Nerdy Show’s Top 15 Nintendo DS Games
Now that the age of the DS has ended and the multi-dimensional 3DS reigns supreme, Nerdy Show would like to reflect. After all, the DS is kind of a big deal. The dual-screen portable system single-handedly saved the Big N from certain doom. It marked Nintendo’s return to innovative hardware design and was a big risk for a company coasting on the fumes of its brand names. While the gaming giant is arguably still coasting on said fumes, they continue to up the ante with their hardware and deliver big fun with their first party games.
The DS catalog is extensive, but not so much when it comes to truly awesome titles. Plenty of folks have made top DS game lists, so with ours we wanted to keep things interesting. We asked the forums what listeners felt were the greatest DS games of all time and discussion got lively. At the same time, Brandon voiced his grievances over Nintendo’s game making attitude. We discussed this beef at length, as well as our feelings on the 3DS in the recent episode, New Dimensions in Gaming. Have a listen to the episode, check out our list below, and let us know what you think over on the forums.
In making this list we had to consider a few things – fun, innovation… and Pokémon. Naturally, Triforce Mike insisted that the first seven games all be different Pokémon titles. Now, we all know Pokémon rules – just listen to our recent Pokésode, but if we filled up our list with Pokémon… Well, it’s not much of a list is it? Our resolution is that this list be sans-Pokémon. They’re here in spirit, all 649 of them. We also made it a point of not including any games that were ports or remakes so similar to the original that they didn’t necessarily count as a legitimate DS title. What remains is a selection of 15 exceptional games- some eclectic, some expected, all awesome. …Here we go!
15- ANIMAL CROSSING: WILD WORLD
I admit, I didn’t play much of the original Gamecube Animal Crossing, but I’m familiar with it enough to compare it to its follow-up, Wild World. As you may know, Animal Crossing is a unique life sim game in which your character lives out his or her simple existence in a town populated with anthropomorphic animals. Wild World features the same tried and true gameplay of the original, but adds some excellent new features to the already solid formula. The most significant of which is the ability to visit other player’s towns via a wifi connection. Although it’s slightly hindered by Nintendo’s annoying friend code system, it’s still a whole new level of interaction that simply couldn’t have been achieved on the Gamecube. Animal Crossing may not be for everyone, but no one can deny that it is a seriously addictive game. I’ve devoted many, many hours to it. For quite a long time, I played this game to relax every night before bed. The only reason I haven’t picked it up recently is out of the fear that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to put it back down!
14 – CONTACT
There isn’t a game on the DS with as much innovation in style and storytelling as Grasshopper Manufacturer’s Contact. The game’s primary plot is loose at best: a stranded spaceship-fairing professor is on the run from extraterrestrial terrorists. The real story takes place between the principle characters: The main character – a young boy named Terry, the Professor, and YOU. With Contact, the DS becomes a communicator between yourself and the world of the game. The Professor knows that you’re there, but Terry, whom you control, doesn’t. Meta storytelling, big laughs, cool locales, multiple art styles, and tons of pop culture references have made this one of the few games anyone would dare to compare to Earthbound, and that’s saying something.
However, it’s worth noting that putting this game on the list was the subject of much debate. See the thing is… every one of us that’s played it loves Contact. The game is fantastic, but it’s short as hell. At the end of what you assume is the first act or the halfway point- poof! It’s all over. You’ve only just started getting the hang of special abilities, you’re not even close to fully leveled, you’re amped for some Final Fantasy VII-style mid-story fallout and …credits. It’s a tremendous bummer, but despite its failings, this game still outclasses many modern RPGs and more than earns its place here.
13 – NEW SUPER MARIO BROS.
Long before the ever-popular New Super Mario Bros. Wii, this game brought on the revival of the classic side-scrolling Mario formula. The game introduced 3D Mario’s move set to the 2D world as well as delivered some fun and interesting new power-ups (the Mega Mushroom being my favorite). New Super Mario Bros. serves as both a throwback to the classics and a breath of fresh air for the series. Visually, it exudes the style of a typical Mario game, with bright, colorful environments, merging old and the new- the backgrounds and objects are rendered with 2D sprites, while Mario and the enemies are 3D models. My only criticism is that the difficulty is extremely low, and I found myself racking up a ridiculous number of extra lives over the course of the game. However, that doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience. It’s classic Mario, and yet it’s new… What are you waiting for?
