SB Recommends Nintendo DS Games

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The main features of the Nintendo DS family are their dual screens, and their touch screen stylus controls.

The DS now comes in four models:

  • DS - sometimes unfortunately referred to as the 'DS Fat';
  • DS Lite - Smaller, lighter, and brighter than the DS;
  • DSi - More powerful than the DS, with cameras, an SD card slot, bigger screens, and can download DSiWare games from the Nintendo shop. The GBA slot is removed;
  • DSi XL/LL - Same as the DSi, but with bigger screens. Both near PSP-size.
  • 7th Dragon
    • T.: Plays like EO + DQ. It doesn't have a [translation] patch but it has a pretty extensive and excellent wiki that tells you pretty much everything you need. It is also gorgeous (not just for a DS game)! and has wonderful music!
    • Deets: I like it a lot, but I'm not sure if I like it more than Dual Strike. I think the story is mostly bonkers — as soon as the maps start to have cities and factories in them, the postapocalyptic premise falls apart. Despite many changes to make the game faster, big maps still have a tendency to turn into a miserable slog under the right conditions. The music reminds me of Ace Combat, which is a good thing!
    • The Blueberry Hill: Ditches the unlockables of the first three Advance Wars games, and adds Internet play (that is near-dead now, if you don't have friends to arrange games with). Mobile COs are a great addition, but apart from that the AW games are getting a bit bloated—mostly with unit types. This one cuts down on Dual Strike's bloat, at least.
    • Sushi K: Now that I've played it more I like it mare, but it's still not as much fun as DS. It seems that all the units have been brought closer together in power so one hit KOs are a thing of the past. The AI still doesn't seem to know how to defend its HQ and can't stop a mech crawl.
  • Aliens: Infestation
    • costel: Mighty impressive, and fully realized in such a brilliant and economical way, but I don't know how I really feel about it. It feels, intense and deliberate, well thought out, sharp even. Yet still, something is lacking. I don't know what it is, or if it just takes time to grow, but it's palpable tension is already better then the Colonial Marines game, no contest, and no surprise.
  • Arkanoid DS
    • dessgeega: Game is absolutely great. The learning curve is a wall. Ramming into things and sending them flying is one of my favorite treasure mechanics to date, easily. The included levels — I've cleared maybe half of them — are wonderfully conceptual, and they range from puzzles — one stage is an actual sokoban puzzle, and a hard one at that — to small, ratchet-tight setpieces to huge stages in the style of the original Bangai-o. there are also a bunch of beautiful homages in there: Super Mario Bros., Pac-Man, Battle City. There's a remake of the battleship from R-Type that is just perfect.
    • slipstream: I just reflected 501 4X missiles in the stage Black Angels. This game is so amazing.
    • secondpillow: I'm going to say it right now, best game in the world. My new favorite game in the world.
    • manmachineplaysjazz: This is probably my favorite DS game, now.
    • Sushi K: I don't think a game has made me laugh manically like this for a long time.
    • sam: It's easily my favourite DS game either way, though, and hands down my favourite game of 2008.
    • Isfet: So at first I wasn't really enjoying this game because I thought you really had to complete a level the way they wanted you to. once I figured out that I could do whatever the hell I want to survive and destroy the targets, this has become a really fun experience.
    • radish: My god, it's fantastic. The story ends after the tutorial, then it just leaves you alone to play how you want. And even though I have to play every level 20 times, it's in such small doses that it's impossible to be frustrated at. It expects you to play as hard and as fast and as explosive as possible and I love that.
    • glossolalia: I was pretty cynical about all the froth that was going on, but this really may be the best DS game. it's a simple idea taken to outwardly absurd yet well-thought-out extremes. That is a recipe for good game design.
    • cowboykim: So I haven't been on the boards much, but damn is this game awesome. I loved how the tutorial did not prepare you for the last stage of itself! And the fact that dying only inconveniences you about 3 seconds is awesome. Its also great to play on a bus, as you are never 'in the middle' of something for longer than a minute at most.
    • wasted potential: I am going to come out right now and say that Bangai-O Spirits is the very soul of portable gaming and what all handheld titles should aspire to. Another thing I love is how Treasure made minutes long songs for the Continue screen and Level Complete screen. There is something insanely funny and self-referential that a person would sit through a 3 minute song after beating a 25 second long level, or dying after only 5 seconds. In an age where handhelds are getting progressively more powerful and the games getting progressively more complex, Bangai-O Spirits stands alone, and at the same time, on top of the hill.
    • The Blueberry Hill: I wasn't enjoying this new Bangaio at all until I read this thread and tried the bat and shield combination. Thanks. I played it all morning Saturday. It gave me a headache and I was seeing spots. They were interesting spots though, like missiles heading towards the centre of my vision.
    • everyone: Bat.
  • Bleach: Dark Souls / Bleach DS 2nd Kokui Hirameku Requiem
    • Burp: The best fighting game on the DS… yeah I know that isn't too impressive considering the horrible library of fighting games in the handheld but believe me: Bleach DS 2nd is awesome, Treasure needs to release a Bleach 2D fighting game in Arcades
    • Dark Age Iron Savior: Essentially a classic fighting game-style revision of the first (lots and lots of gameplay tweaks that don't drastically change the gameplay, a new mode or two, about 15% more characters, some new music and extra animations) hasn't come over yet, and I somehow doubt it ever will. It's technically the superior package, but not everyone agrees with the gameplay tweaks leading to better/more fun gameplay
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
    • diplo: The main difference I see between Aria and Dawn is a how unexcited the majority of Dawn's locations make me. The only places that do things for my imagination in Dawn are the Lost Village, Dark Chapel, and maybe the Condemned Tower. Some of my other complaints would include the awful weapon upgrade system (less EQ to discover in the castle/more grinding required/fruits of grinding must be relinquished), the annoying characters/character portraits, the tepid music, the worsened level design, and the horrid final boss. In my opinion, the only things that Dawn has over Aria are a more intriguing starter area, a better alternate character(s) mode, more demanding bosses, and some superior spritework for returning characters/monsters. I would not say that Dawn is an awful game, though.
