Find that extra pen and old charger, because it’s time to play the best DS RPGs ever made!
The DS is the most famous portable game system ever. It’s not just my view; it’s a fact, and a lot of great games came with this honor.
And the RPG was one type of game that the platform did better than ever before.
There are turn-based fights, demons, dungeons, and so many NPCs you could shake your stylus at them.
What other system lets you take so much exciting tactical action on the road, to a different country, or even under your desk at work?
Here are some of the best role-playing games for the Nintendo DS, in no particular order.
As you can see, there weren’t a lot of good games for the system, and many of them are still only available for that machine and haven’t been released again since.
- 35. Sands of Destruction
- 34. Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
- 33. Nostalgia
- 32. Knights in the Nightmare
- 31. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
- 30. The Dark Spire
- 29. Infinite Space
- 28. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
- 27. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters Of The Chosen
- 26. Contact
- 25. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
- 24. Final Fantasy Tactics A2
- 23. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
- 22. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
- 21. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes
- 20. Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard
- 19. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume
- 18. Magical Starsign
- 17. Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
- 16. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
- 15. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
- 14. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
- 13. Final Fantasy IV
- 12. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
- 11. Dragon Quest VI: Realms Of Revelation
- 10. Pokémon Black/White 2
- 9. Chrono Trigger
- 8. Suikoden Tierkreis
- 7. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
- 6. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
- 5. Dragon Quest V
- 4. Radiant Historia
- 3. The World Ends With You
- 2. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver
- 1. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels Of The Starry Skies
35. Sands of Destruction
In the grand scheme of things, Sands of Destruction doesn’t stray too far from many of the traditional gameplay elements that fans of Japanese RPGs have grown to love over the years.
However, the game still manages to add enough new twists to make it stand out from the crowd.
Sands of Destruction is probably right up your alley if you like well-designed RPGs that don’t try to do more than they can.
What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in charm and a story that keeps you interested.
34. Solatorobo: Red the Hunter
We really like the game Solatorobo: Red the Hunter. It was made with care and a lot of attention to detail. It has a long, well-written story, interesting fight mechanics, and a wide range of quest types.
The only bad things are that the sound quality sometimes drops, and some players might not like how easy it is.
Also, if you don’t like Japanese RPGs with a lot of words, this might not be for you.
But fans of the genre or people looking for something new and fun to do on their DS or 3DS shouldn’t wait any longer; they should find this game and enjoy it.
Nostalgia never strays too far from the more standard gameplay elements that have made Japanese RPGs so popular with fans of the genre, but it does add enough unique design elements to make it stand out from the many other DS RPGs available.
In fact, besides the fact that it can be a bit predictable at times, it’s hard to find much to complain about.
The real-life settings and fluid story-driven quest give RPG fans a lot to chew on, and the side quests make the main quest, which is already an epic adventure, even more so for those who choose to do them.
When you combine all of this with a very well-done traditional turn-based combat system and some very fun airship fights, you get one of the most refreshing RPGs to come out for the DS and a game that no RPG fan will want to miss.
32. Knights in the Nightmare
Knights In The Nightmare is a game made for a very small group of people. It is a game that almost takes pride in being too hard for most people to play.
By now, I’m sure you’ve already decided if Knights In The Nightmare is for you or not.
If you’re up for the task, though, you’ll find a beautiful, genre-bending game with almost endless ways to play, customize, and find content.
Knights In The Nightmare is a “hardcore” game, no doubt about it.
31. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time is a great game for RPG fans and anyone who wants to try out the unique Wii-to-DS connection.
It is a big step up from its predecessors on the DS and GameCube. If you have both platforms, you should definitely get the portable version.
It may be the first time a handheld game is better than its home console counterpart, so that alone is reason enough to buy it.
30. The Dark Spire
The Dark Spire is one of the hardest role-playing games on the Nintendo DS, and that makes it even more fun.
It was inspired by old computer RPGs like Wizardry. This game won’t hold your hand and be nice to you. Instead, it will kill you over and over again.
Around the same time, the Etrian Odyssey series, which was also made by Atlus, used the same first-person, dungeon-crawling style.
However, The Dark Spire is probably the deeper and more difficult game. If you like your RPGs to be as hard as possible and give you a lot of room to play around, you should check out this little-known gem.
29. Infinite Space
If you have the patience to explore its deeper parts, Infinite Space will keep you entertained for a very long time.
