Best Nintendo DS Games Of All Time
Image: Nintendo / iNiS

When Nintendo announced the DS in the mid-2000s, it claimed the device would be a 'third pillar' alongside its GameCube home console and its Game Boy family of portables. This admission alone shows just how leftfield the dual-screen handheld was; even its creator wasn't sure that the general public would fully embrace touch-based control. How ironic, then, that the Nintendo DS would go on to become the company's most commercially successful hardware platform, with over 154.02 million units sold.

The DS arguably introduced an entire generation to the principle of a touch-based interface, paving the way for the smartphone revolution that would occur a few years after its 2004 launch, yet its design was steeped in history; the twin-display, clamshell approach mimicked the Donkey Kong Game & Watch LCD handheld from 1982. This cunning fusion of the past with the future created the ultimate portable gaming platform, one which managed to outsell the technically superior Sony PSP by doing something totally different to what had come before.

The DS would spawn the Nintendo 3DS family of consoles, which introduced glasses-free 3D but retained the same basic formula. With less than half the sales, the 3DS couldn't live up to its forerunner, a system which is arguably as important in video game history as any of Nintendo's other platforms.

But what are the best games to play on DS? We've picked out a selection below, which are presented in no particular order. This list is intended to present a wide range of genres and styles for any new DS owner to enjoy.

Meteos (DS)

A tile-matching game from producer Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the developer behind such memorising titles as Rez, Lumines and, more recently, Tetris Effect, Meteos was an early puzzle hit in the life of the DS and a is good enough to stand proudly in the company of the very best in the genre. Discovering that quickly swiping the stylus across the screen often gave better results than consciously puzzling your way through was a minor disappointment, but those who avoided that temptation found a brilliantly addictive game - one that occupied our cart slot for many months.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)

Given the amazing critical response to Aria of Sorrow on the GBA, it made sense for Konami to create a sequel for Nintendo's new handheld, the DS. Dawn of Sorrow feels very much like Aria but on steroids; the visuals are massively improved and are much closer to those seen in Symphony of the Night, while Masahiko Kimura (Castlevania 64)'s soundtrack is also much more refined (even if it's not quite up there with the best of the franchise). The 'Soul' system from Aria makes a return and the game is impressively proportioned, but the technical gimmicks – such as having to draw seals on the touch screen to kill bosses and the WiFi system (which is now unavailable as Nintendo has taken the DS' wireless portal offline) – don't add much to the experience. It's also a shame that Ayami Kojima wasn't invited back to do the character artwork; instead, we get a very basic 'anime' cast of characters that lack charm. Despite its shortcomings – and the feeling that the whole 'Metroidvania' template is growing stale by this point – Dawn of Sorrow is still an excellent game.

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)

Advance Wars: Dual Strike isn't hugely different to its two GBA predecessors, and at times it can feel like a new 'mission pack', but when the base experience is this good, that's no bad thing. Additions such as having two CO characters in a battle enable you to fight on two fronts and add extra variety. Survival and Combatmodes add to the replayability, ensuring that like its predecessors there's plenty to keep you occupied.

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has everything you would expect from a Legend of Zelda game and was a worthy stylus-controlled continuation of the series on DS. Great use of the touchscreen in every aspect of the game combined with the layout, structure, and design typical of the Zelda franchise made this a familiar yet fresh entry to the series. If you missed this title when it was first released, don't listen to the naysayers — this is a wonderful little experience that's more than worth hunting down. Its DS successor, Spirit Tracks, is also excellent.

New Super Mario Bros. (DS)

While divisive among fans of the 8- and 16-bit classics, there's no denying the popularity of the 'New' series. The original New Super Mario Bros. opened up 2D Mario to an entirely new generation, even if gives off a 'been there, done that' vibe these days. We dinosaurs can pine for our pixels and the 'classic' games, or wax lyrical about the myriad enhancements Mario Wonder brought with it, but that shouldn't detract from this excellent Mario platformer.

Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver (DS)

The original Pokémon Gold And Silver games are fondly remembered by Pocket Monster fans all over the world, and with good reason: they introduced features that genuinely evolved the original Game Boy games, such as breeding and an in-game clock (not to mention colour!), features that have become series staples. Add in fan-favourite monsters and these remakes were always going to be well received.

Future games would trickle in additional quality-of-life features and other innovations, but some would argue it never got better than travelling across the land, searching far and wide in these DS remakes. The Game Boy originals may be a little hard to return to these days, but Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver strike the very best balance of nostalgia and that patented catch-'em-all gameplay.

