The Castlevania franchise follows the lives of the Belmont family as they time and time again come face to face with the Lord of Darkness, Dracula. It goes without saying, but such a narrative formula results in Dracula serving as the final boss for virtually every single game in the series. For better and for worse.
There’s no real consistency when it comes to final boss quality as far as Castlevania is concerned. Sometimes Dracula is a total pushover. Other times he’s one of the best fights in the game. Sometimes Dracula isn’t the final boss and it’s great! Other final bosses might outright make players beg for death. If nothing else, the series does a remarkably good job at justifying the repetitive finale.
10 BEST: Satan (Lords Of Shadow)
Credit where credit is due, the first Lords of Shadow isn’t that bad. It has a certain charm to it. It’s not as epic as it seems to think it is, but it’s certainly larger than life and juggles its fantastical elements well. As a standalone game that borrows the Castlevania name and aesthetic, it’s pretty good. The games that followed are the problem.
Lords of Shadow has a really great finale in general. Not only is the fight against Satan appropriately bombastic, but it also transitions into a melancholy ending with one hell of a plot twist. It’s a shame that the Lords of Shadow sub-series wasn’t able to keep its quality consistent across titles.
9 WORST: Dracula (Castlevania: The Adventure)
A Game Boy action-platformer, Castlevania: The Adventure is one of the single worst games, not just in the franchise, but on the handheld system. It’s that bad. The game is sluggish, unresponsive, ugly, poorly designed, claustrophobic, and painfully uninteresting. It is everything wrong with the series jammed into one cartridge.
It goes without saying, but inherent game design issues lead to a Dracula fight that’s just horrific in all the worst ways. Dracula should be each game’s capstone, not a hollow punch to the throat. Congratulations to anyone who gets this far, though. Anyone who wants to get to Dracula will need a sagely level of patience.
8 BEST: Dracula (Order Of Ecclesia)
Narratively, Dracula is at one of his weakest points in Order of Ecclesia. So weak, in fact, the Belmont clan doesn’t even seem aware that Dracula’s back. Shanoa ends up handling things herself. While she’s superpowered, she’s no true Belmont. All the same, she’s an incredibly cool main character and seeing her basically fistfight Dracula at the end of the game is outstanding.
This is the only final boss where Dracula doesn’t transform and it’s all the better for it. He stands up and beats on Shanoa man to man. As the last IGAvania, it’s kind of nice that Dracula goes out on such a human note - pushed to the point of standing up and just straight up punching and kicking.
7 WORST: Dracula (Castlevania 64)
Konami had a lot of faith in their first Castlevania titled for the Nintendo 64 (hilariously titled Castlevania, as if to mark a glorious new era in the franchise) but they really shouldn’t have. Castlevania 64 is one of the sloppiest action games on the Nintendo 64. Bad graphics, bad combat, bad level design, and a bad camera.
Its rerelease is much better, but a rerelease can’t fix a shoddy original and the game’s Dracula fight is grueling. He hits hard, can drain blood to heal, and has three forms. Granted, his last form is the easiest, but the first two are hard enough to make that point moot.
6 BEST: Chaos (Aria Of Sorrow)
Even when Dracula isn’t the final boss, he creeps his way into the finale - this time through the main character, Soma Cruz! Aria of Sorrow’s twist is genuinely one of the coolest things the Castlevania franchise has done. Making Dracula reincarnate into the protagonist was a truly inspired move on Igarashi’s part and makes the series far more nuanced.
Chaos is a great final boss for Soma, if a bit easy. In general, Aria of Sorrow’s challenge drops off near the end; however, that doesn’t make Chaos a bad boss fight. Far from it! It’s a visually interesting finale that manages to close the game out on a story beyond that goes beyond “defeat vampire.”
5 WORST: Menace (Dawn Of Sorrow)
On the flip side, there’s Menace in Dawn of Sorrow, Aria of Sorrow’s direct sequel for the Nintendo DS. An early DS title, Dawn of Sorrow made heavy use of the touch screen during boss fights. That should speak for itself, but needing to remove the stylus to graph a symbol in the middle of a fight isn’t fun. It’s even worse for bosses that were already not enjoyable.
Menace offers a very slow, tedious final boss fight that’s neither challenging or engaging. Menace also isn’t an interesting entity and feels like a rare narrative miss for Castlevania. Menace feels totally disconnected from the story, making the final boss feel pointless as it’s happening.
4 BEST: Soma Cruz (Dawn Of Sorrow)
It’s alright that Menace is terrible, though, because Dawn of Sorrow has another final boss courtesy of Julius Mode. Taking place after the main game’s bad ending, Julius teams up with Yoko and Alucard in order to take down the now fully vampiric Soma Cruz. He’s gone full Dracula and it’s honestly kind of awesome.
Better yet, Soma plays out like the final Dracula fight from Symphony of the Night. It’s an amazing callback and that players can use Alucard for the final boss is such a great touch on the dev team’s part. Soma totally makes up for Menace’s sloppiness. Here’s hoping Dawn of Sorrow won’t stay the end of Soma’s story forever.
3 WORST: Dracula (Simon’s Quest)
Simon’s Quest isn’t exactly known for its good level and boss design. Widely considered one of the worst sequels of all time, Simon’s Quest is basically the original game’s antithesis. What was once a tightly designed action-platformer is now a bizarre pseudo-RPG where NPCs just straight up lie and dungeons are unfinished.
Not just that, it’s possible to lock Dracula in a gameplay loop where Simon can eviscerate him with no trouble whatsoever. It’s a shockingly bad final boss to a game that’s already incredibly disappointing. There are fan patches that help rebalance the game, but Simon’s Quest’s problems are inherent.
2 BEST: Dracula (Super Castlevania IV)
Super Castlevania IV is a love letter to the early Castlevania franchise. It’s an encapsulation of everything that was good about the first three games while also a natural evolution of the series’ whip-based action. With multidirectional whipping, Super Castlevania IV offers fans of the series a more in-control experience.
Naturally, this culminates in a truly epic showdown against Dracula. As a technical remake of the first game, Super Castlevania IV’s Dracula fight has an extra layer to one, one that’s deeply rooted in the series. In terms of presentation, there’s nothing better than hearing Simon’s Theme as Simon marches to the grand finale.
1 WORST: Dracula (Dracula X)
Rondo of Blood is an incredible game with a decent final boss. Dracula X, its reimagining for the Super Nintendo, is an okay game with a horrible final boss. One of the worst bosses in a platformer, the final battle takes take place on a series of small columns above a bottomless pit. In a game where knockback frequently happens, this is a recipe for disaster in every sense.
One hit can end the entire fight. Even ignoring that horrific fact, it’s just not a fun battle. Dracula’s attack pattern is very dull and more frustrating than engaging. Richter also isn’t well equipped to handle the terrain of the final battle, making the whole ordeal quite a headache.