Death "The Grim Reaper"
If there is any other character aside from Dracula it would be Death. While Belmonts come and go, Death has been a constant presence in the series, showing up (arguably) in more games than even Dracula himself (in the main series, Death only misses out on three titles: The Castlevania Adventure, its direct sequel Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge, and the arcade spin-off of the series Haunted Castle). Death is indelible to the series at this point that it's more noticeable when he doesn't appear then when he does. "What, Death isn't in this game? How strange!"
Known in pop culture as "the Grim Reaper", traditionally Death is seen as an anthropomorphic figure, the shadowy skeleton cloaked in tatters who comes to collect the souls of the dead and usher them into the afterlife. In dark times, such as great famines or when plagues were spreading across the land, the figure of Death would be considered quite scary, sweeping across the land, scythe in hand, as he reaps whole fields of souls. But Death himself isn't normally viewed as evil: death is a natural occurrence and Death himself is simply a figure embodying that function.
In Castlevania, though, Death is very evil. He's the right-hand man of Dracula, a willing servant who battles the Belmonts (and other heroes) in an attempt to reap their souls early, sending them straight to Hell. Of course, in continuity, Death is never successful at this pursuit (which certainly shows that while Death might want to take an active hand, even he cannot resist the machinations of Fate). That doesn't prevent him from trying, time and again, a companion-coyote to Dracula's own Wile E.
Not that Castlevania is the only place to truly consider Death evil. As one of the four horsemen (joined by his pals War, Famine, and Pestilence, the three of which who have yet to show up in the Castlevania series), Death is supposed to bring on Armageddon, which has certainly put a pall over his perception among the masses. How can he be neutral if he wants to end everything? This has then gone on to color many other depictions of Death (most of them unfavorable), giving us the villain we know now.
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
While many characters in the series have detailed biographies, Death is a bit of an exception. Despite showing up in most of the games he really doesn't have much of a story; Death is Death and that's the long and the short of it. However, there are a few key games in the series that give Death a slightly larger role than simply, "show up in this room, act cool, then die." These specific moments are the ones we will highlight for Death biography. In all other instances, for any game we don't highlight here, assume Death is simply a boss without any dialogue, there to be disposed of before the hero moves on with their quest.
Death first appears in Castlevania: Lament of Innocence seemingly as an lieutenant to the (nominal) villain of the game, Walter Bernhard -- Benhard has one of the great vampiric treasures, the Ebony Stone, and Death agrees to serve him due to the power Walter has (granted him by the stone). In the end, though, it's revealed that Walter was duped and Death was just there to assist his real master, Matthias Cronqvist, a powerful vampire lord (who may or may not have gone on to become Dracula) who had designs on the Ebony Stone.
Matthias had a plan, long and detailed. In involved having Death infiltrate Walter's organization while, at the same time, sending Matthias's one-time friend, Leon Belmont, into Bernhard manor to fight the vampire. Leon and Walter would battle it out and then, at the right moment, Death would sweep in, claim the Ebony Stone for his dark lord, and then kill Leon in the process, clearing the table for Matthias to ascend. The only hitch was that, by the time Leon had fought his way up to Walter's throne room he was already powerful enough to take on Death in a fair fight... and win.
Death was able to slow the hero down enough so that his master could escape, but this wouldn't be the first time Death was defeated by the heroes of this series (and sent to whatever kind of waiting room Death has to go to between defeats and resurrections).
After the events of this game, Matthias would go off to do whatever it is he did -- either he defeated Dracula and claimed Dracula's name, title, and lands as his own, or he was defeated by Dracula and then Dracula stole both the Ebony and Crimson stones and became an even more powerful vampire lord in his own right. In either scenario (and Konami has never really clarified just what the hell is going on in the timeline, at least not to the satisfaction of the staff of The Inverted Dungeon, and this despite our constant letters of inquiry) Death would continue to serve the Dark Lord named Dracula, pledging to faithfully aid and protect this powerful vampire.
Part of the reason why Death may be so willing to aid Dracula is due to the Crimson Stone. It's implied that one of the many benefits of the stone is the allegiance of Death; if any vampire were to claim the stone as their own, Death would willingly bend the knee for them. If that's the case, it would go a long way towards explaining why Death, otherwise considered a neutral party in the affairs of man, would take such an active role in the Castlevania series.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Sometime, much later in the Chronology of the Series (and after Matthias became Dracula, and then was defeated time and again by multiple Belmonts), Death worked with Dracula on a plan to bring darkness and chaos to the lands of Wallachia, helping to ensure the return of the Dark Lord. Three years earlier (1496 AD), Dracula has been defeated by Trevor Belmont and sent to his dark grave. A curse Dracula has laid, though, meant that darkness and chaos would consume the surrounding lands until Dracula was resurrected. This sent Trevor off on a quest to try and prevent this, but Death also had his own part to play.
