Medusa is an interesting case for the series. Although she's one of the most prolific bosses in the series, showing up in over half the games (and that doesn't even count the floating Medusa heads that show up even more frequently), she hasn't ever really had any plot based around her character. While many of of the beast that serve as officers in the army of Dracula eventually gain leads roles in the story, having some plot device attached to them in some form or another, Medusa has remained enigmatic, with little in the way of story attached to her character.
Some of this may be due to the mythological origins for the character. As one of three gorgons -- Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale -- these beasts, with hair of snakes, were so hideous to look upon that men would turn to stone at a glance. Although the other two sisters were immortal, Medusa was not and, when the demigod Perseus came to her island as part of one of his trials, she was defeated by having her gaze turned back at her (with the mirror-like surface of a shield) before finally being beheaded. Her story, therefore, is rather simple without much to add in the way of depth or shading. And considering she had two modes: turning men to stone, and not turning them to stone, there wouldn't seem to be much that could be done with her character.
That said, the myths do go on to influence her depictions in the Castlevania series. Her head of snake-hair often results it smaller snakes dropping from the boss, skittering across the floor, while she often has the ability to turn the heroes to stone, for a brief time, much like her depiction in the tales. Plus, due to her beheading, more than once she has appeared as a floating head in her boss form (plus, of course, the smaller Medusa heads that are a constant annoyance throughout the series).
Still, one would have hoped for a boss that had shown up as often as Medusa she would have gotten a larger part in the story. It wasn't until Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 where she became a major force in any plot line. There she is joined by her two sisters and the three act as possessed guardians of one of Dracula's sought after powers to aid him in his journey. Sadly, like in the rest o the series, the gorgon sisters have to die here as well for Dracula to continue his quest.
Although Medusa has shown up in multiple games in the series, there are only two instances of any note where the character is featured as more than simply an area guard for the heroes to defeat:
Castlevania: Lament of Innocence
Hero Leon Belmont, deep on his quest into the castle of Walter Bernhard, stumbled into the Garden Forgotten by Time. There he saw a statue garden filled with depictions of warriors, while the back of the garden was dominated by a hideous statue, a woman with a fanged head and snakes for hair. Suddenly, the statue came to life, with the hideous head welcoming the hero to the garden. The head detached itself, floating forward, revealing herself to be that of Medusa, the gorgon that turned men to stone. She liked the look of Leon and prized him as a new statue for her collection. That was when Leon realized that all the statues in the garden were past heroes fallen under the gaze of the gorgon.
Taking up his whip, the hero battled against Medusa so he could stay alive and complete his quest to defeat Walter and save the soul of his beloved, Sara Trantoul. As the the two, Medusa and Leon, fought, the battle grew rough, but it was Leon in the end that won the day. Medusa, as she died, remarked that the whip Leon was carrying (a weapon he'd acquired from the alchemist Rinaldo Gandolfi) seemed so much more powerful in this hero's hands. She wondered if somehow he'd been able to unlock the weapon's true power (a detail Leon knew nothing about). Then she died, once more returns to her stone-like death.
As has been remarked upon by the team developing Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, Medusa's appearance in this game was meant as a direct allusion to her appearance in the original Castlevania where she was shown as just her floating head. Although many games would give her a full body, this game had her as just a floating head.
Lords of Shadow History:
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
In the past the three sisters -- Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale -- were three of the most beautiful among the Old Gods of the ancient city of Agharta (the ruins of which were glimpsed in the first game in this sub-series, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow). However, when the city fell due to the attacks by the creatures of darkness, the three sisters fled to ground, finding a new lair within which to live deep under the soil. This fall from grace, though, left them twisted and ugly, shadows of their former selves.
Eventually, as Dracula (formerly Gabriel Belmont) rose to power, these three sisters pledged their fealty to him, serving him from their underground lair. The centuries passed, though, and Dracula was plunged into seemingly eternal slumber. At some point a corruption grew while Dracula was away, a sickness of blood that seeped through every crack of Dracula's former lands. Although the sisters fought off the corruption for time, one of their number, Medusa, eventually succumbed, suddenly getting even more twisted by the evil of the tainted blood.
