The 10 Best Nintendo DS Games of All Time

When the nintendo When the DS was first released, the general public had no idea that it would become the best-selling gaming platform of all time in Japan, even surpassing the original Game Boy in commercial success. Instead, the handheld inspired confusion in much of the public. How could gamers pay attention to two screens at once? What was the touch screen used for? What was in the world nintendo WIFI connection?

As usual, Nintendo proved to the world that its latest platform wasn’t just a bunch of gimmicks. The DS library quickly filled with classics and original gems as gamers grew accustomed to the handheld’s controls and developers learned to put its many functions to good use. It was very difficult to choose only 10 games to represent the DS, but these are the ones that simply should not be missed.

In no particular order, here are the 10 best Nintendo DS games of all time.

New Super Mario Bros.

Picture via Nintendo

New Super Mario Bros. ushered in both a new era for Nintendo’s most venerable mascot and a clumsy new naming convention that would last for several console generations (New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe, somebody?). While other iterations of Mario like Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sun extended into the realm of explorable 3D at the time, New Super Mario Bros. kept things old school by giving players a huge, colorful side-scrolling world to run and jump through. It’s pure joy in video game form that still holds up 16 years after its release.

Tetris DS

The Tetris DS box art.
Picture via Nintendo

By the time Tetris DS came out, everyone already knew about the block game that took the world by storm alongside the launch of the Game Boy. The DS edition wasn’t just a port though. It included several new game modes and a Nintendo-themed retro paint job, both of which put a fresh spin on Tetris. Notably, the game was part of the Touch Generations line of titles, which were designed for people who were new to the world of video games. The huge crossover appeal of the DS among gamers and non-gamers was a predictor of the Wii’s success in the same field.

the world ends with you

All of the main characters posing for the key are from The World Ends With You.
Image via Square Enix/Nintendo

Whether New Super Mario Bros. and Tetris DS are examples of Nintendo playing it safe, the world ends with you falls at the opposite end of the spectrum. A sleek JRPG with a unique combat system, this fan-favorite Square Enix title made excellent use of the DS’s dual screens while telling a gripping mystery based on Shibuya’s youth culture. The game received a Switch sequel last year, but Square Enix reported that it didn’t work very welljeopardizing the future of the series.

Pokemon Heart Gold and SoulSilver

Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver – Screenshot via Nintendo

The tier lists end here, Pokemon fans. Pokemon Heart Gold and SoulSilver might be the best main series Pokémon games ever made. Part of the reason is that their source material is incredibly solid: pokemon gold and Silver still hold today, and their expansive adventure and dual set of regions means there’s always something new to explore and new enemies to fight. The other reasons are purely modern – seeing your Pokémon walking behind you has always been a popular activity, and the remastered graphics are some of the most detailed on the DS. Even 12 years after their release, there really aren’t any Pokemon games like HeartGold and SoulSilver.

the trigger of a stopwatch

Crono and his friends stand around the Chrono Trigger logo in the game's key art.
Image via Square Enix

If you wanted remakes and remasters, the DS was the place to come back to back in the day. That’s why so many old titles make the most of the DS list. the trigger of a stopwatch, which was originally released for the SNES, is widely regarded as the best RPG of all time, and definitely one of the top five JRPGs. The game’s time-jumping story follows Crono, a youth who gathers a group of friends and teammates to take on the world-destroying creature known as lavos. Filled with multiple endings, polished dialogue and fresh graphics, the DS version of the trigger of a stopwatch is the definitive way to experience this gem.

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Key art for Animal Crossing: Wild World, featuring the two player characters.
Picture via Nintendo

Animal Crossing: Wild World, the DS follow-up to the original GameCube title, improved the series in one major way: portability. animal crossing was designed to be played with friends; The DS’s built-in wireless capabilities and small form factor made it the ideal platform to facilitate this. Add in lots of new villagers, new furniture and customization options, the removal of the clunky navigation system, and new vacations to experience, and you have a classic animal crossing Title.

Pokémon Platinum

Picture via Nintendo

As Pokémon Emerald was from Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Pokémon Platinum is the final version of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. The game fixed a lot of diamond and pearlwhile cleaning up the graphics, bringing new challenges like Giratina and Distortion World, and more. It also noticeably speeds up gameplay by reducing save and load times. Even after the release of Pokemon Shiny Diamond and shiny pearl on the Switch, many fans still think Platinum is the perfect fourth-gen experience.

Mario Kart DS

Mario and Luigi take their hats off to the other racers in Mario Kart DS key art.
Picture via Nintendo

Mario Kart DS added a lot of meaningful content to the Mario Kart franchise. If it has lost the two-seater aspect of its predecessor, Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mario Kart DS was the first title in the series that allowed players to race online with other players around the world using Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. (While the Gamecube had a ethernet port, Double dash did not take advantage of it.) Mario Kart DS also introduced elements and tracks that have since become series staples – Airship Fortress, anyone? – and was the marker of a new era for the franchise. While there’s little reason to go back and play him today, it’s still important to recognize the role he played in Mario Kart the story.

Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

Bowser roars next to frightened Mario and Luigi on the cover of Bowser's Inside Story.
Picture via Nintendo

The Mario and Luigi has always been one of Nintendo’s best and most underrated spin-off franchises. In addition to shaking up Mario’s core gameplay with new mechanics and characters, Bowser’s Inside Story takes players to a whole new place: inside Bowser’s body. Mario and Luigi titles are known for their hilarious dialogue, and Bowser’s Inside Story continues this trend in spectacular fashion – you will find this game on as many “the funniest RPGslists as you will “best of the DS” lists. The unique setting and fantastic writing make this a unique DS adventure not to be missed.

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team

Rescue Team Pokémon pose for key art in the early Mystery Dungeon games.
Picture via Nintendo

Speaking of fallout, the Pokemon is another franchise that is no stranger to spin-off games. One of the best is Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team, a roguelike where the player character is transformed into a Pokémon and must create a rescue team to rescue other Pokémon in need. Although the main series Pokémon games were never designed to be difficult, make no mistake: this game is hard. Like many roguelikes, it doesn’t pull punches, and every death has serious consequences. The moving story and a fantastic soundtrack are the icing on the cake of this excellent game. Check out the Switch remake Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX for much-needed quality of life updates and beautifully remastered graphics.

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