Should You Buy A Nintendo DS?

The Nintendo DS is the most successful portable gaming machine on the planet. More than 100 million of them are out there. So maybe you should own one too? Or is 2005's wonder-machine a relic at this point? Updated.

This is our best advice - updated regularly - about whether or not you should buy a DS, what games to get for it and what to watch out for.

[This post was last updated on September 30, 2010, and will be updated if events, news, games, prices or acts of nature cause our opinion to change.]

The forthcoming Nintendo 3DS playing a remake of Star Fox 64

Should I buy a Nintendo DS now?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

No. If you have no DS, you should wait until the 3DS is available and grab that. The unit will be available in Japan on February 26, and in the West by some date in March. Not only will the 3DS feature the latest-and-greatest in gameplay - an all-in-one 3D top screen - it will also allow you to transfer DSiWare games to it and from it. The inability to do so on the DSi is a big drawback of that system. The 3DS is also fully backward-compatible with all existing, non-3D DS titles and will feature a Virtual Console from which you'll be able to download Game Boy and Game Boy Color titles. Even as a tide-me-over you intend to trade in, there's just no good reason to get a DS now with the 3DS so close to launch.

DS Lite

If I'm going to buy a DS, which one should I buy?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

Again, we recommend waiting for the 3DS. That said, while the system's price tag has not been announced, one can expect it to be north of $US200. If that is a bridge too far, but you can't live without a DS, go for either the $200 DS Lite or the original six-year-old DS, despite its dated looks and tiny stylus. You should be able to find a used one for less than $150. Do not buy the DSi or the DSi XL. For not much more than their retail price, you should be able to get a 3DS in five or six months. And the 3DS will support most everything you want to play now.

Hold up... I have a DS... I just want to know if I should "upgrade" to a newer model?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

No. If you have a DS, the only upgrade you should make is to the 3DS when it arrives by the end of March.


What are the best games on the DS?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

There are tons of games available for the DS, probably more than there are for any other dedicated gaming machine. Everyone who buys a DS seems to start with New Super Mario Bros, a side-scrolling game that is, well, an original sequel to the classic Super Mario Bros games. Mario Kart DS is really popular as well. It is one of the premiere games to use the DS' online features.

There are top-flight Zelda and Pokémon games on the system, a raft of excellent role-playing games, ranging from The World Ends With You to Shin Megami Tensei Devil Survivor. This is a system for hidden gems like Contact or relationship-threatening puzzle games like Puzzle Quest.

There's very little on the DS that there isn't a good version of… good crossword puzzle games, good music games involving male cheerleaders (seriously!), good Mario and Zelda games, good games for young girls, good games for old men. Even a lot of the downloadable games for the DSi are top-notch, particularly a lot of the offerings published by Nintendo. If you want more of an M-rated kind of thing, the best of the slim pickings of that style is Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

We also recommend the block-chiselling puzzle game Picross 3D, the strategic, turn-based war game Advance Wars: Dual Strike and the role-playing game Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies.

Which ones are the worst?

The big two danger zones for DS buyers are sports and kids stuff. There are very few, if any, quality sports games on the machine. The system just doesn't seem to get a lot of polished attention from top sports development teams. The kids stuff is hit or miss (Beware games whose titles end with "Z"!) and your best way to judge quality there is to ask friends. Few of the kids games for the DS have been reviewed widely enough to take Metacritic's word for what's good. Ask a friend for a tip and beware what we call shovelware.

You should also take caution with any DS first-person shooters. They typically require the player to use the stylus on the system's lower screen to simulate mouse movement while forcing the player to use their other hand to both clasp the system - supporting the weight of the system - and press buttons to shoot. It can be tricky and is not an ergonomic award-winner for most folks.

Oh, and beware licensed games, based on movies, TV shows and whatnot. Often the DS version is the one that got the short shrift from the creators behind it. You can tell be the sometimes-terrible graphics these cheap licensed games get.

So if I buy a system, what are the first three games I should get?

1) Get a Mario game, either the pleasing if unoriginal New Super Mario Bros or the clever, more strategic Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. 2) Treat yourself to a game that uses the DS' interface to do something original, such as Elite Beat Agents (the aforementioned cheerleading game) or Scribblenauts (write a noun and see it materialise as an in-game item; though look for an improved sequel coming later in the year). 3) For your third game, see if Puzzle Quest is your thing.


What are the big drawbacks of the system, the stuff they don't tell you?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

This system could cramp your hands if you have big paws. The newer DSes have bigger styluses, but even those fake pens are still too small for people with big hands.

Check your enthusiasm for the downloadable games you could get for the DSi or DSi XL. Many of the games on that service are fantastic (for example, this one, this one and this one), but not a one of them can be transferred from one DS to the next. If you download a game to your DSi and then need to transfer that purchase to a new DS - let's say you lost or sold the old unit - you have to buy the game all over again.

Again, this lack of transfer will not be an issue for the 3DS; DSiWare purchases you have made on another DSi also will be transferable to a 3DS. There will apparently be a restriction on the number of times a file may be transferred and "not all software will be movable". Nonetheless, its support on the 3DS makes a DSi or DSiXL purchase all the more inadvisable.

Any hidden costs?

