News Article

Hardware Classics: Nintendo DS Lite

Posted by Damien McFerran

This is how you redesign a console

Let's be brutally honest here — the original DS design was ugly. Quite what Nintendo's designers were thinking when they came up with it we'll never know, but the dumpy, two-tone casing hardly got pulses racing, even back in 2004. It felt like a system that was rushed out of the door purely to meet a deadline, and ended up looking decidedly unattractive next to Sony's lush PlayStation Portable. However, it mattered little — the system was a smash hit right from the get-go, selling like hotcakes thanks to its ground-breaking touch-based interface and dual-screen gameplay. Any other company might have allowed this commercial success to make it complacent, but that's not Nintendo's style. The DS Lite appeared on the market less than two years after the original system's release, and has since sold almost 90 million units worldwide — making it one of the most successful consoles of all time.

Initially released in white, the DS Lite clearly owes a lot of inspiration to Apple's line of products. Compared to the original DS model, the difference is like night and day — it's no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most beautiful pieces of hardware Nintendo has ever created, and one of the most attractive handhelds ever made. Every element of the machine's physical form is perfect, from the sleek, pocket-sized dimensions to the glossy exterior and matte-finished interior. Despite the fact that it's such a common machine, the DS Lite is proof that sometimes familiarity doesn't breed contempt; the longer you spend with it, the more gorgeous it becomes.

Like the original system, the DS Lite is compatible with Game Boy Advance software thanks to a cartridge slot on the bottom, which is protected by a plastic blanking plate when not in use. The successor to this machine — the DSi — would sadly remove this functionality. The stylus docks at the side rather than the top (as was the case with the original model) and the D-pad is — like the one on the Wii Remote — spongier and sits higher in the casing — the example seen on the previous model was quite flat, and therefore hard to use for prolonged periods. Finally, those twin screens are much brighter than before, producing a crisp and colourful image.

Picking up a DS Lite these days is easier than falling off a log — second hand units are everywhere, and can be obtained cheaply. DS software is abundant and reasonably-priced, although some of the more notable titles are starting to increase in value. Although the DS was saddled with a tremendous number of poor-quality games, it's also home to what is arguably one of the strongest selection of RPGs since the days of the SNES. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Chrono Trigger, Mario & Luigi: Bower's Inside Story, Pokémon Black and White 2, Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation...the list seems to go on forever. These classic titles are joined by a multitude of other must-have releases, such as New Super Mario Bros., Mario Kart DS, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Elite Beat Agents and many, many more. This is unquestionably one of the strongest hardware platforms to emerge from Nintendo's Kyoto laboratories, and it's possible that in the next few years you'll see its status grow dramatically, as people look back on its amazing catalogue of software.

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User Comments (99)

AlexSora89

#1

AlexSora89 said:

I still miss the original DS Phat design! It just has that... kind of a "console from the future!!" feeling.

RCMADIAX

#2

RCMADIAX said:

I got my DSLite right before they announced the DSi, so I didnt have it very long.

AlexSora89

#4

AlexSora89 said:

The reason I said I still miss the DS Phat is, simply put, that once I got a DS Lite, I gave my old DS to my girlfriend, but sadly, within a few days she accidentally dropped it, and just as that happened, my own DS Lite broke in between the two screens. That, coupled with the fragility of the top screen (a small pressure is enough to get the liquid crystals spinning like crazy), got me worried enough to rush to a store and get a protective case, so that the still-functional DS Lite could be safer. It still works great to this day, despite I'm constantly fearing the worst for the handheld. Ironically, the protective case's color is silver, so now it looks more like the original DS. You know, kind of like Megaman X's suit eventually becomes similar to Zero's in color with each upgrade.

