Top 10 Castles in Video Games
Wait a minute… where am I?
Well, I suppose it doesn’t really matter how I got here, it just matters who I am.
My name is Eric Vole, but you might know me better as Woodyman. I’m officially the newest contributor to 1MoreCastle.com and I must say I’m happy to be here. I’ll be writing a bi-weekly Top 10 for this site! That means that every two weeks you get to read a list of video game related paraphernalia that I put in an arbitrary order based on personal bias. Whoooo! Sound exciting right? Well don’t blame me, blame Eric and Andrew who hired me. I’m still waiting on that paycheck [We pay in high fives, delivered with no consistent frequency. -Andrew]. The only difference is that all my lists must be retro themed. That means nothing past the 5th generation of gaming (PS1, 3DO, Saturn, Nintendo 64, etc…)
So after I got approval to join the 1MC team, I began debating as to what Top 10 I should write for my inaugural post. I thought there was no better choice than the Top 10 Castles in Video Games.
- One castle per franchise, otherwise we’d see a lot of repeats on this list.
- Castles are ranked based on how much I like them, and how much I believe they affected the gaming genre.
- There are no researchers or scores of people working on this list so please keep in mind that I may make a mistake or two.
- I haven’t played every single video game ever made, so your favorite might not be on this list.
- Constructive criticism is always appreciated.
Alright! Let’s begin with a bang.
10.) Dr. Wily’s Castle – Mega Man 2
We are going to start off this list with one of my favorite video games of all time, Mega Man 2. Now it’s true that Dr. Wily’s Castle aka Dr. Wily’s Fortress or Skull Castle has been around since the very first Mega Man game, but in that game you don’t actually see the castle itself.
Mega Man 2 is where the Wily Castle tradition began. So you’ve defeated all of 8 robot masters and now it’s time to take down Dr. Wily. When you select Wily’s Castle, your ears are assaulted with the wretched sound of Dr. Wily’s Spaceship. You see the nefarious doctor hovering in the sky in his spaceship. Wily then slowly descends and you get your first glimpse at Wily’s Castle. The castle itself is quite impressive. It’s decorated with bone towers, numerous spiked roofs, and a large skull dons the front of the building.
Dr. Wily’s Castle in Mega Man 2 is six stages long and the entire castle feels like an adventure. You start off outside the castle and must defeat some of the toughest enemies in the game. Once you make your way to the castle itself, you must ascend higher and higher until you finally reach an entrance. What’s the first thing to greet you once you enter the castle? Just a giant robotic dragon and that’s only the first stage. The rest of Dr. Wily’s Castle has you traversing treacherous paths, fighting a giant Guts Man Tank, the tedious wall boss, having a rematch against the 8 robot masters, and finally culminating in a fight against Dr. Wily in his Wily Machine. Dr. Wily’s Castle ends with one final fight against the good doctor in his “true” alien form.
9.) Lovecraft Castles – The Castles of Doctor Creep
You may not have heard of The Castles of Doctor Creep, and there is a very good reason for that. The game was only released for the Commodore 64. The game was published in 1984 (I wasn’t even alive then) and according to the almighty Wikipedia, the game was designed by Ed Hobbs.
The Castles of Doctor Creep is a classic platforming game, but the real draw of the game are the puzzles. There are several castles throughout the game, and the goal is to escape each castle in the fastest possible time. In your way are numerous puzzles and enemies. You must go through the rooms of the castle via doors. Some of these doors are locked, but others can only be opened with a doorbell and only go one way. There are also conveyor belts, ray guns, teleporters, force fields, trap doors, ladders, sliding polls, and even lightning machines. As if this wasn’t enough, there are enemies in the castles as well. If you walk over an ankh then the mummy will come out and follow you around the room, and if you even face a coffin, the Frankenstein monster will track you down. One hit from either of these creatures or one hit from a trap will bring the player right back to the start of the castle. Luckily, the mummies and Frankenstein monsters are susceptible to the traps and hazards as well. Also luckily, the mummies are slower and cannot climb ladders or slide down polls. With precise trap activation, you can eliminate them and complete the puzzles.
