Top 10 Surprisingly Fun Games on Nintendo DS [Best Recommendations]

The Nintendo DS was one of the most popular gaming consoles ever made. With over 150 million systems sold, you can bet that everyone was looking to get in on the system. We got all sorts of different games on the DS, from pet sims to RPGs to even a small visual novel boom. It was a great system that supported a very diverse user base that we’re unlikely to ever see again.

As you can imagine, with all the game releases that the DS saw, there were more than just a few games that went overlooked. Maybe they were released at a poor time, maybe reviewers just didn’t really get them when they came out, or maybe they were just so niche that with the size of the user base it just got completely drowned out. But if you’re looking for something new for your DS and are sick of your standard Marios, Pokemons, or what have you, check out these 10 surprisingly fun DS games to kill a weekend afternoon with!

10. Bleach: Dark Souls

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Treasure
  • Release Dates: October 7th, 2008 (US)

It hasn’t been too long since Aizen went into hiding from Soul Society. To bolster Soul Society’s spirits after this blow to morale, they hold a festival. Ichigo, Orihime, Chad, and Ishida are even invited. However, a member of the Department of Research and Development stumbles across some Mod Souls that were set aside for unknown reasons. One Mod Soul called Kai even manages to replicate that member and runs off with a whole stash of other Mod Souls in order to free them. Unfortunately, though, these Mod Souls are harboring some resentment towards Soul Society. They end up taking the form of some really dangerous Hollows, and before they know it, Ichigo and gang are on the case to save the day!

Don’t worry too much about the plot of the game. People sort of brushed off Bleach: Dark Souls at the time due to the series’ poor history of fighting games, but we’d like to draw your attention to the developer of the game. That would be the old-guard of classic action games, Treasure, who put out a ridiculously polished fighting game in Bleach: Dark Souls. It’s actually a sequel to the DS’s Bleach: Blade of Fate, but with expanded gameplay options such as a higher max card limit for your support deck and the power to customize your stats. Even if you’re not a Bleach fan, it’s worth a serious look if you’re looking for a handheld fighter!

9. My World, My Way

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Atlus
  • Developer: Global A Entertainment
  • Release Dates: February 3rd, 2009

Princess Elise only wants one thing in life: love. Upon her 15th birthday, the king holds a ball and invites every prince he can in hopes of finding Elise a suitor. Thankfully, she finds the perfect man there, but there’s one issue. See, the man is actually an adventurer whose heart belongs to the land, and could only truly love someone who could be his equal. In order to win him over, Elise sets out on her own adventure in the hopes of landing her dream man!

You ever get into a game but get frustrated that you can’t get past a point? My World, My Way seeks to resolve that issue with its Pout Points system, which allows you to alter the game to make it slightly easier for you. You can use it to get more gold from battles, make enemies weaker, get better item drops, and so forth. It’s a great lazy afternoon game for when you just don’t want to be bothered with a challenge.

8. Lifesigns: Surgical Unit

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: DreamCatcher Games
  • Developer: Spike
  • Release Dates: November 6th, 2007 (US)

It’s the second year of Tendo Dokuta’s internship at Seimei Medical University Hospital. He’s grown a lot after his first year, and Dr. Kyosuke Swai, the hospital’s director, has taken notice. Swai has decided to add to Dokuta’s responsibilities by putting him in charge of researching SPX, a new drug with the potential to cure someone of both AIDS and cancer. Can Dokuta balance his research with his personal life?

Reviews at the time of Lifesigns: Surgical Unit’s release were sadly a little negative. Visual novels were still a very new, unheard of concept to many Western game reviewers and many complained that it was too dialogue-heavy because they were used to Trauma Center’s arcade-y thrills. It’s a shame, because the Lifesigns series is actually what inspired Trauma Center, and if it were released today, it would probably be able to find more of a niche with its more grounded storyline now that people are more accepting of visual novels.

7. The Rub Rabbits

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Sonic Team
  • Release Dates: February 13th, 2006

Question for the men out there: have you ever just been walking along and get stopped dead in your tracks by a gorgeous woman? In this situation, have you ever decided right then and there that that woman is the love of your life, and you would do anything to prove it? Now, finally, when you decided you would make your move, did you get interrupted by 12 other men who arrived by parachute or climbing out of the sewers? You’re going to need to stand-out if you want to get her attention!... of course, doing so may draw the attention of some other unwanted love interests…

The Rub Rabbits is actually a sequel to the quirky hit DS launch title Feel the Magic: XX/XY, which made its name off of highly experimental (for the time) mini-games. Unfortunately, some of the novelty of mini-game collections that made use of the DS’s touch screen features had waned by the time The Rub Rabbits finally came out, which is probably why people ignored it. However, if you want a silly, light way to kill a couple of hours, check out The Rub Rabbits for a goofy love story like none other.

6. Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Aksys
  • Developer: WorkJam
  • Release Dates: May 26th, 2009 (US)

Jake Hunter works as a private investigator in Aspicio City. White collar crime, organized crime, low-level thuggery… there’s nothing Jake Hunter hasn’t seen. However, this also has made him some very powerful enemies, as he’s been arrested for a murder he didn’t commit. Now he’s gotta work together with his assistant Yulia Marks to clear his name and avoid some serious jail time.

There’s a slight chance you may have heard the name Jake Hunter before. Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past is actually a re-release of 2008’s Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles. You can go ahead and ignore the original release, which was critically panned due to missing several chapters from the Japanese release and having a bland translation. Due to this, people slept on Memories of the Past because they assumed it would be more of the same when it actually completely retranslated a version of the prior Jake Hunter to give it a more noir-vibe and added in the missing chapters. It’ll make a great playthrough if you’re hungry for some more Phoenix Wright-style mystery stories!

