Knowledge is Power.

Good Things to Know for most Castlevania games

1450 Castlevania Legends / Dark Night Prelude:
Colorized best on actual GBA or GBC since it seems to use both its Super GB palettes at once, one for background and one for foreground things.
For emulation speed hack is recommended, or speed hack on top of SotN style GFX hack for Japanese version
Attack+Jump = Burning Mode, can be used once per a stage.
After beating each stage's boss a soul power is gained. Select in submenu and Up+attack to use.
Classic subweapons are just items to collect for best ending.
At Cv Dungeon, go to Video games then Cv Legends then Manual for txt file
At Cv Crypt, go to Cv Games, then Cv Legends, then Instruction Manual for scans.
Also in Legends section, go to Nintendo Power Guide for scan of maps.
Or... Super concise guide deduced from maps:
Do NOT hit the white candles!
Stage 1 Graveyard Outside Castle - First fork: Left before down
Second fork: Right before up.
Stage 2 Inside Lower Castle - First fork: Up before right
Second fork: Right before down
Stage 3 Clock Tower - Fork fork: Left before up
On that left branch, second fork: Up for knife+meat,
left only slightly for meat and no farther left
Third fork: Left Up for 1up, Right Up to continue on.
Stage 4 Top Floor - First fork: Up a bit far just for meat maybe,
High left for meat, and low left to continue on
Second fork: Up then Left
Stage 5 Cathedral - First fork: Down (Right is too far for meat)
Second fork: Up (Later you'll drop through room on right)
Third fork: Left Up for meat, Right Up to continue on.
Next: Drop down hitting candles for secret, only white candle you should ever hit.
Hidden Stage - First fork: Right then Up.
Second fork: Up slightly for meat & no farther, Right to continue on.
Back in Cathedral stage - Last fork: Down for meat, up for Dracula.

1476 Cv III: Dracula's Curse / Demon Castle Legend:
JPN version with logotrans patch recommended for best sound & gfx with English language.
But special name codes only work in US version.
HELP ME = 10 Lives
OKUDA = start with Alucard
URATA = start with Sypha
FUJIMOTO = start with Grant
AKAMA = hard mode
Can use passwords with HELP ME to start at the beginning in hard with 10 lives and an ally.

1479 Cv Curse of Darkness:
Have a save file from Lament of Innocence and you will find a Moai statue outside the abandoned castle.

1576 Cv Adventure (Rebirth) / Dracula Legend:
Rebirth game for Wii recommended but it's a different game and its difficulty levels should be called: Cakewalk, Hard, and Just about impossible.
Rebirth's easy mode is way too easy and shows an ending but you only fight Dracula's 2nd form.
Normal mode is crazy hard and you fight a 3rd form of Dracula. Ending seems the same.
Hard mode is even more crazy but does some cool rearrangement.
On main menu, hold right for a while, for a stage select to go back to any stage you've made it to on a difficulty.
For best of the otherwise awful original, Euro Konami Collection vol 1. is colorized best.
That version with fix hack applied and being able to use save states makes it decent.

1591 Cv II: Belmont's Revenge / Dracula Legend II
Euro Konami Collection vol. 4 is colorized best. Speed hack recommended.
GBC or GBA actually colorize the plain old original cart well, just like Cv Legends.
9 Lives Password: Candle, Candle, Heart, Heart

1691 Original Cv and all remakes:
Super CvIV has much better sound on actual SNES than otherwise good emulators. Except don't know how it sounds in Wii Virtual Console. Super CvIV is a little on the easy side, so you can beat it once or use a password for hard mode.
CV Chronicles for PSX (X68000 remake) has a couple voices removed from US version.
Euro Vampire Killer for MSX has some CvIISimonsQuest elements but emulation has issues with speed fluctuating. There is a fix patch for Japanese MSX version only.
Original NES Castlevania has some very rewarding end credits.

1693/98 CvII:Simon's Quest / The Accursed Seal:
The Proto-SotN style game. US version is far better and manages to have really awesome music despite having lesser sound hardware capabilites there.
Either Redaction hack applied on top of Moody hack or Retranslation with map (Press select) on top of Moody hack most recommended.
The Japanese version is a disaster with loading, at least on actual system supposedly.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest Revamped by MetroidQuest is a spot-on upgraded CvII remake with a few additional surprises, but no continue option so save often

1748 Cv Harmony of Dissonance / Concerto of the Midnight Sun A.K.A. White Night Concerto:
Noglo hack applied on top of Palette of Dignity hack
or Revenge on the Findesiecle (final) hack of JPN version recommended.
Pike Master and Simon Wraith are best enemies to kill when it comes to most monsters only giving 1 exp.

1792 Drac X Rondo of Blood:
Translation patched PC Engine Duo CD most recommended.
Trevor X hack recommended for the cut down SNES Dracula X version.
SNES version is still good with interesting differences with the aid of save states.
Interview with creators.

1797 Cv Symphony of the Night / Drac X Nocturne in the Moonlight
PSX JPN version 1.0 patched to English recommended for best translation but still JPN voices.
PSP and Saturn versions have different playable versions of Maria.
Lots of extra stuff in Saturn but quality ranges and it was a poorly done port that didn't properly utilize the Saturn's great capabilities.
Interview with creators.

