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The 26 Best DS Games of All Time

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Nintendo / Square Enix / ONE37pm

Back on November 21, 2004, Nintendo released one of its most heralded handheld consoles in the form of a true successor to the double-screen Game & Watch. The Nintendo DS (that "DS" stands for "Dual Screen," if you didn't know) hit the scene with two LCD screens, with the bottom one built to be a touchscreen. And for those who had one in their possession, the DS commanded their attention due to a variety of great games that took full advantage of its two-screen layout. Along with Mario, Link, and the rest of the Nintendo mascot gang came a host of third-party games that expanded the DS's software library quite nicely. We're feeling really nostalgic right now, which is why we decided to show all the love in the world to the 26 best DS games ever made.

RELATED: The 35 Best Wii Games of All Time

Best DS Games

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Nintendo

1. ‘Super Mario 64 DS’

Super Mario 64 is considered to be one of the greatest games of all time. And in our opinion, that statement still rings true as an absolute fact. This Nintendo DS port magnifies the best elements of that Nintendo 64 classic by expanding the playable character roster to a satisfying degree. Super Mario 64 DS replicates the theme of Super Mario Bros. 2 by adding Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario to the fray with varied abilities brought by the usage of the "Power Flower." Maneuvering through all the iconic open areas of the original game with those extra characters, being able to explore them in new ways, and basking in an upgraded visual presentation are what makes everything that makes this game so momentous.

Buy Now, $46.56

2. ‘Mario Kart DS’

You can't own a Nintendo console and not have a Mario Kart series entry on deck, eight? It just feels so unusual. Thankfully, a ton of gamers made sure to add Mario Kart DS to their DS collection upon release. This handheld kart racer retains the fun of past Mario Kart games while taking full advantage of the DS two-screen layout by letting you use the top screen for gameplay and the bottom screen for keeping track of the map & competition. Special shout to this game for introducing these incredible tracks - Waluigi Pinball, Luigi's Mansion, and Tick Tock Clock are our absolute faves!

Buy Now, $36.49

3. ‘New Super Mario Bros.’

The tried and true Super Mario 2D platforming formula got its biggest upgrade to date in the form of New Super Mario Bros. Mario and Luigi got to peruse through the most dangerous areas of the Mushroom Kingdom all over again. But this time, the graphical prowess of this handheld platformer is in full 3D. The visuals truly pop off the screen when you get to destroy everything in your path once you collect the Mega Mushroom. The added factor of being able to protrude into a shell and use a new attack via the Blue Koopa Shell and going super small via the Mini-Mushroom adds even more fun ways to nab some coins, take down some Goombas, and go for a fun swim.

Buy Now, $39.99

4. ‘Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story’

Those Mario RPG spinoffs are pretty dammed good and hilarious in equal measure. What many consider to be the best entry in the series is this one. Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story improves upon the active combat mechanics of past games by giving players access to three characters whose abilities are tied to four separate buttons, which made the game's battles a fun and unique endeavor. Getting the chance to embark on a journey within Bowser's own body and play some wild minigames in order to boost his stats also add to this game's immensely high fun factor. Also, a big shout to this game for bringing back the maniacal Fawful!

Buy Now, $42.95

5. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass’

It's so nice to see public opinion sway from overly negative to positive acceptance of the art style featured in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker since its initial release. The 14th entry in the long-running series focused on the misadventures of Link retains that cartoony take on the graphics in another DS classic, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. The top-down gameplay of the 16-bit games comes back here in one of its best playable renditions, plus the usage of the top screen to map out your journey during sea travels adds a nice wrinkle to the game's exploration elements. Those jolly sea-based excursions and the classic on-land gameplay provide everything that makes Phantom Hourglass one of Link's finest adventures.

Buy Now, $54.95

6. ‘The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks’

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and the sequel we mentioned previously on this list of the best DS games got a worthy follow-up. That sequel arrived with a unique focus on managing where you'd travel next via the "Spirit Train," which ended up being an amusing activity that played well with the DS stylus. The familiar dungeon crawling and puzzle solving of Link's many journeys also got freshened up via the use of "Phantom Guardians," which provided different approaches to engaging in combat and solving various brainteasers. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks stands next to other greats that make up Link's numerous handheld adventures.

Buy Now, $79.99

7. ‘Advance Wars: Dual Strike’

The Advance Wars series is one of Nintendo's more underrated strategy IPs. It's always knocked it out of the park when it comes to its handheld campaigns and that sentiment rings true for this DS release. Advance Wars: Dual Strike offers its usual strong gameplay that focuses on explosive military warfare between rival factions. The DS' two screens play an integral role in displaying two simultaneous battles, which definitely boosted our adrenaline during the game's busier clashes. All those new land, air, and sea units (especially the super clutch Oozium!) put our war commander tactics to good use in one of the best DS games and strategy experiences on a handheld console.

