Since the article seemed to imply that 3DS games are good to talk about, I’d like to give a shoutout to Attack Of The Friday Monsters, a game I just finished today. Here’s the trailer, though I don’t think it sells the game very well. For a better show-off of the game, check out the opening movie, including a voiced, totally anime title song:
Basically, it’s a walking-around game in a rural Japanese town with a few card battle segments. Which in itself doesn’t sound too exciting, but the coziness of the area and the mystery of the story made me really latch onto it. It’s got hints of Earthbound and Studio Ghibli in equal amounts, and the art style is really wonderful, though it suffers due to the 3DS’ limited pixel resolution.
One thing I found really fascinating about the game is that it really feels like a rumination on the Kaiju film genre, and the rise of ‘hero films’ in the 70s as a sort of reaction to kaiju movies (you might be familiar with Jet Jaguar or Ultraman). It’s really adorable and I found it a nice escape for a few hours.
The entire game can be slammed through in a good 2-3 hours (I beat the main story in about 2.5 hours I think) and it’s only $8 on the Ninty Store, so I recommend it if you’ve got a 3DS. I’ve never really played anything like it.
The early DS library is full of super weird games like Feel the Magic: XX/XY, Sprung, and Pac Pix. Pac Pix is a personal favorite, it doesn’t really work and isn’t good but I find it charming nevertheless. Also shoutout to Brain Age and how weirdly fun it actually is
CONTACT from Grasshopper was the all time great weird as hell DS game. I’ve never played Flower, Sun, and Rain but from the looks of things a lot of the really great ideas from that game made it into Contact in a slightly more approachable way. Some really clever fourth wall stuff and a super duper sinister atmosphere.
Seconding Infinite Space, Daigasso! Band Brothers, and Retro Game Challenge. All excellent games that really haven’t been done well anywhere else. But as for games that haven’t been mentioned (as of this writing):
Ouendan/Elite Beat Agents/Ouendan 2: A series of crazy-looking rhythm games that play great. I put so much time into Ouendan 1 & 2, especially trying to beat Ready Steady Go on Normal.
Jump Ultimate Stars: Massive manga-based roster, an addictive deck-building component, and well-tuned gameplay. Probably the best mash-up brawler outside of Smash Bros. Heck, it might even exceed Smash in some aspects.
Bangai-O Spirits: Tons of stages. You can transfer created levels via the power of sound!
Solatorobo Red the Hunter: While it is pretty easy/simple, the production values are top-notch. It comes across as one of those games that the designers at Cyber-Connect wanted to make, even if they knew that it wasn’t fated to become popular.
Ditto to all the visual novels/light puzzlers. The DS was a great form factor for playing Another Code, Pheonix Wright, Hotel Dusk etc. The portability is perfect for essentially reading a digital book. I’d hope that the Switch can see some similar love on it.
I really really like the Devil Survivor games. I think they’re personally my favourite form the core Shin Megami Tensei mechanics have taken, and I enjoy the story in both games a lot.
If I had to pick one I’d probably pick DS2, if only because I enjoy having a wider range of party members (in the first game youre pretty much stuck with a core group of four until the game branches into its various endings) and like the wider range of demons being available but they’re both really good.
I think at this point, I’d be willing to argue that the DS has the best library of games of any platform maybe only second to the PS2… maybe. The fact that the 3DS is even close to having as good of a library, even after all the talk that handheld games were dead, is a god damn miracle.
As for games I recommend, I’ll skip over those that have already been mentioned (cause this list’d be hella long otherwise), but here’s what’s left:
Monster Tale - A criminally overlooked metroidvania about a young girl named Ellie and her monster friend Chomp who must save monster land after other kids take it over.
Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light - Almost instantly forgotten after it came out due to its simplicity, but 4 Heroes of Light was basically the foundation that Bravely Default was built off of.
Solatorobo: Red the Hunter - Hey, do you like mechs, action RPGs, and/or anthropomorphic cats & dogs? Well this is the game for you.
SMT: Strange Journey - A Shin Megami Tensei game so good and true to its roots that a lot of people started just calling it Shin Megami Tensei 4 before an actually fourth game was announced.
Radiant Historia - The best original JRPG on the system. Like Chrono Trigger, but if you were going to alternate timelines instead of different time periods. The battles are a delicious mix of Strategy RPG and turn based JRPG.
Rune Factory - While this action RPG spinoff of the Story of Seasons series (formerly Harvest Moon series) has branched off onto many platforms, it began life on the DS. And it was a weird, tough sell when it first came out.
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords - Puzzle Quest (and its many knock-offs) is huge now in the mobile market, but don’t forget that the series started its life as a surprising retail DS release.
Pokemon Conquest - Nintendo: “Let’s make a Pokemon SRPG by combining it with a series that perfect compliments its style: Nobunaga’s Ambition” Everyone: “Wut”
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes - Another game that found life on other platforms, but another fantastic western game with its roots as a DS retail release. An absolute classic puzzle game that mixes perfectly with its strategy components.
Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer - Technically a remake of a Super Famicom game, this was the West’s first encounter with Shiren, one of the best roguelike series ever made.
Knights in the Nightmare - It’s a Strategy RPG Bullet Hell Shooter. Yes, you read that right.
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 - A great little adventure game with just a superb art style. Don’t forget its sequel, The Last Window, which only saw an English release in Europe. Thank you for being region-free, DS.
999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors - Okay, I said I wasn’t going to talk about any games that had already been posted, but seriously: Go play the entire Zero Escape series if you have any interest in narrative in video games.
The Sims 2 for DS is still my favorite sims game. Unlike most Sims games where you can build your own house, get your own job, etc, The Sims 2 has you running a hotel. There isn’t as much customization or freedom compared to the PC or console versions, but there are a ton of fun little mini games and weird side stories. It also shares some similarities with the PSP version, except this one has that sick touchscreen action
Etrian Odyssey IV is hands down one of the best games ever to come out for the 3DS. This is my hill. I will die on it.
Also, it’s a damn tragedy that Trauma Centre never came to the 3DS. The DS games are great, though.
I’ll also back Mike’s piece about Aliens Infestation. Permadeath Aliens-themed metroidvania that gets a lot of mileage out of small bits of characterization for the different marines you can play as. That game deserved way more attention than it got.
Also, Master of Monster Lair is weird/uneven, but it had a lot of weird ideas.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is worth mentioning but also the 3DS port will presumably be coming at some point (only confirmed for Japan so far). I am unsure how useful that information is because… the 3DS is region locked (SJ never came out in Europe but we could all import it because no regions).
Oh hey, while we’re on that topic, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was also never released outside of Japan and North America so only because the DS is region free could we play it. (Guess why Europe gets kinda salty about region locking in games.)