Few classic horror movie monsters have been transformed and reimagined as many times as vampires have. While the origin of vampires can be traced back to old European folklore, the modern Western idea of suave, elegant vampires only goes as far back as the 19th century. It was spawned by works of fiction such as John Polidori’s story “The Vampyre” and, of course, Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula.”
In the original folklore, vampires were little more than zombies – blood-thirsty undead revenants driven forward in their unlives only by hunger, albeit hunger for blood instead of brains. However, the works of Polidori and Stoker paved the way for a more subtle and nuanced version of the monster.
Since the 1990s, vampires have been represented in a variety of ways, many, many times. So, in between all the novels, comics, films, and TV shows, it’s only expected that a bunch of vampire-inspired video games would also end up being created.
Sadly, good vampire games are in short supply, so in this article, we’ll be listing and providing a brief overview of what we feel are the best vampire games you can play these days.
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Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
“Every time you mention it, someone will reinstall it” is something that describes Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines perfectly. As far as we’re concerned, this is the best vampire game made to date, and it is a proper masterpiece that was, sadly, rushed and released unfinished.
Based on White Wolf’s tabletop RPG game, Vampire: The Masquerade, Bloodlines is an action RPG title that aimed to capture the spirit of the tabletop game as best as it could with the resources and the technology that was available back in 2004.
The player can choose from seven different vampire clans, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses. The player’s clan would end up affecting not only their playstyle but also the way the player interacts with NPCs and how NPCs treat them.
When it comes to the gameplay, the player is free to choose how they approach enemy encounters: melee combat (either armed or unarmed) is often the most popular option, but ranged combat and stealth are also viable approaches.
Naturally, the abilities of the player’s clan will largely dictate their playstyle, as some favor melee, others favor guns, all the while some prefer to avoid combat altogether via stealth or by finding non-violent ways out of dangerous situations. However, that is not always an option.
More importantly, Bloodlines also has a masterfully-delivered story, and some of the most memorable characters ever seen in video games, which, in addition to the excellent atmosphere, soundtrack, and amazing lore, are what makes this game such a timeless experience.
But of course, Bloodlines isn’t without its share of faults. Many will notice that the gameplay can be severely unbalanced and that certain playstyles are essentially made redundant because of this. Moreover, as mentioned above, the game was released in an unfinished state, which is evident from the lackluster level design towards the end of the campaign, as well as from the plethora of bugs that plagued the game upon release.
Fortunately, loyal fans have been releasing unofficial patches over the years that not only fix most of the bugs but also restore some of the content that was cut from the original release. As such, if you’ve never played VTM: B and want to give it a go, definitely download the unofficial patch.
Vampyr is a relatively new game released in 2018, and it is an action-adventure title that puts the player in the shoes of a doctor-turned-vampire during the Spanish Flu epidemic in post-WW1 London. That said, you can immediately tell that the game aims to face the player with some moral dilemmas and difficult choices.
And sure enough, Vampyr places a lot of stock into the story, the dialogues, and character interactions. Throughout the game, the player has to make some tough decisions that will decide the fate of many of London’s citizens, and it treats these similarly to how BioShock did. That is, preying on the defenseless will allow the player to become more powerful, but at the risk of sacrificing their own humanity. There are a total of four endings and a bunch of choices to make, so player agency is a big part of the experience.
On the gameplay front, Vampyr plays pretty much like your usual action RPG, and while the combat is serviceable, it can get very tedious after a while due to how rigid it can feel. This is mainly because most of the difficulty comes from the enemies’ considerable health pools, and nobody likes spongy enemies.
In any case, Vampyr is hardly a spectacular game, as there are some questionable design decisions, and the story stumbles in several places, not to mention that there are so many characters around that it can feel impossible to keep track of all of them, let alone care about them.
So, if you’re a fan of vampire games, Vampyr might just be your cup of tea, but don’t expect the kind of experience that you can get from Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.
The BloodRayne series is one of those franchises that had a lot of potential but also made some unfortunate decisions that made them stumble along the way and ultimately prevented them from really taking off. The one we’ll be listing here is BloodRayne 2, as we feel that it is the best of the bunch at the moment.
This is a hack ‘n’ slash game similar to titles such as Devil May Cry and the older God of War games that came out around the same time. Playing as a dhampir vampire hunter, the player has several tools and abilities at their disposal that let them cut through enemies like tissue paper, including those wicked blades that make for some very creative finishes, as well as dual pistols that are fueled by blood.
