Top 3 Nintendo DS Games

Published: November 24, 2013

The Nintendo DS, which I presume stood for dual screen, make a big splash in the handheld gaming world. In a country that simply refused to allow the PlayStation Portable a chance at success, the DS flooded the handheld gaming market with games that integrated a touch screen mechanic. Along the course of the way, the Nintendo DS saw some top notch games that, because they didn't have the best of graphics, largely flew under the radar. This list does justice to those games. Spoilers do lie ahead, so proceed with caution.

  1. Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

    I was a big sucker for the Harvest Moon series. There's something about the challenge of successfully farming your way to victory that's just absolutely enticing. One element that I missed playing the Harvest Moon series, however, was the ability to fight mystical creatures like dragons and rabid wolves. Natsume apparently heard my pleas for such a game and created the Rune Factory series. Although the first one was a decent game in its own right, Rune Factory 2 really defined the franchise.

    Rune Factory is essentially Harvest Moon, but with the added ability to create weapons, cast spells, and do all sorts of things that you wish Harvest Moon allowed you to do. The gameplay and story, overall, is pretty standard fare. I don't think I even married the girl that you're "supposed" to marry in order to stay in canon. At any rate, it's a solid and enjoyable game that largely went unnoticed.

  2. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

    This is not so much a game as it is a visual novel. The gameplay is relatively straightforward and puzzles are generally relatively simple to solve. The true appeal behind this game is the atmosphere. You play Junpei, who is stuck on board what seems to be a rapidly sinking ship similar to that of the Titanic alongside 8 other victims. In order to get out, you need to find the door with the number 9 on it.

    The story starts out with a fast pace, and never lets up. You have to play multiple times in order to experience the true ending as well. One thing that I really enjoyed about this game was the fact that the seemingly meaningless conversations between puzzles all tied together at the climax of the true ending. I'm not going to spoil exactly what happens but I will say that not everyone on your team is wearing their bracelet right side up.

    The game is somewhat weakened by the last puzzle and a somewhat weak ending. In order to fully appreciate the implications of the game by the time you hit the credits, I definitely recommend reading the transcript of the interview with one of the game's lead creators. If you also want a hint on what exactly the last puzzle is, I'll give you two clues. First, it's a type of puzzle you are likely to be familiar with prior to playing the game. Second, in a game that focuses so intently on the number 9, no other type of puzzle would have fit for the grand finale. 

  3. The World Ends With You

    This is probably the best SquareEnix game in the Nintendo DS lineup. You play Neku Sakuraba, who wakes up in the middle of Shibuya with no memories. You partner with a clever girl, Shiki, and play through a game that is supposed to last seven days.

    There is so much that this game does right that makes it a must play game on the Nintendo DS. First off, the artwork is phenomenal. Based off of real places in Japan, the setting is well drawn and generally easy to navigate. Second, the soundtrack adds a lot of value to the overall atmosphere of the game. The story is second to none, and there is a large twist waiting for you at the end.

    The main complaint that most players have in the game is awkward mechanics. The game largely prevents you from using pins that have overlapping abilities, but sometimes certain stylus movements are practically indistinguishable from one another. Optimal pin builds have abilities whose stylus commands differ significantly from one another, and I highly recommend this approach.

    Overall, this game is everything that SquareEnix could have possibly done right in a Nintendo DS game. There is also a version available on the app store, but I have heard that it doesn't do enough justice to the game. You can make the call.

All three of the games on this list are some of my favorite of all time. I especially recommend The World Ends With You. Between the great storyline and the homage it pays to modern day Japan, The World Ends With You is a Nintendo DS game highly deserving of a 3DS sequel or follow-up.