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia - Actionbutton review
    • gatotsu2501: Either this or Dawn of Sorrow is my favorite Igavania. With nostalgia goggles taken off, both are better than SotN.
    • Mime Paradox: All copies of Order of Ecclesia should have come with everything unlocked, so you can play Hard Mode from the beginning. Playing Hard Mode Shanoa makes for the most fun Castlevania since IV, especially when you're in the first forest, backdashing and throwing knives at the off-screen bats you know are coming, feeling like a badass for not dying. I can totally see the argument that the game is inconsistently designed—there's several bullshit stages in the middle part of the game—but once you get Rapidus Fio and the Death Ring and start running around like a madwoman in the castle library/kitchen it becomes the most fun thing ever. Also, it may be just me, but a lot of the music sound like it'd be more at home in Mega Man X, which is awesome.
    • Toups: IDK Order of Ecclessia has redeemed IGA for me, at least, if not the whole series. It more or less leaves him with two great game, two awful games, and one weird, charming, bizarre little experiment with great music.
    • Felix: Actually pretty damn good in terms of enemy/boss design, challenge, music, reconciling older Castlevanias with Iga stuff, and somewhat strongly prefiguring the Souls games, which is something that I think we tend to feel like Castlevania should do in theory more than it actually has in practice. It still feels a little too insubstantial (which is not an inevitable result of being on a handheld by any means, but it's one of the few recurring Igavania failings that isn't resolved here), the RPG mechanics are pretty unexciting, and the aesthetic and the level design and everything having to do with the townspeople pale severely by comparison to La Mulana, which was released a few years prior.
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
    • diplo: It's too digestible — too lite. There's no savoring, and little to no reason to savor. The whole game seems to have been built for the most manageable consumption possible. It just hits me the wrong way deep inside. More than any other Castlevania I've played it feels like the gaming equivalent of a Reader's Digest magazine: an aesthetically barren shuttle through easy-going vacuity. I don't mind Aria's pacing because the level design is almost without fail better, in terms of large-scale layout and micro-detail, than Portrait's, as are the sectors' themes and expressions. To me, Portrait has the most unimaginative and ugliest castle of KCET's Metrovanias. I almost prefer Circle of the Moon's. Soma is also less smooth in his movement compared to Portrait's duo, which I think makes for more friction in navigation and fights. I guess you could say that my critique of the pacing is not the fastness itself, but the context of that fastness in the atmosphere and structure of the surrounding world.
    • Ni Go Zero Ichi: It has the best soundtrack out of the three DS titles (handled by Yuzo Koshiro rather than Igavania regular Michiru Yamane) and the worst everything else.
  • Chou Gekijou Ban Keroro Gunsou Gekishin Dragon Warriors
    • Loki Laufeyson: Licensed platform game with 5 different playable characters and incredibly well designed stages, and a lot of them.
  • Chou Soujuu Mecha MG
    • Loki Laufeyson: Chou Soujuu Mecha MG is a game by Sandlot, and it is about giant robots. You use the d-pad or face buttons to move around, and the touch screen has a control panel with various buttons and switches and other gadgets to use each robot's functions. There are tons of robots in the game, all with different abilities and control panels. The missions are varied, including fighting bad guy robots, moving debris, defending buildings and so on.
    • 1CC: Controlling your mecha in this game is a glorious mess and hella fun for the first fifty or so levels, and then not so much for the last fifty. It's totally structured like Sandlot's EDF games but here they're stretching the content way past the breaking point. If you thought that EDF had a lot of repeats in levels and enemies, well then you've seen nothing yet. This is easily Sandlot's weakest game, but still worth it if you want to pilot and do battle with a wide range of lovely modeled low-poly giant transforming robots.
  • Chrono Trigger (also on: iOS, PS1, PSN, SNES, Wii VC)
    • gatotsu2501: Definitive version of the game is generally agreed to be either this or the SNES/VC one. Which one depends on taste - this one features the FMV cutscenes and bonus content of the PS1 version, a new (and polarizing) translation, some shockingly bad new sidequests and dungeons, a new ending that sets up the plot of Chrono Cross (while maddeningly introducing totally new unresolved plot threads), some new and revised interface options, and compressed graphics and sound that may infuriate purists. (I prefer the original, in case you couldn't tell.)
  • Contact
    • gatotsu2501: Weird, dreamy little RPG with a strong Earthboundy vibe. This is a vintage Grasshopper Manufacture game, which is to say it's rough around the edges but creative and unique and above all it looks and sounds terrific.
    • Felix: I remember playing through this and more or less enjoying it but waiting for it to do something significant, and then not really minding when it didn't. I probably wouldn't have bothered if it had come out a few years later. But it definitely looked nice.
  • The Dark Spire
    • Tulpa: Accusations of grinding seem weird to me since that definitely takes a backseat to exploration. It feels more like a classic dungeon crawl because combat is heavily de-emphasized in favor of exploration.
    • Tulpa: Yeah I love the Dark Spire, it's my favorite dungeon crawl on the DS.
  • Deep Labyrinth
    • gatotsu2501: Not actually a terribly good game, but it happens to contain Yasunori Mitsuda's best soundtrack since Chrono Cross, or at least his underrated score for Xenosaga Episode I (not to mention a surprisingly decent story — two, actually — by Chrono writer Masato Kato). This alone makes it a worthy diversion if you're a fan.
    • costel: For future reference the closest I've ever played to /King's Field on the DS would have to be Deep Labyrinth, a criminally under rated game.