Under the guise of Zead, Death follow the travails of Hector, a man who once served Dracula as a Devil Forgemaster, before leaving the castle in disgust. While he might have lived away from the castle for years, Hector was sucked back into the affairs of Dracula when his co-worker, Isaac, shows up one day, kills Hector's wife, and then runs away laughing. On Hector's journey Zead (Death) offers assistance, seemingly a nice and friendly priest. Death's goal, though, was to ensure Hector went to the ruins of Dracula's castle because Hector, due to his magical abilities, would have made a wonderful new host for Dracula's demonic soul.
However, while Hector never suspected who Zead really was, another traveler absolutely knew. The traveler was Saint Germaine (who, himself, was secretly a time traveler because these games got increasingly silly over time), and when it seemed like Zead was beginning to have sway over Hector, Saint Germaine stepped in and battled Zead. Death was able to seal Saint Germaine's powers away, freezing the traveler in place like a statue, right up until Hector then battled Zead and broke the curse. Zead, hurt but not dead, fled promising future strife for the hero.
Later, once Hector had arrived at the castle finally, equipped for a battle with Issac to prevent the resurrection of Dracula, Death made his move. When Issac was defeated and nearly dead, Zead revealed his true nature: that he was Death, sent here by Dracula to use Hector as a host, but since Hector refused and there was a perfectly good, half-dead demon Forgemaster sitting around, Death used Issac as the host instead. Hector battled the newly-revealed Death, but it was too late to prevent Dracula's resurrection. Unfortunately for Death, despite all his plotting, and his eventually sacrifice to protect Dracula, the Dark Lord was still defeated once more, sending them both back to the drawing board to hatch yet another scheme.
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
It was decades (and several more Dracula defeats) later when Death came upon the newly resurrected Castle Dracula, which was curious because while he could sense the energy of the Dark Lord within the halls of the fortress, Death could not find his master. The Reaper searched the has extensively, but to no avail. It was only when Juste Belmont arrived at the castle that Death began to piece together what had happened. Day before, Juste's one-time friend (and then rival), Maxim Kischine, had gone in search of Dracula's body parts (to perform the quest that Simon Belmont had once undertaken in Castlevania II: Simon's Quest) so he could resurrect, and then destroy, the Dark Lord. Instead he'd only succeeded in raise the spirit of the vampire so Maxim could act as an unwilling host.
Knowing the true reason why the castle had returned, Death set about a plan to initiate Maxim's change into the Dark Lord, going so far as to kidnap the childhood friend of Maxim and Juste, Lydie Erlanger, to use as bait (and motivation). Death fully planned every detail, making sure the plan was just right... and then Juste showed up and defeated him, freeing Lydie and putting a kibosh on the whole operation. Soon after Juste managed to free Maxim from the curse and, of course, defeat Dracula, sending the spirit of the vampire back to his grave once more.
The story of Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance is tied in directly to the adventure of Juste's grandfather, Simon. The only reason we don't cover it more extensively here (or any of Simon's other adventures, for that matter) is because in the grand scheme Death isn't much of a factor in this stories. Yes, he's a boss but he has neither dialogue nor story, so while Simon's Quest is important background for Harmony, the NES sequel is but a footnote in Death's life.
44 years later, Dracula's power was once again on the rise and Death feared what would happen if yet another vampire hunter were to show up at the castle. While Shaft and Dracula plotted and schemed ways to make the newest Belmont, Richter, suffer, Death took a much more direct route. As Richter traveled via stagecoach towards the town of Aljiba (which was on the outskirts of Dracula's lands), Death attacked, putting Richter to the test to see if the vampire hunter was powerful enough to prove a real threat to the Dark Lord. And, sure enough, Richter easily deflected Death's attacks, proving to be every bit the Belmont foe Death was worried about.
Promising that they'd soon have a real encounter, Death flew away, ready to prepare for their next battle. A few hours later Richter arrived at the place Death arranged for their big battle, a ghost ship Richter was forced to traverse to gain access to Dracula's castle. There Death threw everything he had at Richter but, like the other Belmont before, Richter proved more capable than even Death suspected, defeating the Grim Reaper before heading deeper into the castle to destroy Dracula, too.
Death really doesn't have much story in this game, to be honest. Were it not for the opening cut-scene where Death attacks the horse-bounce Richter, we wouldn't have even covered this title. But Death has dialogue here so we're forced to add Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood to Death's biography.
Five years after Dracula's last defeat, the castle was once again whole, sitting atop the Borgo Pass. However, while Richter should have once again arrived on the scene to stop whatever was going on, the Belmont was nowhere to be found. Sensing an imbalance in the energies of good and evil, Alucard (Dracula's wayward son and ally of the distant Belmont ancestor, Trevor) came to the castle to put right whatever was happening. But although the vampire came to the castle well equipped, Death had other plans. Sensing the building power within Alucard, Death stole all of Alucard's equipment, hiding the gear around Dracula's castle so that the son wouldn't have a fighting chance.