All the castles in the game range from simple to computer-smashingly difficult. However, while the Lovecraft Castle is difficult, it’s not the reason I chose it for this list. The main reason is that since you can select your level, I selected Lovecraft Castle the most and thus had the most fun with it.
8.) Bowser’s Castle – Mario Kart 64
Just for the record, I am going to be counting Mario Kart as one franchise and the platforming Mario games as their own franchise. So don’t freak out, that Bowser’s Castle is in the number 8 spot because I promise you’ll see a castle from the Mario franchise later on in this list.
While I love the original Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, and play the hell out of Mario Kart Wii, my favorite to this day has to be Mario Kart 64. Bowser’s Castle has to be one of the toughest tracks in Mario Kart 64, which is why Nintendo decided to make it the final track of the Star Cup. Besides being one of the toughest tracks it’s also one of the most fun. The race begins on a drawbridge over lava, and you immediately know that you’re in for a rough ride. You slide your way through Bowser’s courtyard while avoiding the lava spewing Bowser statue conveniently placed near the item boxes. You then enter the castle itself as thwomps try and crush you from above. All the while, Marty the green Thwomp is laughing at you from behind bars. A few 90 degrees turns later and you reach more thwomps who actually rush in front of you and try to land right in front of your kart. More 90 degrees turns as you race past sliding thwomps and more fire breathing Bowser statues to a rickety bridge over lava. You pray that you don’t get hit by a shell at this point. You tumble down the stairs, cross over another bridge, and race up a spiraling pillar and near the end of the first lap.
With all of its traps and sharp turns, Bowser’s Castle continues to live on in infamy with Mario Kart fans. So much so, that they brought it back in Mario Kart Wii with even more traps, such as giant pillars of lava. This may be Mario Kart, but Bowser’s Castle is one of the best.
7.) Castle Wolfenstein – Wolfenstein 3D
Wolfenstein 3D is the grandfather of the FPS genre. It was created by id Software in 1992 and since then it has been ported to nearly every home console and PC. Wolfenstein 3D is on the Atari Jaguar, Super Nintendo, 3DO, and you can even play the game on your cell phone nowadays. Each of these ports are different in their own way, but the gameplay is essentially the same.
In Wolfenstein 3D you play as an American spy named B.J. Blazkowicz. The game is divided into episode and contrary to popular belief, only episode one of Wolfenstein 3D takes place at Castle Wolfenstein, but it sure is a fantastic introductory level. B.J. has been captured by Nazis and taken to the deepest and darkest dungeon of Castle Wolfenstein. The game begins with a dead Nazi soldier on the ground. B.J. has killed this soldier and now is on a mission to escape from Castle Wolfenstein. Using the pistol from the recently deceased soldier you must make your way past the cages, soldiers, and dogs to reach the exit of the castle. Nazi paraphernalia don the walls, gold and food are dropped along the ground and there are secrets everywhere.
In my opinion the best part about Castle Wolfenstein is the conclusion. From the start Wolfenstein 3D seems like a fairly realistic game. You’re an American spy killing Nazi soldiers and dogs in a prison. Then suddenly when the boss of Castle Wolfenstein appears the game does a 180. The boss for this area is Hans Grosse, he’s in charge of security at the castle and has a deep hatred for B.J. Did I mention he was also in a mech-suit with two chain guns attached to his arms? This is when you learn that Wolfenstein 3D is not just a WWII shooter. It’s a WWII shooter with robotic Nazis… and that’s awesome.
6.) Crystal Palace in Deningrad – The Legend of Dragoon
Now I know you 1 More Castle people aren’t too familiar with me but there is something you’re going to learn quickly. I love The Legend of Dragoon. It quite possibly might be my favorite game of all time.
The Crystal Palace in Deningrad is one of the major locations of The Legend of Dragoon. Unfortunately, it’s not accessible until later on in the game, so it’s going to be a bit tough to explain why this castle is so important without spoiling the entire plot of the game. The cast in the Legend of Dragoon all have something called a Dragoon Spirit. While most of the characters were chosen by the Dragoon Spirit, Shana (girlfriend of the main character) was given her white Dragoon Spirit to ward off death. While at the Crystal Palace the white Dragoon Spirit unexpectedly leaves Shana and goes to newcomer, Miranda. Keep in mind that we had Shana in our party since the very beginning of the journey and now suddenly she’s useless and chooses to stay behind in Deningrad while the rest of the cast venture forward.
