N-Europe's Top Ten DS Games
Posted 16 Jul 2019 at 18:10 by Glen O'Brien
The DS took a real bold step in dropping the famous Game Boy moniker of previous Nintendo handhelds. The dual-screen handheld, instead, utilised a wide variety of features portable consoles weren’t really known for at the time, such as touch screen support, microphone capabilities and wireless multiplayer support. This allowed for a number of unique games that provided new experiences to gaming.
Our 8th Top Ten list was extremely closely contested by quite a few of the kind of games that only a console like the DS could provide. But could any of them triumph over the more traditional games? Well, I know, but you’re going to have to read on.
And if you'd like to take a look at our previous Top Ten articles then you can do so by clicking any of the mini banners below...
I guess by this point, a Zelda game should just be expected to be seen here. But the second DS Zelda outing only barely scraped through on this console. Set many generations after The Wind Waker, Spirit Tracks features a Link that is about to become a full-fledged train engineer. Of course, something goes horribly wrong and most of the magical train tracks have gone missing. And to make things worse, the current Princess Zelda has run into some awful luck and has been reduced to wandering the world as a spirit.
Silver lining on that situation is that Zelda accompanies Link on his quest to restore the Spirit Tracks and can even possess powerful sentient suits of armour to assist him. This results in some of the most innovative and clever puzzles in Zelda history and most likeable characterisations of mainstay characters. Spirit Tracks is an often overlooked quality title in the series and deserves any praise it gets. It’s got my favourite overworld music from a Zelda game, as well.
"Spirit Tracks brings a lot of fresh ideas to the table, like a world of trains, sidequests with heavy cargo, possession of armours, a sand rod... Coupled with concepts introduced in Phantom Hourglass, such as drawing on maps, or the reinvention of classic items. A lot of what we see here, from the dungeons to the towns, from the puzzles to the bosses, feels like the best it could be.
I wouldn't be praising this game if it wasn't strong in its plot and presentation, either. Going back to the cartoony Wind Waker style, and with a gorgeous soothing soundtrack, it's easy to find the game pleasing and relaxing. Plot-wise, it's a simple "save the land" quest... except this time, Zelda herself is here to help, and she's the best companion the series has seen. This Zelda is much quirkier, childish and almost self-centered, to the point of being funny, her dialogue is very well written. But she also helps in possessing the Phantoms... which is also funny when the armour gets afraid of mice. For once, it feels like this is the journey of Link AND Zelda. I wonder if Breath of the Wild 2 will be able to live up to this rapport?" – Jonnas
"The dungeon and puzzle design is a lot better and feels less hand holdy than Phantom Hourglass was where it felt like they had an idea but most of the puzzles were just “memorise the order”. Also this game’s soundtrack makes me wonder what on earth they were doing with the music in Phantom Hourglass; this is one of the best OSTs in the Zelda franchise" – GenericAperson
A straight up sequel to a Pokémon title is a very strange occurrence. It’s not what anyone really expected, but it turned out to be one of the most jam-packed games the series had seen for a long time. Building on the foundations of the Unova region that was introduced in the original games to make it bigger than ever, these sequels provide a pretty good storyline, a wider variety of Pokémon to help keep things fresh and some of the most in-depth, post-credits content the series had ever seen.
Test your knowledge of the mechanics while starring in ridiculous Pokémon themed movies or be hit in the face with one of the biggest nostalgia bombs that celebrates all of the previous Pokémon games in a way that truly tests your skills as a trainer. One of the last DS titles is an absolute gem and all fans of the series should play it.
"The map of Unova has been expanded to become a much better region with a lot more to do which ends up making for a rather extensive post-game which to this day I still haven't done everything in. It also had achievements and difficulty settings which are things that I feel the series really needed. It's still somehow far better written than many other games in the series and on a personal level, is home to one of my favourite in-game teams I've ever used even if said team performance wise isn't as good as the next one, we'll get to that later." – GenericAperson
This game wasn’t just another solid entry in the long-running karting series; it was a major milestone for Nintendo as they ventured into online gaming with the first game that utilised Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Even without that, this game featured recreations of classic Mario Kart tracks, effectively doubling the amount of tracks compared to the previous game. Mario Kart DS was always a great time between friends who each owned a DS and was bound to cause some good-hearted arguments… I hope…
"As the first fully 3D hand-held iteration of the Mario Kart series most people would have accepted a cut down version of the N64 entry but instead Nintendo produced a game that not only sits right alongside its console counterparts but exceeds them. There are all the characters you’d expect, a host of different karts to choose from and a series of single player challenges that bizarrely Nintendo have never revisited. I spent so many nights trading time trial records with friends, seeing who could pull off the most flawless runs on Baby Park. Add to that the limitless fun on offer in wireless multiplayer and the series very first online mode it’s no wonder that I (among many others) sunk hundreds of hours into the game." – killthenet
The DS was a perfect fit for Visual Novel games with its inherent features and plenty of developers took advantage of that aspect. Very few would quite reach the lofty heights of the first game in the Zero Escape trilogy. Commonly referred to as “999”, it’s hard to talk about this particular title without giving away the amazing story, but trust me on that, it’s amazing. Using the knowledge you gain from multiple playthroughs to unravel the many mysteries is incredibly satisfying and it all pays off in such a way that I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
999 is a game that uses the DS to make the impact it has on players hit all the harder and it’s deserving of its spot in this list.
