Nintendo consoles

Best Castlevania games for Nintendo consoles

In honor of the series’ 35th anniversary – yes, it has been 35 years since Castlevania first launched in Japan on the Famicom disc system on September 26, 1986 – we are reposting our ranked list of all Castlevania games on Nintendo consoles. Enjoy!

The Castlevania The series has a rich history on Nintendo consoles since the original game first arrived on the Japanese Famicom disc system in 1986 and then on the NES a year later. There may be one or two important versions of Konami’s vampire slayer catalog still missing from Nintendo platforms (we’re looking at you, Symphony of the night), but the vast majority of the series is found on Nintendo consoles.

But where do you start if you’re new to the Castlevania series? Which Castlevania game is the best? These are tough questions, but we’ve done our best to put together a ranked list of the best Castlevania games (for Nintendo consoles) below. The series has numerous strengths, plus a few very weak ones, and comes in two distinct flavors: the simpler right-to-left styling of the original games or the larger brand of games produced by Koji Igarashi – sometimes referred to as “IGAvanias” – which combined spiritually with Nintendo’s Metroid series to give birth to a whole 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 also featuring one of the best games in the series. And there’s still Koji Igarashi’s unaffiliated Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night once you’ve exhausted all of the Belmonts below. The Switch version isn’t perfect, but it has improved a lot since its launch and is arguably the closest thing fans will get from Symphony of the Night to Switch until Konami decides to put Symphony of the Night on Switch.

We’ve included a few spin-offs and quirks, but that’s enough to talk. Wipe away those bloody tears, and we’ll kill vampires.

Castlevania Judgment (Wii)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: November 18, 2008 (United States) / March 20, 2009 (UK / EU)

We’re starting with a spin-off. Set in the Castlevania universe, this 2008 Wii game brought together all of your favorite characters and monsters for a one-on-one 3D fighter with ghastly controls and questionable character designs. Castlevania judgment was criticized by critics and fans on its release and time has done nothing to heal the wounds it inflicted. A miserable stack, indeed.

Castlevania: The Adventure (GB)Castlevania: The Adventure (GB)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: December 10, 1989 (United States) / December 10, 1989 (UK / EU)

The first entry in the series on the Game Boy, and the one you’d better forget, Castlevania: the adventure is a turgid and lethargic approximation of classic series gameplay with a repetitive and bland level design. Considering the limitations of the host console, you might be tempted to give it the benefit of the doubt, but the sequel would show what the platform really was capable of and expose it for the horror it is. Do yourself a favor, skip this and start your Castlevania portable adventure with Belmont’s revenge.

Haunted Castle (Arcade)Haunted Castle (Arcade)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: February 1988 (United States) / November 1988 (UK / EU)

Available on Switch as part of Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection, Haunted Castle is a strange duck. Designed exclusively for arcades, it occupies a strange middle ground between tribute, parody, and port and sees Simon Belmont (with a sprite that measures a quarter of the screen) saving his new bride from the count’s villainous clutches. The music is by far the best thing about it, but while it looks superficially “better” than the original, it’s an unfairly punitive arcade experience designed to empty your pockets of shiny coins. As such, there isn’t a whole lot of fun to be had and ultimately it’s not a patch on the original.

If you are interested, you can check the differences between the original NES game, its VS Castlevania arcade port and haunted castle in this video.

Castlevania Legends (GB)Castlevania Legends (GB)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya

Release date: March 11, 1998 (United States) / March 11, 1998 (UK / EU)

Without knowing that this was the third Castlevania for Game Boy, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was the second game before Konami perfected things with Belmont’s Revenge. But no, Legends of Castlevania was a late release for the aging 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 massive Symphony of the Night on PlayStation, that would have been an unenviable task, of course, but even taking into account the inherent limitations of the platform, it is a intense disappointment. With poor animation, lackluster sprite work, and an equally unimpressive level design, it’s hard to believe this happened seven years after its fantastic predecessor.

Simply put, it wasn’t good enough back then, and while it’s a sought-after collector’s item these days, it only gets worse with age. To avoid.

Castlevania (N64)Castlevania (N64)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: December 31, 1998 (United States) / March 11, 1999 (UK / EU)

A faulty shot on a polygonal 3D Castlevania is not ‘bad’ as much as ‘overwhelming average’. Launched several years into the N64 cycle in 1999, gamers expected better from a 3D game at the dawn of the new millennium. Camera issues were an ongoing issue for games of the day, but the best Castlevania titles have always been characterized by tight controls and Castlevania (yes, he avoided the “64” familiarly added to his title) just wasn’t up to the job. We respect him – from afar – but this one is probably best left in the crypt.

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (N64)Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (N64)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: November 30, 1999 (United States) / March 3, 2000 (UK / EU)

This second N64 entry was released less than a year after the first and actually includes the entirety of the first game as a bonus to unlock once you’ve completed the prequel adventure. Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is essentially the game its predecessor should have been and no doubt would be a DLC release with lots of fixes these days. It features plenty of gameplay tweaks and also uses the Expansion Pak for enhanced visuals, but paying a high price for it after putting money in for its predecessor at the start of the year was painful, even for fans of the game. series. These N64 carts were expensive back then, and even in its refined form, Legacy of Darkness falls far short of “classic” status, despite our residual affection for it.

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

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: December 1, 1988 (United States) / April 27, 1990 (UK / EU)

Another match that we keep fond memories of, despite himself. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is obtuse, infuriating, and downright cheap at times … but it has a killer soundtrack and changes things up admirably by building on the original game with some new ideas including a day / night cycle and a no- linear intriguing (if ultimately frustrating) approach. Back then it would have been an absolute nightmare, and we fully understand people who lose patience with it, but if you’re not averse to sitting down with a walkthrough and using save states, we recommend that you give Simon’s Quest another chance. The soundtrack alone is worth seeing.

Vampire Slayer (MSX)Vampire Slayer (MSX)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: 1987 (UK / EU)

This MSX2 version of Castlevania was developed in tandem with the NES game and has many similarities as well as some fascinating differences from the game you are probably familiar with. For example, it was not possible to implement scrolling in the MSX2 version, so each level is divided into single screens that you move between. If you’re interested in a side-by-side comparison, check out this Splash Wave presentation video.

So what does this do on a Castlevania games list for Nintendo consoles, you ask. Well, Vampire slayer released on the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan, so while we may not have had the fun in the West, it technically appeared on a Nintendo platform. Ergo is inclusion here.

Castlevania: Dracula X (SNES)Castlevania: Dracula X (SNES)

Editor: Konami / Developer: Konami

Release date: September 1, 1995 (United States) / September 1, 1995 (UK / EU)

Known as Vampire kiss in the EU, Castlevania: Dracula X is a Super NES remake of the original PC Engine Rondo of blood, and it doesn’t stand up to comparison with the game it’s based on, although it certainly isn’t badly taken in isolation. It offers a solid, old-fashioned Castlevania fare and is worth considering if you’ve made 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, however.

Killer box art, spirit.

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