This article is about the series as a whole. For the first Castlevania game, see Castlevania I.
An old saying posits the following: "True evil never dies, and all that is necessary for its triumph is for good men to do nothing." As it so happens, the Belmonts are absolute workaholics — and very, verygood men.
For over twenty years, Konami has been chronicling the adventures of the extended Belmont family and their neverending quest to rid the world of Count Dracula and his eponymous castle. Castlevania, one of the longest-running franchises in the platformer genre, is the co-inventor of Metroidvania-style gameplay and one of the earliest adopters of RPG elements in a non-RPG title. The series is notable for pursuing a Gothic approach to both the audio and visuals (the latter becoming more and more baroque as graphics engines advanced), and it's also respected for helping to define Nintendo Hard back in the day (an ideal occasionally upheld in newer entries of the series).
Centuries ago, the dark lord Dracula rose to power, and his power helped create a demonic castle filled with all manner of folkloric beasts and mythical monsters. Dracula spread his dark influence across the countryside until a vampire hunter, Simon Belmont, broke into the castle armed with the enchanted whip "Vampire Killer" and a plethora of appropriate sub-weapons note (such as daggers, throwing axes, holy water, and boomerang crucifixes). Belmont sent Dracula to hell, but every few years, Dracula would return (either through his own dark presence or the machination of his cult followers), and with his return, a member of the Belmont clan(or a friendly substitute) would walk right up to the castle gates and begin vanquishing the horrible night.
As the Castlevania series continued, its gameplay evolved, although the iconic elements — the Vampire-Killer whip, the sub-weapons, and the focus on combat and exploration — remained. Most games of the series can be divided into three categories:
Metroidvanias — the hybrid platform RPGs that have dominated the series' 2D outings since Symphony of the Night (where this particular style was codified). Exploring every nook and cranny of Dracula’s castle and fighting elaborately conceived bosses takes precedence, while the difficulty tends to be more forgiving thanks to experience points, weapons, and the ability to jump beyond a perfect 45-degree angle. Castlevania II: Simon's Quest is an early example of this style, although it involved towns and mansions rather than taking place entirely in a castle.
Modernvanias — the free-roaming 3D outings (which try to update the combat and exploration experience, often with mixed results). Plot is king here, as each outing attempts to add more to the mythos than just text on a pixilated screen. The fighting systems are largely inspired by modern hack 'n' slashers like Devil May Cry and God of War, although many of the franchise’s traditional elements are often brought in creative ways.
Said Robot Buddies predate Ecclesia (in-universe), to boot!
Motorcycle-riding skeletons in ye olde Wallachia in Castlevania 64.
The very first instance in the whole series: Frankenstein's Monster showing up in the original Castlevania, circa 1691, 127 years before Mary Shelley wrote the novel.
A lot of the food items in the Metroidvania games are examples too, with modern hot dogs and hamburgers showing up centuries before they were invented. Symphony of the Night and Curse of Darkness are especially big offenders in this regard.
Castlevania 64 has the Room of Inventions which has a radio, a zeppelin (model), and other assorted bits of Schizo Tech.
Fashion Dissonance is in full effect throughout the entire series. It's probably easier to list which of the outfits were accurate for the time period.
Animated Armor: Axe Armors are the most famous, but later entries in the series introduce a number of other types, wielding weapons such as bombs, rocks, and even a giant Killer Yo-Yo.
Badass: If your last name is Belmont, and you own a whip, you are this.
This includes anyone closely related to the Belmont family by blood (John Morris), by friendship (Alucard, Grant DeNasty), or by marriage (Sypha Belnades).
Special mention goes to Simon Belmont, who didn't just kick Dracula's ass with jack shit, but after being cursed by the vampire's dying breath, decided the best solution was to resurrect Dracula himself so he could kick his ass again!
Extra special mention goes to Julius Belmont, who defeats Dracula once and for all (with some help from Alucard, admittedly), then returns in his fifties and beats the ever-loving crap out of Dracula's reincarnation. Then he returns one year later and (though non-canonical) does it again.
Badass Family: You needn't look further than the Belmont clan. Though you'll also find the Belnades, the Morrises, and the Lecardes if you do. Of course, everyone in Dracula's family is a badass, but there's a lot of infighting.
Badass Longcoat: Many of the heroes from Symphony of the Night onward, and not just the Belmonts — though Richter seems to have started the trend.
Soma Cruz stands out for his Badass Pimp Coat. You have to love a guy who can kick ass in calf-length white fur.
And if it's not a longcoat, it's a Badass Cape. See Alucard in Symphony.
Bad with the Bone: One of the most common enemies in the series are bone-throwing skeletons. A few even throw their own skulls!
Balance Between Good and Evil: A recurring theme, given that most of the protagonists are largely noble defenders fighting a man who turned his back on God and humanity alike.
There must always be a Dark Lord in existence to serve as the balance to God, or so Celia from Dawn Of Sorrow believes.
Lords Of Shadow subtly gets in on this with the presence of Light and Shadow, which defines not just the magic system and rival groups, but Gabriel's own struggles to overcome the darkness within him after losing his wife.
Dracula becomes this in games where he isn't the Big Bad.
