The Nintendo DS received an immediate commercial and critical success, not only because it was the best-selling handheld Nintendo device ever but also was the home to some of the absolute best Nintendo platformers of all time. It even surpassed the expectations of its creators, who thought it would be a gimmick compared to their Game Boy Advance and the Gamecube.
All who bet against the DS kept questioning the viability of two screens on one device, the purpose of the touch screen, and the need for the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection. However, these were the very features that pushed Nintendo DS to success. The features inspired developers to create one of the most excellent game libraries on Nintendo devices.
Here are the Absolute Best Nintendo DS Platformers of All Time.
New Super Mario Bros (2006) – Metacritic Score 89
New Super Mario Bros is an action-adventure platformer featuring Mario and Luigi, released in 2006 for Nintendo DS. It was famous for being the first side-scrolling 2.5 D platform since 1992 when the previous one premiered.
The plot revolves around Princess Peach. Bowser Jnr kidnaps her, and Mario/Luigi chase after them to save her. Throughout the different worlds, Mario/ Luigi fights off Bowser and Bowser Jnr’s father in his various forms until at the end of the game when they face off in the ultimate battle between Bowser, Bowser Jnr, and Mario/Luigi.
The gameplay emulates other classic best Nintendo DS platformers and builds upon them to add a contemporary, nostalgic feel. Jumping, dashing, and Mario movement work using traditional controls. Additionally, a touchscreen option is present for activating stored items. New Super Mario Bros is also the first 2D game to feature the wall jump function that was only available in 3D games. The jump function allows Mario and Luigi to get to new areas by bouncing off the side of any wall and escape from a pit. Other new power-ups in the game are Blue Shell which allows Mario to slide like a Koopa Shell; Mega Mushroom enlarges him to five times his size, and Mini Mushroom shrinks him to half his size.
The game contains eight worlds with secret alternate paths and thus gives one enough space to explore new fun and collect power-ups. It stands out from its sequels because it reuses many DS assets of Super Mario 64 and has many more enemies and other 3D features in 2D forms.
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- New moves. New Super Mario Bros. expands Mario's arsenal of moves to include some very powerful advanced techniques.
- Run, jump, and stomp your way through raging volcanoes, tropical islands, snow capped peaks, and unimaginable challenges!
- Grab a Mega Mushroom and grow to incredible proportions, or smash through your foes in a blue Koopa shell.
- There are two multiplayer modes in New Super Mario Bros. Mario vs. Luigi and Minigames. In Mario vs. Luigi mode
- New power ups. You'll find classic power-ups like the Super Mushroom and the Fire Flower in the game
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005) – Metacritic Score 89
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, produced in 2005 by Konami, is rated as the best-ever handheld game within the Castlevania Series. The Castlevania series originates from a classic Symphony in the Night with horror movie villains and eerie environments.
It applies the Nintendo DS side-scrolling feature, dual screens, and crisp graphics in the hunting of vampires in a fashion that will leave a fantastic impression.
The storyline is a continuation of the other Castlevania sequels. Soma Cruz is chosen to inherit Dracula’s throne but defies this destiny and chooses to fight off the forces of darkness. A year passes, and rebels try to crown a new dark lord. Soma Cruz again returns to the battlefield to stop it from happening by defending Dracula’s castle.
The gameplay follows the core mechanism that borrows heavily from the Super Metroid. It applies tactical soul features where Soma Cruz can absorb enemies’ souls and power. In this game, however, he can upgrade his abilities by acquiring multiple copies of the same soul. A new feature is the Magic seal system, where the player must draw a seal on the touch screen to trap defeated enemies and bosses; otherwise, the enemies regain their health and continue to fight.
Castlevania Dawn of Sorrow boasts good graphics, gameplay, music, sound effects, and just enough use of the touch screen. There is a big castle to roam in and fight all kinds of monster souls. It is about everything you could ask for on a handheld game with a Castlevania title.
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- 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
Kirby: Canvas Curse (2005) – Metacritic Score 86
Kirby: Canvas Curse is the first game in the Kirby series released for the DS platform by Hal Laboratory in 2005. The developers used the magic of the touchscreen to create a unique experience. For the first time, the player had the power to draw their roads and platforms with a stylus.
