You wouldn’t know it from the total lack of fanfare or acknowledgement, but one of gaming’s longest-running franchises recently turned 30 years old, a milestone reserved for only the heaviest of hitters. While its past two or three years have been silent, and the past five to six years have been questionable, there’s no denying that at least 20 of those 30 years are home to some of the greatest games of all time.
Part of their appeal – apart from the graphic design, music, sound effects, core gameplay and just about everything else inside the game’s guts – is the fact that most of them are tied together via an official timeline, one that’s referenced not just in marketing materials but also inside the games themselves.
This ongoing sense of connectedness made the Castlevania series feel like an ornate, gothic tapestry. Characters knew each other, referenced prior events and lamented (ha!) actions of their ancestors. So even though it’s a little straightforward and melodramatic, the plot felt more “real” than just about any other game series with a loosely connected timeline. HOWEVER…
The chronological order of the Castlevania timeline is WAYYYY confusing when paired against the games’ retail release order. The first game in the series – Castlevania – launched in the US in 1987, but is technically the sixth game in the timeline. Obviously this wasn’t the case in 1987, but even by 1990 there was a game that took place before that initial entry (that’d be Dracula’s Curse).
So, here’s a verrrrrry abridged version of the timeline, pulled from my notes created for an upcoming Laser Time!
LAMENT OF INNOCENCE – 1094 AD
Dracula was once a man named Mathias, who defies god and becomes a vampire in order to become more powerful. His wife died, he’s mad, defies God so he can openly mock and confront him etc.
Regular weapons can’t really harm Mathias (or other advanced demons) so Leon Belmont is forced to unlock the full potential of his alchemic whip in the hopes of battling back all this evil. Leon’s fiance is slowly turning into a vampire, and wouldn’t you know it, the only way to truly unlock the whip’s capabilities is to sacrifice her to it, creating a whip that is fueled by vengeance and righteousness. It’s basically a Bionic Commando 2009 “wife arm” six years earlier.
Anyway, the Vampire Killer is forged, Mathius disappears and over time becomes super powerful and re-emerges as Dracula – a borderline immortal monster.
DRACULA’S CURSE – 1476 AD
Mathias is now called Dracula and is killing people left and right. Desperate churches turn to the feared “superhuman” talents of the Belmont clan and the Vampire Killer whip; Trevor Belmont meets Sypha Belnades, Grant Danasty and Alucard, Dracula’s son. The Belnades family factors heavily into future events, as does Alucard.
Trevor does defeat Dracula, but his curse lingers. Alucard voluntarily enters a deep sleep, hoping to keep his cursed lineage out of history…
CURSE OF DARKNESS – 1479 AD
A direct sequel to the then-15-year-old Dracula’s Curse. Hector, who was a “devil forgemaster” for Dracula, renounces his evil ways and tries to settle a score with a former forgemaster comrade, Isaac. Death (as in the Grim Reaper!) manages to revive Dracula through Isaac’s body.. Hector kills Dracula and seemingly removes the curse from humanity, which in any other story would be a final “he’s really dead this time, we killed him and then killed him again. We even beat up Death itself.”
CASTLEVANIA: THE ADVENTURE – 1576 AD
Around this time a legend is passed around that says Dracula will return “every 100 years” or when faith in God is lost or questioned. So this happens during Christopher Belmont’s era and he successfully battles Dracula. It’s not a particularly great game and given that other games were removed from the timeline I’m surprised this hung around.
BELMONT’S REVENGE – 1591 AD
Direct sequel to Adventure, though instead of the next Belmont generation taking up the battle, Christopher must leap into action yet again and save his son. This is a MUCH better game so that’s a plus. Check out the soundtrack, too!
Castlevania – 1691 AD
This brings us to Simon Belmont, perhaps the most famous Belmont of them all – if only because so many of us played the NES games and/or saw his awful, narcissistic portrayal in Captain N: The Game Master. ANYway 100 years after Christopher vanquished Dracula, he returns and Simon sets out to stop him.
Simon’s Quest – 1698 AD
The “Metroidvania” style is already present in 1988, as Simon’s journey to hunt down Drac’s lingering body parts takes him all across the land. Eventually Simon succeeds in re-assembling Dracula’s unnatural flesh, killing the thing it summons and then moving on with his newly uncursed life.
Next – Harmonies, Rondos and Symphonies!