The Nintendo DS is my favorite gaming console of all time. The system was a game-changer not just for the industry but for me as a gamer. Thanks to its streamlined approach to online multiplayer, I’d get to play with people across the globe for the first time. It’s backward compatible and also region-free, which put me on the path of importing games outside my region. The DS has such an awesome library of unique software, and as a result, this list was very challenging to put together. Here are my Top 10 Nintendo DS games.
10. Metroid Prime Hunters
Metroid Prime Hunters, in my opinion, is one of the most important titles on the system. Upon its release, the Nintendo DS was packaged with a demo called Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, and my mind was completely blown. To play a Metroid Prime game on a handheld that actually looks, sounds, and feels like Metroid Prime is hard to put into words. The demo did its job showing how far we’ve come since the Gameboy Advance and made me realize that we officially hit the next level of handheld gaming.
When the finished product was released, I spent the whole summer shooting it out with hunters all across the world. The online multiplayer and the seven playable bounty hunters made this title one of my favorite Nintendo Wifi games. Each hunter has their own distinctive feel and playstyle. While Trace was originally my favorite due to his sniping capabilities, Noxus eventually dethroned him since I resonated with his role and motives in the game’s story. That leads me to the weakness of the game.
Compared to the multiplayer mode, the games story campaign feels like an afterthought. It severely lacks variety, and the enemies and bosses are recycled throughout the adventure. The meat and potatoes all reside within the game’s multiplayer modes. Sadly, online play is no longer accessible, and the servers are officially closed. However, the game still has local play against both live players and bots, making this arena shooter a must-own for DS owners.
9. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence
While the masses were still drooling over Resident Evil 4, I was dodging zombie dogs and freaking out over giant spiders, just like fans were back in 1996. Resident Evil: Deadly Silence is an enhanced port of the original Resident Evil. While I had seen the game before, this was the first time I’d own it for myself, and it’s the reason I’m a fan of the series today.
Made to celebrate the series 10th anniversary, Deadly Silence is not just a simple port. The game comes with two ways to play the main story: Classic mode and Rebirth mode. Classic, like the title implies, strives to be as faithful to the original as possible. Rebirth takes further advantage of the touchscreen and is more action-oriented. The game’s puzzles have been reworked to utilize touch controls fully, and there’s even a knifing mini-game that lets players take down enemies in a new way.
Fans also get the chance to play as other S.T.A.R.S members. Unfortunately, this is limited to the game’s multiplayer modes, which I never got to experience due to not knowing anyone who owned the game. Despite this, I recommend Deadly Silence to any survival-horror fan. The addition of the quick-turn and knife button makes the game perfect for speedrunning. With so much additional content, unlockables, and gameplay tweaks, it’s the best version of the original game on the market; excluding REmake.
8. Lost In Blue
I’m expecting to receive some gripe for adding this title to the list. Lost In Blue is a survival game created by Konami. Players take control of Keith and Skye, two high-school students that end up stranded together on a deserted island. The objective is to survive and ultimately escape the island.
Looking back, I’m shocked at just how much was packed into this handheld title. The world is massive and brimming with life. There’s a plethora of vegetation to collect, weapons to craft, and animals to hunt. The attention to detail is outstanding, and players have to really get to know the island. Certain plants are poisonous and will be fatal to Keith and Skye. The game even has its own ecosystem with dynamic weather and tide changes.
Additionally, Lost In Blue has its own air of mystery, with temples to explore and secrets to uncover. It’s also important to bring up the game’s touchscreen controls, which are among the best I’ve experienced on the Nintendo DS. Players can swipe the bottom screen to move away sand to unearth items and food, use the stylus to spearfish in a river and even blow into the mic to start a fire.
While this title won’t be for everyone, I can confidently suggest Lost In Blue to those looking for something slightly different. The game is pretty rare these days, so if you can’t track it down, I also recommend Lost In Blue 2. It improves upon the original, and the only reason I didn’t add it to the list is due to not having completed it yet.
