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While role-playing video games were gaining popularity in the 80s, PCs and console systems would dominate the RPG industry, until Nintendo released the iconic Game Boy in 1989.

This took the gaming world by storm, and handheld RPGs really took off after this period. Fast forward to 2004, and we saw an even more successful entry into the handheld console world –– Nintendo’s DS, or Dual Screen.

With its strong game library, revolutionary use of two screens, and backward compatibility with the Game Boy Advance (GBA), it’s no surprise the DS took over the Game Boy’s place as the best-selling handheld system of all time. The DS owes the RPG genre much of its success, as many RPG titles feature on the best-selling list of DS games.

Read on to find out which games are the best Nintendo DS RPGs and deserve a spot in your collection.

Pokemon White Version
$89.97
  • Nintendo Pokemon White Version DS.
  • Role-Playing, Adventure Game
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01/31/2023 06:21 am GMT

A list including the best handheld games would be quite odd if it didn’t contain a title from the Pokemon series. Being the first installment in the fifth generation of Pokemon games, emPokemon White/em is the counterpart of Pokemon Black, both released together in 2011.

Like most of the main games of the series, this entry follows the player character around a world full of pokemon; in this case, the Unova region, based on New York City. The player meets NPCs and trains pokemon along their journey to halt the plans of the criminal organization, Team Plasma.

The gameplay is essentially the same as the other Pokemon games, relying on the leveling of your chosen Pokemon, learning a variety of moves, and forming a team of six pokemon to explore with. Since the previous games’ graphics, Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, have been vastly improved, and feature the introduction of a seasonal cycle as well as the traditional day and night cycles. Certain pokemon even change their appearance based on the season, adding another level of intrigue for players.

Two new game mechanics were introduced –– Rotation Battles and Triple Battles. Rotation battles allow three pokemon to be “rotated” and used at will while triple battles rely on sending out three pokemon to fight simultaneously. Certain geographical elements such as rippling water, rustling grass, or dust clouds were also incorporated, and are the only way to capture certain pokemon to add to your team.

Overall, emPokemon White/em received critical acclaim along with Black and even obtained the highest-ever ranking for a Pokemon game by Famitsu Weekly (a Japanese magazine). While practically similar to previous games and not too innovative, these entries still stand the test of time and are a great refinement of the series. As far as the best Nintendo DS RPGs go, you can’t go wrong when picking up emPokemon White/em.

Get your copy of emPokemon White/em for Nintendo DS on Amazon here.

Pokemon Soul Silver Version Game Card Compatible with Nintendo DS/NDS/NDSL/NDSi/3DS/2DS Version (Reproduction Version)
$35.99
  • US Version
  • ✅【High-Quality Cards】New reproduction version.Extensive testing before shipment to ensure product quality and card stability.
  • ✅【High-Quality Cards】New reproduction version.Extensive testing before shipment to ensure product quality and card stability.
  • ✅【Compatibility】Compatible with NDS, NDSL, NDSi, NDSi LL/XL, 3DS, 3DSLL/XL, New 3DS, New 3DS LL/XL, 2DS, New 2DS LL/XL any system.
  • ✅【Package included】1 PCS Heart Soul Silver Game Card.
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01/31/2023 06:21 am GMT

Part of the fourth generation of pokemon games, emPokemon SoulSilver/em is a 2009 remake of Pokemon Silver, which was a Game Boy 1999 release.

Released in 2010, emSoulSilver/em takes place in the Johto and Kanto regions of the fictional Pokemon world, and much like the original, features two regions instead of one, along with the objective of obtaining 16 gym badges as opposed to the usual 8. The player battles against the nefarious Team Rocket on their way to defeating the Gym Leaders and the Elite Four.

Although the original Pokemon Silver innovated significantly over the first Pokemon games, the remake remains largely the same as its predecessors. The game is still viewed from an overhead perspective, and players battle and train a team of Pokemon, teaching them moves as they level up. Interestingly, a feature was reintroduced –– the lead pokemon in the player’s party follows them around on the map, much like Pikachu did in Pokemon Yellow. The pokemon may even pick up items while exploring.

A minigame is also featured, known as the Pokeathlon, where the player can compete in a variety of events by using the touch screen. A nice addition also came in the form of GB Sounds, which can change the background music to match that of the original Pokemon Gold and Silver –– a good bonus for long-time fans looking for some nostalgia.

While the overall story and mechanics are nothing new to seasoned Pokemon players, this rendition, with its enhanced graphics and animations, really breathed new life into a classic game and is considered by many to be the best-ever Pokemon game of the time for early adopters and new players alike. Pokemon Silver is hard to beat, but emPokemon SoulSilver/em sits rightly on the list of the best Nintendo DS RPGs.

Pick up your copy on Amazon here.

