Halloween is upon us, and parts of the world celebrate the darker days with costumes, candy, superstition, and scares. Alongside skeletons, pumpkins, and other monsters, one iconic piece of the Halloween mythos is the vampire.
“Vampire” is a catch-all term for dozens of folkloric monsters from all over the world, with the unifying factor being that they steal the lifeforce of humans in some manner. Works of fiction like Dracula and Carmilla were instrumental in forming the Western world’s conception of the vampire, popularizing the word and associating it with bats, blood, romance, and the night. These vampires (often pale, caped, and brooding) have been staples of horror on page, stage, and screen for over a hundred years.
And naturally, vampires eventually found their way into RPGs. In this piece, with written contributions from all corners of RPGFan, we identify and discuss several of our favorite RPG vampires, from evil, undead tyrants to misunderstood Gothic heroes, all of whom share dark dispositions and a taste for blood.
Intro by Michael Sollosi
(Editor’s Note: We will spoil a number of the games below. Read at your own peril!)
Dracula/Alucard (Castlevania Series)
by Alana Hagues
What list about RPG vampires would be complete without including Castlevania? The series takes inspiration from classic horror movies, and with Castlevania: Bloodlines incorporating elements of Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula directly into the plot, there is perhaps no more iconic vampire in fiction, or in video games, than Dracula Vlad Țepeș. He’s taken many different appearances over the course of the series. From chucking a wine (?) glass to the floor in Symphony of the Night to being reincarnated as a pretty boy in Aria of Sorrow, Dracula always manages to steal the show in some flamboyant manner. There’s even a plot to revive him in 1945 by the vampire artist Brauner in Portrait of Ruin. His origins are explored in the PlayStation 2 title Lament of Innocence, which shows him as a tragic figure who transforms from a manipulative human into the lord of the night we know today. Simply put, there’s no better vampire than Dracula, and no better series to play over Halloween than Castlevania.
Of course, while only half-vampire, Dracula’s dhampir son Alucard definitely deserves a mention for being easily the prettiest of the selection. It’s that colour-changing cape, I tell you.
Therese and Jeanette Voerman (Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines)
by Pete Leavitt
The morbidly fun side of Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines is in many ways embodied by the sisters Therese and Jeanette, the co-owners of The Asylum, a music venue in Santa Monica. They’re straightforward as characters, with the buttoned-up formal Therese seeming to actually manage the business and the wild, promiscuous Jeanette just… being Jeanette. Predictably, there is a lot of friction between these two. Still, their relationship is full of clever moments, like Therese reproaching Jeanette for her “sinful” behavior and Jeanette inviting “she who is without sin” to “cast the fierce tone.” For many, the ability to appreciate these characters—and this game in general—will require some concessions regarding the ham-fisted and ignorant ways it approaches the topics of mental health and abuse. If one can compartmentalize this immature view on these topics, Therese and Jeanette offer a lot of enjoyment. Come to think of it… they’re so often at The Asylum, so why don’t we ever see them together?
Neclord (Suikoden I & II)
by Zach Wilkerson
Even in the Suikoden universe, full of multifaceted allies and villains alike, Neclord sticks out as a memorable character. Although it doesn’t really seem like he should. He’s ostensibly based on almost every vampire cliché imaginable, particularly those surrounding Dracula. He wears dark clothes, has a long cape, is decidedly creepy with women, and even plays the organ. Nonetheless, Neclord’s charm, his long history of terror against villages, his backstory with Sierra and the Blue Moon Village, and his rivalry with Viktor and the Star Dragon Sword make him both compelling and menacing in all the right ways. So much so that even after his “death” in Suikoden I, Murayama (rightly) brings him back for the second game.
Let’s be honest, though, the real reason Neclord is on this list is because of his amazing boss battle music in Suikoden II. It’s phenomenal.
