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.
The third entry of the mystery-solving DS Layton trilogy, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future doesn't stray too far from the winning formula of the first two releases, and instead focuses its attention on offering up what is easily the best storyline of the series on the console, not to mention some of the best minigames as well. It's no slouch with the puzzles, either, and it's safe to say that if you're a fan of the franchise, this is a game you absolutely do not want to miss.
The first game in the series to grace the Nintendo DS (as if that subtitle didn't clue you in), Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow is a sequel to the brilliant Game Boy Advance game, Aria of Sorrow. Soma Cruz returns having (spoilers!) thwarted the Prince of Darkness in the previous game, and this time his adventure includes various stylus-based elements which, if we're honest, feel more than a little gimmicky. When the console first arrived it took a while for developers to work out how best to take advantage of the touchscreen and, crucially, when to ignore it. Despite the bolted-on Seal system and a feeling of 'enforced' innovation, the series' classic heritage still blasts through and this remains one of great Castlevania games... along with around nine or ten others. What a series!
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!
Radiant Historia received an updated 3DS port in 2018 gaining the subtitle Perfect Chronology (which we absolutely loved), but in all honesty it didn't feel drastically different to the DS original. Developed by Atlus and Headlock, it's a top-shelf JRPG, with an engaging time-travel hook, brilliantly fun, puzzle-like combat, and a genuinely likeable cast of characters. While it’s far from the first adventure to draw on parallel timelines, it smartly integrates its world-hopping gameplay and narrative, and the result is a unique, beautifully-paced experience that’s a joy to play whether here or on 3DS.
The third game in the Ace Attorney series was originally released on GBA in Japan, but found its way to the west via the DS in 2007 (and the series has since graced most other platforms you care to mention). The culmination of the original trilogy, Trials and Tribulations puts you back in the shoes of the plucky defence lawyer for another round of convoluted cases and supernatural shenanigans. Sure, you can play these games on Switch now, but the titular attorney's visual novels hold up well on virtually any platform (except for, perhaps, WiiWare, although you'll have a job getting your hands on that version these days) and if you fancy going through them on DS, you'll get no objection from us.
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. The Final Remix Switch port is still a winner, but necessary changes to combat and controls mean it can't quite recreate the joy of the original dual screen experience - this DS version remains arguably the best way to play.
The first in the RPG series to come to the Super Famicom, this DS remake was the first officially localised appearance of Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride to arrive in the west. It recently jumped back into the charts in Japan thanks to an upcoming movie based on the game. That it's a finely crafted RPG should come as little surprise given its heritage, but it's arguably the poignant, personal storytelling which elevates this game as one of the very best in a series of greats. Innovations such as the collection of monsters along the way would go on to influence other monster-collecting games and while it lacks some of design refinement in some areas, it's still an epic adventure. The hero of this game may only get Assist Fighter billing in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but make no mistake, this is one of the best old-school Dragon Quests you can go on.
The original Pokémon Gold and Silver games are fondly remembered by Pocket Monster fans all over the world, and with good reason: they introduced features that genuinely evolved the original Game Boy games, such as breeding and an in-game clock (not to mention colour!), features that have become series staples. Add in fan-favourite monsters and these remakes were always going to be well received. Future games would trickle in additional quality of life features and other innovations, but some would argue it never got better than travelling across the land, searching far and wide in these DS remakes. The Game Boy originals may be a little hard to return to these days, but Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver strike the very best balance of nostalgia and that patented catch-'em-all gameplay.
Chrono Trigger has truly stood the test of time - a testament to the magical sustainability that occurs when you combine impeccable storytelling, gameplay, visuals and music. This version of the SNES classic contains a hefty amount of additional features and bonus material, including touch screen controls, a series of dungeons (the Dimensional Vortices), a monster battle ground (Arena of the Ages), a re-mastered script, and an additional ending. Some might claim that this masterpiece should be experienced on the biggest possible canvas, but despite the console's diminutive size, its dual screen layout frees up command menu clutter. Couple this with all the refinements and extras and the Nintendo DS version really is the definitive edition of this beautiful work of art. It's an essential purchase for any RPG fan, and even if you’ve played it before, you should follow those nostalgic urges, dig out your trusty DS (which will probably still have some juice in the battery) and take that journey through time once again.
Phew, what a list! No love for Spirit Tracks? Disagree with the ranking here? Can't understand how Animal Crossing is so low or how Brain Training and Nintendogs didn't even make the Top 50? Remember, it's not set in stone - head to our games page and get ranking to influence the order above.
For more on the system itself, check out our article on one of the best console revisions ever made, the Nintendo DS Lite. Let us know your thoughts with a little comment in the usual place.