Return to the DS Era With Some Fantastic Games
Perhaps I like living in the past, but I truly loved the Nintendo DS. Hell, I loved a lot of old portable systems. Not just because I grew up with them, but because those dinosaurs didn’t require an internet connection to play games or need updates. And with the recent announcement that Nintendo will be removing the ability to buy things digitally on the 3DS eShop in about a year, I started thinking about other portables I loved.
The Nintendo DS was a great system with a robust library that implemented stylus play smartly. While I know many gamers get irritated with Nintendo for shoehorning quirky functionality into their systems, it’s hard to complain when they work so well. And there are plenty of games released for the DS that I would love to see get a modern remake. Of course, not all of these would be an easy port, since many did implement stylus play, which is nearly a thing of the past. But I believe all 12 of these DS games would find a special place in most gamers’ hearts.
As usual, and to avoid bias, I’ll list my top 12 DS games alphabetically below. And bear with me as I group some game series together as one entry for convenience’s sake.
Top 12 DS Games #1 – Aliens Infestation
I’ve played a lot of fantastic games by WayForward. But very few quite like Aliens Infestation. Not only is it shockingly a Metroidvania, but it’s one set in the Aliens universe. More astounding is the fact it’s a really well-made game. That’s rare when big-name properties such as Aliens are translated to the video game format. WayForward and Gearbox manage to not only make an amazing entry in that universe, but one that’s also a very solid horror game as well.
Hopefully, you’re intrigued by now, but if not, I’ll try and convince you. You’ll be able to control a band of Space Marines, swapping between them to navigate different areas. Each Marine has a different weapon focus and specialty. But don’t get too attached, since permadeath is very much a factor in the game. If a Xenomorph finds one of your crew, they’ll try their best to murder or infect you. Luckily, if one or two of your crew gets wiped out, you can replace them with another Marine. So long as you don’t lose your entire team, you can keep on playing. As you progress, you’ll investigate a dangerous station full of hideous alien scum, complete with foes that hunt you mercilessly and devastating boss battles. Tack on some fantastic artwork and tense music, and you have a must-own DS game.
Top 12 DS Games #2 – Custom Robo Arena
Custom Robo broke me as a series. The first game I played was the Gamecube entry, and I loved mixing and matching parts for my miniature death bots. Then they went and released Custom Robo Arena on the DS, and I was even more hooked. Sure, graphically, it was inferior to the Gamecube one, but it was full of great features all the same. And more importantly, it was portable!
Honestly, the appeal for this one is simple. I love games that involve robots, especially when I can tweak them to fight the way I want. Add a lengthy story mode and two-player combat, and you have something special. Since this is the last entry in the Custom Robo series, I think it would be prime for a remake. Or hell, just give us a sequel. Cause none of the robot fighting games released in the past decade have that same sparkle for me.
Top 12 DS Games #3 – Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
While I’m very much not a fan of EA these days, there was a brief shining period during the DS era where they made games that were fun. Unexpected and weird games. Games like Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. I mean, honestly, how many games have you played that let you play as a deranged British gentleman hunting for artifacts of power?
Developed by EA Tiburon, Henry Hatsworth is a bizarre game. It deftly mixes platforming shenanigans with match-3 mechanics. And somehow, it works pretty effortlessly. Thanks to an enchanted bowler hat, when Henry attacks a foe on the top screen, they fall into the bottom screen, transforming into a cube monster. Your goal is to match them away before the cube reaches the top of the bottom screen, cause then the enemy is coming right back at Henry. Doing a good job of this provides temporary boosts and healing to the dapper gentleman, but he can also buy upgrades between missions.
On top of all that, Henry Hatsworth also had an enjoyable and silly plot with lots of humor in every line of dialogue. And it wasn’t a piece of cake either, featuring challenging boss battles and feats of platforming excellence. So while this one does require a stylus to work, I very much think it deserves new life on a modern console.
Top 12 DS Games #4 – Kirby Mass Attack
At this point, I’ve played pretty much every Kirby game out there, other than some of the Fighter games and Kirby Air Ride. I generally stick with the mainline games, but some of the side games have been enjoyable as well. But none quite so impressive for me as Kirby Mass Attack. It played utterly unlike any other Kirby game, and was a blast.
