The writing and collaborators of FreeGameTips choose the most prominent titles that touch the theme of vampires.
Under the cloak of night, well sheltered from sunlight, but with the moonlight at night, mysterious figures move. People ignore the real dangers of walking the dark streets, where not only stray cats dwell. Depending on the angle of vision they may appear human, but their nature is different. They have long fangs and feed on blood, so no one is safe from a vampire attack. As in other artistic media, the video game has reflected this figure so widespread in the cultural heritage of today’s society, a belief that was born before the seventeenth century, but that spread and became popular later.
When you think of vampires and video games, the first name that comes up is Castlevania. The Konami saga, very popular since its premiere in the eighties, not only stood out for the quality of its games, but also for the fact that it created a whole genre, that of the metroidvania. The Japanese company, detached from its golden years, has set its sights on other business areas, so that the brand has been relegated to the background, like Silent Hill or Metal Gear Solid. In any case, that in no way means that vampire games are no longer being designed.
Dontnod Entertainment, creators of Life is Strange and the recent Tell Me Why, tried their luck with a game very different from what they had done before. Without losing their narrative focus, they created Vampyr, an adventure with vampires, powers, combat and RPG progression. Vampire: The Masquerade — Coteries of New York, Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2 and Werewolf: The Apocalypse Earthblood are other contemporary video games with that theme. These last two will not go on sale until 2021. Before that date arrives, at FreeGameTips we have gathered to vote for the best vampire video games of all time, at least according to the criteria of the magazine’s editors and collaborators.
10. Veil of Darkness (PC)
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Event Horizon Software is one of the many developers who disappeared forever, not without leaving their mark. After publishing Veil of Darkness in 1993, the studio was renamed DreamForce Intertainment. Under that new identity they created more than a dozen games, among which is Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War. Unfortunately, in 2001 they were forced to close, and that they had several attractive titles underway (Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Heart of Gaia, never completed, or Myst IV, finally in charge of Ubisoft Montreal). The current Polish studio of the same name has nothing to do with the original company, which was American.
The Veil of Darkness narrative introduces us to the skin of a cargo plane pilot. During one of his trips, while flying over the Carpathians, he suffers an accident and crashes in Romania. He is saved from death and rescued by Deidre and Iván, the family’s servant, who takes the character to his sleek mansion. There he will discover a prophecy that will force him to assassinate Kairn, the powerful vampire who rules the area. Designed in an isometric perspective, like many other titles from the nineties, the work mixes role-playing, action and adventure games, it is a deadly cocktail with multiple options and possibilities. The story, divided into chapters (those of the prophecy), outlines a huge variety of situations that endow the product with packaging. That is one of the reasons why Veil of Darkness has managed to sneak in among the best.
Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain (PSX, PC)
The history of the Legacy of Kain saga began with this video game. In 1996, the now defunct developers of Eternal Darkeness, Silicon Knights, designed Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics, a video game for the first PlayStation that served to start this prolific vampire saga. The game concept, however, is quite different from the rest of its sequels. It is a 2D action title with RPG touches, very Castlevania style, whereby the protagonist will move through gloomy scenarios while cutting off enemies with his sword.
Like many other villains, Kain was not born with evil within him. He came into the world as a mortal, in the bosom of a noble family. His affable personality, coupled with his prowess with the sword, allowed him to live a frivolous life detached from worldly concerns. But everything changes when he turns thirty, when on one of his trips he arrives in the village of Ziegsturhl and is killed by a group of thugs. Wake up in the underworld, condemned to eternal pain. However, his thirst for revenge leads him to accept the agreement of an evil necromancer, who offers him the resurrection. The price of immortality is not cheap, as Kain will be reborn as a cold, ruthless and arrogant being, with a single goal: to complete his revenge.
8. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow (PS3, Xbox 360 and PC)
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On the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 generation, Japanese companies had a hard time adapting to high definition. The developments dragged on and companies like Capcom and Konami decided to outsource some of their projects. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow was one of them, a video game developed by the Spanish studio MercurySteam, which designed three installments of the saga, although the first of them was the one that stood out the most, without detracting from Mirror of Fate, a chapter released first in Nintendo 3DS and then adapted to other platforms in its HD version. Konami wanted something different and the San Sebastián de los Reyes studio was able to fulfill the expectations that many placed in it.
This episode follows an alternative chronological line to that of the main saga, so it begins a new and fresh path, without entailing a radical elimination of the classic elements. Gabriel Belmont, the first of his line, has lost his wife. Desolate by the loss, the warrior searches for the Guardian of the Lake, hoping that he will resurrect his late wife. But the journey will not be easy, because on the way he meets werewolves and other beings from the underworld. Armed with his whip and other powers, Gabriel must enter hostile territory to fulfill his longed-for wish.
MercurySteam opted for a hack & slash gameplay, which also implements some platforming elements. All in all, it’s a solid product that respects the legacy of the classic, but takes an approach not previously explored in the series.