  • Dig Dug: Digging Strike
    • firenze: Dig Dug DS is pretty damn cool. It's a great blend of the original [[game:Dig]] Dug and the lesser known Dig Dug 2. Arcade style puzzle/action, works well in portable form, and it's dirt cheap if you can find it.
  • Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (original version on SFC)
  • Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
  • Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
    • GrimSweeper: For platforming and hot tank-on-tank action as well as being chock full of puns.
  • Electroplankton (also on: DSiware)
  • Etrian Odyssey / Yggdrasil Labyrinth (JP) (remade for 3DS) - forum thread
    • Felix: EO is really good, but by giving you a whole party about which you need to make some very unforgiving choices in order to develop, sabotages the traditional appeal of dungeon crawlers and makes the whole thing too grindy. It's an enormously satisfying grind, but it is also the definition of a game for which I get much more satisfaction just by looking at GameFAQs and planning out what I'd do in order to succeed in the game and then not losing 30 hours of my life by actually playing it.
    • Broco: You know, I like a lot of things about EO. But my main problem with it is that its numbers curves (experience growth/health/damage output/money) are balanced in such a way that the game has to take dozens of hours and there's no way to significantly accelerate that. But the battle system isn't interesting enough to sustain that length; after your initial skill choices are nailed down, you just select the same things out of a menu over and over.
      The length creates another problem in that individual sessions are very long between savepoints. In Dark Souls, you die a lot, but you just wasted 5-10 minutes of play at most, so it's not frustrating. In EO, if you try to rush to a harder area to make progress faster but you die instead, you lose literally hours (I gave up on EO after just such an attempt). The alternative is to play boringly and conservatively. Either way, the difficulty ends up making the game less rather than more fun.
      I think if it was just rebalanced to be an 8-10 hour long game instead, it would be a really great game. As it is… yeah I'd rather just listen to the soundtrack.
    • GrimmSweeper: I will admit that each progressive stratum took more time investment to get through. It still flowed well for me until the stratum before credit roll. And then post-game content demanded grinding. The usual handheld gaming philosophy (playable in small time chunks) did not really work with this game, which I think is what turned people off at that point.
      I preferred it to EO2 and I'm hesitant to put it above EO3 because I haven't gone much further than 3rd stratum there. Feels like the same level of flow, interrupted by alternatives like sailing around for a couple minutes. There's less penalty to switching around skills to see if another way works and using different characters.
    • Deets: If anything, I felt like the game only got faster and faster towards the end, since by the 3rd strata or so money stops being an issue, you have Immunize going all the time, and you almost always have a good idea of whether or not you'll need to warp back to town. I distinctly remember playing it in bursts and not having an issue, as well. If anything, Broco, I'd say it's easier to play EO in a hyper-aggressive manner than to take it slow, at least after the early-game.
      Completely agreed about the boring nature of the combat, but honestly I'm not sure what the solution would be for that kind of game. Menus are boring. Just kind of the nature of the beast.
  • Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard / Yggdrasil Labyrinth II: The Holy Grail of Kings (JP) (remade for 3DS) - forum thread
  • Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
    • costel: Fighting Fantasy: Firetop Mountain is quite a wonderful little game. It kept me busy for a while, probably until about half way through when I felt woefully under-equipped to fight anything. It's a really difficult game to find as well, and not surprisingly hardly anyone has ever gotten a chance to play it, I'm fairly certain most people thought it was shovelware. The combat later on gets relatively hectic, and I had some odd hit detection issues. It's still a great game, but something's missing from it. I've been experiencing this with a lot of DS games lately, where something integral is lacking, but putting it words is utterly perplexing. Love the lock picking in the game though.
  • Final Fantasy III (also on: iOS, Ouya, PSP; original version on FC)
    • gatotsu2501: Like I and II, not even a radical makeover (both aesthetic and mechanical) can hide the antequated game at its core. Was hot shit in the early days of the DS when being an RPG from a respectable publisher made it unique on the system, but nowadays there are so many more polished alternatives that it's mostly only worth playing as a novelty for the dedicated Square enthusiast.
  • Final Fantasy IV (also on: Android, iOS; original version on SNES, PS1, etc.) - forum thread
    • gatotsu2501: I like: the enhanced interface, fill-in maps, balancing tweaks, and Augment/New Game Plus system. I do not like: the “enhanced” graphics, soundtrack, translation, and cutscenes. When choosing between DS or PSP as the definitive version of FF4, these are the factors it ultimately comes down to. What are your priorities?
    • Toups: The DS port is the best Final Fantasy game ever made.
    • Toups: FFIV DS is totally worth it. In terms of actual play balance and flow it is a measurable improvement over the original.
    • Toups: Just do like I did and ignore the augments.
    • Felix: Yeah, this is up there with the attract mode FFXII montage and most of Final Fantasy IX in terms of Square trying to adequately summarize their heyday. It's a little bit slow if you're used to play jRPGs in an emulator with a fast-forward key, and I can see the game not doing much for you if you don't like the visuals, but how can you not like those visuals? They're so clean and low-res and low-poly.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
    • Ni Go Zero Ichi: As sequels go, this is a kind of depressing automaton: it refines and polishes each aesthetic and mechanical aspect of Tactics Advance to a mirror sheen, while sucking out every last bit of its soul. The result is a technically superb game that leaves you feeling strangely, sadly hollow inside.
  • Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
    • Tulpa: Mechanically and visually top notch, with a story that stays out of the way.
    • swimmy: This game is really pretty. It has a totally charming cell-shaded look, and the art design takes advantage of it thoroughly. The first dungeon, a witch's castle, is, instead of a bunch of boring cement blocks (like the older games would have had), kind of gothic and filled with rose vines and candles.