Deningrad is also home to one of the Signet Spheres. These Signet Spheres are items of immense power used to keep an evil creature at bay. Unfortunately, Deningrad gets attacked by the most powerful dragon of all the Divine Dragon and this dragon destroys the Signet Sphere. So are you confused yet? If you haven’t played Legend of Dragoon you’ve probably already moved onto the next entry. All you really need to know is at the Crystal Palace shit goes down… also it’s a castle made out of crystals!
5.) Castle Shadowgate – Shadowgate
Shadowgate is another game you may not have ever heard of or played, but you really should have. Shadowgate is a point and click adventure game and was released in 1987 for Macintosh computers, but the version I’ll be talking about in this list is the 1989 NES port.
Shadowgate is named after the setting of the game, Castle Shadowgate. In this game you play as the “last of a great line of hero-kings” that must traverse Castle Shadowgate and defeat the evil Warlock Lord before he summons the demon Behemoth from Hell. I think Castle Shadowgate is so high on this list because it is a cruel, but still humorous game. If you’ve never played the original Shadowgate or the NES version then prepare to die a lot. The game is more about completing puzzles than defeating enemies. The only problem is, the puzzles are vague and one wrong move could equal death. The castle itself is so treacherous that if the player doesn’t have a lit torch in his inventory at all times he will trip and die. There are so many ways to die in this game that you can’t rush Shadowgate. You must explore all areas, investigate all objects, and read all the scrolls and hints. If you don’t you could be burned by a dragon’s breath, attacked by a cyclops, sucked into outer space through a broken mirror, dissolved by acidic slime, mauled by a wolf-woman, eaten by sharks, or just kill yourself. The game is unforgiving.
I think that’s why I like it so much. When I first rented this game I literally couldn’t get past the second screen. Since then I’ve beat it, but can’t rush through it. I still make mistakes, and it’s still a challenge unlike other adventure games where once you know what to do, you can breeze through it. Also the atmosphere in Shadowgate is top notch. You know nothing about the Warlock Lord or your quest until you discover it for yourself and the appearance of evil eyes in the second screen of the game makes you feel like you’re constantly being watched.
Also it looks like Shadowgate is getting a remake due to Kickstarter, so keep an eye on that.
4.) Peach’s Castle – Super Mario 64
I told you the Mario franchise would be showing up somewhere on this list.
Now, Princess Peach’s Castle has made numerous appearances in Mario games, but the best is the first one that lets you explore the castle all by yourself. Once Mario enters Peach’s Castle he learns that Bowser has taken over the castle and stolen all of the power stars. The only way to rescue Princess Peach is to collect all the power stars and defeat Bowser. Now this is where, Peach’s Castle is unique from the majority of castles in this list. Peach’s Castle serves as a central hub for the rest of the game. Much of the castle is closed off to Mario until he collects enough power stars. The only way to collect power stars is to jump through giant paintings in the castle that act as portals to the levels of the game.
My favorite things about Peach’s Castle are the mysteries and sense of exploration you get while playing the game. Who remembers the first time they used the camera to look at the ceiling and get teleported, the seemingly impassable mirror, or the endless staircase. That’s the best thing about Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64. You can remember every location, and every room because they are all unique and memorable.
3.) Ganon’s Castle – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
One other thing you’re going to learn about me is that my lists equal my rules, so I’m terribly sorry but Ganon’s Castly from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is only going to make it in the number 3 spot. It was really tough to make this decision, but I just like the next entry a bit more.
The Ganon’s Castle that I’m talking about for this list is the version seen in Ocarina of Time. Ganon’s Castle is the final “dungeon” of the game and while it’s very imposing, I actually had more trouble with the Shadow Temple. As young Link you visit Hyrule Castle at the very beginning of the game, however once you aquire the Master Sword and seven years have passed Hyrule Castle is no more. In its place is Ganon’s Castle. This castle is surrounded by darkness and lava. Link cannot access the castle without the help of the sages. Once you enter Ganon’s Castle you cannot face off against the boss just yet. You must first complete six mini-temple challenges based on the dungeons you traversed as adult Link. Once each of these challenges are done they’ll release a barrier. There’s the forest, water, shadow, light, spirit, and fire barriers and they are not easy. Once these are complete you make your way up the tower, to the fight against Ganondorf.
