The Top 10 Best Nintendo DS RPGs: Role Playing At Its Finest On The DS
RPGs have gone through quite a metamorphosis over the past five years. Console RPGs are almost uniformly giant, big budget affairs. For those whose heart yearns for the classic, low-fi role playing games of the past, there's good news: the Nintendo DS has become one of the great repositories of JRPGs. Featuring both remakes and highly original content, these top Nintendo DS RPGs are enough to win over any fan's heart.
Featuring two huge franchises, a picture perfect remake, an indie darling, and some bad ass hipsters, this list of Top 10 DS Roleplaying Games has something for everyone. Portable gaming has come a long way since the days of the monochrome GameBoy and these titles prove it.
10 - Contact
Created by Suda 51's Grasshopper Studios, Contact is an innovative Nintendo DS RPG which explores the roles of agency in video games. Director Akira Ueda presents a rather uninspired top-down action RPG with one glaring difference: you, the player, are an integral part of the story. From the very first scene, you are initiated into the world as an outside user making contact with another dimension with your Nintendo DS.
Your main partner throughout the game is the Professor. He urges you to take control of a stranded teenager named Terry to do battle with his enemies. The game is unclear as to how subtle your influence on the young Terry is, but by the end of the game it raises questions as to how much control we have over our own lives and the degree to which it is moral to influence another person's behavior.
If you're not interested in the philosophical aspects of the relationship between gamer and game, you'll still have plenty to enjoy with Contact : although the battle system is not terribly engrossing, your interaction with NPCs and the job system can be very entertaining.
9- Pokemon Gold/Silver
There's not much to say about the Pokemon series: you know if you love it or not. Although each successive iteration has had additional complexities added, the basic formula has remained the same since the series was first released: capture adorable monsters and put them into battle around the world.
The series is no longer the cultural phenomenon it once was, but fans looking for the best Nintendo DS RPGs don't have to look too far: Pokemon has a lot going for it. In addition to the exploration aspects, players might just find themselves emotionally attached to their fuzzy-wuzzy companions. When you name, breed, and spend time with absurd chimeras like Chimchar the fire monkey you might be dismayed to find out you actually CARE about the personality-less little buggers.
Won't stop you from using them in a digital cock fight, though.
8 - Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
Fans of Rogue-likes such as Nethack and Stone Soup will love the Shiren the Wanderer series. Having a dungeon crawl that you can take on the bus or train with you is great enough, but this remake of a decade-old SNES game adds a unique feature: the ability to interact with other players.
Now, Shiren is far from an MMO. But when your character dies, he can send out an SOS and another player using the wireless network can traverse the dungeon and rescue him. This ensures your character won't restart from the beginning at level 1 and allows for deeper exploration of the dungeon.
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren The Wanderer understands that gamers are mercenary, however: for rescuing a character, they can receive loot and gold for their efforts. Whether you're running the game all the way to the bottom or playing paramedic for cash and prizes, Shiren the Wanderer is definitely one of the top Nintendo DS role playing games available.
7- Chrono Trigger
A near perfect port of one of the most beloved games of all time, Chrono Trigger is one of the DS's best RPGs, no matter when it was originally released. If you don't know what CT is all about, I won't explain it here. Just rest assured that is one of the Square's most beloved SNES RPGs.
What makes this one of the greatest DS role-playing games is how much attention was lavished onto it. Although the DS's speakers make the soundtrack a bit tinny, if you use earphones the classic music is note-perfect. It even has bonus areas which make use of the long lost missing tracks that could only be found by hacking the original cartridge.
Casual fans will love the fact that this all-time great is available on the go and hardcore RPG fans know this is a must-have due to the extra endings and story scenes added in. Yes, they're canon. No, I don't know if that means Square is considering a sequel.
6- Disgaea DS
Atlus's hardcore strategy RPG is several hundred hours worth of gaming on a small little cartridge. A remake of the popular PS2 game, players take a light hearted romp through the underworld as they quest to become the unopposed ruler of the land.
Featuring a stunningly deep battle system, a difficult to master job-based levels system, and hours upon hours, Disgaea DS is no joke. What makes this one of the top 10 best Nintendo DS games is how much is included into such simple gameplay. The tactical combat completely blows out its competitors and will leave gamers with more bang for their buck than just about any other title on the list.