Kirby Mass Attack featured pure stylus controls to unleash a horde of mini Kirbys (Kirbi?) on your unsuspecting foes. You can have up to ten of the little hooligans on screen at once, send them to dogpile foes, or even flick them as projectiles. Not just that, but you had to get through gates requiring a specific amount of Kirbys, meaning you’d need to eat plenty of fruit to generate more.
The game also had tons of actual achievements, a rarity for most Nintendo games. And like any good Kirby, it had fun boss battles, some of which were pretty challenging. My only complaint about Kirby Mass Attack was that it ended a bit too soon. But with all the unlockables to strive for, that’s not too bitter a pill to swallow.
Top 12 DS Games #5 – Luminous Arc / Luminous Arc 2
One of the best things about the DS was the absurd RPGs that came out for that system. Most people know Imageepoch for their swan song, Stella Glow. But I grew to love them for the Luminous Arc games. And no, not just because the pre-order bonuses for both games were awesome (though they were). No, both Luminous Arc games were excellent tactical RPGs. But they were even better for their crazy fanservice.
The game is all about sexy witches and churches at war. In the beginning, it seems clear cut who the bad guys are. But as you’re forced to interact with your so-called enemies, the witches, you start to realize something isn’t right. As far as gameplay goes, while neither game is all that different from other tactical RPGs, what shone for me were the bizarre characters. One who even threatens to turn foes into a pie, which is all kinds of twisted and hilarious.
Even though we in North America never got the final two entries in the series, both Luminous Arc 1 and 2 are well worth your time. Especially if you miss games that were all about an eclectic crew who you grow to love fighting to save the world. Or maybe destroy it. You’ll have to play them to find out!
Top 12 DS Games #6 – Monster Tale
Monster Tale is a bit like what would happen if Shantae had a willful little sister. It’s the story of a fierce little girl the teams up with a red-skinned monster, and fights against other monsters. What helps set the basic premise apart from other games is that Monster Tale does incorporate touch screen controls, despite nominally being a Metroidvania.
One of the cooler elements of the game is that you can evolve your monster depending on what you feed him, not unlike a pokémon. I personally just remember the game being charming and having really colorful artwork. Like some of the other games on this list, it ends a bit sooner than I’d like, but that doesn’t diminish how fun it was.
If nothing else, picking this game up will fill you with nostalgia if the supposed remake, Monster Tale HD, ever decides to happen. Though since the first announced remake, Monster Tale Ultimate, never happened, I’d just stick with the DS game to play it safe.
Top 12 DS Games #7 – Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
I know that most people feel that Ninja Gaiden got revitalized for a modern era with the games collected in the Master Collection. But for me, I was totally blown away by the stunning visual marvel that was Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. To put it simply, I’ve never played a DS game that pretty before or since. And not only was Dragon Sword a stunner, but it was a rollicking ride as well.
Now, I admit that it was a little weird holding the DS book style to play the game. But once that became second nature, it was a blast. You used your stylus to perform powerful attacks, and could summon ninja magic to wipe the screen of foes. This was a bit like the portable God of War games, both in quality and in style. Meaning it was full of violent mayhem, and you would get used to dying as you played.
Honestly, I thought Dragon Sword would spark several more entries in a similar style, and I was really disappointed when that didn’t happen. If you love Ninja Gaiden or are just looking for a game that plays totally unlike most others, Dragon Sword getting a modern remake would satisfy.
Top 12 DS Games #8 – Pokémon Conquest
Over the past few decades, there’s been a LOT of Pokémon games. But none quite like Pokémon Conquest. Not only did it take the series into a strange tactical world, but it somehow successfully mixed it with the Nobunaga’s Ambition games. Which is all sorts of weird, but it somehow worked marvelously.
Instead of teaming pokémon with young Trainers, Conquest has warlords leading hordes of them. Not only that, but each warlord can use special powers once per battle to motivate their creatures. And if you manage to defeat another, you’ll gain access to that warlord and their pokémon army. Oh, and did I mention mini-games are used to acquire pokémon and that each one only has access to one trademark move?
