Handheld gaming may be the domain of smartphone apps now, but even ten years ago, Nintendo was still king of that particular market. For the longest time, they had a chain of extremely popular gaming devices from the original Game Boy, to its Color upgrade, to the Game Boy Advance and the Nintendo DS, which is still the best selling handheld game console to date.
People were initially skeptical about the touchscreen controls and having to keep an eye on two screens at the same time, but great titles like Metroid Prime Hunters and Super Mario 64 DS put those worries to rest. The system caught on quickly and a slew of Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon titles kept the fires roaring, and updated versions such as the DS Lite and DSi kept interest going for several years more.
As great as some of these titles were, however, a few of them tend to get more praise than they deserve. Whether they were "games" that were more a casual novelty or simply flawed titles that gained popularity from brand recognition alone, there are several DS games that are just overrated. Not necessarily bad, mind you, just praised a little too much.
The worst part about those games, though, is that they overshadowed some far better titles that never really got much of chance to shine in the spotlight. Maybe it was because they didn't come directly from Nintendo that they were unfairly lumped in with the "shovelware" in the bargain bin, but they were far greater than most gamers initially judged.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Most Overrated DS Games (And The 15 Most Underrated).
30 Overrated: Nintendogs
Starting off the list, we have the game that started the "virtual pet" craze on the DS: Nintendogs. Not only is this game responsible for inspiring half the shovelware on the DS, but it received immense critical acclaim, including the 2006 Innovation Award from PC World and Best Handheld Game from the Associated Press.
Maybe petting a virtual dog was innovative back in 2006 (maybe), but the fact that this game was actually the second best-selling game on the DS is just something that cannot be overlooked.
29 Underrated: Meteos
No, we're not talking about the League of Legends player. We're talking about Meteos, the tile-matching puzzle game released for the DS in 2005. Inspired by Missile Command and (apparently) The Matrix, players match three or more blocks (meteos) of the same color to launch them and prevent them from destroying alien planets.
Critics loved the game and it reached number one in DS sales in the UK market during its first week, but after a Disney-themed sequel in 2007, people eventually forgot this charming and unique puzzle game. Fans of Lumines and Tetris need to check this out.
28 Overrated: Brain Age: Train Your Brain In Minutes A Day!
Though this is the game that inspired the other half of the DS' shovelware, Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! was both a commercial and critical success. In fact, this collection of math problems and Sudoku puzzles somehow managed to be the fourth best-selling game on the DS!
I suppose there is some merit to a game that claims to be healthy for the mind, though there has been controversy over the actual effectiveness of this game. Thankfully, these kinds of casual games have all moved over to the far more saturated mobile app market.
27 Underrated: Rhythm Heaven
As the name implies, Rhythm Heaven (known as Rhythm Paradise in Europe) is a rhythm game for the DS. Though critics liked the game and it sold very well in Japan, Western gamers weren't quite as sold on it. It's a shame, because they were missing out on one of the best rhythm games for the DS or any system.
The cute aesthetic and simple drum-like rhythm mechanics hide a deep and challenging game that few rhythm games ever reach. A must-have for people searching for the perfect beat.
26 Overrated: Radiant Historia
Now we finally move onto real games, and this first one may seem like an odd choice. Though many gamers may not remember it, Atlus' Radiant Historia was actually very well received when it was first released. Though the game does have a really great story, the way it handled the branching paths left a lot to be desired.
The battle system was great, but parts of the combat were pretty frustrating, as were the more convoluted puzzles in the game. It also required a lot of grinding, which got old very quick. Only for dedicated JRPG fans.
25 Underrated: Fossil Fighters
You may have seen this game in your local game store's bargain bin and dismissed it, but Fossil Fighters is better than your standard Pokémon clone. First off, every monster you catch, train, and fight, is a superpowered dinosaur, so that's already awesome.
