The imminent release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is bringing a close to the tragic trilogy that rebooted the struggle between Dracula and the Belmont clan, now is as good a time as ever to take a look back at games over the years that have featured fangs and boasted bloodsuckers. This is by no means a definitive list (nothing, nothing could make me discuss Vampire Rain at length), but a tiny taste of a subgenre of games to numerous to…Count.
Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
The second title set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness universe, Vampire: The Masquerade- Bloodlines had all the potential to be a new classic. Casting players as a fledgling vampire unwillingly sired into the fold (a big no-no in World of Darkness lore), it featured a unique cast of characters populating a neon-drenched Los Angeles, rife with vampiric politics and supernatural happenings. Unfortunately, the few phenomenal setpieces (that goddamn haunted hotel) were scattered in a game infested with bugs and thrown out the door unceremoniously before the developer, Troika, was shuttered. However, a surprisingly active fan community has offered a series of unofficial patches that fixed the majority of the game’s issues, making the game wholly enjoyable for those willing to take the time to apply the multitude of fixes.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
With dozens of entries on the series, one could devote an entire article to the ups and downs of Konami’s classic Castlevania franchise. If one had to pick one out of the list, however, Symphony of the Night is a no-brainer. The first title to feature Koji Igarashi in an assistant director role, SotN set the stage for Castlevanias to come, introducing heavier RPG elements and a gothic flavor that were a series trademark, including several classic entries on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS, finishing off with Order of Ecclesia. While the bombastic stylings of Igarashi may have been absent from Lords of Shadow, their influence is no less profound.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series has been no stranger to the supernatural in the past (the third entry, Morrowind, allowed players to become a werewolf in the Bloodmoon expansion), but the sizable Dawnguard expansion for Skyrim allowed the prophesied Dovahkin to play as either a vampire-hunting member of the Dawnguard or as a bloodsucking Vampire Lord, complete with imposing gothic castle as a stronghold. Both sides have their own quests, each related to a spell that has the potential to blot out the sun over the land of Tamriel.
A game that blended together many of my favorite things (vampires, Nazis, and bondage gear), Bloodrayne put gamers in the stiletto heels of a dhampir named Rayne, a fiery redhead sent by the Brimstone Society to stop the mysterious machination of the Gegengheist Gruppe, who sought supernatural artifacts to empower Hitler in his quest for world domination. This led to a sexually-charged, leather-clad rampage as Rayne sucked on stormtroopers and made a meal out of monsters in order to stop the GGG from recovering all of the dismembered parts of the demon Beliar. The game series has since moved on, with later installments dropping the WWII setting entirely and spawning three exceedingly disappointing films directed by B-movie hack Uwe Boll.
Like the just-discussed Bloodrayne, Darkwatch featured a unique character—in this case the vampric gunslinger Jericho Cross—recruited into a secret society of monster hunters. Blending together horror and western genres (a sorely underused combination, in my opinion) with a dash of steampunk for good measure, the game let players make a binary decision by the game’s end: either heroically stopping th vampire menace or giving in to his bloodlust. The development studio, High Moon Studios, has since moved on to developing Transformers games and the immensely amusing Deadpool, so a return to the bloodthirsty boots of Jericho Cross seems unlikely.