Castlevania, known in Japan as 悪魔城ドラキュラ, Akumajo Dracula, "Devil Castle Dracula" is a game universe by Konami that spans dozens of games, manga, television cartoons, and more. The first release was in 1986 and it began the majority of the themes in the series including the horror setting with a vampire nemesis, wielding a whip, and collecting hearts. Although all of the latest titles in the series use an action adventure genre (called a Metroidvania), most of the early titles used an arcade style staged-based genre.
The first Castlevania game I played was Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse which I bought shortly after it came out. I knew that the series was well-received because I had read about the original Castlevania in the Official Nintendo Player's Guide and had seen Castlevania II: Simon's Quest in Nintendo Power. However, I found the game to be too difficult to really appreciate and stopped caring for the franchise. It wasn't until about 15 years later when I saw someone playing Castlevania: Circle of the Moon at a LAN party that my interest in the franchise was re-piqued. I played the game and absolutely loved it, so I went back and started playing all the previous 2-D Metroidvania style games, and enjoyed them.