Spooky Soundtracks: Top 10 Castlevania Songs
“Die monster, you don’t belong on this Toilet!”
It was one of the first videogames I ever played, and it was a swift kick in the butt with absurd difficulty, awkward controls and satisfying ghoul slaying attitude. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) version of the first chapter of the Castlevania series was one of the coolest pieces of media my tiny mind enjoyed. I still remember how I managed to skip the candles with the daggers and how to properly use the throwing axes to unleash my vampire hunter fury against the Giant Bat boss. Good memories, indeed!
A few years later, I had the pleasure of playing Castlevania Chronicles and Castlevania Symphony of the Night on a borrowed PlayStation 1. Along with the intense gameplay and the memorable 2D graphics, there was one thing that I suddenly realized after a few hours of wandering around the innards of those dreaded castles: I was humming and drumming those sick MIDI beats.
Come with me and prepare your Holy Water, we are going to vanquish the horrible night:
10. Slash – Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (1993, Japan only) (2010 in America and Europe) (Composed by Jigokuguruma Nakamura) | PC-Engine and Wii Console
In Rondo of Blood, Richter Belmont had to rescue his girlfriend and two other maidens of his native village from the grips of a recently revived Dracula. Considered one of the best games on the series, it has simple gameplay, animated cut scenes with voice acting, and a unique twist: the scenarios have double paths that can be unlocked by discovering hidden roads on the stages.
It also featured the introduction of Maria Renard, a young magician captured by the Count that can control different spirit animals; the comic side of the game was that you can unlock her as a character and play all the stages and finish the game in a simpler manner. Who thought a little girl could out-power a Belmont?
“Slash” is the theme of the fourth stage and has a very upbeat pop theme with a melodic pattern over the delicate string riffing. The hopeful and sweet approach made it to be associated with Maria Renard, and it’s now her unofficial theme. Even with the sugary sparkles, this song makes you kick ass.
9. The Discolored Wall – Castlevania: Bloodlines (1994) (Composed by Michiru Yamane)| Sega Genesis
To tie it up with the Bram Stoker novella, the Konami team developed Bloodlines, in which the Vampire Killer whip is passed to Quincy Morris’ son John, and the Belmont lineage mysteriously disappeared. Alongside the Spanish fighter, Eric Lecarde, they both set off to Europe to investigate and vanquish the rise of violence during the start of World War I, because rumors said that an enchanting aristocrat lady was behind the assassination of the Crown Prince of Austria. Along their quest, both of them will know what lies in shadows of the War and the true nature of the Holy whip. Even when the series had a relative simplistic premise, this was one of the best stories of all the games.
While it still had the intensely difficult action platform extravaganza, Bloodlines also had the first work from the series by composer Michiru Yamane. The soundtrack is very characteristic due to the Sega Genesis chip, but it also had great music along all the impressive stages. The romantic music approach of Yamane was very welcome by the Konami developers, and she continued with them in the famous Symphony of the Night.
“The Discolored Wall” is the theme of the third stage, the Leaning Tower of Pisa; the scenario is a plethora of technical exploitation, and it features an unsettling music that it is a mix of free jazz and organ spookiness. You can feel the urge of not falling down the steps with this one.
8. Battle of the Holy – Castlevania: The Adventure (1989) (Composed by Nori Hanzawa)| Game Boy, 3DS Virtual Console
The first chapter on the Game Boy portable console was a commercial success, but the game featured clunky animations and stiff controls.
Christopher Belmont, the ancestor of Simon, continues the tradition of his clan to hunt down the evil Count Dracula when he resurrected in Transylvania in the year 1576. Wielding the Holy Whip, the Vampire Killer parts ways from the local Graveyard until reaching Dracula in Castlevania, defeating him and trying to seal him away for another 100 years, but the efforts of Christopher were not enough. Wounded and enraged, Dracula fled the crumbling ruins and transformed into a bat plotting to return and take vengeance on the vampire hunter 15 years later, during the second part of the game, released as Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge, when he kidnapped Christopher’s son, Soleiyu.
“Battle of the Holy” is the song that rolls in the first stage of the game and it is recognizable as the main theme of Christopher. An upbeat hard-rocking theme, it features the heavy riff of a keyboard with percussive attacks and some organ enchantments. I like this even more than the “Vampire Killer” song because the main riff has this solemn feel and a more empowering vibe.