The greatest thing about Ganon’s Castle is the atmosphere. The six barriers are there to remind you of all your previous adventures in the game and all that you accomplished. Then the tough enemies require you to use all you have learned throughout the game. Finally, as you approach Ganondorf the eerie organ music gets louder and louder culminated in the grand finale of not one but two boss fights, and a grand escape from a crumbling edifice.
2.) Figaro Castle – Final Fantasy VI
I must admit before I continue this entry that I have yet to beat Final Fantasy VI, but I believe I’ve got far enough in the game to talk about it. If I make any mistakes in this section, keep what I just said in mind.
After the “Treasure Hunter” Locke rescues Terra from the Empire they make their way to the desert. While there they discover Figaro Castle, the most technologically advanced castle in the land. At first the duo is denied access, until the guard recognizes Locke. As it turns out, Figaro castle is ruled by Edgar, a man very handy with machinery. The castle was supposed to be run by Edgar and his brother Sabin, however Sabin did not wish to rule. Therefore, the brothers flip a coin to see who will stay behind at the castle, but Edgar rigs the flip with a two-headed coin. Now at the Castle, Edgar feigns an alliance with the Empire while secretly helping the resistance movement known as The Returners.
Now this is where things get really interesting. While Locke and Terra are hiding in the castle it seems as though the empire has tracked them down. This is where the player is introduced to Kefka, and what an introduction it is. The classic Kefka theme plays as we see the mage traversing the desert with two Empire soldiers. Kefka’s first actions are complaining, and a maniacal laugh. Kefka pushes soldiers out of the way and confronts Edgar about Terra, but Edgar feigns ignorance and claims Terra isn’t there. In retaliation Kefka sets the castle on fire. Edgar, Locke, and Terra get away on chocobos, while the entire castle escapes Kefka’s wrath by sinking into the sand.
This scene sets up so much for the future of the game that it’s impossible to ignore. Sure there are more castles, but Figaro Castle is where Final Fantasy VI really begins.
1.) Dracula’s Castle – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
I know it’s a little predictable to have a castle from the CASTLEvania series in the top spot, but I just couldn’t justify putting Dracula’s Castle from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in any other spot.
While the majority of the Castlevania games take place inside Dracula’s Castle, there are no real consistancies in all of the Castlevania games. In the original game it appears as though the castle is on top of a mountain, but in Symphony of the Night the castle appears next to the shoreline. The entire game of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night takes place inside Dracula’s Castle and if there is one word to describe this castle it would be “design”. By design I mean that every little detail and room has a purpose in this game it’s the most thought out castle ever designed because it works in two different directions. Now I’m sure it’s common knowledge by now, but at one point in the game you must fight Richter Belmont who is planning of resurrecting Dracula… or so it seems. If you equip an item you see a glowing orb follower Richter and controlling his movements. If you destroy the orb, you see Shaft was behind it all along. Shaft runs away into the inverted castle. The inverted castle in Symphony of the Night is the same castle you just went through but it’s upside down. The floor is now the ceiling and you know what? The entire castle is still playable. This means that the programmers of this game had to design a castle that could be played right-side up and upside down. That is no easy task.
In addition to the inverted castle, the design of the castle itself is noteworthy. The place is huge and is memorable just the same way Peach’s Castle is memorable. All of the sections of Dracula’s castle make sense in the context and add the eeriness of the game. The Long Library with the attacking spell books and dark areas, the outer wall with the ever-changing weather, the Underground Cavern with the icy walls and gigantic waterfall, and especially the Marble Gallery with the large floating eyeball peering at you from the outer windows. Each of these sections are memorable, but more importantly they fit. You’d expect Dracula’s Castle to have a gallery, a library, a coliseum, and a cavern. Nothing seems out of place, and every location is designed be played normal and inverted.
If Dracula’s Castle from Symphony of the Night isn’t the best castle in video games, I don’t know what is.
Well 1 More Castle, I hope you enjoyed my very first list for your site. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for Top 10s leave them below. I’ll see you in two weeks.