Miss_Pixelheart

#5

Miss_Pixelheart said:

Good review, but don't you think this comes a bit too late? ;) the DS lite looks cool but the design of the 3ds XL is still the best

AutumnShantel

#6

AutumnShantel said:

You know, I never thought of it as ugly until the Lite came out, it did its job and that's what I cared about. Still love the way my pink DSLite looks and sometimes I'll play it instead of my DSi. (I never play DS games on the 3DS but I assume alot of people are that way)

eduardopaulo

#7

eduardopaulo said:

I've never owned a proper home console by any company, only Nintendo handhelds. I got tired of my GBA in 2005 because good games were expensive, and the DS was VERY expensive here in Brazil at the time, so I thought my gaming life was done for good. Then in 2009 I talked to a friend and he told me about the DS Lite, which was very accessible for gamers with little money, and I got a white one (identical to the one in the pics above) right away. It was my first true experience with great titles, and it helped me define my taste in games. My favorite one of the bunch, as you can tell from my avatar, is Henry Hatsworth; I probably beat it ten times in Gentleman Mode. I retired my DS in late 2012 after deciding that the 3DS XL and its games were a good investment.

hamsterfactor

#8

hamsterfactor said:

I recently retired my red DS lite for a white 3DS XL, but I loved every moment of playing with it :) Never owned an original DS (my previous handheld was a black GBA SP), so I don't know how they compared... but yeah, I don't regret waiting long enough for a lite.

Squashie

#10

Squashie said:

Since when was this old? Now I feel old! :(

Otherwise, it was an awesome console and I had a silver one as my first DS (upgrade from my GBA).

idork99

#11

idork99 said:

I purchased the original DS from day one and automatically became my go to system. When the DS Lite was announced in January of 2006, I was in awe due to the color and design (heavily influenced by Apple's iPod's). I wanted the system so bad that I couldn't wait and paid an arm and a leg to get the first batch of systems that were first released in March of that same year from Japan (thanks to eBay and Nintendo since all DS games from all regions were compatible). But yes, an excellent system and a classic in my mind. Now, if Nintendo can just release that all white color 3DS XL here in the US, my soul will be at peace :).

UnseatingKDawg

#12

UnseatingKDawg said:

Not every part of the physical form is perfect. Me and several others I know had the hinge snapped. While I do admit that I played the hell out of my DS lite, my friends were more gentle, and it didn't take much for their hinges to snap. Oddly enough, the hinge snapped in the exact same spot for all of us - right next to the battery lights.

TruenoGT

#13

TruenoGT said:

The DS Lite was the system that got me back into gaming. At one point, I had sold off all my gaming stuff (many systems and games), but a few years later picked up a DS Lite and Brain Age and fell back in love with games after seeing some of the unique and beautiful stuff (physically and game play wise) Nintendo was bringing out again... the DS Lite was definitely a huge part of that.

Inazuma_Pikpik

#14

Inazuma_Pikpik said:

It was a great system, but because of how much of a klutz I was when I was younger, I had a total of 5 ds lites, all bought to replace the previous, broken one.

Miss_Pixelheart

#15

Miss_Pixelheart said:

some people are making a huge mistake... The DS lite was no great or awesome console it is a great/awesome console

Cipher

#16

Cipher said:

I still want to pick one of these up one day. I need something to play GBA games on, and as much as I adore my Micro, it's a little too small for me.

eduardopaulo

#17

eduardopaulo said:

I didn't know that the DS Lite's hinge broke so often. I had mine for three years and took it everywhere, never owned a case, and it never broke. My only complaint about it is that it was very hard to keep clean. The small crevices were always dirty.

FullbringIchigo

#18

FullbringIchigo said:

i got the original DS but the top broke somehow so i brought a DSLite and thought it was 10 times better than the original design

AlexSora89

#19

AlexSora89 said:

@UnseatingKDawg

That's exactly the issue I experienced myself and remembered here in my second, anectodal comment. Get yourself a protective case - it helps a lot, trust me on this one! ;-)

UnseatingKDawg

#20

UnseatingKDawg said:

@eduardopaulo: That's the weird thing though. I had mine for a couple years before the hinge snapped, and my friend's hinge snapped not too long after he got it. But it was in exactly the same spot.

Peach64

#24

Peach64 said:

The DS Lite was the only time I ever upgraded a console. I didn't think that the GBA SP was worth paying for all over again, but my god the original DS was ugly. Even though I bought a 3DS XL before Christmas and now play all my DS games on that, I still have the Lite for playing GBA games.

KeeperBvK

#25

KeeperBvK said:

What is all this talk about European DS boxes being better than US/Japanese ones? I live in Europe and I can't stand our boxes here, mostly importing my games from NA or Japan just to have thinner boxes that don't take up so much storage shelf for no good reason. North Americans: Consider yourselves lucky.