Sierra (Suikoden II)
by Audra Bowling
Sierra Mikain is the true bearer of the Moon Rune, one of the 27 True Runes found in the Suikoden series. In the past, she used the Moon Rune to create a village of vampires who lived happily until one of their number, Neclord, stole the Moon Rune. Afterwards, several of the vampires started preying on humans. Sierra took it upon herself to stop her former coven members, eventually aiding the New State Army in Tinto once Neclord turned up there as she was able to sense the Moon Rune, proving to Neclord that it still considered her its true bearer. I love the sheer amount of backstory that Sierra gets, not only in Suikoden II but also in the first of the Suikogaiden games that weren’t released in English. She is both a tragic figure and someone who determinedly manages to hold onto her “humanity,” even when other vampires in Suikoden do not. As a result, she has some fascinating insight into story events and interactions with other characters. When it comes to vampire depictions in the Suikoden series, Sierra and Neclord in particular are very interesting contrasts.
Vampire/Buffy (Secret of Mana)
by Alana Hagues
I know this is one of the silliest entries here, but I’m not kidding when I say that the two vampire bosses from Secret of Mana are some of the first ideas that came to mind when I thought about bloodsuckers in RPGs. Both Vampire and Buffy are just two footnotes in the 1993 classic action RPG, but their expressive, colourful sprites always felt really charming to me. Vampire can be a tricky early boss fight: you have no Lumina (light magic), and the boss constantly casts Sleep Ring. They also have a pretty high health count for that point in the game, but they’re disappointingly lacking in the biting department.
Buffy is simply a gold recolour of their predecessor that waits for you in the game’s final dungeon, but this vampire bites, and it’s a much easier fight as you now have access to Lucent Beam. But the most important thing about this oversized bat is its name: surely Ted Woolsey was inspired by the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which of course was the basis for the much better and more successful TV series five years later. Unfortunately, Buffy is simply called Vampire Lord in the Japanese release and subsequent 2018 remake, but that’s just boring, isn’t it?
Valvatorez (Disgaea 4)
by Michael Sollosi
What’s a vampire to do when drinking blood is no longer an option? Subsist entirely on sardines, of course! 400 years ago, Valvatorez was an infamous, powerful vampire who swore off drinking blood for reasons that would spoil most of Disgaea 4‘s plot. In the present day, Valvatorez is a level 1 weakling, as his pescatarian diet isn’t ideal for vampire biology. Valvatorez continues to live his best life, enjoying eating pungent fish and working as a lowly Prinny Instructor while his werewolf confidant Fenrich is far more frustrated by Valvatorez’s stubborn food choices and low status than Val himself is.
The Valvatorez of old is one of the dark, dangerous vampires that we’d expect in a serious JRPG, but Disgaea 4 is anything but. Valvatorez is unusually principled, refusing to break a promise even when the price is centuries of suffering. Case in point, Val gathers a team of misfits and leads them in revolution when rampant government corruption comes to light in his resident Netherworld. And he attributes his military success and personal growth not to his powers as a vampire, but to sardines.
Django (Boktai Series)
by Alana Hagues
Around the time Hideo Kojima was deep in Metal Gear Solid lore, he was also busy working as the producer for the Taiyō series, or Boktai series as it’s known in the West. You’re probably thinking that a series that uses cartridges with photometric light sensors is a strange choice, but these games star a vampire hunter named Django who uses weapons powered by light. These weapons can only be charged up by exposing the light sensor to sunlight. Pretty nifty, if you live somewhere sunny.
In the first game, Django is simply looking to avenge his father’s death. But in the sequel, Django’s gun is stolen by a vampire. That vampire turns out to be his resurrected father, who eventually bites him, which in turn gives Django vampiric powers. These new powers mean that Django can turn into a mouse, bat or wolf, but simply standing in sunlight (in the game) can cause damage. Even applying sunscreen won’t help for long! This adds a brand new mechanic to an already fascinating series. The two follow-up titles never left Japan, but incorporating vampire lore into the mechanics of these games makes them truly unique.