Dracula's rest, though, wasn't eternal as he was eventually awoke by a former enemy, Zobek. This one-time foe needed Dracula's assistance to defeating a real threat to the world, Satan, lord of Hell. Dracula had been weakened during his time of slumber so he had to go out and regain his powers, and that put him on a collision course with the gorgon sisters deep in their underground lair.
Exploring deep under his former castle, Dracula first encountered Stheno and Euryale, each of which warned him of the dangers deep in the castle. They also informed him that it was their sister, Medusa, who had one of the relics he was looking for, the Chaos Claws, melee weapons on pure darkness and shadow. When Dracula finally tracked his way into the central chamber of the lair of the gorgons, he was confronted by Medusa who brought in her two sisters. Together they joined, as they had in times before, but the corruption in Medusa's blood twisted the other two and the three became a hideous, snake-like beast with eyes only for the death of their former dark lord.
Dracula was forced to fight his former allies, defeating each of their three twisted heads in turn before he was able to finish off the corrupted beast. Upon defeat the three sisters turned to stone, a hideous statue that would lay dormant in their lair for the rest of eternity. Dracula reclaimed his claws but at what price? And would he have to pay this kind of price, again and again, as he continued his quest to defeat Satan?
This game marks the first, and so far only, time that Medusa has ever shown up in the series with her sisters. We would hope its not the last but that remains to be seen.
Fighting Against Medusa
In her first appearance in the series, by release date of the games, Medusa appears as a statue at the end of the final hall of the Chapel (the classic "red level" of the series). There her head will detach from the statue holding it. She will swoop around the room, dropping snakes that will crawl along the ground, and these snakes will deal damage to hero Simon Belmont if he touches them. All told, though. Medusa can be a fairly easy fight to manage so long as you have the holy cross or holy water to layer on the damage. This is also the version of the Medusa we see in the Retro Castle mission of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair. On hard mode she can deal some solid damage, but in general this boss is pretty easy to take on with all the powers and abilities you could earn in that game.
Appearing next in Haunted Castle, Medusa was there dubbed the "Wicked Mermaid" although, for all intents and purposes, this is Medusa. As our hero, (probably) Simon, enters the room he first has to deal with a wave of bats who swoop out, one at a time, in a wave pattern (not unlike Medusa heads in other games). Then the "mermaid" will appear, balancing on her tail as she moves back and forth across the room. She'll drop snakes on the ground at a steady rhythm, but if the hero jumps to the rhythm, and regularly whips at Medusa, she'll easily fall and this area guard will be defeated.
Technically Medusa only appears in the Japanese version of Castlevania III, Akumajo Densetsu as, in the Western version, her sprites were changed to a male version of the character (presumably to avoid those pesky breasts and their implied nudity). Whichever version you play, though, the fight remains the same. Medusa with form from a pile of snakes and then slither back and forth on one side of the room. She'll fire arrows at the hero, either directly forward (so they must be jumped) or at an upward angle if the player sets their hero on one of the upper platforms. The heroes will have to avoid these attacks, along with her damaging "stone gaze", which can be avoided by staying on the back half of the room. She's just an area guard here and this fight will end very quickly so long as you layer on the the damage.
Her appearance in the next game, Super Castlevania IV, is similar in style. Although she lacks her bow this time she can, instead drop snakes that will quickly slither across the ground. She retains her stone gaze, which can actually turn you to stone briefly (leaving you open for damage), and she now covers much more of the room than before as she moves back and forth. That said, the holy cross can easily melt this boss, so come in properly equipped and Medusa will die within seconds of appearing.
In Castlevania Dracula X: Rondo of Blood, Medusa appears in the larger fight with Shaft. Here, Shaft will summon four boss fights before the heroes, Richter Belmont and Maria Renard, can take on the dead man himself. These four bosses are plucked, in order, from the original Castlevania and are the Giant Bat, Medusa, Frankenstein's Creature, and The Mummy.
Medusa, for her part, is again in her snake-like form, and she's much more agile this time. She can bounce back and forth around the room, along with simply slithering, and she has a damaging fireball she can shoot, homing circles that will cause stoning, and she can whip out with her tail after leaping in the air. She's a formidable fight, especially when you take into account that you've already fought one boss and have three more you have to take on before this whole battle is over, making this one tough combo of bosses to have to deal with. Conserve health, use your sub-weapons, and hope you can get through this relatively unscathed.
