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I originally wanted to do a "top-10 favorite" Castlevania soundtrack listicle. But that's like, way overdone, is it not? And so I modified the idea a little and came up with this: my top 10 favorite Castlevania soundtrack remixes.
Yes, if you're a fan of Konami’s bestselling vampire hunting action platformer, you'd know. Remixing BGMs is a cherished tradition in Castlevania games; just look at the number of versions of Vampire Hunter we had over the years. Without further ado, here are my favorite Castlevania soundtrack remixes from the past 30 years. This list includes both the ones released by Konami and the "indie" mixes by the many astonishing talents found on YouTube.
10. Vampire Hunter (Remixed in Dracula X Chronicles)
To be honest, I’ve never been particularly fond of Vampire Hunter i.e. the signature Castlevania Soundtrack.
It’s iconic. It’s definitely also catchy; the melody has been permanently stuck in my head since 1986.
But I’ve never loved the tune, or even hummed it, that’s is, not till I heard this arrangement in Dracula X Chronicles.
What changed everything for me, you might ask. I guess it’s the updated beat, symphonic feel, and overall restrained feel. The arrangement delivers the impression that the Belmonts, ancestors and protégés alike, are not just stereotypical vampire killing brutes, they are cunning and resourceful too. There is also a vague suggestion that Castlevania games have gone beyond being simplistic action platformers. Which is exactly what happened to the franchise over the years.
9. Tragic Prince (Remixed As Pitiful Scion in Harmony of Despair)
Tragic Prince from Castlevania: Symphonic of the Night has long been one of the most beloved Castlevania soundtracks. Correspondingly, that makes it one of the toughest tunes to remix. Just what do you so to avoid losing the poignant flavor of the original song?
This remix doesn’t entirely get it right. It’s a shade too intense, thus losing the winning elegance of the original track. That said, it still mostly delivers the “epicness” of the original arrangement, to borrow a gaming term. The overdriven distortion guitar strums also completes the sensation of dark adventure. For me, they remind that danger in every Castlevania game is akin to thunder. It’s unexpected and everywhere.
8. Beginnings (Remixed in Perfect Selection Dracula Battle)
I bought this Castlevania Soundtrack album in the 90s, expecting 8bit/16bit excitement.
Five seconds into it and I was stunned. It’s metal and heavy rock! What on Earth was done to my favorite gaming tunes?
But it grew on me before long, to the extent I’d even say this album was the one that opened the doors of heavier music for me. As for the remix of Beginnings that headed the album, it eventually became the representative version of Castlevania III’s opening track for me. On another note, I believe this album was also the herald for rock remixes of Castlevania soundtracks. I’m sure many home musicians, such as those on YouTube, were inspired by it.
7. Simon's Theme (Remixed in Harmony of Despair)
In a nutshell, I found Simon’s Theme too gloomy when I first heard it in the early 1990s. Over the years, though, I began increasingly fond of it. If I were to state a reason, I’d say it’s because I came to appreciate the use of distinctive church organ sounds in the original track. Other than creating an ominous ambience, the rich organ flute sounds fully brought out the mysterious depths of the composition.
This remix in Harmony of Despair amplifies the organ sounds. Layers them too, for a more majestic feel. At certain parts, the mood does get a notch too heavy, but the whole dark ambient feel of the composition is correspondingly magnified. It’s almost like a parallel to the suffocating, incessant danger that surrounds you when grinding through a Castlevania stage.
Electric guitar riffs further injects the tune with a dash of energy, which in turn creates an interesting contrast of themes. In short, this remix is arguably my favorite track from 2010’s Harmony of Despair (HoD). Incidentally, many Castlevania consider HoD to be the last true Castlevania episode.
6. Stream (Remixed by Jorge Fuentes)
Stream is my favorite Castlevania Soundtrack from Castlevania III. After Heart of Fire (see below), it's also my favorite Castlevania song.
Which makes it an absolute tragedy, for me, that Konami never reused Stream in any other episodes. This, in turn, results in there not being many fan remixes of Stream. Those newer to the franchise might not even know of this track.
