20. Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: 22nd Aug 2005 (USA) / 30th Sep 2005 (UK/EU)

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.

This was the penultimate outing for the 'Wars' series on DS; the 2008 sequel Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was the last time Intelligent Systems took to the battlefield in a game that didn't have 'Fire Emblem' in the title. With the release of the fabulous Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the developer has another strategy hit on its hands, but we'd still love to see a return of the Wars series someday. Until then, we'll have to make do with returning to previous entries, including this gem.

19. Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)

Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Level-5
Release Date: 10th Feb 2008 (USA) / 7th Nov 2008 (UK/EU)

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.

18. Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time / Darkness (DS)

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time / Darkness (DS)
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time / Darkness (DS)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 20th Apr 2008 (USA) / 4th Jul 2008 (UK/EU)

This pair of Pokémon games from Chunsoft were sequels to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team and Blue Rescue Team, games which (unusually) straddled the GBA and DS respectively, using the latter's GBA cartridge slot to interface between the two. Both Explorers of Time and Explorers of Darkness were DS-only and brought along all the Gen IV Pokémon. The game sees you transformed into a Pocket Monster at the beginning and, of course, you'll need both versions if you want to catch 'em all. Two years later the enhanced Explorers of Sky would arrive with added 'mons, dungeons and features. These games' repetitive gameplay isn't everyone's cup of tea, but if you're after dungeon crawling with added cuteness from your favourite franchise critters, it doesn't get much better than this.

17. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (DS)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 11th Jan 2011 (USA) / 14th Jan 2011 (UK/EU)

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.

16. 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)
Publisher: Aksys Games / Developer: ChunSoft
Release Date: 16th Nov 2010 (USA)

999 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.

15. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)

Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (DS)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 21st Oct 2008 (USA) / 6th Feb 2009 (UK/EU)

The Nintendo DS trilogy of Metroidvanias is rounded off by this offering, which features a female protagonist and a structure that calls to mind the likes of Simon's Quest. Ayami Kojima wasn't hired to do character designs but replacement Masaki Hirooka does a good job of mimicking the style, avoiding the anime-like art seen in the previous two DS adventures. Order of Ecclesia was something of a divisive release at the time; many hailed it as the best of the DS trio, while others bemoaned the fact that the format had become very stale by this point, and that Ecclesia was too reliant on quests and its map was too disjointed to be satisfying to explore. Over time, it has become one of the most well-respected of the handheld Castlevanias and is worth a look if you can pick it up for a reasonable price.

14. Tetris DS (DS)

Tetris DS (DS)
Tetris DS (DS)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: Nintendo SPD
Release Date: 20th Mar 2006 (USA) / 21st Apr 2006 (UK/EU)

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.

13. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)

Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story (DS)
Publisher: Nintendo / Developer: AlphaDream
Release Date: 14th Sep 2009 (USA) / 9th Oct 2009 (UK/EU)

Alpha Dream created a fantastic take on the Super Mario RPG idea years ago on Game Boy Advance, but they took the concept to new heights with Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. The third title in the Mario & Luigi series, it would be easy to rave on and on about the game, but the best way to sum everything up would be to say Bowser's Inside Story is the kind of game that will remind you why you love playing video games in the first place. It's easily one of the best DS releases and although it received a 3DS update that we'd probably take in a straight contest, you really can't go wrong with either version. If this one passed you by, we recommend you get intimately acquainted with the King of the Koopas pronto.

12. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (DS)
Publisher: Konami / Developer: Konami
Release Date: 4th Oct 2005 (USA) / 29th Sep 2005 (UK/EU)

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.

11. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (DS)
Publisher: Capcom / Developer: Capcom
Release Date: 31st Mar 2006 (USA) / 31st Mar 2006 (UK/EU)

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!