Bishōnen: Nearly all of the male characters from Symphony of the Night on, given the predominant art style. Before that, they were mostly Conan the Barbarian-esque bruisers with whips.
Although there's just as many exceptions. Julius Belmont from the Sorrow games is a pretty manly grandpa, as is Gabriel Belmont from Lords Of Shadow.
Black Magician Girl: Female protagonists have a certain tendency to be witches and romantic interests, although Yoko Belnades from the Sorrow games subverts this by being a romantic interest for Hammer and not Soma. Averted by Shanoa, who's more of a Magic Knight.
Blocking Stops All Damage: Many enemies can take a defensive stance or put up a forcefield to stop all your attacks. Especially difficult if it already takes a lot to take down. Thankfully Soma can turn those abilities back at them.
Bonus Dungeon: An optional series of rooms filled with tough enemies, with no save points, exists in quite a few games starting with Circle of the Moon, usually giving a very useful item as a reward.
The Reverse Castle from Symphony of the Night is the most well-known example, even though you need it to see the true ending.
Bonus Feature Failure: Almost every Metroid-ishCastlevania has an unlockable mode where you play as another character who can't do most of what the main character can, such as opening the menu, collecting items, or sometimes even levelling up. They do, however, often have balancing factors like increased damage, and always have moves which allow them to explore all the castle.
Bottomless Pits: The early games weren't just sadists in this regard, they enforced it regardless of logic. A screen that scrolled up suddenly meant any holes were fatal, even if there was ground a screen below.
A pixel below, even!
Even if you're going down anyway, you still usually died if you didn't take the stairs.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Waaaayyyyy too frequent in Castlevanias. From Soleiyu Belmont in Belmont's Revenge to Richter in Symphony to Stella and Loretta in Portrait to Gabriel Belmont in Lords.
Broad Strokes: The Bram Stoker Dracula novel is supposedly canon with this series, as evidenced by the Morris family being present.
Burn the Witch!: Ties heavily into the backstory of every female character in Dracula's Curse and Curse Of Darkness. It even happened to Alucard's poor mom, thus sending Dracula into his Europe-cursing fit of rampaging misanthropy!
Cash Cow Franchise: Castlevania is one of the guiltiest in Konami for this; some Konami fans are complaining about the other titles cast aside, such as Contra.
Changing of the Guard: How the Belmont family works. Since Dracula is effectively immortal, the Belmonts have to continually train their sons and daughters into vampire hunters, occasionally relying on other branches of the family or the odd one out, like Hector or Alucard.
Church Militant: Bunches. By the time of the Sorrow games and Portrait of Ruin, the Church is actually hiring and training witches, notably Yoko Belnades and Charlotte Aulin. Order of Ecclesia posits a whole sub-organization of the Church whose entire purpose is to find a non-Belmont-linked way to defeat Dracula.
Leon Belmont got his start in the Crusades.
Classical Movie Vampire: How Dracula was depicted in early outings. And by depicted, we mean he looked exactly like the Christoper Lee Dracula.
Menace in Harmony Of Despair is easily the biggest boss in the game, to the point that you and your buddies have to utilize a few well-placed platforms, unless you knock him on his ass with a well-er-placed bone hammer.
Combination Attack: Jonathan and Charlotte in Portrait of Ruin. They're not the only ones, though: Several bosses such as Slogra and Gaibon, Werewolf and Minotaur, and recently Dracula and Death use them, too.
Harmony Of Despair lets you and a friend pull off "Dual Crushes" if you activate the right buttons at the same time (and have magic to spare).
Continuing Is Painful: More prevalent in the early Classicvanias. If you die, you lose your sub-weapon along with any power-ups you had for it, your whip is downgraded to its weakest level, and you lose most of your hearts.
Continuity Nod: After 20 years, what do you expect? Bosses that appear several times throughout the series, the first and last levels of the original Castlevania being reused in many games, and several minor background elements that are callbacks to previous games.
Harmony of Dissonance and Symphony of the Night repeat Simon's Quest in having to gather Dracula's remains to finally confront and beat the Prince.
Also in Symphony of the Night, Alucard faces evil versions of his three companions from Castlevania III: Trevor, Grant, and Sypha, who actually fight pretty much like they played in that game. Trevor fights like a typical Belmont, Grant chucks knives around and walks on the ceiling, and Sypha uses Fire, Ice, and Lightning magic. The three show up again in near identical forms in the Nest of Evil section of Portrait of Ruin.
Julius Mode in Dawn of Sorrow basically is Castlevania III again, with Julius standing in for Trevor, Yoko taking the place of Sypha, and Arikado resuming his role as Alucard. Pity they didn't get Hammer to stand in for Grant, though.
In Order of Ecclesia, Shanoa's dialogue just before she enters Dracula's castle references Simon's Quest: "I am the morning sun, come to vanquish this horrible night!"
Gabriel in Lords Of Shadow's second DLC says "Enough talk, have at you!" to Forgotten One before the first fight: fitting, considering Dracula said the same thing to Richter in the Symphony intro, and Gabriel is very close to turning into him.