Chrono Trigger (DS)

Chrono Trigger has truly stood the test of time - a testament to the magical sustainability that occurs when you combine impeccable storytelling, gameplay, visuals and music. This version of the SNES classic contains a hefty amount of additional features and bonus material, including touch screen controls, a series of dungeons (the Dimensional Vortices), a monster battle ground (Arena of the Ages), a re-mastered script, and an additional ending. Some might claim that this masterpiece should be experienced on the biggest possible canvas, but despite the console's diminutive size, its dual screen layout frees up command menu clutter. Couple this with all the refinements and extras and the Nintendo DS version really is the definitive edition of this beautiful work of art. It's an essential purchase for any RPG fan, and even if you’ve played it before, you should follow those nostalgic urges, dig out your trusty DS (which will probably still have some juice in the battery) and take that journey through time once again.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (DS)

The first in the RPG series to come to the Super Famicom, it eventually made its way to the West in the form of this DS remake. That Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride is a finely crafted RPG should come as little surprise given its heritage, but it's arguably the poignant, personal storytelling which elevates this game as one of the very best in a series filled with greats. Innovations such as the collection of monsters along the way would go on to influence other monster-collecting games, and while it lacks refinement in some areas of its design, it's still an epic adventure. The hero of this adventure may only get 'Assist Fighter' billing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but make no mistake, this is one of the best old-school Dragon Quests you can go on.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)

The first in the GBA/DS trilogy, this is a game of wit and humour that appreciates the player’s intelligence and greatly rewards their accomplishments. It is full of moments where you will marvel at your achievements or cringe as your case starts to fall down around you, and these moments are what makes Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney such a delight to play all these years later. Nothing beats the feeling of pride and accomplishment you get with a “Not Guilty” verdict and the Ace Attorney series is great enough to make starting at the beginning the only logical course of action. To the courtroom with you!

The World Ends With You (DS)

The World Ends With You is a mass of innovative ideas stylishly combined into a beautifully presented package. Its battle system, although complicated, can be tailored to suit each player’s style, and the flexibility displayed throughout the game is highly commendable. The end result is an RPG that’s every bit as unique as the person who plays it, and that is truly rare. The Final Remix Switch port is still a winner, but necessary changes to combat and controls mean it can't quite recreate the joy of the original dual screen experience - this DS version remains arguably the best way to play.

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors blends interactive novel elements with a digital escape room to stunning effect. It sports a captivating plot driven by a fantastic cast of characters, a satisfying mix of puzzles and mathematical, scientific and philosophical quandaries to ponder. While the third-person descriptive prose might be lacking and solving the same unchanging escape sections repeatedly can become a bit of a bore, it's too compelling not to play through multiple times to see the "true" ending. The game more than makes up for its imperfections and creates a truly gripping experience that you owe it to yourself to try.

Tetris DS (DS)

You can see the 9am meeting at Nintendo HQ now: "Mornin' all. So, we're putting Tetris on the new portable and we need a name. Ideas?" Fortunately, Nintendo SPD didn't head straight to the pub after striking upon the revolutionary Tetris DS title, but knuckled down to produce one of the finest iterations of the block-falling classic ever made. With touch controls, Wi-Fi connectivity and a truckload of Nintendo nods and winks, it is still one of the best ways to play the game and well worth tracking down if you've never had the pleasure.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

Professor Layton and the Curious Village was the first in the puzzle-solving detective series to introduce the world to the titular professor and Luke, the professor's apprentice and very own Watson. Level-5's series brought in a whole new audience of gamers with its particular brand of mysterious adventure, great characters and writing to match. It was games like this that opened up video gaming to an audience who had previously thought it wasn't for them and the franchise's continued success proves it wasn't a fluky one-off. The sequels refined the formula, but it was pretty much perfect right off the bat.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)

Coming from the mind of Shu Takumi, the main developer responsible for Phoenix Wright (and his Japanese voice), Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective equals, and arguably surpasses, the quality of the lawyer's many games. It has a few issues towards the end with some of the puzzles requiring a few leaps in lateral thinking (particularly when controlling multiple characters with different abilities), but Ghost Trick is a perfect showcase of what the Nintendo DS could accomplish with the right design. Making use of the system's stylus to latch onto object cores and ultimately recover the deceased protagonist's memory, it's still a delight to play, with a dramatic, jazzy soundtrack and a story that continues to surprise until the end. It may be crammed full of tricks, but this is still an absolute treat.

Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan (DS)

If you like Japanese music, aspire to be a male cheerleader, or even if you simply love rhythm games, Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan is the game for you. It’s a pick-up-and-play masterpiece ideal for those 10-minute breaks you have nothing to do in. There's nothing to fault in the gameplay, and the parts you don’t understand are overshadowed by how damn good it is. While many Western players will claim Elite Beat Agents (a heavily modified upgrade with different music) to be superior, we feel the Japanese original has the edge, purely because the music seems to fit everything else so perfectly. Having said that, both games are worth a look, as is the Japanese sequel, Moero! Nekketsu Rhythm Damashii Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2.

Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)

Starting out on the N64 in Japan, Animal Crossing was arguably better suited to portable play from the very beginning and Animal Crossing: Wild World became an incredible time sink for millions on DS. We remember playing every single day over the course of a year and a half - no exceptions, no excuses. The online connectivity and the gentle day-to-day relationships you built with the game and its characters were as addictive as any video game we've ever played. This was one of the various DS titles with the power to hook people who'd never before played a video game.

Of course, going back now would expose just how far the series has come since 2005, and the crushing guilt of seeing our desolate, weed-infested village would be too much to bear, but this incredible video game became part of our lives for a good while there, and we'll treasure the memories we have of our little town forever.

Mario Kart DS (DS)

Whether you can forgive its snaking ways or not, this was still a cracking entry in a series which arguably doesn't have a dud. Snaking — a technique which involves using power slide boosts — did admittedly dampen the online experience back in the day if you hadn't mastered it, but online isn't an option now, so if you're unhappy with how your local competitors are snaking, you can simply lean over and communicate your dissatisfaction in a direct manner.

It should also be remembered that Mario Kart DS was the first in the series to offer online play – and that was a real game-changer back in 2005. Of course, it's been surpassed since by its sequels, but having a fully 3D Mario Kart in your hands was a special feeling back in the day, and MKDS holds a special place in many a kart-lover's hearts, including ours.

Rhythm Heaven (DS)

Rhythm Heaven (or Rhythm Paradise as we know it in Europe) is the epitome of simple, clear game design, yet it never feels half-hearted in any regard. Its bare-bones presentation helps new players get into into the swing of things, and once you 'get' it (and its strange sense of humour), you'll find it very difficult to put down. It’s packed full of content and replay value, with tunes you'll find yourself whistling when you're away from the game, and still stands as one of the finest titles to grace the DS. Sure, the Megamix entry on 3DS collects together many of the best games from this and other games in the series, but this is still worth picking up in its own right. Trust us, you'll be in rhythm game heaven (or paradise, depending on your side of the pond).

WarioWare Touched! (DS)

WarioWare Touched! might not have quite the wow factor that it had upon release, but it's overflowing with the maniacal energy that makes the series such a blast, regardless of platform. Despite being an extremely short experience (with the main mode easily completable in an hour or so), and featuring incredibly simplistic gameplay mechanics, the DS entry still has plenty to offer. The sheer abundance of microgames and the game's colourful visuals, quirky humour and wonderful soundtrack make it a timeless experience and worth catching up with all these years later.

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS)

Golden Sun: Dark Dawn is certainly an enjoyable and engaging RPG adventure, but you can't help but wish the developer had been a little more ambitious with the game, especially considering the seven year wait. The wealth of classic Golden Sun elements should please most long-time fans of the series, but the return of the lengthy dialogue, not to mention the somewhat short quest and tame difficulty level, might not be quite as welcome among veteran RPG fans looking for a more considerable challenge. Dark Dawn might not be the major upgrade many were hoping for, but it is yet another solid DS role-playing adventure and a golden opportunity to revisit yet another classic RPG series.

How many games were released on Nintendo DS?

3468 games were officially published on the Nintendo DS across all regions.

How many units did the Nintendo DS sell?

All Nintendo DS models combined have sold 154.02 million units

How much was a Nintendo DS?

The Nintendo DS cost US$149.99 when it was first launched in 2004.

What replaced the Nintendo DS?

The Nintendo DS was replaced by the Nintendo 3DS, which retained the dual-screen, clamshell format but included glasses-free 3D and more powerful internal tech.

What does 'DS' stand for?

While many assume it means 'Dual Screen', within Nintendo, it was also referred to as 'Developer's System'.