Buy Now, $74.92

8. ‘Pokémon Black and White’

Once a new Nintendo handheld pops up, you can be sure to see a new entry from the monster-collecting RPG franchise Pokémon. As for the DS, it actually got gifted an entirely new duo of releases and two welcome Game Boy Color remakes. Let's speak about the former, which are Pokémon Black and White. 156 new Pokémon make their debut in these games, and the visuals have significantly improved. On the pocket monster battling front, Triple Battles and Rotation Battles added some fresh new mechanics to the series' familiar trappings. We got plenty of enjoyment from running up and down the Royal Unova cruise to dominate our fellow Pokémon Trainers.

Buy Now, $149

9. ‘Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver’

The Pokémon remakes that popped up on the DS come in the form of Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver. They're already amazing entries in the series and became all the more worthwhile as a part of the DS games library. Everything that's great about the original releases is still intact. And when it comes to new features, these remakes allowed the first creature in your party to trail behind you around the world and threw in a better-than-expected minigame called Pokéathlon that turned your Pokémon into Olympic athletes. Revisiting the Johto and Kanto regions feels so gratifying via these quality DS remakes.

Buy Now, Price Varies

10. ‘Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars’

Like the first two games in the iconic Grand Theft Auto series, GTA: Chinatown Wars returned the crime-riddled action of the franchise to a top-down perspective. And thanks to the inclusion of touch controls, this portable return to the mean streets of Liberty City ended up being even more involving and engrossing. It's still so dope to see how the touchscreen became such a central feature for this GTA spinoff - you could refer to it as your GPS, use it to cook & fling grenades, and even use it to play around with the game in-game radio. It still blows our minds that a GTA game made its way onto your usual family-friendly Nintendo console, but we're eternally grateful for it.

Buy Now, $99.97

11. ‘Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow’

Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow is one of our most treasured Game Boy Advance games. And the formula that came into play in that game damn near got perfected once Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow made its way onto the DS. The "Tactical Soul" system, which lets players acquire new abilities by absorbing the souls of numerous foes, remained a likable gameplay focus here. The touchscreen plays a huge part in pulling off powerful magical attacks since you had to use the stylus to draw out a "Magic Seal" pattern to ultimately conquer each boss. Traversing a massive castle as one of our favorite Castlevania characters in Soma Cruz worked amazingly well on the GBA and here on this DS classic.

Buy Now, $74.90

12. ‘Kirby: Canvas Curse’

One of the things we love so much about Kirby is how malleable he is literally and figuratively. The pink puffball's premier DS game saw it transform into a bouncy ball that could only be moved along a trail drawn out via the stylus and touch screen. That clever approach to platforming provided this game with a highly engaging gimmick that relied on your ability to draw out colorful lines for careful navigation. Kirby: Canvas Curse's innovative approach to moving along a designated path and finding ways to roll Kirby into stunned enemies makes it one of the best killer apps available on the DS.

Buy Now, $86.42

13. ‘Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time’

Only the Mario & Luigi series could deliver a game where Mario, Luigi, and their baby counterparts can exist right alongside each other. That game is Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, which used the double screen format to place the babies on top and the grown-ups on the bottom for some engaging tandem hijinks. Combining the strengths of Nintendo's lovable plumbers and their younger selves to solve tricky puzzles and take out their foes in battle combines for one of the more charming DS games ever released.

Buy Now, $99.99

14. ‘Pokémon Conquest’

No one knew they wanted a Pokémon and Nobunaga's Ambition crossover game until they actually got it in the form of Pokémon Conquest. The monster collecting feature of the former game and the tactical RPG mechanics of the latter ended up working way better than anyone could have anticipated in this one. This game works on so many levels due to its ease of access for players of all ages, its engrossing battle sequences, and that super cool mechanic where a Warrior must capture a wild Pokémon with a fun button-matching minigame.

Buy Now, Price Varies

15. ‘The World Ends with You’

Square Enix and Jupiter joined forces to create one of the trippiest and flashiest handheld RPGs of all time. The World Ends with You is one of those games oozing with style due to its real-life setting of the Shibuya shopping district in Tokyo, Japan, and the forward-fashion themes put in place by the main characters. Surviving the infamous "Reapers' Game" means getting caught up in some wild battles as Neku and his buds across both DS screens. Seeing as how the Kingdom Hearts development team worked on this one, it's easy to see the similarities between those two action RPG greats.

Buy Now, $124.99

16. ‘Tetris DS’

When you nab yourself a new Nintendo handheld, you better believe that a Tetris game of some kind will end up being one of your most played games on the system. Tetris DS emerged as this double-screen handheld's main series entry and honestly one of the best puzzle games to have ever landed on a Nintendo console. The coolest thing about this mobile puzzler is how it mixed in retro Nintendo games with the block falling & clearing in order to differentiate each playable mode. We definitely spent an insane amount of time trying to beat our high scores in Touch Mode's Tower Mode and Catch Mode.

Buy Now, $48.45

17. ‘Animal Crossing: Wild World’

Animal Crossing: Wild World marks a very monumental point in the series as it's the first one to offer online play. So you can thank this highly addictive handheld life simulation for giving you the chance to visit other players' custom villages. Just like the GameCube original, this title offers tons of customization options for anything & everything and a whole lot of tasks to complete during your stay in a village full of anthropomorphized denizens. We definitely gotta hand it to this DS game for using the double screens to display the beautiful sky & ground environments simultaneously.