The game is remarkably gory, with realistic dismemberment and graphic that were quite impressive for that era (the game was released in 2004 for the PS2 and the original Xbox, and in 2005 for the PC). It has generally gathered positive reviews at the time of its release, and we feel that it holds up quite well even in 2020, though some clunkiness and technical issues are to be expected considering the game’s age.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Now, when we say “old”, we mean old. Soul Reaver was released in 1999 for the original PlayStation, the PC, and for the Sega Dreamcast in the year 2000, so as you might expect, the graphics aren’t exactly the game’s strongest suit.
The gameplay consists of hack ‘n’ slash gameplay and puzzles that the player has to solve in order to progress, but the game’s most standout feature is probably the protagonist’s ability to shift between the physical realm and the astral realm, thus changing the way that he can interact with the environment. As you might expect, many of the aforementioned puzzles are centered around this mechanic.
At the end of the day, Soul Reaver is a classic that has its place in the hearts of many veterans, but if you want to try it out in 2020, it might take some time getting used to due to its age.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Moving on, we get to something a bit more modern, and it’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, a Metroidvania-style 2.5D game that pays homage to the classic Castlevania series.
With the above in mind, you pretty much know what you can expect. Combat, platforming, and exploration are all essential aspects of the game. As you advance, you unlock new abilities that allow you to access different areas, in addition to helping you overcome enemies more easily and more efficiently.
All in all, Ritual of the Night is an excellent game that you’re bound to appreciate if you like Metroidvanias. It has a beautiful art style, well-designed environments, good-looking graphics, and the combat is very engaging, too, so it’s a must-play in our book, especially if you’re into this subgenre.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard
Next, we have an unusual entry, as it’s not really a standalone game but a DLC. Obviously, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is not a vampire game, but its Dawnguard DLC is very much centered around vampires.
While we are used to seeing DLCs as microtransactions that cost too much for what little content they offer, Dawnguard is actually much closer to a classic expansion pack. It introduces vampires to the world of Skyrim, allowing the player to become either a vampire or a vampire hunter, and it features an array of new spells and abilities that really bring the experience to life – or rather, unlife.
With that said, Dawnguard also features a fairly long questline that is split into two paths – the vampire path and the vampire hunter path, so there’s a good amount of content to go through. In any case, the most important thing about Dawnguard is that actual effort went towards adding vampires to the game, and it’s handled much better than what Oblivion had to offer on this front
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow
The next game on the list is one of the newer entries in the Castlevania series – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. This is a 2010 reboot of the series that strove to modernize the franchise and bring it to the then-latest 7th generation of consoles i.e., the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360.
That said, Lords of Shadows is a hack ‘n’ slash game that, much like BloodRayne, borrows a lot from other similar games, the most notable ones being God of War and Devil May Cry. It has some RPG elements, but more importantly, it stays true to the classic series by not scrapping the platforming and exploration elements that were an integral part of older Castlevania titles.
All things considered, Lords of Shadow is a very good game that was met with great critical reception but was sadly followed by two underwhelming sequels. However, Castlevania is a franchise that spans decades, going back to 1986 and the SNES, so some of the games would inevitably be better than others.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Speaking of older Castlevania games, we also need to mention Symphony of the Night, a game that is widely regarded as the best Castlevania game ever made. It was released back in 1997 for the original PlayStation, but it was ported to other devices over the years, including the PlayStation 4, iOS, and Android. However, an emulator is still the only way to play it on PC.
The game features all of the aforementioned trademark elements of Metroidvania games. After all, Castlevania put the “vania” in Metroidvania. Despite being one of the earliest games of its kind, Symphony of the Night carried out the formula marvelously while also adding RPG elements to the mix.
Seeing as it’s a classic and considering how well it holds up even in 2020, we feel it definitely deserves a spot on this list.
And those would be our picks for the best vampire games ever made! Granted, not all of them are spectacular, timeless classics, but there are fewer vampire games out there than you’d expect, so there are even fewer good ones.
The long-awaited sequel to Bloodlines, Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2, is the only major upcoming vampire game worth noting, though it remains to be seen whether it will live up to the glory of the original.
If you feel that we have skipped any of your favorites, be sure to let us know in the comments, and we’ll see about adding them to the list in the near future!