The 31 best DS games

If you'd rather take your gaming on the go, we've got a handy guide for dual-screen greatness: The 31 best DS games!

  • #8: Elite Beat Agents

    Why It's Great:Unique. Quirky. Fun. Eilte Beat Agents was an innovative title that took full advantage of the Nintendo DS' touch screen. You controlled either Agent J or Agent Spin as you were deployed across the globe to various locales featuring hilarious scenarios. Through song and dance, your agents would motivate the characters on-screen to the tunes of such hits as "Canned Heat" by Jamiroquai all the way to "Let's Dance" by David Bowie. When people say "there's no other game like this", they aren't lying, folks.
  • #1: Mario Kart DS

    Why It's Great:Nintendo, take note — Mario Kart is at its best when it isn't being overloaded with stupid gimmicks. In between the mostly useless dual riders in Mario Kart: Double Dash and the completely useless Wii Wheel compatibility in Mario Kart Wii, Nintendo gave gamers exactly what they wanted in Mario Kart DS — a fully 3-D online kart racer in the vein of the SNES and N64 versions of Mario Kart.
  • #16: Contra 4

    Why It's Great:Contra 3 came out in 1992. The following 15 years were filled with titles that couldn't quite live up to true sequel status, be it awful 3-D titles or slightly underachieving attempts to recall the older series with 2.5-D gameplay. Finally, Konami realized that gamers simply wanted more of the same sprite-based 2-D action onslaught they'd experienced on the NES and SNES. Contra 4 gave it to them with twice the battleground, filling both screens with enemies presenting double the difficulty.
  • #17: Sonic Rush

    Why It's Great:SEGA's ridiculous habit of mascot murder thankfully didn't rear its ugly head in this Sonic game. Sonic Rush was thankfully separated from the lacklustre titles that preceded (and followed) it with one thing — SPEED. As if the tricky task of making dual-screen comprehensive levels wasn't enough, the Sonic Team went beyond our expectations with classic-style boss battles, an addictive trick system, and one hell of a soundtrack.
  • #23: Metroid Prime: Hunters

    Why It's Great: While previous handheld Metroid titles delivered console-quality 2-D adventures, Nintendo took a real risk adapting the Metroid Prime series to the DS. Thankfully, the company succeeded. The game is one of the nicest-looking DS titles, and the gameplay emulates its GameCube predecessors quite ably. It's more about one-on-one encounters with other "hunters" than the puzzles from previous Primes, but the fast-paced action fits the DS better. Also a good fit; voice-enabled online play, which no other Nintendo title — console or portable — supports.
  • #6: Final Fantasy IV

    Why It's Great:FFIV on the DS may be the newest RPG remake on the block, but the detail in this port is fantastic. An especially masterful trait of this game is the way that the 3-D character models so closely resemble the artwork of Final Fantasy's Amano. The classic story of Cecil, Rosa, and Kain was long overdue for rebirth, and Final Fantasy IV got a true reincarnation on the DS.
  • #21: Lunar Knights

    Why It's Great:Fans everywhere cocked their heads in confusion when Hideo Kojima announced Lunar Knights, a unique sci-fi RPG for the DS. The Metal Gear creator didn't disappoint, however, as he weaved an intriguing gothic tale, requiring the player to use every device on the DS. Players could create hurricanes by blowing into the microphone, spin up tornados with the stylus, and even engaged the vampiric protagonist with a dangerous, yet amazingly innovative real-time weather system. Say what you will about Kojima, but there's no denying his creativity.
  • #26: Meteos

    Why It's Great:I think it's fair to call Q Entertainment the modern masters of puzzle games. In addition to two of the PSP's greatest games in Every Extend Extra and Lumines, the company created another innovative puzzler in Meteos. While the "match 3 symbols" idea has been done before, the gravity-based rocket ship block-removal system was a breath of fresh air — while you could remove newer blocks with ease, ones at the bottom required larger combos to create enough power to blast off. There was also a Disneyfied version of Meteos released called Meteos: Disney Magic that was notable in the fact that it made us actually care about a Disney game for the first time in about 15 years.
  • #27: Professor Layton and the Curious Village

    Why It's Great: Point-and-click adventure games are a dying breed, but thanks to the folks at Level-5, we can revel in the old-school experience with the touch of a screen. The game follows Layton and his young, cavorting assistant in the hunt for a mysterious "Golden Apple." It's not exactly Treasure Island, but it's definitely worth your time if you enjoy games of the puzzle solving persuasion. Plus, we heard chicks dig top hats.
  • #12: Advance Wars: Dual Strike

    Why It's Great:It's always hard to take war seriously when the troops are adorable little sprites cruising around in miniscule tanks, but Advance Wars found a way to make these chibi-soldiers work with insanely addictive turn-based gameplay. Taking full advantage of the DS' touch screen, Dual Strike was a unique and utterly addictive romp through grid-based battlefields, with plentiful modes ranging from an insanely deep Campaign mode to a fantastically fun Survival mode.
  • #30: Animal Crossing: Wild World