7. Vampyr (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch)
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The French studio Dontnod Entertainment began its journey with a game that was rejected by some publishers due to the decision that the protagonist was a woman. However, the developer signed an agreement with Capcom to publish their debut feature, back in 2013. Their next project, Life is Strange (produced by Square Enix) was the one that catapulted them to the top. Their facet as storytellers has been exploited in subsequent projects, with Tell Me Why as their most recent production and Twin Mirror as the next in line. All those games work under a similar mold, but Vampyr, released in 2018 for Xbox One, PS4, and PC (later released on Nintendo Switch) is very different from Dontnod’s usual video game style.
In Vampyr we manage Dr. Jonathan Reid, a doctor who falls into the misfortune of being bitten by a vampire. Turned into a creature of the night, the duality between instinct and reason will engage in a singular combat that depends, to a great extent, on the player and his decisions. The character will fight against a constant temptation, as he continues with his work as a doctor in the hospital. Dontnod Entertainment brings the internal conflict of the character to the gameplay, and assassinating citizens will give us the power to progress more quickly and obtain the desired abilities … in exchange for your own humanity.
Endowed with an agile and fun combat system, Vampyr stands out for its narrative construction, although the displacement is somewhat cumbersome due to the decision not to include fast travel. For the rest, it is a highly recommended product, both for fans of vampires and for those who do not feel particular interest in these creatures.
6. Castlevania (NES)
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Konami is one of the oldest video game developers in the industry, a company that has some of the intellectual properties that revolutionized the medium. One of them is Castlevania, a saga that dates back to the second half of the eighties. The first installment, originally released for the Famicom Disk System (NES peripheral edited exclusively in Japan), although shortly afterwards it was adapted to the base console. Before the era of Koji Igarashi, one of the brand’s most reputable creatives (now outside of Konami), this title came, which already had some of the elements that would later be reinforced in the sequels.
Castlevania is a side scrolling action game. Throughout the game, the protagonist attacks, jumps, climbs stairs and uses spells against his enemies. Simon Belmont takes his legendary whip to face the evil Count Dracula, an experienced vampire who will not make things easy. The gameplay may have aged over time, but the foundations of Castlevania can be found in this production of 8-bit graphics and vintage nostalgia. Like so many classics, Konami has released it on numerous platforms. The most recent? In Castlevania: Anniversary Collection, a compilation that includes several games in the series, including the original 1986-87 game. Also within the Konami Collector’s Series: Castlevania and Contra pack, which can be purchased at GOG.
5. Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PlayStation, Dreamcast and PC)
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Crystal Dynamics had just been acquired by Eidos when Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver went on sale, back in 1999. The developer of Rise of the Tomb Raider and Marvel’s Avengers was not then the current size; It was not part of Square Enix either, but it could boast an extensive list of video games in which they had participated. The creative director of this classic from the first PlayStation, Dreamcast and PC was none other than Amy Hennig, who would later be in charge of devising and directing the Uncharted trilogy at Naughty Dog. Back in a more remote past, in 1996 we were able to enjoy Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, only that first installment was in charge of Silicon Knights (Eternal Darkness, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, Too Human).
Soul Reaver was conceived as an independent project, but later they decided to integrate it into the Legacy of Kain saga. For the first time in the series, the developers made the leap to three dimensions, a moment that seemed typical in the generation of PlayStation and Nintendo 64, the first consoles that explored 3D in depth. Its vibrant, third-person combat system with skills that are acquired throughout the game, are combined with challenging puzzles and an exciting vampire story. 1500 years before the events narrated in Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain, the protagonist Raziel is executed by Kain. However, after being resurrected, travel the world in search of delicious revenge.
4. Super Castlevania IV
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Between 1986 and 1990, Konami was very busy with the Castlevania series. The Japanese company marketed up to three main installments on the NES, not to mention the ports it developed for other systems. The generational change from 8 to 16 bits was an opportunity to evolve the original concept, something that crystallized in Super Castlevania IV, the first title of the brand to appear on Super Nintendo. While Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was in development by the team that had been in charge of the main games, Masahiro Ueno, director of this chapter, took charge of this installment together with a new and smaller team. This circumstance ended up being positive, since all the members of the study were able to contribute valuable ideas. What both teams had in common was the sound department, which participated in both productions.
Super Castlevania IV follows in the wake of the original installment and functions as a side-scrolling action and platformer, without RPG elements. Ueno wanted to keep the traditional playable structures, but at the same time, wanted to take advantage of the SNES hardware to give the user a more atmospheric and intuitive experience. It was not an easy task, since the studio began development blindly, with technical documents in hand, but without the necessary development kits to know with certainty the limits of the new hardware.
The story of Super Castlevania IV is not too far removed from that of other Castlevania. The two main figures are still there, that of the Belmont family and that of the evil Count Dracula. Despite the fact that they have managed to defeat him on several occasions, Dracula never tires of coming back from the dead. Simon Belmont will embrace his destiny and brandish the legendary whip to destroy the forces of darkness.
