The best, worst, and weirdest games from Castlevania’s 30-year history

Castlevania was dead. Not undead, like one of those chipper skeletons always throwing spare bones around the series’ dank dungeons and improbable libraries. (And where the hell do those leering freaks get all those bones anyway? Their Jordan-esque airtime abilities aren’t as weird as their willingness to waste what…

The A.V. Club's favorite games of 2017

Every December, instead of searching for a group consensus, Gameological looks back at the year in games through individual perspectives. These are the staffers’ personal takes on a few games that have stuck in their minds for whatever reason—big or small—and does not represent any sort of institutional expression.…

The biggest name in video game horror never made horror games at all

Shinji Mikami is video games’ most enduring horror icon—our Shelley, our Walpole, our Carpenter and Craven. Other developers use the man’s language like a pocket dictionary. Every time something jumps through a window, Mikami’s there, grinning and taking a long drag off a cigarette—got ya again. When some improbably…

With one final death, Nier: Automata's ending redefines the meaning of life 

2B dies a lot. For Nier: Automata’s fetish-maid-android-samurai, death is just another occupational hazard of waging an endless war on bulbous robots that stole Earth from a seemingly exiled human race. She’s ready and willing to blow herself up to see the job done because she’s done it before. She has a black box, a…

How Ghosts ’N Goblins helped video games find comedy in failure

Failure is comedy’s natural ecosystem. There’s a primordial delight in watching something, and especially someone, fall down. It’s even better if it happens again. Hell, make someone fall over so many times that it stops being funny and then comes back around to being funny again, and you have the potential for some…

The best, worst, and weirdest attempts to make an X-Men video game

Given the series’ history and its breadth of characters, settings, and storytelling motifs, you’d think the X-Men are an essential video game subject, but that’s not the case. X-Men’s greatest characters and themes are born of serialization. Ensembles require more room to run, and when they’re as oceanic in reach as…

Dracula might be dead, but life goes on after Castlevania III’s bittersweet ending

Three things happen at the end of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse in quick succession. First, you unclench your anus, having survived the grueling last level, a two-part gauntlet of brutal jumps, fire-breathing dragon heads, and, ultimately, Dracula himself. Second, the vampire’s castle, as it always does at the end…

Our favorite games of 2016, part 1

Every December, instead of searching for a group consensus, Gameological looks back at the year in games through individual perspectives. These are the staffers’ personal takes on a few games that have stuck in their minds for whatever reason—big or small—and does not represent any sort of institutional expression.…

The Thing’s video game sequel got everything right except the Thing

The Thing is nauseating. Seeing it for the first time in a sticky-floored screening room a couple of years back, I thought: It’s too late for me. This movie won’t work anymore. I’ll admire its craft and the bizarre, dirty atmosphere in which John Carpenter was so brilliant at miring his movies, but it won’t frighten…

30 years of night: A musical history of Castlevania

The first Castlevania game was released in Japan 30 years ago today. Known there as Demon Castle Dracula, Konami’s melding of 8-bit action and monster-movie horror stuck, and the resulting series became an industry staple. Through nearly 30 games and several major overhauls, one of Castlevania’s most consistent…

Mega Man’s flexibility is the series’ greatest strength and weakness

Buried beneath his milquetoast but iconic international title, the secret to Mega Man’s success is right there in his original Japanese name—Rockman. Rock ’n’ roll is an alchemical formula that can be added to and subtracted from to create wild new expressions, a familiar base with replicable rules that naturally lend…

3-D dreams and 2-D extremes: 1996 in video game music

19XX was simultaneously the end of Capcom’s 1942/1943 shooters and their salvation. Trading in the deeply awkward World War II setting for a fictional war where twin-engine planes can shoot walls of plasma and fly endlessly into the horizon, it recast the ’80s arcade series in heavy metal tones for the ’90s. The old…

As 3-D found its footing, Capcom’s 2-D games reached new heights

In 1996, 3-D video games made good. Super Mario 64 and Tomb Raider weren’t alone in the land of three-dimensional games. Sega, Namco, Nintendo, and others had been releasing games made of polygons—the triangular graphical objects that are molded together to make your myriad racing cars or bug-eyed anthropomorphs—for…

The best games of 2016 so far: A Gameological catch-up guide

Nobody has the time to play all the great video games that hit the market. Between the increasingly even distribution of big-budget releases throughout the year and Steam’s ever-flooding selection, exemplary or intriguing games pop up on a constant basis. So with the year half over and the busiest video game season…

After a deadly serious quest, Altered Beast’s ending let us in on the joke

Altered Beast asks the impossible from the second it starts when a pixelated Zeus commands players to “Wise from your gwave.” But cheating death is the least ridiculous demand Sega’s arcade classic makes of us. You’re apparently supposed to take this game seriously—very, very seriously. Striking a dire tone halfway…

Beat the heat: 10 totally chill video game summer jams

Most songs on video game soundtracks are functionally named, reflecting the time and place they appear in the game and little more. Even poetically dubbed cuts like “Prelude” from Final Fantasy are still primarily literal. “Passing Breeze” by Hiroshi Kawaguchi is literal as well. It is an anthem meant to match the…