The bottom most picture was the cover for a Nintendo Power issue, one which received the most complaints from outraged parents because their children were scared by the man with a severed head on the cover, to announce the sequel to the very popular Castlevania.
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest is in my opinion possibly one of the most perfect games for its time. I really got into the 'story' of the first Castlevania and this just built upon that quite wonderfully. This title also added a little bit of RPG to the side-scrolling format.
Our hero who snatched victory from Count Dracula seven years ago now finds himself dying, he has been cursed from that mighty battle and his only hope is to...retrieve the five body parts of the Count and resurrect him at the ruins of Castlevania. The hope is that he shall seal Dracula within so he may not escape then once and for all defeat the vile vampire and remove the curse.
I did not know this at the time but depending on how well you do in the game there are three different endings, two of which have Simon dying from grievous wounds sustained during the fight with Dracula. I do not remember reading an epilogue in the game when I beat it saying Simon had died...so I guess I did okay.
Simon's Quest had you...well, questing all over the Transylvanian land, stopping into towns to trade in those hearts you collected from vanquishing foes to purchase items from the shopkeepers or getting hints from the townspeople. In a lot of the reviews I have seen online many a critic has complained about the poor translation for when the townspeople are giving you clues, making the game more difficult. For example: "hit Deborah Cliff with your head to make a hole.", maybe the townspeople were drinking heavily or something.
Of course one of the most memorable parts of Castlevania II is the music, which I find myself humming every once in a while as I write these blogs.
A bit of sad news that I've learned while looking up stuff for this post, the original artwork for the game was all lost in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995.