Even though the combat is interesting and tense enough to make up for how often it happens in the story, the most satisfying part of the game is buying and modifying ships.
You can spend hours just messing around with the different combinations of weapons and modules. Just make sure you have a pen and paper with you.
28. Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2
The best thing about Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 is that the real fun starts after the story is over. You’ll have plenty to do even after the credits roll because there are so many different monsters and skills.
Once again, Square Enix has made a fun adventure with a lot of ways for players to fight monsters and trade with each other, both locally and online.
You can’t help but wish that the adventure mode had been made with a little more vision, but it’s hard to find fault with it when you consider how much tournament play adds to the game.
27. Dragon Quest IV: Chapters Of The Chosen
The fame of Square Enix’s Dragon Quest series has grown around the world thanks to the praise for DQ XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age.
But since the series has been going for 36 years, there have been many critically praised classics.
Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen was first made for the NES in 1990. In 2007 and 2008, it was made again for the Nintendo DS around the world.
Chapters of the Chosen was well-received and was called a must-play for series and JRPG veterans. It might be hard to understand for newcomers.
Contact is a great example of how RPGs can break out of their typical molds and give players a truly unique experience.
If we only looked at how the game played, Contact wouldn’t be on this list. Combat is very simple, character customization is limited, and exploring dungeons is boring.
What makes Contact a unique (and fun) game is that the game itself is a way for the player to talk to each other.
You act through the main character Terry, the Professor, and Terry’s dog Mochi, who wants to be a cat. From the start, you break the fourth wall. It’s strange but a lot of fun.
The story of Contact is well-written and well-staged, so it’s easy to look past the game’s many problems. However, this game is not for everyone.
25. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Fire Emblem is now a hit with everyone. But how many people know where the story came from?
Or, rather, how the tale came back to life.
Shadow Dragon is a remake of the very first game in the series, Fire Emblem.
As a result, some of its mechanics and features feel old-fashioned.
For example, Marth’s journey to reclaim the land of Altea is a straight-forward story with no big surprises. And the strategy role-playing game is pretty simple, with only a few ways to change things.
Still, the map design, the different mission goals, and the thrill of trying to keep all of your units living at all costs so they don’t die and are lost for good make this a fun game.
24. Final Fantasy Tactics A2
When the Final Fantasy Tactics games were moved to mobile consoles, they lost something. But the toughness of it has not changed.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has a lot of different gameplay systems that all work together. It will take a lot of time to fully understand them all.
Controlling young Lucio Clemens as he is brought to Ivalice by an ancient grimoire, you must explore the land, finish more than 400 quests, and put together the strongest army ever.
This is a lot of fun to play thanks to the cool grid-based strategies you can use, the tactical battle system with a really unique Law system, and the tweaked Job System.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2 is a game that even the most serious tacticians will enjoy. But even gamers who like to take it easy will enjoy this one.
23. Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood
Why shouldn’t Sonic the Hedgehog have great RPGs like Mario and Luigi?
BioWare, the masters of role-playing games, made Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, which is a good sign.
And it’s clear. From the great turn-based combat to the different goals that force players to use all of the characters in the party, everything about the game is great.
Not to mention the smart way the touch screen and pen are used to do almost everything.
It might not be very interesting. But the great banter between these cheeky characters will be more than enough to get you out of Green Hill Zone and into the wild.
22. Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
Back to the beginning, once more.
Final magical: The 4 Heroes of Light takes us back to a time when role-playing games were set in magical worlds where the chosen ones were always going to save the day.
It takes a while for the four main players to figure out what their fates are.
But once they do, The 4 Heroes of Light really gets going with an amazing turn-based battle system that lets you store Action Points to use multiple orders on the same turn.
Definitely a step up from the first FF4 game.
Also, there’s a fun customization system that tweaks the classic Job System to give a lot of options. This shows that, with the right changes, a classic RPG experience can still be very important today.
21. Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes
A role-playing game that is played like a puzzle?
And a great one, to boot? Yes to everything.
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes has a normal role-playing game, a strategy game, and a puzzle game all in one package.
Story Mode is a lot of fun because of how well it is written, but the fight system is what really makes the game stand out.
You have to line up units in different ways so that spells and special weapons can be used.
Combat looks simple on paper, but it takes a while to learn all of the ins and outs, so this is a game for people who have time to put into it.
Since it is a puzzle RPG, did you really think things would be easy?
20. Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard
Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard was made at a time when video games tried to be as easy for as many people as possible to play.
With a lot of success.
The real meaning of dungeon crawling in the game is what Hardcore is all about.
Random fights are brutal. They are played from a first-person perspective and use a turn-based system like old RPGs.
The dungeons are complicated. And you can’t find your way without drawing a map on the bottom screen.
Here, too, the method for upgrading your Class is complicated and needs a lot of thought to use correctly. If it’s still not clear, let me say it again: only hard-core adventures!
19. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume
Not all men in Midgard are happy to see the Valkyries and are willing to die for the gods.
Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume turns the other two books in the series on their heads by presenting Wylfred, an agent of Hel, Queen of Niflheim, who comes to the world to get back at the Valkyrie Lenneth.
Wylfred will jump from one fight to the next. He will do this with the help of the Destiny Plume, which gives him great power in exchange for his life. This is a deep one.
It’s also a pretty fun game that combines strategy RPG elements with the series’ action-based gameplay.
By the end of the story, he changes into someone much worse than the woman he wants. Oh, what a twist of fate!
18. Magical Starsign
Magical Starsign is the 10th best DS RPG of all time, according to this list. No, it’s not just a digital horoscope. It’s about two kids who get on a rocket to find their teacher.
Obviously, they’re not just high school students from the area, not with those outfits. This is the Will O’Wisp Magical Academy, and as you move through the solar system, it’s your job to save the class and the lost teacher.
Oh, and it would be great if you could save the world and stop an evil alumnus from terrorizing reality at the same time.
Like The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, the only way to control figures is with a stylus or touch screen.
Select enemies to attack by tapping on figures and choosing their skills. It’s basically a point-and-click game with more action, which is exactly how we like them.
And how do these magical student fighters who travel from planet to planet to fight enemies? Well, as you might have guessed from the title, starsigns connected to different planets set up magic that can be used.
Some spells get stronger or weaker as the planets move through the solar system, based on how close or far they are from the player.
The same is true for the monsters they face. The key to success is to look at maps and think about who is important in your fight plan.
17. Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
Rune Factory 3: A Fantasy Harvest Moon is a spinoff of the main Harvest Moon series. It does exactly what the title says it does.
The game is a high-fantasy version of the popular RPG computer game of the parent series.
Micah, the player character, wakes up without any memories. He meets Sharah, who brings him to town and gives him a farm to help grow.
Some of the monsters in Rune Factory 3 can be tamed. There are also dungeon-crawling and combat features. The game got good reviews because it was a creative spinoff.
16. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey
In recent years, Atlus’s Persona series has gotten most of the attention, but its Shin Megami Tensei parent series has a lot of hits and even got a boost from SMT V, which was one of the best Nintendo Switch RPGs last year.
In the story, a special task team from the United Nations goes to look into a mysterious change in space that is threatening the whole world.
Players take control of the main character and move through the settings of the distortion, fighting demons and meeting new ones along the way.
Strange Journey got good reviews for its deeply weird story and interesting way to combine demons.
15. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
Devil Survivor took a different approach from the main Shin Megami Tensei games by making it more like a strategy RPG.
The game now focuses on high school kids in modern Tokyo who have to deal with a demon invasion.
The main character in Devil Survivor gains the ability to see how long people have left to live. This makes him or her motivated to save as many people as possible.
It was liked for its stylish new art direction, which was a nice change of pace in terms of how it looked.
Also praised were its interesting and branching plot and its unique approach to tactical fighting. Devil Survivor was remade for the Nintendo 3DS, just like Strange Journey.
14. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn
They are very smart. They can make things happen.
And they can use strong spells to wipe out their enemies completely.
The story, which takes place 30 years after the GBA games, is what saves Golden Sun: Dark Dawn from being a bad RPG.
It’s a pretty straightforward story about how the children of the original heroes try to save the world and live up to their parents’ reputations.
The Djinn method is a lot of fun, that’s for sure. It lets players make their characters look how they want, gain access to new classes and skills, and use flashy summon attacks that are easy to use against enemies in the game’s famous turn-based combat system.
The range of puzzles also adds to an experience that would have been pretty forgettable if it had just been about the story. If you liked Golden Sun, you should check this out. If not, it might be hit or miss.
13. Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV for the DS is one of the few remakes that does the original game respect, even with all the changes.
