Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

There’s been nearly 30 Castlevania games since the series debuted in Japan in 1986 and subsequently moved to the Nintendo a year later. Game quality has varied, but one aspect of the games has remained consistent: Those badass tunes. We did our own deep dive into the game’s signature musical style a few years ago, but YouTube channel 8-bit Music Theory is here with a more theory-based look.

Because what truly distinguishes the Castlevania soundtracks from their contemporaries is the creative, trailblazing ways they elevate the gothic, baroque setting and breathless action. The above video essay highlights how the composer’s built this sound by combining modern harmonic techniques and chord progressions with classical arrangements. Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Tocatta And Fugue In D Minor” serves as ground zero for the game’s sonic inspirations, with the movement’s instantly recognizable themes given a propulsive engine in the form of modern synth and guitar arrangements. Over the years, the classical influences would gain urgency and edge via the addition of rock, electronic, and metal accompaniments.


Watch the full video essay above, and mourn that they didn’t just recycle the game’s soundtracks for the TV series.

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Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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