The Nintendo DS was released in 2004, succeeding the Game Boy Advanced to become Nintendo’s flagship handheld console. The DS boasted then revolutionary mechanics, such as a touch screen and microphone, making for innovative new gameplay opportunities.
Since then, the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Switch have taken its place, but the original DS is still home to some of the greatest handheld games Nintendo has to offer. Here are a few brilliant games that are must-plays for anyone looking to revisit, or discover for the first time, the wonderful world of the Nintendo DS.
While Castlevania could not make a graceful transition into 3D, its 2D existence still continued on handheld systems. One of the most well received Castlevania titles since Symphony of the Night was Aria of Sorrow, which released on the Game Boy Advance. This game followed the non-Belmont protagonist of Soma Cruz.
This critically acclaimed Koji Igarashi game was followed up by a sequel, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, for the DS. Again following Soma Cruz, Konami once again delivered an amazing 2D game with all of the Castlevania staples that fans love without the short-comings of the 3D counterparts which, unfortunately, have never managed to do the same.
This point-and-click adventure is ripe with humorous and whimsical characters, something which might surprise those expecting something more serious from the concept. Ace Attorney is a court-room drama and investigation simulator in the form of a visual novel, providing players with options and evidence with which to progress the story.
The game, although heavy on dialogue, relies mostly on the player’s discovery of the truth through evidence and logical deductions. The most satisfying part of its gameplay are the many moments where the player finds holes in the story of a witness and immediately destroys them with a shout of “objection!” followed by the presentation of incriminating evidence that changes the entire narrative.
A remake of the Gen II games, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver brings the Game Boy era games into Gen IV. Boasting updated graphics, additional content and far smoother animation and game mechanics, this game easily surpasses the originals, similar to how FireRed has become the definitive version of Red.
HeartGold and SoulSilver presents one of the most polished games available in the classic Pokémon formula. Pokémon Platinum also released on the same platform, but the Johto remakes edges it out by a bit due to its memorable moments, such as facing Red on top of Mt. Silver. Many fans still believe that HeartGold and SoulSilver are the best Pokémon games, and it’s not hard to see why.
Although a port of an older game initially released on the SNES, Chrono Trigger on the DS proves that this classic RPG still holds up decades after its conception. One of the last 2D RPGs before the massive shift towards 3D gameplay, Chrono Trigger shows that, even in the modern landscape of gaming, a 2D RPG with turn-based combat is still a formula that works.
Square Enix’s Chrono Trigger often cited as one of the best SNES games, and for those who didn’t get to experience back in the 90s, the DS version is a great, relatively modern port.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, often shortened to 999, is another point-and-click adventure. Part of the Zero Escape series, it puts its protagonist on a sinking ship along with eight others who are all given the task of escaping their mysterious captor. In addition to point-and-click puzzles, the game also gives players choices that impact the story. There are multiple routes, all of which are necessary in order to understand the true route.
The game is ripe with mysteries and thrilling developments, mostly due to the arbitrary rules set on the characters. It also has a clever gameplay moment near the end that brilliantly uses the two screens of the DS to create a memorable story beat.
The Nintendo DS has been replaced by the 3DS and Switch, but the handheld console is still home to some of the greatest games ever made.