"A dark and really quite bloody game where the characters would die, and depending on how you played, would probably die many more times throughout multiple playthroughs. The puzzle rooms were enjoyable, but the true star was the story. Could you survive? Who would survive? Who could you trust? With each failure you learned a little more about each of the characters & their relationships with one another, with twists and turns all the way to the satisfying conclusion. Sometimes maybe more story than game, but absolutely gripping nonetheless!" – WackerJr
With the large success of the GBA titles, it was inevitable that the DS would get its own entry. Despite still being called Advance Wars, which doesn’t make much sense when you think about that, Dual Strike makes good on its subtitle and allows you to use two Commanding Officers at once to open up new strategies and deliver devastating blows that can turn the tables. As well as some new modes to shake up the gameplay, Dual Strike is a reward winning game and a great title for any strategy enthusiast.
"If you're a fan of Advance Wars, buy it! And if your not, buy it! The game is THAT good; it is of such unsurpassed quality. Everything that is so enjoyable about the previous GBA prequels has been built upon, enhanced and taken to the next level; even if you like strategy games or even if you don't, this truly is one of the most absorbing, rewarding and epically constructed games on not just the DS but any system." – S.C.G
Making its first appearance in our top ten lists is one of the most laid-back series in Nintendo’s library. Animal Crossing is a game that gives players a lot of freedom to do whatever you like in your own little town. The main feature that Wild World introduced was online capabilities, which allowed players easy access to their friend’s towns, making the series a lot more social and adding even more longevity to an already long-lasting game.
"When Nintendo showed off a full blown handheld sequel for the DS I was absurdly excited. I imported it from the US again as soon as it came out and it barely left my DS over the next couple of years - it was everything I loved about the GameCube game but shrunk down to a system that fit in my pocket. The game oozed wit and charm and looking after Bumtown became a daily fixture for me, checking in with all the wierdos and doing my best to fleece Tom Nook." – killthenet
You take on the role of Sissel. He’s dead, so it’s a pretty bad day already. What’s even worse is that he has no memory of his life beforehand. But being a spirit, he has the ability to jump into nearby inanimate objects and manipulate them. That’s weird enough, but it turns out he can communicate with other spirits that have recently died and can even travel back in time to 4 minutes before a spirit’s death. Using these two abilities, you have to try and prevent the aforementioned death.
This culminates in one of the most clever puzzle games to ever grace a Nintendo console. Truly unique gameplay, gorgeous visuals and an amazing plot makes this one of the most tragically overlooked games that Capcom had ever released. You haven’t got a proper DS library without this game in it.
"Ghost Trick is a story that can only be told in game form. Sissel's poltergeist powers only make sense if the player makes use of them to interact with the environment and save lives. Many plot points depend entirely on how puzzles were solved. In other words, it's a puzzle game where every piece is a Chekov's gun. There are also quite a few twists that depend entirely on how videogame language and expectations work. Not many works of fiction pull the rug from underneath the player as masterfully as this game does.
But besides how well its plot is constructed, it's also a very well-written, well-made game. Every character is super charming; the jokes land consistently well, animations look gorgeous, and even the music seeps into your soul. I struggle to think of any part of it that could be considered bad or unimpressive.
Ghost Trick is an experience that sticks with you, and I recommend it to anybody. New or old, casual or veteran." – Jonnas
"An intriguing story & clever mechanics where every action had an impact, right-or-wrong. It was a puzzle game at heart, and like so many of the best ones, the “eureka” moments were so incredibly satisfying! I was absolutely hooked from start-to-finish and I’m still hoping for a sequel one day!" – WackerJr
Our 3rd best DS game is a difficult game with a heart-warming, mature story that gets more than a little dark and a tiny bit morbid at times. It’s also rated PEGI 3 and it’s a Pokémon game, which is always funny to me. Explorers of Sky is an enhanced version of the second Pokémon Mystery Dungeon titles that allows players to obtain all the Pokémon (that was available at the time) on one cartridge, and features 5 new side stories focusing on some of the side characters of the original versions.