    Why It's Great: Lets get one thing out of the way right off the bat; the loss of downloadable NES titles really sucked. Besides that, this portable version of Animal Crossing bested the original in almost every other regard. With more to do, more to hear, and Wi-Fi play allowing many more people to see, Animal Crossing: Wild World truly breaks borders. This game was born to be played portably.
  • #18: Hotel Dusk: Room 215

    Why It's Great:Unfortunately, Hotel Dusk didn't get the recognition it deserved. Not many games have a story that's as intriguing and deep as the mystery that surrounded sleuth Kyle Hyde and the motley crew of tenants in Hotel Dusk. Whether you were dusting for fingerprints, solving puzzles, or picking locks, this title got innovative by using every bit of DS functionality that was possible.
  • #24: Super Mario 64 DS

    Why It's Great:It's not a Nintendo system launch unless Mario is there in some fashion. While it took some time for an all-new adventure to hit the system (see a later entry for that game), this port of the N64 launch classic proved that the DS could handle some serious gaming — the game looked even sharper than the N64's platforming opus, and the touch-screen controls proved that the system could provide analog-stick-calibre movement. The addition of little bonuses like multiple playable characters as well as additional stages made this a must-play for even the most dedicated Mario 64 players. This game was a good omen for things to come.
  • #15: Space Invaders Extreme

    Why It's Great: If you're instantly turned off by the old-school games that our parents used to play, then you're doing yourself a huge disservice by not even considering this game. Space Invader Extreme follows the style of the arcade classic, with the exception of providing better weapons and throwing more alien baddies your way than you can shake a joystick at. With the inclusion of multiplayer, this game is a worthwhile blast from the past.
  • #9: WarioWare: Touched!

    Why It's Great:If ever there was a game that both confused and entertained the Hell out of us, this would be it. With the plethora of minigame-based titles on the DS, WarioWare utilizes the features of the DS better than any other, hands down. From scratching Wario's back, to playing with a yo-yo via holding the DS upside down, there are very few activities that won't have you participating with a slight smirk on your face.
  • #19: Planet Puzzle League

    Why It's Great:Taking full advantage of the DS touch screen, Planet Puzzle League was a colourful, fast-paced blast. Using the stylus, the player would slide coloured panels across the screen, matching colours ala Tetris and creating combos. With simplistic, addictive gameplay, Planet Puzzle League may not have been the most innovative title, but damn if it wasn't a blast to play!
  • #29: Nintendogs

    Why It's Great: Tired of coming home and seeing your goldfish face up in his tank? Can't afford that puppy in the window? That's where Nintendogs comes in: a ridiculously adorable pet simulation for irresponsible, busy, or just plain broke animal lovers. Nintendogs had charm, appeal, and was accessible to any age group. Add in the diversity of pets, from Chihuahuas, Labradors, Dachshunds and Dalmatians, and you have a title that's still spawning virtual animal spin-offs to this day.
  • #22: Portrait of Ruin

    Why It's Great:Castlevania games on handheld consoles each have the difficult task of living up to their predecessors. Portrait of Ruin proved to be another DS success with all the things that veteran vampire killers love — memorable bosses, intricate 2-D environments, chilling music, and more. Even if the art style made series snobs turn up their noses, the tag team combat system was second to none.
  • #13: Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2

    Why It's Great:Apparently the Trauma Center series has been so successful, actual doctors have been using it for "practice." We doubt a $30 handheld game is as valuable as a $300,000 education, but we're quite certain that it makes for some good fun! Cleaning the wounds of guerrilla warfare victims can prove to be a challenging and fun experience, especially when cutting, sewing, and cleaning is done with the magic of the touch screen. If your DS is your method of escape on your way to work, then this game should never leave your left pocket.
  • #28: Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

    Why It's Great: Mario has been everywhere, that's obvious. From the deepest depths of the ocean to the farthest reaches of space, Mario has seen it all. Now, with the company of his manically depressed brother and their young, infantile incarnations, Mario must save the princess (srsly!..) from the evil Shroob aliens. In all seriousness, though, we wouldn't recommend this game if it wasn't worth playing. We had fun with it, and, if you enjoyed Superstar Saga, you'll probably enjoy it a lot yourself.
  • #31: Guitar Hero On Tour

    Why It's Great: The console versions of Guitar Hero are an exercise in clutter creation. Between the huge box and the clunky, hard-to-store guitars, the series is as fun as it is inconvenient. Thankfully, Guitar Hero On Tour boils down the guitar to its basest elements and delivers a near-console experience with tons less plastic. It's not quite as precise, and the song list isn't as diverse, but when you pull out that pick and start hitting the keys, it's hard to notice the differences.
  • #25: Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

    Why It's Great:It sounds like a fairly boring (not to mention nerdy) combination, doesn't it? The classic puzzle game Bejeweled married to a generic fantasy storyline with some RPG concepts sprinkled on top: that sounds like the recipe for a niche title that maybe sells a couple thousand copies. But instead, Puzzle Quest turned out to be one of the best games ever produced on any platform. Deeply rewarding, intensely challenging and highly addictive, Puzzle Quest is the type of game that you can pick up in the morning and literally play all day long. It's the perfect DS game to take with you whenever you know you're going to be stuck with nothing to do; just be careful because once you start to play, it's hard to stop.
  • #14: Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