For Castlevania: Bloodlines, Medusa's battle is again part of a larger fight: that of the battle against Elizabeth Bartley. Elizabeth's fight (in the full, proper Hard Mode) opens with a form of Medusa (what we can think of as Elizabeth's "demon form". She appears in a corner and will lash out at the hero in four ways: a linear flame attack that starts high before moving, in an arc, downwards; a double-helix flame attack that requires the hero to be in a safe position to avoid damage; a lashing tail attack along the ground; and crawling towards the hero and trying to melee them. Frankly, this form is easy to defeat so long as you know where to stand, and it shouldn't prove too complex to survive.
From here we move on to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Medusa is back to a more classic form as seen in Castlevania III. Appearing as one of the first bosses you could encounter in the Inverted Castle, Medusa will sit in the center of her chamber and lashes out in one of two ways: with her stone gaze beam, that she can fire at an angle towards the hero, or with her sword that she swings at an upper angle. You need to learn to read her tells to know what attack she's using, but the boss is heavily cycle based so as long as you get her rhythm down you can effectively melt the boss quite quickly. Of note, Medusa here guards the Heart of Vlad, one of five key items needed to finish the game, all five of which come from Castlevania II, while the bosses that guard the relics are all, again, the bosses from the original Castlevania.
Medusa is pretty pathetic in Castlevania: Legends. Acting as an area boss, she'll be waiting for heroine Sonia Belmont in a single-room chamber. There, so long as Sonia stays ducked down in the far right corner she can avoid all of Medusa attacks -- her back and forth slither, her short hops, her overhead sword attack -- without taking any damage at all. It's really sad, honestly.
For Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, Medusa appears only on Carrie's route (and only in this version of the Nintendo 64 game). The gorgon will first drop into the room and summon three snakes that will slither around, leaping and biting at Carrie. While avoiding this (the best way is simple to keep running around the room), Carrie will have to contend with Medusa's attacks. The gorgon can summon a shield and block Carrie's attacks while dashing forward to shield bash at the heroine. She can also summon a bow-and-arrow like attack, although she can be damaged out of using this. Then she can bring forth her stone gaze that she'll sweep across the room; if Carrie is hit by this she'll get stuck in the ground for a little while. Finally, Medusa of course has her tail lash which she'll use vigorously any time the heroine gets near the gorgon.
The best bet in this fight, as with most fights in the game, is to keep running around and around, lashing out with your main attack (the homing orbs) while keeping just enough distance from Medusa to avoid the worst of her attacks. Do note that if Carrie gets caught by the stone gaze, or by any of the snakes, she'll easy get caught up by the whole pack of snakes (and more and more will appear during the fight), making her easy prey for their little feast, quickly draining her health. Have health items and be ready to melee the snakes if they get ahold of the heroine. This fight isn't easy but if can be manageable as long as you keep your eyes open and be ready to mash the attacks.
We're now on to Castlevania: Lament of Innocence, and she's now back in her floating head form, which actually makes her less mobile than in previous games. She'll slowly float around and try to bash at Leon with the snakes on either side of her head. She can do this as a single attack or a back and forth combo so be ready to dodge each side as she telegraphs the attack. She can also drizzle blood behind her, so don't step in this. She can drop snakes on the ground that will, of course, slither after Leon and try to damage him. Finally, for this first part of her attacks, she can shoot out beams from her eyes to try and stone Leon; if she succeeds she'll roll into a ball and rebound around the room in an attempt to do massive damage to the hero.
Once she's weakened enough, Medusa will then add a new attack: she'll summon stones that she'll draw around herself before flinging them at Leon. These will be thrown in quick succession so be ready to repeatedly dodge. Also note, in the hardest "crazy mode", Medusa will add a stone gaze to this rock summoning attack. She'll also up her snake-bash melee attack to a seven-hit combo making it much more devastating. Still, Medusa is not a hard boss to manage, in large part because she's not very quick, so lithe footwork and regular dodging will easily win the day here.