      The second thing to notice: Final Fantasy has, at long last, learned some (more) things from Dragon Quest. Specifically: The battles are extremely fast (notably, the game doesn't waste our time with a silly individualized victory dance after every single battle); characters have limited item capacity; there is an item to warp you back to town; the game jumps right into the first quest and wastes no more time with exposition than did DQIII. The music attempts to simulate old NES sounds. The game is so clearly pandering to a fanbase, but 1) I am part of that fanbase, and 2) Squaresoft actually got it right this time. The last time they tried to appeal to this base, we ended up with Final Fantasy IX, which announced loud and clear (regardless of your opinion of that game) that Squaresoft no longer understood that fanbase.
      I really like it.
    • gatotsu2501: Weirdly fails at actually recapturing the feel of those 8-bit Final Fantasies it superficially strives to emulate (in part by incorporating some distinctly un-Final Fantasy elements, as outlined by Swimmy) - which is not to say that it isn't, in the 21st century, a technically better game than any of them.
  • Flower, Sun, and Rain (original version on JP PS2)
    • Rudie: It's Grasshopper does Professor Layton except all the puzzles are about math and number manipulation. The aesthetic and plot and game play just barely hold together for the length of it. I really liked the math puzzles much more than anything in Layton.
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Definitely in need of an equivalent to Adilegan's monolithic Killer7 treatise. Far more than math, the game's about walking in a straight line across unimaginably huge abstract landscapes. It could annoy the hell out of you, but I got quite a bit of ironic enjoyment out of it.
    • Tulpa: Yeah this is great, probably the best DS adventure game.
    • Ni Go Zero Ichi: Best played in short bursts. Thankfully the game is neatly divided into bite-sized chapters! An important reminder that once upon a time Suda's trademark style was both restrained and had substance to back it up. Just reading the (shockingly extensive) in-game tourist pamphlet is surprisingly entertaining. I've heard a number of complaints about the European localization of the game; having played the American version, I can say with reasonable certainty that Xseed's translation is excellent.
  • G.G Series Collection Plus - forum thread
    • Loki Laufeyson: Imagine if someone suddenly released 30 brand new 16 bit console games, ranging from crushingly tedious to excellent and addictive. About half of the games were released as DSiWare in Japan, but this is a normal DS cartridge.
  • Ghost Trick
    • Mikey: Plot-wise it's Groundhog's Day with a murder mystery and an amnesiac protagonist, with a plot twist that's straight out of a Disney movie (I mean this as a complement in this case). It was so silly, but I honestly teared up a little. Gameplay-wise it's all about getting all the elements in each scene to interact with each other Rube-Goldberg-style to produce the desired outcome. It's fun, if sometimes disappointingly constrained. One of the few DS games that didn't make me resent stylus controls, it was the last one I played for the system, and one of my favorites.
  • Giana Sisters DS
    • Loki Laufeyson: A fun platform with really, really nice artwork and animation.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (also on: iOS, PSP) - forum thread
    • internisus: GTA:CW is pretty great and should be played on the DS rather than its upgraded PSP port because of the novel touch controls on all the little events.
    • Broco: This is as far as I know the only time a Western dev took the DS seriously and released a large game with high production values. It's basically a modern GTA but on the DS. If you like those, play this. Despite the overhead view, its mechanics are not really like the early 2D GTAs, to my disappointment, since I believe the modern GTA mission structure is essentially tedious and broken.
    • Ni Go Zero Ichi: Timely evidence that GTA is at its best as an arcadey, irresponsible sociopathy sim, an ultraviolent, politically incorrect cartoon with no pretensions of any greater realism or significance than pure, giddy nihilism. (Translation: suck it, GTA IV.) Incidentally, it's also one of a handful of DS games that benefits from being played with the analog pad of the backwards-compatible 3DS.
    • Felix: speaking of western DS titles, there were also pretty competent versions of Tony Hawk and SimCity, though those were little more than polished ports.
  • Honeycomb Beat
    • glitch: Not groundbreakingly innovative or anything, but still not something that would work on another system. And addictive as hell. The kind of game fans of Chokkan Hitofude / Polarium would enjoy I think.
    • drobe: The best game on the toilet.
  • Ivy the Kiwi? (also on: Wii)
    • Chris B: It's a mix between Kororinpa and a 2D platformer, in which you have to guide your character through a labyrinth, while avoiding obstacles like spikes and enemies. It's an arcade game at heart, with a simple concept, but hard to master and totally addictive.
  • Kage no Densetsu
    • glitch: Weird and atmospheric and one of the very few platformers that's compatible with my attention span, due to being a total twitchfest. That and the fact that your jumps cover a couple of screenheights.
  • Kirby's Canvas Curse (NA) / Kirby: Power Paintbrush (PAL) / Touch! Kirby (JP)
    • dmauro: Canvas Curse is the best game for the DS and it's quick and fun. If you really want to get into it though, the time trial mode is a game unto itself and is pretty much perfect. Ignore the earlier comment about the level design because the time trial levels are mostly nice and tight with, well, not branching paths so much, but multiple ways to get through them so that you can decide which is the fastest for your style.
    • Tokyo Rude: Touch! Kirby is a really good tech demo. It ramps up towards the ending using actual level design, but then the game ends. I never became accurate or comfortable enough with the control scheme to see Time Trial mode as fun.
    • shnozlak: Canvas Curse was a joyful cake walk that I finished in one week with about 80% of the extras too, which for me is UNHEARD OF.
  • Kirby: Squeak Squad (NA) / Kirby Mouse Attack (PAL) / Kirby of the Stars: Calling on the Dorotche Gang (JP) -crikey! (also on: Wii U VC)
    • firenze: I love Squeak Squad. It's easy and very traditional NES/SNES style platforming, but it's got charm. […] the levels are short enough that the game does work as a portable. Got 10 minutes? You can play a quick level of Kirby, feel you accomplished something, and go on about your business.