Cool Old Guy: Julius Belmont, Morris Baldwin, and Hammer. Technically, Alucard counts by the time of Sorrow.
Copy And Paste Environments: Lament of Innocence and Curse of Darkness were really bad about this. The 2D games, however, avoid this trope almost completely, with Portrait of Ruin being an exception.
Copy And Paste Enemies, on the other hand...
Crapsack World: The regular arrival of one is usually a good tell for when Dracula's coming back (it's certainly no coincidence that he managed to come back for both World Wars.)
Creepy Doll: Marionette and Killer Doll. Puppet Master from Dawn of Sorrow also uses them. Chronicle has small clown dolls and hover dolls, though the latter has voice that is just too cute to be creepy.
Crisis Crossover: The plot of Judgment involves Aeon, a time traveler, pulling various characters from the timeline, plus even a character from an alternate continuity, into a dimensional rift in order to prevent Galamoth from rewriting history.
Cute Monster Girl: The DS Castlevania titles are absolutely packed with these, so much so that one promotional wallpaper for Portrait of Ruin was the entire female bestiary in adorable chibi form.
Cute Witch: Two varieties. The Student Witch enemy is particularly adorable. Charlotte in Portrait of Ruin also qualifies.
Dangerously Genre Savvy: The vast majority of the time, Dracula is stupidly Genre Blind. During the Final Boss fight of Portrait of Ruin, however, he suggests that since there's two of the heroes, he might as well do some double-teaming himself and asks Death to back him up. And in Rondo Of Blood, Dracula's first act upon resurrection is to tear ass through Richter Belmont's hometown.
Defector from Decadence: In Curse of Darkness, Hector worked for Dracula as a Devil Forgemaster (which seems to be like a blacksmith except making monsters in addition to weapons), but left his service, suppressed his magical powers, and would have married a human woman. Unfortunately, things took a turn for the 'Oh Crap'...
Alucard fits in this category rather well, trying to stop Dear Old Dad and show him the error of his ways.
Degraded Boss: Both kinds are incredibly common across the Castlevania series. Werewolf, Dogether, Wyvern, Minotaur, Slogra, Gaibon, Frankenstein'sCreature... It is also cyclical, with enemies going back and forth between boss status and mook status across games.
Dem Bones: There are lots of animated skeletons. The main varieties are human skeletons and snake skeletons.
Distressed Damsel: Serena in Haunted Castle, Lydia in Harmony of Dissonance, and four women in Rondo of Blood including Maria and Annette. Mina Hakuba becomes one in Dawn of Sorrow.It's actually a doppleganger, as part of a Batman Gambit by Celia.
Dojikko: Student Witch attacks you by flying on her broom... then falling down on your head.
Easy Amnesia: Averted with Shanoa, as she loses her memories at the beginning of the game, doesn't get them back, and it changes her personality considerably. Played straight with "J" or Julius Belmont, who loses his after the trauma of finally slaying Dracula, yet regains them after going on a sabbatical at his castle.
Eldritch Abomination: Double as Eldritch Location. Dracula's Castle/Castlevania itself. Alucard calls it a Creature of Chaos in Symphony. And as revealed in Aria, the castle spawns from the Chaotic Realm in response to the Dark Lord.
Evil Only Has to Win Once: A recurring theme, due to Dracula's penchant for resurrection. The Belmont clan stands as the force that can seal him away again, but if he ever triumphs, there will be no hope for humanity. The events leading up to Aria of Sorrow finally set up Dracula for his final defeat, but there are still those who wish to see him reborn anyway (keeping the trope intact).
The early Classicvanias enabled you to power up your sub-weapons. The items that do this can be found in certain areas, but it's usually done by using your sub-weapon enough times. Powering them up increases the number of them you can have onscreen at once.
Eyepatch of Power: Trevor sports this in Judgment, and you can also give Gabriel a Solid Eye from the Extras menu once you beat the game.
Carmilla in Castlevania Judgment has Jiggle Physics, a Stripperiffic outfit, and her special attack includes a closeup of her crotch in the foreground.
Judgment Sypha as well. When she turns around her boobs bob up and down, and her ample chest is well, so ample, it's a wonder she ever managed to dress up as a man and convince people! (Though she did say they only get in the way.)
As of Pachislot, not only does she stop 'dressing like a man', she also sports Cleavage Window, wears a pink skirt, and some of the bonus sections had her using 'transformations' a la a Magical Girl.
Especially so are the ones that (a) are shaped like some kind of beastie's jaws and (b) open for Belmonts. Shudder!
Forgiveness: Alucard's mother mentions how Dracula could never forgive the peasants for killing her, and begs him to do so. She was a saint.
The Four Gods: Maria's super attacks in Rondo, Symphony and Judgment.
Genius Loci: The castle itself. It might be a full-fledged example or it might be merely an extension of Dracula's will. Either way, creepy place.
Glass Cannon: Richter and Maria in Symphony of the Night take damage horribly in comparison to Alucard. Not helped by the fact that they don't level up, and their only way of healing is through save points and HP Max Ups.
And again during Richter Mode in Portrait of Ruin. They can at least level up this time, but there's still almost no health.
Judgment made Death into this, which is either totally bizarre or completely in-character.