This game has one of the finest plots the Pokémon series had ever seen, lasts for freaking ages and is a solid roguelike game for those looking for something different from a Pokémon game.
"This is an ideal point to jump in with the series because while the main action can be repetitive, it is also fun if you enjoy the gameplay along with falling into an enjoyable routine and the aforementioned story certainly will keep you interested, plus it's fun to learn more about the world of Pokémon while retaining the fundamentals of the Mystery Dungeon series in a way which respects its legacy.
I can see that this particular entry in the series represents a major step forward in shaping the formula which clearly seems to improve with each hardware generation even if the fundamentals remain largely the same. If you've played one Mystery Dungeon game and enjoyed it then it's clear to me that you must then endeavour to play them all but if you've yet to play any, then there really isn't a better time or place than right here, right now. Put in the effort if you can as you'll surely be rewarded." – S.C.G
The Pokémon series is often accused of not really taking many risks, which is partly true, but back in 2011, Game Freak released a Pokémon game where you couldn’t catch any of the Pokémon that existed before this game came out until you actually finished it. No, not even Pikachu. This makes the 5th generation of Pokémon the closest the series had ever gotten to a soft reboot. This made Black and White feel a lot fresher compared to other titles.
But that’s not all these games had to offer, a surprisingly complex plot for the series and some of the finest sprite work that the DS had ever seen helps this game stand tall even among some of the more modern Pokémon games. Arguably the most underrated Pokémon games in the entire series. Not here though, N-Europe has good taste.
"While the series was still played from a top down perspective the decision to use an initially limited Dex of 154 Pokémon, all brand new designs, was one of the biggest breath of fresh airs the series has ever seen. But while all the Pokémon were new (not that that was a bad thing by any means, just because some Pokémon designs were bad doesn't mean they all were, there are some awesome Pokémon in this Gen too like Krookodile and Chandelure) the one thing that really stood out for Pokémon which was something that I never thought I'd see was a good story. Black/White has arguably the best plotline in the entire series and it feels like there's depth to it all.
The characters are all far better written than many that have come before them and while they initially seem very one dimensional like previous characters in the series, as the plot develops you realise they have actual character arcs. Then there's Team Plasma who are arguably the best evil team in the series and one who called into question the very nature of how Pokémon works, they felt like the perfect antagonists for a series like Pokémon. Ghetsis also shot right up into one of my favourite video game villains list and while he isn't quite as good as Kefka from FFVI he isn't too far off him." – GenericAperson
Yeah, I’m probably as surprised as you are. Although I’m not going to argue against this wacky, yet slick, rhythm game topping the DS list. Because there’s no denying its quality. A more western focused version of the Japan-exclusive series, “Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan”, your task is to help the titled group to help regular people who are in trouble through the power of rhythmic cheer-leading.
It’s as weird as it sounds, but its loads of fun. Tapping and dragging the DS touch screen in time to 19 covers of popular songs, each with its own story told as the song plays. With multiple difficulties and a fun multiplayer mode, this is a fine rhythm game that’s an utter joy to play and completely deserving of the top spot in the DS Top Ten.
"The best Rhythm game of all time.
It absorbs you into the beat of the song with a style, grace, and force that other games in the genre hope to match, but never quite achieved. Not to quite the same extent.
This is a game that will make you laugh, that will make you cry, that will make you hope, that will make you cheer alongside all of the people clamouring for the return of the agents. It will make you see familiar songs in a whole new light. The final mission makes the player part of the show in a way that's even more engaging than some concerts.
Elite Beat Agents is all it wanted to be, and then some more. It deserved better, and still does." – Jonnas
If you'd like to be part of N-Europe's Top Ten game lists, then check out the thread on our forum as while it's too late to nominate any Wii titles, we're now down to the last decisive moments as the shortlist is now available and voting will close on 20/07/19 but in any case please stop on by. It will be nice if we do get any new forum members (or even existing members) taking part, as we would very much welcome your input because these articles simply wouldn't happen without the valuable feedback and memories from our community.
Exciting times indeed, catch you next time when the article for the best Nintendo Wii titles goes live on N-Europe before the end of July.