Best Nintendo DS games: everything for the handheld you need to play

best Nintendo DS games: Mario throwing a fireball
(Image credit: Future/Nintendo)

Looking for the best Nintendo DS games? Of course you are. Even though the Nintendo DS has been out of commission for several years at this point, it’s still an astounding console. Nintendo tried something completely new with the handheld’s two screen console and stylus, long before touch screens would become a normal occurrence on our phones.

While some of the biggest hits on the DS have seen remakes or at least sequels on the Nintendo Switch, a lot of DS games are only playable on the DS, so if you want to experience some great Nintendo games, maybe you should think about grabbing a DS, whether it be used or your old one. The Nintendo DS have us some of the best Pokémon games, The World Ends with you and plenty more top games. Best of all, most of these games have aged really well, as the DS really had some of the most beautiful titles around. Fancy 3D isn’t everything! However, if looking around for old games is too complicated or expensive for you, we understand – in that case, lets find you great Nintendo Switch deals instead.

But if you’ve always wondered what the Nintendo DS has to offer and why it was so beloved, look no further and check our list of the best Nintendo DS games right here.

Best Nintendo DS games

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best Nintendo DS games: Kirby Super Star logo with Kirby in the middle smaller Kirbys painting, cooking, riding a bike, dressed up as Link next to it

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Kirby Super Star Ultra

A true super star is back

Reasons to buy

+
Great new abilities and environments
+
Beautiful vibrant visuals

Reasons to avoid

-
Individual levels are pretty short

Kirby Super Star, formerly a SNES game, is an excellent choice for a dual-screen game, and brings the epic Kirby adventure to your pocket. Of course, this isn't a complete copy of the original game – it also features upgrades like new modes such as Meta Knight Ultra and Revenge of the King. 

You could argue that Super Star Ultra isn't as exciting as Kirby Canvas Curse (the first DS release for Kirby, also known as Kirby Power Paintbrush), but as a short and sweet adventure game, Super Star Ultra isn't one to miss out on, especially if you're a Kirby fan.


best Nintendo DS games: Male and female animal crossing players with villagers like KK Slider in the background

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Relaxing times with your wild friends

Reasons to buy

+
Big villages
+
Wide variety of villagers
+
Multiplayer

Reasons to avoid

-
Few tasks

Animal Crossing: Wild World was the first step to a more social Animal Crossing experience. While Animal Crossing: New Horizons is clearly the game that offers the most interaction between players these days, not everyone is a friend of the currrent island setting. Going back to the cozy villages of Wild World is just the thing, then, especially because there are some villagers, quests and festivities that new Horizons never adopted. 

Wild World is one of the best Nintendo DS games because, as with all of them, it successfully improves on the formula and gives players a good time all throughout the year. There's always something to do; from decorating your home to collecting new items to just lounging with your favorite villagers.


best Nintendo DS games: A group shot of all characters of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

(Image credit: Spike Chunsoft)

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

The best visual novel escape room thriller around

Reasons to buy

+
Surprising story developments
+
Tense puzzle sequences

Reasons to avoid

-
Story sequences between puzzles can be long

For all those looking to get into visuals novels, the DS has a great selection, and one of the best Nintendo DS games in that category is Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, commonly abbreviated to 999. If you’ve ever heard people gush about writer Kotaro Uchikoshi, 999 is one of the reasons why.

999 builds a mystery on a cruise ship, consisting of ‘novel’ sections where you get to follow the story and make branching decisions, and ‘escape’ sections where you puzzle your way through an escape room. 999’s story builds with every playthrough, and each new revelation comes with truly mind-bending twists – a true “you have to see it to believe it” kind of game.


best Nintendo DS games: Pokemon heartGold and SoulSilver trainers

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver

Two classics get a new lease on life

Reasons to buy

+
Many improvements on two already great games
+
Lots of additional Pokémon

Reasons to avoid

-
Levelling and evolution can be very grindy

Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 are great games, but fans of the early generations may find the number of Pokémon to catch a little daunting. HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of Gold and Silver for Game Boy Color, which are considered by many to be some of the best Pokémon games ever made, and for good reason. 