It was a sound plan and it should have worked, he thought to himself when a very-much-not-dead Alucard showed up in Death's lair and resoundingly beat the snot out of the Grim Reaper, handing the Taker of Souls yet another stinging defeat. All Death could do was watch from the sidelines as, once again, Dracula was defeated by a hero Death had failed to stop.
As with Dracula X, it's arguable that Death really doesn't do much in this game. Yes, he's the catalyst that causes Alucard to have to go gear hunting throughout the castle, but beyond being a catty jerk in this opening scene, Death is just another boss in the late game of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
When the castle once more appears atop the Borgo Pass, Death arrives, confused as he is once more unable to find his master anywhere in the castle. When two heroes, Johnathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin, arrive at the castle they encounter Death, but instead of fighting he just talks. He learns from them about Brauner, a new vampire lord who has made a claim on Dracula's castle and its power. Death, unwilling to serve any other vampire than Dracula, initially seems interested in an alliance to defeat Brauner (obviously, though, so he can then resurrect the Dark Lord after), but Johnathan and Charlotte reject that offer.
Later, the two heroes encounter Death again and, this time, he willingly fights them, annoyed that they keep getting in his way. The battle is rough, but instead of killing the heroes (or being killed in return) Death flees when his energy is depleted, promising the heroes that there is still a more important task for them to handle in Death's grand scheme.
That task is the defeat of Brauner, a fight they eventually manage, killing the vampire lord. It's at this moment, of course, that Death strikes, using Brauner's death as a catalyst to resurrect the Dark Lord. When the heroes pursue the find Dracula and Death in the same room and the heroes are forced to go toe-to-toe with both villains at the same time. And then, once the villains are weakened, they team together, creating an even more powerful beast for the heroes to fight. Still, though, the heroes do manage to defeat the combined might of Dracula and Death and save the day while our two villains were once more cast into the hellish ether.
This game is notable for the fact that this is only the second time (after Lament of Innocence) where Death is (part of) the end boss. It's a pretty cool fight, made more interesting by both villains working together.
Technically there are two Reapers in Castlevania: Judgment -- one is the Death who serves as Dracula's right-hand man while the other is the Time Reaper, a being who looks a lot like Death but serves as a lieutenant to Dracula's biggest adversary, Galamoth. At least it is presumed that they are two different beings but, considering the fact that the Time Reaper comes for 10,000 years in the future, its just as possible that the Time Reaper is a future version of Death, one that has switched sides to serve Galamoth.
However the two come to exist, Galamoth sends his Reaper back in time to destroy not only Dracula but the entire time period of Dracula's existence. It's a mad plan to wipe away Galamoth's foe and remake the future where the Lizard King rules everything. However, before the Time Reaper can carry out the mission, the time traveler Aeon sucks the Time Reaper, Dracula, and a bunch of heroes and villains into a time rift so they can all battle it out. The hope is that the last person standing will have the power to defeat the Time Reaper and save the day. And, among those fighting for Dracula was Death, ready to put it all on the line to save his master.
In the end the fighters did prove victorious, defeating the Time Reaper and sending his soul back into the timeless void. Death then just had to wonder if, one day, that might have been him...
Lords of Shadows History:
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows
Zobek was original one of the three founding members of the Brotherhood of Light, warriors that fought to protect the realm from monsters and bring peace to the land. When each of these founding members had done all the good they could on Earth their souls ascended to Heaven. Unfortunately their bodies were left behind as demonic forces took them over, twisting each of the Brotherhood's leaders into twisted, evil versions of their former selves. Zobek's evil version became the Lord of the Necromancers, a sorcerer of great power. And it was this evil Zobek that set all of the game's plot into motion.
Each of the Lords of Shadow were powerful, but Zobek needed to be the most powerful of them all. But he couldn't just attack them on his own, he had to find a way to eliminate them on the sly (so they didn't think he was behind the attacks) so that, when they were dead, Zobek could absorb their power and truly rule of the Earth. And he found the perfect patsy for his plan in Gabriel Belmont, elite warrior for the Brotherhood of Light. While Gabriel was on a quest, Zobek used an evil artifact, the Devil Mask, to mind control Gabriel, forcing the warrior to kill his wife, Marie, without the Belmont even realizing what had happened. Gabriel then came home later only to find his wife dead, driving him mad with grief and setting him on a quest to avenge her.
Zobek then cast a spell that split Heaven from Earth, causing the world of Man to become a darker place, more and more evil with each passing day. Zobek's original soul, Good Zobek if you will, contacted the Brotherhood so they could send an agent to find out what happened and how to fix it, and this was just what Evil Zobek wanted. When Gabriel became the chosen warrior, Evil Zobek acted as his ally, guiding his path and directing his actions (as a friend, of course). As Gabriel went on his quest, killing each of the Lords of Shadow so he could rebuild a second artifact, the God Mask, and use it to bridge Heaven and Earth once more, Zobek was there, pulling the strings behind the scenes.