In Order of Ecclesia, the Death Ring makes Shanoa into one of these — it makes her die in one hit while boosting all of her stats, excluding Luck (but including Defense).
In Circle of the Moon, combining the Black Dog and Pluto cards will turn Nathan into a skeleton that throws bones. He occasionally throws a large bone that deals an automatic 9999 damage, but he dies in one hit while in this form.
God Is Good / God Is Evil: A bit of a theme throughout the series. Dracula's origin story came from a hatred of God after losing his wife, while Leon Belmont, who also lost his wife (due to Mathias' scheming), remained steadfast in his faith. Alucard and Celia Fortner seem to believe that in order for God to be wholly good, evil must exist in the form of a Dark Lord to oppose Him. In addition, some of the item crash powers Richter and Julius use draw directly on divine might.
Good Is Not Nice: Alucard. Steadfast champion of goodness, is very cold, blunt, and aloof.
A meta-example of this is probably the reason gamers will never receive an installment chronicling Julius Belmont's exploits in 1999; expectations would just be too damn high for the story of how Dracula finally died for good.
The Grim Reaper: He is also often The Dragon and on a First Name Basis with Alucard; if you consider Kid Dracula to be canonical at all, he may have even helped raise him. According to the enemy list and manual of Symphony of the Night, he is Dracula's close personal friend.
The Gunslinger: Henry Oldrey and Albus. Also possible for Soma if you manage to locate the right weapon.
Heroic Albino: Some of the Belmont clan seem to be this, owing to the art style used. None of them are explicitly described as Albino, though — they're just white-haired.
By that token, Soma, Hector, and some incarnations of Alucard may or may not also qualify (for certain values of "heroic", of course).
Heroic Sacrifice: The oddest example so far, the Golem in Judgment. He defeats the Time Reaper so Aeon can finish mending the rift in time. In the process of this, the Golem loses all sentient thought the rift gave him, and is destroyed some time later by a Vampire Killer.
In Order of Ecclesia, Shanoa attempts one of these, but Albus takes the punch in her stead. D'aww.
Holy Burns Evil: Holy Water bursts into flames once its container break upon ground impact.
Holy Hand Grenade: One of the most useful sub weapons is Holy Water, which can cause tons of damage in the right circumstances. The cross and bible subweapons also count. Also, some of the games have holy elemental weapons, like the Claimh Solais in the Sorrow games.
Item Crash cranks this Up to Eleven. HYDRO STORM!GRAAND CRUZ!
In Name Only: Simon Belmont from Captain N: The Game Master has jack-all to with Simon from the games, and it's a particularly egregious example as the Captain N creators clearly never played the game or any of the other games the series was based on.
Symphony has the Crissaegrim, which can do tons of damage in rapid fire, without breaking stride. If you manage to equip two Crissaegrims at once... holy hell, it's almost like cheating.
Aria of Sorrow has the Claimh Solais, the best weapon due to its speed, power, and reach. It also had the Crissaegrim, but the (low) damage it dealt nerfed it into uselessness.
Dawn of Sorrow finally balanced both by slowing down the Claimh Solais, and the rapid attack sword (Now the Valmanway) has decent attack power. Forging the Claimh Solais also requires sacrificing a decent Boss Soul, preventing 100% completion for that play through.
Several games (Aria, Dawn, and Portrait) also have an item that grants essentially limitless MP, although latter games limited its effectiveness and you need to wait a few seconds for it to replenish if you run out completely. It comes late in the game, but makes replays a cakewalk.
Death's Scythe in Curse of Darkness arguably counts, but it is such a pain to make. On higher levels, it is also outclassed by the Force Glove in terms of damage per time. It's also available in both Sorrow games and just as powerful there, but it's Darkness-elemental which many enemies resist and the shaft has no hitbox, meaning it misses enemies that are standing too close to Soma.
Informed Ability: The Belmonts are supposed to be the best vampire hunters around, but you'll have a much easier time beating the game with a little girl or a high school student. The Vampire Killer is supposed to be the best weapon to use against Dracula and his minions, but you'll find high-end swords can be much better.
Naturally, this only applies when you are the Belmont. Julius is easily able to prove his worth time and time again, as long as you aren't controlling him, in the Sorrow series. Ditto Trevor in Curse of Darkness to an extent! He's got an edge with the different whips though.
An Interior Designer Is You: Sorta. There's one room in Harmony of Dissonance that you can "decorate," but you can't actually move the furniture. Just acquire it.
Hector has this weird chair-collecting subquest in Curse of Darkness.
Item Amplifier: Some games have an Ankh item that increase the effect of healing items when equipped.
James Bondage: Richter Belmont, Soleiyu/Soleil Belmont, Hugh Baldwin, Maxim Kischine, arguably Simon Belmont (a curse eroding your soul is sure gonna limit your mobility) in the spiritual sense, and Morris Baldwin in Circle of the Moon literally.
It's not limited to the heroes! Leon finds Joachim locked in the basement in Lament of Innocence, and considering his clothing and what it hints at with regard to the lurking background plot, Isaac should go here too.
