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Castlevania NES Box art

Castlevania is among the NES platforming classics, which is why you should NOT miss playing this game when perusing the NES library.

Console Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Famicom
Developer Konami
Publisher Konami
Genre Platformer, action
Release Year 1986
Game Number 1
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This one is a given. If you want to explore the NES library, then Castlevania is one of the most essential games available. The name of the series itself is nigh unavoidable, considering its impact on the action-adventure genre of video games. The original game was also one of the few games back in the day that incorporated horror elements, though this particular game isn’t exactly “horrific.”

It’s rated E for Everyone by the ESRB, along with its younger siblings on the NES. Figure that one out.

But to be fair, the Castlevania series seems to vary in its amount of mature content. Later games have suggestive themes and some blood. The Lords of Shadow subseries embrace them fully.

Still, nothing wrong with playing the classics. In fact, you’re a cool guy/gal if you played the classics. It’s a sign that you got your virtual balls rocked hard before newer gamers got theirs rocked by something like Dark Souls. You got your ass kicked before it was even cool!

So, here’s a quickie of one of the NES’s most beloved titles.


Return to the Classics

Castlevania NES gameplay

As soon as you hear “Vampire Killer” play, you know you’re in for one hell of a treat.

Castlevania is a straightforward game with a rising difficulty level, with six challenging areas that contain different hazards and enemies.

You control Simon Belmont of the Belmont clan on his quest to defeat Count Dracula at his stronghold at Wallachia. Along the way, you confront zombies, skeletons, ghosts, bats and just about anything you can conjure up for Halloween to put up as a lawn ornament. So what do you do?

Thrash them with the Vampire Killer Whip, the most badass whip to rule them all!

Both in terms of aesthetics and gameplay, the whip is a cool weapon. Whenever you use it, there is a short delay to simulate the whip being properly used. This forces you to time your attacks, giving the game more strategic depth.

Castlevania NES gameplay

Undeniably, Castlevania is widely known to be a challenging game that can get brutally difficult in later stages. Despite your seemingly big health bar, certain common enemies can deplete your health quickly. In this case, your best chance is to whip specific walls in the game to find…

Castlevania NES gameplay
A rotisserie chicken…

Apparently, that is actually a pork chop. Figure that one out.

You can also find whip upgrades and various other items to improve your chances of survival. You can do this by whipping candles scattered across the stages or destroying walls to reveal hidden items.

Castlevania NES gameplay

While you’re out slaying Dracula’s minions, you can collect sub-weapons but can only hold onto one at a time. If you have collected enough hearts, you can use the sub-weapon by simultaneously pressing Up and B. Personally, I liked the Cross and Holy Water sub-weapons. Those are very helpful in specific situations.

Castlevania NES Death Grim Reaper boss
The power of Christ compels you, bitch!

The Axe, Dagger, and Stop Watch also have their brief uses.  For example, the Axe is a very helpful weapon against the giant bat boss.

And while we’re on the subject of bosses, these guys are pretty damn difficult to beat. Quite a few of them use high-damaging projectiles, requiring you to move around the stage a lot to avoid them.

Death in particular is one of the most infamous bosses in the Castlevania series, due to his homing scythe projectiles that are very difficult to dodge and inflict a heavy amount of damage. Some would argue that Death is generally more difficult than Count Dracula, who tends to be more predictable with his projectiles.

Castlevania NES gameplay

Of course, the difficulty doesn’t stop there. Each stage is ripe with multiple hazards and death traps, some of which that can kill you instantly. But by far the most common cause of death is the infamous knockback effect.

Every time when Simon gets hit, he gets knocked backwards. At first, this doesn’t seem bad on paper but certain enemy placements have you platforming across dangerous areas with bottomless pits. And when you get knocked back, you fall down down DOWN!

And this isn’t the only Castlevania that does this sort of thing. Pretty much every old classic Castlevania title has the knockback effect, as well as the many other platformers the series had inspired. And boy, do these cheap deaths piss you off!

Castlevania NES gameplay

But for the most part, this game is quite fair with its challenge. Sure, it kicks your ass a lot. But it happens because you’re simply not good enough at the game.

This goes without saying but Castlevania is a textbook example of git gud.

By carefully dodging projectiles, utilizing sub-weapons as needed, and killing enemies before they can take advantage of stage hazards, Castlevania teaches you how to be a better gamer just by playing it. The bosses may be difficult, but time and patience will eventually help you catch on to their attack patterns and predict their movements. It’s a game that combines good reflexes, good strategies, pattern memorization and a tiny bit of luck in order to prevail.

Like many NES action games, Castlevania is relatively short but its difficulty and great level design places it among the titans of the 8-bit era. Its colorful graphics and very cool soundtrack are also outstanding for their time. It’s still a very fun game to play to this day, which is why YOU should play it if you haven’t already.

Come on, people. This game has already passed its 30th anniversary. If you haven’t played it yet, then you’re long overdue. Get an old copy of the NES cartridge or buy it through Nintendo’s Virtual Console service.


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  • The gameplay is straightforward and challenging. Good ol' classic platforming joy.
  • The visuals are striking and colorful,.
  • The chiptunes are some of the most memorable that the NES console has to offer.


  • The game is quite tough and not for the faint of heart. Enemies are generally hard to dodge and do quite a bit of damage for one attack.
  • The knockback effect, the cheapest way to die in many platformers.
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