My Top-10 Castlevania Soundtracks
So, now that I’ve listed my favourite games and favourites musical themes from the Castlevania games, I decided to follow this up with a list of what I think are the best Castlevania soundtracks. However, I decided I wasn’t going to let this go down to simply my whims so I decided to get methodical. I listed my favourite tunes from 11 different Castlevania soundtracks, also making note if certain tunes were covers of themes from prior Castlevania games. Based on the ratio of original and recycled material (and of course the over-all amount of awesome tracks) I compiled the list below. And just as a rule of thumb, I excluded most boss themes and minor jingles, preferring to go for actual level themes while making these comparisons.
You may have noticed I mentioned 11 games. This means one sadly didn’t make it and that was the soundtrack for the Game Boy title Castlevania Legends. The soundtrack is awesome enough to deserve an honourable mention, but unfortunately CVL didn’t qualify for the list for the sheer number of songs I listed as my favourites, which were five. The songs (“imaginatively” titled) Inside the Castle, Highest Castle Floor and The Clock Tower of Darkness were all solid themes and I suppose CVL’s problem in the end was just a small number of tracks. Plus, two of the five themes were covers, the level-1 theme Bloody Tears and the final boos theme Vampire Killer. However, these were all outstanding tracks and renditions of familiar CV themes.
But now, on with the list…
Though I never completed Circle of the Moon, the game’s soundtrack really stuck with me. I listed Awake as my favourite track for a reason. The first level themes of most Castlevania games tend to be great but the build-up and delightful vibe of that number has really stuck with me all these years. The soundtrack has over-all a very funky feeling to it, also exemplified with the bopping Clockwork theme.
The more atmospheric pieces, which this game has a lot of (being of the Metroidvania style), never really got better for me than the positively creepy organ number Nightmare. This theme would be perfectly at home in a gothic horror film.
The game also has some pretty impressive covers of Aquarius (CV3), Clockwork Mansion (CV4), The Sinking Old Sanctuary (CVB) as well as surprisingly Shudder (Castlevania 64). And of course there’s a pretty funky version of Vampire Killer in there as well, and it’s one of three games on this list to feature some version of the haunting Requiem as its menu theme.
At this point you’ll have probably noticed why this game didn’t get much higher. Even with its eight outstanding songs, five of them are covers of older Castlevania material. However, in Circle of the Moon’s defense, the composers did a good job of giving each of the tunes their own flair which is distinct to this title and therefore I don’t feel bad about having it on this list.
Castlevania Bloodlines is a rather overlooked instalment of the series but it has a nice and very Mega Drive-y sound to it. Konami really used the occasionally awkward MD sound chip to the best of their ability. The first level theme Reincarnated Soul really shows what its capable from the get-go with an appropriately Castlevania-ish opening.
There’s also the laid back Sinking Old Sanctuary and The Discolored Wall which manage to create a really unsettling and solemn feel to the game. I feel both tracks also cater well to the synth-ish stylings of the Mega Drive soundtrack. Ever the upbeat one though, my favourite track of course is the powerful Iron-Blue Intentions which really gets me going. It’s got so much beat and I love how the drums and organ go crazy at the climax of the tune.
Covers are also a must-have and this soundtrack has four awesome ones. The Beginning, Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer are all well-integrated into the game’s soundtrack. And even if it sounds a bit wonky, I also like this game’s version of Theme of Simon. As awesome as these covers are, they are actually hidden bonus tracks that need to be activated. Therefore, I was tempted to have the game switch places with Circle of the Moon, but it didn’t feel fair since Bloodlines actually had more original material which I liked.
Out of the NES instalments, it was bit sad to see Dracula’s Curse this low – but it was quite inevitable. Even though there’s plenty of bopping numbers such as Mad Forest, Stream and Aquarius – there are quite a few rather repetitive and so-and-so tracks on the CV3 soundtrack.
Never the less, the compositions are awesome and quite impressive for the NES sound-chip. Beginning in particular stands out as one of the all-time great Castlevania themes, kicking the game’s opening stage off in style with a song that perfectly captures what Castlevania and, more importantly, Castlevania music is all about energy, drive and spooky little hooks. Then again, it was the third game on the platform so, understandably, Konami was getting better at using the technology.