Alwen and Ragna (Zwei: The Ilvard Insurrection)
by Michael Sollosi
Alwen is a vampire princess who’s lost her kingdom, and Ragna is a treasure hunter who is turned into a Blood Warrior (basically a lesser vampire) by Alwen after he nearly loses his life. Alwen requires aid to reclaim her birthright, and Ragna’s newfound power and natural determination are just the support she needs. Together, they defeat demons, angels, other vampires, and all manner of foes in the second Zwei game from Nihon Falcom.
The partnership between a vampire and their progeny can be that of a master and thrall, parent and child, or even lovers, but Zwei II interprets Alwen and Ragna in the most wholesome manner possible: two people who need one another and are grateful for each other’s help. Ragna knows he’d be dead without Alwen’s interference, and Alwen (who is cute as heck but comports herself with an exaggerated haughtiness) knows she needs Ragna to accomplish her goals. Their evolving friendship in the colorful Zwei setting is the highlight of the game — a relationship between vampire and blood knight that is warmer than a beating heart.
Keith, Joachim, and Hildegarde Valentine (Shadow Hearts series)
by Hilary Andreff
Did you know that vampires can forgo the dark life and be champions of truth and justice? They certainly do in Shadow Hearts, a series that boasts one of the most colorful groups of vampires in any RPG: the Valentine clan. They are a constant bright spot in a series that can get quite dark, complete with off-the-wall transformations and dialogue, as well as cameos in each other’s games. Eldest brother Joachim is a superhero vampire wrestler who protects the port from ne’er-do-wells, can go invisible, and transforms into a golden bat. (Don’t you love his golden glow?) Middle brother Keith is the first of the siblings you meet in the original Shadow Hearts. He’s protecting the area around his hometown in Romania from a monster locked up inside his Blue Castle, and despite having grown weary of travel and daily life, he joins the party after helping Alice and Zhuzhen aid Yuri in a vulnerable moment. He’s also a silver bat. Hildegard, the youngest, is a powerhouse who spends time traveling with Roger Bacon. She regrettably transforms between slim and curvy forms but basically nails the cutsey goth look and can also be a precious peach/pink bat. The Valentines are also somehow immune to sunlight, which is very convenient for the party. One thing’s for sure: adventures are never boring with them around.
Marivel (Wild ARMs 2)
by Audra Bowling
Marivel Armitage is a type of vampire in Filgaia referred to as a Crimson Noble. She has Blue Mage-like abilities in that she learns skills from monsters that she defeats. Marivel has lived quite a long time before the events of Wild ARMs 2 and was friends with the legendary Sword Mages a thousand years before Ashley and company’s adventures. She aids the party numerous times throughout the game using her long-standing knowledge of Filgaia and technical know-how, eventually becoming an optional party member herself. What I most fondly remember about Marivel is her genius for tech gadgetry and inventions, as it is a stark contrast to the “classical” concept of vampires often seen in media. I also recall how human Marivel’s story is: she puts up a strong front in a lot of respects but ultimately is quite lonely and afraid of forming bonds with others given how she has outlived so many of her friends and the rest of her people. Seeing this JRPG vampire overcome her fear to form tentative new friendships is quite touching in a way. Plus, Marivel is key to uncovering many of WA2‘s secrets!
Lester DeRosso (Bravely Default)
by Michael Sollosi
Bravely Default’s Vampire class is the equivalent of Final Fantasy V’s Blue Mage or Final Fantasy VII’s Enemy Skill — they can borrow the special attacks of monsters to great effect. In addition, Vampire class skills allow players to charm enemies, drain HP, MP, or BP from targets, and resurrect themselves once per battle. You know, vampire stuff. But first, you have to defeat the tall, handsome, and mysterious Lester DeRosso and get a Bravely history lesson. And of course you will, because how else are you supposed to learn White Wind?