When, finally, Gabriel came upon the supposed third lord, the Necromancer, Zobek made his move. Once Gabriel defeated the Necromancer, Zobek attacked, revealing himself to be the true Lord of the Necromancers. He savagely defeated Gabriel and, as he was standing over the Belmont's body, the live draining from the hero, Zobek finished the God Mask, ready to become the most powerful being on the planet.
However, there was one more twist for all the parties involved, as it was revealed at that moment that someone had been pulling his strings: Satan. Apparently the reason why Zobek had all his power and knew all about the God Mask and how he could use it to ascend as the true Lord of Shadow was because Satan had been speaking in his mind, guiding his actions. Now that the God Mask had been rebuilt, Satan was finished with Zobek and he cast him aside, burning the body and sending the soul of the evil Lord to Hell. And yet, somehow Zobek was able to escape this fate as, centuries later, he would appear once more...
While Death, as in the Grim Reaper, doesn't appear in the Lords of Shadow series, it is generally agreed upon that Zobek, Lord of the Dead, is this sub-series' version of the Reaper. Each of the other leaders of the Brotherhood of Light were based on characters from the original Castlevania series -- Cornell and Carmilla -- so it stands to reason that the third major player in the order would also be a key figure from the original series.
Plus, remember that when Death disguised himself in Curse of Darkness, he did so as "Zead". Both Zead and Zobek start with a "Z", which seems like another minor connection. Of course, in the direct sequel, the connection between Zobek and Death is made more explicit.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
Zobek doesn't directly appear in the midquel between the main games, Mirror of Fate, but one of his minions does. A new Necromancer attacks Trevor Belmont in an attempt to steal that hero's Combat Cross (his whip), with the promise from Zobek that he'd regain his soul he he captured the hero's prized weapon. Naturally, though, the Necromancer failed.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadows 2
Centuries after their last encounter, Zobek once more appears to Gabriel. After Satan intervened, Gabriel battled the lord of Hell, regaining some kind of life but becoming a vampire in the process (seriously, these games have so many weird twists in them). Calling himself "Dracula", this version of Gabriel had been lurking in the shadows all this time, yearning for a death that could never come. When the two meet once more, Zobek promises that he can give Dracula the ending the vampire craves, but Drac is distrustful and, after a tussle, he disappears into the night, leaving Zobek to plot and scheme alone.
When the forces of Satan come for Dracula, one of Zobek's lieutenants saves the weakened vampire, taking him to the home of a random family so the vampire can feed on all of them. Zobek arrives afterward and convinces the vampire to aid him in combating the rise of Satan once more. Dracula agrees, setting in motion the quest for this second game.
The plan is for Dracula to head to three locations around the city where he will then find, and kill, three acolytes of Satan. With them dead, Satan won't have the power to return. Zobek kept an eye on the vampire, aiding him as he could and giving advise as the quest turned difficult. However, upon finding the third acolyte, Zobek soon realized the full truth. Much like how he had been played in the previous game, once again someone else was pulling his strings: Alucard (the vampiric form of Trevor, Gabriel's son), who had been hiding as Zobek's lieutenant this whole time. Alucard's plan required resurrection and revitalizing Dracula so the two, combined, could take on Zobek and Satan and kill them both.
Realizing the betrayal, Zobek revealed his true form, taking on the aspect of Death. However, despite all his power and magic, Zobek/Death was no match for the might of Dracula. Beaten down and defeated, Zobek regained his human form once more. Face to face with Dracula, he tried one last time to fight the vampire off, but Dracula stabbed the man, freezing the body and shattering it into a thousand piece. Dracula had finally gained that while he truly desired: the death of the man that had been behind the murder of Gabriel's wife, Marie.
Castlevania Netflix History:
Although not referenced in the previous seasons of the show, the Grim Reaper (or, simply, Death) becomes the major villain of the fourth season of the show. The first reference we see to the character is in the opening scenes of the season. We watch as companions Trevor and Sypha venture across the countryside, slapping down one Cult of Dracula after another. One group apparently worshiped the ancient myth of Death, wanting to see darkness and blood spilled across the world. Death only appears here as a totem, a statue on an altar, but as we (the viewers) learn later, that was an omen of things to come.
The next major appearance of Death isn't even an obvious one. The magician Saint Germain had been wandering the Infinite Corridor (after the events of season three), looking for a lover he'd lost in this endless, dimensional space. Instead of finding her, though, he met up with a strange wise woman, the Alchemist. This woman told Saint Germain that he could gain the power to break through deeper into the corridor, to find his lost love where she had traveled next, but to do so would require him to throw off the morals and constraints that bound him. He had to tap into darker magics and only then would he have the power, and the means, to find his lost love.
Saint Germain leaves the Corridor and sets to work finding the magic, and means, to do as he was told. This puts him in touch with a cabal of like-minded folks, ones seeking the power to break through into the Infinite Corridor and break through to its deepest levels. These followers of Dracula -- the Devil Forgemaster Hector and the a vampire named Varney -- want to bring back the Dark Prince, and while that wasn't something Saint Germain was necessarily interested in, he did agree to their plan as a means to an end for his own desires. So he got to work on a plan.
