The 10 Best Games on Nintendo DS

The 10 Best Games on Nintendo DS

On November 21, 2004, Nintendo released the foldable handheld game console, the Nintendo DS. In retrospect, the Nintendo DS is a legendary console. It introduced touchscreen and wireless online gaming to the masses. Nowadays, touch capability is expected when it comes to handheld devices and we can all owe that to the success of the DS. The DS not only sold well as a console it also gave us some amazing handheld titles. Out of the 3,469 games in the Nintendo DS library, some of them are much better than the rest. Here are the 10 best games on Nintendo DS.

10. Meteos

Meteos Cover

©Meteos Cover - Original

  • Release Date — June 28, 2005
  • Metacritic Score — 88 (Generally Favorable)

At the top of the list, we have Meteos, a game regarded as one of the best puzzle games of all time. While its gameplay loop of launching colored blocks to create matches isn’t necessarily fresh in retrospect, its mechanics fit perfectly on the console at the time. It was simple to understand but slowly became more complex as players became comfortable with its gameplay. It also made great use of the touch screen.

Meteos also offered plenty of modes for players to engage with. It was designed to be infinitely replayable as players would strive to beat their high scores, complete challenges, and polish their skills so they could beat their friends in multiplayer. Meteos‘ combination of intuitive controls, high replay value, and accessibility made it one of the standout titles on the Nintendo DS.

9. New Super Mario Bros.

©Courtesy of Nintendo - Original / License

  • Release Date — May 15, 2006
  • Metacritic Score — 89 (Generally Favorable)

It wouldn’t be a Nintendo list without a Mario title. Sometimes porting classic Mario gameplay is enough. This title brought the side-scrolling platforming fun of the Super Mario franchise to the DS. Not only that, this game provides that classic feel with updated graphics and mechanics. New Super Mario Bros. is also praised for its phenomenal music and level design.

The levels are an amazing mix of platforming challenges, puzzles, and secrets. No matter how much time you put into the game, it always had something new to discover. New Super Mario Bros. also includes an incredibly fun multiplayer mode. This mode allows for players to play together cooperatively or competitively. New Super Mario Bros. is a must-have title for anyone who still owns a Nintendo DS.

8. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

©Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow - Original

  • Release Date — October 4, 2005
  • Metacritic Score — 89 (Generally Favorable)

Oddly enough, the Nintendo DS was a perfect console for metroidvanias due to its dual-screen nature. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow perfectly brought classic Castlevania to a new audience. This title is praised for its integration of the new hardware. It used the DS touchscreen for multiple mechanics, such as drawing seals to defeat bosses and interacting with the environment.

The game also had multiple endings based on player choices. This made it a highly replayable experience as many players wanted to find all the secrets and hidden content. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is also loved for its approach to boss design. Every boss is memorable in one way or another and needs a different strategy to defeat. The title received critical acclaim from fans and critics alike, if this isn’t a must-play I don’t know what is.

7. Advance Wars: Dual Strike

©Screenshot showing the cover art of Advance Wars: Dual Strike for Nintendo DS

  • Release Date — August 22, 2005
  • Metacritic Score — 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Advance Wars is one of the most beloved franchises in gaming and it had a massive release on the Nintendo DS. Dual Strike offered deep and engaging turn-based strategy gameplay. It was a very niche title, but if it resonated with you, it would leave an impression for the rest of your life. Like most titles on this list, the game makes great use of the Nintendo DS’s dual screens. One screen displayed the map and the other displayed important information and controls.

What separated Dual Strike from the rest of the series is its tag-team mechanic. Players could control two commanding officers simultaneously, which added an extra layer of depth to combat. This title is loved for its depth, charming presentation, and customization options. Unfortunately, the series is being held hostage by its developers, but on the bright side, the game is easily emulated. One of Nintendo’s best, for sure.

6. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Phantom Hourglass gameplay

©Gameplay screenshot - Original

  • Release Date — October 1, 2007
  • Metacritic Score — 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Much like Mario, a Nintendo list is never complete without a Legend of Zelda title. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass is a weird title in the franchise, but it’s just as good. Many love this game because it’s a direct sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. If you’re a fan of the cel-shaded art style or nautical theme, you will feel right at home with this title.

The title also made use of the Nintendo DS touchscreen to provide an accessible control scheme. This accessibility made the game approachable to players of all ages and felt natural for the Zelda franchise. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass also introduced new companion characters Linebeck and Ciela. Fans and critics loved this entry’s story and innovation in the formula. If you loved Wind Waker you’ll love Phantom Hourglass.

5. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

©Cover to the Nintendo DS video game, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.