Lester is a vampire only for appearances’ sake. Granted immortality by vague means 1800 years before the events of Bravely Default, DeRosso has spent centuries rebuilding his ancestral home into an intimidating vampire castle and honing powers that resemble those of a traditional vampire — all to frighten pious followers of the Crystal Orthodoxy by playing upon their superstitions. Secretly, Lester assists the equally immortal and powerful Sage Yulyana (his former rival) behind the scenes, avoiding the watchful gaze of the Orthodoxy and trying to prevent an incoming apocalypse. Lester DeRosso is a standout RPG vampire because he embodies the loneliness and power of the folk legend, but it’s amusingly self-made because hey, vampires are cool.
by Michael Sollosi
Sacred’s Vampiress class is an entertaining take on RPG vampire action. In daylight, she is a knight with a handful of offensive melee abilities. But at night or underground, the Vampiress can transform into her true form, with dramatically higher speed and strength, a host of bloody and seductive spells, and a massive boost to health regeneration.
The Vampiress of Sacred is a celebration of what makes vampires fun, translated into action RPG gameplay. The vampiress can summon wolves and bats, turn monsters into undead servants, and cast a few other spells, but her skills are only half as effective in human form. Also, she can go full-vampire in open daylight, but her health regeneration is replaced with a Sun status effect that slowly burns away at her HP. The end result is a gameplay loop of a sunlit struggle to find a cave or an inn to wait for nightfall, at which point the Vampiress is an elite queen of the damned, annihilating most foes in her path from dusk till dawn. Sacred doesn’t tell a deep story or force players to make complex decisions, but as an action RPG sandbox full of loot that lets you run riot as a badass lady vampire, you could do a lot worse.
Valor and Gitane (Illusion of Gaia)
by Hilary Andreff
The ancient sunken city of Mu is home to a nasty pair of vampires in Illusion of Gaia. This pair has thwarted many adventurers and flustered players for ages. Whether you enter their lair as Will or Freedan, you have to endure many fireball attacks and figure out how to deal with their access to modern explosives. I actually quite like them and think their odd style really adds to the sense of anachronism throughout the game. They force you to play defensively within a time limit and let you perfect a divide and conquer strategy. They’re also proof that teamwork makes the dream work, as their combined attack is serious. As if that weren’t enough, seeing your friend Erik strapped to a bomb is one of the game’s really jarring dark moments — he’s just a kid! These vamps don’t mess around, offering a decent boss fight that marks a turning point toward a more serious finale.
Jonathan Reid (Vampyr)
by Caitlin Argyros
Jonathan Reid’s promising career as a brilliant surgeon is abruptly ended when a mysterious vampire makes a meal of him upon his return to Spanish flu-ravaged London in 1918. While in the haze of transformation into a creature of the night himself, Reid accidentally feeds on someone important to him, and the tragic experience spurs him to search for a cure for his condition and the vampire who sired him. Things don’t go as expected, and Reid is forced to make a lot of tough decisions, mainly about whether to feed on all the delectable humans around him and turn London into a ghost town overrun by ghoulish beasts or to…you know…not do that. The decisions Reid makes determine whether Vampyr ends on a happy (or at least hopeful) note or a dark and dismal one, and you may find yourself surprised by which choices lead to which outcomes. Unintended consequences are sadly as much of a curse for Doctor Reid as his newfound thirst for blood
Asellus (SaGa Frontier)
by Audra Bowling
Asellus is the first half-human, half-Mystic in SaGa Frontier. For those not aware, Mystics are essentially vampires. They even sleep in coffins! Originally a human girl run over by a Mystic Lord’s carriage, Asellus was given a blood transfusion by the aforementioned lord. Due to her dual heritage, Asellus longed to leave the land of the Mystics and return to her original home, figuring out a way to escape with the help of the kind-hearted Mystic princess White Rose. Thanks to pursuers, her journey is fraught with danger, and she learns that much time has passed since her initial transformation. What is interesting about Asellus’ quest is that it is one of self-discovery: is she human, Mystic, or maybe a genuine combination of both peoples? The answer she comes to ultimately shapes the ending of her story. Though quite a bit of that narrative content was ultimately left on the cutting room floor, Asellus’ quest and search for identity remain standout examples of the potential in SaGa Frontier‘s creative storytelling approach.
