Vampires go in and out of style, but they can never quite be kept down in their graves. These lords of the night take many formsâ€”pale and sexy, ravening and monstrous, predator and seducerâ€”and have cast a long shadow over popular culture for hundreds of years.
Video games aren’t immune to the charms of the vampire, and since #Halloween is upon us, I’ve taken it upon myself to bring you the best bites of video game vampire lore.
A classic vampire for video games and vampires in general, Dracula’s savvy brand-management has kept him as public vampire number one for over a century. Castlevania was a huge hit on the NES in the late 80s, and spawned a long running franchise that continues into the current decade. The original game has Dracula raise a castle of demonic minions in a bid to take over the world, with the player taking on the role of whip-wielding vampire hunter Simon Belmont in order to stop him.
Castlevania’s Dracula made his first impression as a shape-shifting, hard-as-nails end boss in an already tricky game became an iconic part of video game history as a recurring antagonist in the franchise. As the gameplay and story of the series expanded, so too did Dracula’s backstory and motivations, and the vampire boss evolved into a much more sophisticated villain.
Demitri Maximoff (Darkstalkers)
Demitri is a mighty Romanian vampire lord from fighting game Darkstalkers (think Street Fighter with Halloween monsters), in which he plays a central role in the game’s story and kicks ass in the arena. Demitri is a kind of Akuma-meets-Dracula, with a fighting style and special moves reminiscent of Ryu.
What really makes him stand out among fighting game characters though, is his debonair styleâ€”he’s no bland, ascetic wandering warrior, but a suave man of wealth and taste. His signature move, Midnight Bliss, plays on a classic vampire trope: Seduction. Maximoff’s magic power makes him an equal-opportunity seducer. If he captures a male opponent, he simply transforms them into a swooning damsel version of themselves, revealing his own monstrous form in the process.
Watch Demitri reveal a different side of your favorite Capcom characters:
Serana Volkihar (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Vampirism in Skyrim isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For just a small boost to illusion and stealth skills, a vampire player had to put up with stunted health regeneration and vulnerability to fire, as well as manage their aversion to daylight.
The Dawnguard expansion rolled out a bunch of goodies for players who wanted to be cool vampires (or who wanted to kill them). Whether the Dragonborn goes vamp or vamp-hunter, they can still benefit from the companionship of Serana. Serana didn’t actually get to use the cool new vampire lord powers (though this is Skyrim, so there are mods to make that happen), but she made up for it with her personality.
Serana was much more developed than previous Skyrim followers, and reacted to events, enemies and her environment in ways that allowed for players to build a bond of friendship that wasn’t possible with house carls or other hanger-ons. So what if she obsessively animated dead skeevers?
Kain (Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen)
The Legacy of Kain series starts out with the RPG-style Blood Omen, where freshly made vampire Kain is the only hope to save the fantasy world of Nosgoth. Manipulated at every turn and disgusted by the hypocrisy of humanity during his adventures, Kain refuses his destiny, choosing instead to rule the world in damnation.
Even though he forsakes humanity and becomes a monster, Kain isn’t mindlessly evil. He’s an anti-hero with a purpose, scheming against ancient wizards and gods in an effort to break the chains of fate. Kain is hellishly fun to play as a villain protagonist in the Blood Omen games, but he also appears as the antagonist in the Soul Reaver series. In both cases the well written story and superb voice acting from Simon Templeman infuses the potentially cheesy character with Shakespearian gravitas, making him witty, sinister, and strangely relatable all at once.
Raziel (Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver)
The Legacy of Kain franchise provided games with not just one, but two awesome vampire protagonists. Raziel, however, is a different kind of vampire. Instead of sucking the blood of his enemies, he consumes their souls, a power mysteriously related to the ghostly sword bound to his arm.
Raziel’s unique condition allows him to move between the physical and spirit world, the altered environment of which is used as an interesting mechanic to navigate various puzzles in the games. His story intersects with that of his enemy, Kain, and the two share some great cutscenes together before teaming up for a double dose of vampire goodness in the franchise’s final installment: Legacy of Kain: Defiance.
Watch these verbose vampires chew each other out in ‘Soul Reaver 2’
Vamp (Metal Gear Solid 2)
Vamp’s a weird one, even for vampires. The world of Metal Gear Solid is weird, but not quite supernatural enough for Dracula-style vampires. Vamp still ticks a lot of boxes, as he is an apparently immortal Romanian who developed a taste for blood after being impaled on the wreckage of a bombed church. If that gothic origin story wasn’t enough, Vamp plays the sexual tropes of vampirism down to the hiltâ€”he’s a lecherous bisexual manipulator with a penchant for suggestively playing with knives.
Bodhi (Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn)
Beloved Advanced Dungeons and Dragons cRPG Baldur’s Gate 2: Shadows of Amn has a great main villain in the form of evil wizard Jon Irenicus, but I always thought that his sister vampire leader, Bodhi, was a more worthy opponent. Bodhi doesn’t mope about trying to avert her fate like her brother, but relishes her unlife.
The player interacts with Bodhi in a few interesting ways during the story. At first, the Bhaalspawn can join forces with her, but later ends up being chased through a dungeon by the hungry vampire. The final battle against Bodhi, where she kidnaps your love interest and transforms them into a vampire, is a highlight of the game, and potentially one that involves teaming up with some well-loved heroes of the Forgotten Realms to bring her down.
MidKnight (Eternal Champions)
Underrated fighting game Eternal Champions featured a pretty awesome cyberpunk vampire as one of its playable fighters. Mitchell Middleton Knight is a scientist hired by the CIA in the 60s to create a bio-weapon for the Vietnam war, but a freak accident exposed Knight to the virus and turned him into a vampire-like creature. “MidKnight” spends over a century evading CIA capture and trying to invent a cure for the virus. When he’s killed by a vampire hunter, he’s pulled out of time by the Eternal Champion and pitted against other warriors from history in a battle for a second chance.
MidKnight is a noble monster, his body is rotting away because he refuses to give in to the urge to consume blood to sustain himself. He stands out among the weird and wonderful roster of Eternal Champions, with the unique ability to hypnotize his foe.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines
Troika’s adaptation of the popular Vampire RPG is a stone cold classic, and so chock full of great moments and nods to vampire lore that it’s my top recommendation for vampire fans looking to get their bloody fix in video games.
Potentially, the player character is easily the coolest vampire in the game, offered a huge variety of different abilities and dialogue options depending on the vampire Clan they’re playing as. My personal favorite is the Malkavian Clan, which at one point allows you to use your mind-warping powers to convince an NPC food critic that they’re eating maggots, in a great shout-out to class vamp flick The Lost Boys.