7. Jump Ultimate Stars
I bet you weren’t expecting an import to make this list, but Jump Ultimate Stars couldn’t go without mention. The game’s predecessor Jump Super Stars, made my holiday back in 2006. Even though my parents couldn’t nab a Wii, we came across Jump Super Stars at my local Best Buy. I don’t recall the store selling imports anytime before or after that, but they chose to sell this game at the perfect time. I immediately rushed home to play as my favorite anime characters and got introduced to some new ones.
It’s no surprise that I ended up importing the sequel, which further builds on the original. Expanding on an already massive roster, Ultimate Stars allows you to play as more characters from Dragon Ball, Fist of the North Star, Yu-Gi-OH, Rurouni Kenshin, Naruto, and many more. The game also added online multiplayer, allowing players to partake in 4-player battles against opponents far and wide.
While the online play is no longer accessible, anime fans owe it to themselves to pick this title up. With the Nintendo DS being region-free, there are no obstacles in your way. This is as close to Super Smash Bros. you can find on the system, and it features a robust roster of Shonen Jump characters. What’s not to love about that?
6. Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butoden
Dragon Ball Kai: Ultimate Butoden is a fighting game that only saw release in Japan. It came at the very end of the console’s life cycle, releasing only twenty-three days before the 3DS hit store shelves. It’s a shame because I feel like Ultimate Butoden would’ve potentially seen release worldwide if it had come sooner.
For starters, this game is gorgeous. The characters are rendered in full 3D and beautifully animated. The amount of detail the developers put into the game is astounding. The characters display the same charisma and charm as they did in the anime. Even the characters finishing moves are so faithfully recreated that it feels like you’re watching the show.
Gameplay-wise this game is fast, even when compared to most Dragon Ball games. Moves can be executed via touchscreen but can be performed with traditional inputs as well. With a total of fifty-one characters, there’s plenty of characters to choose from. The game is no slouch when it comes to modes either. There’s a story, versus, training and challenge mode. Ultimate Butoden even has a feature that lets you customize your character’s appearance, letting you equip iconic clothing from the series.
It’s still puzzling why Bandai chose not to release this game outside of Japan, given the popularity of the series and the fact that out of all six Nintendo DS games based on the series, this was the only one not to make the cut. This is not only a great Dragon Ball game but a fantastic fighting game(the best for the system, in my opinion). The game is going for reasonable prices now, so import it while you still have the chance.
5. Contra 4
Now, this spot was a tough choice. It was between this and fellow Konami game Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, but ultimately Contra 4 won. I freaking love this game. It is, in my opinion, the best game in the series, and it was even my favorite run and gun game until Blazing Chrome came along.
This is Contra at its finest. With tight platforming, power-ups galore, and over-the-top boss battles, Contra 4 proves you can never have too much of a good thing. Your palms will be sweating as you dodge bullets on both screens, which you can seamlessly traverse through.
Despite being well-received, I always felt that Contra 4 was unappreciated due to how many copies I’d see in bargain bins months after its release. This is one of the most old-school, challenging, and rewarding games that you can find for the Nintendo DS.
4. Sonic Rush Adventure
There was a time when Sonic was amongst gaming’s biggest icons. There was also a time he hit rock bottom so hard that saying you were a fan of him would get you roasted real quick. Still, I will argue that during this time, gamers were looking in the wrong place. While the blue blur was stumbling on home consoles, he hit his stride when it came to handhelds.
The Sonic Advance trilogy was a solid series that returned the hedgehog to his roots. Its successor Sonic Rush, was arguably better, greatly improving the way you collect chaos emeralds than the Advance games. Its sequel, titled Sonic Rush Adventure, has better-designed stages, boss fights, and even went as far as to include the ability to race online against friends.
However, I have to note that the game takes Sonic out of his element to lengthen the adventure. When he’s not running on foot, Sonic can sail the seas using a total of four vehicles. While they’re not all terrible, some of them really slow down the pace of the game. You also need materials to build and upgrade your vehicles, which can be obtained by replaying the game’s stages. Some critics said this made the game a bit of a grind, but it never bothered me due to the stages never getting old to play through.
