DS Top 25 LIFETIME

The touch screen. The two screens. The end of the Game Boy line. These are the things that the Nintendo DS was known for when it launch.

Without a strong launch lineup, and with the announcement of the PSP, the first serious competition in the handheld market for more than a decade, few had much confidence in the two-faced bastard child. People pointed at the Game and Watch and Virtual Boy and thought that Nintendo's portable domination was over.

But then, the hits started coming. Metroid. Mario Kart. Castlevania. By 2008, the DS had arguably the best lineup of any handheld in the history of our medium. Pokemon, JRPGS, portable remakes, side-scrolling revivals, even adventure games found perhaps their only remaining home. Niche games like Phoenix Wright and 999 found shelf space next to Nintendogs and Professor Layton.

In the end, it was the incredible library that became the legacy of the best-selling portable (and perhaps best-selling CONSOLE) of all time.

Honorable Mentions:

Animal Crossing DS

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow

Contra 4

Dragon Quest IX

Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy Tactics A2

Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story

Metroid Prime: Hunters

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

Picross 3D

Pokemon Black/White

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Radiant Historia

Rhythm Heaven

Tetris DS

WarioWare: Touched

WarioWare: DIY

List items

  • Perhaps the most original game on this list, The World Ends With You, or TWEWY, takes advantage of the DS' unique features more than any other. With gameplay taking place on both screens at once, it takes either a great multitasker or seriously crosseyed individual to use the combat engine to its fullest. Gameplay on the lower screen is frantic, as you use a variety of pins with different powers to activate many varied attacks with the swipe of a stylus. Some attacks even involve use of the built-in microphone.

  • As the third game in the series, and the final featuring Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney doesn't add anything new to the premier Lawyering franchise. It doesn't have to. Instead, Trials and Tribulations spends every second of its five cases fleshing out characters that were already fan favorites, and adding a few more that beg to see the surface of your DS again some day. The story rounds out the events of the series to this point, wrapping up all the loose ends and finishing with a poignant finale that hits closer to home than any previous case Wright has handled. While the series got an upgrade later the same year with Apollo Justice (that took advantage of the DS' hardware power better) it hasn't yet matched the emotional pull of Phoenix Wright's final outing. It also clearly had a lot of influence on the recent LA Noire, which feels almost like Rockstar's interpretation of the series.

  • A remix of perhaps the best Pokemon game in the series, HS has about as much content stuffed onto it's little cartridge as one could possibly fit.

    When the original first came out, it was among the best games I had ever played. The day-night cycle, huge number of creatures, and a whopping 16 gym leaders made it a huge step over its predecessors. Then they took all those things out for future games. I didn't much care for Ruby and Sapphire, and was starting to get tired after Diamond/Pearl. But then they brought those great missing features back, introduced the infamous PokeWalker, updated the look of the game, and made the most perfect game in the series.

    While the Pokemon formula is in desperate need of a makeover, The Pokemon formula you've known since 1995 simply doesn't get better than this.

  • It's DDR for your hands! While that's an adequate description for the base gameplay, it in no way describes just how crazy the game is. An Americanized version of Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!!, EBA creates scenarios for each song that range from helping a pair of valley girls have a good time to saving the human race from enslavement by aliens. Dancing is performed by hitting dots that appear on the touch screen at just the perfect time. The game spawned a lively online community of people making their own version's of the game's gameplay with different songs. Elite Beat Agents is perhaps the best rhythm game since PaRappa the Rapper, and there may never be a better one.

  • Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes is easily the most underrated game on the Nintendo DS. Unfortunately, it seems most people don't even realize it exists. For example, it was on TWO "game of the year 2011" lists from official Giantbomb staff and guest developers. 2011. Two years after the game ACTUALLY came out. Clash of Heroes created a fantastic puzzle-rpg in December of 2009, but people wouldn't acknowledge it until it came on a downloadable service.

  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia isn't some Castlevania revolution. It doesn't have touchscreen controls, doesn't use the microphone, and the only use of the second screen is for a map. The only major difference from any other Castlevania is that a major portion of the game takes place OUTSIDE of the castle. Castlevania is no revolution, but it perfected every element of the formula. Weapons are equipable to each hand, creating a great combo system. And while the story in the series typically goes little farther than a Belmont killing Dracula, this one has all sorts of wonderful little emotions, and a tragic main character. There hasn't been a true Castlevania since, and why bother? It can't be better than Order of Ecclesia.

