Nintendo’s streak of excellent portable consoles continued after the Game Boy with the Nintendo DS.
The dual-screen console was never intentionally billed as the successor to the Game Boy, but thanks to backward compatibility with Game Boy Advance games, it was thought as a successor all the same. As the second best-selling console of all time at 154 million consoles sold, it’s also Nintendo’s most successful system of all time.
Released in North America in 2004, the Nintendo DS offered a lot of firsts for Nintendo’s portable consoles, including the first touch screen and wireless online gaming. Its legacy is one of helping many people discover touch screens for the first time and is often considered a strong predecessor for mobile gaming with smartphones and tablets.
A lot of the Nintendo DS’s success was due to its excellent lineup of games, including some of the best sports games ever delivered on a portable console. Let’s dive into them!
What is a Sports Game?
Sports games need little introduction as they represent a video game title that is in some part related to sports. That could mean anything along the lines of basketball, baseball, and swimming to more generalized games that cover a wide range of sports. You’ll see why the latter part of that sentence is important once you get into the ranked list.
These are not necessarily story-driven games but more about competing against the computer AI or a friend.
Was the Nintendo DS Known for Sports Games?
It’s safe to say that the Nintendo DS was known for a variety of video game genres, with sports being one of them. Sports was by no means the dominant genre available but it was certainly one that found a place on the console and sold millions of games covering a variety of sports.
Games like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games is rated as the 20th best-selling Nintendo DS game of all time, with more than 4.22 million copies sold. Let’s take a look at some of the best-ranked games on the Nintendo DS, according to Metacritic.
- Become a renowned Olympic champion via additional Wi-Fi features including online rankings.
- Compete in real Olympic Winter events, and over-the-top Dream Events, as you experience the glory of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics from anywhere in the world on the DS or DSi.
- Choose from a large assortment of characters from both the Mario and Sonic game universes, including Donkey Kong and Metal Sonic.
- Intuitive, easy to pick up and play controls utilizing stylus, buttons and D-pad become second nature as you go for the gold.
- Get your game on in single player and multiplayer modes, including the mission-based Adventure Tours Mode and wireless DS single-card download play supporting up to 4 players on one game card.
One of the best Olympic games on any console, emMario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games/em transports you to Vancouver, Canada for the 2010 Olympic Winter games.
Players of all skill sets and ages are welcome to take part in a variety of competitions ranging from moguls and figure skating to ice hockey. All totaled, there are fifteen events, all based on real-life Olympic events, available when you first boot up the game. Over time, players can qualify for “Dream Events” which add another twelve different game types to the game. On top of the different game types, you have more than a dozen different playable characters unlocked right from the start.
If you can suspend your belief that Mario & Sonic is a real-life look at the Olympics and enjoy the cartoonish nature of the game, it’s a wonderfully fun experience. The game’s 76 Metascore is thanks in part to its excellent controls and wireless capabilities of the Nintendo DS console. Even as it lacks the scale of its Wii counterpart, the fact that the DS port allows you to take these games in the car, on a train, or anywhere in your home makes it all the more reason to pick it up.
Pick up your copy of ememMario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games/em/em on Amazon here.
- Crouch for more speed, jump or grind over obstacles and pull off all of your favorite air tricks
- Gain boosts as you race down the steepest terrains in the world
- Choose from a wide variety of skateboards, all with different attributes that affect gameplay
- Create and customize your own character with the quick and easy with Create-A-Skater
- Challenge friends in split screen competitions and compete in a variety of modes - Race, Trick Attack and Slalom
The lone racing title in the Tony Hawk series of games, emTony Hawk’s Downhill Jam/em puts the emphasis on speed and outrunning your opponents rather than tricks.
The Nintendo DS version offers six tracks in total along with the ability to create your own character by customizing their appearance and choosing your own special tricks.
With excellent controls available, emDownhill Jam/em offers you excellent 3D graphics for the platform so you can see yourself perform flips tricks, reverts, and bertslides, all of which are optimized for both the platform and for racing downhill.
At its core, emDownhill Jam/em offers fans of the Tony Hawk series an opportunity to try their hand at a different style of skateboarding. Mixing racing and tricks together was well received by fans of the Nintendo DS platform as evidenced by its 76 Metascore. What’s more, you play so as to not let Tony Hawk down as a member of his “crew” racing against Antonio Segul’s crew.
FIFA has long been a staple of the video game soccer universe and bringing it to the Nintendo DS was a sure thing. With emFIFA 08 Soccer/em, the third such release for the console, FIFA hit its stride with a fantastic title that put everything you loved about home console soccer right into your pocket.
The Nintendo DS version did lose some of the teams, stadiums, and game modes as a result of its smaller cartridge size. However, none of that took away from just how much fun it was to have your favorite soccer heroes available to play anytime, anyplace.
Scored as a 77 on the Metascore scale, this rating is a result of the great fun you can have playing on the dual-screen setup of the DS. That’s not to say everything about the control scheme was perfect, it wasn’t. Fast moves require various button combinations that were not necessarily ideal for a portable console. However, with hundreds of teams available, and online play that was lag-free (when it was available), emFIFA 08 Soccer/em became a must-own for any DS owner
- Skate anything you can see!