Even though the story hasn’t changed much (Cecil, a dark knight, goes on a trip that will help him find out who he really is and save the world), it is now told in an amazing 3D style with voice acting.
It makes each figure stand out even more.
Combat and progression have also been made a lot better, with a higher level of challenge and the ability to give all playable characters new commands.
This finally gives FF4 choices for customizing characters that the first game didn’t have.
The game isn’t very new, that’s for sure. But if having such a grand journey in your pocket isn’t enough for you, you do deserve to be called a spoony bard.
And if you like Final Fantasy games, this is the one you have to play.
12. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
We may all be excited about the future Pokemon Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl combo for the Nintendo Switch, but many of us are keeping busy until then by playing Pokemon Diamond & Pearl on the DS.
Don’t get me wrong, I love going on adventures in Kanto, but the Sinnoh area is still one of my favorite places in all of Pokemon. When I played this game, I just had a great time.
If you’ve played a Pokemon game before, you won’t be too surprised by how this one works.
You can get to the top by moving around Sinnoh, catching Pokemon, training them, and fighting other creatures and masters.
For someone who fell in love with Pokemon when Red came out on the DMG, every new Pokemon game that comes out with updated graphics and new interesting features makes me feel like a kid on Christmas Day…
…or a man-child who is 31 years old on Christmas Day…
Trading is always an important part of the game. You can’t finish your Pokedex unless you trade with someone who has the other game that goes with it and vice versa.
WiFi multiplayer is also there, so there’s no need for a link cord.
Find all 107 new pocket monsters and train them to be fighters that can beat up your friends. We all know that’s the real point of Pokemon games.
11. Dragon Quest VI: Realms Of Revelation
The first version of Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation to be released outside of Japan was the DS remake in 2010 (in Japan) and 2011 (elsewhere).
It was well liked by critics, and it had a real world and a dream world like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Realms of Revelation got good marks for its easy-to-understand class system and easy-to-use inventory management.
Since then, the game has also been made available on Android and iOS phones.
10. Pokémon Black/White 2
When we dive into the world of Pokémon B&W, we do it with full force.
Pokémon Black and White 2 are a new twist on the series. They were the first straight sequels to any generation (unless you count G/S/C as a sequel to R/B, which is debatable).
It takes us back to the Unova region, where we were two years ago.
You’ll also get to see how much the area has changed since then, collect all 301 Pokemon, beat more Gym Leaders, and become the best trainer in Unova. once more.
And even help make movies in the Pokémon Studios, which adds a very interesting twist to fights.
This doesn’t do much to change the feeling that you’ve already been there and done that. But let’s be honest: who hasn’t wanted to be the main character in an action movie about Pokémon?
9. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game that is unlike any other.
It’s always been one of the best games for each system it’s come out on.
The Nintendo DS version of the game is the best way to play it and is the best way to play it.
Well, if you like the way the SNES looks and sounds, go for that one… But if you want a more current take on the game, you’ll love the NDS version.
We have a lot of new stuff to explore in addition to the amazing tight experience of traveling through time with Crono and his crew.
There are two new levels, a new ending that connects to Chrono Cross, and a dual-screen mode that makes the main screen less crowded.
This way, you can see how beautiful the game still looks, even though it came out 20 years ago.
People, this is the magic of good design. Gere in all of its beauty.
8. Suikoden Tierkreis
One of Konami’s most popular IPs was the Suikoden series, which they made before they switched to pachinko machines.
It was a popular RPG series back when the original PlayStation came out, but Konami hasn’t done much with it or any of its other titles for years.
Tierkreis was a spin-off game that took place in many different universes. It focused on themes of fate as the main character gathered allies to fight an entity trying to rule and put his fatalistic beliefs on the whole universe.
Players move through 3D environments and fight in standard turn-based battles that happen randomly.
Overall, people liked Suikoden Tierkreis because of its big story and fun gameplay, but some people thought it was too different from the main series.
7. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
From the Mushroom Kingdom to the inside of Bowser’s body. That’s an interesting turn of events.
In Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Bowser eats Mario, Luigi, and most of the people who live in the Mushroom Kingdom. This is a new story in the great Mario RPG series.
The two brothers will have to look inside Bowser while the lord of the Koopas looks into who is behind all of this.
The game play is definitely more fun than the story. During exploration and turn-based battles, you have to manage the three characters, which gets more fun the more you play.
Bowser’s Inside Story is the best part of the whole series, with some funny writing to boot. A great Mario RPG that you should play.
6. Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Revenant Wings takes place right after the main story of Final Fantasy XII. It follows Vaan, Penelo, Balthier, and Fran as they take to the skies to find a new challenge.
Even though it has the same name as that epic PS2 game, this isn’t your typical turn-based JRPG.
Instead, it’s more like an RTS with RPG features, and it makes interesting use of the Nintendo DS’s touch-screen interface.
Revenant Wings is fun even if you haven’t played Final Fantasy XII, but it does make a lot of nods to that game, so if you liked it, you’ll love how it adds to the story.
Even for people who have never played before, there is a lot to like about the deep and strategic games.
5. Dragon Quest V
How many games do you know where the main character grows up from a child to a guy with a family? This is one of the most interesting RPGs for the DS. The story and characters draw you in right away.
Players go on a hero’s journey from boy to man, taking part in everything from family life to killing monsters at work.
It’s like one of those movies about growing up that my girlfriend makes me watch, except I can use guns and turn it off whenever I want.
RPG features from the first four games have been used in Hand of the Heavenly Bride. As you move through the game, you can fight enemies to earn experience points and improve your hero’s armor.
Here’s the part you’ll love the most: you can now tame monsters and get them to join your party.
Yes, monsters can be used as active characters. Some of them even ask to be with you instead of you asking to be with them.
This game is a tour de force when it comes to strategy. The only way to make it out of each fight alive is to keep your cool and think about every move. Carefully plan strikes and don’t rush in; only fools do that!
4. Radiant Historia
Radiant Historia was a different JRPG from Shin Megami Tensei and Persona spinoffs by Atlus. Its style was a mix of SMT and Radiata Stories by Square Enix and tri-Ace.
The high-fantasy world of the game takes place on the politically split continent of Vainqueur, where the main character, Stocke, is given a book that lets him jump between different points in time to stop the world from getting worse.
People liked how Radiant Historia told a darker, more complicated JRPG story and used time travel as a perfect gameplay feature. It was also remade for the 3DS in 2017 and 2018.
3. The World Ends With You
The World Ends With You doesn’t need much of a start.
It has to be the best Nintendo DS RPG ever, and there are a lot of people who like it.
“The Game” is a game where the shy Neku is the main character.
It’s a hard task, but the winners get a second chance at life. Don’t you think?
Players must use touch screen controls to read people’s thoughts, beat the powerful Noise, and change Shibuya’s fashion trends in their favor. The game is set in a very stylish version of Shibuya.
All of the game’s parts are made with great skill, from the nice settings to the great music. But the fighting system is what really makes TWEWY stand out from other JRPGs for the DS.
Battles use both of the console’s screens in a very smart way that no other port has been able to copy.
If you really like the DS, you have to play this game. In fact, I hope you’ve already done so!
2. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver
The best DS RPG of all time was always going to be Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver. Ok, the best DS role-playing games, since I can’t decide between them. Think of it as a “2-4-1” entry on sale!
I think these are the two best games for the DS, full stop. I’ve played both of them, and since I have two DS systems, I’ve swapped Pokemon between them.
I think that Johto is better than Kanto, Sinnoh, Galar, and every other area. Plus, these GB Color games that have been updated look great on the DS.
Gold and Silver showed up for the first time in 1999. After 10 years, the DS versions were more fun to play and had better images. It turned a book that was already great into a masterpiece.
The first versions were also made better in these remakes.
Remember how bad that menu system was?
Well, it’s gone. It’s been replaced by a new menu with a cleaner look that makes it easy to get to Pokemon and items. You can fight and trade online without a link cord and enjoy two screens for the price of one.
Let’s also talk about legendaries. When it comes to the big guns, Lugia and Ho-Oh don’t stand a chance.
Mewtwo is cool and Zamazenta is definitely a badass, but Lugia and Ho-Oh still feel and look like legendary animals.
1. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels Of The Starry Skies
The ninth major game in the Dragon Quest series is at the top of Ranker’s list. It also shows how critics feel about the game, since Sentinels of the Starry Skies is the highest-rated Dragon Quest game for the DS and third overall on Metacritic.
The game was the first to come out first on a handheld machine. Games that came out before it were moved to the DS later.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies was made to be the hardest game in the series.
However, it turned out to be one of the best games in the series, with new features like spawning enemies instead of random encounters and multiplayer gameplay, while still keeping the spirit of the games that came before.