1810 Cv Order of Ecclesia / The Stolen Seal:
If possible, wirelessly connect to Judgement on Wii to start with some bonus stuff earlier on. Some people have complained of save data being corrupted so be careful with the process going step by step.

1830 Cv Circle of the Moon:
Just see card guide to know what enemies drop what. Just wait to read effect descriptions there if you want to be surprised first.
Don't try to make it through underground waterway without the purify item unless you're a masochist. Make sure you have the Serpent card from an earth demon and get Neptune from the first Ice Armor you encounter for ice resist. Also, the Scary Candle enemy appears in the top of the Machine Tower at least soon as you can make it into Underground Storage, before fighting Death or Carmilla.
Magician mode enabled by beating game once starts you with all cards.

1844-1852 Cv Legacy of Darkness / Apocalypse Gaiden: Legend of Cornell
3D game, not as good as a 2D Cv but possibly the best of 3D, though primitive GFX.
Supports expanion pak for better gfx but emulation gives better gfx anyway.
Cv 64 virtually included in it but properly fixed up, though people don't like level changes.
Cv 64's playable characters with their quest have to be enabled.

1852 Cv 64 / Apocalypse
First and pretty awful seemingly unfinished 3D game but supposedly the best of 3D levels.
Emulation gives better GFX at least. Probably should only play after Legacy of Darkness to see the little bit that's missing or changed. After getting used to Legacy of Darkness you'll probably be able to better adjust to this game's flaws.

1897 Bram Stoker's Dracula:
(Not a Cv game by Konami but Cv's story has been loosely linked to the original book or the movie)
All 16-bit versions suck. However, all 8-bit versions are a decent different game.
The Euro only Sega Master System looks and sounds best, but probably won't work on US/JPN NTSC hardware.
NES version doesn't look or sound as good but may control best.
Game Gear version is the SMS version on a cropped screen that scrolls up and down more for you to see.
Gameboy version may be decent but is the least of those good 8-bit versions.

1914 Cv Bloodlines / New Generation / Vampire Killer:
(a loose sequal to Bram Stoker's Dracula book or movie)
In options set music to 05 and SFX to 73. Enter the Konami code on the main menu and a chime will sound if it worked. Go back in options and lives can be set to 9 which makes normal diffculty very reasonable. Expert mode is also now selectable and stage select numbers might appear at the top of the screen somewhere. Easy mode might not give an ending. Don't know if expert's endings are better than normal.
Newly discovered passwords here.

1944 Cv Portrait of Ruin / Gallery of Labyrinth (sequal to Bloodlines):
Just play it.

2035 CV Aria of Sorrow / Minuet of Dawn
Just play it... But when you get to Legion, make sure you destroy all its outer covering before finishing its core or you won't get its soul. If you save without getting its soul, you'll have to do a replay to get it and you need 100% of the souls to get the chaos ring.

2036 CV Dawn of Sorrow / Crucifix of the Blue Moon
Play Aria of Sorrow before even reading the slightest bit about this game, even the back of its case, to avoid spoilage of story. Play while Aria is in GBA cart slot of DS to start with stuff. Or make Aria data avaiable to DS emulator.

2641 Contra Hard Corps:
Enhancements + Life bar restore hacks recommended for US version
Or use Game Genie code for 10 lives (BJCT-AAH4) to best simulate the JPN version's life bar.
In some stage climb up a wall for a hidden arena with a robo Simon boss and music remixed on crack.

Thanks to Dark Nemesis on the Cv Dungeon forums for finding the interviews

Vampire Killer Whip Guide


More Help...

Hail to the past!
Rondo of Blood (released 1993) brings back the ferryman, Carmilla's mask, a day-night transition in one stage but gradual, and the town of Aljiba all from CvII: Simon's Quest (released 1987), keys previously only in the MSX Demon Castle Dracula/Vampire Killer (released 1986), and multiple branching stages as in CvIII Drac's Curse (released 1989).

Symphony of the Night/Nocturne in the Moonlight (released 1997) brings back the ferryman again, the rebound stone/diamond & Drac's parts to collect & other RPGish lements all from Simon's Quest, a CvIII hero & the Rondo heroes, doppelgangers of all four CvIII heroes and a fight against a Rondo hero, Rondo's holy book, Rondo enemies & some bosses (some as regular enemies now), Gaibon & Slogra & weakly flinging around the whip all from Super Cv IV (released 1991), and armor to turn Alucard into Rondo's Axe Armor.

Dawn of Sorrow (released 2005)'s Julius mode allows you to play as a team of a Belmont, a Belnades/Fernandez/Velnumdes, and Alucard to mimic CvIII's gameplay except an equivalent to Grant DaNasty is still missing. Also Yoko only does ice damage and can't freeze enemies or a body of water like Sypha could.

Portraid of Ruin (released 2007) brings back the heroes & the Behemoth & several bosses as regular enemies all from Rondo, and a doppleganger imitating whoever you play as.

Order of Ecclesia/The Stolen Seal (released 2008) brings back more elements of Simon's Quest/The Accursed Seal such as roaming around areas of the Romanian countryside including marshes and mansions (the regions of Transylvania and Wallachia are often confused in Castlevania and history and other fiction).