It’s a dead man’s party: the music of Castlevania

Featured, Gaming, Music, Nintendo, Top story

The title of this post is a reference to the 1985 hit song, Dead Man’s Party, by Oingo Boingo. It has nothing to do with Castlevania, but is an excellent song/album. Listen to it here. Now, on with the show!

In the past decade or so, video game music seems to have become its own genre, spawning such groups as The Minibosses, The Advantage, Brentalfloss (hilarious), Random Encounter (who have a new album coming out soon) and The Protomen (just plain awesome), just to name a few. Websites like Overclocked Remix, Video Game Jam and NES Game Tabs are all devoted to creating and learning versions of the songs.

The music of Castlevania is a large part of the classic video game series. One need only look at a few of the game titles themselves to see it goes beyond the actual in-game tunes, all the way to the titles themselves: Symphony of the Night, Lament of Innocence, Rondo of Blood, Harmony of Dissonance and Aria of Sorrow all refer in some way to a type of music.

For what it’s worth, Dracula’s Curse and Portrait of Ruin also have great soundtracks. When I originally purchased the latter, it came with a soundtrack CD (remember those?). Both games include an internal sound test as well. It is clear Konami knew they had a hot audio product even in the early days of the series.

With the new Castlevania series already on Netflix and in news of the recent Trevor Morris (seriously, I love that name) soundtrack release, here is an overview of some of our favorite, classic Castlevania tunes.

Vampire Killer (Castlevania)

Vampire Killer is the quintessential song from the series. Variations of it can be heard throughout the many of the games and it really sets the tone for Simon Belmont’s first adventure. Here is the original version players first heard upon loading up Castlevania for the first time:

Now, here’s orchestral arrangement. This song is clearly beloved by many, if the sheer number of covers on YouTube are any indication. Here’s an incredible a capella version by incredibly talented artist Smooth McGroove, a bluegrass cover version by Banjo Guy Ollie and, of course, all of the versions featured in the games (warning: this video is long).

Also, if you’ve ever wanted to play this on the electric guitar, you can! Here’s a link to some guitar tab. It’s quite accurate and we’ll post our own (brief) performance of the tune in the next few weeks.

Bloody Tears (Simon’s Quest)

Bloody Tears is basically Simon’s theme and is probably the best known tune from the series, aside from Vampire Killer. If you’ve ever played Simon’s Quest, you’re probably sick of this tune, since it’s basically the only thing that plays throughout the adventure (not really; there are other tunes in the game). That aside, there have been some interesting version of this one, which we’ll get to below. First, let’s hear it as originally intended:

The song is almost symphonic and does a great job setting the tone for the games. In later titles, the tune is set against the backdrop of the final battle with Dracula or close to the final battle. It also has its own enduring legacy with numerous covers and reinterpretations. Musician and game designer Brent Black, known to the internet as Brentalfloss, is famous for putting lyrics to video game music. His take on Bloody Tears can be found here (warning: NSFW language; no, really. Don’t watch this at work).

What a horrible night to have a curse, indeed. Did you enjoy the a capella version of Vampire Killer above? Well, Smooth McGroove did one for this song as well, available here.

Arizona-based The Minibosses also have an electric rock version of the theme, which used to be available to download/stream at their website. The site hasn’t been updated in quite sometime and looks like a time capsule from the late ’90s, but the band is still active. Their Castlevania Medley can be heard on YouTube.

Beginning (Dracula’s Curse)

When Dracula’s Curse came along, it offered players a glimpse into the lives of the generation of vampire hunters that came before Simon Belmont. This tune is the theme for the first level of the game and sets the tone for Trevor’s entire adventure. From the church organ-style prelude as Trevor doffs his cape outside of a chapel, all the way to the skeletal guardian at the end of the stage, this tune gives the player a sense of adventure and fun. Let’s hear it:

After this level is completed, Trevor has a choice: to climb the clock tower and rescue Grant DaNasty or head over to the swamp to, eventually, meet Sypha Belnades, who may or may not become his wife at the end of the game.

Demon Seed (Dracula’s Curse)

Dracula’s Curse presents numerous branching paths and three characters the player may choose as a helper. If the player chooses to take Alucard along, one of the next few levels is a crypt with green/teal bricks and a Frankenstein monster as the boss. What makes this level great, however, is the background music. Demon Seed has an exquisite bass line and a creeping melody that perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the stage. It kind of reminds me of the soundtrack to Battletoads. Here’s the original version:

Despite how tremendously cool this tune is, it doesn’t seem to have the same level of popularity as some of the other Castlevania songs. Here is a neat keyboard version of the song and a remix of the tune that show it a bit of love. I like the song, specifically because it gets me in the mood to fight the armies of the undead and to keep Alucard for the entire game.

Marble Gallery (Symphony of the Night)

Symphony of the Night is many things: the progenitor of the Metroidvania style game, an excellent story, a fun adventure, unique among its brethren and more. It also has a fantastic soundtrack, composed by Michiru Yamane.

As we mentioned in our Castlevania retrospective series, the original PlayStation disc doubled as a soundtrack CD. If you don’t have one of those lying around, however, you can check out the soundtrack on your favorite music streaming service or on YouTube. This tune is played early in the game and gives the player a sense of adventure that sets the pace and tone for the entire story. Without further ado, here is Marble Gallery:

Your picks

That about wraps it up for our favorite music coming out of Castlevania. It’s not comprehensive: We would love to hear about your favorite Castlevania songs.

Thanks for checking out this article. We’ve enjoyed having you along on our journey through the Castlevania series. There are two more Castlevania features coming soon to wrap up our journey, so check back for those soon. In the meantime, why not have a look at our series retrospective, our review of the Netflix series and our thoughts on the voice actors?

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About David Buck

David BuckBased in Colorado, David Buck is an author, musician, and media specialist for Nerdvana Media. His work has appeared on Tedium, EN World and across the web. In his spare time, he composes music, writes science fiction, and builds scale models, mostly starships and movie cars.