  • Knights in the Nightmare (also on: PSP)
  • KORG DS-10
    • spectralsound: the best piece of software available for the DS.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass - Actionbutton review
    • Ni Go Zero Ichi: Still a distinctly post-shark-jump Zelda, but nevertheless an engaging formula-bound mini-adventure, with some of the more novel uses of the DS hardware and many little bits of fanservice for people who loved The Wind Waker as much as I did. Its sequel, Spirit Tracks, is a lot harder to recommend because literally everything outside of the actual dungeons represents a new franchise low in tedious, slavish bullshit.
  • Lock's Quest
    • BenoitRen: It's one of those neat games that almost nobody played. Which is a shame, because it's an innovative combination of tower defense and real-time strategy. It may seem boring at first, but it quickly picks up and doesn't lose you through its large amounts of stages.
  • Lost in Blue
  • Lunar Knights / Bokura no Taiyō Django & Sabata (JP)
    • TORUMASUTA: Lunar Knights is a great alternative to the Castlevania games. It got rid of Boktai's solar sensor, but it also got rid of Boktai's solar sensor. It's also not nearly as genius as Boktai 2. Still, it's good portable fun.
    • Loki Laufeyson: If you have either of the GBA Boktai games in slot-2, then you can use the solar sensor!
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (also on: Wii U VC)
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Recommended only if you can get through all the dumb bullshit to the 4-part final boss, because holy lord is it epic. I wish the time travel aspect had been used like in Sonic CD.
    • Felix: Get a savestate of the final boss fight. The pacing in this one is all wrong and it's pretty boring compared with the GBA original, but the difficulty ramp-up is awesome.
  • Mega Man Zero Collection / Rockman Zero Collection (JP)
    • T.: Yes definitely. 2 and 3 particularly are among the tightest, most challenging and cool action platformers around.
  • Meteos
    • Felix: A fairly clever revision of Tetris Attack/Panel de Pon by Mizuguchi (Rez guy) and Sakurai (Smash Bros. guy). Exponentially increasing difficulty leads to very well-paced matches, even if it's a little too easy to get to be too good at it. Single-player is kind of pointless and tries to persuade you to grind for resources; was the best multiplayer on the DS back in 2005 due to not needing more than one cartridge to play a 4p match. Will be pretty well forgotten, and that will be a medium shame.
  • Metroid Prime Pinball
  • Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes
    • Tulpa: The best of all possible combinations of puzzle and turn-based strategy.
    • GrimmSweeper: A neat little game but it is definitely oriented for the tween/teen age group. It's fairly simple and crunchy, a decent grab.
    • evnvn: I can't deal with how addicted I am to Might and Magic Clash of Heroes. I think this is the way some people feel about slot machines
  • Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer / Fushigi no Dungeon 2: Furai no Shiren (JP) (also on: SNES)
    • Broco: A roguelike with a streamlined, satisfying system and great artwork and music.
    • GrimmSweeper: Shiren the Wanderer does a good job of easing you into the game, better than the SNES version in this. I liked it a lot, but then I'm a huge fan of rogue-likes.
    • drobe: I think you have to be in a certain mood for this kind of game. In particular, that 'sitting under a tree in the summer with cold tea' kind of mood. The kind of mood that makes you willing to fail and try again. Over and over.
    • Broco: This game is, in my opinion, not just the best game on the DS, but one of the finest games ever made. It is so hard to make random generation work in a game, but Shiren succeeded and ended up with something incredibly rich and stimulating. It's a thoughtfully designed hybrid of many traditions: the basic template is a Western roguelike, but it frames it within an arcade-style replay-metagame, with the elegant, streamlined UIs and gorgeous artwork of JRPGs. The DS version improves the balance and adds more optional content to the already brilliant SNES version.
    • Tulpa: Definitely excellent, if only because of how it breaks roguelike conventions to introduce new gameplay mechanics gradually.
  • Namco Museum DS
    • Rudie: Yes it is another Namco game with Pac-man, Galaga, Galaxian, Mappy, Xevious, and Tower of Druaga. It also lets you physically flip the dipswitches on the motherboard. It has fliers and hints for how to play (especially useful in Druaga). It's by M2 so the emulation is perfect, and the features go far beyond what you would expect in even free/illegal emulation. I wish every retro-compilation/release was treated as well as this. The games aren't exactly well suited for DS play though…
  • New Super Mario Bros. (also on: Wii U VC)
    • Diplo: New Super Mario Bros. is probably my favorite game for the DS. It takes a bit of getting used to, if you're expecting the rush-and-jump speed of the first game. One of the few examples of good, 2D level design in years. Only complaint: Mario bumbles about a bit too much. I assume they did this in an attempt to present him in a more endaring and FUNNY fashion, but - whatever.
    • dmauro: New Super Mario Bros. is awesome. Certainly not perfect, but it's one of the best games for DS and is great for short spurts (it's fun to start up a new game and see how quickly you can beat it utilizing warps and shortcuts).
    • Broco: The only time I ever experienced fun while playing NSMB was in the multiplayer mode (which has a similar feeling as Mario Kart deathmatch). The single-player is a tedious mishmash of SMB3 and SMW that achieves neither the obstacle-course challenge of the former nor the sense of exploration and discovery of the latter.
    • shnozlak: New Super Mario Bros is worth a twice over, but its a pretty short twice over. The mini games like the bob-om reversi were enough to keep several of my friends and I taking it everywhere we went for about 2 months. It went really well with pie and coffee at the diner
    • gatotsu2501: Even a younger, less critical me felt there was something missing from NSMB. Aside from the unexciting, forgettable level and visual design, it also FELT weird - the frictions are all airy and wrong and totally not Mario. My thoughts are with Broco on this one. I did have some dumb fun with the multiplayer though (the minigames moreso than the “real” mp).
  • 999: Nine Hours Nine Person Nine Doors
    • Rudie: A Visual Novel with a SAW like premise. You need to read the game multiple times for it to start getting interesting/stop having bad endings.