  • People have been looking for a portable Super Smash Brothers ever since the first one came out on the N64. But while it sounds like the series will finally go with you on the go with a 3DS iteration, Jump Ultimate Stars has filled the gap quite nicely for the past few years. Featuring the very best characters out of the "Shonen Jump" manga serialization, Ultimate Stars replaces Mario with Goku, Link with Naruto, Samus with Ichigo, and Kirby with Luffy. There are over 100 playable characters and many more "assist" characters, used not unlike support attacks in the Marvel vs Capcom series. The fighters are animated 2D sprites, and battles are won in the familiar vein of knocking an opponent off a stage. Attacks are responsive and generally well balanced, and unlike Smash Bros, Ultimate Stars has a fully functioning stamina mode (like a traditional fighter). It'll take over 100 hours to unlock all the characters, and you'll enjoy every minute of it.

  • Oh, how we missed the classic Mario formula. It's hard to believe that, before New Super Mario Bros., there hadn't been a 2D sidescroller under the Mario name for some 15 years. The iconic game returned on the DS in one of the best Mario games in history. Many of the old favorite powerups returned, but Nintendo didn't rest on their laurals. The Giant Mario, in retrospect, seems like such an obvious ability, and it's a blast to use.

  • A personal favorite of mine, Shantae combines Mario and Zelda while including RPG elements to create not only the best downloadable game, but a game that can be judged with any full retail piece of software that the DS ever saw. The music is likely the best on the platform, and the 2D animation may be right up there as well. And of course, the platforming is about as tight as can be. Shantae controls great, and the dungeons she drops into are cleverly designed. There's no reason that anyone with a DSi shouldn't have Shantae in their arsenal.

  • The whole Professor Layton series is a fantastic puzzle franchise, fit for anyone that likes testing their noggin, but the Last Specter stepped things up. On top of another game full of awesome puzzle-solving action was a full-fledged RPG with over 100 hours of content available. I CANNOT WAIT for Professor Layton to team up with Phoenix Wright on the DS later this year.

  • The ultimate multiplayer game for the console, Mario Kart almost certainly has the most hours played of anything the Dual Screen. It came after Mario Kart Double Dash, which received mixed reviews thanks mostly to the gimmick of two-charactered karts. DS came, and went back to the basics; great tracks, great handling, and the most frustrating doling-out of powerups EVER. This version is likely only second to the new 3DS iteration in pure quality.

  • If The World Ends with You and Final Fantasy Tactics had a baby, it would probably be Devil Survivor. The setting and aspects of the story lend themselves to TWEWY, but the gameplay is reminiscent of Strategy RPGs. They've got 7 days to save Tokyo, and all the monsters in the world to help them. The game was strong enough that it was even remade for the 3DS, with updated visuals.

  • A surgery video game. sound's crazy, I know. But this doctor simulation is top notch, providing a unique level of intensity balancing a patient's vitals with their life-saving treatment. It is for games like these that the DS was built for; quick, reflex-testing games with simple touch screen-based controls and just an iota of story.

  • After six years without a sequel to my favorite game of all time, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, many fans of the originals were beginning to think that this series was dead, never to return. Finally, at E3 2009, Nintendo finally unveiled a trailer of a new entry, and any hard feelings had about the Wii were moot. While the beautiful 2D art of the original was missed in this 3D creation, Dark Dawn was beautiful in its own right (especially the summons, which were faithful to the originals). The story follows the children of the characters fans came to be used to, but the new ones are well fleshed out (one became a personal favorite of mine). The mechanics are decidedly old-school JRPG, and there's a LOT of text, but there's a lot to love in this package.

  • There aren't a whole lot of Japanese text/adventure games that come to the states, so it takes a special, unique title to stand out and get a chance on our side of the Pacific. 999 was worth it in every way. A gripping story with seven separate endings and some fantastic puzzles made 999 such a cult hit that there's a sequel coming for the 3DS. You'll spend dozens of hours trying to figure out who the mysterious "Zero" is, and why he has trapped nine people together on an altered cruise ship. In the end, all the answers will surprise.