Rensch

#26

Rensch said:

Best of the old generation of DS systems. Better design and brighter screen than the old model, but still compatible with GBA games, something I prefer greatly over the unimpressive DSiWare catalog.

Haywired

#28

Haywired said:

It's funny because I remember when the original DS design was revealed (itself a re-design from the prototype shown at E3 2004), people were saying how awesome it looked... But yeah, the DS Lite is one of the best looking consoles ever. The only thing I don't like is on the white one, the shoulder buttons discolor quite badly after a while.

WaveWarlock

#30

WaveWarlock said:

Easily Nintendo's greatest Handheld upgrade. I still have my polar white DS Lite, and it's absolutely gorgeous and has such a striking whimsical look to it, especially when closed with it's outer white gloss finish. It's max setting is even brighter than the 3DS's...What's up with that? But anyways, i never bothered with the DS Phat, and instead jumped right in as soon as the Lite released. It was totaly ground breaking and boasted some of the greatest games period!

theblackdragonAdmin

#32

theblackdragon said:

My husband and I bought our Lites the day they were released here in the US, and then traded them against the DSi the night that was released. Between June of '06 and April of '09, my hinge never cracked, but his cracked quite badly (I was afraid they wouldn't take it as a trade-in, but they never batted an eye, lol). The only real difference in our playing style was that I had heard about the hinge-cracking problem and made a point of never opening my Lite to where it clicked into place and was completely flat, whereas he always opened his flat to play it regardless of how many times I reminded him it'd crack his hinge, lol. I had a wonderful case for mine, it had handles that came out of the bottom and made it much nicer to grasp for long periods of time. I kinda miss it, but then I remember that I've still got my DSi, and the DSi's screens are a bit larger :3

Aqueous

#33

Aqueous said:

Wonderful, still is my favourite alarm clock. I just wish the L and R buttons never went on it.

RaylaxStaff

#35

Raylax said:

I actually prefer the DS Phat and DSi, haha. The DSi wins for its gorgeous, ultra-bright screens.

Tedikuma

#36

Tedikuma said:

I love my DS Lite, although I do miss the original DS I traded in for it a little. But the build quality on mine is great, and the matte surfaces are something I really miss in the first 3DS. Haven't upgraded to the 3DS XL yet... Kind of want a 3DS the size and build quality of a Lite.

FritzFrapp

#37

FritzFrapp said:

@AlexSora89
Yes, although the Lite was certainly the better design and had a much better screen, I much prefer the 'spacey' feel of the original DS. The speakers were much louder too, which is important to me, especially because my DS is still my main alarm clock to this day.
Doesn't matter which model you choose, best library of any console bar none.

C7_

#39

C7_ said:

I wouldn't be so quick to praise it; while it was sleeker and much easier to carry, it had a huge problem with the hinge. I've heard tons of people (including someone I know personally and myself) who had the hinge crack before it eventually just broke off and had to send it in to be fixed. In fact, I almost sent mine in twice, and if the DSi hadn't just come out I would've because the other hinge nearly broke.
Sure, the screens were better and the design was delicious, but it was definitely not one of Nintendo's strongest consoles, which is a big problem when you're expected to carry it everywhere.

Fuzzy

#40

Fuzzy said:

"is easier than falling off a log." Ha, never heard of that saying before.

Anyway, I bought a DS quite late in either '09 or '10, but quickly amassed a good collection of games (both DS and GBA, which I had never played before then). I think I liked the DSi more, but the DS Lite was an impressive handheld.

ReshiramZekrom

#41

ReshiramZekrom said:

I have the Limited Edition Onyx DS Lite with Dialga and Palkia on the front. It came with a case with Dialga and Palkia on it, and a Pokémon Mystery Dungeon DVD. Unfortunately, I played with it way too much, dropped it way too many times, and now the right speaker doesn't work and the L Button hardly works. Not only that, but a piece broke off exposing some of the insides of the DS Lite and the hinge is broken. I'm just surprised it still plays games.

