The Nintendo DS is often overlooked as a gaming device for more expensive consoles like the PS3 and 360. Thought of as a platform for casual gamers, the great games that come out for it rarely get their time in the spotlight. That said, I've compiled a list of ten of the platform's greatest games in 2010. If you consider yourself a gamer at all, you should do yourself a favor and pick up these games.
10. Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland for the DS is a much better adaptation of Lewis Carroll's book than Tim Burton's recent movie, fuzing a myriad of puzzles with exploration of the game's unique visual aesthetics. With charming characterization of the story's characters, the game does justice to the original story instead of bastardizing it with some vulgar 'dark' reinterpretation of the tale, not that there's anything wrong with subversive art.
Developed by French studio Etranges Libellules, Alice in Wonderland features simplistic, childlike visuals that elicit more emotion than all the expensive CGI of the movie. Unlike other games featuring Alice, this one puts you in control of the four supporting characters (McTwisp, Absolem, Chesseur and the Mad Hatter) who must guide her way through the game. If you've ever played The Lost Vikings you'll be immediately familiar with the game's mechanics. If that doesn't sell the game for you, I don't know what will.
9. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
Known in Japan as Final Fantasy Gaiden, or side story, The 4 Heroes of Light is Final Fantasy's return to classic RPG form, and a step away from the cinematic flare of the main series. Released in Japan last year, it only made its way to foreign shores and into the hands of waiting gamers late this year.
Like classic RPGs, enemy encounters are totally random, and the turn-based battle system resembles old school RPGs, but with a "Boost" action in place of mana points. The game also borrows a staple of western RPGs by allowing full customization of the characters' appearances through the equipping of armor and weapons. Like previous Final Fantasy titles, character classes can be defined through a job system.
Playing the role of a 14-year old boy named Brandt, the player forms a party consisting of four heroes (the classic Final Fantasy ensemble) to rescue a princess kidnapped by the Witch of the North. Though the quest is a tired old trope, the adventure is engaging thanks to the four main characters.
8. Super Scribblenauts
A sequel to the top-notch Scribblenauts released the previous year, Super Scribblenauts returns with more puzzle-based fun, allowing players to summon more objects than ever before to collect the Starite on each level.
As Super Scribblenauts is an actual sequel rather than an expansion pack, one of its new features allows you to add characteristics to summoned objects, like "fire-breathing Karl Marx". Super Scribblenauts also features an improved level editor for players who can't get enough of the game.
7. Sonic Colors
Sonic fans may be lamenting the series' demise with the release of each new spinoff, but Sonic Colors is one of the few games in the series that actually manages to reclaim Sonic by actually being fun to play.
Playing in three dimensions, Sonic Colors uses a similar move set to Sonic Unleashed, but plays way more fluidly than its predecessors, bringing back that exhilarating sense of speed that Sonic CD was known for.
Available on both Wii and the Nintendo DS, the DS version also features Missions, Time Attack and competitive multiplayer modes for wireless play.
6. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
Dark Dawn is a return to the Golden Sun franchise that takes place 30 years after the events of the previous game. With the world in peril once again, a new generation of heroes must rise up to face the threat.
Alright, so there's nothing particularly imaginative about the initial set up, but Dark Dawn is good where it matters: the character development. Although the dialogue is rather wordy, the localization team did a good job with injecting some much needed personality into each of the characters, making this one of the better written titles on the DS platform. The only real complaint I have with the game lies with its mute protagonist, though the NPCs more than make up for his silence.
Fans of the series will find themselves immediately at home with Dark Dawn's gameplay, which doesn't differ too significantly from its predecessors, which includes a return of the Djinn system. All in all, and despite its flaws, Dark Dawn is one of the best RPGs available on the DS.
5. Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem
The newly released Mario vs. Donkey Kong game is a match made in heaven. Like the previous MvDK games, Donkey Kong's up to his shenanigans again and this time isn't any different. Angry at not being able to win a Mini Pauline toy upon his visit to the Mini-Land amusement park, Donkey Kong flies into a rage and kidnaps the hapless Pauline, prompting Mario and his Mini Marios to set off and save her.
Playing like a somewhat simplified version of Lemmings, Mario must set up various obstacles and paths and create a safe passage for the Mini Marios to get them to the exit at the end of each level.
While the game doesn't offer too much of a challenge if you're just playing it for the story, it's still incredibly fun to beat the tasks and overcome the puzzles it provides throughout the main campaign. That's not to say it doesn't offer you a challenge, however — if you want, you can try to aim for collecting all the game's collectible items, a feat that requires both time, patience and skill.
4. Pokemon SoulSilver/HeartGold
Pokemon Diamond stole dozens of hours of my time when I'd first picked it up for the DS a couple of years ago. Two years later, and Pokemon threatens to do it again with the release of SoulSilver, a remake of the original Pokemon Gold and Silver on the Game Boy Color.
The new game even comes bundled with a Pokewalker pedometer that encourages you to get active in real life by earning rewards within the game. It certainly beats exercising with Wii Fit.
3. Professor Layton and the Unwound Future
Professor Layton and his young apprentice Luke return in a new adventure with all the humor and clever dialogue that made the original game a joy to play. Like its predecessor, and unlike most puzzle games, Unwound Future offers a wide variety of puzzles that are sure to occupy your time.
Answering a call from what appears to be Luke from ten years in the future, Professor Layton and present day Luke have to enter a time machine to travel into a grittier, darker London of the future where Professor Layton has apparently become a criminal mastermind, using time travel for his own nefarious ends. The duo must figure out what happened and undo the evil Professor's doings to prevent London's dystopian future from occurring. The story takes cues from the Back to the Future series and injects it with its own brand of wit and humor.
2. Dragon Quest IX
Dragon Quest IX is a long awaited ninth entry in the Dragon Quest series. Announced years before its release, Dragon Quest IX features the signature art style of Akira Toriyama, more famously known for his work on Dragonball.
With a new character creation process, players can now customize their characters with everything from gender to build and appearance. Like RPGs of old, you'll have to construct your whole party (which consists of four characters) in this manner. The heart of the game lies within its equipment system, which features everything from modern day clothes to plate mail–which only happen to be the more conventional items in the game.
Combat is done in classic turn-based fare, as you give orders to your characters and watch them execute their moves at the end of each turn. If that gets a little too tedious, you can activate the AI on your supporting characters to automate some of their actions.
While Dragon Quest IX, like previous DQ games, features some amount of grinding, the world remains interesting due to the sheer amount of content it has in terms of crafting, adventuring and questing.
1. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
You might question as to why you'd want to spend more time reading than playing a game, but when you're reading a story that's as good as the one Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has to tell, you'll be so lost in the narrative that you won't worry about the fact that it features more words than puzzles.
The game begins aboard an ocean liner, where you and eight other individuals have been forced to take part in a deadly game. The goal is simple: navigate your way through a series of rooms and find an escape, or die. The game takes inspiration from the Cube and SAW movies in more than a few ways, with bizarre traps punctuated by a psychological narrative.
Unlike so many other puzzle games, you're never bogged down by pixelhunts and the game remains engaging all throughout. It's also nonlinear in the sense that there are six endings for you to discover, so the game offers much in the way of replay value.