- Sneak into spots only you can find - use ladders, ledges and wires to skate secret spots, find rooftop ledges, secret pools and hidden sewer tunnels
- Avoid security guards who will toss you out of the choice locations.
- Use skate checking on jerks that get in your way
- Compete in races and impress skaters!
Rest assured that you’ll be seeing more of Tony Hawk on this best-of list for the Nintendo DS. Developed by Vicarious Visions for the Nintendo DS, emTony Hawk’s Proving Ground/em was another handheld version of a console release.
The game itself requires you to begin a journey toward becoming a true hardcore skater. To do that, you have to compete in a variety of different categories including Hardcore, Neutral, and Career. As you complete your goals, you can earn money which can be used to fix up your skate park. Adopting some moves from its console siblings, motions can be entered on the touchscreen and these gestures result in tricks playing out in real-time throughout the game.
If there’s any disappointment in the Nintendo DS version, it’s the removal of the open-world design that became a staple of the home console Proving Ground title. Of course, the removal is due to the memory size of the Nintendo DS cartridge so, while understandable, it’s still disappointing. However, the game still has enough tricks up its sleeve to pull out a 79 Metascore.
- New Single-Player Game Modes— With new Touch Screen swing and putting controls take full control of your swing during training and challenges in Tiger Challenge mode, then take on the best PGA TOUR...
- Take on 16 Pros—Featuring the greatest PGA TOUR pros, including Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, and Vijay Singh, plus four female pros, including Annika Sorenstam and Natalie Gulbis.
- Eight Championship Courses—New licensed courses include Pebble Beach, St Andrews, TPC at Sawgrass, and more.
Coming a long way from the original Tiger Woods game that hit store shelves when the Nintendo DS was first released, emTiger Woods PGA Tour 08/em is a far more refined and infinitely more fun game to play.
That shows thanks to the 81 Metascore and a host of positive user reviews. With this release, Electronic Arts went back to the basics and threw away everything bad about the original release and updated it with a swing mechanic that’s vastly improved and works really well with the DS stylus.
In fact, the whole game has been redesigned to work with the stylus, and oh, does it work well! Sure, you have the touchscreen and can use your finger but you’ll get the most out of this game with the stylus.
Of course, anyone who wants a more “basic” golf game can opt to go with a “tap” to start your swing and another “tap” to start your downswing. It’s a great opportunity to blend the best of both worlds and give DS owners a choice to find what works best for them.
Can you beat Tiger Woods at his own game? Now is your time to pick this title up on Amazon here.
Tony Hawk showing up three times on this list is a major testament to not just the series overall, but how dedicated the developers were to the Nintendo DS as a console. Along with its excellent 81 Metascore, emTony Hawk’s American Sk8land/em can also wear a crown as the first Nintendo DS game to release with support for online gameplay.
The game itself focuses on a young skateboarder from the Midwest who, after being approached by Tony Hawk, looks to learn the tricks of the skateboarding trade in Los Angeles.
The top screen of the Nintendo DS helps you follow along with the main gameplay and plot line while the touch screen provides an overhead map of the area you are currently skating in. The touch screen is also home to your trick buttons so you can easily pull off special moves. In online mode, players could play a variety of different game modes including a Score Challenge, Trick Attack, and Combo Mambo. Many critical reviews as well as user scores dubbed emAmerican Sk8land/em one of the best games ever released for the DS.
- 60 Frames Per Second Double the frame rate and over 100 new animations deliver more responsive, intelligent and realistic physical action
- Be A Pro Pick a professional player or create a player and test your ability. Master positioning, improve your attributes and develop into an elite player. Co-operate with up to three friends fixed to...
- Real-Time Feedback
- Penalty Shoot-Out Mode New shot animations add a variety of new shots to your arsenal to strike the ball past the goalie
- New Slide Tackles Defenders now have the ability to execute slide tackle to interrupt passes or block shots in addition to winning challenges
Following up on the brilliance of FIFA Soccer 08 was a tall order, but Electronic Arts released emFIFA Soccer 09/em and took everything great about the previous game and made it better.
There was no question after its release, quickly earning an 84 Metascore, that it is one of the must-own sports games of the Nintendo DS. Whereas the 08 version of FIFA ran at 30 frames per second, the developers managed to squeeze out 60 frames per second the following year without compromising any other aspect of the game. The result is a wonderful update to the graphics engine and a game that’s just downright a blast to play.
There wasn’t a similar leap in overall gameplay year over year, but that’s okay, as EA didn’t have to break something that wasn’t broken. Instead, they added a “Be a Pro” game mode, allowing you to play an entire season on a team as a single player. Add in this new mode plus online multiplayer, support for local wireless gameplay, and the best soccer experience you can find on a portable console and you have the best sports game ever released for the Nintendo DS.
The Nintendo DS was a formidable console during its lifespan and that’s shown as a result of its huge sales volume. While it may go down best remembered for its Mario titles and Nintendogs, there’s no question that sports games played a huge role in bringing a dedicated home console audience into the portable world.
For a console that prided itself on having something for everyone, both hardcore, and casual gamers alike, these sports games represent some of the best the DS had to offer.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©iStock.com/fiorigianluigi.