Finally, in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Medusa appears (once again alongside her fellow original Castlevania bosses) as one of the four guardians of the final paintings. In the portrait for Burnt Paradise, the alternate version of Nation of Fools, Medusa appears on the left side of the boss chamber and she's a big beast this time. Medusa can summon a wave of gold Medusa heads, the type that will petrify (see below), and this wave of enemies will cover most of the screen (so be ready to attack a lot of enemies to stay un-stoned). She'll telegraph a windup before lashing out at the heroes with a snake-like arm (although the heroes can easily get out of range of this attack on the far right side of the screen. She'll also unleash a screen-filling stone gaze attack, but so long as the heroes are facing away from Medusa they will be unaffected.
She can also turn into a snake-like form and lunge at the heroes, biting at them; to avoid this they either need to be far out of reach at the right side, or just under her at the far left corner of the chamber. Thankfully this attack does leave Medusa open for attack in response, a good time to layer on the damage. And, finally, any time the heroes are near to the boss she will unleash a tail attack where the curls of her serpent body will break through the floor in undulating waves, with only little gaps between the curls for the heroes to stand. This attack, though, is very long and leaves Medusa, once again, wide open to attack so it's the perfect opportunity for the heroes to really layer on the damage and take this final main-line appearance of the venomous boss down.
But then we have to turn our attention to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 where the three gorgon sisters, infected bu Medusa, merge into a single, snaked-like beast to attack hero Dracula. This three0headed beast looks a lot like a tradition Medusa, mind you, and they have attacks similar to what we're used to. They'll open with a stone breath attack which will raise a wall of stone (that Dracula will have to break using his newly acquired Chaos Claws), and they'll spit fireballs at Dracula while he's dealing with that. Wall destroyed, the Gorgon will then raise up its tails which will circle the room and lash out at Dracula if he gets too close. Of course, he has to also avoid the main attacks from the sisters, such as their fireballs, their ground punch, and their arcing slice at the ground, all of which can send Dracula flying back.
What he needs to do is get in close to the heads of the gorgon and melee them, dealing damage until one of them is weakened. Then the sisters, out of rage, will punch the ground getting their hand caught in the rock (and Dracula will have to do a Quick Time dodge to avoid damage and cause this ground punch to stick). With the hand caught, Dracula has to use his Void Sword (and its ice attack) to freeze the hand in place. Then he can climb the arm, avoiding defensive attacks from the gorgon, until he reaches one of the heads. He'll then (via Quick Time), climb in a mouth, pull out its tongue, and drag the head to the ground, where he'll then sever it in a bloody spray. Do this once and the Gorgon will get extra angry, adding on a stone beam attack Dracula will have to dodge.
Follow this formula again and you can get access to the second head (although you'll have to break her stone defenses with the Chaos Claws the second time around) and weaken it (by punching out its eyes) before it falls to the ground so you can sever it. Now, even angrier, the Gorgon will draw in its breath before spitting fire at the hero in a long gout of flame. She can also spit fire at the sky, causing a cascade of fireballs to rain down. Still, the basics of the battle remain the same: weaken her with an onslaught of damage and bide your time until Dracula takes over and does one last bloody flourish, ripping out the heart of the gorgon, turning the beast to stone. The day will be won and Dracula with get a Primordial Chaos Gem (along with those Chaos Claws) for his trouble.
Appearances as a Normal Enemy
Of course, alongside Medusa herself there are the Medusa heads that will show up as minor enemies in almost every single game in the series. These heads come in two forms: the normal (often colored blue) type, which just deal damage if they connect with the heroes, and the golden type, which will turn the heroes to stone for a short period of time. These enemies are generally always nuisances, often flying in wave patterns making them hard to dodge. Showing up regularly in areas that feature bottomless pits, Medusa heads are primed to kill players not through damage but careless platforming.
Other Appearances of Medusa
Medusa has a small cameo in Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance. In the Skeleton Cave, the bones of her remains can be seen decorating a wall, a grim piece of art in this macabre section of Dracula's castle.
Medusa in Pop-Culture
As a creature of myth, Medusa has shown up in a number of films and shows, although certainly her most famous appearance was in Ray Harry Hausen's Clash of the Titans, a stop-motion treat that is still hailed as one of the best looking films of that style ever made.