Castlevania whipped onto the gaming scene in 1986 with its first installment on the NES. The original game featured Simon Belmont, a heroic vampire slayer on a mission to defeat the most notorious vampire of all, Dracula.
The game has iterated over the years, turning into a labyrinth adventure game and making the jump into 3D. Some of these iterations have paid off, pioneering a new way to play sidescrolling adventures. Unfortunately, others haven’t faired as well, with some abysmal 3D experiences.
The Castlevania series has a rich history spanning decades and almost every console imaginable. We’ve ranked every Castlevania game from best to worst to help you decide where to jump in with this fascinating series.
1. Aria of Sorrow: The Best Castlevania Game
The Game Boy Advance offered developers a chance to work on new and exciting 2D games while the home console market switched to 3D. This opportunity provided some of the best gaming experiences we’ve ever had on a handheld device, with Konami making three different Castlevania titles for the system. Aria of Sorrow is the best title from these three and the best Castlevania game ever made.
Aria of Sorrow took some significant risks. The game introduced a new “soul” gathering mechanic, allowing players to learn new abilities on their trek through Dracula’s Castle. Aria of Sorrow also features one of the best Castles and stories in the series, taking a futuristic setting rather than one in the past.
The game is readily available today as part of the advanced collection. The mechanics and gameplay are just as fun today as they were in 2003. Aria of Sorrow has aged like a fine wine and is the best game the series offers.
2. Symphony of the Night: A Pioneer in Metroidvanias
Symphony of the Night was a gamble for Konami. While most console games were jumping to 3D, Konami decided to reinvent the Castlevania series by turning the platform-based sidescroller into a labyrinth Metroid-style experience.
Symphony of the Night threw the entire Castlevania format on its ear, focusing on exploration and leveling rather than punishing platforming sections. The game featured memorable boss fights, an engaging story, and a twist at the end that has you traversing the entire Castle again upside down. Symphony of the Night is truly a classic and deserves all the praise it received in 1997.
3. Rondo of Blood: The Highlight of Classic Castlevania
Rondo of Blood was originally released in 1993, but it would be over a decade until the game saw a western release. A version made it to the states but featured too many deviations to be a true port.
Rondo of Blood was the last game in the series to feature the classic Castlevania-level design before its move to Metroidvania. Instead, the game boasts nine levels and punishingly brutal enemies. As a result, it’s much easier to get your hands on the title now, and it lives on as a reminder of how well this classic formula works.
4. Dawn of Sorrow: The Sequel to the Best Game in the Series
Dawn of Sorrow is a Nintendo DS exclusive and is a sequel to Aria of Sorrow. The game features the same protagonist as Aria but with an updated Soul system and a new castle.
Dawn of Sorrow could never hit the highs of Aria, but it remains one of the best in the series. Using the DS’s second screen for soul-catching became cumbersome, but other than that, the entire title is brimming with charm. Soma Cruz is one of Castlevania’s best protagonists, and we can’t get enough of their story.
5. Simons Quest: The Groundwork for the Series
Simons Quest is the follow-up to the original Castlevania game, and what a follow-up it was. The game focused more on RPG elements than platforming and features mechanics that would redefine the series in the future.
In Simons Quest, you are tasked with retrieving five different body parts belonging to Dracula. These parts are needed to unlock the final chamber and fight the big bad himself. The RPG and exploration mechanics wouldn’t become fully fleshed out (pun intended) until Symphony of the Night, but it’s easy to see how this title laid the groundwork for the series’ future.
6. Dracula X: The Western Version of Rondo of Blood
Rondo of Blood initially only saw a Japanese release, but the west got Dracula X, a stellar entry in the series. The game happens chronologically right before Symphony Night, with Simon Belmont attempting to take down Dracula.
Dracula X is a SNES classic and one of the more demanding games in the series. The levels are nearly identical to Rondo of Blood, but the omission of Maria Reinhardt as a playable character is glaring and puts this game lower on our list. However, with both versions being easily available to play today, it’s fun to look at both and see Konami’s changes to this classic game.