Varney, it should be noted, wasn't really a vampire (or, at least, not the traditional kind of vampire we think of). Although that was his guise, in reality he was Death, an ancient vampire that fed on pain, misery, and the ruination of souls. Under the guise of Varney he'd been lurking around Targoviste, a city destroyed by Dracula's Night Creatures, sent there by Dracula (under his Varney guise) to kill off the rest of the humans in the city. Joined by the warrior vampire Ratko, another vampire sent to the city by Dracula, they caused carnage and strife for weeks, even after Dracula's defeat. It came as something of a surprise when Trevor and Sypha arrived in the city, but Varney simply saw it as a means to an end. He could use them as a distraction to get a treasure he wanted when the time was right.
Deep under the city of Targoviste existed a magical mirror (a few of these devices had been glimpsed in the series before this point), and with the mirror he could quickly transport over to the rest of the followers of Dracula once the ceremony was ready. He just needed to find this underground chamber, which was also the secret hiding place of the royal resistance in the city, and eventually Trevor and Sypha were taken to this chamber, which allowed Varney and Ratko to follow. While Ratko (and other Night Creature minions) fought the heroes, Varney snuck through the underground chambers until he finally found the mirror. He used this to warp over to the ruins of Castle Dracula as the dark ceremony to resurrect Dracula had begun.
While Varney had been occupied in Targoviste the rest of the team had been hard at work. They'd taken a contingent of Night Creatures and attacked the town of Danesti. This had lured a hero over to protect the town, Dracula's son Alucard (a the behest of town leader Greta). Seeing the carnage coming to the town, Alucard (reluctantly) agreed to take the townspeople back to his home at the ruins of Castle Dracula. This was all according to plan as Castle Dracula was also the site where Dracula was defeated, and these poor townspeople were unknowingly the last ingredient needed for the dark spell that was in the works.
As we saw when Saint Germain arrived on the scene, the dark ritual had to happen as the spot where Dracula died, in the exact chamber of the castle, and it needed a lot of souls to fuel the ritual (souls that would be collected and then burned to open the portal into the Infinite Corridor). So the Night Creatures launched an assault on the castle, breaking through its defenses and steadily killing off the townspeople. Meanwhile, Saint Germain floated to the top chambers, found where Dracula died, and set about his ritual. He set up a barrier preventing heroes from stopping the spell, and then set about tapping into the souls of the recently deceased to he could tear open a portal into the corridors.
As Alucard and Greta fought valiantly, saving the lives they could, the dark magics built up. This was the signal for Varney who used the mirror to launch himself into the chamber where the spell was being cast. Trevor and Sypha weren't far behind, using the mirror to join the fray and help their friend, Alucard, in the battle against the main force of Night Creatures. They were able to fend off the army and seal save the rest of the townspeople, but, sadly, they were too late to stop the incantation. The dark ritual had begun, as they quickly sensed, and enough souls had been collected to breakthrough into the corridor
As they fought their way up into the castle, they soon found themselves at the barrier into the final chamber. There they witnessed the true darkness of the ritual as the spell wasn't just to open a doorway for Dracula to escape but to pull both Dracula and his wife, Lisa, out of Hell and fuse their souls into a single body, a rebis. This would lead the souls to tear and rend at each other, causing pain to both and driving them mad. This madness would then fuel Dracula, causing him to unleash a new reign of terror, killing everyone and everything. Why? Because Death wanted to feed and feed well.
Revealing his true form, Death cackled madly at the delights about to be unleashed. His plan, though, hinged on Saint Germain and, realizing the true horror of what he'd done, the magician pulled back on the spell. Although Dracula and Lisa had been pulled into the rebis, suddenly the magic sustaining it went away, tearing the rebis apart and flinging the souls away. The ritual had been ruined and with it went Death's plans.
Enraged, Death lashed out. The town shattered, leaving only Trevor, Saint Germain, and the one true Death in the room above while the rest of the heroes were far below, only able to watch. Knowing that this evil, ancient vampire had to be destroyed, Trevor launched himself at the demon, leading to a long and furious battle. Hero against vampire the two raged, even though it seemed like Trevor was outmatched. Pulling on every ounce of his being, Trevor gave his assault one last attack, throwing himself at the demon for a blow that sure was mutually assured destruction for hero and vampire alike.
And it did seem like that was the case as the final blow unleashed such a blast of holy light that is seemingly took out Trevor while very much killing Death. But Saint Germain, who he been mortally wounded in the whole affair, used the last of his power to save Trevor and transport the hero away from the battle. Saint Germain knew, as he lay dying, that Death was truly gone and, as well, that the magician had done one last good deed to maybe balance out all the evil he'd wrought.
Other Versions of Death:
Although he's not a main character in any capacity, Death does cameo in the Kid Dracula games, appearing on the password screen to cheer on the resurrection of the Dark Lord.