Joke Item: Several crafted items in Curse of Darkness; the paper airplane in Portrait of Ruin; the Vic Viper, Twinbee, and Konami Man in Order of Ecclesia. The Alucart equipment looks to be this, but it does have a purpose.
Lethal Joke Item: Put on all three Alucart items in SOTN and you gain a + 30 luck bonus.
There's also the Cream Pie subweapon in Portrait of Ruin, which is dark-aligned and thus does nice damage to holy-aligned enemies when mastered. The easiest way to kill the rather difficult spirit memory of Richter Belmont is to simply throw 200 cream pies in his face.
In Rondo of Blood, a Key must be held in place of secondary weapons. It can't be used to attack and trying to make Richter item-crash with it will just make him wonder what the hell you're trying to do. However, since Richter is invulnerable while performing item-crash and the key's item-crash consumes no hearts, you can spam it to get out of tight situations — just don't do it on moving platforms.
The key actually can be used to attack, and does insane damage — it just has pitifully short range.
Mega Manning: Key gameplay element in Dawn of Sorrow and Aria of Sorrow. Shades of it appear in Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia.
Metroidvania: One of the trope namers, along with Metroid. Some of the games follow this formula, as early as Simon's Quest, but it was Symphony of the Night that made the series known for this.
Mirror Match: In Lament of Innocence, you can play as Joachim Armster, and while playing as him, you end up fighting a doppelganger of yourself. Ditto for Trevor Belmont in Curse of Darkness and Albus in Order of Ecclesia. And that's without counting the numerous doppelganger bosses.
Money Spider: What bats are doing with a bag of money, is left unanswered.
Multiple Endings: First featured in Simon's Quest, most of the Metroidvanias except for Circle of the Moon have multiple endings; there is at minimum a bad ending for rushing through the game and a good ending for thoroughly completing the game.
A weird habit for several games is that the 'worst' (Or, at least, the easiest to get) ending is actually not that bad, while the 'moderate' ending is the Downer Ending. Simon's Quest was especially weird, as the worst ending ended happily, the moderate ending had Simon dying, and the best ending had Dracula coming back from the grave.
Circle of the Moon is pretty hard, even if you know the right cards to get. And the most useful cards force you to go through the Bonus Dungeon to get them.
And Order of Eccelsia, which is full of Goddamned Bats and Demonic Spiders, and most bosses can kill you in 2-3 hits, and some of them have instant-death combos.
Out of all the already Nintendo HardClassicvanias, special mention must go to the arcade game Haunted Castle. Not so much for the platforming and hard-to-kill creatures (of which there is plenty of both), but for the fact you only get TWO lives to beat the game with. Yes, an arcade machine with a life limit. Lose both lives, and your third token will throw you back to the very beginning.
No Pronunciation Guide: Everyone in North America thinks Simon Belmont's name is pronounced "Sigh-mon". In the original Japanese, it's "Shee-mon". It's really supposed to be a French-sounding name, pronounced "See-mohn".
No Export for You: Vampire Killer on the MSX2. It doesn't help that the MSX is absolutely nonexistent in North America, making VK even more obscure.
Rondo of Blood was like this until just recently; ditto the Saturn version of Symphony of the Night.
Noodle Incident: The 'Battle of 1999' is often referenced in the 'Sorrow' games, but the player is never told exactly what happened during the final epic battle between the Belmonts and Dracula. The two people who were alive for it (Julius Belmont and Alucard) are notoriously tight lipped about the whole thing.
Nostalgia Level: Pretty much every single area in the original appears in the sequels. Areas of the castle shown in subsequent games also have a habit of returning. They even tend to have the same items hidden in the same locations. The two most noteworthy locations are Dracula's Keep and the Main Entrance.
Castlevania Chronicles pulls a nostalgia screw on players in the first level. Whip the place in the wall where there was delicious masonry pot-roast in the original game, and you will be rewarded not with lunch but rather an infinite flow of flea men.
Of Corsets Sexy: Stella, of Portrait of Ruin, wears a loose-fitting corset as part of her costume. And although they're (sadly) not seen wearing them, corsets can be found and equipped as armor by the female protagonists in the DS games.
Carmilla's top in Circle of the Moon looks to be one as well.
The Succubus in Symphony of the Night seems to wear nothing but a corset.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Julius Belmont has the distinction of being described, within canon, as the strongest Belmont in history, and his sealing of Castlevania within the solar eclipse with the help of an army is the stuff of legends (also resulting in Dracula reincarnating as a good guy). He's also the only Belmont thus introduced whose main story has never been playable, only later missions as bonus material.
Omake: The 4-koma comics, only the Dracula X and Order of Ecclesia ones have been translated so far.
Once an Episode: Certain things are sure to reappear from time to time in the series. For example, there's often a "Clock Tower" level with spike pits, conveyor belts of some sort, and usually a lot of flying Medusa Heads clogging up the area.
In Order of Ecclesia, he doesn't transform at all; he just starts walking around. And it's still one of his strongest forms across all the games.
Death also has a second, more monstrous form in some games.
Orbiting Particle Shield: This is an incredibly common ability in the series. Circle of the Moon has an entire subset of shield powers with many variations on this. The Sorrow games have the Buer soul, which are fire particles, and more appear the more copies of the soul you have.
