Castlevania Anniversary Collection is something of a mixed bag. It's undeniably got some excellent games on offer, but its emulation and porting aren't great and it's pretty bare-bones. That said, the games are the star of the show, and Castlevania has always been an interesting series. Even the franchise's weaker entries usually have at least something to offer. Castlevania Anniversary Collection gathers eight of the series' historically significant entries together, but they're not all created equal. Some are almost inarguably better than others. With that in mind, I've assembled this one hundred percent objective (not really, of course) ranking order for all of the games in Castlevania Anniversary Collection. Let's get whippin'!
8. Castlevania: The Adventure
It's very hard to argue for the existence of Castlevania: The Adventure, not just in Castlevania Anniversary Collection but in general. This is a painfully slow shadow of the series at its demon-slaying best. Protagonist Christopher Belmont's movement is agonizingly drawn-out and the game seemingly stutters when more than one pixel is on screen. The enemy variety here is pathetic, and the difficulty wavers from negligible to unutterably frustrating. The game was eventually remade for Nintendo's WiiWare label as Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth. That version is much better, mostly because almost nothing of the original remains. Avoid like the plague.
7. Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge
This is better, but not by much. Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge fixes its predecessor's technical issues (for the most part) and actually reaches the dizzying heights of "basically OK" at times. The level design is much more varied, and it actually feels like a Castlevania game thanks to the addition of sub-weapons. Unfortunately, many of its predecessor's problems remain. The game is still painfully short, likely owing to its status as a Game Boy title. Christopher still moves like a turtle on downers, and the difficulty is still incredibly inconsistent. This isn't the blight on Castlevania Anniversary Collection that the first Game Boy game was, but it's not much more than incidental.
6. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest
Another Castlevania II, this one only marginally better than the last. Simon's Quest is an interesting failure, but it's pretty much inarguably a failure. Eschewing the linear style of its predecessor in favor of an open-ended proto-Metroidvania style, Simon's Quest is bigger but thinner for it. This isn't so much a game as it is an excuse to sell copies of Nintendo Power magazine. Much has been made of Simon's Quest and its ridiculously abstruse design. Crouch next to a wall for a few seconds with a specific crystal to progress? Talk to townspeople for extremely poorly-translated hints? This might be part of Castlevania's heritage, but it's a shell of its former self. Simon's Quest still has some of the series' whip-cracking magic; however, sadly, it's just too frustrating and long-winded to recommend.
5. Kid Dracula
We're moving into the good Castlevania games now. Kid Dracula plays like a cross between a kid-friendly version of Castlevania and a very gentle parody. You actually play as Dracula in this one, albeit a toned-down chibi version. The demon Garamoth has taken over the world, and you must stop him. You'll do so in a platformer that takes influence from Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. far more than it does from Castlevania. There are some surprisingly advanced ideas here. Players will unlock skills useful for both traversal and combat. There are boss fights with more complex tactics than "hit it a few times." The game also boasts some very creative level design. This isn't much more than a footnote in series history, but it's one worth reading.
The original Castlevania may not be the best in the series, but it's still an excellent action game in its own right. Devil May Cry director Hideki Kamiya cites it as his favorite action game of all time, and it's easy to see why. Castlevania's precise action demands skill from its players. It's punishing, yes, but only when you make mistakes. This game is all about pattern recognition, careful combat, and precision platforming. Boss encounters are varied and thrilling, and each level feels distinct. It's not hard to see Castlevania's blood running through the veins of everything from Devil May Cry to Dark Souls. A classic.
3. Castlevania: Bloodlines / The New Generation
Castlevania Anniversary Collection is almost worth it just for the chance to play Castlevania: Bloodlines (or The New Generation in PAL territories). Turns out this is one of the most underrated action games of all time. Castlevania: Bloodlines boasts two playable characters: John Morris and Eric Lecarde. Morris wields the franchise's signature Vampire Killer whip. Lecarde mixes things up a little with a trident spear. The game's stages take players across Europe, touching down in locations like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Palace of Versailles. Along the way, Bloodlines offers classic Castlevania gameplay with all the variety and challenge you've come to expect. The graphics are gorgeous too.
2. Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse could lay a legitimate claim to being the greatest NES game ever made. After the disaster that was Simon's Quest, Castlevania III went back to the linear side-scrolling drawing board. Four playable characters keep things interesting. Trevor is your classic whip-wielding Belmont. Sypha is a magic-user. Alucard can transform into a bat. Lastly, Grant can climb walls. The characters aren't as distinct as they are on the excellent Netflix show, but no matter. The franchise's signature excellent visuals and music are fully on display here. Dracula's Curse still demands to be played and mastered today.
1. Super Castlevania IV
Super Castlevania IV simply represents the greatest the Castlevania series has to offer. Some aren't keen on Super Castlevania IV's visuals, but I like the chunky sprite work. The difficulty here is tuned to perfection. Also, it seems like Simon's been training since his NES showdown with Dracula. His new whip skills make combat and traversal a joy. Super Castlevania IV is the jewel in Castlevania Anniversary Collection's crown. Many prefer Bloodlines or the original NES games. They're wrong. Super Castlevania IV is the best game in Castlevania Anniversary Collection. It could even be the best game in the series.