It’s no lie that the Nintendo DS library is vast, with games ranging from RPGs to language lessons. It’s a console that appealed to everyone and anyone, and the titles on the console really reflected that. Most of all, it was a gamer's handheld with amazing, high-profile releases making it their home. However, not all games got this praise, and many of which were so obscured by the slew of incurring releases that their greatness never truly shined. There are many underrated gems on the console and you owe it to yourself to play these.
It’s a shame that Infinite Space got slept on so hard, even with the Platinum Games moniker next to its name. Infinite Space is as involved as a game can get, with a story that will send your free time into stasis. Featuring customisable ships that you can take into JRPG style combat, all whilst manning your crew and making difficult strategic choices. The engaging action set-pieces and enthralling story wrap the entire package into a beautiful gem of a game.
Considering the amount of RPGs on the DS, Infinite Space is one of the most unique and is something any genre enthusiast should play.
Ghost Trick : Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick is a strange mix of gameplay elements, but it pulls them off in an engaging way. The meat of the game is a beautifully written quasi-visual novel, whereas the rest of the game is a point-and-click puzzle game where you haunt items to set off bizarre chain reactions. Even with this odd concoction, the style, animation and flair of the game glue everything together creating an addictive handheld masterpiece.
The DS was a console that, for me, allowed for the most quirky and soulful games. The aptly named Soul Bubbles does not stray from this and is one of the games that encapsulates what the DS is all about.
Clicking into a console that is all about portability fits this game well; simplistic controls and quick levels make it a perfect accompaniment to small stints of boredom. It’s a game about blowing a bubble from one end to the other, but done with as much elegance as the mid-2000s could provide. The charm of its simplicity and the cute presentation are what make this one of the games worthy of any DS collection. It helps that you can pick it up for next to nothing as well.
Maestro : Jump In Music
Rhythm games flourished on the DS, with the likes of Elite Beat Agents and Rhythm Heaven being as melodic as they were addictive. Maestro also fits into this bracket, but failed to receive the same amount of love as its ilk, even now the touchscreen dust has cleared.
Maestro is a simple platformer that utilises plucking to the beat of classical music to save the world from eternal silence. It’s a strange premise but the gameplay loop that tends to quick bursts of gameplay. It’s a satisfying loop that even the midi compositions of Beethoven can’t detract from.
‘Match-3’ games have been around in various iterations since the dawn of time, likely sitting on ancient cave paintings somewhere. It’s a simple premise that nearly everyone has played and that many developers have attempted to meld with other genres. Henry Hatsworth is one of the best examples of this, smoothly bolting platforming to this form of puzzling.
The use of the dual screens is what Henry Hatsworth gleams in. On the top screen a near-sublime platformer, in which you take down the enemies in your path. On the bottom screen fallen enemies launch themselves into blocks that can be matched together to prevent the monsters from resurrecting. On paper this sounds stressful and overwhelming, but in practice it works well.
The Alien franchise has had a rocky relationship with videogames, complete with some legal troubles and controversies. It’s a shame, as Aliens Infestation was buried under the DS.
Aliens Infestation is as underrated as it gets, forgotten in most circles of gaming and only known to the involved DS fanboy. A Wayforward developed metroidvania, Infestation is a quality action game, complete with intriguing story and acid-spewing existential nightmares prowling around. It’s a solid game from the outset, but it also drips tension and features one of the best permadeath systems that sees the playable cast individually meeting their ends if you fail as them. It can get repetitive at times, but the personality of the characters and the way in which it integrates the movie’s premises into gaming form is something worth playing.
Tower defence is something I am rarely interested in, yet somehow I found myself playing NinjaTown often. On the surface it’s simplistic, only asking you to stop demons from entering your village, but down the line the difficulty ramps up and requires foresight and strategic decisions to keep everyone safe. This is all packaged in the cutest coat of paint, with the little Ninjas you control looking and acting adorable; even the way they beat up incoming monsters is heart-warming.
NinjaTown is another game that handles the portability of the console well, utilising the touch screen to its best and being viable for quick action in bursts.
Solatorobo : Red the Hunter
Nintendo handhelds have always been an interesting playground for developers to manufacture experimental experiences that aren’t seen elsewhere. Games like Solatorobo are a fine example of this and a game that should top any list like these. A spiritual successor to PlayStation classic Tail Concerto, Solatorobo revolves around a canine bounty hunter who pilots a mecha that wrestles opponents. On the surface it may seem like a furry wet dream, which it probably is, but delving into the game reveals a bizarre, yet fulfilling story and satisfying gameplay.
It can be difficult to track down these days, but anyone who has a DS and wants to see the best of the handheld console should pick this up.