow, the first DS Castlevania is one of the greatest Castlevania games ever made, without a doubt. The story is fleshed out and interesting, graphics are gorgeous and intricate, and gameplay is fun and feels right.
The large selection of environments, including one of the best-designed castles in the series, the multitude of excellent weapons and items, and the coherent story all make Dawn Of Sorrow a standout for the franchise. Plus, the bosses are a downright joy to topple, meaning that multiple playthroughs are almost guaranteed, just to get another shot at battling them.
2 Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
Considered by a majority of fans to be the best entry in the series, Symphony Of The Night is an excellent game in all respects. An open world adventure through Dracula’s massive labyrinth of a castle, many PlayStation owners remember guiding the flowing coat of Alucard through the platform heavy hallways. The game is host to some of the most quoted lines in the entire series and is rightfully praised for its mix of open world freedom and fun sword/staff play.
The enemy design is excellent, the controls are tight, and the in game items are varied and goofy. However, the open world structure made the game feel lacking at some points as the series took a step away from its expertly structured levels. I understand that some players prefer beating their heads against the wall when they get stuck by revisiting the same areas over and over, but I’d rather progress through the excellent level design that Konami used to be so well known for.
1 Super Castlevania IV
The cream of the crop, Super Castlevania IV was a serious showcase of the SNES’ power. Intricate details in the background, a full scale of movement with the whip for maximum monster killing ability, and the second best soundtrack in the series all this the ultimate Belmont disciple simulator. The level design is excellent, the enemies are the most memorable in the series, and the SNES’s power keeps the controller in your hand until you bring Dracula to his knees.
It beats out its brethren with the feeling of love that seems to be present in every aspect of the game; Konami really put a lot of feeling into crafting this one and it shows, even today. Debate this if you must, but you'll be wrong; when it comes to the Castelvania series, the Super Nintendo offering is by far the best for those that want to get the feel of the entire franchise on one cartridge.