When I say I’ve played a lot of DS games, I’m not kidding. I’ve probably played more than 99% of the DS-owning community. As of right now, I own a whopping 85 DS games- and that’s not including 3DS titles, downloads, or the ones I’ve gotten rid of. So I generally know what makes an excellent game… and what doesn’t. That’s not to say I’m an expert, nor is the following list any kind of objective review. I’m sharing my favourite 10 DS games (mostly because I’m really bored today) and this is entirely my own biased opinion. (And shockingly, NO Zelda titles are on this list. I was not a big fan of either of the DS Zelda games.)

#10-Okamiden


The original Okami was a Playstation game that was later ported to the Wii. I ended up playing the Wii version, which I’ve heard is the better one because drawing with the paintbrush is much easier with motion controls than an analogue stick. This game replaced The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker as my favourite game. That was not an easy feat as Wind Waker was my first video game and the reason I am now a core gamer. A couple years ago or so, Capcom decided to revive the popular title with a DS sequel- Okamiden. Now, when compared to other DS games, Okamiden is phenomenal. But when compared to the original Okami, it feels like a cheap clone. You could tell they tried- they tried really hard to make a worthy sequel. But that was a hard act to follow, and they fell short in a big way. My biggest beef was the control scheme- moving around and fighting was all button controlled, but the paintbrush was all stylus. Since you’re using your paintbrush constantly, you either have to be fast at whipping it out, or uncomfortably hold it during the button-parts. Also, long stretches between save points (bad for a handheld, worse when the home console version had more frequent ones!), little freedom of exploration, and long-winded cutscenes. All this left me disappointed, but I still can’t deny that it WAS a good game, and especially impressive for a DS title.

#9-Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords


I tend to enjoy casual games almost as much as the more hardcore experiences. I used to avoid anything to do with puzzles like the plague because for years I thought I was crap at them. Then I played a DSiWare game called DodoGo and relised I was pretty darn good at puzzle-solving. I’ve been devouring the genre ever since and Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords is one of the best I’ve experienced. It combines Bejeweled-style match-three gameplay with an epic RPG. In a unique twist, you are not just matching gems as fast as you can, but fighting an opponent on the same board. Matching icons can either damage your enemy or collect mana for spells (or even net you a little gold and experience points). You must use smart strategies to manipulate the board to your advantage in order to defeat your enemy. Another nice feature is that you can make the game as hard or easy as you want, with optional time-limits and difficulty settings that can be changed at any time. Cutscenes are done with still images but the dialogue is charming and cleverly written. The end was pretty disappointing, but the journey to get there was thoroughly enjoyable.

#8-Plants vs Zombies


This is possibly the most widely known game on this list. Made for just about every current platform you can think of, this unique tower defence game is highly addictive and absolutely hilarious. I remember when I got it, I binged a 100% completion in exactly one week (granted there were some survival levels I had to look up strategies for because I kept getting annihilated). I’m usually not a big fan of strategy defence games (mostly because I suck at them) but this one I couldn’t put down. I probably don’t need to give a big schpiel about the gameplay because it’s basically like any other tower defence game (protect the base from invaders by placing stationary ‘towers’… or in this case, plants) but it has a lot of charm and comedy that most games of this genre lack. (Do yourself a favour and fill out the almanac… not so much to get the achievement, but to read the laugh-out-loud descriptions on each of the zombies).

#7-Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes


I’ve never played any other Might & Magic game. I have no idea what they’re about, and I’m told that this game has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the series in either story or gameplay. What I do know is that this is an amazing game in the puzzle/ strategy/ RPG genre. The closest thing I can compare it to is Puzzle Quest. It’s technically a match-three game, and kind-of a tower defence game, but defies all clichés of either genre. You get to choose which troops you take into battle, and are then given a random assortment of them to work with. You and your opponent take turns matching like-coloured soldiers to create attacks, walls, and combos that will do more damage and give you extra turns. While there is a certain helping of luck, this is far more strategy-based than Puzzle Quest, though feels more like a puzzle game than a tower defence game. You have to think several steps ahead and put on your best thinking-cap to get through this one. The RPG story-telling is cliché enough, but still well done. Like Puzzle Quest, cut-scenes comprise of still images, though that likely suits this kind of game best. My only complaint is that you switch between 5 different characters, and every time you’ve gotten strong, built up troops and gold, and gotten comfortable with your strategies, you’re given a new character and have to start at the bottom again, except that your opponents keep getting smarter and stronger. Overall, though, it’s good that they keep pushing you to think harder and harder about your strategies.

#6-Rune Factory 3


The title of this series has always stumped me. Runes are a very minor part of the game and there are no factories to speak of, but that doesn’t change the fact that this Harvest Moon spin-off series is incredibly fun and addictive. This was another game I binged in about a week’s time because I couldn’t put it down. While the Wii versions of the Rune Factory games are lackluster, each handheld iteration just seems to get better and better. I didn’t think they could make anything better than Rune Factory 2, but they did, and this game exceeded all my expectations. Rune Factory started out as an experiment by the Harvest Moon developers to celebrate HM’s 10th anniversary. It ended up so popular that it became its own successful franchise. For those unfamiliar, Rune Factory is a fusion of a farming/ dating sim and sword-swinginh RPG. You’re given a derelict farm and have to bring it to prosperity while defeating evil monsters. forging weapons, cooking, taming monsters (to help with farm work and dungeon crawling), and of course, getting married and having kids. My biggest problem is that up until Rune Factory 4 (coming out this summer), you’re forced to always play as a boy. So even though this game is very female-oriented, you still have to date and marry another girl. Always kind of awkward when you and your best friend are talking about your wives in public. -_-*