And then, of course, Konami has used Death in other games far outside the Castlevania continuity, such as the vertical shoot game Knightmare for the MSX, and has been alluded to in games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid V.
Fighting Against Death:
Death's fight in the very first game of the series, Castlevania can either be incredibly difficult or stupidly easy. Death will swoop in from the upper right and takes swipes at the hero with his scythe while, at the same time, summoning sickles randomly around the room that will home in on the players position. Dodging all those attacks while dealing enough damage can be super challenging. Or you can come into the fight with holy water, throw it at the brick right below where Death first appears, and stun lock him with constant throws of water until he dies. Easy or hard, your call.
In the "enhanced" remake of the first game, Vampire Killer, the battle can't be so easily avoided since Death doesn't come down right over a block. Thankfully, Death feels much less aggressive in this game, simply bouncing around the room while a far smaller amount of sickles appear to fly at the hero. A solid strategy is to come in with the stop watch and freeze Death each time he gets close (since Death can be frozen with the watch in this game) and then beat him down quickly.
Death doesn't improve much in his battle intelligence by the time we got to Castlevania II: Simon's Quest. Here he'll appear in the center of his chamber and then slowly, ever s slowly move towards the player while throwing sickles at them. As with the first game just stun-lock the boss (with fire instead of holy water) and Death will go down like a chump.
For the third game, Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, Death at least tries to be a little more difficult. In his first phase he'll appear in the middle of the room and float up and down while sets of sickles appear and flay at the hero. Once this form is defeated, Death finally gets a second phase; here he becomes a giant skull and floats around the room, attacking the hero. However, in this form he's also easy to stun-lock; once he's near the floor, just chuck some water at him and the explosions will melt off his health.
Death is actually getting easier at this point. For Super Castlevania IV Death only has one form. He'll appear near the top of the screen and chuck sickles at the hero, which will then boomerang back and forth. He'll also throw his scythe in a big swooping pattern, but honestly you don't have to worry about it. You can go aggressive and get in Death's face attacking him before he even throws his scythe, melting off his health. Or you can play conservative, duck and hide near the floor, whipping when he's above you and then holding up your whip to act as a shield when the sickles come out. This is such an easy fight.
The heroes will see Death twice in Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood. In the first instance, it's really just a taste of what's to come; Death will throw out two attacks, a slash with his scythe and then a fiery skull, and you just have to deflect both of these to progress. It's not until the Ghost ship that the hero has to really face Death; here the boss will have to forms to defeat, each of which can prove halfway deadly (especially if you're playing as Richter Belmont and not Maria Renard). Death will start out floating around the room, summoning his usual sickles. Each time he gets damaged he'll fly back before swooping in again. After you damage him enough he'll fly back and shoot skulls at the screen before transforming into a ground-based form. Here he'll walk forwards and slash at the player. Honestly, though, bring Maria in all Death will just melt. (Note: this fight is reused verbatim in The Dracula X Chronicles.)
The Death fight in Castlevania Bloodlines is the first to be really difficult, and that's because before you can even really fight Death himself you first have to get through a boss rush. Death will summon six Tarot cards and three will summon a different boss for the hero to fight: the Clockwork Golem, the Wyvern, and the Mud Cyclops, all bosses from earlier in the game. Two of the cards, instead bringing out a boss, will cause Death to shoot a fireball at the hero, while one card, happily, will drop a ton of meat to heal up the hero. Really, it's similar in construction to the boss rush fight with Shaft in Rondo.
Once you're through this opening phase, things actually get easier. Death is in his usual form at this point, throwing out sickles that will zoom at the player while also diving bombing the player with his scythe. he can also throw the scythe in a long, swooping arc while the player is sucked towards the boss. And, if you don't use sub-weapons, he does all this while staying out of range of attack for most of the fight. It's annoying, and worse, there's two more boss fights after this in the level to finish out the game.
The fight with Death in Castlevania: Dracula X is borrowed more or less whole cloth from Rondo (just without Maria as backup). Death will swoop around, summoning homing sickles while bouncing back each time he takes damage. Once enough of his health has been blasted off, he'll hit the ground and stalk towards the hero, something jumping up to do a spinning blade of death attack. So long as you have an axe, though, this Death really can't touch you for the most part.
Death goes through his usual motions in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night; he summons homing sickles while floating around, and then he can shoot out two death fire orbs towards the player. Except it's doubtful if you'll see that attack much because by this point in the game Alucard is a walking death machine and he'll absolutely melt the health off Death. Then the Grim Reaper will transform for his second phase, becoming a kind of Bone seahorse (seriously, that's the best description). Here he'll float towards the hero and throw out his sickle-hands in a boomerang fashion. He still dies easily, though, so don't worry too much. Like all SotN bosses, Death is laughably easy.
And he's still way too easy in Castlevania: Legends. Here he looks like a ninja, bouncing back and forth across the room, throwing bouncing sickles. He very well could use his scythe as an attack, but if this fight takes long enough for you to get there you're doing something wrong.