12 – SUPER PRINCESS PEACH
When it comes to sexism in games it doesn’t get much more ridiculous than Super Princess Peach. Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball is objectification to the point of nonsense, Metroid: Other M reduces a strong heroine to a baby-obsessed tool with a daddy complex, but despite the guise of “girls can too” empowerment, Super Princess Peach takes the cake. It’s sexist right down to the game design: as a woman you manipulate the environment via your powerset of erratic emotions. Classy, Nintendo, real classy. That said- this game is amazing.
Super Princess Peach spins the classic Mario format on its head and delivers a fun and challenging side-scroller that outshines even New Super Mario Bros. (see list placement). Yes, Peach’s emotion dial is hilariously condescending, but it’s also fun as hell. Gorgeous 2D sprites, a variety of abilities and mechanics, well-hidden secrets, extensive unlockables, and post game goodies makes for a title that actually one-ups Peach’s favorite plumbers. I refused to buy it new so as not to support Nintendo’s sexism, but having finally played it I earnestly recommend checking it out by any means possible.
11 – FINAL FANTASY III
Ever play that Final Fantasy game with Terra and Kefka for the SNES? This isn’t that Final Fantasy 3! That was 6, dumbass!
This is the ORIGINAL Final Fantasy 3 for NES. It was the very first in the series to introduce a job class system you could actually change, upgrade, and unlock. In this complete re-envisioning they’ve taken what was good, made it even better, cut out the crap, and completely remade the game far past the point of being a revamped port. It’s entirely new. The characters actually have names this time, job classes are explained, the music has been rewritten, characters interact and have their own stories, and best of all… the story actually makes sense now. It’s a totally different game.
If you love classic-style RPGs, you must check out Final Fantasy III. It actually feels like an original, European-based Final Fantasy game. The only place the characters wear belts is on their pants! If you’re not used to playing any of the older Final Fantasies then you probably won’t last long in this one. The bosses are hard, enemies are tough, you will not unlock a super omega badass weapon which will annihilate everything in your path. It’s Final Fantasy at its best, before they got easy, and it’s the series’ best game on this system.
10 – GHOST TRICK: PHANTOM DETECTIVE
Ghost Trick was quite a surprise to me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and it ended up far surpassing anything I could have imagined. It’s created by Shu Takumi, the genius behind the Phoenix Wright series, and the story is somewhat reminiscent of what you’ll find in those games. However, since it’s a game about a ghost who can turn back time in order to save lives, suffice it to say it has some very unique characteristics that sets it apart. I found myself completely sucked into the story from beginning to end, and I was quite satisfied by the conclusion.
The most notable aspect of the game, isn’t the story; it’s the art. It contains some of the most jaw-droppingly impressive animation I have ever seen in a 2D game. From the moment I first saw a character in motion, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Instead of drawing from a limited pool of animation frames, as is customary for most games, the characters are given completely unique animations for nearly every single situation they are put in. It’s a sight to behold, and the music is great too! A truly compelling experience, through and through. Listen to us talk about it on a past episode of Nerdy Show.
9 – SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI: STRANGE JOURNEY
Did you ever play Pokémon and think “Hey, why can’t there be a more adult-themed version with swearing, nudity, and violence?” I know I have. Then one day I came across this little gem of a game called Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. It starts with a cataclysmic, world-shattering event which only you and your elite team of superior and technologically-advanced soldiers can fix. A little while later you find yourself stranded in an environment rife with demons for the catching.
The premise of this game is simple: catch demons in a hell-like fantasy world through the use of seduction, bribery, or a show of strength. Not satisfied with a demon you’ve been leveling up for awhile? Why not breed it with a completely different demon in order to teach it new moves or evolve it? This game features several maze-like dungeons you explore in a first person view while encountering random battles. There are locked doors, strange mechanisms, difficult side quest, hidden walls, and the occasional suit upgrade that allows you special functions like seeing invisible enemies and doors in previous areas. My favorite part? This game is its not for people who suck at video games. It’s incredibly challenging. Expect to die… a lot. No, it’s probably not as hard as Demon’s Souls but then, what is? If you’re already a fan of the Shin Megami Tensei series you should definitely check out this game while it’s still available. If you have balls you’ll pick up this game immediately.
8 – PICROSS DS
Picross is, without a doubt, the most fun and addictive number puzzle game I’ve ever played. I tried it only briefly before I had to order my own copy. By that time I was already so hooked on it that I desperately ran (yes, ran) to check the mailbox every day until it arrived. The puzzles featured in the game are called “nonograms”, and they involve filling in cells in a grid in order to form a picture, based on the numbers provided at the sides of the grid. After you complete each puzzle, it zooms out to reveal the image, and plays a cute little animation of said image.