HaNks

#42

HaNks said:

the DS Phat was a lot more ergonomic and better for MK. screen is a huge upgrade on the Lite and the later revisions getting close to the best of both. OG 3DS is kind of the same dimensions as the Lite - not good for larger hands!

ajcismo

#43

ajcismo said:

Got my wife a DS Lite for Xmas one year when we were dating and despite us owning several later DSi/XL/3DS models, its still her favorite portable.

AgentAPE

#44

AgentAPE said:

@HaNks i agree, i have huge hands and still rock a ds phat for that reason, it has a full controller layout, micro trigger buttons suck. i have the OG 3ds and cant play it for too long before my hands start hurting

WiiLovePeace

#46

WiiLovePeace said:

Great article. Feels wierd to say that this is a "retro" system though. Seems like just yesterday I tried out a DS Lite didn't enjoy the dual screens hence never picked one up. Finally picking up a DSi XL due to the huge amount of games (my 2nd handheld since the original game boy) & now I can barely imagine handheld gaming without the second screen. Heck, sometimes I wonder where the 2nd screen is when I play Wii games, I'm so used to it being there with Wii U now :p I'd pick up a DS Lite but I just can't get enough of big screens.

Gavin_Rozee

#47

Gavin_Rozee said:

That's cool but you should have used a more pristine DS Lite. The rubber pads on the back are badly stained and the shoulder buttons have discoloured.

theblackdragonAdmin

#48

theblackdragon said:

@Gavin: With as badly as the white Lites' pads and buttons aged, there's probably a good chance that there aren't any pristine ones in existence :3

ogo79

#49

ogo79 said:

castlevania trilogy for ds is the way to go, still got all 3 of mine sealed.

BlueNitrous

#50

BlueNitrous said:

My DS lite got about, oh, lets say about 4 years of use. The buttons barely work anymore, so I stick to my GBA SP and 3DS for games now.

LEGEND_MARIOID

#51

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

A brilliant, simple console. One of the very best consoles ever. Totally understandable why it was so dang successful with its design and stellaribrary

retro_player_22

#53

retro_player_22 said:

Though the DS Lite is a major improvement over the DS Phat in terms of size, screen and graphical update, the Phat does offered louder speaker support and a more comfortable button layout not to mention a better GBA slot. The DS Lite and later models made those buttons way too small and I just don't like how the GBA games stick out on the Lite.

SCAR392

#54

SCAR392 said:

The original was durable as can be. I know this might sound stupid, but I threw mine down some stairs right before I got a Lite, and not even a scratch or anything. I was so excited, I went to go wait in line for the Lite. I was first in line with 2 people behind me.
You didn't even list 5% of the worth while games on this system. It was amazingly fun.

Emaan

#55

Emaan said:

The DS Lite was the best! I never had an original DS model, so this was my first. I remember being so excited when I got it, along with New Super Mario Bros. and Nintendogs. Oh the memories. Sadly, my DS Lite broke due to the hinge a few years later. The DSi never really impressed me after that.

Here's to the DS system that very likely contributed the most to its success!

<3

shredmeister

#56

shredmeister said:

I love my DS Lite and currently own 50 DS games and 125 GBA games that I can play on it. Got some pretty cool games for cheap last week. Target was selling Golden Sun: Dark Dawn brand new for $14.99. Then I went to Gamestop and picked up an Atlus game called 'Summon Night: Twin Age', a pretty cool action RPG for only 4 bucks. Got Magical Starsign for 3 bucks, a decent RPG published by Nintendo.

ouroborous

#59

ouroborous said:

oh Nintendo, how many handhelds have I bought from you?
GameBoy
GameBoy Color (Swiped from a friend for a while)
GameBoy Advance (and another one for my brother)
Gameboy Advance SP (two of 'em 'cause one got stolen, but the gf replaced it for me, yay!)
DS
DSLite
3DS
3DSXL

The best were the GBA-SP, DSLite (never had a DSi) and the 3DSXL (never got around to getting a DSiXL but the 3DSXL is better anyway)
Wish I would have gotten a GBA-Micro in hindsight, wish I still had an SP but 'cest la vie.