    Why It's Great:Before its premiere on the DS, the Ninja Gaiden series existed in two forms — as an impeccable 2-D action-platformer, and as a 3-D pure-action title, both of which featured super-refined controls. When the series was announced for the DS, many people expected to see a 2-D title using traditional controls. Thankfully, they were wrong. The mostly stylus-based 3-D action title brought to mind Ryu's excellent Xbox adventures, while managing to create great gameplay experiences all its own. Hopefully this series can continue to bless the DS, even without creator Tomonobu Itagaki at the helm.
  • Before anyone knew it, the Nintendo DS changed the spectrum of handheld gaming in a way that no one, not even the Nintendo faithful, thought possible. Despite looking like an odd technological cousin to the Game & Watch hardware, the Nintendo DS took veteran and casual gamers by storm. With the introduction and staying power of the DS Lite, this pocket-sized marvel is still selling: over 70 million units worldwide. More than that, the DS's trademark dual-screen gameplay has yielded titles that will always remain classics. The GamePros are counting the top 31 games that have graced this handheld wonder — and we're looking forward to what the future holds...

  • #4: Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

    Why It's Great:A Legend of Zelda game on the DS was as foreseeable as, well, every other Nintendo franchise appearing on the DS. Following the events of The Wind Waker, Link travels 'round Hyrule to save Tetra from the clutches of Bellum. With the exception of a full 3-D camera, Phantom Hourglass features nearly everything featured in its predecessor, from cel-shaded graphics, to sailing from island to island. It's obvious that Zelda fans would want this game, but, even if the franchise has never been one of your favourites, this game is still worth your time and rupees.
  • #2: Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

    Why It's Great: In the sequel to the stellar GameBoy Advance title Castlevanie: Aria of Sorrow, Dawn upped the ante with amazing graphics, a superb story, and fantastic use of the DS touch screen, allowing the player to draw "Magic Seals" on enemies to cast deadly spells. With gameplay reminiscent of the classic Symphony of the Night, Dawn of Sorrow reminded us all why we love Castlevania, and helped bring out the Belmont in us all.
  • #3: New Super Mario Bros.

    Why It's Great:Thirteen years. That's how long it took for another new, honest-to-goodness 2-D Mario platformer to come out after the Game Boy's Super Mario Land 2. While there were plenty of amazing 3D adventures and solid remakes of the older Mario titles, New Super Mario Bros. reinvented the franchise by mixing 3D visuals and moves with 2-D mechanics. Aside from some questionable power-ups (is there any benefit to turning into a turtle?), most of what's new in New Super Mario Bros. is nice.
  • #20: Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

    Why It's Great:The third instalment in the wildly popular Final Fantasy Tactics series brought us back to the land of Ivalice. While A2 didn't have the deepest story in the franchise, it definitely had the fun gameplay and addictive battles that made the original Final Fantasy Tactics great. Add in over 400 freelance missions and side-quests and you're all but guaranteed to spend plenty of time on the grid-based battlefield.
  • #10: Kirby: Canvas Curse

    Why It's Great:Everyone's favourite pink blob (don't try to argue that) made his DS debut in Kirby: Canvas Curse, an innovative title tailor-made for the DS. Using the stylus, players could draw their own platforms for Kirby to leap from, slide on, and even stun or attack his enemies with a tap of the touch screen! Kirby has always been a unique character, but Canvas Curse raised the bar.
  • #11: Tetris DS

    Why It's Great:Tetris and portable gaming go together like vodka and orange juice. How could any title hope to match the simple perfection of the Game Boy's launch classic. Many developers tried, but it took until the DS release of Tetris that the simple answer was discovered — a nice sheen of Nintendo nostalgia. Playing a stage with an old Russian song playing is fun, but doing the same thing with the Mario theme playing while a sprite runs across the bottom screen is borderline sensory overload... in a good way.
  • #7: The World Ends with You

    Why It's Great: In Japan, it's known as "This Wonderful World." In America, though, the world seems to end with you. Why Japanese developer Jupiter thought we'd rather end the world than enjoy it is beyond us, but, despite the confusing naming conventions, this game is probably where the DS shines best. If you enjoyed the gameplay of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, then you'll L-O-V-E this game. Every feature of the DS is taken full advantage of, from drawing your attacks onto the touch screen, to screaming commands into the microphone.
  • #5: Pokemon Diamond & Pearl

    Why It's Great:When the Pokemon games when from colours to minerals, the gameplay was overhauled, the monsters got crazier, and the battles got bigger. Diamond and Pearl represents the biggest shift in the Pokemon series, thanks in major part to wireless online battle, global Pokemon trading, and a new-yet-classic art style that made the world come alive. This was the game that Pokemaniacs were waiting for.
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