7. Harmony of Dissonance: A Re-invention of the Castle
Harmony of Dissonance is the second Metroidvania-style Castlevania game to come to the Game Boy Advance. Its most significant achievement is the two-castle system that has you traversing two separate castles simultaneously. This reveal is left until about halfway through the game, but when it hits, it becomes this eureka moment for gamers who have felt lost wandering through the game’s giant maze.
The gameplay is just as solid as every other Castlevania game for the GBA. The combat systems are not as robust as other entries, but it’s still deep enough that players need to choose their weapons wisely. Harmony of Dissonance may not be as revolutionary as some other titles on our list, but it’s an amazing game and a must-play for any Metroidvania fan.
8. Portrait of Ruin: An Innovative Departure in the Classic Series
Portrait of Ruin is the Second game in the series to land on the Nintendo DS. It’s preceded by the astonishingly good Dawn of Sorrow and features two brand-new characters. Konami wisely chose not to re-hash another adventure with Soma Cruz, even though he’s one of the greatest Castlevania protagonists. Instead, they went a different route, taking the series 1944 Europe.
This new setting provides some of the most incredible backdrops seen in a 2D Metroidvania, and the portrait teleport system allows players to explore vistas never seen in the series. The game is also notable for its use of two protagonists and the ability to switch between them at will.
Konami threw a lot at the wall when they made Portrait of Ruin. They moved the series to a new time with WWII Europe. They added two new protagonists. And they introduced new locations, with much of the game taking place outside the Castles walls. Not everything landed perfectly, but it’s such a bold departure and fun game to play that its few missteps can be forgiven.
9. Super Castlevania 4: 16 Bit Perfection
Super Castlevania 4 took the game from the 8-Bit era to the 16-bit one. This jump allowed Castlevania to look and sound better than ever before while retaining the classic gameplay we loved from the NES era.
The gameplay is very similar to old-school Castlevania. The player controls Simon Belmont as he platforms and attacks his way to Dracula. The game remains a staple of the series today and boasts one of the best soundtracks to be featured in a game.
10. Circle of the Moon: A Portable Metroidvania Classic
Circle of the Moon is the first Castlevania game released for the GBA system and arguably its least impressive outing. However, while the system’s later entries have overshadowed Circle of the Moon, this game still proved the system’s capability.
Circle of the Moon was a launch title for the GBA and a return to the gameplay seen in Symphony of the Night. Symphony of the Night had proven the Metroid exploration formula could work in the Castlevania series. Still, Circle of the Moon cemented this as the best path forward for the series.
After a few missteps in portable and 3D outings, this is the game where Konami decided to embrace the exploration formula truly. Admittedly, the gameplay and mechanics are not as perfect as they were in Symphony, but for its first outing on the GBA, it’s a good step forward.
11. Order of Ecclesia: A Female Heroine Takes Down Dracula
By the time Order of Ecclesia came to the Nintendo DS, the series had already perfected its winning formula. Order of Ecclesia made some advancements in the series but ultimately failed to meet the highs of previous entries.
The game takes place shortly after Symphony of the Night. The Belmont clan has disappeared, and it’s up to a new group of vampire hunters to take down Dracula upon his return. Order of Ecclesia gets props for its fantastic protagonist and Gylph system. While it’s not the best in the series, it’s still a tremendous entry worthy of any Metroidvania fan’s time.
12. Belmonts Revenge: The Best Game Boy Castlevania
Belmonts Revenge is a direct sequel to Castlevania’s first portable title, Castlevania The Adventure. Unfortunately, the original Game Boy was an underpowered system, and these limitations ended up holding back these old titles from the greatness of their console counterparts.
With a short run time, little replayability, and poor graphics, the Game Boy titles lost a lot of the charm of their console counterparts. Still, considering what Konami accomplished with these limitations, Belmonts Revenge is a fantastic entry in the Castlevania series.