The story starts with a witch, Drawcia, who appears from a strange portal in the sky of Dreamland and casts a spell turning the place into a world of paint. Kirby chases the witch into a land of art and tries to challenge her, but she uses magic to transform Kirby into a limbless ball. Drawcia escapes, and a magical paintbrush appears to help Kirby in his quest to find and defeat Drawcia and restore Dreamland to its original state.
The gameplay is unlike any traditional DS video game because it uses the stylus exclusively. The DS stylus is the magical paintbrush that guides Kirby through the quest. The stylus draws a rainbow line that Kirby rolls on and taps him to do a high-speed roll. The rainbow lines can also create bridges and walls for protection. Kirby can defeat enemies by dashing into them.
The general feel of the game is good. The graphics are stimulating and colorful, which you would expect from an entry-level Kirby game. The music is upbeat, and previous songs inspire the sound tunes in the series.
The reception of the game is good because it provides just enough thrill that one would expect from a DS game.
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- Control Kirby's magic wand with your DS stylus
- Draw paths and stun enemies as you guide Kirby through an adventure spanning seven massive worlds
- Control Kirby's speed and help him avoid danger with your stylus - Draw loops to make him speed up, make ramps to jump danger, and draw walls to block laser beams and cannon blasts
- Touch enemies to stun them, then tap Kirby to dash into them and copy their abilities -- turn into Wheel Kirby, Fire Kirby, Stone Kirby, and many more
- More modes than you can swallow! Try tough challenges in all seven worlds, take on bosses in unique battles, or play mini-games.
Super Mario 64 DS (2004) – Metacritic Score 85
Super Mario 64 DS premiered in 2004 as the first game in the Mario series for the Nintendo DS and the first 3D Mario game for a handheld console. It comes as an enhancement of the Super Mario 64 storyline, gameplay, and graphics. It also features Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario as players, in addition to Mario. Each of them has unique skills and abilities.
Bowser lures Mario, Luigi, and Wario to the palace by forging a letter by Princess Peach inviting them for a cake. Yoshi is left behind sleeping on the roof but is soon awakened by Lakitu Bros after discovering that the others have not yet arrived. Yoshi goes to the castle, where he discovers that Bowser has kidnapped the Princess and the Power stars. He investigates the case, collects the power stars, and rescues Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi. The four continue on the journey collecting power stars until they rescue Princess Peach.
The gameplay allows the player to switch between each of the four characters in a 3D platform. Each of the four is important in the challenges, which include defeating bosses, gathering coins, solving puzzles, and racing opponents. Power-ups resemble hats, flowers, or mushrooms and give players different abilities but fall off when the player is hit. The screen is divided into two: the top screen shows the regular game, and the lower one shows the maps and touch controls. Further, the game contains 36 mini-games that open when one catches rabbits in the main game.
Super Mario 64 DS maximized analog control in a 3D environment and became a significant update to a classic game.
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- Battle up to three friends in Wireless Versus mode, which can be played with only one Super Mario 64 DS game card
- Play and win fun touch-sensitive mini-games
- Collect the 150 Power Star Bowser hid on the castle grounds
- Play as Yoshi, Mario, Luigi or Wario -- each has their own unique abilities and you'll need them all
- In Adventure Mode, you'll control the four friends by using the stylus on the touch-screen
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (2006 – Metacritic Score 85
Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin was developed by Konami in 2006, coming after Dawn of Sorrows in the Castlevania series. It is the first game in the series to feature cooperative multiplayer. The list of best Nintendo DS platformers wouldn’t be complete without it.
Portrait of Ruin has a setting of Europe in World War 2 and introduces new protagonists and antagonists into the series.
The story takes place in the Castlevania universe and features a Battle between the vampire hunters from Belmont Clan and the chief vampire Dracula. The Dracula Castle was in Europe in 1944. The Villain in the series is Brauner, with different paintings acting as portals to new regions and features outside the castle. The gamer has control of Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin, both vampire hunters. These two come across Brauner’s art, and since they cannot destroy it from the outside, they travel to the world within. The aim is to defeat Brauner and Dracula.