Death battles Reinhardt Schneider in Castlevania for the Nintendo 64. He actually gets a little dialogue cut-scene at the start of the fight (although not enough to consider this a story for Death, thus why it's not included in his main bio), and then the fight begins. Although the fight is set in a circular arena, the essentials are still the same: Death will float around, summoning homing sickles and, occasionally, throwing out his scythe at the hero. He can also swoop down, casting a lightning bolt around himself, and then swoop back up. Despite the fancy moves, Death doesn't have much defense and can be defeated really quickly.
Seeing as it went so well for him the last time, Death again employs the Symphony of the Night playbook for Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. He'll float back and forth, summoning sickles, and then occasionally shoot out his green death orbs at the hero. A new trick he adds is that he'll shoot out spears in six directions that the hero has to dodge away from. Once damaged enough he transforms, getting an even goofier second form than the Death Seahorse: the Death Beetle. Now he crawls along the ground, hacking away with his sickle-hands. With the right gear and cards, though, Death really isn't that bad at all.
Returning to his old tricks for Castlevania Chronicles, this Death is decidedly less complicated. He'll simply fly around, summoning sickles and occasionally throwing his scythe. The fight, though, should go by quick as Death really doesn't have much to throw at the player.
Death tries to get a little tricky for Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance; along with his usual sickles he also can dive at the play, slashing at them with his scythe. Watch out because you can easily get pinned by Death here if you're too close to a wall, and then you'll be the one soaking up hit after hit. Once damaged enough Death then becomes a Death Worm (still with sickle hands for some reason), whereupon he will crawl around the room. His weak point here is his head, so if you have to, jump on back of the worm to get an easy angle on the head to layer on the damage.
Death returns in Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, but for the opening act he remains in a ghostly form; it's his scythe that's the weak point, not Death himself, and it will fly around attacking you. Once you destroy the scythe, Death will become corporeal and summon a new scythe; now you can attack him directly. Deal all the damage you can while dodging his swooping slides along the ground, and the ways he can throw his scythe -- in an around the room journey, or back and forth quickly in one direction. It's a long fight but not the most difficult one.
For Castlevania: Lament of Innocence Death finally does something really different (and he gets to be the last boss of the game, as well). He'll stay at the edge of the arena, slowly moving around the rim, while throwing his scythe at the player. he can also slash and claw at the hero as well, and summon fiery skulls into the arena that will fly at the hero and explode. Then he has a big move where he'll throw a giant explosion at the center of the area to deal massive damage. Once you kill the first of his two health bars, he'll also add on Deadly Tempest, which will call forth fireballs that will drop from the sky, randomly, onto the arena. Due to all the attacks to dodge, and then amount of damage he can deal, this Death is easily one of the most difficult in the series.
Death continues to evolve in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Here he'll act like the normal death, swooping around while throwing his scythe. If you attack the scythe, though, it will explode into a circle of sickles that will fly outward. He'll also summon copies of himself that will then slash at the ground at all once (leaving little gaps between for the hero to dodge). Damaged enough, Death then transforms into a more classic style, summons sickles while throwing his scythe our in big, swooping arcs. He'll also throw out fireballs back and forth which will fly to the edges of the screen before coming back in towards the player as giant flaming skulls that will try to bite the player before fading away. It's a long fight, but really not that complicated of a battle.
For Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Death takes a more stationary position. You'll have to run up to him, and then doge his attacks. At the start he'll alternate between slashing with his scythe or setting it on fire and throwing it in an arc around the arena. Take out his first health bar and Death will start throwing out a hail of sickles as well, and he can throw down a huge explosion that will fill the nearby arena. He can also summon forth a sequence of fire pillars that will appear where the hero is standing, so constant dodging is needed for this attack.
Death starts combining all his skills in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. While he's cloaked in purple he'll summon sickles, of course, but combine it with diving low to the ground and slashing at the hero and also going high and vertically slashing down, too. Then hell summon a frame of chains around the arena that will rotate slowly while his scythe flies around inside. If Death turns white he will use the portals from the corners of the chain box to summon chain-hands that will grab at the hero. If the hero gets grabbed, their partner will have to deal enough damage to the chains to break them out, lest Death deal a massive blow to the bound hero. And he can still summon sickles and take slashes at the heroes. Note that only Charlotte Aulin can damage Death when he's purple and only Johnathan Morris can damage him when he's white.
Death returns later in the game for the fight with Dracula. Drac himself is bog-standard at this point, teleporting around the room, throwing out fireballs and hellfire. Sometimes he can do a dash attack at the player, flying at them in a cloud of bats. He'd be simple on his own, but the twist is that Death is in the battle as well, dive bombing the hero and, occasionally, splitting into copies that all vertically attack together. Deal enough damage and they'll go into their "limit break" mode, with Death throwing out waves of scythes and Dracula scattering hellfire everywhere. Dodging this part of the battle can be quite difficult. Finally, Death and Dracula will merge into a single beast, which will fly around, pounding the ground where you stand. it can also summon waves of falling fireballs, as well as Death's scythe that it will throw around the room (down, slight angle-up, and steep angle-up). At times, too, the demon can stand in the middle of the room and send its wings out the edges, where they'll wrap across and try and grab the hero from both sides.