But other mechanics, like the part where you have to dig and clean fossils, are also strangely engrossing and help the game stand out on its own. Sure, it might be a strange mash-up of Jurassic Park meets Pokémon, but honestly, isn't that what every 90's kid dreamed of?
24 Overrated: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor is another Atlus game developed for the DS, and once again the critics praised the game for its story and gameplay, as well as the replayability that the different endings provide. However, the combat wasn't very deep, especially for a tactical RPG.
And though it does have a pretty solid story, you still have to sit through an abnormally large number of walls of text, which is kind of a turn off for anything that isn't a visual novel. It's a pretty good game, but maybe not one of the best RPGs on the system.
23 Underrated: Lunar Knights
There were plenty of JRPGs on the DS that weren't called Pokémon, and Lunar Knights was one of them. Developed by Kojima Productions, this sequel to the GBA Boktai series already became a great game when it removed that annoying real-life solar sensor from the previous games.
The game's two leads allow players to switch from a long-range run 'n gun style to up-close hack and slash at the drop of a hat, both of which feel immensely satisfying. If you're looking for a fun anime-inspired action RPG on the go, try this one out.
22 Overrated: Planet Puzzle League
Planet Puzzle League is another in the Touch! Generations line of casual games started by Brain Age, so that should tell you how mild this game is. The game is your standard matching puzzle game that we've all seen a hundred times before. Despite that, it still got really high reviews from Destructoid and IGN.
It may have had some interesting combo mechanics and great online options back in 2009, but predictably, Planet Puzzle League did not have the same staying power of Dr. Mario or Lumines.
21 Underrated: Infinite Space
In the same year Bayonetta was released, PlatinumGames also unveiled Infinite Space, a curious mash-up of JRPG, space simulation, and real-time strategy. It had a very large scope for a DS game, as the extensive customization, intricate story, and near infinite amount of space to explore was impressive.
Maybe too impressive, as some players felt it was a bit much, and the steep learning curve did not help. Still, if you're in the mood for an epic space opera, and are willing to toil through the learning curve and interface, you'll find a truly rewarding experience.
20 Overrated: Pokémon Black And White
Now we're getting into some controversial territory here. Pokémon Black and White were our introductions to the fifth generation of Pokémon, and though critics praised the advancements in gameplay and the new Pokémon on offer, there were still some noticeable flaws.
While some Pokémon did look cool, others were downright ugly, and the "advancements" in gameplay were actually fairly minimal. At its core, it was still the same old Pokémon game we'd bought ten times before. And the supposedly "complex and stellar plot" may have been impressive for Pokémon, but it was only okay when compared to other JRPGs.
19 Underrated: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
Many people forget that there was once a time when GTA was available on Nintendo. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars may have been a portable game, but it had all the intensity and mayhem the series was known for. Nearly every critic loved the game, and it is currently the best reviewed DS game on Metacritic.
Despite critical praise, it was forgotten after only a few years. The controversy over the dealing mechanic and general intensity probably also hurt sales on the otherwise kid-friendly system. Still, if you want some classic GTA action on the go, check this one out.
18 Overrated: The World Ends With You
The World Ends With You was unique among other JRPGs of the time (and even those of today), but it's definitely not the best. This urban fantasy action RPG was praised for its art style, soundtrack, and the hip Shibuya setting. However, it's clear that this game is a case of style over substance.
The battle system isn't necessarily bad, but it does take quite a while to learn. There's also the fact that the touch-screen controls weren't always the most accurate. The game can also feel painfully emo at times, which can put off quite a few gamers.
17 Underrated: Big Bang Mini
Have you ever played Missile Command and wished it were brighter and more colorful? That's basically what Big Bang Mini is, as you shoot incoming enemies with fireworks. This very stylish shoot 'em up boasted a unique art style and was well-liked by critics, but it was forgotten soon after its release.