OdnetninAges

#60

OdnetninAges said:

When I was younger, I got a used DS Lite with a screwed up touch screen from GameStop along with Sonic Chronicles, and a few months later for Christmas, I got a new Original DS with the Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo, New Super Mario Bros., and Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

My friends always said that the Original DS looked so much cooler then the DS Lite and DSi. (They all had DS Lites or DSis.)

Please remember that everyone has their own opinion about things.

Bassman_Q

#62

Bassman_Q said:

This article makes me NOT want to sell my white DS Lite, haha. Although Ive spent hundreds of hours playing my DS Lite (mainly cuz of Animal Crossing, the two Advance Wars, Dragon Quest Rocket Slime, and Phantom Hourglass), I still love my DSi much more, mainly cuz I took better care of it (looks very close to new!) and it was able to play DSiWare games, which made the upgrade from the Lite worth it imo.

I love my red 3DS most, though. ;)

TheAdza

#64

TheAdza said:

I wish I still had my white one. But sadly I have it to my son who had broken both his Black Lite and Black DSi. Thankfully as he has gotten older his flame red 3DS is still in good condition. Probably better than mine. But both my DSiXL and 3DSXL are in perfect shape. And speaking of shape, the DSlite and 3DSXL are pretty much both my favourite redesigns.

Tsuchiya

#65

Tsuchiya said:

@theblackdragon
Some of us look after our gear you know.

Not white but my absolutely hideous and vomit inducing Sea Foam Blue Lite hasn't got a single mark on it. The walls and carpet however..

Neram

#66

Neram said:

I'd almost go as far as to say the DS Lite was the nicest looking Nintendo handheld ever designed, but I actually like the original 3DS the most so far.

BakaKnight

#67

BakaKnight said:

I skipped the DS lite, passing from the original DS to the DSi, but I must admit it's a choice I regret a little now.
While the DSi was a bigger evolution of the DS system, the miss of the second slot feels a lot now that my 3DS made the DSi litterally pointless.

Sure, I have a gamecube with gameboy player for Advance games, and love to use it, but how can I play Boktai2 with it?!?!
I can't keep moving the whole gamecube out of the window!!!! @O@;;;

Neram

#68

Neram said:

Did the UK get clear game cases for the DS!? So much nicer than North America's plain dark grey cases.

Zzyyvux

#69

Zzyyvux said:

As for design, I feel quite the opposite. The original DS is my favorite console ever (looks wise), but I can't stand the design of the DS Lite

meppi

#70

meppi said:

Still my favourite DS, even though I have every iteration.
Also just bought a second 3DS XL and chose the white one as it reminds me a lot of the DSL. Fantastic system all around.

Fr8NkRox

#71

Fr8NkRox said:

My DS Lite hinge broke, the one by the light. I also Got a DSi and I traded my DS Lite for a 3DS back when it first came out

Wheels2050

#74

Wheels2050 said:

I know it's subjective, but I think the DSi is the best looking of the DS line. The Lite ain't bad, but I think the DSi had a few nice touches that push it over the edge.

eduardopaulo

#75

eduardopaulo said:

@1upLuigi Looks pretty cool. I gave my DS Lite to my 5-year old brother; let's see how long it'll take until he breaks the hinge and I have to do the same thing you did. My guess is within a week's time.

anthony999

#76

anthony999 said:

I still own every incarnation of the Nintendo DS system to date, including the 3DS system (s)....

Wheels2050

#77

Wheels2050 said:

@1upLuigi: Very nice. I've done the same with a couple of Lites, so I've got a Black/gold one (with the Zelda logo on top), and two more using red/blue pieces (so one with red outside, blue inside, and the other vice-versa)

SCAR392

#78

SCAR392 said:

I thought about this a couple hours ago...
The 3DS XL looks kind of like the original DS kinda, except with a TON more inside.

SCAR392

#79

SCAR392 said:

I guess I should say it looks most similar, because the shiny matte paint, and the dark bottom.

Gridatttack

#80

Gridatttack said:

Great handheld console. Got a DS lite since its launch day. Thought its now resting as my 3DS replaced it...

Will never forget the awesome games I played on this console ;)

Brotagonist

#81

Brotagonist said:

I still have my first DS Lite somewhere, even though the triggers and A and B buttons don't work anymore, but I couldn't get rid of it, it had Dialga and Palkia on it!