Buy Now, $25.99

18. ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’

"OBJECTION!" The great Phoenix Wright is the man known for spitting out that triumphant catchphrase whenever it's time to make his presence felt during a hard-fought lawyer case. As the very first entry in the series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney sets the hilarious tones right from the jump. Solving outlandish cases in this game means interacting with equally offbeat characters and preparing Mr. Wright for epic courtroom clashes. Gathering all those clues, cross-examining witnesses, and coming out at the end of each case as the ultimate victor will always be jolly affairs.

Buy Now, Price Varies

19. ‘Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies’

RPGs work so well in a handheld gaming format. And that statement rings especially true for the Dragon Quest series. The DS got the ninth mainline entry in the franchise via Sentinals of the Starry Skies, which marked the first time players could customize their main character however they see fit and also engage in some local multiplayer. The traditional turn-based combat is as fun as ever here and outfitting your central world savior with ability-altering "Vocations" keeps things fresh in that regard. Exploring Dragon Quest IX's vast and colorful world with two other players upped the fun factor this handheld RPG affords its fanbase.

Buy Now, $183.94

20. ‘Hotel Dusk: Room 215’

With the DS stylus and touchscreen as the main focus for its games, it made all the sense in the world for point-and-click adventure games to make their way onto the console. This crime thriller falls into that category and ends up being one of the best DS games hailing from the adventure genre. In this one, players take on the role of former NYPD detective Kyle Hyde. His latest conundrum takes place within a mysterious hotel, where he must talk to its patrons and gather clues about himself & the hotel itself all the while. For fans of the tense character interrogation elements from Phoenix Wright and lovers of point-and-click games and general, Hotel Dusk: oom 215 is a worthy DS experience.

Buy Now, $99.99

21. ‘Elite Beat Agents’

Elite Beat Agents is one of those rhythm games that fans of Space Channel 5, Dance Dance Revolution, and Bust a Groove should get the most out of. The quirky three-man team that always comes to save the day during tumultuous situations does it by inspiring everyone through choreographed dance numbers. The hilarious state of affairs players find themselves in here are many and the songs that accompany them are quite fitting. Sure, they were cover versions of those popular songs. Even still, tapping out the rhythms to jams such as Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" and Madonna's "Material Girl" made us immensely happy.

Buy Now, Price Varies

22. ‘Professor Layton and the Unwound Future’

The first Professor Layton trilogy wrapped up quite nicely with this next pick on our list of the best DS games. The formula that worked in the last two games, which is solving a series of super clever brainteasers that increase in difficulty yet never feel overwhelming, pretty much got perfected here. "Slot Machine Gun!" is one of the greatest Professor Layton puzzles in the entire franchise and it just so happens to be featured in this series installment. As far as puzzles and story development go, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is top-notch DS material.

Buy Now, $59.92

23. ‘Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective’

Capcom really got a bit inventive during the 2010s with its newest IPs. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is one of those games that tried something entirely different from what Capcom fanatics are used to. And in that sense, it ends up being one of the more eccentric puzzle games on the DS. Playing as a spirit who can take over objects, stop time, and possess corpses in order to change morbid outcomes to happier ones still works like a charm. Puzzlers go hand in hand with the DS - Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective points to that trend being factual.

Buy Now, $209.90

24. ‘Bangai-O Spirits’

Treasure is one of those Japanese development studios that put out some of the most action-packed games we've ever laid eyes and hands on. Just like Gunstar Heroes and Sin and Punishment before it, Bangai-O Spirits deals in providing explosive gameplay that keeps your adrenaline high. Moving around developer- and player-created stages is such an endearing endeavor as you can do it with a robot that blasts its foes in every direction. The chaos that erupts as you destroy everything onscreen and move around carefully placed obstacles makes up the madness we adore about this handheld shooter.

Buy Now, $66.58

25. ‘Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise’

Back when this game dropped, it was so nice to see developer Rare work with Nintendo once again (mind you, Rare already got sold off to the Xbox gaming brand at this point). Rare commemorated this special reunion by creating a spinoff of its life simulation game from the Xbox 360 for the DS. Viva Piñata: Pocket Paradise is such an engrossing sim game thanks to its fitting control scheme via the stylus and touchscreen - managing your garden and wide array of colorful piñata pets in that manner produces such a compelling gameplay loop. Shout out to Playground Mode for just letting us go crazy without having to worry about those nefarious Dastardos or Ruffians!

Buy Now, $59.99

26. ‘Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes’

The final selection on our list of the best DS games of all time is this puzzle RPG mashup from Ubisoft's long-running Might and Magic. Just like the incredibly addicting Puzzle Quest, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes employed match-three gameplay mechanics and made sure to emphasize fun turn-based battles simultaneously. The medical fantasy themes of the Might and Magic franchise came to life on the DS in the best way possible with one of the finest match-three puzzlers we've ever played incessantly for days on end.

Buy Now, $54.16

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