23. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Even 25 years later, I’m still loath to give away Symphony’s big secret in case anyone reading is inspired to take up the mantle of Alucard for the first time. All I’ll say is that once you know what this game has up its sleeve, you will have even more appreciation for the game’s incredible design.
They completely reinvented Castlevania with this entry — mixing RPG elements with Super Metroid’s open exploration and the series’ hallmark gothic atmosphere. There’s a hefty amount of backtracking, but the player’s varied and evolving arsenal always keeps things interesting.
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