Dracula’s Curse started to feature a high amount of more ambient tracks which, while a sort of interesting approach, do make a lot of stage themes a bit mediocre with only Dead Beat standing out amongst them. What eventually landed CV3’s soundtrack here was that one of its six stand-out numbers, Deja Vu, is actually a cover of Vampire Killer from the first game, even if it is a kickass cover.
Out of the three Castlevania games for the original Game Boy, Belmont’s Revenge is unquestionably the best. Much like with CV3, the second Game Boy Castlevania title did an amazing job at utilising the sound-chip for the system (even better than CV Legends). All four of the major stage themes are great with Praying Hands being my personal favourite.
However, all the tracks have great drive such as with the break-neck pace of New Messiah and the stylish Psycho Warrior which almost make the game sound like a heavy metal album. Then there’s the smooth and sweet Ripe Seeds which impresses with its melodic stylings and altered pitches.
The game also takes a note from classical music with Passpied. Much like CV3, Belmont’s Revenge rounds up its collection of six outstanding tracks with a cover which should have made it tied with Dracula’s Curse. However, impressively Chromastische Phantasie isn’t a cover of a Castlevania tune but instead of a Johann S. Bach number. Also, considering how much less Belmont’s Revenge had to work with, the level of polish in the musical production alone makes this soundtrack far more impressive than that of CV3.
I’ve previously highlighted my love for the Simon’s Quest’s music but people already know that this is pretty much the only part of the game that is universally loved. Starting from the creepy menu theme Message of Darkness, this game’s soundtrack just pulls you in with its creepy and polished sound.
I also quite like the calm and smooth Silence of Daylight which gives the game almost a movie like backing. However, it’s of course in the forests and dungeons where the music really hits its peak. The night-time theme Monster Dance is a really addicting peace with its (appropriately) dancing melody but also a relentless drive that really gets you on the edge. The dungeon theme Dwelling of Doom is also really polished and has a nice march to it. And I even think the more ambient Within These Castle Walls is a real pleaser as well.
My absolute number-one favourite of course is Bloody Tears and I even prefer this game’s version over the numerous and admittedly awesome covers heard in so many subsequent CV titles. In fact, it’s such an iconic tune for me that I made it number-1 of my Castlevania themes list. You would think on the strength of that it should be much higher on the list – but awesome as CV2’s soundtrack is, I don’t think it quite stacks up to the drive and power of its predecessor. It’s certainly has way more polish but none of its themes (save for Monster Dance and Bloody Tears) are maybe as iconic as those of the original. Also, CV2 is the first entry on this list not to feature a single cover.
Kicking off the top-5, the original Castlevania soundtrack has nothing to be ashamed of. For 1987, it showed an incredible amount of polish. What in particular makes this soundtrack awesome is the ratio of actual tracks from the game to those that made this list. Sure, I only picked six but with the soundtrack already having less than a dozen individual pieces of music, that means a vast majority of the tunes, indeed, every single level theme made its way here.
From the slightly low-key Stalker to the pumping Wicked Child, every single theme on the soundtrack gets you pumped up to take down Dracula. This is the reason I’ve always loved this game so much and feel all the best Castlevania soundtracks should take a page from it as far as making really energetic beats is concerned. Even, Walking on the Edge, a decidedly low-key theme, sounds excellent and has several layers to it. There’s the pumping Out of Time which I wish would get used in more Castlevania games. The Grim Reaper stage’s Heart of Fire even has an impressive amount of melodic variety to it.
And of course, the first level’s theme Vampire Killer really kicks off this game properly. As I’ve said, I feel like this song is really the theme song for the entire franchise, perfectly capturing everything that the series is about.
Surprise, surprise! People may not have a lot of positive things to say about Castlevania 64, but surprisingly, it does have a pretty good soundtrack. I’ve stated before that Bloodlines, the game’s opening theme and a cover of Richter’s Theme from Rondo of Blood is easily and by far my favourite tune off this soundtrack with its beautifull violin accompaniment. That said, it’s surprisingly the only cover version of note on CV64’s rather extensive soundtrack.
