The Nintendo DS is one of the most successful games consoles in the history of the industry, so as you might imagine, it's pretty well-stocked when it comes to RPGs. During its glorious lifespan, this dual-screen wonder played host to some of the best role-playing epics the genre has ever seen – and we've compiled a list of them for you right here.
Below are 30 of the best RPGs for the Nintendo DS, presented in no particular order. As you can see, the system wasn't flooded with quality titles, many of which remain totally exclusive to the console and haven't been republished since.
If you're a fan of RPGs in general, don't forget to check out our other lists:
- Best SNES / Super Nintendo RPGs
- Best Nintendo Switch RPGs
- Best Nintendo Switch Action RPGs
- Best Nintendo 3DS RPGs
- Best Game Boy Advance RPGs
- Best Game Boy / Game Boy Color RPGs
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Chrono Trigger has stood the test of time, demonstrating the timeless sustainability that occurs when a synthesis of impeccable storytelling, gameplay, visuals and music takes place. The DS version is without a doubt the definitive edition of this beautiful work of art. Even if you’ve played it before, you should follow those nostalgic urges and pick up a copy – this is an essential purchase for any RPG fan. All in all, it’s a true masterpiece that is a testament to what games should strive to be like.
One of the GBA's most beloved RPG franchises, Golden Sun took its time coming to the DS, but it was worth the wait. Even though Golden Sun: Dark Dawn might not be the major upgrade many were hoping for, it is yet another solid DS role-playing adventure and a golden (no pun intended) opportunity to revisit yet another classic RPG series.
You can't help but marvel at how the developers were somehow able to squeeze a home console-sized RPG epic onto the diminutive DS, especially given how mammoth the quest itself is. On top of this impressive feat, they found a way to toss in a wealth of new gameplay features and multiplayer action as well. It's perfectly clear from the moment that you begin – absolutely no corners were cut. If ever there were a title to truly show off just how far portable gaming has come over the years, it's this one. Dragon Quest IX is everything that followers of the series could hope for, not to mention a game that no RPG fan should miss.
The original Gold and Silver games are fondly remembered by Pokémon fans all over the world, and with good reason: they introduced features that genuinely evolved the games. With breeding and an in-game clock – both since series staples – not to mention many fan-favourite monsters, these remakes were always going to be well received. Although they fail to push the series forward with any true innovations, they excel at retooling now almost obsolete titles into must-haves for fans.
Square Enix was on a roll when it came to remaking its classics RPGs on Nintendo DS, as Final Fantasy III had already gotten the treatment prior to the release of this title. Final Fantasy IV is a very challenging RPG that'll appeal to all fans of the genre: the graphics are superb, the soundtrack is great, and the gameplay is top-notch. When everything is said and done, this is a must-have RPG.
Like its predecessor on the Game Boy Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift lacks the complex storyline and mature themes of the first Final Fantasy Tactics entry, and while that's a real shame, it doesn't change the fact that the gameplay is still excellent. It offers deep systems, hours of challenge and some seriously good-looking visuals, making it one of the best strategy RPGs on the Nintendo DS. Even the "Judge" system – introduced in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – returns, and adds a neat wrinkle to some of the missions.
Pokémon Black and White are certainly up there with the best of the series: unlike HeartGold and SoulSilver they don’t have nostalgia as their main attraction, but they come closest to recreating the sense of discovery felt when embarking on that first journey with Pokémon.
Although everyone has an individual preference, an argument can be made that Partners in Time is not the strongest game in the series. With how exceptional the series is as a whole, however, this is not a condemnation! While the story might hover just below the level of other instalments, it's still creative, appealing and laugh-aloud funny, and mastering the four-button setup of battles is as fun as ever.
Set directly after the events of mainline entry Final Fantasy XII, Revenant Wings follows the progress of Vaan, Penelo, Balthier, and Fran as they take to the skies in search of a new challenge. While it shares a title with that PS2 epic, this isn't your typical turn-based JRPG; instead, it's closer to being an RTS with RPG elements, and makes interesting use of the Nintendo DS' touch-screen interface. While you don't have to have played Final Fantasy XII to enjoy Revenant Wings, it does make plenty of references to that game, so if you're already a fan then you'll adore the way this game adds to the story. Newcomers, meanwhile, will find much to like due to the deep, tactical gameplay.
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.