Yea, Pokémon Conquest really shouldn’t have worked, but it’s one of those DS games I kept playing after beating it the first time. While I would have enjoyed it having a more robust post-game mode, I can say the same about practically every mainline Pokémon that’s released. This one would be easy to port, too, since it didn’t really require stylus controls, and could easily be mapped to buttons. Here’s hoping that makes this game slightly more likely to get remade, or at least to get a modern sequel.
Top 12 DS Games #9 – Retro Game Challenge
I’m sure even including this game on my list is going to trigger some people. After all, Retro Game Challenge is one of those golden goose titles that most everybody wants to own. Nor should I mention that I picked it up for a song at a used game story some 20 years ago. No, what really matters is that Retro Game Challenge is so freaking weird that I feel everybody should try it.
In a really strange way, Retro Game Challenge most reminds me of the WarioWare games. Sure, RGC was based on the GameCenter CX show from Japan. But having no familiarity with that, I can only compare it to the zaniness of the WarioWare series. You’ll play all sorts of weird mini-games in Retro Game Challenge, all with a distinctly retro flair. All this is to satisfy the Demon Arino, and do so by fulfilling crazy sidequests.
It’s hard to explain Retro Game Challenge without playing it, which is exactly my point. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s no good reason we couldn’t see a modern-day remake for this quirky DS game.
Top 12 DS Games #10 – Scurge: Hive
Scurge: Hive is like the sequel to Metroid Fusion I had always wanted. Sure, there’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s still an effective comparison. Where the two games start to diverge is how Scurge is more of a survival horror game. You immediately get infected by the titular parasite at the beginning of the game, and there’s no cure. You can manage your level of infection and diminish it, but never remove it entirely. The other huge difference is that, unlike Fusion, this game is isometric.
I was utterly captivated by Scurge: Hive. Not just for the fast-paced and challenging gameplay, but because of the visual style and compelling plot. Hell, the final boss fight was so unexpected it still sticks with me to this day. It perfectly set Scurge up for a sequel that never happened. But I see lots of ways this DS game could get a modern remake, maybe extending the length of the adventure. Other than that, I had no complaints about this unexpectedly excellent sci-fi adventure.
Top 12 DS Games #11 – Spectrobes / Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals
There was a time during the early 2000s when I was really tired of the Pokémon games resting on their laurels. They just did a lot of copy/pasting without really innovating in any significant ways. Worse, most of the games released by GameFreak had a distinct lack of postgame content. This brings us to the monster-catching game that stole my heart, Spectrobes, and Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals.
Both games deal with the invasive alien species, the Krawl. To fight back, you have to literally unearth fossils and bring them back to life. There’s a fun and complex little mini-game where you unearth the fossils. Doing so carefully gives you better stats for your creature, and you can also find minerals used to feed them. Baby versions can’t do much, but once they become an adult, they can join you in battle. And like any good example of the genre, there’s a sort of weapon triangle involving three types of monsters – Aurora (Green), Corona (Red), and Flash (Blue).
The second game, Beyond the Portals, did a good job of changing up the mechanics from the first game, and adding some nice graphical flourishes and fun villains. Also, unlike most Pokémon games from that period, Spectrobes games had a distinct focus on character and plot. Rallen and Jeena were the main dynamic duo, along with Aldous. As unique as they were, I would have loved to see them on modern consoles.
Top 12 DS Games #12 – Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier
I tried to avoid bias, which is why one of my absolute favorite DS games of all time is last on the list. At first, it might be unclear why. When traversing the world map in Endless Frontier, it looks like something from the NES era. But what totally saves the game is the dynamic and chaotic combat, the ridiculous plot, and lovable characters. And yes, there’s tons of fanservice here, and it absolutely elevates the game, making everything that much more entertaining.
Another great thing about Endless Frontier is all the random cameo characters, such as KOS-MOS, Reiji, and Xiamou. Every character fights a little differently, and stylistically the combat reminds me a lot of Project X Zone. But even more so than that game, Endless Frontier has fantastic banter and comedy underpinning every moment of the game. Add in great spritework and over-the-top bosses, and you have a DS game I feel is ripe for a remake. Preferably combined with the sequel that never made it stateside.
There you all have it. My Top 12 DS Games that most deserve a modern remake. I hope you’re able to check some of these out firsthand. And be sure to tune into HPP for more fun features.