The game takes place in the Johto region and offers updated graphics, touch controls, and even the ability to use the 'Pokéwalker' – essentially a Tamagotchi – to take your Pokémon wherever you go.


best Nintendo DS games – GTA Chinatown Wars protagonist pulling a gun from his jacket

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Grand Theft Auto happens everywhere these days

Reasons to buy

+
Clearly designed with the DS in mind
+
Running from the police to a great soundtrack is reliably fun

Reasons to avoid

-
There really is a lot of police

As a rare handheld entry in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Chinatown Wars gives you a setting and story you still can't experience anywhere else. Considering the wait until GTA 6 is still rather long, now's likely a great time to make your way around town. Despite the  by today's standards modest hardware it runs on, the game carries on the tradition of roaming an open world and doing whatever you want, mostly crime.

Of course, there are also awesome missions to complete along the way, and while there are a few things that have been left out in this version of the game, plenty has also been added, making Chinatown Wars one of the best (and only) mature-rated Nintendo DS games out there.


best Nintendo DS games – Link and Tetra sailing across the sea

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

This Zelda game will never give you sea legs

Reasons to buy

+
Great touchscreen controls
+
Beautiful level design

Reasons to avoid

-
Too easy for veterans
-
That one temple you have to clear on a timer

While Spirit Tracks is perhaps a better game for the innovation it brings, Phantom Hourglass is its enjoyable predecessor filled with familiar features and well-worn gameplay. 

This Zelda game centers around travel by boat, is a little more casual than other Legend of Zelda games and arguably a little easier too, but that doesn't make it any less of an entertaining pocket adventure, and definitely still one of the best Nintendo DS games.


best Nintendo DS games – view of Super Metroid protagonist Samus' face through her helmet

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Metroid Prime: Hunters

This galaxy is too small for this many hunters

Reasons to buy

+
Great use of multiplayer
+
Fun weapons

Reasons to avoid

-
Clunky controls

The Metroid games have been a mainstay of Nintendo consoles for years, spawning a whole genre of their ownSamus is obviously the best bounty hunter in the galaxy. Or is she? A total of six other bounty hunters are looking to gain that title, which is the premise behind Hunters. 

Metroid Prime: Hunters doesn't just feature an awesome story, it features a great multiplayer mode too, allowing you to play intense battles with friends through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. You can play as any of the seven bounty hunters, with each of them having their own special attacks and skills.


best Nintendo DS games – Mario driving his kart

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Mario Kart DS

Every Nintendo console needs a Mario Kart

Reasons to buy

+
Great tracks
+
Online multiplayer was revolutionary at the time

Reasons to avoid

-
Can feel slightly dated now

You can't make a list of the best Nintendo DS games without Mario Kart. Mario Kart DS is exactly what you might expect from a Mario Kart for Nintendo DS game, featuring a multiplayer mode where you can face up to eight players at once, as well as the ability to race through some of the most classic Mario Kart circuits out there. 

The DS version of the cart racer may not have the visual sizzle of the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but if you're looking to take Mario and Co. on the road, this is still a great place to start.

Gotten in the mood for more kart racing? Try the best Mario Kart games that aren't Mario Kart.


best Nintendo DS games – the world ends with you characters Neku and Joshua arguing, Neku shouting "you killed me" and Joshua saying "aww, Neku"

(Image credit: Square Enix)

The World Ends With You

Don't miss this death game with a cult following

Reasons to buy

+
Unique control scheme
+
Cool visual style
+
Surprising story

Reasons to avoid

-
Controls aren't for everyone
-
Story can be a bit too complicated

Developed by Jupiter and published by Square Enix, The World Ends With You follows the story of Neku Sakuraba, a 15-year-old boy who wakes up in the shopping district of Japan and is told that he will die unless he completes a certain task.

What we admire most is that the developers started a completely new franchise, which nowadays can be considered a major risk. The chance Square Enix took was well worth it and has resulted in a cult classic JRPG and one of the best NIntendo DS games. It even made it onto the Nintendo Switch as a remake and spawned a sequel called NEO: The World Ends with You.


best Nintendo DS games – two Final fantasy Tactics characters riding a chocobo

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

Reasons to buy

+
Offers its very own, consistently popular tactics formula
+
Still beautiful

Reasons to avoid

-
Slighty grindy

Closing out our list is Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, a sequel to the great-selling GBA game that was a sequel to the awesome, trail-blazing PS1 game. While Grimoire of the Rift didn't re-write the formula for the Tactics series, it did add several classes and features that greatly enhanced an already great franchise. 

Combat is turn-based and deeply cerebral as you attempt to out-maneuver and overpower your enemy. In between battles, you'll equip characters with new weapons and skills and take on side-quests and new characters. It's a formula that never feels old and has yet to be beaten, even now, years after its release.


Henry is a freelance technology journalist. Before going freelance, he spent more than three years at TechRadar reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines also include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.

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