Our Fairies Are Different: The Innocent Devil fairies in Curse of Darkness (especially the Proboscis Fairy, what the heck), and the Pixie/Half-Fairy/Han'yousei familiar in Symphony of the Night; the Fairy is pretty usual for her species.
Our Vampires Are Different: When you think about it, Dracula is less of a vampire and more of a Japanese-style Demon King. He rarely even turns other people into vampires.
Pimped-Out Dress: Some of the 3D games have pretty elaborate outfits, as does Order of Ecclesia. Even the sprite-based games can have fancy dresses.
Plot Coupon: Three games require the player to collect Dracula's body parts before heading to the final confrontation. Several other games require you to collect different items to progress, or get the good ending. Classic games have orbs dropping from the boss which the player has to collect.
Power of Friendship: Justifies the true ending in Harmony Of Dissonance, where Juste saves his best friend Maxim from needless death thanks to Dracula's mind control.
Power of Love: Noted as a contrast to Love Makes You Evil above. The most obvious example might be Leon Belmont, who after the tragic death of his lover in the hands of the villains swears that he and his descendants will hunt the night to prevent the same tragedy from happening to other humans again; he himself also stated this is the only way to prove his love for the deceased Sara. It also justifies the good ending of Dawn of Sorrow; Mina's Talisman given to Soma (if you remember to wear it) also keeps his weary, gullible heart from going wrong in the bad ending.
Power Up Letdown: Trying to use the Alucart Shield (if you weren't watching the last consonant or were just curious) in combo with the Shield Rod. Cue Alucard pulling his cloak around dramatically...and then going "?"
Attempting an Item Crash with the Key in Rondo of Blood leads to Richter powering up...and falling back to earth with a ? above his head, wondering what the heck you're trying to do. Then again, the key does have its uses.
Rain of Blood: The death animation for most of the mains, starting with Rondo of Blood, as well as a specific attack by Dracula's third form in Dracula X Chronicles which literally causes the blood to rain down from above.
The poorly received SNES adaptation of Rondo of Blood censored this in a... questionable manner. They turned all the blood white, which makes what Death is doing when Richter hits him look... funny.
Random Drop: Ever since the Metroidvania era began; recent games have even started displaying the drop rates too.
Rated M for Manly: The old school barbarian looking Simon, with the leather and crotch plate. The action figure/toy/collectible model/whatever you want to call it looks even more manly. Also, from Haunted Castle, fighting Dracula again to save his woman.
Real Men Eat Meat: In several of the side-scrolling Castlevania games, you must find power-ups that resemble various cuts of meat to regenerate your health.
Recurring Riff: The big three tunes are "Vampire Killer", "Bloody Tears", and "Beginning" from the first three games in the series, in that order. Individual character themes such as Simon's and Dracula's Dance of Illusions also count.
Recycled Title: Both the NES and N64 versions are just called Castlevania, as is the European version of the PS2's Lament of Innocence and the European version of the Game Boy Advance's Circle of the Moon. Also, about half the games in the series before the 32-bit era were called Akumajou Dracula in Japan.
Reincarnation Romance: There's a pretty widespread fanon assumption that just as Soma Cruz in the Sorrow titles is the reincarnation of Dracula, Mina Hakuba is similarly the reincarnation of Dracula's two previous wives, Elisabetha Cronqvist and Lisa. People who aren't fans of the Soma/Mina pairing understandably have an issue with this. There's no Word of God one way or the other, too, so the slapfights go on...
Sdrawkcab Name: Other than Alucard, there are Puwexil (a gigantic skull that attacks with an oversized tongue, his name backwards is essentially "Licks You Up") and Koranot (a golem, his name backwards is "Ton 'a rock"), two bosses in Super Castlevania IV.
Symphony of the Night: Richter and Maria (only in the Saturn and PSP versions).
Harmony of Dissonance: Maxim, and for the boss rush, Maxim and Simon Belmont.
Aria of Sorrow: Julius.
Dawn of Sorrow: Julius, Yoko, and Alucard.
Lament of Innocence: Joachim, notable for being the only outright villain to play this role. Stella and Loretta, being brainwashed, don't count in that category.
Curse of Darkness: Trevor Belmont.
Portrait of Ruin: Sisters mode, Richter mode, Old Axe Armor mode.
Or rather "Richiter Mode"...
Order of Ecclesia: Albus mode.
Sequence Breaking: There is no need to get the cleansing item to beat Circle of the Moon, and consequentially no need to get the heavy ring either, letting you skip two of the eight main levels (if you can survive being that underleveled in the waterway).
If you know which three souls you need to equip to reach the true ending in Aria of Sorrow, you can skip the rooms where you learn this information. This includes the area behind the Chronomage, which you could only pass with Galamoth's soul, which is the main reward for defeating Legion. Thus, you can also skip the Underground Cemetery. (Though getting the Golden Ending requires that you collect every soul in the game, meaning you can't skip anything.)
In Dawn of Sorrow, large sections of the game can be skipped either after the first playthrough, or with some other method of accessing the cross-hilt dagger Cinqueda — Because it has a special move that teleports you, it can trigger every single door-switch from the wrong side. Other tricks exist to bypass barriers meant to block you until you got a specific item.