The Death fight in Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is a joke. He'll try his usual tricks -- swooping, summoning random sickles, throwing a bunch of them in a pack at the player. But he has almost no defense for how late he appears in the game and Shanoa can just completely destroy him before he gets a chance to do anything interesting. Yawn.
Although Death didn't appear in the original Adventure games, he shows up in The Castlevania Adventure Rebirth. Here, Death will summon sickles that will slowly fly out from the top of the screen before coming in at the sides to swoop at the hero. He can also dash to one side of the screen and shoot his scythe out from the side where it will slash halfway across the screen before slowly dragging back. Then he can split in two, covering each side of the area, shooting out sickle after sickle. When he has his scythe in hand he can slash the screen, laying a laser-like attack across a single complete horizontal line that the player will have to jump and dodge. And he can summon a shield-like ring of scythe heads that will slowly rotate around him as he moves around the room. In short, this Death has a whole ton of fancy tricks to use, making him pretty damn hard to defeat.
Death gets fancy, too, in Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. He'll summon a whole bunch of sickles to home in on the hero(es), take diving slashes, and call forth larger sickles that he will shoot out in an arc pattern. he can even bring forth fireballs to shoot at the hero(es). Bear in mind, too, that this game has two difficulty levels and while it might seem like the boss melts in his first go round, on Hard Death can dish it out enough that you might have serious trouble clearing this fight.
Assuming you can find a way to play Castlevania: The Arcade, you'll find Death as the first boss of the game, just outside the castle proper. He'll fly around, attempting to get in close and slash with his scythe, but if you pummel him with slashes across his body you can deflect his attacks. He'll then summon zombies to fight you which you'll need to take out quickly before Death attacks you from behind. He'll also fly off and around in and arc, shoot dark fire orbs at you that you'll need to attack (if you're good at aim, shooting them will do the trick) before they damage you. Just layer on enough damage and Death will fly off, throwing his scythe at you for one last powerful attack to dodge, all before giving up the ghost and fading away.
Finally, Death/Zobek gets a spiffy chain-bone-scythe for his big battle, and he can do fancy and complicate scythe slashes with it, so the hero will have to keep on their toes to see how he's throwing it so they can best dodge all his slashes. Thankfully most of the attacks are telegraphed, so you should be able to learn them. Zobek can also call forth a lightning column that will slowly travel towards Dracula, adding one more thing to avoid in the battle. Damage him enough and Zobek will call forth skeletons that will have to be defeated before you can get back to fighting Zobek. Although Zobek has two health bars for this fight, he doesn't seem to do anything new between the fights -- the health bars seem more of an indication of when he'll summon his minions. However, when near death Zobek will turn into his human form and summon a shield wall of scythe chains. Dracula will have to shadow dodge into the center of the mass to be able to kill Zobek finally before he regains any health (otherwise the fight will resume again).
Playing as Death:
Death is a powerful fighter in Castlevania: Judgment so long as you use him up close or very far away. He can throw sickles out from a great range, and they deal solid damage. Or he can come in close and slash away with his weapons, and that also deals great damage. He just doesn't have much of a mid-range ground game, making him a tough fighter if your opponent is good at dodging away from attacks.
Death in Popular Culture:
The Grim Reaper is a being that has existed in popular culture since before there was popular culture, a figure of great significance in many religions. That, of course, means that Death has been featured in popular media almost as much as any other character in history. Despite this, though, it's much harder to find movies where Death is a main character in the film -- usually the personification of Death appears as a specter, someone to taunt the heroes or act as a malevolent force chasing them. Films like the Final Destination series, The Frighteners, and The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen take this angle for the character.
Death Takes a Holiday is one of the few films to feature Death in a lead role (it was later remade as Meet Joe Black). In the film, Death decides to live among mortals for a short time to learn why they fear him some. In the process, though, he finds love and has to decide if he wants to live among the mortals or leave so his lover can live instead.
Of course one of the sillier, and more famous, roles for Death was in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey. The two titular heroes end up in Hell (attacked by evil robotic versions of themselves), and they have to challenge Death to a game so they can escape. And then, after winning six or so games in a row, Death finally agrees to aid them (and, by the end of the movie, joins their band). Reportedly Death will be back for the third film in the series.
Outside of just movies there's also the Discworld series (covered extensively over on Asteroid G). Death often appears ion that series, usually as a side character observing humans and transporting them to their afterlife when they die. Occasionally, though, he has been the focus of the novels, having his own adventures (sometimes joined by his granddaughter, Susan, in the process). This version of Death is so popular that, for many fans of the series, he's become the de facto Death (for instance, this version of the character has been a big influence upon the Death that appears in CVRPG).