The best Castlevania games on Nintendo consoles

The best Castlevania games
Image: Nintendo Life

Castlevania was first launched in Japan on September 26, 1986 on the Famicom Disk System, but iWith today’s 35th anniversary of the series on the NES in North America, it’s a perfect time to revisit this ranking of all Castlevania games on Nintendo consoles. Enjoy!

That Castlevania series has had a long history on Nintendo consoles since the original game was first released for the Japanese Famicom Disk System in 1986 and for the NES a year later. Nintendo platforms might be missing a significant release or two from Konami’s vampire-slaying catalog (we’re looking at you, Symphony of the Night), but the vast majority of the series can be found on Nintendo consoles.

But where do you start if you’re new to the Castlevania series? Which Castlevania game is the best? Those are tough questions, but we’ve done our best to rank the best Castlevania games (on Nintendo consoles) below. The series has many Highs as well as a few very lows, and comes in two distinct flavors: the more straight-forward right-to-left style of the original games, or the more expansive brand of games produced by Koji Igarashi – sometimes referred to as “IGAvanias”. – which spiritually merged with Nintendo’s Metroid series to spawn an entire genre of Metroidvania video games.

Of course, for Switch owners, the Castlevania Anniversary Collection should be your first port of call, with the more recent Castlevania Advance Collection also featuring one of the very best games in the series. And there’s always Koji Igarashi’s standalone Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night once you’ve exhausted all of the Belmonts below. The Switch version isn’t perfect, but it’s been greatly improved since launch and is arguably the closest fans can get to Symphony of the Night on Switch until Konami decides to bring Symphony of the Night to Switch.

We’ve included a few spin-offs and oddities, but that’s enough talk. Wipe these damn tears away and let’s kill some vampires.

Castlevania Judgment (Wii)Castlevania Judgment (Wii)

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

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

We’re starting with a spinoff. Set in the Castlevania universe, this 2008 Wii game brought all your favorite characters and monsters together to create an instantly shitty one-on-one 3D fighter with horrible controls and questionable character design. Castlevania Judgment was panned upon release by critics and fans alike, and time has done nothing to heal the wounds it inflicted. A pathetic bunch indeed.

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

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

Release date: Dec 10, 1989 (United States of America) / Dec 10, 1989 (UK/EU)

The first entry for the series on Game Boy and one best left to forget, Castlevania: The Adventure is a bombastic, terminally sluggish take on the series’ classic gameplay with repetitive, boring level design. Given the limitations of the host console you might be tempted to decide when the doubt is over, but the sequel would show what the platform was really capable of and expose that for the horror it is. Do yourself a favor, skip this and start your portable Castlevania adventure with Belmont’s revenge.

haunted castle (arcade)haunted castle (arcade)

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

Release date: February 1988 (United States of America) / Nov 1988 (UK/EU)

Available on Switch as part of Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection, haunted castle is a strange duck. Made exclusively for arcades, it strikes an odd balance somewhere between homage, parody and portability, and sees Simon Belmont (with a leprechaun a quarter of the screen tall) rescuing his new bride from the Earl’s vicious clutches. The music is by far the best part, but while it looks “better” than the original on the surface, it’s an unfairly punishing arcade experience designed to empty your pockets with shiny coins. As such, it’s not much fun and ultimately isn’t a patch of the original.

If you’re interested, you can check out the differences between the original NES game, his VS Castlevania Arcade port and haunted castle in this video.

Castlevania Legends (GB)Castlevania Legends (UK)

Publisher: konami / Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya

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

Without knowing that this was the third Castlevania for Game Boy, one might think that this was the second game before Konami perfected things with Belmont’s Revenge. But no, Castlevania Legends 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. Watching the release of the sublime Symphony of the Night on PlayStation would certainly have been an unenviable task, but even considering the platform’s inherent limitations, it is one intensive Disappointment. With poor animation, lackluster sprite work, and equally unimpressive level design, it’s hard to believe this came a whopping seven years after its fantastic predecessor.

Simply put, it wasn’t good enough then, and while it’s a coveted collector’s item these days, it only gets worse with age. Avoid.

Castlevania (N64)Castlevania (N64)

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

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

A flawed stab at a 3D polygonal Castlevania, that’s not so much “bad” as it is “staggeringly average.” When the N64 cycle started several years in 1999, at the beginning of the new millennium, players expected better from a 3D game. Camera issues were a constant problem for games of the era, but the best Castlevania titles have always featured tight controls Castlevania (yes, it dropped the colloquial ’64’ appended to its title) just wasn’t up to par. We respect it – remotely – but this one is probably best in the crypt.

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

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

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

Released less than a year after the first, this second N64 entry actually includes the entire first game as an unlockable bonus once you complete the prequel adventure. Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness is essentially the game its predecessor should have been, and would no doubt be a densely patched DLC release these days. It features numerous gameplay improvements and also uses the Expansion Pak for enhanced graphics, but paying full price for it after shelling out hard cash for its predecessor earlier this year was painful even for series fans. These N64 cars were expensive at the time, and even in its polished form, Legacy of Darkness is far from ‘classic’ status, despite our remaining affection for it.

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

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

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

Another game that we have fond memories of despite everything. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest is dull, annoying, and downright cheap at times… but it has a killer soundtrack and admirably changes things up, building on the original game with new ideas, including a day/night cycle and an intriguing (if ultimately frustrating) approaching nonlinearity. It used to be an absolute nightmare and we understand people getting impatient with this, but if you don’t mind sitting down with a walkthrough and taking advantage of save states, we’d recommend giving Simon’s Quest another chance. The soundtrack alone is worth a playthrough.

Vampire Killer (MSX)Vampire Killer (MSX)

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

Release date: 1987 (UK/EU)

Developed alongside the NES game, this MSX2 version of Castlevania shares many similarities with the game you’re probably familiar with, as well as some intriguing differences. For example, in the MSX2 version, it was not possible to implement scrolling, so each level is divided into individual screens that you move between. If you’re interested in a side-by-side comparison, watch this Splash Wave overview video.

So what does this make on a list of Castlevania games? Nintendo consoles, you ask. Spring, Vampire Killer Released on the Wii U virtual console in Japan so maybe we didn’t have the pleasure of it in the West, it technically came out on a Nintendo platform. So it’s inclusion here.

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

Publisher: konami / Developer: konami

Release date: 09/01/1995 (United States of America) / 09/01/1995 (UK/EU)

Known as The Kiss of the Vampire in the EU, Castlevania: Dracula X is a Super NES remake of the original by PC Engine Rondo of Blood, and it doesn’t stand up to comparison to the game it’s based on, although on its own it’s certainly not bad. It offers solid old-school Castlevania fare and is worth investigating if you’ve chewed through better games in the series (especially the original Rondo of Blood). If you’re new to the series, however, we wouldn’t start here.

Killer box art, mind you. The best Castlevania games on Nintendo consoles

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