13. Lords of Shadow: A Successful Jump into 3D
Konami had a lot of work ahead of them with Lords of Shadow. The game acts as a reboot for the series, attempting to bring the game into 3D after some disastrous first attempts. Castlevania had become synonymous with 2D exploration RPG, and fans were worried another attempt at 3D gameplay would lose all of the series’ charm. What we got, though, was a great beginning to a series that was abandoned too quickly.
Lords of Shadow borrowed mechanics from some stellar 3D action-adventure titles of the time. It featured a strong story, a great setting, and fun combat. A sequel would be released a few years later, but the original title is what proved Castlevania could work in a 3D space.
14. Bloodlines: Sega’s Answer to Super Castlevania
Castlevania Bloodlines was a Sega Genesis exclusive that took the classic formula and created a 16-bit masterpiece. Bloodlines is most well-known for introducing series composer Michiru Yamane. Michiru would go on to compose music for countless other entries, but her work here is some of her finest.
Bloodlines may not be as polished as its other 16-bit counterpart, but its fast-paced action and stellar soundtrack make it a standout Castlevania game. The game has been re-released several times and is easily accessible today through Nintendo Switch online.
15. Castlevania: The Original Vampire Hunter
The first game in the series hasn’t aged as well as some other entries, but it is still a blast to play. The game features slower, methodical gameplay and has become a staple in the speedrunning community.
The game focuses more on platforming than combat, but some core tenets of the original have remained throughout the years. The Castle is brimming with personality for an 8-bit title, and some iconic enemies stay throughout the series.
16. Dracula’s Curse: Castlevania Searches for Its Footing
Castlevania 3 Draculas Curse took a step away from the second game. The game forwent the RPG elements of Simon’s quest and returned to platform-based adventure. The results land Dracula’s Curse firmly in the middle of the pack.
While not a bad game, Dracula’s curse couldn’t capture the charm of the original or the depth of Simons Quest. The game is memorable for introducing Alucard and advancing the story, but little else. As a result, Castlevania Dracula’s Curse, unfortunately, remains one of the more forgettable titles from the 8-bit era.
17. Chronicles: A Fantastic Collection for PlayStation
Castlevania Chronicles is a ported collection of a remake of the original Castlevania game. The ported game is Akumajō Dracula, a Japanese-only release for the Sharp X68000. The collection brought the game to western audiences for the first time and included a more accessible mode for players who struggled with the original.
The pit Chronicles falls into is how shallow the experience feels after playing through Symphony of the Night. Chronicles is a great collection, but the series felt more at home as a sprawling adventure than a level-based platformer. Nevertheless, it’s still a great game and one of the best ways to experience the Japanese-only original.
18. Lament of Innocence: A Fair 3D Outing For the Series
Lament of Innocence faced an uphill battle with its PS2 release. The series had some trouble making the jump to 3D, and many feared Lament of Innocence would suffer the same fate. Fortunately, the excellent story and visuals proved Castlevania could survive in the 3D era.
The game stars Leon Belmont as he searches for his love in a vampire’s Castle. The story is essential canon for the series, and the gameplay remains one of the best in the 3D space. Where the game suffered was its repetitive level design and constant backtracking.
19. The Dracula X Chronicles: Portable Castlevania Magic
The Dracula X Chronicles is notable for bringing the true version of Rondo of Blood to western audiences for the first time. Rondo of Blood is one of the more difficult Castlevania titles from its era, and the remake retains that difficulty. The main version featured in the Dracula X Chronicles is an updated 2.5D version. However, the original version can be unlocked.
Surprisingly, fan-favorite Symphony of the Night is also included as an unlockable game. The unlockable version of Symphony of the Night is again a remaster with additional characters and enemies. The game, unfortunately, chose to change some of the original dialogue for this release, which is why fans should choose to play the original over the version found here.
20. Curse of Darkness: A More Robust 3D Experience
Curse of Darkness was the follow-up to Lament of Innocence and proved to be a competent sequel. The game took some of the best elements of Lament of Innocence and added in classic Metroidvania-style exploration. It also features some of the best music in the series.
Where Curse of Darkness stumbles is its presentation and departure from classic tropes. The game introduced a more robust combat system but left much of the action outside the Castle. The story is also more forgettable than Lament of Innocence and proves inconsequential to the overall narrative.