    • Teflon: I'm a bit annoyed by the way it 180s characters just so it can have a bunch of mutually incompatible twist endings. The writing manages to almost sound like combinations of words that might actually be spoken by bona fide human beings at times, though perhaps I'm simply dazzled by people saying 'fuck' on my milky pink DS. Of course this only makes it even more jarring when they suddenly launch into 15 minute info dumps so I don't know Chunsoft you might want to find a better way to bring me up to speed on the latest tinfoil hat theories for the sequel)
  • Orcs & Elves
    • T.: Cute in a dopey way but not really a good dungeon crawler in any sense.
  • Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Aesthetically, it'd be great for your 13-year-old sister who's just getting into quirky Japanese stuff. This game eats touch screens alive. Some of the cover songs are really bad if you've heard the originals. The last stage is absurdly difficult and will probably gouge a hole in your DS.
  • Panzer Tactics DS
    • T.: Panzer Tactics is a pretty lite Panzer General-esque American wargame I'd recommend as well here.
  • Picross 3D
    • skelethulu: It is the glory of man!
    • JoeX111: Solving the 3D puzzles just doesn't feel as satisfying as it did in the original game.
  • Planet Puzzle League (NA) / Puzzle League DS (PAL) / Panel de Pon DS (JP) (AKA: Tetris Attack)
    • Broco: the best version of my favorite stack-based puzzler
  • Point Blank DS / Unou no Tatsujin: Gunbullet Trainer (JP)
    • firenze: Point Blank DS is kinda cool too. I'm shocked it works as well as it does with a stylus, but it does capture the feel of the light gun based shooting gallery. Again, quick and easy to enjoy playing for only 10 minutes.
  • Pokémon Black & White
    • spectralsound: the first truly great Pokémon game in a decade, even if the story ends up devolving into “chosen one” dross. the evil team here is basically PETA, which creates some really weird moral dissonance. definitely the best permutation of the battle system so far, though, and the best towns and gym leaders in the entire series—they don't just sit around waiting for you to show up anymore! there's also a neat Demon's Souls-esque online mode, but good luck getting it to work with the DS' draconian online system.
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon
    • TORUMASUTA: And I am fucking obsessed with Pokemon Mystery Dungeon. Screw Diamond and Pearl and anything else that will come after that isn't Mystery Dungeon 2. Everything bad you've heard/know about the game gradually disappears once you “beat” the game and unlock the other half of the game's content. The entire game up until the credits can be considered the game's Easy Mode to ease your way into the gradual roguelike mindfuck. Some dungeons get quite nasty and people who said it was too easy obviously never did the dungeon that required you to go into a 100 floor dungeon, back at level one, with no items. In a way it's more cruel than Shiren because it first gives, with constant levels and large inventories and unlimited storage and a four Pokemon party, but then it gradually taketh away.
    • Broco: The easy linear grind of Pokemon Mystery Dungeon bored me enough that I quit after 10 hours or so. But even if I assume that the post-game is excellent, there's still the major problem that the artwork is garish and the music is grating.
  • Polarium / Chokkan hitofude (JP)
    • Koji: For short and sweet I say go for Polarium, if you're into Picross and that kind of slow-paced puzzle games. Seriously, I just love that game, it's such a tight design.
  • Professor Layton series
    • gatotsu2501: A fresh, charming game with an interminable succession of nearly-identical sequels that rapidly lose their charm and freshness. It doesn't really matter which one you play I guess, just play one and enjoy it.
  • Radiant Historia
    • skelethulu: Yeah, got Radiant Historia and it is pretty much exactly what I needed right now. It really feels like it should have come out for the PS1 and won GOTY 1999. It feels like Square could have bought it and used their (now lapsed but once trademarked) “Chrono Break” title and a million billion nerds would be playing it right now.
    • Tulpa: Oh man, so I'm about 7 hours into Radiant Historia and really dig the writing and the pervasive sense of mistrust between all the characters. Also enjoying going out of my way to see all the bad endings.
      Encounters are still largely too easy but I don't care too much because it's just so fun to manipulate. Being able to freely fuck with the turn order is a wonderful piece of design and lets me just experiment with my own tactics.
    • firenze: Great protagonist (a non-obnoxious adult in a JRPG? whaaat?) and a very interesting story. The plot is really the main draw, but the battle system is fresh enough to keep you interested. The most unique battle feature is that your enemies are on a 3×3 grid and some of your skills can move them around and shift positioning to your advantage. You can also play around with character action order to power up your characters and set up combo attacks (at a risk of exposing yourself to extra damage). Oh, the music by Yoko Shimomura is fantastic too.
    • GrimmSweeper: Nice little game, if a bit reliant on abusing the combat mechanics during the second half of the game. Basically you try to chain together skills with loads of multi-hit to build the combo meter, then finish off with any sort of elemental magic spam or Mana Burst. Or if they aren't taking up the ENTIRE grid then you bring Aht and drop traps for the enemies to be pulled/pushed into.
      Would recommend with the caveat that eventually you will have to fight 'their way' to keep battles from becoming tedious, drawn out affairs. The two timelines is an interesting concept to explore and bump around for completing quests.
    • gatotsu2501: This game just bored the shit out of me. I don't know why. I found every little thing about it unbelievably dull.
  • Retro Game Challenge / Game Center CX: Arino's Challenge (JP) - forum thread
    • Broco: Though I seem to be in the minority here, I hated this one. For a game with “Retro” in the title, it's too easy, has a very modern goal structure designed for maximizing length and providing hollow achievements, and has tons of cutscenes and tutorials. Ironically, it's everything that's wrong with modern game design.
    • Dark Age Iron Saviour: But the games are fun and well-designed. Which greatly outweighs everything else.
    • T.: I agree [with Broco}, mostly. Except when I realized this was the case, instead of thrusting my head against the wall of achievements/tutorials I just downloaded a .sav from GameFAQs that already had unlocked all the games. Better!