There are plenty of Shout Outs to classic vampire stories and movies; for instance, Carmilla is named for the eponymous villain of the firstLesbian Vampire story, and the boss "Olrox" in Symphony of the Night is a fudged translation of Orlok, from the classic film Nosferatu.
Also, the Grave Digger monster in Order of Ecclesia bears an uncanny resemblence to WWE wrestler The Undertaker.
Symphony of the Night and Harmony of Dissonance have spells that allow you to summon shield orbs a la Gradius.
The Griffon Wing relic, which lets you triple-jump and beyond, lets Jonathan in Portrait of Ruin do an underpowered Shoryuken.
The Yeti monster in Dawn of Sorrow has a Metal Gear style! above its head in its info box, and again when it returns in Order of Ecclesia. Also, his bestiary picture in DoS looks pretty much like the infamous Bigfoot photography.
There's also a boss battle in Order of Ecclesia that is a parody of Bomberman.
Castlevania: The Arcadehas a hidden ending that is a parody of the love confession scene from Tokimeki Memorial.
The Pneuma glyph in Ecclesia allows you to dish out Reppukens and Raging Storms. GeeseHoward would be proud.
And of course, the requisite shout outs to the original Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, such as his name (mangled) being in the credits of CV1, John Morris' father being Quincey Morris and Mina Hakuba of the Sorrow duology's name being similar to Mina Harker.
The credits on the first Castlevania for the NES consisted purely of shout outs to classical monster actors and the roles that made them famous. Dracula being played by Christopher Bee, for example.
In perhaps one of the most obscure shout out ever on the series, the first name of Castlevania 64's Belmont is Reinhardt, and the person who introduced actor Max Schrecks to director F.W. Murnau (of Nosferatu fame)? Max Reinhardt.
Another JoJo reference can be found in the Stone Mask item.
Lords of Shadow is chock full of these, though they are, in fact, shout outs to the Castlevania series at large. For instance, part way through the game, Zobek has this to say about the Combat Cross, your main weapon: "The Villagers called him 'God's Savior' and his weapon they called 'Vampire Killer'. Ah, Gandolfi, how that would make you smile." Also, before the fight with Carmilla: "Poor, beautiful Carmilla, you will cry bloody tears before this night has ended!" Many of the boss characters (Cornell, Malphas, Brauner, Olrox, Carmilla) are named after characters from other games. Even the song that plays in the Music Box level (Level 9-3) is the (in)famous theme from the original Castlevania, "Vampire Killer." Mercury Steam went out of their way to include many different shout outs for their reboot.
The two Belmont sisters from Order of Shadows are named Zoe and Dolores, referencing the Zone of the Enders anime series Z.O.E. Dolores,i.
Among dozens of other cross Konami references: The Bat familiar acting like The Vic Viper's (and other main ships) Options from Gradius, even going so far as to add extra bats as the main one levels up. It's awesome and adorable.
Signature Scene: The staircase climb to Dracula's room. It's one of the most iconic locales of the series, and whenever the game takes place at Dracula's castle (or a copy of it in Dawn of Sorrow's case), there's a good chance you'll eventually run into that outside staircase with the crescent moon and clock tower in the background.
Sinister Scythe: Death, duh. Ups the ante by attacking with mini-sickles and a double-bladed version in Aria of Sorrow, further upped in The Adventure Rebirth which introduces laser scythes.
Some games let you equip Death's Scythe.
Slouch of Villainy: Dracula has used his immortality to not only perfect it, but teach it to his children, underlings, and even reincarnation.
Shaft, his dark priest lackey, also has somewhat bad posture, though his is perpetual and doesn't just appear in conjunction with a throne and a wineglass.
Richter displays the slouch in a piece of official art for Symphony of the Night.
Walter has one as well in Lament of Innocence
Smart Bomb: Some games have these. For an example, a cross sometimes qualifies as one.
Sound of No Damage: A snapping or metallic sound effect is used for this throughout the series.
Spikes Of Doom: In the games without lives, these become the biggest non-enemy hazard.
Spinoff Babies: Kid Dracula, starring (what is generally considered by many to be) Alucard as a child. Certainly the goofiest game in the series. The final boss got a cameo in Symphony of the Night and factored into the story of Judgment.
Yes, it's Alucard, not Dracula. The Japanese players' guide confirms it by stating that Kid Drac's cape is 'papa's old one'. Though one WMG theorizes that it's another son of Dracula's.
The Bad Guy Wins: In one of the games, (specifically, Legacy of Darkness), after you overcome the final boss, you find out that he was a decoy, the whole thing was a set-up, and you've played into Dracula's hands and only aided him. Ditto for Lament of Innocence.
This Is Unforgivable: Alucard to the succubus in Symphony of the Night, Nathan to Carmilla in Circle of the Moon, and Soma to Celia in Dawn of Sorrow.
Timed Mission: Most of the non-metroidvania platformer installments have a timer ticking down in each level. The only non-metroidvania installments that don't have a time limit are Bloodlines and Rondo of Blood (as well as its remixed SNES portDracula X and PSP remakeDracula X Chronicles).