  • There's not a lot of innovation going on with turn-based JRPGs these days, but there's little that's typical about Infinite Space. Developed by Platinum Games (the makers of Bayonetta, Madworld, and (under the name Clover Studios) Okami, Infinite Space is Space Opera meets anime, even more so than the likes of Gundam. This game is all about the numbers; there's countless allies to recruit, ships to buy, parts to customize your ships with, planets to visit. It's a big, big game, and while the combat isn't for everyone, it only gets better over time.

  • Ghost Trick is another outside-the-box creation from the guys who made Phoenix Wright. I must have a thing for media where characters die (Yu Yu Hakusho is a personal favorite). You start out as a disembodied spirit and soon find that you were recently killed, with only a few hours to find the secrets to your demise. as a spirit though, you have to be posessing something at all times, and only have so far you can stretch from one item to the next. So the goal is to move from one object to another, often needing to "manipulate" things like unfolding ladders to extend your reach.

  • The Advance Wars franchise didn't break out in the states until early in the life of the GameBoy Advance, but it quickly became a favorite among strategy and portable fans. Dual Strike takes the formula established in past games and takes it to the illogical extreme. Online play, dozens of characters to choose from, and hundreds of maps (including a mapmaker) make this a package that can never really be finished. And the gameplay lends itself almost perfectly to gaming on the go.

  • The original Scribblenauts took the world by storm when it debuted at E3 in 2009. People were blown away by the freedom the game gave, bringing any object into its world by just typing it. But the end product didn't come together quite as well. Most puzzles could be solved with the combination of a rope and a jetpack (probably true for life in general). Super Scribblenauts not only varied up the puzzles, but also introduced verbs to the equation. Instead of just having a duck, you could have a metal duck, or a vampire duck, or a lava duck. It relaunched the idea, and made it the game worth keeping.

  • Okamiden, like it's predecessor Okami for the PS2, was one of the last games to come out for its console before the new hardware took over. Hopefully the effect wasn't too terrible, because like the original, Okamiden is an excellent action-adventure game in the Zelda mold. The console was a no-brainer for Okami, allowing for the use of Amaterasu's paintbrush in a natural setting.

  • The old classic returns. Chrono Trigger was the trendsetter when it came out in 1995, transcending genre and influencing the whole medium. JRPGs entered a renaissance, a golden age after it's release. The DS remake is barebones, adding essentially nothing to the original package. That said, the touch controls did streamline the experience, and a game like Chrono Trigger didn't really need any improvements anyway.

  • If there were two games that combined to give Rockstar the idea for LA Noire, it'd be Phoenix Wright and this little gem. Hotel Dusk puts the player in the nice leather shoes of an old school detective, trying to get to the bottom of one particularly difficult case.

  • The Zelda had two entries on the DS, and while both were limited by the DS' capabilities, each ended up being excellent regardless. The first was Phantom Hourglass, which was the first in the series to use an isometric perspective. While the world was realized in full 3D, the camera didn't follow Link around, instead watching him from a fixed perspective. Still, touch screen controls worked surprisingly well (boomerang paths were awesome) and in true Nintendo fashion, Nintendo broke the mold when they asked players to copy information one screen to the other".

  • The Suikoden series is better known for its long run on Sony consoles. It's claim to fame is the massive number of recruit-able allies. While the gameplay in Tierkreis is somewhat simplified compared to it's console cousins, the 108 stars of destiny are available as always, and they go along with an above average story and excellent pacing. Once I started this one, I honestly couldn't stop until I had every ally and completed nearly every sidequest. This one has been criminally overlooked, and I encourage and JRPG fan to give it a try.

  • In the aftermath of Grand Theft Auto IV, some fans of the series were burned out on the 3D template, and more were clamoring for a return to the series' 2D roots. That's what they got in Chinatown Wars, and old-fashioned GTA with a couple of DS staples; interactive car-jacking, touch-controlled combat, and perhaps the best turn-by-turn GPS the series has yet implemented.