Admittedly, the CV64 soundtrack doesn’t have as much drive as a lot of other ones and as most of the tracks are very atmospheric and ambient in nature, they are rather easy to dismiss. However, themes like Silent Madness and Invisible Sorrow really manage to creep the hell out of me. The Dungeon Main Theme, Castle Wall Watchtower and Maze Garden all have a nice drive to them and the boss theme Shudder is also another surprising stand out number.
So where the game maybe lacks in powerful leitmotifs, it does manage to bring the chills with themes such as the Tower of Science, Tower of Sorcery and Enter Watchtower themes (the latter of these featuring a rather Bloody Tear-esque organ backing). With its ten outstanding numbers, CV64 earns itself a spot in the top-5 and although you will probably not find yourself humming the soundtrack to this game to yourself, I do recommend it as some nice, creepy background music.
Of course this game had to come up at some point. I made no secret of my love for Wandering Ghosts on the theme Top-10 and this soundtrack also matches CV64 with ten tracks over-all. Symphony of the Night took full advantage of its CD format and many of its numbers are long with developing arcs to their music. It’s because of this that we get lots of nice and well-developed pieces like Lost Painting, Wood Carving Partita and Requiem of the Gods.
Surprisingly, there are also some vocal songs, the Japanese Nocturne and the English language I am the Wind, which luckily is much better than the game’s laughable English voice-over would suggest. There are also some positively rocking tunes such as Prologue and Dracula’s Castle which luckily add some up-beat energy to the mix. There’s also some positively haunting numbers such as Heavenly Doorway and a notably different version of Requiem titled Prayer.
Despite its high number of quality songs, a general problem I have with Symphony of the Night’s soundtrack is the high number of ambient songs. Much like with Circle of the Moon, many of them really fail to take off for me and some are just painfully slow to listen to. On over-all music making credentials, Symphony of the Night is way higher and its spot in this Top-5 is most certainly deserved, but not because it really embodies the qualities I expect of a great Castlevania soundtrack, albeit it displays a lot of great variety. This game may also lose out to the Top-2 picks on the number of songs (10 vs. 11) but it actually has one original track more than either.
Super Castlevania IV features a great combination of marching themes as well as atmospheric and creepy music. Songs that manage to incorporate both well are both of the Clockwork Mansion themes, Forest of Monsters and of course the epic first level theme Dance of the Holy Man, more popularly known as the “Theme of Simon”.
It also features great, haunting melodies like The Cave, The Library and The Treasury Room which all manage to capture the horror atmosphere well. There’s a sort of darkness and genuine horror feel to the music of this game which you don’t really get in many other Castlevania soundtracks barring maybe only Castlevania 64. There’s also the absolutely panic inducing Room of Close Associates which sounds really disturbed.
And of course, there’s covers of the three iconic Castlevania tunes Vampire Killer, Bloody Tears and The Beginning. This game’s version of Bloody Tears is a particular favourite of mine with a simple intro and a great drive without ever going over the top. The bombastic finale which follows the flute section is also just amazing. However, Super Castlevania IV in all its excellence doesn’t hold a candle to what I think is the most energetic and powerful soundtrack from the whole franchise.
Rondo of Blood is really just a shoo-in for any number-1 spot involving the Castlevania series, but there is also a reason behind it. I just love this game with every fibre of my being, right down to its awesome soundtrack. This game gets off on the right track with the haunting menu theme Requiem which is simple but beautiful in its execution.
The themes in this game are energetic and positively hopping but always containing a bit of that spooky CV energy. Just listen to Cross a Fear and tell me this isn’t just a great piece of composition even outside the realm of Castlevania. Then there are themes like Picture of a Ghost Ship or Opus 13that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on the soundtrack of an anime. There are even nice surprises like Mary Samba.
Even at its most serious with the first level theme (and again my favourite track of the game) Bloodlines the game never loses the drive and energy which makes its music so awesome to listen to. Then there’s the game’s covers of the classic CV themes Vampire Killer (Stage 2B), Bloody Tears (Stage 3B) and The Beginning (Stage 4B). All of them are awesome, but Vampire Killer really takes the cake with all the dramatic pauses and effects done to it. I also love this game’s no-bullshit take on Bloody Tears.
In all, this isn’t just a great Castlevania soundtrack, it’s just a great soundtrack just to have playing in the background.