Serana (The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard)
by Quinton O’Connor
Although vampires were already in Skyrim prior to the release of Dawnguard, it wasn’t until then that they really came into their own. Players who download Dawnguard will quickly recognize how to initiate its main questline because the realm’s various city guards, already infamous for repeating the same lines ad nauseam, will not shut up about an old fort near Riften. As for Serana, she’s the daughter of Dawnguard’s main antagonist, and her backstory is a real treat for Elder Scrolls lore nerds like myself. But what makes Serana stick out so much is her genuine depth. Serana has her darker moments, but all told, she’s a smart, savvy, and fairly friendly woman. She has a great deal to say about the world around her, and it’s not all tied to bloodthirst and ancient evils. Serana feels trapped by her birthright yet wishes to see her estranged (and terrifying) family together again. She enjoys the powers with which she has been gifted, but pry too much about her vampirism and she’ll behave aloof and defensive. Serana is a complex character in a game that some might argue is a bit lacking in that regard, and for that, I’ll always appreciate her.
Roselia (The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III)
by Audra Bowling
Roselia, sometimes known as Crimson Roselia, is the leader of the Hexen Clan of witches that Vita and Emma belong to. In fact, Roselia is often referred to as their grandmother. Her true origins are shrouded in mystery, though it is known that she is a True Ancestor to the vampires, she is connected with the Winged Searing Beast, and that she was greatly involved in the past War of the Lions. Interestingly enough, one of Roselia’s past adventures included helping the Septian Church eradicate her own vampiric bloodline, which became the basis for an incredibly popular novel in The Legend of Heroes: Trails… universe entitled Red Moon Rose. This fact seems to both amuse and exasperate Roselia greatly! She is incredibly powerful, even though her magical energy has been diminished due to past actions, and she now takes the form of a young girl. She aids Rean, Emma, and their comrades a great deal throughout the second half of the Erebonia Arc. I personally like the mystery surrounding Roselia, and her interactions with other characters are often either very interesting or telling.
Valery and Zachary N’Mar (Aravorn Series)
by Audra Bowling
Valery and Zachary N’Mar are a married vampire pair featured in the Castle of N’Mar DLC expansion for Loren the Amazon Princess, as well as its side-story prequel Tales of Aravorn: Cursed Lands. They’re so important that the “true” ending for Loren can be unlocked and a vampiric storyline quest can be opened up in Cursed Lands based on interactions with them. However, because both games are so heavily rooted in decision-making, the exact level of involvement Valery and Zachary have in the world can change based on your actions as well. You might not see them too much depending on where you go and what you do! Valery and Zachary definitely fit all of the “classic” vampire tropes, from their appearances right down to their demeanors. What always makes them stand out to me, though, is that they are a very happily married vampire couple still deliriously in love with one another no matter how much time has passed, which is a bit of a rarity in vampiric tales. I guess the couple that drinks blood together stays together?
O.D. (Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night)
by Alana Hagues
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is already an obvious homage to the Castlevania game that made Koji Igarashi’s name. But not content with just that, he included one very fun easter egg that Castlevania fans like myself adored. Hidden away in the Livre Ex Machina is a small library, curated by O.D. (Orlok Dracule), a familiar-looking character who allows Shardbinder Miriam to take out books which give her benefits. His in-game description calls him a vampire, but he’s so much more than that.
If his long, flowing cape and face framed by distinctive bangs aren’t a giveaway, then his voice definitely is. Voiced by Ryōtarō Okiayu and Robert Belgrade, the Japanese and English voice actors for Symphony of the Night‘s Alucard, O.D. is a very pointed reference to the famous dhampir. This is just a delightful callback to the game that arguably made thousands of people Iga fans and led them to back his Kickstarter in 2015. He’s also a secret boss in the game, which results in some hilarious dialogue if you can best the Original Dhampir.