This ranked reader-voted list of the 50 best Nintendo DS games is governed by Nintendo Life User Ratings and can change depending on those scores. Feel free to rate your favourites and, perhaps, rejig the ranking below. Enjoy!
One of the joys of Nintendo's Switch is how it marries the company's home console heritage with its equally prestigious handheld line. Ask anybody over the age of thirty to name a handheld system and "Game Boy" will likely still be the first answer; the name became synonymous with portable gaming just as home consoles were routinely referred to as "Nintendos" back in the day. Younger generations, though, are more likely to name the unlikely upstart that stole Game Boy's portable crown and permanently ousted that mighty brand name from Nintendo's lineup: Nintendo DS.
It's strange to think back to a time when the Nintendo DS - that odd-looking folding system - was positioned as a 'third pillar' alongside GameCube and Game Boy Advance. That was until it promptly slayed the Boy king and took his throne.
The original prototype and even the initial 'Phat' version of the hardware certainly didn't look like much of a threat. The early reveal model Reggie pulled from his pocket looked undeniably clunky, especially up against the sleek elegance of Sony's PSP. There was a nervousness from fans that Sony's arrival on the handheld market was the death knell to Nintendo's dominance in the same way it had been with the home console market nearly a decade earlier. How was an ugly dual screen Game and Watch-alike going to win a console war?! Nintendo seemed to be grabbing at straws, and inexplicably jumping off the good ship Game Boy, scuppering its flagship handheld for no good reason.
The gamble paid off, though, and the Nintendo DS became the first movement in a blue ocean strategy that Nintendo President Satoru Iwata would soon employ on the company's home console line with the Wii. With its approachable touchscreen input and huge breadth of software to appeal to audiences old and young, gamer and non-gamer alike, the DS helped bring handheld gaming to the masses which had felt 'excluded' from the Game Boy phenomenon for whatever reason.
Software like Brain Training and Nintendogs sat alongside core RPGs and classic games on a system that could be as wacky or as straight-laced as a developer desired. Gamers' favourite franchises continued to arrive in fresh forms while games like Animal Crossing: Wild World found a huge new audience, too. Perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay the Nintendo DS is that it made us forget entirely about the retirement of the 'Game Boy' brand - it's got one hell of a library!
We asked Nintendo Life readers to score for their favourite Nintendo DS games and, thanks to those User Ratings, the following ranked list of 50 games steadily congealed into existence. It's a very fine selection, but not one that's set in stone. This list can still evolve as games receive new user scores, so don't worry if you missed out on 'voting' - simply scroll down and rate them now! Be sure to check out our feature on the 50 best Nintendo 3DS games if you want to compare this console's lineup with its successor.
If there's a game bubbling under the top 50 that you'd like to rate, feel free to find it using the search tool below and give it a score out of 10. Otherwise, we proudly present the 50 best Nintendo DS games ever...
Note. In order for games to become eligible, they need a minimum of 50 User Ratings in total.
If you are a fan of the Alien movies, relish Metroidvania exploratory gameplay and appreciate side-scrolling retro pixel art design, Aliens: Infestation delivers on all three counts. It was clear that the WayForward staff are huge fans of the franchise and 2D gaming: the mixture of dedication to fan service in the story, plus the personality of the characters complements the brilliantly detailed visuals and atmospheric audio. There's some repetition of the locations, but the tension, mood and feel of this game is spot on. Another decent licensed game from WayForward.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks might suffer from a bad reputation, but if you can get past being tied to a train track, it really is an excellent entry in the series. It tweaks, expands and in some ways improves on the foundations of Phantom Hourglass and throws in some new novelties. Its fabulous soundtrack stands alongside the best of the series and we think its time to reevaluate this entry in the storied franchise. Choo-choo.
48. Okamiden (DS)
Okamiden is an epic adventure in every sense that just happens to be running on a diminutive DS. With a well written storyline, a huge over-world and gorgeous visuals and sound, it's an experience that compares favourably to the original Okami. There are occasional frame rate drops and some awkward D-Pad controls (much like Super Mario 64 DS, we recommend playing on a 3DS and using its analogue nub), but this is an exceptional achievement which will enchant you with its cute hero and heart-warming story. Even all these years later, it deserves a chance to be enjoyed if you liked Okami, or are a fan of Zelda-style adventure games.
Being able to create your own microgames is a dream come true for many fans of the WarioWare series and the developers have come through with flying colors in delivering not only a very functional set of creation tools, but a package that is easy enough for just about anyone to make good use of. While the built-in games aren't quite of the variety and calibre of some of those found in previous WarioWare releases, they're still quite enjoyable and a nice blueprint for those setting out to create their own games. Fans looking to purchase WarioWare D.I.Y. simply to play the microgames might be a bit disappointed with the lack of variety in the included titles, but those who are willing to put in the time and effort to become familiar with the creation tools will likely find a very powerful and rewarding gaming experience limited only by their imaginations and free time.
Although everyone has an individual preference, and Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time may not be the strongest game in the series, that's more a reflection of just how great the Mario & Luigi games are. While the story might hover just below the level of other instalments, it's still creative, appealing and laugh-out-loud funny, and mastering the four-button setup of battles is as fun as ever. Bowser's Inside Story might have the edge, but it's tough to go wrong with this series.
Doing our best to avoid spouting Prince lyrics, what is there to say about Pokémon Diamond & Pearl? The core experience holds up as well as it ever did and, at the time, these were the greatest Pokemon games ever created. As with so many video games successful enough to spawn a never-ending series of sequels, each entry is destined to settle beneath its successors, compacting down with the passing of time until they're mere fossils - worth treasuring and remembering, yes, but not worth actually playing, right?
We guess that's the price of success and progress, but while Diamond & Pearl might not boast the refinements we're now accustomed to, they're still excellent Pokémon games and deserve to be taken off the shelf and played with once in a while. They're sure to make you a happy boy or a girl.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter is a game crafted with care and painstaking detail, incorporating a lengthy, well-written story with engaging battle mechanics and an impressive variety of quest styles. If text-heavy Japanese RPGs don’t appeal to you, then this may not be a great fit. However, those seeking an original, attractive experience that might have slipped your notice should hunt this game down.
43. 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 that 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.
Collecting together all four of the Game Boy Advance games in one convenient package, Inti Creates added an Easy mode and a couple of extra bits and pieces while assembling the Mega Man Zero Collection, but for the most the games were left to sell themselves in this compilation. Fortunately, the Zero series — which arguably follows the same trajectory of quality as the vanilla Mega Man games (good, brilliant, practically-as-brilliant, not-quite-as-brilliant) — was a short and sweet sideline to the Rockman brand and at a time when franchise fans had little else to look forward to from Capcom, this was one hell of a lifeline.
41. Contra 4 (DS)
Contra 4 isn’t for everyone. The difficulty level, even when set to ‘Easy’, is quite frankly on the insane side. But with such a series you have to accept that this is intentional; a Contra title that doesn’t pose a stiff challenge isn’t worthy of the name. Stick with it, though, and you're virtually assured of huge rewards and plenty of ‘old school’ entertainment. It's an impeccably crafted blast-a-thon of the highest standard.