10 Best Nintendo DS Games, Ranked

Split image of Pokémon HeartGold and New Super Mario Bros. key art.

Nintendo continued to evolve handheld gaming with the Nintendo DS, adding another catalog’s worth of excellent titles. The touchscreen functionality combined with the clamshell design helped the system become ideal for both the form factor and games in one way or another.

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But whether it was a turn-based JRPG or a classic platformer, many titles fit the DS’ sensibilities perfectly. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver were perhaps the best games out of the long-running franchise, while New Super Mario Bros. stands as among the best 2D platformers.



10 Animal Crossing: Wild World

The Animal Crossing series is one of the best life-simulation games available on Nintendo Switch, but it’s had a long history of critical success. Animal Crossing: Wild World for the DS is one of the most well-received in the series, where players live in and maintain a remote village.

The game earned strong reviews, though, it admittedly felt to some that it wasn’t a leap in progress from the GameCube predecessor. Nonetheless, the incremental enhancements from multiplayer to the new setting ensured that Wild World was just as immersive and addicting as ever.

9 Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver

The Switch Pokémon generation has seen somewhat mixed results, but the Nintendo DS era was arguably the franchise’s golden age. Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver are some of the greatest the mainline series has to offer, masterfully remaking the Johto games with then-modern capabilities.

HeartGold and SoulSilver leave the story largely intact from Gold/Silver/Crystal while adding some engaging side quests. Most important is how the games update graphics, add in the 200+ species that followed Gen 2, greatly expand upon post-game content, and streamline turn-based combat.

8 Super Mario 64 DS

Super Mario 64 was one of the most revolutionary platformers—and games in general—when it launched for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. The game raised the bar for 3D game design and platforming gameplay, and the Super Mario 64 DS remake is an effective modernization.

A launch title for the handheld, Super Mario 64 DS was well-received as a faithful recreation of the original visually and mechanically. However, as any good remake would, it did so by balancing being a refreshing experience for the time while keeping the spirit of the original’s art direction and gameplay style.

7 The World Ends With You

By far one of the most ambitious games for the system, The World Ends With You was a stylish and inventive spin on JRPGs. The game follows modern-day Shibuya as protagonist Neku Sakuraba and co. are forced to play a virtual-reality game that will determine their lives.

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It’s one of the Nintendo DS games that largely depend on the touchscreen to play well, with real-time combat happening across both screens. Action can take some time to get used to, but it’s an exhilarating way to approach JRPG combat. Likewise, the story and stylized anime/manga art direction of The World Ends With You give it a distinctive flair.

6 Castlevania: Dawn Of Sorrow

Konami’s Castlevania franchise is one-half of the titular Metroidvania namesake, inspiring a new generation of action platformers. And while not as acclaimed as the Game Boy Advance’s Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow was an excellent sequel continuing the story of Soma Cruz.

As players battle a cult trying to find a new vessel for Dracula, Dawn of Sorrow‘s gameplay combines action-platforming with the RPG genre. The RPG mechanics complement the tight platforming and fast-paced combat, namely how the praised Tactical Soul system let players tailor Soma’s abilities to suit their playstyle.

5 Mario Kart DS

Of the countless Mario spin-off games, the Mario Kart series might be the most beloved. The games mastered the arcade kart-racing subgenre with a Super Mario motif, and the DS installment was an exceptional way to enhance the handheld experience of the series.

Mario Kart retains the core of what made the single- and multi-player gameplay loop of the series so much fun while building on it. Local and online multiplayer added a new dimension to the series, as well as the Battle and Versus modes that are now franchise staples.

4 Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto franchise is one of the most enduring in the gaming industry. It’s famous for its bombastically explosive gameplay and dynamic open-world sandboxes, with Chinatown Wars being one of the most outstanding handheld installments.

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The game tells an isolated story that directly follows up on Grand Theft Auto IV, containing the imaginative gameplay loop expected of the series. Chinatown Wars received strong reception for how it contextualized the console experience in a handheld, as well as the comic-book aesthetic and top-down POV used in the earliest GTA games.

3 The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

It might be among the more under-the-radar entries of the best 2D Legend of Zelda games, Phantom Hourglass is a solid entry and arguably the best on the DS. Following the Wind Waker timeline, Link goes on a grand quest to rescue his friend Tetra from the villainous Bellum.

Some might now see the use of the touchscreen as finicky by today’s standards, but Phantom Hourglass had one of the most creative control schemes for the system. And, as expected, the combat and puzzle-solving mechanics were wonderfully reminiscent of classic 2D Zelda games.

2 Chrono Trigger

Square Enix might be best known for the likes of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, one of its most influential games was Chrono Trigger. Widely revered since its original SNES launch, the Nintendo DS port was equally celebrated and deemed by some as the definitive version of the game.

Embarking on a sweeping fantasy epic with a variety of endearing characters, Chrono Trigger tells a brilliantly anachronistic story of prehistory, high fantasy, and sci-fi. The classical turn-based combat also struck the right balance of being engaging and accessible to beginners.

1 New Super Mario Bros.

The 3D format has brought the next wave of superb Mario titles, from the Wii’s Galaxy games to the Switch’s Odyssey. Even so, 2D platformers still have a firm place among the franchise’s greatest, with New Super Mario Bros. on the DS still standing as a testament to this.

Gameplay-wise, New Super Mario Bros. earned its plaudits for tastefully combining the old with the new. Now with updated visuals, the game had a consistently fun level variety with platforming gameplay that hearkened back to the days of the beloved NES and SNES entries.

NEXT: 10 Best Nintendo Wii Games, Ranked


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