21. The Adventure: Castlevania Comes to Game Boy
Castlevania the adventure is the first Castlevania title released for Nintendo’s Game Boy system. The game plays much like the original, with platforming taking center stage.
The series first portable outing proved to be a disappointment. The game lacked all the sub-weapons of the original and was punishingly difficult. So only give this original Game Boy game a shot if you’re up for a challenge.
22. Lords of Shadow Mirrors of Fate: A Return to Metroidvania
The Lords of Shadow series was a reboot of the Castlevania series, making Dracula the main protagonist. Mirrors of Fate was a sequel and 3DS exclusive that brought back the 2D Metroidvania-style gameplay.
Mirrors of Fate is not the best Metroidvania of the series or even the best of the reboot series, but it’s a fun romp through our favorite Castlevania genre. An HD remaster was released for consoles and is the easiest way to play through the last true Metroidvania in the series.
23. The Adventure ReBirth: A Remake That Missed the Mark
The Adventure ReBirth was a WiiWare title released exclusively for the Wii console. The game upgrades the visuals and gameplay of the Game Boy original but sadly didn’t fix some of its fatal flaws.
ReBirth is undoubtedly more visually impressive than the original, but the game still feels bland. It’s a shame, as Nintendo could have done much more with the title. As it stands, ReBirth was punishing, with no nostalgia to redeem it.
24. Haunted Castle: Castlevania Returns to Arcades
Haunted Castle is an original game released only as an arcade cabinet in 1987. It has since been ported to various consoles, but the game was intended to be played on cabinets. Unfortunately, aside from the cabinet featuring bonkers artwork, this title has few redeeming qualities.
Castlevania has seen many different iterations over the years, but the arcade cabinet may be its worse-suited outing. The gameplay suffers from stiff controls and challenging levels. The game is still a must-play for the lucky Castlevanias who can spot one in an arcade. It had a short lifespan, and there aren’t many of these cabinets out in the wild.
25. Legends: A Portable Blunder
Castlevania Legends was the third portable Castlevania title, and it failed to meet even the low bar set by The Adventure. Some of its misfortunes are due to its untimely release right after Symphony of the Night.
Castlevania had found a new formula in Symphony of the Night, but due to the Game Boy’s limitations, Legends is a straightforward platformer. Unfortunately, this formula had proven stale for the series, and the game didn’t handle it well. The story is also very forgettable, even being retconned as non-canon in recent years.
26. Legacy of Darkness: A 3D Prequel that Stumbles
Legacy of Darkness is the second 3D Castlevania game released for the Nintendo 64 and is only slightly better than the first. The series had found a true home in 2D adventures, while its first two 3D outings failed to reach any of those highs.
Legacy of Darkness is a prequel story to Castlevania 64, but that story is bland and forgettable. The game made a few improvements over the original, but nothing to make it worth playing.
27. Castlevania 64: A Low Point for the Series
Castlevania 64 was highly anticipated after its announcement but failed to live up to the hype. Symphony of the Night had been released on PlayStation just two years earlier to rave reviews. Fans were hopeful the N64 game would smoothly transition the series to the third dimension. Sadly, Castlevania 64 is one of the worst entries in Castlevania’s history.
The main gripes with Castlevania 64 were its terrible mechanics and camera. For a series with impeccable combat and exploration, a game that fumbled both was bound to be a disappointment. Some outlets did praise the visuals and music, but it isn’t enough to save this game from being a series low point.
28. Lords of Shadow 2: The Worst Castlevania Game
Lords of Shadow 2 is currently the last original Castlevania to release and, unfortunately, also the worst. The Reboot series had two solid titles, but Lords of Shadow 2 did almost everything wrong.
The game has a genuinely bonkers story. Dracula is the protagonist on a mission to defeat Satan in a modern setting. Unfortunately, the atmosphere abandoned everything we love about the series, and the gameplay failed to live up to the better 3D offerings. Lords of Shadow 2 is a must-skip, even for diehard fans of the series.