Nintendo DS

Note: You’ll notice that no DS Legend of Zelda title appears on this list. In spite of both Zelda entries on the DS receiving high praise, I found the forced touch controls to be garbage. I attempted to play a title, but absolutely could not adjust to the control method. Nintendo is often accused of forcing system gimmicks into a game, and I think these two games are the most egregious examples.

Couldn’t stand with the Titans: Ys Chronicles, Aliens Infestation, Electroplankton, The Legendary Starfy, Final Fantasy III, Contra 4, Okamiden, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero, Pokemon Black/White

Mario 64 DS8. Super Mario 64 DS
I’ve pointed out in the past that I’m not big on remakes, but I feel that enough was added to Super Mario 64 DS to justify it’s presence on this list. In addition to including 30 new stars to find, three new playable characters were added to the mix: Luigi, Wario, and Yoshi. Aside from those additions, this game is simply a sharpened up version of the Nintendo 64 classic. One issue I do hold with this title is the use of the cross-pad to control the characters in a 3-D space. It feels quite awkward, but, if you have a 3DS, the circle pad is perfect for this kind of title, so if you never tried this on the original DS and currently have a 3DS (or 2DS), this is an older title that is well worth picking up.

Children of Mana7. Children of Mana
The Mana games have been very hit or miss since the sublime Secret of Mana on the Super NES (and the well received Sieken Densetsu 3, which I’m apparently never going to get to play). This title is no different. I won’t even pretend that this game matches what Secret of Mana was able to accomplish, but if you take this game on it’s own merits, without comparing it to its namesake, you’ll be very pleased. In this title, you take on missions from a HUB town, then journey to different locations by selecting them from a world map. The destinations are randomly generated, meaning that each experience is new. Also included is the weapon wheel, allowing you to play in a style that most suits you for the most part. As I said, this game does not rival Secret of Mana, but stands on its own very well.

Age of Kings6. Age of Empires: Age of Kings
I’m not a big fan of strategy games and, frankly, think the main reason I even gave this game a real chance is because I’m such a fan of the Age of Empires series. While this game did challenge me more than it probably should have, most likely because of my own limitations in the genre, I still found it quite fun. Unlike the real time battles of the PC games, this game allows you to construct units and move them in turns around the map. Each unit has attributes and limitations that you must take into account when positioning them. The game is constructed so that you have a goal for each level, and can only advance by completing said goal. The PC games definitely have more depth than this DS offshoot, but that doesn’t mean that this title isn’t still fun.

Yoshi's Island DS5. Yoshi’s Island DS
Much like Super Mario 64 DS spiced things up by adding new characters to it’s remake, this sequel to the Super NES classic, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, did the same. In this title, you can carry Baby Mario, Baby Peach, Baby Wario, Baby Donkey Kong, and Baby Bowser, with each having different powers (DK can climb vines, Peach can float, etc…). With each character having a unique power, the designers were able to build puzzles around the element of switching out the babies to utilize each one’s individual abilities. Yoshi’s Island also takes advantage of the dual screens by expanding your view of the level vertically. While this can be hard to get used to, ultimately it is a very helpful mechanic. Really, the best compliment I can give Yoshi’s Island DS is that it very much reminds me of it’s namesake on the Super NES. High praise indeed.

NSMB4. New Super Mario Brothers
This is the selection that I questioned the most on this list, mainly because every sequel in the “New” series since this title has surpassed it, in my opinion. That said, I had to go back and really think about what this game meant when it was first released. While it seems a bit tired and predictable in hindsight, upon it’s release, it was very much a breath of fresh air for the series, and returned Mario to his “run left to right” roots. Also included were new power-ups and the well hidden secret exits we’ve come to expect in this type of Mario title. I may prefer later games in this branch of the Mario series, but this one will always have a special place for me.

Portrait of Ruin3. (tie) Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
How can you possibly choose between three superb Castlevania games? I couldn’t, so I’m giving all three of these #3 on my list. Portrait of Ruin introduced us to multiple characters, which you could swap at will (or use to unleash a Dual Crush attack) anytime with a button press. Each played differently which gave you some options as to how to attack the game, though some puzzles had you swapping out the characters or using them together. Despite having levels that were accessible via paintings in the main world, Portrait still maintained the very popular Metroidvania feel. I also give this game bonus points for connecting directly with Castlevania: Bloodlines, the strangely forgotten, yet wonderful title from the Sega Genesis.

Order of Ecclesia3. (tie) Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
The last of the Metroidvania titles published (so far) before Lords of Shadow hit the scene (I suppose the 3DS title may count), Order of Ecclesia certainly took the style out on a high note. A bit like Portrait of Ruin, Ecclesia offered a map screen with various locations, and frankly, reminded me a bit of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest on the NES in how you moved from locale to locale. Much like Portrait though, Ecclesia maintained an open world feel despite a world map and levels. Ecclesia also included Glyphs that could be placed on Shanoa to vary her attack abilities. These were also her only way of attacking, and is a bit reminiscent of the Souls feature from Aria & Dawn of Sorrow. Speaking of…

Dawn of Sorrow3. (tie) Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
The first DS Castlevania game was a direct sequel to Aria of Sorrow, and somehow manages to be even better than Aria. The soul system returns, mostly the same as it existed in Aria (you acquire enemy souls that offer new abilities when equipped), and the level design is top notch. Unlike my previous two entries, this title was purely an open world title, allowing you to move around the castle at will, assuming you had the correct abilities to reach new areas. Dawn of Sorrow also introduced some touch-screen integration, having you clear obstacles on a few occasions and forcing you to draw a seal to ultimately defeat a boss. It’s obviously shoe-horned in to take advantage of the touch-screen, but it doesn’t hurt the game at all.

Pokemon Black 22. Pokemon Black 2/White 2
Really, there isn’t much left to write about Pokemon at this point. I liked this title just a bit better than Black/White, which is why those aren’t making an appearance here. Black 2/White 2 have a ton of Pokemon to catch, allowing you numerous options to shape your team, and the game region is a blast to explore. What can I say? It’s a very well made Pokemon game that continues to deliver for the series. I have to say that I find it amazing that a series that truly lives on a very simple and repeatable premise still thrives as this one does. It is a testament to the designers that these titles still sell the way they do.

Pokemon Platinum1. Pokemon Platinum
It was close, but I believe that Platinum was just a bit more well designed than the Black/White games. That said, it is another Pokemon game. I’m not sure how the same premise can still feel fresh, entry after entry, but Platinum (and Black 2/White 2) pulls it off. Really, there is nothing more I can say about the Pokemon series. It is quite an amazing series of games, and continues to impress in the newer entries.

  1. The DS is a handheld that I completely missed the boat on, along with the Advance. I’m glad to read this list because I’ve always wondered how Castlevania games were after their original 8 and 16 bit counterparts. Also, a couple of titles on here that I’ve always wanted to try as well.

    Thanks for the list!

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