Castlevania: Nocturne has been released on Netflix to positive critical reception for ushering in the next generation of the TV canon, and there are plenty of similar games to play to chase that dark fantasy fix. As a whole, the franchise excels in painting visually striking gothic fantasy worlds, even in the 16-bit space.
Naturally, some of the best games to turn to are Konami’s classic Castlevania titles. However, between Souls-like RPGs like FromSoftware’s Bloodborne to contemporary indie titles like Hollow Knight and Blasphemous 2, there are plenty of dark-fantasy video games to enjoy after watching season 1 of Castlevania: Nocturne.
10 Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood
Not only is Rondo of Blood a must-play for Castlevania fans, but it’s also the game that served as the loose inspiration for season 1 of Nocturne. The debut of protagonist Richter Belmont, the game revolves around the monster-hunter venturing through Dracula’s castle to rescue his kidnapped fiancé Annette.
Rondo of Blood was exclusive to Japan for several years, but it was widely praised for its responsive platforming gameplay, its two playable protagonists, and the tight combat mechanics. It was a gem of the 16-bit era, and even though similar titles today have polished the Metroid-vania formula and its controls, Rondo still holds up impressively well both technically and in its atmosphere.
Bloodborne still ranks as one of FromSoftware’s toughest Souls-like games, as well as one of the studio’s most beloved. Stepping into the role of the Hunter, players venture through the plague-ridden land of Yharnam to slay its infected beasts.
Bloodborne has the gloomy sense of dark-fantasy atmosphere and nail-biting combat mechanics that one would expect from a FromSoft RPG and gives it a distinctive gothic and Victorian-era flair. That’s something that fits right at home with Castlevania‘s approach to worldbuilding, even if vampires aren’t a focus. It’s among the greatest gothic fantasy games to date, throwing in horror and cosmic mysticism for good measure.
8 Lies Of P
As groundbreaking as FromSoft’s Souls-like subgenre has been, it paved the way for some half-hearted imitators. There have been some successes, however, with industry newcomers Neowiz Games and Round8 Studio’s Lies of P putting a tantalizing spin on the 1883 Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi.
Much like Bloodborne, Lies of P has a similar gothic-Victorian aesthetic that will appeal to fans coming from Castlevania: Nocturne, and the series in general. Similar things can be said for the gameplay, as even though it’s unabashedly similar to FromSoft’s RPG, the way Lies of P wears its influences on its sleeve serves its inventive dark-fantasy setting and gameplay systems well.
7 Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night
A landmark title of the video game industry and one of the most timeless releases of the PS1 era, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is often considered the franchise’s best installment. After Richter’s disappearance, the game follows Alucard as he treks through his father’s castle amidst Dracula’s resurgence.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night earned widespread critical acclaim, with plaudits aimed at its refined traversal and combat controls and use of the action-RPG subgenre to let players customize Alucard’s abilities and equipment. The game was also credited as a trailblazer for the Metroid-vania subgenre alongside its eponymous Nintendo contemporary.
6 Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
Although fans generally prefer the original Rondo of Blood, Konami’s PlayStation Portable remake The Dracula X Chronicles was an admirable second effort. This was the first incarnation of Rondo to be released outside of Japan, effectively recreating the core plot.
Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles is a worthy way of experiencing Richter’s biggest role in the games in a more modern light, remaking the visuals and gameplay loop in a pleasing 2.5D graphics style. Its adherence to the now-retro gameplay controls might be the game’s most limiting aspect, but it’s still an overall engaging way to play through this story.
5 Blasphemous 2
The first game became an indie hit, and developer The Game Kitchen’s sequel Blasphemous 2 effectively built upon the successes of its predecessor. Presented in a classic 2D 16-bit art style reminiscent of Castlevania‘s older entries, Blasphemous 2 once again has players take on the role of the Penitent One to prevent the rebirth of the curse known as the Miracle.
Dripping with dark fantasy aesthetics and heavily religious Spanish iconography and themes, fans of Castlevania‘s games and the latest show will not go wanting in terms of moody environments. The sequel improves upon the first game with more rewarding and non-linear exploration, as well as challenging combat.
4 Hollow Knight
Developer Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight has been critically acclaimed as one of the best Souls-likes and Metroid-vanias in the modern era. Playing as the titular insectoid knight, the protagonist explores the ominous world of Hallowenest after it’s been ravaged by a mysterious disease.
Though it’s not as over-the-top dark fantasy as the likes of Castlevania: Nocturne, Hollow Knight‘s somber, yet eerily beautiful setting is a joy to explore for fans wanting a similar mood. On the gameplay front, it’s one of the most refined Metroid-vanias of the modern age, boasting exceptional non-linear level designs on top of fast-paced and methodical action.
3 Dead Cells
Motion Twin’s Dead Cells is one of the most inventive takes on the Metroid-vania subgenre. Centered around a reincarnated being dubbed the Prisoner, players have to traverse through the island prison to kill its king and gain their freedom.
Dead Cells is praised for its seamless blend of the rogue-like and Metroid-vania subgenres, making each run rewarding and ensuring players make progress no matter the death count. Despite being set in an oppressive dark fantasy world, its color palette is vivid and enticing – both elements that fans of Castlevania: Nocturne should appreciate. What’s more, the Return to Castlevania DLC is a terrific and inspired expansion combining the worlds of both franchises, on top of Alucard and Richter.
2 Darkest Dungeon II
For those looking to double down on Castlevania: Nocturne‘s brand of darkness and venture into murkier areas of fantasy, Red Hook Studios’ Darkest Dungeon II is a worthwhile experience. This sequel RPG has players form a party of unique character classes to prevent the apocalypse of an unleashed Eldritch monstrosity.
In terms of tone, Darkest Dungeon II delves into grittier aspects of fantasy that fans of the Castlevania TV series should find enticing, with its approach to turn-based combat and progression being its most creative gameplay elements. The way players need to manage party composition, positioning in battle, and stress levels give the game a uniquely challenging appeal.
1 Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night
ArtPlays’ Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is another title that proudly shows off its influences and is all the better for it. Set in a dystopian England, the Alchemy Guild learns to summon demons and forcibly bind humans with their powers in an attempt to salvage their economic influence over their patrons.
Produced by Koji Igarashi, the former designer of the Castlevania series, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is touted as the former’s spiritual successor, and that shows in its classic Metroidvania gameplay loop and gothic artistic direction. While it’s not a trailblazer, the premise and setting are similar to Nocturne‘s, and its polished platforming and combat gameplay make it the most modernized rendition of Symphony of the Night‘s style.
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