This is not the first Picross game released stateside, you may recall Mario’s Picross for Game Boy in 1995. However, the touch screen on the DS lends itself perfectly to the interface of this game, making it hard to go back to any previous versions. Although a 3D Picross game was released later on, I feel that the added complexity makes for a slightly lesser experience than the pure, simple fun of plain ol’ 2D Picross. Eat your heart out, Sudoku.
7 – MARIO & LUIGI: BOWSER’S INSIDE STORY
Since Squaresoft’s original Mario RPG, the Mario series has had an incredible life outside of its usual platformers. The Paper Mario games have been brilliant (shout out to the recent Super Paper Mario, that game rocks) and meanwhile, on the handhelds, the Mario & Luigi series has been going strong. Like all Mario RPGs of any variety, the series is rich with colorful Mushroom Kingdom visuals, wacky characters, and solid humor. What makes the Mario and Luigi titles stand out is its is playstyle based around multitasking and timing. This is done via a turn-based combat system that has you operating both Mario Brothers in tandem with perfectly-timed moves.
Bowser’s Inside Story takes everything about the previous games that worked and makes it much better. The sprites are outstanding, the cartoon nonsense is jacked up, and there’s way more Bowser. In this game the Bros. get sucked into Bowser’s body via some nefarious science and there’s a whole world to explore inside the lizard king’s innards. On the top screen you control Bowser as he stomps around the Kingdom, and on the bottom screen you battle microorganisms as Mario & Luigi. If Bowser is having a problem topside, and needs to overcome an obstacle, Mario & Luigi are to the rescue by traveling to the correct part of his body and giving King Koopa the jolt he needs to keep on truckin’. You know that’s awesome.
6 – FRESHLY-PICKED ~ TINGLE’S ROSY RUPEELAND
I know, I know. The first thing I said when I heard that the ridiculous homoerotic elf from Zelda was getting his own game was, “who the hell would want to play that?” Apparently Nintendo of America thought so too, because the game was translated, but only released in Europe. I’m tellin’ you right now guys, I was wrong. I was so, so wrong. Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland is as ludicrous is it makes itself out to be, and that’s what makes it so beautiful. It’s hours and hours of uncomfortable Tingle-style humor. Once you embrace it, you’ll never come back.
Humor and weirdness aside, the thing that makes this game really stand out is its totally unique playstyle. The game revolves entirely around greed. Your rupee counter, which goes up to the millionth percentile, is not just your savings, but also your life meter. You take damage, you loose rupees, but you also have to spend rupees to do anything. The entire world runs off of mercantilism and people won’t even look at you, unless you pay up. Essentially, everything you do is gambling with your own life. It is, dare I say …visionary. Don’t believe me? I think this review will give you the right idea: Koolimpah!
5 – THE WORLD ENDS WITH YOU
This game comes to us highly recommended by pretty much everyone we know- but none of us have played it! However, on the forums Trent wrote such a compelling post for it that we couldn’t not include it. After reading his posting and asking around, the game’s high-ranking became obvious, so here it is at #5! Below is an excerpt from Trent’s posting, head over to the forums to read the full thing.
I can not emphasize the awesome of this game enough. Square Enix outdid themselves with this little gem.
Story: You are dead. And trendy dead people in Shibuya get entered into ‘the game’ – a 7 day event in ‘the underground’ (a purgatory of sorts, you are in a sub-layer of the real world, and can only interact with living people in designated areas). The rules: You must find a partner on the first day, those without partners are erased. If you die in the underground, you are erased. Only one team needs to complete the game master’s goal each day for all teams to progress to the next day, but if the goal is not completed, all teams are erased. The team that wins the the last game of the week will have one wish granted to them by ‘the composer’.
Gameplay: Your character, Neku, battles on the bottom screen, while your partner battles the same enemies, but on the top screen. Here’s the catch: you control them both.
On the bottom screen you fight with pins. Each pin has different attacks that are activated in some way (blowing into the mike, tapping, slashing, drawing a circle, etc). And theses attacks gain levels. On the top screen your partner is controlled with either the D-pad or face buttons (depending on which hand you prefer to operate the touchscreen). Your goal is to start attacks and follow the combo path.
Whew! And that’s only half the description. This game floors most contenders in gameplay concepts alone, and on top of that, it’s got a killer soundtrack and Trent claims… the best villain ever? Big words!
4 – WARIOWARE: D.I.Y.