7. March of the Holy Man (Theme of Simon) – Super Castlevania IV (Composed by Konami Kukeiha Club)| Super Nintendo, Wii Virtual Console
The story of Simon is one of the most rewritten in the Castlevania games. As one of the well-known characters of the franchise, Simon Belmont was born in 1669 and was trained since a child to prepare for the imminent darkness that Dracula would spread during his soon resurrection. On the Easter Day of 1691, a Dark Mass made by a group of cultists was the catalyst of the awakening: Castlevania once more was created in the horrible night and Simon embarked on his dangerous fate carrying his fate, the five weapons of the Vampire Hunter and the family whip.
As one of the first Super Nintendo (SNES) games, Super Castlevania IV was a retelling of the first Simon story and is considered one of the best games of the series, of the console and the genre. The hero could crackle his whip in 8 different directions, the graphics were grittier, the stages had different mechanics, and the soundtrack was more into a mood direction, instead of the progressive rock and romantic orchestrated influenced NES versions.
The SNES provided a deeper sound and different sound choices, but the composers really set the bar high for the videogame music scene. It is part jazz, part ambient and part rock, with a tight rhythmic and textural feel along all the tracks and re-arrangements of the older songs. “March of the Holy Man” was later redubbed as the “Theme of Simon”; the piece was displayed on the first level of the game, which shows you the introduction of Castlevania from one of the sides of the construction, a garden. The song is heroic, portrayed by an organ melodic line and a menacing jazz-inspired bass line that dictates the tempo and the direction of the song with several breakdowns that exalt the story of the main character.
6. Awake – Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (2001) (Composed by Sotaro Tojima) | Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
This was one of the launch titles of the Game Boy Advance portable console and, even though it was not made by the regular development team, it is one of the greatest games of the franchise.
The old hunter, Morris Baldwin, enters Castlevania along his two apprentices Nathan Graves and his son Hugh Baldwin to stop the resurrection of Dracula, but the arrival was late, and they were welcomed by Carmilla and the Count himself. With his powers, Dracula destroys the floor under Nathan and Hugh who fall down a huge pit into the castle’s Catacombs. As his rival, Hugh parts alone to find his dad trying to achieve it faster than Nathan. Now is the turn of the young and skilled warrior to use the Hunter Whip on the dangerous quest of finding Master Morris Baldwin.
Circle of the Moon was inspired by the ‘Metroidvania’ formula, popularized by the PlayStation One release. We have large corridors, hidden rooms and a new form of attack, comprised of twelve cards that you can combine to unleash Spiritual Creature summons, magic whip attacks and defensive moves. The bosses are huge, and the difficulty is high for the rather easy Metroidvania style of game.
“Awake” is the welcome of the Catacombs, the first zone of this adventure, and it features a beautiful flute line that later becomes tainted with an organ and a heavy tempo marked by an impressive bass line. I loved crushing skeletons and earth demons with this great song.
5. Dance of Pales – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997) (Composed by Michiru Yamane)| PlayStation One, Sega Saturn, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade (Unlockable on Castlevania Dracula X Chronicles for PSP)
The huge Castlevania map, the elegant ambiance and graphics, the romantic literature-inspired storyline, the artwork, the laughable voice acting, multiple secrets and the precise controls… For all of this, and more, Symphony of the Night is still one of the most known entries of the series.
After the events on Rondo of Blood, Richter Belmont disappears and, due the lack of an evil vanquisher guardian, Castlevania suddenly rearms and the dark presence starts to haunt the lands near it. Alucard awakens in alert from his self-induced sleep, and he sets out to investigate what happened with Richter and why the Castle is constructed once again.
Michiru Yamane, the composer of Castlevania Bloodlines, is the musician hired for this project. The style of hers is displayed with mastery, aided by the CD technology that enabled a higher quality of sounds, compared with the MIDI blips of older consoles. The music is huge, bombastic and orchestrated, full of twists and a blend of Bach/Mozart works, jazz and rock. For example, the castle introduction music was set for a more electric feel, and “Wood Carving Partita” is the crazed rendition of the rococo period, but the soundtrack behind the Count Orlox headquarters is for me, one of the best cuts of the game.
The twisting orchestra begins “Dance of Pales” with a descending lyrical line that later explodes into a delicate waltz time with a precious piano and the company of the string sections. It’s enchanting, almost sensual, but it is still very dark, melancholic and expressionist. Well composed and not that over-the-top as the baroque grandeur of the other tracks of the game.