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
$183.87
  • Gameplay with differing stories and missions depending on NPCs encountered
  • Handheld action RPG action where players engage in epic quests in undiscovered lands filled with dangerous monsters and untold stories
  • Connect locally with up to three friends in cooperative gameplay modes, and utilize wireless features that allow access to changing exclusive items and quests
  • Customization allowing you to create your own hero, changing your hair, face, body style and equipping them from a selection of over 1,000 in-game items including weapons, shields, armor and...
  • In-game treasure maps that reveal otherwise inaccessible special dungeons called grottoes, which can contain rare items or enemies
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01/30/2023 05:57 pm GMT

A much-loved game series since the late 80s, the ninth entry into the Dragon Quest series was released in 2010 and achieved perfect scores from publications such as Famitsu and 1Up.comemDragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies/em is set in a world where the Celestrians, a race of angels, protect the race of mortals, who live in the Protectorate.

For much of the game, the unnamed protagonist aims to find Fyggs, which are mystical fruit fed to the World Tree Yggdrasil by the Celestrians. Through this, they can summon a magical train called the Starlight Express and enter the realm of the Almighty.

The game mechanics are typical of a turn-based RPG, with the top screen displaying the map, player location, and battle animations and the bottom screen showing a menu display and the environment around the player. Players can be controlled manually or automatically, and assigned different classes (called Vocations), enabling the use of exclusive skills. Multiplayer is also included, where multiple players can journey together, but without progressing the story.

Having received high scores across the board, and being acclaimed for its straightforward but engaging story and enjoyable combat and exploration elements, emDragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies/em is not one to skip, being one of the best Nintendo DS RPGs money can buy.

You can find it on Amazon here.

Nintendo DS lineup
The Nintendo DS has a pretty impressive lineup of RPGs.

©Ryūkotsusei (talk) / public domain – License

The World Ends With You
$129.99
  • Modern art style created by a team of artists led by Tetsuya Nomura, world-renowned character designer of the upcoming Fabula Nova Crystallis project
  • Innovative Stride-Cross Battle System allows players to control two characters simultaneously, unleashing special attacks with the stylus
  • Collect a vast array of custom-designed pins, each with a powerful psychic ability that can be activated with the right touch or sound command
  • Customize characters with Shibuya's coolest fashions and exchange items with other players via Mingle Mode while experiencing an amazing soundtrack combining a fusion of musical influences from...
  • Battle with up to three friends in Tin Pin Slammer, an exciting and fast-paced mini-game, via local wireless connection
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01/31/2023 01:22 pm GMT

Released in 2007, emThe World Ends with You/em takes place in an alternate version of Shibuya, a shopping district in Tokyo, Japan.

The deceased are taken to a plane known as the Underground and participate in the Reapers’ Game, where they offer their most prized possession for a chance to be brought back to life or ascend to a higher reality. The player takes on the role of Neku Sakuraba, a recently deceased teenage boy who plays the Reapers’ Game in exchange for his memories. He’s paired with various companions over a period of three weeks, as he fights to beat the game and win back his life.

In terms of gameplay, emThe World Ends with You/em utilizes both screens, with Neku being controlled on the touch screen and his partners on the top screen. All players share the same health bar and battle enemies simultaneously. Neku‘s abilities are influenced by equipping pins and clothing, improving the player’s stats, and changing which actions are available. On the other hand, his allies are controlled using a variety of card game-based mechanics, which adds a different dimension to the game.

emThe World Ends with You/em was the top-selling DS game in the week of its release, and is loved by many for its vivid graphics, relatively complex gameplay, and elaborate development of the main protagonist’s character. Among the best DS RPGs, this one is not a title to miss.

Find it on Amazon here.

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
  • Interact with Castlevania by defeating evil spirits with the Magic Seal system, which utilizes Nintendo DS' touch screen
  • Exchange or trade acquired souls with other players via the DS wireless connection
  • Continues the storyline that first emerged in the critically acclaimed Castlevania - Aria of Sorrow for Nintendo GameBoy Advance
  • Introduces a variety of memorable new characters that help drive an exciting and dramatic storyline
  • Includes stunning graphics and special effects, as well as an all-new incredibly moving musical score
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The first of three DS releases for the iconic Castlevania series, emDawn of Sorrow/em was released in 2005.

Following on from the events of its predecessor, the GBA title Aria of Sorrow, the story centers around Soma Cruz as he meets a mysterious woman, Celia Fortner, who intends to resurrect the dark lord, Dracula. Realizing his journey to defeat the dark forces must continue, Soma journies to Celia‘s base, a replica of Dracula’s castle.

emCastlevania: Dawn of Sorrow/em utilizes many of the same gameplay mechanics as its predecessor –– mainly the Tactical Soul System. Through this, Soma can absorb enemy souls after defeating them (although this is down to chance), and these have different abilities depending on their type. They usually either afford special skills used for movement, allow the summoning of familiars, increase stats, or have uses in combat, particularly as projectiles. Each level gained improves Soma‘s statistics, like many RPGs, but there’s also a large selection of weapons available to use, either found, bought, or created from combining monster souls.

Even though emCastlevania: Dawn of Sorrow/em is similar to Aria of Sorrow in its gameplay and storyline, reviews of the game is largely positive, with the gameplay and enhanced graphics and audio being common points of praise. If you’re new to the series, or a long-time fan, you can’t go wrong with choosing emDawn of Sorrow/em as your next title. It’s surely one of the best Nintendo DS RPGs out there.

