As a bonus, we also list the top games in Konami’s vampire killer franchise you should play before you end up as dead as Dracula.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The essential Castlevania to start with if you’re clueless about the series. Your character Alucard starts off piddly, but as he collects artifacts and power-ups, he can shapeshift into different forms, cast powerful spells like his dad, and double-jump/dive-kick/gravity leap all across the 2D planescape like a fleaman on steroids. Even if you think you’ve finished the game, along comes a second area for you to conquer and master. SOTN is available on a lot of platforms on the cheap, so there’s no excuse not to play it.
This throwback of the old-style Castlevania gameplay might be hard to find, but it’s worth it just for you to experience two different styles of play. You can either be a whip-bearing John Morris or spear-handling Eric Lecarde; the latter makes the game slightly easier. Rather than being confined to Dracula’s castle, you have to hunt down the vampire-resurrecting Elizabeth Bathory through different countries of Europe, each with their own death traps, branching stage paths and demons. Cross-country vampire-slaying never sounded this stylish and cool.
More after the break...
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
If you don’t mind going back further in gaming history, get the third Castlevania incarnation. It gets incredibly tough especially if you’re used to SOTN’s controls and flexibility. This is the series at its basest core - intricate level structure with branching paths make you think twice before you blaze on through unprepared. Plus, getting to choose from four characters opens up options for new play styles.
Dracula X: Rondo of Blood
While some may argue that it’s a stripped-down variant of Dracula’s Curse, it makes up for that with its vibrant color palette, its fan service, and secrets. A wall you accidentally tore down or a pit that would lead you to your death would instead bring you to other sections where you can unlock the game’s other ending and a new playable character. Secrets galore! The original is available on the Wii Virtual Console shop and on the PSP as a 3D remake. Surprisingly, the 3D version retains all of its 2D elements and does the original justice.
Castlevania: Aria/Dawn of Sorrow
You can’t go wrong with the Gameboy Advance entries Aria of Sorrow and DS Dawn of Sorrow. Both games have you playing as Soma as he fights a Dracula-resurrecting cult in his castle that exists in modern times. The Soul System gives players a plethora of power up choices from enemies you killed, the castle layouts are well thought-out, and SOTN fans will get a kick out of the significant character appearances from past titles. The game also gets kudos for not putting in elements from Twilight.