    • Tulpa: The very last game on Retro Game Challenge, Robot Ninja Haggle Man 3 or whatever it was called is totally worth the price of admission (especially since that price is free). Like a miniature combination of Ninja Gaiden and Metroid.
  • Rondo of Swords / Rondo of Deception (JP)
  • Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
    • GrimmSweeper: Guys get Rune Factory 3 it's probably the pinnacle of the Harvest Moon experience presently.
    • GrimmSweeper: The NPCs feel more three dimensional and MUCH more present than they were in the first Rune Factory game. Now mind, they've increased the 'anime' and you are picking a girl from the stereotypes (quiet girl, strange girl, tomboy girl, princess girl, COMMUNIST girl, etc) that you eventually marry. But instead of having to grind their relationship up you can perform 'requests' that get you doing other things than 'kill # dudes' or 'collect # shiny things.'
  • SaGa 2 Hiho Densetsu: Goddess of Destiny​ (original version on GB) - translation patch
    • Tulpa: Honestly, playing a SaGa game with all the insane bullshit that entails without investing hundreds of hours is pretty wonderful. Final Fantasy Legend 2 is just not really as… SaGa-y as the remake.
    • Felix: A lovely remake of one of the most coherent SaGa titles. If Dragon Quest VIII penetrated your cold, steely, “no more goddamn jRPGs” exterior, so should this.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor / Megami Ibunroku Devil Survivor (JP) (also on: 3DS)
    • T. Kind of dumb character/story-wise but has a cool enough interface and battle system (SRPG + SMT) and IIRC a moderately branching plot. It's good.
    • Tulpa: I was bored very quickly. Nice music but man it was just totally unengaging.
    • gatotsu2501: The first SMT game that did not manage to truly sink its hooks into me. I've never been too impressed with the series' plots, but this one's eyerolling animu nonsense diminished my capacity for shit-giving particularly fast. The interface is clunky and slow, the character designs are ugly and the music is awful tuneless wailing-guitar garbage. On the other hand, it does still have that good old SMT number-crunching, no-free-lunches challenge.
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
    • Persona: Do you like DAMAGE FLOORS, PITFALLS, BLIND TUNNELS, SLEEP FLOORS, POISON FLOORS, and TELEPORTS? Well FUCK YOU then.
    • gatotsu2501: Some of the difficulty spikes are absolutely sadistic, and many player deaths are infuriatingly cheap. The final boss of the Neutral and Law routes is obscenely overpowered. THAT SAID, the game is still incredibly addictive, brutally strategic, and a refreshing departure from SMT's typical “teenagers in Tokyo” setup. The plot is extremely slow, but manages to get fairly interesting by the end. The Law/Chaos dichotomy beats the hell out of the “morality systems” found in other games. Kazuma Kaneko's ingeniously twisted demon designs finally find their home in a setting dark enough to accommodate them.
  • Sideswipped / Clash King V201 (JP)
    • Loki Laufeyson: Destruction derby, but on the DS, pretty much.
    • Shiren the Launderer: This game is brilliant.
    • glitch: YES IT IS.
  • Simple DS Series Vol. 4: The Block Kuzushi
    • Loki Laufeyson: Decent enough Arkanoid-like with a wierd evolution theme. Also has an unusual versus mode, with download play.
  • Simple DS Series Vol. 18: The Soukou Kihei Gunground
    • Loki Laufeyson: An Assault Suits Valken-like with customisable mecha, and an amazing 4 player deathmatch mode, that can be played with a single cartridge.
  • Simple DS Series Vol. 21: The Infantry
    • Loki Laufeyson: Another 3D third person shooter, set in WWII. Slash nazis with a katana!
  • Simple DS Series Vol. 31: The Choudangan! Custom Sensha
    • Loki Laufeyson: Platforming in tanks, which can be customised with different weapons, wheels, etc.
  • Simple DS Series Vol. 39: The Shouboutai
    • Loki Laufeyson: A 3D firefighting game that is basically a third person shooter, but with hoses instead of guns and different kinds of fire instead of enemies.
  • Space Invaders Extreme 2
    • mothmanspirit: This game probably has one of the best scoring spectacles, and the way everything is synced with the ZUNTATA OST is so great.
  • Solatorobo:Red The Hunter
    • Rudie: 12 years in the making, a semi sequel to Tail Concerto (a game you have probably have never played and neither have I.) While absolutely the best looking DS game by a huge margin, it's too easy. I mean the primary component is your pick up stuff and throw it! Awesome! You harpoon giant hermit crabs to harvest the battleships on their back. Fuck Yeah! It's just soooo not challenging. A shame.
  • Soma Bringer - translation patch
    • muteaid: I love this title so hard. I like to think this is the game DQIX would have been if it retained a real time battle system. You can re-assign skill points to different abilities, so you never have to worry how you should assign the skill points you earn when you level up (e.g. Etrian Odyssey/DQIX). If you don't need the skill, you can just re-allocate them to another one. Makes the game a breeze to play. Huge and tough bosses tho!
    • Talbain: that was what bugged me about the Soma Bringer - not the reassigning of skill points, but that all the enemies except the bosses served no purpose except as fodder. The levels towards the end became huge, sprawling affairs for the sake of being huge and sprawling. I loved the music, and the hand-drawn artwork, but the battle system was pretty disappointing, and bosses would oftentimes one-shot you unless you were grinding (and the “don't get hit” excuse is kinda moot when bosses have attacks that practically fill the entire screen - though that's kinda cool). It was a forty hour game that could have been condensed to eight or less. The “story” is central to the game, but that's poorly executed as well, since you know the ultimate direction of the entire game 15 minutes into it.
  • Spider-Man: Web of Shadows
  • Steal Princess
    • Dark Age Iron Savior: Imagine the rough gameplay mechanics of Landstalker crossed over with the concept of dozens of quick little stages like an arcade puzzle/platformer. Add horribly inconsistent controls and charmingly consistent dialog.
