Since time immemorial (or the ‘80s, same difference), one villain has menaced gamers more frequently than any other: Dracula. With the twin advantages of being a public-domain character and of being widely identified with all things spooOOOooky, the archetypal Transylvanian lord-turned-vampires has infested countless games, either as its central villain, as a throwaway boss and sometimes – very rarely – as a playable character. In spite of always hewing to roughly the same “cape, fangs and ‘BLUH’” schtick, some Draculas have proven more memorable than others.
For whatever reason, however, they’re not always named Dracula. If in doubt, please refer to this helpful diagram:
HOW TO SPOT A DRACULA
Also, not all vampires are Draculas, and at least one Dracula is actually not a vampire. These distinctions can be confusing, so we’ll make it simple:
Now that that’s been established, we can begin.
Creepy fireball Dracula
Spotted in: Castlevania (NES)
Habits: Teleporting around the room throwing fireballs, turning into a big ugly monster.
Great because: He was the first – or at least the first to really matter. Castlevania’s Dracula established the template for Dracula-as-game villain, even though – aside from the cape and maybe his coffin – he didn’t really have much in common with Draculas as identified above. His face was what appeared to be a skull-like mask, that appeared on the ground and floated into the air until his body materialized around it. He was also roughly 10 feet tall, and unlike traditional Draculas that can only be killed via stake to the heart, his weak point was his face.
If there’s any doubt as to who he’s supposed to resemble, the final battle from Vampire Killer – a sort of expanded Castlevania remake for the Japan-and-Europe-only MSX console – should clear that right up.
Above: Also, check out Drac’s sweet exposed-ribcage action
Then he turned into a giant creepy bat-dragon thing when you “killed” him. That’s not really Dracula’s traditional M.O., but – thanks to nearly every subsequent Castlevania – it soon would be.
Spotted in: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (SNES, Genesis)
Habits: Mostly just standing around being huge, occasionally busting out magic and running attacks, turning into monsters.
Great because: While this Dracula resembles the Dracula template even less than Castlevania’s in-game Dracula, he’s even bigger. Which means that if it came down to fists, he could probably take C-Drac in a fight. He’s also more fickle about his appearance, showing up no fewer than five times in a variety of guises. First, he’s a giant old man who’s just sort of glued to the floor:
Then he’s a giant Gary Oldman in tea shades and faintly Dickensian gothic-dandywear:
Later in the game, he shows up as a gross malformed bat thing and a cartoon wolf:
And then, finally, he shows up in that blood-red muscle armor from the movie, taller than ever before, making him easily the best thing about this fantastically shitty adaptation of a disappointingly mediocre film:
It’s probably better if we don’t discuss the endless lame parodies inspired by this version of Dracula here, although we will show a couple of them:
Above: Thank you, Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust and Conker's Bad Fur Day, for helping us resurrect this tired old reference
Spotted in: Arkista’s Ring (NES)
Habits: Walking in straight lines, hurling fireballs at elf-girls.
Great because: Like most other 8-bit Draculas, this one’s blood-drinking habits were downplayed in favor of his fireball-tossing prowess. Not seen until the 21st level of the weird action-RPG Arkista’s Ring, and appearing only after you’ve cleared the level of bats, he does nothing but walk up and down a stairway leading to his coffin – until cute elven archers move into his line of sight, at which point he unleashes a fistful of fireballs all over their faces.
Above: AUGH GROSS
He also dies after a few hits with a bow and arrow, which makes him a little disappointing. Still, after slogging through dozens of orcs, bats and other crappy monsters, it’s still kind of a surprise to see such a familiar face among them.