But of that pedigree, this is the apex. Pure platforming skills are needed to hike you through this labyrinthine castle, and if you’re up to the task, you’re going to meet the most iconic crew in Castlevania history. Trevor Belmont is your protagonist, and willing to join his cause are Sypha Belnades, Grant Danasty (yeah, it’s weird he’s not in the Netflix anime), and best suck-boy Alucard. I’m sorry for writing it like that. Okay, not that sorry. Anyway, with this ragtag crew and a system that requires multiple playthroughs to catch all the endings and all the different levels, this is the greatest game of the first generation of Castlevania, hands down.
2. Super Castlevania IV
Of the second generation, Super Castlevania IV is going to be the watershed moment of many a late Gen X/early Millennial Castlevania fan’s life. It’s a top-tier remaster of the original Castlevania, returning to the original hunter, Simon Belmont. Though the manual tries to sell it as a sequel, nah, my friends, this is the Star Ocean: Second Story R of vampire hunting.
For old-school fans, probably the biggest chest-clutch moment is realizing that, along with Simon’s expanded mobility, this Vampire Killer whip goes all eight directions. No more getting cheesed out by bats and mudmen this time. If you suck, you suck. Comfortingly, it’s hard to suck that bad at this baby. The difficulty mostly lies in platforming your way to the end without tanking too much damage from the mooks. The bosses are chill enough to beat that you can enjoy taking in the delicious atmosphere while you whip their asses, literally. This game also does everything it can with an extensive color palette and the upgraded musical chirps of the SNES. Utterly fantastic.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
There are two perfect protagonists in a fledgling goth’s life, and they’re both dhampires. Weird. Igarashi even admitted the devilishly pretty Alucard is inspired by Hideyuki Kikuchi and Yoshitaka Amano’s vision of Vampire Hunter D. But drooling aside, Symphony of the Night pulls everything to love about Castlevania into a perfect package that’s still hard to compete with.
Alucard is slick to handle with level-ups that add heft to his abilities. He’s got hidden spells, he collects cool stuff like a pack rat, he gets to explore a sprawling castle full of secrets (twice, if you do it right) is joyfully easy to overpower, and hates his dad so much. Even Alucard’s American voice acting is a treat, and rare is the fan that doesn’t use his unlockable mist form to trap him in an elevator to hear him pissily yell “WHAT?!” a few times.
Symphony of the Night isn’t just the apex Castlevania experience. It’s a delight that transcends genre. Even if you don’t like platforming games, you may click with this one. Like Ridley Scott’s Alien, it’s as fresh as the day it launched. If you haven’t played it, you owe it to yourself to at least try it out. It’s that good. We promise.