5. Planet Puzzle League

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • Release Dates: June 4th, 2007

The gameplay to Planet Puzzle League couldn’t be simpler. There are different multicolored blocks that rise up from the bottom of your screen. If they reach the top, you lose. To clear them, you match them up by color and they’ll disappear. When you’re playing with a friend, you can send trash blocks back and forth between one another and halt the other’s progress. You can even chain clears together by strategically lining up your blocks in ways that let them fall into other blocks and really cause pain for your friends!

If the above description reminds you of Panel de Pon, Tetris Attack or Pokemon Puzzle League… well, that’s because it is! Planet Puzzle League was actually made by Intelligent Systems who worked on those games, and was made to take advantage of the DS’s Wi-Fi capabilities so you could play multiplayer whenever you like. The sterile art direction turned away longtime fans that were used to the series’ more charming art, but otherwise, it’s a fantastic puzzle game to play while you’re on the go. Even though the servers are off, it’s a great 5-6 minute time waster while you’re out and about.

4. Time Hollow

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Tenky
  • Release Dates: September 23rd, 2008

It’s Ethan Kairos’s 17th birthday, and for some reason, his parents are nowhere to be found. Actually, Ethan Kairos is the only one who even seems to remember his parents in much detail, as everyone is telling him they actually disappeared when he was 5! One thing leads to another, and Ethan stumbles upon a strange pen that was left for him by his father. This is the Hollow Pen, which gives the wielder the power to open portals to parallel dimensions. You’ll play as Ethan Kairos and investigate just what happened to both his parents and his uncle before he was born!

Shadow of Memories was something of a cult hit on the Playstation 2. If you played that and got really invested in the story, you’ll feel right at home in Time Hollow. It was actually written by Junko Kawano, who was the writer on Shadow of Memories and tackles a lot of the same themes as that game. It was one of those games that people were hoping for a bit more gameplay than reading at the time, but if you’re into visual novels and are cool with mostly reading with some light puzzle solving, Time Hollow comes highly recommended.

3. Last Window: The Secret of Cape Hollow

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Developer: Cing
  • Release Dates: January 14th, 2010

It’s been one year since the events of Hotel Dusk: Room 215. Kyle Hyde has made it back to his apartment, only to receive a call from his boss who tells Kyle he’s fired since he actually hasn’t made a sale in quite some time. Worse yet, he along with everyone else at his apartment complex are about to be evicted for an unknown reason. A note is left for Kyle Hyde saying that there’s more to Cape West Apartments than anyone realizes, and before he’s kicked out he should search for the Scarlet Star.

Did you know they made a sequel to the cult hit Hotel Dusk? Not a whole lot of people were actually made aware of that, as not only did the game never see a US release, Cing actually went bankrupt shortly after Last Window’s release! Last Window did see a limited release in Europe with a full English translation, so only the most hardcore fans have had the chance to check it out. If you were a fan of Hotel Dusk, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy on your favorite import site.

2. Solatorobo: Red the Hunter

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: XSeed Games
  • Developer: CyberConnect2
  • Release Dates: September 27th, 2011

Red Savarin is a Caninu (or dog person) who works as a Hunter. He’s been hired to retrieve a file that’s been hidden aboard the airship Hindenburg. While on the job, Red Savarin stumbles upon a strange medallion, but before he can do anything with it, the Hindenburg is attacked by Lares, a giant monster that ravages the Shepard Republic. Equipped only with his trusty Dahak, a miniature robot he pilots, Red Savarin sets out to stop Lares and save his homeland.

Sadly, Solatorobo came out dreadfully close to the end of the DS’ lifespan and right around the time the 3DS was starting to see some of its bigger releases. It was already fighting an uphill battle for mainstream acceptance due to being a game starring anthropomorphic animals targeting more of a teenage crowd. However, if you can track down a copy, you’ll find a wonderfully charming little adventure game with a beautifully realized world.

1. Infinite Space

  • System: DS
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Nude Maker, Platinum Games
  • Release Dates: March 16th, 2010 (US)

Humanity has finally achieved intergalactic travel. It’s been literally dozens of millennia, but it’s finally happened thanks to the discovery of Void Gates, ancient alien technology that allows for a shorter travel time over distances that generally takes years. However, just because space is now traversable doesn’t mean humanity understands it entirely! In fact, a star captain in training named Yuri has an interest in the Epitaphs, ancient alien artifacts that have been found all across the universe.

Are you a diehard RPG fan who loves spending hours tinkering and optimizing your builds without shame? Infinite Space is your game. It was a bit of a departure from Platinum Game’s normal work, focusing on grand storytelling and in-depth customization over their normal character action games. In fact, it was maybe a little too much for your average player, as it had a bit of a lukewarm reception upon release. Don’t let that deter you though; Infinite Space boasts one of the biggest space opera plots a handheld game has ever seen and a really satisfying (if daunting) combat system.

Final Thoughts

We know that there are plenty more hidden gems out there for the DS. These 10 are just a starting point. If you know of anymore, please, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! We’d love to hear your own recommendations.

Solatorobo-Red-the-Hunter-game-1-500x450 Top 10 Surprisingly Fun Games on Nintendo DS [Best Recommendations]


Author: Matt Knodle

I come from Indiana, where I grew up near a video rental shop that proudly stated “The widest selection of anime in the state”, setting me on a course to enjoy as much anime as possible. I’ve devoted myself to over-analyzing various sports anime and video games probably more than they were ever intended. I currently co-host a weekly sports anime fan podcast called KoshienCast with my good friend, Matt.

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