If you can tell from a previous entry in Fright-A-Thon: The Frights Of Non-Horror Video Games, horror games aren’t my favorite thing. There is one horror gaming series out there that’s among my absolute favorites though: Castlevania. Known for it’s punishing difficulty in earlier games, and the Metroid-Vania gameplay of later titles, the series borrows heavily from classic Universal Monsters. It tells the story of the Belmont family and the surrounding people of that bloodline and their battle against creatures of the night and of course, Dracula. Each game in the original series tasked a member of the Belmont family with traversing Dracula’s castle and defeating the famed monster.
The series follows: Simon, Trevor, Richter, Leon, Christopher, Juste, Soleil, and Julius Belmont. Leon was the first Belmont to hunt vampires. His legacy starts in the game, Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, the first game chronologically. Their famous weapon, the Vampire Killer, the whip passed down through the generations was also created in that game’s story. The games don’t all follow the Belmont clan though. Some of them cross-over with real-life vampire mythology like Bram Stoker‘s Dracula. In Castlevania: Bloodlines for the Sega Genesis, you control either Eric Lecarde or John Morris. Morris is related to Quincy Morris from the famous novel.
It’s small things like this, plus all the other nods to classic horror that make Castlevania so amazing and rich.
From Castlevania On The NES All The Way To Modern Day
It all started on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Castlevania. It was a novel idea, take the best of the Universal Monsters, and fight through a castle until you get to Dracula. Who knew that it would spawn one of the longest running and most beloved game series ever. That wouldn’t be the only time that Castlevania would change the face of gaming though. The 2D action-platforming genre by the mid-90s was in a rut. 3D action games like Super Mario 64 were all the rage.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night changed all that overnight. That game set the 2D games in the series (and in other games) on a course with Metroid. You were let loose in Dracula’s castle as his son Alucard, but you didn’t have a set path. You could go anywhere that the game would let you, and you had to figure out puzzles and bosses to advance.
It was this game that really set forward my love of the series. I played it originally on the PlayStation at my cousin’s house. The Nintendo 64 got two 3D action games that were subpar at best. So no genre defining classic for us Nintendo fans. Looking back though, even those subpar games gave us some iconic visuals from the era.
Symphony of the Night is the highest rated game in the series, although it’s not my favorite, that honor goes to the excellent atmosphere, visuals, difficulty, and control of Super Castlevania IV. That game however is not considered part of the “main series” because it’s a glorified remake of the first game.
The modern entries in the series, especially on the home console market, all were 3D action games. The Lords of Shadow twosome brought back the difficulty, but made the series more into a vision like God of War. The gameplay was hack and slash and built around combos.
Where Do We Go From Here With Castlevania?
Castlevania spawned an excellent Netflix animated series and almost got another animated series in the same block as the Super Mario Super Show and Legend of Zelda animated series in the 90s. That Netflix show though, brought the series back into the forefront of pop culture. It’s excellent storytelling, animation, and adult content was enough to jump-start interest in the series once again. Through this, we haven’t had a mainline, home console, or handheld console release in the series since 2014. The next best thing is on mobile with Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls. That is locked away on phones behind subscription services like Apple Arcade.
Like many of our favorite classic horror franchises (Friday the 13th, A Nightmare On Elm Street, The Universal Monsters) the series is dormant. It’s stuck in a purgatory of re-releases (which are awesome), but we need more original content in the series. The Nintendo Switch is begging to have a new 2D game on the go. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 could give us a game as beautiful as any in the series. It’s a shame that we haven’t seen any news about a new game besides the mobile game. The Castlevania: Advance Collection out now, is a good step, and maybe that’ll push Konami to make a new entry, but who knows.
If all we have is 30+ years of games to play through the series, that’s enough, but we as fans deserve more from this series. The Universal Monsters theming might be on the backburner, but the Belmont clan has more juice in their story.
For more on horror, make sure to check out the month-long horror marathon, Fright-A-Thon, or stay tuned to That Hashtag Show.