40. Picross DS (DS)
It's Picross. It's on DS. It's great. There's really not much else to say about Picross DS. The introduction of touch controls opened up this game to a much wider audience and at a time when you couldn't board any form of public transport without brushing somebody filling out Sudoku puzzles in the back of their newspaper, this was the perfect way to zone out with a brain-teaser and ignore all those sweating commuters on the train. Plus, you get 100% less news ink on the side of your palm. Result!
Nintendo gamers might have missed out on the big GTAs, but we did get this bespoke little entry which tuned out better than anyone dared dream. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars truly is one the best titles to ever grace the Nintendo DS. Despite the fact that it took on an old-style graphical approach, Rockstar Leeds brought along almost every aspect of the home console games and compressed it in a way that made sense on Nintendo's handheld. It sees a return of the traditional top-down gameplay of the first two GTAs but blends elements from the later games to create a unique and thrilling game that still stands up today.
Pokémon Black and White may not have the added nostalgia of HeartGold and SoulSilver, but they're up there with some of the best in the series. What they lack in links to the past they gain by recreating the sense of discovery felt when embarking on that first Pokémon journey. Black and White arguably suffer in reputation from being the only games in the series (thus far) to have direct numbered sequels set in the same region (albeit visiting new locations). Despite being shoved to the back of the queue in some people's minds, these introductions to Gen V are still fantastic games and well worth revisiting if you're a fan of Pocket Monsters, whatever their colour.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation might not be as flashy or intricate as something like Dragon Quest IX, but that certainly doesn't keep the game from being every bit as charming and engaging. Retaining the original's 16-bit style and not deviating a great deal from the classic formula, it upgrades various aspects of the Super Famicom game (it never made it to the west back in the day) to make it look and feel like a much more modern experience. Realms of Revelation is yet another fantastic addition to the impressive DS RPG library and a great way to revisit a classic.
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.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 was an impressive and innovative title for the DS. It's scratchy pencil-line aesthetic looked great on the console and really fit the visual novel's mysterious tone, as well as the form of the system itself. Holding the DS like an open book, it showed other developers and players alike the potential of the system beyond the traditional approach gamers might expect, and made the console even less intimidating for a new audience who would go on to discover other games through touch controls. That hand-sketched art style also went down a treat with A-Ha fans, exposing a hitherto unknown overlap of the video game enthusiast and Norwegian synth-pop demographics.
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.
The second in the DS trilogy of Ace Attorney games (that originally appeared on Game Boy Advance in Japan), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice For All takes the baton from the first game and simply runs with it. A new psyche-lock mechanic was the only real addition - the player can unlock these mental barriers by finding clues relating to the secret they contain while questioning witnesses. This is very the middle part of an overall story - one that's collected together as a whole in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy on 3DS and Switch, but as a short and sweet courtroom visual novel, this second chapter is still one of the best.
Those who brushed Pokémon Black and White 2 off as simply more of the same at the time were sorely mistaken. On a superficial level the Pokémon games have not changed much, and for good reason; the foundation that was placed way back in Pokémon Red and Blue was incredibly solid and engaging from the off. By adding more around it and tweaking things under the hood, the series has grown far beyond its humble monochromatic origins even if the pace of change is a little more glacial than some would like. The naming of these entries, their status as the first 'direct' sequels in the franchise, and the fact that they weren't being released on the then-new 3DS console arguably did these games a disservice and masked their greatness. Make no mistake though, these are two of the finest games in the series.
This game was originally slated for the Game Boy Advance which hosted its predecessor, but the incredible success of Nintendo's 'third pillar' saw it migrate to the dual screen system. It's a Final Fantasy Tactics game - what more is there to say? This genre has always suit handheld systems beautifully and the western version of A2: Grimoire of the Rift also benefited from touchscreen control that was absent from the original Japanese release.