The Nintendo DS had a vast library of games available for purchase, and being the second most successful console of all time a lot of its games sold a butt-load of copies. Across its vast library pretty much every genre was covered, with some new gameplay styles thrown in for good measure. Everyone and their mum, and their grandmother owned Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training, along with games like Nintendogs, various Pokémon releases and New Super Mario Bros. selling like hot cakes.
Along with the classics and best-sellers, there are plenty of hidden gems in the DS’s library that you probably missed while playing Pokémon and Mario Kart. I have only written about games I’ve actually played, so if there are any games you think deserve a place on this list then have a go at me for not buying it in the comments section. Please bear in mind also, this list is in no particular order.
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
A spin-off to a series that has never taken off in the West quite as it should. Unlike Dragon Quest’s very traditional JRPG gameplay style, Rocket Slime is a top-down action game in which you play as a Slime named Rocket and stack items or defeated enemies on top of you in order to take them back to your home-town. The aim of each stage is to save other Slimes and take them back to Boingburg (your home-town). Taking items back allows you to sell them or use them as ammunition for your tank – which comes into play during the game’s big boss-battles.
The tank fights are great fun, and take advantage of the DS’s dual screens; indeed, the whole game uses the DS’s core strengths to its advantage with great use of the touchscreen. You use the touchscreen to use “elasto blast”, which is your main attack, flinging Rocket into enemies to attack them. Rocket Slime has simple gameplay mechanics, graphics and presentation, but it is one of the most charming games on the DS.
Dragonball Z: Attack of the Saiyans
Dragonball Z: Attack of the Saiyans is a traditional turn-based JRPG which focusses on the Saiyan arc of the franchise’s vast story (up to the first fight with Vegeta). It’s not a particularly complicated game and it is fairly short compared to its peers, but it is in the game’s presentation, graphics and battle-system that had me hooked from start to finish.
The battle-system is fairly standard, with each character having their own different attacks and techniques, but it is the “rage gauge” that changes things up. Essentially, throughout the battle this gauge fills up, and when full, you can unleash an ultimate attack. You can combine ultimate attacks as well, based on different character combinations, but these combos are found in the game. Made by Monolith Soft, Attack of the Saiyans is a great, if not fairly simple RPG that not nearly enough people have played.
Nintendo’s first attempt at letting users create their own games (before Super Mario Maker ) was with WarioWare D.I.Y, which allowed you to create microgames from scratch, based around a simple tap of the touchscreen. Despite having to create games based on tapping the touchscreen, the amount of scope that was available to create anything you wanted was quite staggering.
I loved making microgames for my friends to take on, although I don’t think D.I.Y was quite as good as the traditional WarioWare games. I’d happily take a new WarioWare game, be that D.I.Y or not. It’s a shame that not many people played this one as the series has really slowed down since.
Kirby: Mass Attack
Releasing right towards the end of the DS’s life-cycle, I fear that nowhere near enough people played this masterpiece. Kirby: Mass Attack is one of three brand new Kirby games on the DS, and in my mind, it is the best one; actually, it might be the best Kirby game ever made. It’s simple, colourful and a blast to play – everything you’d want from a Kirby game.
Gameplay wise, being in control of up to ten Kirbys sounds difficult, but it is really rather simple, reminiscent of Pikmin in the way it works. Essentially, you throw Kirbys onto enemies, and the more you have, the quicker you win and this is all controlled via the touchscreen, so tapping and flicking are the calls of the day here. Unlike other Kirby games, Mass Attack offers some kind of challenge, as there are a multitude of puzzles and extras to find that can only be achieved through maintaining ten Kirbys which can be rather difficult.
Phantasy Star 0
Phantasy Star 0 follows in the footsteps of Phantasy Star Online, offering a similar level of quality, but on the DS. Everything you could want from Phantasy Star Online is here, and it is brilliant. Phantasy Star 0 seemingly pushed the DS to its limits with some outstanding 3D graphics for the console, running in online or local co-op as well. It was all rather impressive in its day.
The game does have a few small issues, such as long quests, which on a handheld didn’t go down too well. The combat is great, the presentation is great and have I told you about the graphics already? I loved this game, but I can understand why it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, it sold criminally low and it was a real gem in the DS’s library in my eyes.
I hope with this small list that I have opened your eyes to other, more obscure games out there for the DS that are worth your time and investment. Despite the fact that all five of these games can be pretty hard to find these days, they are worth it if you can get hold of them; you can always play them on your 3DS if you no longer have your DS. There are plenty of other slightly more obscure games out there on the DS, but the five I have given you above are my personal favourites of the niche market. If you can think of any others, I’d love to see them in the comments.
Toby Saunders is sometimes opinionated, and you’ll find him posting garbage about games, films and his beloved Spurs and Bath City FC on Twitter.