Not really. Stores sell a lot of tchochkes, but your clamshell DS doesn't need a protective shell. Its screens may scratch a little but they generally hold up pretty well. Your biggest risk will be losing the system's teensy game cartridges, but an Altoids case or Ziploc can take care of that. Systems come with a second stylus, so you can afford to lose the first one.

If you go for a DSi or XL and plan to save a lot of music or games to the system, you'll want to buy an SD Card. A 2GB or 4GB card will run you $US10-$US30.


But is there a better version of the DS coming soon? Or a price drop? Maybe I should hold off?

Answer updated September 30, 2010.

We played the 3DS at E3 in June, 2010 and we were impressed, as we've conveyed in both video of the 3DS and written impressions of 3DS games. In addition to the 3D capabilities, the 3DS is more powerful, packed with more features (motion-sensing, an analogue control) and already has strong support from both Nintendo's game makers and third parties, who have collectively announced a lot of 3DS games. On its top screen, the system displays graphics in 3D without the user needing to wear 3D glasses (the effect can be modulated by a slider or even shut off).

Though Nintendo revealed on September 29 that the 3DS would be available from February 26 in Japan for ¥25,000 (roughly $309), its Western prices still are unknown and its release date no more certain than March 2011.

Two colours will be available for the 3DS when it launches in Japan: "Aqua Blue" and "Cosmos Black".

Essential Facts For The Nintendo DS

System launched in 2004.

The Nintendo DS is a two-screened portable system sold by Nintendo. The machine's standout features are its dual screens, the lower of which is touch sensitive and often intended to be operated by a stylus that can be sheathed within the base of the unit. The DS also includes a directional pad, buttons and a microphone, all of which can be used as controls for the system's many games. The newer DSi models include a player-facing and an outward-facing camera, both of which can be used in some games but are primarily used with photo-taking applications.

All DS systems include both short-range wireless communication and WiFi online access, but games have to be programmed specifically to use either feature. Games that include WiFi support are sold in boxes that include a circular blue Nintendo Wi-Fi connection logo.

Each DS system contains its own internal, rechargeable battery. Battery life varies based on the model of DS and how a player uses the system, but any DS will likely hold up for a full day - or long flight - before it needs a recharge.

Nintendo has targeted the DS at a wide demographic, releasing games and non-gaming software targeted at everyone from little girls to the elderly, with products as disparate as the puppy-raising Nintendogs and the mental-exercise program Brain Age.

Currently available models: DS Lite ($200)*, DSi ($300)*, DSi XL ($300) [recommended models marked with an asterisk] Price of new games: $US30-$US40 Discount line of games: None


    To me, the original DS is the only one worth getting. Sure, the Lite has that awesomely bright screen. But it also has those piece of shit d-pad that they stuck on it, I still find the original d-pad to be FAR superior. Not to mention the rest of the face buttons too, particularly Start and Select (both the button and the positioning).

      I simply cannot play Tetris on the original, clicky d-pad, and thus for me, it fails epically.

        Funnily enough, I said the exact same thing. Except about the Lite and Mario Kart :P
        Never had a problem playing Tetris. Thankfully, since it's so awesome.

    with sony and nintendo being a early adpoter is always worth while.. because the later models might have one or 2 new features but really lack quality of construction..

    each new PSP / DS / Wii / PS3 quality and homebrew features have been removed.

    and what do we get in its place?.. hmmm

    thats why i think getting a First Gen 3DS or PSP2 is a much nicer choice.

    I’ve got the original phat DS. I got it for $38 from some EB sale that lasted about 2 days. And I’m totally happy with the product. Sure it’s big, but I’ve got big hands, I can basically wrap my mittens around the whole thing and still feel like I’m holding something tiny.

    The only drawback is that I got it used, and it has the signs of a used system. It’s got a few scratches around the corners and some marks on the screens. And unfortunately a single dead pixel on the bottom screen. But overall it was worth it, because the games are just I’ve played are just so good.

    My biggest problem with the DS I’ve got is that it has been used a lot, and the battery isn’t exactly what it used to be. Nintendo state that after 500 charges the battery life will start to shorten. And I’m seeing that now, I have to charge it after about 4 hours of gameplay. Apparently that’s half of the time it’s supposed to play.

    If I did get a new DS it would either be a new DS lite, or a new original DS. Since new phat DS consoles are rare to come by these days I doubt that’s still an option. If I can find a cheap DS lite online, I’ll get it.

    I've had every type of DS but some I didn't keep long because they were for profit purposes only xD

    Have an XL right now because I heard the 3DS screens would be smaller, making this my only chance to play DS games on the biggest screen I can.

    Dude, yer gettin yer LITEs and Is mixed up!

    LITE does play GBA games, also it plays all DS games that aren't strictly downloadable.

    Lite was just a smaller NDS original it was the DSi that originally removed GBA and added DLable content.


    Woops I totally mis-read this article...ignore me!


    DS is awesome - I play mine every night! Just played through the Ace Attorney series, and highly recommend them.

      Me too! Just finished the 4th one last night and I want moooore! It's definetely one of the best game series of all time :)

      Ace Attorney rocks! Sometimes I think so hard, even after I put it down i'll think about who the murderer is!

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