It might not be as streamlined as the original, but Sonic Rush Adventure makes it up to the player for having to go out of their way. This is one of the hedgehog’s best adventures on a handheld, so don’t hesitate to check it out.
3. Solatorobo: Red The Hunter
I was extremely fortunate to find a copy of Solatorobo: Red the Hunter. Long after its release, I managed to find a brand new copy and still in the shrink wrap at my local GameStop. It absolutely breaks my heart to see this game locked behind the absurd prices people are selling it for nowadays. That’s because I firmly believe that this game deserves to be experienced, not just stowed away untouched.
In Solatorobo, you play as a dog named Red Savarin, who makes a living by doing odd jobs as a mercenary. The game doesn’t offer anything particularly challenging in terms of gameplay. Red has a mech named the Dahak, which can pick up enemies and objects. Combat is centered around slamming your opponents and bouncing them off the ground to perform combos. The Dahak is also customizable and comes in different types to suit your playstyle.
What makes Solatorobo so special is its narrative and worldbuilding. The story is profound and can even get surprisingly dark at some points. The game’s setting has a Mega Man Legends feel, taking place in a charming world of floating islands. The only exception is that the island’s residents are anthropomorphic dogs and cats. Both the story and world have received numerous praise from critics, and they’re so immersive that I came back for multiple playthroughs.
Solatorobo is an underrated gem that deserves far more recognition. There’s also a game on the PlayStation called Tail Concerto, which is set in the same universe and is a prequel of sorts. With both titles locked behind steep prices, I hope we can see a rerelease of both someday.
2. Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver
There are a lot of great Pokemon games for the Nintendo DS. I had a blast with Pokemon Diamond, and I’ve heard nothing but positive things about Pokemon Black and White. However, I’m obligated to go with what I feel is the best experience, and I feel that accolade goes to Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver.
Some might dismiss this as nostalgia, and who can blame them? The second generation is heavily praised to this very day; it’s natural for some to label the games as overrated. However, I respectfully disagree with anyone who holds this view. Pokemon Gold and Silver were ambitious titles, and that same ambition carries over in the remakes.
Just like the originals trainers get to explore the Johto region, as well as Kanto. Gamefreak even took the liberty to add some minor tweaks, such as online play and fine-tuning the story to better suit the canon. They even added the ability for your pokemon to follow you around in the overworld, and while it might seem small, it made me feel more connected to them.
Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver are games that every fan must play at least once. I don’t mean to take away from entries that came before or after, but I feel like this is Pokemon at its peak. The chance to journey through two regions and face off against the former pokemon champion is something I doubt we’ll ever see again.
1. Phantasy Star 0
My choice for the best game on the Nintendo DS goes to Phantasy Star 0. If I had to select one DS game to play for the rest of my existence, it would easily be this one. I’m a huge fan of the series( Mainly the Online Games), and this is my favorite way to experience Phantasy Star on the go. While the Phantasy Star Portable games on the PSP were more akin to Phantasy Star Universe, Phantasy Star 0 was more faithful to Phantasy Star Online.
I’ve had this game since the day it came out back in 2009, and I’m still plugging hours into it. Phantasy Star 0 doesn’t end once the story is completed. There are more side missions to complete and rare equipment to find. These arent your modern-day rares that are handed out like candy or locked behind timed events.
Rares in Phantasy Star 0 are powerful, appealing to the eye, and have extremely low odds of dropping. Since my freshman year of college, I’ve been hunting for a Yasminkov M109, which is the most powerful rifle in the game. To this day, the weapon still eludes me, but I’m determined to obtain it someday.
Even with the online servers shutdown, there is still plenty of single-player content to keep players occupied. I highly recommend picking this title up if you can track it down. It’s still has a pretty active community going and even a discord that teaches players how to play together using private servers.
More To Discover
Putting this list together was more challenging than I expected, showing how good a library the system has. There are more titles I wanted to include, like Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, Mario Kart DS, and Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, to name a few. I still have titles that I’m currently playing or trying to track down. Maybe when I get further through my backlog, I’ll make another list of games for this amazing system.