Time Stands Still: Stopwatches are a recurring item; some games also use this situation as an obstacle.
Said obstacle is usually passed, oddly enough, by using a time stop power.
Aeon's special attack in Castlevania Judgment also does this.
Saint-Germain did it first in Curse of Darkness.
Literally inverted in Aria of Sorrow; one enemy uses a stopwatch on you and reverses time to send you back in the previous room. Said enemy is quick enough to prevent being hurt until you have a way of negating his effect.
Turns Red: A lot of bosses. Gaibon from Super Castlevania IV probably started its origin without going One-Winged Angel though.
Überwald: Subverted in Bloodlines, as the final battle actually takes place in England, not Romania.
Unholy Nuke: "Demonic Megiddo" is the Dark Lord's most powerful attack, and tends to be a One-Hit Kill super powerful spell used mainly by Dracula or Death.
Unique Items: Frequent in the series. The most powerful weapons are often in secret rooms or obtainable after boss fights. In Aria of Sorrow, the souls of the bosses and a number of other creatures are only obtainable once.
Updated Re-release: Legacy of Darkness for Castlevania on Nintendo 64, which was originally going to be called Castlevania: Special Edition.
Video Game Remake: The original Castlevania has been remade several times; notable versions include Super Castlevania IV and what would later become known as Castlevania Chronicles. Also, Dracula X: Rondo of Blood was remade for the PSP.
Unwitting Pawn: Shanoa in Order of Ecclesia is tricked into reviving Dracula in the bad ending. She still contributes to his revival anyway if you bypass the bad ending, having brought Dominus to Barlowe, who then uses it on the stone artifact containing Dracula's spirit.
Hector almost becomes one of these in Curse of Darkness; his rival actually does.
Leon Belmont becomes one in Lament of Innocence, as his defeat of Walter allows Death to steal Walter's power and give it to Mathias, who then uses it to become the king of the night, Dracula.
Poor, poor Cornell. By sacrificing his wolf-half to save his sister, he ended up giving Dracula exactly what he needed to resurrect.
Of late, in Lords of Shadow, Gabriel turns into this when we learn that Zobek used him the entire time to get to the God Mask and gain more power, as well as a few other revelations, and like a good ol' one-two punch, Zobek, powerful though he is as one of the Lords of Shadow, winds up having been used by Satan the entire time as a way of getting to the God Mask.
Subverted by Alucard, who inherited the powers from his old man, but obviously uses it for righteous means.
Weird Moon: Most games in the series content themselves with an inexplicably gigantic moon, but Symphony of the Night takes the cake. SotN's moon appears crescent when viewed from the clock tower, full when viewed from the outer wall and Olrox's quarters, and full with a blood red tint when viewed from the castle keep. In all but Olrox's quarters, the moon is also terrifyingly HUGE. And yet, all of these locations are a short walk from each other, with the outer wall, clock tower, and castle keep all being right next door.
At times, the moon displays a vague but definitely seeable skull pattern.
A more subdued variation occurs in Bloodlines, during the final segment of the final stage. The moon, in all its largeness, is prominent in the background as you climb the first of three boss-room towers, and is turned blood red by the powers of Death as he manifests to attack you. The subsequent towers are presided over by the still-red moon.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Since the games work as a prequel (and sequel) to Bram Stoker's novel, Quincy Morris is eventually revealed to be of the Belmont family. Therefore it's rather strange that Van Helsing (a much more famous vampire hunter) is never mentioned.
Whip It Good: The foundation of the Belmont offense, as well as many other protagonists.
Kojima's not the only one fond of these fellows - Cornell of Legacy of Darkness, and Nathan Graves of Circle of the Moon are examples of this trope.
With This Herring: The knife is the weakest of the special weapons, on par with the un-upgraded whip, in most Classicvanias. Starting with Rondo of Blood they've tried to make the knife a more viable choice through low ammo cost, rapid fire, or powerful item crashes.
In Lament of Innocence, the dagger is pretty weak by itself. Combine it with the Yellow Orb (gotten by beating Succubus), and it can easily clear rooms at a moderate 10 hearts.
It's damned useful in Symphony of the Night for powering up a particular sword, or healing Alucard after he uses a certain spell. Just stand near a bunch of Bloody Zombies and spam it like a madman.
The Metroidvania entries tend to start you with a really lame weapon. Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin starts Jonathan with the legendary Vampire Killer, but he can't use it so it's pathetically weak. It can be upgraded later, though.
Wolf Man: They are recurring enemies, but there's also Cornell.
World of Ham: The series is very over-dramatic, as befitting its source material. Especially any time there's voice acting involved (see below). But the quality is usually high enough that it works. And, occasionally, Konami throws in little jabs to imply they're not taking it completely seriously either. But regardless of if you do, or laugh, or are somewhere in between, it's still one of the only game series that can have a stage entitled "Atop the Corpses of thy Brethren" and not sound out of place.
You Monster!: "Die, monster! You don't belong in this world!"
Zettai Ryouiki: Charlotte Aulin and Sonia Belmont. Also, Carmilla and Maria in Judgement.