You can buy it on Amazon here.

emMario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story/em (Metacritic Score: 90)

Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story (Renewed)
$49.99
  • Authentic Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story
  • Does not come with original case or manuals. Cartridge only
  • Cartridge and label are in nice condition
  • Fully tested and guaranteed
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01/31/2023 01:26 am GMT

Apart from Paper Mario, the Mario franchise isn’t traditionally known for its contributions to the RPG genre. They staked another claim in the genre when emMario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story/em was released for the DS in 2009, which became the second best-selling Mario RPG behind Paper Mario, and even places higher than Paper Mario in some rankings.

While Nintendo did release Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time for the DS four years earlier, emBowser's Inside Story/em proved to be more popular and successful.

The story follows the trio on a mission to cure the Mushroom Kingdom of a disease known as ‘the Blorbs‘, with Bowser playing an unusually heroic role for the series after he inhales Mario and Luigi due to eating a magical mushroom. They fight against Fawful, a mad scientist hell-bent on absorbing the power of the Dark Star, an evil entity with untold power.

The gameplay was innovative, with Mario and Luigi being controlled on the bottom screen while Bowser is simultaneously controlled using the top screen. Most of the game consists of playing Bowser in the overworld with an overhead view while controlling Mario and Luigi inside Bowser’s body in a side-scrolling fashion.

The badge system used in Paper Mario and the previous Mario & Luigi title is used again, where a combination of effects such as stat increases can be created depending on which badges are equipped. Overall, battles are largely turn-based, with an attack’s effectiveness depending on timing and accuracy.

With its immersive storyline, extensive use of the DS’ touchscreens, and time-tested gameplay elements, emMario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story/em is a fun and fresh entry to the world of DS RPGs, and worth checking out.

Get it for yourself on Amazon here.

Chrono Trigger
$264.99
  • After 13 years, the role playing game of the ages returns with Chrono Trigger for the Nintendo DS
  • Crono, meets an adventurous girl named Marle, and accidentally travels back in time 400 years
  • Past, present, and future worlds collide as Crono tries to save the planet
  • Revised version of the groundbreaking Active Time Battle (ATB) System delivers exhilarating combat
  • Special Tech skills and powerful combos, known as Dual and Triple Techs, encourages strategic battle plans
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01/30/2023 03:56 pm GMT

Originally released in 1995 on the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System), emChrono Trigger/em was ported to the DS in 2008.

The DS version contains all the bonus material that was present in the PlayStation port, such as cutscenes and end-game content, plus some extras, like improved translation, a map screen, a monster-battling arena, and even two new dungeons to explore.

emChrono Trigger/em follows Crono and his friends as they journey through different time periods in an effort to stop Lavos, a parasitic extraterrestrial creature, from destroying the planet by harvesting its energy. Multiple endings are available depending on the choices the player makes throughout the game.

While containing many traditional RPG elements, such as turn-based combat, emChrono Trigger/em differs in that enemies are first encountered as visible entities on the map rather than random encounters being triggered by movement. The combat uses the ‘Active Time Battle’ (ATB) system commonly utilized in the Final Fantasy series, and characters can use physical and magical attacks, or “techs.”

Uniquely, emChrono Trigger/em also features cooperative techniques, where two or more characters’ techs can be used in conjunction for a more powerful effect.

Upon its initial release, emChrono Trigger/em received critical acclaim, being the second best-selling game of 1995 in Japan. Due to its nuanced storyline, high replay value, and innovative gameplay features, many critics even class emChrono Trigger/em as one of the best RPGs ever made for any console.

Given that, it deserves its first-place spot as the best Nintendo DS RPG of all time, and if you haven’t already played it, you should definitely try to find a copy.

You can grab a copy on Amazon emChrono Trigger/em.

The 7 Absolute Best Nintendo DS RPGs of All Time FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When did the DS come out?

The Nintendo DS was released in the U.S. in 2004.

What was the first RPG released for the DS?

The first RPG for the DS was Lunar Genesis: Dragon Song, which came out in November 2005.

What was the last RPG released for the DS?

The last RPG for the DS would be Pokemon Black and White 2, which were released in October 2012.

Which DS RPG was the best?

The DS had so many great RPGs to choose from, it’s hard to pick the best, but Chrono Trigger tops many lists, with games such as Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story and The World Ends with You following closely behind. The latter even received IGN‘s Editors’ Choice Award.

Realistically, there isn’t much difference in the ratings for all the games in this list, and all have received pretty much universal acclaim, so take your pick and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

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  • Metacritic Available here: https://www.metacritic.com/browse/games/genre/metascore/role-playing/ds?view=detailed
  • Den of Geek Available here: https://www.denofgeek.com/games/a-history-of-rpgs/
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_Fantasy
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nintendo_DS
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Nintendo_DS_video_games
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrono_Trigger
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castlevania:_Dawn_of_Sorrow
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_Ends_with_You
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_Black_and_White
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_Quest_IX
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon_HeartGold_and_SoulSilver
  • Nintendo Life Available here: https://www.nintendolife.com/ds/games/browse?genre=rpg&sort=date
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_%26_Luigi:_Bowser%27s_Inside_Story