3. Vampire: The Masquerade Redemption (PC)
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According to the Bible, Adam and Eve were expelled from paradise after she ate the forbidden fruit, the apple that she could not take under any pretext. His sons, Cain and Abel, already dragged the meanness of the human being, bad feelings, jealousy and hatred. Thus, Cain killed his brother and started a circle from which humanity has not yet emerged. The World of Darkness Bible tells a different story in which some of its protagonists are the same, but the events unfold differently. This explains the origin of vampires in Vampire: The Masquerade Redemption, a role-playing video game based on the eponymous role-playing game created by White Wolf Game Studio.
Keep in mind that Vampire: The Masquerade is an old school RPG, even though the single player mode was built to make it more accessible. In this mode we play Christoff Romuald, a Crusader soldier who has been wounded by an enemy arrow. The nun Anezka will take care of the brave young man, who as the days go by he recovers. But peace is quickly truncated when creatures from the underworld enter the convent and attack the nun. Christoff raises his gun and manages to kill several of them before falling unconscious. Again prostrate, he receives the news that evil has spread throughout the city, so our protagonist will embark on an adventure to end the evil of the vampires.
The highlight, however, is the multiplayer mode. The singleplayer adventure is quite linear, while the multiplayer mode allows us to be the narrator of the story and direct the game with other players. The degree of complexity is such that the game director must sketch the script and translate it into the game in order to create an interesting adventure for the other players. Without a doubt, one of the most outstanding vampire titles in history.
2. Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines (PC)
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A game as outstanding as Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines was not enough to save Troika Games, a studio that had been active since 1998 and which closed its doors in 2004, after not being able to cope with its delicate economic situation, which ended, in the first instance, with the dismissal of part of its staff. The developer said goodbye to this project, a year after launching The Temple of Elemental Evil and three from Arcanum of Steamworks and Magick Obscura.
Can you imagine not growing old or dying? Live forever and ever, unless someone unnaturally truncates your existence? The premise of Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines begins with the rebirth of the protagonist, now turned into a vampire. The city of Los Angeles, packed with citizens, mixes an explosive cocktail of political intrigue, bloody murder and betrayal, just what the main character hated in his life as a human being. His vampiric transformation is not only physical, as the psyche is affected as well. Therefore, there is no choice but to get used to the new situation, look for food and survive in a world in which everything threatens to fall apart.
Like Vampire: The Masquerade, this first-person action RPG is based on the role-playing game by White Wolf. In his new life as a bloodsucker, the newborn will be able to increase his power as he feeds on the sap of mortals. Not everything will be fighting and ending enemies. The vampire, unlike other creatures of the night, retains reason, although mixed with other more primitive instincts. Therefore, conversation and investigation are crucial parts of the playable structure, in which stealth is not lacking either.
This production may not be contemporary, but for a 2004 game, the richness of the missions goes beyond the usual errand tasks to which many role-playing titles were (and still are) accustomed to. Altogether a project that no vampire fan should miss. For something has reached the second place of our top.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation, Sega Saturn)
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A turning point. That is what Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was, a product that knew how to renew the formula and that looked very closely at Super Metroid, the Nintendo classic. Hence, the result of this fusion was called metroidvania, a term that is still used today to refer to action adventures with platforms in which the player explores the scenarios, goes back and finds new areas and objects to as you improve your skills and powers. Sometimes the pioneer is not the most remembered. Montezuma’s Revenge already contained metroidvania ingredients, but the popularity of this Castlevania from PlayStation and Sega Saturn led to the concept and term becoming popular. Konami released it in 1997 for CD-ROM consoles, as a sequel to Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, which came out on the NEC PC Engine CD in 1993.
Contrary to popular belief, Koji Igarashi was not the director of the video game. That role went to Toru Hagihara, author of the title for the NEC PC Engine CD. ‘IGA’, even so, was very close to the direction, since he was assistant to the director, programmer and writer, among other functions. “Action games can be finished in a short period of time, but I wanted to create a title that could be enjoyed in the long term,” Igarashi commented in an article published by Push Square.
Rather than designing the game in phases, as in previous installments, the team led by Hagihara and Koji Igarashi drew up a more open concept, with an entire castle to explore. Naturally, not all fortress locations are accessible from the beginning. The idea was for the character to learn the skills that would then allow him to go further and continue advancing in the adventure, a deeper approach that lengthened the life of the product.
I wanted to create a title that could be enjoyed in the long run.
The introduction of RPG elements also had its reason for being: “I wanted to change the feeling that Castlevania was a difficult action game,” emphasized ‘IGA’ in the same article. “When we decided to adopt RPG elements, we agreed that users deserved something good by defeating enemies, so I thought about experience points.” The leveling up and the possibility of equipping weapons, as well as the different pieces of equipment and spells manage to fit perfectly into the then new formula for Castlevania. “I thought that even users who were not good at playing action titles would be able to complete the product if I adapted this system.”
It would be unfair not to name Michiru Yamane, the composer who wrote the fabulous soundtrack for Castlevania: Symphony of the Knight, a whole symphony (hackneyed as the term is when one refers to this game) that is interspersed with the wonderful art of Ayami Kojima in a time when it seemed like two-dimensional graphics were mortally wounded. Alucard, the son of Dracula, awakens from his long sleep to investigate what happened during the mysterious disappearance of Richter Belmont. This work crowns the Top-10 of FreeGameTips with its well-deserved first place.