  • Time Hollow
    • Teflon: Idiotic fun in a bad Star Trek time loop episode kind of way.
  • TrackMania Turbo
    • probably fine: Trackmania Turbo is about time trialling your way through brief, challenging series of floating bits of road. The generic, real world veneer over everything gives it an almost surrealist quality. I really loved the original Trackmania DS, but Turbo is such an improvement in terms of mechanics and the fixing of glitches that there's very little point in playing the first game anymore. Probably neither holds a candle to their PC counterparts, but I still had tonnes of fun with them.
  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife / Choshitto Caduceus (JP)
    • Texican Rude: Probably one of the best games of this generation, and certainly the best use of a stylus. It gets kind of ridiculous and hard towards the end, but I have the utmost respect for how tense it made me feel.
    • dmauro: Trauma Center is pretty good if you're into a game that demands you quickly and deftly draw with the stylus. It's a very similar experience to Canvas Curse's time trial mode, but I think it's not quite as good (unless you require a thin veneer of story and dialogue that you have to skip through before you can make your fifth attempt at a level). But it's certainly different enough to warrant picking this up too.
    • Broco: Trauma Center is the best game for the DS, hands down.
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Beware, this game and the Ouendan series will chew your touch screen into sandpaper.
  • Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2 / Medical Emergency: Caduceus 2 (JP)
    • Broco: It's more of the same but in a good way. The best thing about it is that it adds a lot more “regular surgeries”, not just weird parasites. It also removes some of the more frustrating elements of the first game and turns the ridiculousness of the plot up to 11. In my opinion, it's an incremental improvement over the first game (which I already thought was one of the best on the DS).
  • Umihara Kawase Shun Second Edition Complete*
    • Tulpa: This is the definitive version of the series, including everything except the shitty PSP sequel. Start with Shun, it is a lot more accessible and the physics are more elegant than those of the original. For those that don't know, these are the best grappling hook platformers.
  • WarioWare: Touched! / Sawaru (touching) Made In Wario (JP) (also on: Wii U VC)
    • dmauro: WarioWare Touched gets some shit for not being as good as Twisted, but it still has some really great games and is definitely worth picking up.
    • gatotsu2501: MY NAME IS MIKE, C'MON, LET'S ROBO-KARAOKE (Rock th' mic! Rock th' mic!)
  • WarioWare D.I.Y. (NA) / WarioWare: Do It Yourself (PAL) / Made in Ore (JP)
  • The World Ends With You (also on: iOS)
    • kthorjensen: Maybe the best Square game in half a decade if not longer. Absolutely addictive battle system with tons of opportunities for exploration and combination, great user-controlled difficulty model, not horribly annoying story / art direction. Insanely addictive catch-em-all postgame. A must buy.
    • dongle: An RPG that respects your time. Note that one of the primary ways to 'level up' your items is to not play the game for a day or two. The player is also able to speed the process of grinding for items by an order of magnitude or more through taking a risk by temporarily lowering her level.
    • gatotsu2501: One of the few games I've ever traded in within a few weeks of getting it. The Gamestop guy I sold it to couldn't believe that I disliked it. The pouty characters and their cloying platitudes annoyed me, the fuzzy pixelated visuals and dumb Nomura designs annoyed me, the attention-bifurcating and difficult to control battle system annoyed me, the feeling of being constantly confined annoyed me, and above all the soundtrack was FUCKING INTOLERABLE. Maybe I ought to revisit it at some point - or, hell, maybe not.
    • Felix: The battle system is actually pretty neat, but I find the game really hard to like, narratively and aesthetically – the writing is too animu, even if the sense of style isn't totally misplaced – and a lot of the more praiseworthy elements of the game design seem like they're intended as a band-aid for jRPG flaws (including all of the catch-em-all crap). Definitely not bad, but seems more representative of the “can't someone please make me a good modern jRPG, I miss the Playstation” mentality than anything else.
  • Yoshi Touch & Go / Catch! Touch! Yoshi! (JP) (also on: Wii U VC)
    • Diplo: I really like Yoshi Touch & Go. More than Kirby's Canvas Curse. With CC, once the novelty of creating your own lines wears out, you realize how hollow the levels were made in order to accomodate the doodling desires of the player. Alternately, T&G keeps me coming back for more as I try to get better combos and farther in the stages. Plus, the levels are randomly generated!
  • AlphaBounce - flash version
    • probaby fine: Alphabounce is kind of fantastic. There's this grid that's supposed to be a map of the universe, where each square marks a level. There are meant to be over 25 million levels (at least a 5000 x 5000 grid, then). […] If there's an item marker on a square, when you clear that level the item is added to your inventory, and is basically a permanent power-up that you can equip to one of your ships' (they call them “envelopes”) slots. Your extra lives are actually different ships with varying properties and equipment slots. You can get new ships to swap in by clearing planet levels.
      Anyway, the arkanoid/breakout aspects: since you can equip permanent power ups, you can still be consistently breaking bricks with missiles, lasers, etc. even if your balls are missing. When there are 10 or less blocks left to break, a super shot starts to charge which can clear everything in a vertical line. Really speeds things up when your targets are few and spread out. The challenge then comes from enemies, hostile blocks, and the sometimes undesirable temporary power-ups.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition
    • gatotsu2501: A port of the original GBA Four Swords game included with that system's version of ALttP, if you never had a chance to play it before. Now has a single player mode (if you are really bored and lonely enough to play a co-op designed game by yourself) and some bonus levels designed by the ex-Secret of Mana devs at porting company Grezzo.

Homebrew

Games

  • Tetris: The Grand Master 3

Emulators

    • Takashi: One of the best ZX Spectrum emulators in any platform, including the ability to download 90% of the system library of games over Wifi, excellent keyboard support and highcolor/special features as well.

Other applications

See Also

 
 sb/recommended/ds.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/22 00:36 by gatotsu2501
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