Best Nintendo DS Games
It's hard to believe but it's been 13 years since the very first Nintendo DS console was released, making it a platform with a game library many have carried from their childhoods through to their early adult years.
While its dual-screen was a form factor experiment that could have gone either way, we think the number of consoles that have spawned from the very first DS is a good sign. Over the last 13 years we've seen the DS, the DS Lite, DSi, the 2DS, the 3DS and a bunch of XL releases in between, and they've had some of the best games we've played. We've become so used to the dual-screen console we don't think we could do without it now.
It's Nintendo's refusal to play it safe that's probably helped it stay so successful in this area. The dual-screen design might have been a risk but it was obviously a worthwhile one since we've seen it evolve and improve from the DS through to the new 3DS - and even further to the new Nintendo Switch.
That said, no matter how good a console's design and no matter how many innovations it makes, it won't stand the test of time without good games to keep players interested. Thankfully, the Nintendo DS had no shortage of those - from the great entries in the Castelvania series to the outstanding entries in Pokemon - Nintendo DS is the all-you-can-eat buffet of first-party mobile classics.
As good as the DS is, though, by this point the majority of us will no doubt have replaced our Nintendo DS with its chunkier and more powerful successor the Nintendo 3DS. That said, as it's still part of the DS family the new handheld offers full backwards compatibility, giving full access to some unmissable DS titles as well as the greatest titles from the 3DS.
To give you a better idea of exactly what games you should be looking to pick up, we've put together this list of what we think are the best titles out there. From excellent original titles such as Pokemon Black and White 2 to classic SNES ports like Kirby Super Star Ultra, you're guaranteed to find something you like.
Even though a large number of games available on the Nintendo DS are ports, they're drastically improved and their effective integration of the console's dual-screen helped to redefine the handheld gaming experience.
Advance Wars: Dual Strike
One of a handful of great strategy games on the Nintendo DS, Advance Wars: Dual Strike mixed smart rock-paper-scissors-esque combat with the brutal backdrop og an on-going war. Dual Strike made great use of the DS's two screens, often forcing you to fight two battles simultaneously. Perform well enough on both battlefields, and you could perform the eponymous Dual Strike, allowing you to take two turns back-to-back, often with devastating results to the enemy. Should both you and a friend own a copy of the game (it's probably a pipe-dream at this point but...) you can actually face off in head-to-head battles. For its intense single-player campaign, and potentially friendship-ruining head-to-head gameplay, Dual Strike is one battle we could fight all day long.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2
The Pokemon series dominated the Game Boy, a tradition that carried over to the DS. While there are generations upon generations of Pokemon games out there, the latest ones are, for good reason, the greatest, building upon the original games and adding their own awesome features.
Not only that, but Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 aren't just minor updates over Black and White – they're a new addition to the series, allowing for exploration of the Unova region. From exploring the new region, to the classic turn based battles, these games are not games you'll want to miss out on.
New Super Mario Bros.
Speaking of classic games series, we would be remiss to not include at least one Mario game. OK, fine, we've included more than one Mario game, but New Super Mario Bros. is among the best. The game represents a new generation of Mario that stays true to the classic side-scrolling concept of the original Super Mario Bros. games, yet makes it a little more, well, modern.
You'll find both familiar enemies, and new ones, and you can even link wirelessly with your friends to play as Mario and Luigi in a multiplayer mode. If any game proves that Mario is still relevant, it's this one.
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV (known as Final Fantasy II in the US) may have originally been made for the SNES way back in 1991, but the game seriously deserved a remake for a new generation of players. Square Enix did just that. The HD update offers newly developed 3D graphics and new added content, and not only brings two generations of Final Fantasy fans together, but also cements FF4 in the memory books as one of the best RPGs ever.
Kirby Super Star Ultra
Final Fantasy IV isn't the only SNES game to be ported over to the Nintendo DS – Kirby Super Star 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 things like new modes such as Meta Knight Ultra and Revenge of the King. Sure, you could argue that Super Star Ultra isn't as exciting as Kirby Canvas Curse, 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.
Animal Crossing: Wild World
Animal Crossing: Wild World takes the popular GameCube game and makes it much more social. In the game, you and up to three of your friends from anywhere in the world can hang out in the same village and interact in real time. You can also hang out in your friends' villages. When you're back home there's always something to do – from decorating your home to collecting new items to just lounging with the locals.
Kingdom Hearts 352/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts 352/2 Days takes place during the year that Sora was asleep, and revolves around Roxas. You'll basically follow Roxas and the other members of Organization XIII through the various Disney worlds. Perhaps the coolest new feature in the game is multiplayer mode, which allows you and your friends to play as other Organization XIII members.
While long-time Kingdom Hearts fans will love this addition to the franchise, new players will also get a kick out of it – it's not too difficult to learn, and while some backstory may help in the general understanding of the game, you'll still have a lot of fun without it.
Super Mario 64 DS
While New Super Mario Bros. is an awesome game, there's nothing better than going back to the classics. Super Mario 64 DS is, as I'm sure you can imagine, a port of the original Super Mario 64 game for the Nintendo 64. However it takes full advantage of the Nintendo DS' dual-screen setup and adds touch screen features and even wireless multiplayer compatibility. Who says an old plumber can't learn new tricks?
