For centuries, vampires have been one of the most popular fictional monsters in cultures all over the world. The creatures have been the subject of folklore, literature, TV series, films, and of course, video games. Numerous game developers have taken inspiration from the vampire myth to create unique gaming experiences that have players hunting down the beasts as well as playing as a member of the undead.
There have been many vampire video games over the years, but the following 10 are the best examples of vampire video games to date.
In the BloodRayne series, protagonist Rayne is a dhampir, someone that was born as the result of a union between a vampire and a human. As a dhampir, Rayne is even more powerful than a typical vampire, and she uses this power to hunt down full-blooded vampires in her vengeful quest to slay her evil father. BloodRayne 2 is arguably the best game in the franchise, boasting deeper combat and improved visuals when compared to its predecessor.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Licensed games are rarely good, but every once in awhile, a licensed title will come around that surprises everyone. In 2002, that game was Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the original Xbox. Based on the popular TV show of the same name, Buffy the Vampire Slayer earned surprisingly strong reviews at the time of its release, with many praising its gameplay variety, impressive graphics, and well-written narrative.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Arguably the best Castlevania game, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night stands as one of the most critically-acclaimed games of all time. By borrowing exploration elements originally seen in Super Metroid for the SNES, Symphony of the Night gave birth to the Metroidvania sub-genre of games, earning numerous Game of the Year awards in 1997 in the process. Notable for sticking with 2D graphics at a time when 3D visuals were all the rage, Symphony of the Night‘s graphics have stood the test of time, offering fans a visually stunning adventure in Dracula’s twisted castle.
While Symphony of the Night marks a high point for the franchise, the Castlevania series is sadly dormant at the time of this writing. Konami seems content on ignoring its biggest game franchises in favor of pumping out pachinko machines, but fans of Castlevania should know that Symphony of the Night assistant director Koji Igarashi is currently hard at work on a spiritual successor called Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night that is due for release in 2018.
Marrying Halo-style first-person shooter elements to a Weird West setting, Darkwatch is one of the forgotten gems of the sixth generation of gaming. The premise sees cowboy Jericho Cross become a vampire and then use his new powers to kill evil supernatural entities. The game was well-received when it launched in 2005 and was originally meant to be the start of a franchise, but those plans were scrapped. Its developer, High Moon Studios, would go on to create a pair of critically acclaimed Transformers games as well as assist with the development of Destiny and its sequel.
Infamous: Festival of Blood
Released as a standalone expansion for Infamous 2, Festival of Blood turns superhero Cole MacGrath into one of the undead. Trading his amp powers for more sinister abilities, Festival of Blood effectively turns the series on its head, and stands as one of the most downloaded digital releases on PlayStation 3 to date. Festival of Blood proved that Sucker Punch Studios has a talent for creating horror experiences, and it would be interesting to see the studio return to the genre in the future.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Directed by celebrated video game writer Amy Hennig, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver from Crystal Dynamics stands as the highest-rated game in the Legacy of Kain series. For the uninitiated, Legacy of Kain is a series about a vampire, the titular Kain, who serves as both a protagonist and antagonist at different points in the franchise. In Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, players take on the role of Raziel, a wraith that was once a vampire. Unfortunately, the Legacy of Kain series has been dormant for over a decade, with the most recent attempt at a full-fledged revival (discounting the short-lived multiplayer spinoff Nosgoth), Legacy of Kain: Dead Sun, cancelled after three years of development.
On the bright side, there are signs that Legacy of Kain may enjoy a revival soon enough. Crystal Dynamics has recently teased on Twitter that a new Legacy of Kain game is in development, fueling speculation that the studio is set to reboot the franchise like it successfully accomplished with Tomb Raider.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is not explicitly a vampire video game, but even so, there are plenty of the bloodsuckers inhabiting the game world. Like past Elder Scrolls games, players can become infected with vampirism by fighting vampires, eventually turning into one of the undead themselves. Becoming a vampire in Skyrim has benefits, though it also comes with some drawbacks, and limits the player’s ability to travel through the game world during the day.
Players can become an even more powerful vampire if they play through Skyrim‘s Dawnguard expansion. The Dawnguard expansion is all about vampires, dealing with the titular Dawnguard as they attempt to hunt down and eradicate the creatures from the face of the Earth. Over the course of the expansion’s story, players can choose to side with the vampire hunters or the vampires themselves, with whatever choice they make having a major impact on their character and Skyrim at large.
The Sims 2: Nightlife
Like Skyrim, The Sims 2 isn’t a game explicitly about vampires, but players can play it as a member of the undead if they so wish. Vampires were added to the game as a part of The Sims 2‘s Nightlife expansion, and befriending them allows players to turn their Sims into one of the creatures.
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang
Most vampire games are filled with blood, gore, and gratuitous violence, but The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang on the SNES is a departure from the norm. In this family-friendly game, players control the titular vampire Spike McFang, who is on a quest to defeat an evil zombie general. The game is a top-down action-adventure, with gameplay and visuals seemingly inspired by The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, so fans of that game may want to give it a shot.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
While it received a lukewarm reception at the time of its release in 2004, and was a general sales failure, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is now looked back on as one of the finest examples of a vampire video game. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is an action-RPG with an emphasis on choice, allowing players to choose which vampire clans to side with and how they interact with each character. It’s true that some elements of the gameplay in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is a little rough around the edges, but the game has earned near universal praise for its story and writing, making it worth checking out for any interested in vampire lore.
Vampires may not be the most common creature in gaming, but from the games listed here, it’s clear that they have made their impact across a variety of genres. At the time of this writing, there aren’t many vampire-themed video games currently announced for a future release, but there is one that does stand out as something vampire fanatics should keep in mind.
Vampyr, an action-RPG from the creators of Life is Strange and Remember Me, shows promise as a choice-driven game wherein players control medical doctor-turned-vampire Jonathan Reid. Vampyr turns players loose in semi-open world London, allowing them to play through the game in any manner they wish.
Whether or not Vampyr hits the mark remains to be seen, but the game shows promise. In the meantime, hopefully more developers turn to the undead creatures for inspiration, and we get more quality vampire games on our hands sooner rather than later.