4. Castle Corridor – Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (2013) (Composed by Michiru Yamane)| Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
Because of being set mostly on gothic and medieval environments, the idea of a Castlevania game in the future was welcomed with high expectations. Gladly, we did not have lasers or demons on space ships.
In Aria of Sorrow, Soma Cruz is a high school exchange student that was going to witness a solar eclipse with his friend Mina Hakuba (possibly the Japanese form of Harker’s name?) on her family temple. While watching the astronomic phenomenon, they were transported into a Castlevania formed inside the Eclipse. In the ominous corridors Soma encounters different people and monsters, and discovered new powers to absorb the souls of his enemies along with other ugly truths.
It is another ‘Metroidvania’, but is also very fun to play. All the elements of previous games are there, even some older characters return in a disguise, and the story has a couple of plot twists that makes it a very enjoyable title.
The music is very good too, and I think “Castle Corridor” is the song that stuck in my head so easy during my plays. Over and over, that blend of hard rock staccato with those thunderous drum rolls accompanied me to decapitate zombies and crush skulls.
3. Bloody Tears – Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (1988) (Composed by Kenichi Matsubara) | NES, PC, Wii, Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console
One of the highlights of the dreaded Castlevania sequel on the NES is the song “Bloody Tears”. The game was well received because of the adventure and non-linear elements, but it also met some criticism because the weird puzzles and the horrid translation.
While dying in the first game, Dracula cast a curse of death upon Simon. When the Belmont was returning home he realized that the Count’s minions were still terrorizing the villages nearby, so Simon set on a new quest to find the pieces of Dracula’s body to revive and killing him once again to lift his own curse and the plague that was destroying his folks.
Inspired by the baroque music, “Bloody Tears” is one of the most iconic tunes that the Konami Kukeiha Club ever made. It is haunting, sophisticated and catchy. Along with “Vampire Killer” and “Theme of Simon”, this is one of the most covered Castlevania songs, too!
2. Aquarius – Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (1990) (Composed by Konami Kukeiha Club)| NES, Wii, Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console
While Castlevania II was good, people were asking for more action, and Konami delivered. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is a massive improvement of the series formula, with three new characters accompanying Trevor Belmont, the hero of the game, different routes to get to the ending, a Dracula boss with THREE transformations, bigger environment details and the double of songs.
In 1476, Dracula is resurrected, and he declares war on humanity. Pestilence and destruction by the demons is crumbling the civilization. The Belmont clan, heir of the Vampire Killer, is exiled by the people of Transylvania because of the fear they had for the inhuman powers of their brethren, but given the power of darkness growing stronger night by night, the Church go to the mountains to meet Trevor Belmont and call him to the fight for the good and he agreed. In his journey, Trevor met three warriors and this unique team joins forces to vanquish the Count Dracula once and for all.
The Japanese version of the game had a chip in the cartridge that enhanced the sound quality, but the American and European versions live as well because the compositions of this game are incredible. Tracks like “Beginning“, “Mad Forest” and “Prelude to Darkness” show elegance and complement the varied stages of the story.
For me, “Aquarius” is the perfect song of the game, using a riff similar to the “Bloody Tears” songs that enhances the experience with a heavy metal exploding rhythm pattern and a myriad of notes enlightened by the moving scales.
1. Heart of Fire – Castlevania (1988) (Composed by Kinuyo Yamashita, credited as James Banana in the game’s credits) | NES, Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga, MS-DOS, Game Boy Advance, Wii, Wii U and 3DS Console
Even when “Vampire Killer”, “Stalker” and “Wicked Child” are standalone tracks, “Heart of Fire” is possibly what resumes the old Castlevania feel: the dungeon crawling atmosphere with dangers everywhere in an almost impossible task to take. In the original NES game was the time in which the series was a mélange of iconic horror features, bordering on the goofy side but also slapping your face because of the high difficulty and the creepy environment.
This song is featured in the fifth stage, a Dungeon, in which there is, probably, the hardest part of Simon’s journey. Right before encountering the mythic Grim Reaper, he must endure the test of a hallway of pain with several Medusa Heads and Axe Knights coming at him from different directions. Meanwhile this is played by you, the “Heart of Fire” Bach-inspired speedy scales runs at the same rate of your heart.
This is the embodiment of the series: you are a hunter, but the prey you are looking for is bigger, uglier and harder than you.
Did you like this topic? What other songs of the series do you enjoy? Let’s bring it the discussion; remember to bring your own Crosses.