The gameplay features a partner system where the gamer can switch between the two heroes and utilize each one’s best abilities in battle. There is also the option for combo attacks for greater power. Brauner’s paintings represent different worlds, including misty towns and the Egyptian desert. The duo learns new skills and gains new items and relics as the game progresses.
The Portrait of Ruin is different from the previous entries because of its unusual level structure. It is, therefore, a good option for anyone who seeks anime-style art, character-switching mechanics, various locations, and the Belmont whip.
If you are up to bringing Brauner and Dracula to their eventual end, pick your copy here.
- In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, players take on the role of Jonathan Morris and Charlotte Aulin.
- Evolving the action-adventure gameplay that has been the series' trademark for 20 years, Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin lets players switch freely between Jonathan and Charlotte.
- The game has two different endings. Both endings involve the prevention of Dracula's resurrection, however only one actually involves the defeat of Brauner.
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (2008) – Metacritic Score: 85
Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia came out in 2008, following in the paths of its predecessors Dawn of Sorrow and Portrait of Ruin. In this version, the gamer plays as a member of Ecclesia, a group sworn to defeat the forces behind Dracula. It introduces a new attacking method, Glyph attack, that combines 100 different ways. It has 20 explorable areas, more than any other in the series.
The game is set in the 1800s after the vanishing of the Belmont clan. Several organizations come into place to prevent the eventual return of Dracula, but the Order of Ecclesia stands out. Shanoa is chosen by the order’s leader, Barlowe, to lead the Dominus. Shanoa’s friend Albus steals the Dominus glyphs, and she loses her memories and emotions. The pursuit involves her going to retrieve them. Albus kidnaps villagers, and Shanoa goes through the different levels to save them and regain Dominus. The game ends with the defeat of Dracula, who was brought back to life by Barlowe.
The Glyph gameplay system allows Shanoa to collect Glyph symbols when she defeats the enemies. The symbols give her unique abilities and powers. Shanoa uses the glyphs union method to attack the different challenges.
The game features other side quests aside from the main one. After completing the game, Other features will appear, such as online play that allows the trading of items and playing head-to-head.
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- Intense side-scrolling action gameplay as you quest to collect elements that will help you in your quest against Dracula
- Explore all-new outdoor areas from the forests to the ocean
- Compete head-to-head via the Nintendo DS Wi-Fi Connection
- Sell and buy items and equipment you have found while playing with other players utilizing Nintendo DS Wi-Fi Connection
- Utilize multiple abilities and attacks simultaneously with the all-new Glyph attack system
Shantae: Risky Revenge (2010) – Metacritic Score 85
WayForward developed Shantae: Risky’s Revenge in 2010 as a second installment to the Shantae Series. It is a hair-whipping action thriller with thousands of animation frames and multi-spirit bosses. It follows the life of Half genie Shantae through forests, deserts, and dripping labyrinths as she fights off evil and transforms into a powerful creature.
The story is set in an annual Relic Hunters expo where Risky Boots and her Pirates crash and steal a magic lamp encased in stone. Shantae, the town’s guardian, tries to fight off Risky but fails. The town is in disarray, and Shantae goes after Risky boots to stop her plot. She has to find three magical seals to release the lamp’s magic. The final battle is a face-off between Shantae and Risky, where she defeats her as Risky’s castle collapses on her.
The gamer controls Shantae in her quest to destroy Risky Boots. Shantae’s abilities include whipping her enemies with her hair and using magic to carry out attacks. Shantae goes through each stage by acquiring transformation spells activated through belly dance. The new powers allow the gamer to get to new areas. The ending for each game is different based on the time taken and the items collected.
The game holds up well and offers mid-length Metroidvania experiences. Risky Revenge applies classic gameplay, controls, and a basic map system. It, however, enjoys better dialogues and more enemies.
If Shantae: Risky Revenge fits your preference for the best Nintendo DS platformers, buy it here.
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