  • Release Date — September 14, 2009
  • Metacritic Score — 90 (Universal Acclaim)

Some of the best titles in the Mario franchise are the ones that aren’t platformers. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is one of the best Mario games ever. This title perfectly blends JRPG elements with action-based gameplay. The game featured a dual-perspective narrative, allowing players to witness it from both the side of the hero and the villain.

Bowser’s Inside Story is loved for its humor and raised the bar for writing in Mario titles. The game is beloved by many fans of the RPGs in Mario’s catalog. Critics praised it on release for its creative boss battles, its color presentation, and its catchy music. It’s a Mario game, most would agree there isn’t a bad one out there. Well, maybe those educational games, but we don’t count those. If you’re a fan of Mario and haven’t given this game a try, you must, it’s just that good.

4. Mario Kart DS

©Box art of Mario Kart DS

  • Release Date — November 14, 2005
  • Metacritic Score — 91 (Universal Acclaim)

Tired of Mario yet? Whenever a Mario Kart title is released, the entire world stops. Nintendo has acquired an infinite money glitch with these games, and the numbers back it up. Luckily for Nintendo, these games don’t just sell well, they review well too. Gaming publications loved this title so much that they just weren’t sure how Nintendo could improve on the formula.

Mario Kart DS perfectly utilized the wireless multiplayer capabilities of the Nintendo DS. Mario has always been a franchise-best enjoyed with friends, and this title is no different. The game has a wide variety of tracks, including renditions from previous Mario Kart titles. Similar to past and future titles in the series, Mario Kart DS is also praised for its customization options. Players can choose their favorite characters while fine-tuning their karts with various kart parts. Mario KartDS is another great game in a franchise of great games.

3. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger artwork

©Chrono Trigger artwork - Original

  • Release Date — November 25, 2008
  • Metacritic Score — 92 (Universal Acclaim)

Depending on who you ask, this is the definitive way to play Chrono Trigger. This game is one of the best games ever, so of course it’ll be one of the best games on the Nintendo DS. This RPG’s narrative is timeless, pun intended, and should be experienced at least once. Chrono Trigger is loved for many reasons. It has a phenomenal soundtrack composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and the prolific Nobuo Uematsu. Its visuals were designed by the late great Akira Toriyama. It’s also celebrated as the grandfather of most modern JRPGs.

The Nintendo DS version is special because not only does it contain the phenomenal story and gameplay of the original SNES version, but It also has new content unique to this port. The quality of this new content is debated, but if you already love Chrono Trigger, then there’s no reason not to check out this port. Chrono Trigger‘s compelling narrative, innovative gameplay, and memorable characters make this game a must-play on the Nintendo DS.

2. Flipnote Studio

©Cover Art of Flipnote Studio

  • Release Date — August 12, 2009
  • Metacritic Score — 93 (Universal Acclaim)

Flipnote Studio isn’t a game technically, but it’s one of the best software available for owners of Nintendo DS. This software is a simple but powerful program that allows artists to create animations using their DS. Nintendo has always been pushing the envelope when it comes to releasing software to inspire the next generation of creatives, and for that alone this should be celebrated.

The software is loved for its accessibility and while it has its issues, if you’re an artist you will find yourself sinking hours into this program. Social media has been flooded recently with people posting their Flipnote animations. With one Google search, you can find some amazing animations of any genre, and if this list isn’t enough to get you interested those creations surely will.

1. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

©A screenshot for Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

  • Release Date — March 17, 2009
  • Metacritic Score — 93 (Universal Acclaim)

The fact this game exists is crazy when you think about it. Many Grand Theft Auto fans love this title and consider it underrated. Despite the limitations of the DS hardware, this title successfully delivered an open-world experience. That alone is groundbreaking and should be worth a play. Fans and critics loved this game’s open-world, storyline, and how it implemented the hardware into its game design.

Chinatown Wars stands out amongst the rest of the franchise’s titles because of its top-down perspective. This perspective is reminiscent of the original Grand Theft Auto title and it works perfectly on the Nintendo DS. A unique mechanic in this title is the drug dealing mechanic. Players can buy and sell various narcotics throughout Liberty City. As Grand Theft Auto moves away from its older titles many people would love for a third-person remake of this title. But until then, the original DS release will suffice.

Honorable Mentions

The following titles didn’t make the list but I feel like it would be criminal not to mention them.

  • The World Ends With You – This is one of Square Enix’s most interesting releases ever. If you want a truly unique experience give this game a shot.
  • Pokemon Black / White– The De facto best Pokemon story. Perfect for those who want a more serious Pokemon narrative.
  • Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – One of the best RPGs ever, full stop.
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – Weird title aside, this is one of the most interesting stories of all time. A must-play if you have the time.
  • Radiant Historia – Some gamers consider this title as a rival to Chrono Trigger.
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