Mario and Luigi: Partners In Time
The third Mario game on the list is there for good reason – it's an awesome, albeit weird, game. In Partners in Time, Mario and Luigi partner up with none other than their younger selves. As strange as it sounds, you get to control both the adult and baby sets of Mario Bros. as they explore the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond to take down the evil invaders from space, the Shroobs. The game gets a little out of control, but in this case, that's a good thing.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
Spirit Tracks sends our hero Link on a brand-new adventure, offering a totally new story with more puzzles, and so on. While Spirit Tracks is actually the second Legend of Zelda game for Nintendo DS, it trumps the first in almost every way, offering challenging boss battles and excellent gameplay. Link travels by train, as the name suggests, opening up new possibilities for puzzles and interesting challenges.
Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 are great games, but fans of the early generations may find themselves a little lost at the number of Pokemon to catch. HeartGold and SoulSilver are remakes of Gold and Silver for Game Boy Color, which are considered by many to be some of the best Pokemon 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 'Pokewalker' – essentially a glorified Tamagotchi – to take your Pokemon wherever you go.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars Director's Cut
It's a PC point-and-click classic, but bringing a new and improved version of the original Broken Sword title to the portable Nintendo DS was a stroke of genius on the part of Nintendo and Revolution software.
The dual-screen touch elements of the Nintendo DS work extremely well with the point-and-click style of play and Broken Sword is one of the best games in the genre to show this.
The game follows the original story of George Stobbart as he travels across the world to unravel the Templar conspiracy. To draw in those who had already played the game, though, the Director's Cut added new puzzles specifically suited to the DS touchscreen, animated facial expressions, and a brand new complementary storyline which follows George's fellow adventurer Nico Collard to new locations and adds more depth to the original story.
The only downside is that the DS version lacks the excellent voice acting of Rolf Saxon. Fortunately, the script is good enough to stand on its own.
Whether you've played the original Broken Sword on PC or not, this Director's Cut version for DS is well worth picking up.
Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Chinatown Wars is an entirely new entry to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, and it carries on the tradition of a game in which players can roam the world and so whatever they want. 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 the handheld 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.
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
While Spirit Tracks is arguably a better game, Phantom Hourglass is its enjoyable predecessor filled with familiar features and well-worn gameplay. Phantom Hourglass 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 a seriously entertaining pocket adventure.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Dawn of Sorrow is set around a year after Aria of Sorrow, and follows a cult that wants to resurrect a dead Dracula. Soma Cruz gets entangled in the plans and must now find a way to stop the resurrection from happening. Unlike many other Nintendo DS games, most of the action takes place on the bottom screen, while the top screen is reserved for maps, character information, and so on. Many suggest that Dawn of Sorrow is one of the best Castlevania games of all-time, and for good reason – it's beautifully designed, offers great battle scenarios, and finds the perfect balance between nostalgia and innovation.
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Samus 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. Hunters doesn't just feature an awesome story – I mean, nothing was worse than Metroid: Other M, right? – it features a great multiplayer mode too, allowing you to go through 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.
Mario Kart DS
You can't go through a great game list for Nintendo without getting 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 newer Wii U version, but if you're looking to take Mario and Co. on the road, there's no place better to start.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
This game was pretty highly anticipated upon its release, however some were a little disappointed that instead of getting an all-new game, they instead got a remake of the original. Still, the original game is a great game, and the Nintendo DS version brings updated graphics and modern features. For fans of the turn-based strategy experience (or awesomely named Japanese franchises), Shadow Dragon should be one of your first stops when stocking up your Nintendo DS library.
The World Ends With You
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. (It's Final Fantasy XIII before Lightning made an appearance on the scene.) What I admire most is that the developers behind the game took a chance with it – they could have easily come up with another Kingdom Hearts game – but the chance was well worth it and has resulted in one of the most underrated role-playing games out there.
Another port of a classic game, Chrono Trigger DS is the immaculately recrafted version of the SNES game. If you missed the original, it follows a young Chrono, who has to rescue his friend after a teleportation machine malfunctions at the fair. Eventually, he uncovers a plan to destroy the world and has to race the clock in order to save it.
While technically a direct port of the game for SNES, the DS version adds some great features, like support for the dual-screen setup, touch screen functionality, and a wireless play mode that adds a dimension of gameplay.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright is a great game for those who enjoy a good puzzle – though, as a word of warning, depending on your puzzle-solving skills you might even find some of the challenges too difficult!
If you haven't ever dug into Phoenix Wright's case files before, the series essentially involves you having to uncover clues, discover characters' personalities, and so on, as you slowly solve cases and bring justice to the criminals along the way. You won't hear any objections from us on this one.
Hotel Dusk Room 215
If you're partial to point and click adventures then you don't want to miss out on Hotel Dusk Room 215.
The DS touchscreen was always going to be good for the point and click puzzle solving genre and this is a game that makes it work well by having the player hold the console like a book. In fact, this is a game that integrates all of the Nintendo DS's features as part of its puzzle solving, including the microphone.
The game, set in 1979, follows Kyle Hyde, a New York detective turned salesman who has come to the Hotel Dusk in California to search for his former partner. He's placed in Room 215, a room said to grant wishes, and finds that the hotel has many mysteries to solve, some of which relate to his own past.
If you're not a fan of linearity then this isn't a game for you but if you can get a kick out of a game that's actually almost like an interactive book then this is one you shouldn't miss.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
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 (the former begets the latter) and take on side-quests and new characters. It's a formula that never feels old, even now, 10 years after its release.