This version that I picked is very “16 bit-ish”; the artiste deliberately made it so. It's not what I hope for Stream after all these years too, but in all honesty I’d say it's an upgrade over the 8-bit original. I do hope that someday, this artiste or other musicians would do a full version, or better still, a live version. This retro Castlevania soundtrack has so much energy and promise in it. I strongly feel it deserves far more attention than what it received over the years.
5. Opus 13 (Remixed by LongBoxofChocolate)
Permit me to share a little bit about myself. I play the Yamaha Electone digital organ and a big part of our style is the rearrangement of famous songs using unexpected rhythms or feels. Thanks to that, any arrangement that is a bold re-interpretation of an original composition strongly appeals to me. I get a kick out of how creative some musicians could be when rearranging songs.
As for this remix, frankly speaking, certain parts of it feel a shade too thin. Some of the original perkiness of Opus 13 is also lost, especially during the jazzy ad-lib.
Still, it's an admirable effort, something that I listen to when tired of ferocious drumbeats and overdriven distortion guitars. With regards to the ongoing Castlevania animated series by Netflix, you’d agree this is an appropriate accompaniment for lighter moments? For example, if Trevor and Sypha ever go on an uncomfortable date? Such a scene would be a really joy to watch.
4. Mad Forest (Remixed in Dracula Perfect Selection Album)
Since my teenage years, Konami has been my favorite game developer, and a big reason for that is because I feel they always push the boundaries with whatever they do. (Or at least, used to)
This remix exemplifies my belief. I mean, would you expect something like this for an action game soundtrack? Even when released as an independent album soundtrack?
By the way, Mad Forest is also one of my favorite Castlevania soundtracks from 1980s. It’s strangely also one that was never reused in another game. If any future episode does include it, I do this version finds its way in. Or at least, something alike to this impossibly fun interpretation.
3. Demon Seed (Remixed in Dracula X Chronicles)
Of all entries on this list, this remix of Demon Seed is the closest in spirit to its parent. It's merely updated with more modern sounding instruments.
As much as I love outrageous and creative game soundtrack remixes, sometimes just improving the original does wonders too, yes? After all, when something is not broke, why even try fixing it?
Or maybe it’s more accurate to say, when something is already prefect, why bother reinventing it? I’m sure many Castlevania fans would with me when I say, Demon Seed is one of the most atmospheric, most memorable soundtracks ever composed for the franchise. This official remix certainly does full justice to the original tune.
2. Riddle (Remixed in Order of Ecclesia)
Simply put, I fell in love with the original Riddle from Castlevania III because it was one of those dark-to-light arrangements, starting off deceptively quiet before soaring in intensity and emotions.
This remix, created over 20 years later for Order of Ecclesia, abandoned that style and opted for a “straight with no chaser” flavor. Typically, I wouldn't like that, but somehow this version fascinated me.
Maybe it's the intensified beat. Or maybe it's just the joy of hearing one of my favorite 1980s NES soundtracks again after so many years. Incidentally, this was the last official Castlevania soundtrack remix that I got addicted to. After that, Konami went ambient with the music direction, and regretfully, that never appealed to me.
1. Heart of Fire (Remixed in Akumajō Dracula MIDI Collection)
When I played my very first Castlevania game on the NES in 1986, I instantly fell in love with the BGMs. However, it wasn’t till I reached Stage 5, and heard Heart of Fire, that I became a fan of Castlevania music.
A livelong fan. Whenever a new episode is released, I look forward more to the music than the gameplay.
As for why I loved Heart of Fire so much, I’m say it’s mainly the piling intensity. A brooding and foreboding tune that steadily swells to a grand chorus, one that’s completely a mirror of the action in the stage it accompanies. The same unforgiving intensity is paid full homage to in this remix, which starts at 13:26 of the below video. Not only is the beat thickened to an almost strangling pace, the melody and accompaniments are also creatively swapped to imply chaos and danger.
In short, I was mesmerized with this remix the moment I heard it. Every tingling sensation I felt when playing my first Castlevania game came swimming back to me. Needless to say, my love for Castlevania music was also reaffirmed. I became twice the fan I was after this episode.