The Nintendo DS is one of the best modern handheld consoles ever released, and despite Nintendo discontinuing production for the entire DS line in 2020, there are still plenty of reasons why you should buy the console in 2021. While ports and sequels have brought many of the best games from the era to newer consoles like the Wii U and Switch, there are so many gems that haven’t escaped the bounds of the portable console.
With such an extensive library and so many forgotten gems, the Nintendo DS is absolutely worth the $80 you can grab it for on eBay.
From Professor Layton to weird Pokémon spin-offs, these are all the games that deserve a second look on Nintendo DS in 2021.
1. Professor Layton and the Curious Village
Professor Layton and the Curious Village is the first in the excellent Professor Layton detective franchise, and one of the best games on the Nintendo DS. Frankly, it’s baffling this series hasn’t been ported over to any other console. If you want to see the gorgeous, fun adventures from the very beginning, you’ll have to grab yourself a Nintendo DS.
2. The Sims 2
The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS is a weird, weird game and that’s what makes it so great.
If you’ve ever wanted to run a hotel overrun by deadly robots, goths, aliens and mole people, you’ll want to play this game.
3. The Urbz – Sims in the City
On a related note, The Urbz on DS is also a very weird, very good game. Rather than living your normie life like you do in the usual Sims games, in The Urbz you’re working to take down a megalomaniac intent on destroying life as we know it. Also, there are swamp vampires.
4. Digimon World Championship
Digimon World Championship is an idle game about raising digital pets to fight against other digital pets. It’s fairly simple and strips out a lot of the usual complications involved in Digimon games, but it’s still a very fun monster-raising sim.
5. Pokémon Conquest
Pokémon Conquest is a mash-up between the Pokémon franchise and the turn-based strategy series, Nobunaga’s Ambition. It’s a match that shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does. This game is excellent, and a bright spot amongst many Pokémon spin-offs.
6. Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
No game has ever been as creative and wild as Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. In it, players become a ghost named Sissel as he attempts to solve his own murder and help his companions through puzzling and trickery. The mechanics here are fantastic, and while ‘innovative’ is an often-used buzzword, it absolutely applies to Ghost Trick. It’s not like any other game you’ve played.
7. Drawn to Life
Drawn to Life‘s major gimmick is that you can draw your own heroes and have them come to life before your very eyes. But beyond this neat quirk, Drawn to Life is an excellent platformer and puzzle game backed by cute pixel-style graphics and a charming cast of characters.
8. Animal Crossing: Wild World
Wild World was the first modern Animal Crossing game to really charm Nintendo fans. While it’s since been eclipsed by New Horizons, the DS version still has a lot of charm. If you’re looking for a new life sim, this one comes highly recommended. It’s looking fairly dated now, but there’s still plenty of new (and different) things to do in Wild World.
MySims is another weird Sims spin-off, but rather than being a story adventure like The Sims 2 or The Urbz, MySims is actually an island-themed life sim. Here, you can travel a tiny island, make friendships, build leis and find crystals. It’s simple but very enjoyable.
10. Pokémon Ranger
The Pokémon Ranger series has been forgotten by time, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get attention in 2021. In this spin-off, players are ‘rangers’ who calm down wild Pokémon rather than catching them. It’s actually fairly similar to mainline Pokémon games and features familiar RPG mechanics, but slight tweaks to gameplay make it a different and enjoyable experience.
11. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
The Nintendo DS rarely ventured into ‘adult’ territory, but Chinatown Wars was a rare exception. Touch screen controls used for cocaine deals and kicking your way out of cars still feels absolutely wild, but Chinatown Wars is an excellent game and feels great on the Nintendo DS.
12. Naruto: Ninja Destiny
The Nintendo DS had a surprisingly robust number of Naruto games, including several in the Ninja Destiny series. If you like the Ninja Storm games, you’ll love their predecessors — or for a change in pace, you can also check out the side-scrolling Ninja Council series.
13. WarioWare: Touched!
If you like wacky mini-games, the WarioWare series is where you want to be.
Smell onions. Snip a woman’s snot from her nose. Stick your finger up someone’s nose.
You can do all this and more in WarioWare: Touched!
14. Super Mario 64 DS
I’m just going to come out and say it: Nintendo made a mistake putting the original Super Mario 64 in the Super Mario All-Stars collection. The remastered version on DS is the superior version of the game, and it includes a lot more content in addition to an improved camera and graphics. L is real, and the only place you can find him is in this excellent game.
15. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks are two fantastic Zelda adventures that often get forgotten about in the conversation about the ‘best’ games in the series. But both are worthy of revisiting. Phantom Hourglass in particular is a gorgeous, fun journey with memorable characters and plenty of adventuring to be had. Plus, it’s just very, very cute.
16. Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver
If you choose one Pokémon game to revisit on Nintendo DS, make it HeartGold or SoulSilver. These games are the measuring stick by which all new Pokémon games should be judged, and they have a longevity that’s yet to be beaten. Black and White are also solid options on the platform.
17. Picross 3D
Picross 3D is a simple puzzle game where you cut out shapes based on number and chart alignments. When you’re done with each puzzle, it forms a cute little object, animal or shape and comes to life. It’s simple but incredibly relaxing.
18. SpongeBob SquarePants: The Yellow Avenger
A SpongeBob game? On a ‘best of’ Nintendo DS list? You’d better believe it. The Yellow Avenger is a great little adventure and perfect for anyone who loves cutesy RPGs and collectathons. In this superhero-themed extravaganza, SpongeBob runs around Bikini Bottom collecting bubbles, completing quests and saving the day. It’s good stuff.
19. Tamagotchi Connection Corner Shop 2
Tamagotchi Connection Corner Shop 2 is part of a DS trilogy where players complete food, music and decoration-based mini-games. In one mini-game you create cakes for little Tamagotchi people. In another you make music for them. There’s also a burger mini-game and a flower-arranging game. It’s all very cute and superbly relaxing. If you want to calm down while little digital beings go mee-mee-mee-mee-mee in your face, this is the game for you.
20. Bleach: The Blade of Fate
Bleach is much less loved than its nearest anime competitor, Naruto, but it’s had some surprisingly excellent video games. One is The Blade of Fate, a Nintendo DS fighting game where players face off against powerful enemies in jazzy 2D landscapes. The game is accompanied by an excellent storyline, gorgeous graphics and superbly smooth action.
21. Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time
Baby Mario and Baby Luigi get their chance to shine in Partners in Time, one of the Mario & Luigi RPG spin-offs. Basically, the game is puzzling, fighting and wacky time-travelling adventures all in one package. The entire Mario & Luigi series deserves attention, but Partners in Time is a real gem and deserves more attention than it gets.
Is there a hidden gem on Nintendo DS you’ve discovered that we haven’t mentioned? Is there anything else you’d recommend for newcomers? Pop on down to the comments below.