Castlevania, known in Japan as Akumajō Dracula, is a platform game developed and published by Konami for the Family Computer Disk System video game console in Japan in September 1986. It was ported to cartridge format and released in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in May 1987 and in Europe in 1988. It was also re-issued for the Family Computer in cartridge format in 1993. It is the first game in Konami's Castlevania video game series.
Players control Simon Belmont, descendant of a legendary vampire hunter, who enters the castle of Count Dracula to destroy him when he suddenly reappears 100 years after Simon's ancestor vanquished him. It was developed in tandem with the MSX2 game Vampire Killer, which was released a month later and uses the same characters and setting, but features different gameplay mechanics. Castlevania was followed by a sequel, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, and a prequel, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, both of which were also NES games. Super Castlevania IV, which follows the same setting, was released in 1991 for the Super NES. A remake of the game for the Sharp X68000 home computer was re-released for the PlayStation as Castlevania Chronicles in 2001.
Castlevania was positively received and financially successful. It is considered an NES classic by PC World, while Nintendo Power and Game Informer ranked it in their list of best video games ever made.
Castlevania uses platform gameplay and is divided into six blocks of three stages each, for a total of 18 stages. Simon can move, jump, crouch, climb stairs, and use a magic whip (known in series lore as "Vampire Killer") as his primary combat weapon. When the player presses the button to crack the whip, there is a short delay before Simon actually does so. The player begins the game with four lives and five hearts, and must complete the current block of stages before a timer runs out. Simon has a health meter, which decreases whenever he is hit by an enemy or projectile. One life is lost if either the meter or the timer reaches zero, or if Simon falls off the bottom of the screen or is hit by a moving spiked ceiling. Hidden food items restore health, and bonus lives are earned at certain score thresholds. The player fights a boss character, usually themed after a classic horror movie monster such as Frankenstein's monster or the Grim Reaper, at the end of each block, and must win the battle and pick up a red orb that restores all health before time runs out in order to advance. The ultimate goal is to defeat Count Dracula himself at the end of Stage 18, triggering the collapse of his castle and allowing the player to restart the game at an increased difficulty.
Throughout the game, the player can find and use various backup weapons, including throwing knives, axes, vials of holy water, a magical watch that can briefly freeze enemies, and sacred crosses that function as boomerangs. However, only one such weapon can be carried at a time; if the player picks up a new one or loses a life, the weapon is automatically lost. Backup weapons require hearts for their use, which can be found by extinguishing candles or defeating enemies with the whip. Other hidden items include point bonuses (sacks of money), temporary invincibility (golden jar), upgrades to the whip's length and power (metal chain), instant destruction of all on-screen enemies (blue rosary), and double to triple use of the backup weapon.
When all lives are lost, the player has the option to continue from the start of the block or return to the title screen.