If there was a genre for “comedy games” the Warioware series would be top tier. They’re easily among the strangest and most irreverent titles Nintendo has produced. While the surreal antics of Mario’s twisted doppelganger and his friends are fantastic, what really makes the series is their format: the microgame. All you get is a couple words of command, and in a split-second you have to decipher the scenario you’re presented with and interact the right way with the right thing at the right time. Simple and addictive.
Typically Nintendo employs the Warioware team to test the limits of what weird stuff can be accomplished with new hardware, but with Warioware D.I.Y. they flipped it – what can be done with the software? D.I.Y. is the spiritual successor to the SNES classic creative application, Mario Paint, re-imagined for the modern world. Now YOU get to make the microgames from the ground up. Draw, animate, compose music, and yes, learn a thing or two about programming via a simple interface and expansive tutorials. Then share it online, port it to the Wii, submit it to contests… it’s a beautiful thing.
3 – PHOENIX WRIGHT: ACE ATTORNEY
Although it was originally released as a GBA game in Japan, the series has always been on DS here, thus deserving its spot on our list. For those who have yet to experience the wonders of this series, the concept of a courtroom-centric game based around the trials and tribulations of a defense attorney may seem rather strange and potentially boring. However, this game is anything but. It plays out like a visual novel adventure, and it contains some of the quirkiest characters and most hilarious and well-written dialogue of any DS game. Each character has a full set of animations, complete with some particularly humorous ones for specific situations. It’s not all comedy, though. The game has a tendency to tug on the heartstrings during more emotional moments. It’s pretty common to get stuck in this game, and extremely satisfying when you finally figure out that tricky contradiction in a testimony. This game has some fantastic music, too! It’s a great ride all around, and one of the more unique offerings that the DS has to offer.
One day a friend lent me a game about being an attorney for the DS. My first initial thought was, “why the hell would I want to be a stupid lawyer?” Several days later I actually played the game and couldn’t stop. You are rookie attorney Phoenix Wright who must defend his childhood friend from murder charges. Eventually, your boss gets murdered, you have to find out why, and you soon come to realize that most of your cases seem to be somehow connected. You’re joined by a colorful cast of characters including your long-time rival, Miles Edgeworth.
The game is split into two modes. It’s kind of like Law and Order in that one mode grants you the ability to investigate people and crime scenes for your case, and a Trial mode that allows you to use the evidence you’ve found during cross examinations.
The game is intense and very challenging. You think cross examinations are easy? Try finding the right question to ask with the right piece of evidence during the right moment. Think you can shout “OBJECTION!” into the DS’s mic loud enough to prove your point in a trial? All in all it’s one of my favorite games, and the sequels only improve upon the interactive gameplay features.
2 – HENRY HATSWORTH IN THE PUZZLING ADVENTURE
Henry Hatsworth is one of the most underrated and unappreciated games of all
time. It takes cues from many of the classic greats, and therefore, everything about it is top notch; The gameplay, character designs, backgrounds, dialogue, and music, it’s all fantastic. It combines a side-scrolling platformer on the top screen with a puzzle game on the bottom screen. Though this gameplay mechanic may seem confusing at a glance, switching between the two is quite intuitive, and it quickly becomes second nature. Henry is equipped with a plethora of moves and abilities, including a transformation into a giant robot. The puzzle portion serves to provide Mr. Hatsworth with power-ups, among other things. Both halves are very polished.
The game’s overall difficulty level is fairly steep, making it an excellent choice for those hardcore gamers who crave the brutal platformers of yesteryear. I can tell you now, the final boss of the game is one tough sucker! With all these unlikely elements combined, Henry Hatsworth is easily one of the most satisfying experiences you’ll find on the DS.
1- MARIO KART DS
When I purchased my DS in 2005, Mario Kart DS came bundled with it. Even though it was my first game for the system and I’ve since clocked countless hours, I still find myself revisiting it to this day. Of the six games in the Mario Kart series, this one reigns supreme, perfecting the formula to create the definitive Mario Kart experience. The game’s tracks are well-designed and have become classics in their own right, while the “classic” courses sample from the finest level designs that came before. After being spoiled by this game’s design Mario Kart Wii‘s tracks are bland and not even half as exciting.
Despite being released years ago, Mario Kart DS remains as one of the best-looking 3D games on the system, pushing the limits of the system with some very smooth environments and character models. The gameplay is tight, profoundly satisfying, and highly addictive. Whats more, racing against friends in person or online keeps the action lively, no matter how many times you’ve beat 150cc. Fingers crossed that the new Mario Kart for 3DS will live up to the pedigree set by this excellent game.