It's a real shame, as the game was a truly visual feast. Not only did it have some amazing pixelated backdrops, but the original soundtrack was one of the best on the DS. Plus, any game that has you shoot clowns and dragons is pretty wonderful.
16 Overrated: New Super Mario Bros.
Now, it may seem like an obvious target to call the best-selling DS game of all time overrated, but New Super Mario Bros. really is. Granted, it did introduce some cool new power-ups and the multiplayer was pretty fun, but other than that, it's the same old 2D Mario game.
In 2006, people may have been starving for a new 2D Mario game, but the stages here really aren't as memorable as what we saw in Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World. Honestly, if we were making a Top Mario Games list, this probably wouldn't even break the Top 10.
15 Underrated: Retro Game Challenge
There were a few retro game bundles on the DS, but Retro Game Challenge stands apart for being the best collection not based on any actual retro games. Unfortunately, the game sold less than 100,000 copies in North America, mostly because it's pretty weird.
You play as a kid in the 80s who is forced by Japanese comedian Shinya Arino to complete challenges in several original 8-bit games. At certain points, you even have to pause the game to look for tips in retro gaming magazines. A nostalgic experience for anyone who grew up with an NES.
14 Overrated: Mario & Sonic At The Olympic Games
At the other end of the spectrum, we have Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. This may not look like an overrated game, but Mario & Sonic is actually one of the best-selling titles on the DS and is responsible for starting an entire series.
Do I really need to explain why a game in which Mario and Sonic jump on trampolines and race in canoes isn't that good? Well, while the Wii game wasn't much better, the DS lacked the level of interaction between players that made those games passingly amusing.
13 Underrated: Advance Wars: Days Of Ruin
The Advance Wars series as a whole doesn't get enough recognition today, and Days of Ruin doubly so. This game differentiates itself from the rest of the series with it's darker atmosphere and brand new independent storyline, which upset some of the fans.
Despite these changes, the gameplay is still largely the same simple, turn-based tactics the series was known for. As with all great strategy games, the real star is online multiplayer, which worked better than any other DS game at the time. Sadly, there hasn't been another Advance Wars since this game's release.
12 Overrated: Kirby: Canvas Curse
Now here's a game that tried it's best to make use of the DS' touch-screen controls, only for it to blow up in its face. To be fair, Kirby: Canvas Curse is a pretty good and creative platformer. There's just one main issue: it exclusively uses stylus controls. There is no option to switch over to the D-pad and buttons.
Despite that, critics everywhere loved the reinvention of the platformer, and 1UP even called it "the DS's first great game." But honestly, just because you're doing something different doesn't automatically make it a masterpiece.
11 Underrated: Electroplankton
Before developer indieszero made Retro Game Challenge, they created this curious interactive music game. Electroplankton allows players to interact with animated plankton, each one producing a different musical note. Though critics loved it, the larger gaming audience seemed to ignore the game.
Maybe it's because this isn't really a "game" so much as it's a musical novelty for the DS, but it is still a truly fantastic one. All it takes is a few minutes of messing around, and soon you'll be making some genuinely mesmerizing songs.
10 Overrated: The Legend Of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Again, this is another very controversial choice, putting a generally well-regarded Zelda game on this list. But the fact remains that too much praise was given to The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass' touch-screen controls in a game that honestly felt like it should've stuck to the traditional button controls.
Again, I'm not saying this is a bad game. As far as portable Zelda games go, this is one of the best. But they should've limited the touch-screen to path drawing and notetaking and focused on creating a larger world and more dungeons to explore.
9 Underrated: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
There were actually quite a few adventure games on the DS, but apart from Capcom's Ace Attorney series, none of them were really popular. One of the best was Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (also developed by Capcom), in which the recently deceased Sissel must discover who he was and who ended him.
The puzzles are on the classic LucasArts-level of illogical absurdity and it has the same charm of the Phoenix Wright games courtesy of creator Shu Takumi. Filled with a very memorable cast of characters, this game is a must-play for adventure game fans.