#5-Pokémon White Version


I don’t think I really need to explain much about Pokémon to anyone. We all know what it’s about and why it’s a phenomenon. The addictive ‘gotta catch ’em all’ and heavy strategy aspects make it a unique and exceptional series. White is one of my favourite installments and the only game other than Wind Waker that I have played through more than 3 times. I found its sequel to be a pretty massive disappointment, partly because too much was borrowed from the original and partly because of the unbalanced options for catchable pokémon at certain points in the game (NO ice types available before the dragon gym?? What??) but the first White managed an excellent experience that felt fresh while maintaining the best aspects of the series. I especially liked that there were no pokémon from previous generations until you beat the game. (I’d like to note that while many people thought the new pokémon were too bizarre, I rather liked a lot of them, which helped me get a lot more enjoyment out of the game than I otherwise would have). FINALLY YOU WERE GONE, YOU DESPICABLE GEODUDE.

#4-The World Ends With You


This game blew my mind. I don’t think I ever played anything so unique or bizarre as this. It’s an RPG that takes place in a modern city- Shibuya- and the plot will leave you with mouth agape by the end. Around every corner there’s insane twists that will make this a very hard game to put down. And speaking of very hard, that also perfectly describes the difficulty. Battles are real-time stylus controlled ordeals that test your speed and reflexes. While difficulty can be adjusted, you are greatly encouraged to try to play it at punishing levels. And once you finish the game, you can replay any chapter with additional objectives to meet. Meet the objectives and you get little additions to the already twisted plot. Finish every objective in every chapter and you get some new chapters to play. Mind you- that’s not an easy feat. I’m not shy about saying that I’m an RPG expert, and I got stuck on the extra objectives early on. If it seems I’m being kinda vague about what this game is exactly- that’s because I am. This is the kind of game where you want no spoilers- everything is a surprise and should stay that way. The art style is reminiscent of graffiti and the rap music soundtrack fits the mood and subject perfectly. In fact, I can’t find anything wrong with this game. It’s just that good.

#3-Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo Tales


I’m actually not huge into Final Fantasy. I played III on the DS and enjoyed it all right, as well as I on the GBA. I attempted to play IV on DS and it was disastrously bad. But judging from this game and Theatrythm, their spin-offs are top-notch. Don’t let the cutesy kid-friendly graphics fool you- this game is as hard as The World Ends With You. No, I lie- it’s harder. You play as an adorable little chocobo trying to save the farm (and the world) from an evil book. You do so by entering story books and playing the mini-games inside. There are also micro-games scattered about the map for you to try out (micro-games are optional whereas certain objectives of mini-games are essential for moving on). Performing well either unlocks new areas, advances the plot, or nets you pop-up cards. At certain pivitol points in the game you must duel opponents with your cards- a game which requires mostly luck with a certain wise selection of cards to use in battle. And to finish the game you must either be very lucky, or have excellent cards, making beating as many mini & micro-games as possible essential. The games themselves are quite varied, though most all will test speed, luck, and reflexes to the point where you’ll be screaming at the game. I’ve heard horror stories of the frustration this game is capable of causing. You have to have the patience of a saint and the skills of a demi-god to get all the pop-up cards. This game is defintely not for everyone, but it’s one that I can easily say is one of my top favourites- and one I’m very proud of having finished… even if I could only get about 87% of the cards.

#2-Harvest Moon: The Tale of Two Towns


Were this an objective review, this game would be at the bottom of the top 10. But since it’s not, I’m placing it in the esteemed 2nd position because I simply adore this poorly designed monstrosity. Harvest Moon has been around for a while. And you’d think that in about 15 years of making farming sims that they’d manage to get it right by now. Well, no. This game has a lot of poor design choices (shops being closed with ridiculous frequency, and upgrade system that will make you want to scream, and the annoyingly frequent cooking festivals) but it still somehow manages to be one of my all-time favourite games- certainly my favourite of the HM series and I have played nearly all of their handheld installments. The plot is fairly superficial, two towns on either side of a mountain are fighting and you have to bring them together by winning cooking competitions. There are two farms for you to move back and forth between- one in each town. One focuses on crops whereas the other focuses on animals. I can’t really put my finger on what it is exactly that I love so much about this game. It is perhaps one of life’s great mysteries. Sometimes you just have to have a guilty pleasure.

#1-Pokémon HeartGold Version


And finally at number one- my all time favourite DS game: Pokémon HeartGold. After the tragedy better known as Pokémon Diamond, I had all but given up on the Pokémon series. But since I had liked Pokémon Silver so much, I decided to give this remake one-last chance. It blew me out of the water. It retained everything that made the original Gold and Silver great while upgrading it, polishing it, and making a host of improvements and extras that has made it (in my opinion) the pinnacle of the Pokémon series. This is the game that inspired me to invest months in completing the national pokédex. After you finish the main game in Johto, you unlock the original Kanto region which makes it practically two games in one. There’s also so much to do that you can play for hundreds of hours. You have the pokéathalon, the bug-catching contest, the Global Trade Centre, the Safari Zone, etc etc. This game also really enables you to finish that pokédex as once you finish the main game, you unlock tonnes of pokémon from newer generations. Between the safari zone, the global trade station, and the swarms, you can really flesh out that ‘dex. AND THE POKÉWALKER. I know it was aimed at kids, but as an adult I had a blast with that stupid little toy. And finally a pokémon game with music non-offensive enough to my ears that I could actually play it with the sound on. I could go on and on gushing about this game, so I’ll just end the nerd rant here.