5 - Etrian Odyssey Series
Okay, so, there's actual three games, with the third in the series released in September. However, they are all enough alike that it would be a waste to place them all separately on the list. The Etrian Odyssey games are throw back to the old school RPGs. Featuring blisteringly difficult turn-based battles and confusing dungeons, this is a roleplaying game for the pros.
All of the games feature minimal story and plenty of battles. Master inventory management, grind away levels, and for God's sake, make a map.
Don't be fooled by the cutesy anime characters, you're not going to see a lot of comic mishap or precious little romances: just hardcore RPG action. Hours of throwback gameplay make the Etrian Odyssey series one of the best DS RPGs for sure.
4- Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story
The Mario Brothers have a surprisingly storied history as role playing game stars. In their latest outing, the brothers are joined by their arch-nemesis as the two alternate between their own adventures in this new Nintendo designed RPG.
Explaining the game is harder than it should be: long story short, Bowser inhales all of the Mushroom Kingdom, including Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach. Fortunately, Bowser's insides are set up like a side-scrolling adventure rather than a normal biological system. While Mario and Luigi galavant about the Koopa King's insides, Bowser is on his own quest to retake his castle from the magician Fawful.
Absurd, right? But the joyfully imaginative game quickly grows on the player. Nintendo has made the villainous Bowser one of their most endearing characters over the past few years and this starring turn from the King of the Koopas is a welcome turn. The Bowser portions makes up for the often frustrating Mario and Luigi platforming segments.
Stay tuned through the ending: old school nerds who fell into the Nintendo sticker book traps back in kindergarten will feel a sense of nostalgia when the gloriously painted still images are displayed.
3 - Final Fantasy IV
More than just a port of the classic SNES RPG, Final Fantasy IV on the Nintendo DS is a complete remake. Featuring completely 3D graphics, it really pushes what the DS can do, performance wise.
Of course, at the end of the day, it is still a portable: you're not going to see much better than Final Fantasy 7 caliber graphics, but the changes don't stop there. The story is retranslated, the music remastered, and the battles rebalanced. Even for fans of the original, it is almost an entirely new experience.
The magic of experiencing something old and comfortable and familiar in an entirely new way is almost indescribable. It is like slipping on a comfortable pair of slippers in a new home.
2- Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
Although Dragon Quest 5 comes in just above a Final Fantasy game in this list of the top 10 best DS RPGs, don't take that as an endorsement of one series over the other. The Nintendo DS remakes of the Dragon Quest games are on their own exemplary, but the fifth in the series is an interesting diversion from the classic series.
In DQ5, you play a character from childhood to adulthood. All the while, you are doggedly pursuing the family quest to gather the pieces of the heroes armor together to rid the world of evil. There are a few big twists along the way, but the biggest departure from classic RPG tropes is that half way through the game you get to choose a woman you want to marry.
This marriage will produce two children and from then on out DQ5 is a family affair. This game has all of the mainstays of the Dragon Quest series, but the clever storytelling and thwarting of the player's expectations at every turn makes this the best Dragon Quest game available on the Nintendo DS by far.
1- The World Ends With You
The very best Nintendo DS RPG comes from Square-Enix, but it isn't a big franchise: The World Ends With You is a modern take on the classic RPG system. Somewhat reminiscent of the Shin Megami Tensei series, players control hip high school students who are concerned with fashion, electronics, and shopping.
Players are able to control multiple characters at the same time, one attacking via button inputs while another being controlled with the Nintendo DS's touch screen. The battles can get hectic quick and they're often quite difficult. However difficult the game may be, the experience of using complicated techniques to control your party is enough to make the battle system a winner.
The story itself is remarkable. In addition to the already unusual setting, the protagonist is intentionally made unlikable. Far from the traditional hero, he is often apathetic and cruel throughout the adventure. Gamers will find The World Ends With You a new experience from start to finish.
For fans of Western-style RPGs, the DS is unfortunately a bit of a wasteland. Even venerable western RPGs like the Might and Magic series get a Final Fantasy make-over. It is a gap in the DS's library, but for JRPG fans, you have more than you can reasonably play in a year.
Do you have a favorite DS RPG you think deserves to be on the list more? Share your opinions in the comments section below. Also be sure to check out this list of great Vita downloadable titles if you're in the market for more on-the-go gaming!
Last updated on February 12, 2013
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