8 Overrated: Dragon Quest IV
This is actually a remake of an NES game, so maybe Dragon Quest IV shouldn't be on this list. But when it first came out, this game won awards from both Famitsu and Nintendo Power, and even the DS remake was nominated by IGN for Best RPG of 2008. As far as JRPGs go, this really isn't that good.
You create your own custom hero and spend a short prologue with them before spending four chapters playing as the side characters. It's a bold move to put the hero on the sideline for that long, though maybe not a smart one.
7 Underrated: Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes
The Might and Magic series is a long-running one, having started back in 1996. When it was time to bring the series to the DS, developer Capybara Games decided to combine the RPG with some puzzle elements and they called it Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes. This became one of the best entries in the series, though almost no one played it.
Even though critics liked it and IGN nominated it for Best DS Strategy Game of 2009, sales were low. Fortunately, the game received an HD remake on Steam some years later, where it has seen far more success.
6 Overrated: Animal Crossing: Wild World
It may seem strange to some that a game where you collect furniture and plant trees was one of the top ten best-selling DS games of all time, but Animal Crossing: Wild World really was that popular. Game critics seemed to love it too.
It's a good game for what it is, which is Facebook if all your friends were replaced by bots that look like funny animals prone to randomly generated mood swings. And the need to always check in on certain days and times means it will eat a lot of your time.
5 Underrated: Elite Beat Agents
There were quite a few music games on the DS, but none of them beat Elite Beat Agents. The player taps and drags icons on the screen in tune to popular pop rock songs like "Walkie Talkie Man" while the Agents help people through tough situations by... dancing.
The game has a very Japanese sense of humor, and not everyone was into it (or the hit-or-miss soundtrack), but this is still one of the best rhythm games of all time. Not many games end with you blasting a meteor out of the sky with the power of funk.
4 Overrated: Mario Party DS
Mario Party games, as the name implies, are usually the epitome of party games, right up there with Mario Kart, Halo, and fighting games. Mario Party DS was also a major success in terms of sales, being the eleventh best-selling game on the system. Critics, however, weren't as impressed.
By this point, many people were feeling Mario Party fatigue. The mini-games felt like they've all been done before. This was more like a "greatest hits" than its own game. And without online play, there's really no need to choose this title over better, home console entries.
3 Underrated: Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure
Here's a game that looks like it belongs in the bargain bin, but is actually one of the DS' greatest hidden gems. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a 2D platformer puzzle hybrid game where you play the eponymous Hatsworth as he searches for the "Golden Suit," which grants the power to control the "Puzzle Realm."
While the top screen is devoted to Mario-like platforming, the bottom screen is reserved for a matching tile puzzle game. As you can guess, things can get pretty stressful pretty fast. A great game that could've only worked on the DS.
2 Overrated: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers Of Time/Darkness
There were a ton of Pokémon games on the DS, but not many people talk about the spinoff series Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. Unlike the main series, these games featured a human-turned-Pokémon exploring shifting dungeons while fighting hostile Pokémon. The sequels, Explorers of Time/Darkness, improved on the Wi-Fi and touch-screen controls and were best-sellers.
However, the constant dungeon crawling got really repetitive, and the roguelike gameplay may be off-putting to younger Pokémon fans. While the story is an improvement over the main games, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon may be better as an anime than a game.
1 Underrated: Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords
Clash of Heroes was good, but the first (and still the best) game to combine RPGs with strategy and puzzle elements was Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. Instead of selecting enemies and magic spells, combat is handled through a Bejeweled-style puzzle game that gets very competitive.
Though this game is almost forgotten now, it was a major hit with critics when it was first released. Puzzle Quest took what was a fantastic puzzle game and mixed it with some compelling RPG elements to create something even greater. This is easily one of the most addictive games on any platform.
Are there any other DS games you think get too much/not enough attention? Let us know in the comments.