GamerZack87

#82

GamerZack87 said:

I bought a brand-new Mario Red DS lite last week. I can hardly wait for it to arrive! It's a brilliant handheld even to this day, with access to two game libraries and excellent battery life. I wholeheartedly agree with your review, Damien! :)

ReshiramZekrom

#83

ReshiramZekrom said:

@Brotagonist Yeeeeeeeeeee

At least now I know someone else had that DS Lite. Nobody in my school—or should I say, town— had the Dia+Pal DS Lite, so everyone was asking if they were stickers. I facepalmed everytime.

sAviOrrrr

#85

sAviOrrrr said:

I stil use it frequently ..

1.It's kinda strange to play DS game on 3DS
2.Buttons on DS feel better than 3DS..

skjia

#88

skjia said:

I recently played Pokemon White 2 on my 3DS with a friend who was playing on a white DSLite... Man I miss that machine. I was actually jealous of him lol. It's definitely my favorite handheld, with the GBA SP at a close second.
I hope the next 3DS design is closer to the awesomeness of the DSLite.

sonicriders

#89

sonicriders said:

I liked the original DS model simply for the nostalgia. Just seeing one of those things running Super Mario 64 DS...love it!

I think the DS Lite was a big step up, though. DSi: fantastic system, but I still think the DS Lite was better. I mean, GBA beats low-res cameras and an eShop any day. :P And you can't play GUitar Hero on DSi :(

LordessMeep

#90

LordessMeep said:

Aw, man, THAT model! I believe that was what got me into Nintendo gaming (after Super Mario Bros). We weren't as well off back in school, mostly because my parents were trying to put me through a fancy-schmancy private school, so I didn't actually own the consoles until later. But I recall these two weeks when a friend of mine swiped her younger brother's DSLite, and kept it with herself in our hostel. The thing only had one game on it - Super Mario 64 DS - and while we weren't as dexterous as he was (the kid had racked up some 54 stars within two or three days of having the game), he had unlocked all the mini games.
We just ended up playing the hell out of that Bob-omb sorting mini game, amongst others. I've had a good few weeks with that system, and I'm just glad I can play many of these classics on my 3DS (in washed out colours).

Mr_Eyes

#91

Mr_Eyes said:

It's a lovely design. But for me, the white DSi looks even more beautiful. The soft finish (no gloss!), nicer L/R buttons.

Coldheat

#92

Coldheat said:

I had almost Zero interest in the original DS. The screens were dark, the handheld wasn’t visually appealing, and it was difficult to use in any kind of direct sunlight. I knew that the DS Lite was an entirely different beast however, and was the kind of change that screamed got-to-have it! My Wife and I picked up a DS Lite for our Son the Sunday it was released, even though his Birthday wasn’t for a couple more months. Despite it getting heavy use and being dropped a couple of times, It has stood up remarkably well over the years. The edges of the lower touch screen aren’t as responsive, and I think a hinge is cracked, but beyond that it’s still ticking.

drtbkr1

#95

drtbkr1 said:

like it. i never had one because my family just got a dsi for me. then i traded a scooter for a dsi xl : so now i have 2 :|

Mirkhay

#97

Mirkhay said:

After 7 years i still have my Original Blue DS (phat)
I play it almost every day, the only sad part is that it is the only DS i have
I have never had the lite, DSi, or 3DS (yet!)
I love my phat and old blue DS, it just never breaks xD

SyFyTy

#98

SyFyTy said:

although I have a Ambasador 3ds and an 3ds XL. my favorite systems are the Black and White DSi's, (one of each) oh and a coffee (hate the bronze name) colored DSi XL. I have a pristine GB Micro for my 6 fav GBA games.. I'll never play Ds games on a 3ds ..; looks far too washed out for my taste. ...like my eyes used to see text BEFORE GLASSES.

Rune_Meister88

#99

Rune_Meister88 said:

i agree!! i love my ds lite :3 my first one is black (and still works!!) and then i got a gold zelda edition and lime green one...planning to get yellow pikachu edition!! although im saving up for a 3ds xl, i consider ds lite console to be my fave fave of all times!!
ps i also have the original ds phat ver and gba micro famicom ed :D

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