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Great Nintendo DS Games Prove the 3DS Doesn’t Need to Rely on a Gimmick to Succeed

It’s time to face facts, people. The Nintendo 3DS went ahead and launched without any clear defining title to back it up. I mean, when you think a title like Nintendogs + Cats is going to please your hardcore audience, perhaps it’s time to rethink a few things. Like, what you were even thinking in the first place and perhaps what drugs you were on at the time.

We at Geekosystem feel your pain. It seems like it’s going to take some time for the 3DS to really pick up steam—if it ever does. In the meantime, we suggest going back to the old standby that never steered you wrong: The Nintendo DS. Sure, it might not be the prettiest gal in town, but it’ll stick by you no matter what.

I’m not sure when that metaphor got away from me. The following list of Nintendo DS games shows that the last-generation handheld still has quite a bit more magic than the shiny new glassless 3D handheld, and though both handhelds are full of gimmicks, the best route for gaming isn’t always to utilize said gimmicks–and in the case of the 3DS, the best route isn’t to base an entire generation of gaming on a single gimmick.

1. Advance Wars: Dual Strike

You really just can’t go wrong with the Advance Wars franchise. Anything prior to this installment, and even after, has basically been more of the same, but with a few twists of complexities added. It remains a solid little strategy game that can go from laughably simple to frustratingly difficult.

The DS version more or less used the second screen as a second battlefield. It makes so much sense that one wonders if there had ever been a doubt in the developer’s mind as to what they would do with it. Also, the name is a testament to a time when Nintendo DS titles tried to work “DS” into their titles. Yeah, that was a thing.

2. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, isn’t this coming out for the 3DS with voice acting and that whole extra dimension to play with?” Sure, it is, but why wait when the majority of the game is easily accessible now without the need to pay for that extra D?

Plus, this is the closest thing the Nintendo DS has to a Persona title. Anything with Shin Megami Tensei in the title, on the DS, is worth giving a look. If JRPGs aren’t really your thing, you might want to look elsewhere. But if they are…

You play as high school kids who control demons and determine the fate of the world. Yeah, up your alley in that case.

3. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright is probably one of the more bizarre franchises to come out during the Nintendo DS’s life cycle. The original is still, arguably, the best. You play as Phoenix Wright, a new lawyer, who doubles as something akin to a CSI/detective. You even get your own plucky sidekick!

The touch screen gimmick is mostly relegated to clues and a form of inventory and, on rare occasions, an input device. There’s nothing overly complicated that it requires you to do. It just fits seamlessly. What the series might lack in seriousness, it makes up for in spades with silliness. For example, Larry Butz is one of Phoenix’s friends. Larry. Butz. Also, shouts of “OBJECTION!” accompanied by a pointed finger never get old.

4. Infinite Space

Want to have your own fleet of spaceships and cruise around the galaxy fighting pirates? Look no further than Infinite Space. Just don’t expect to understand exactly how everything works until you’ve died a few dozen times.

Infinite Space, from the people behind Bayonetta and Vanquish, is a chapter out of the book on obfuscated design. Nothing is entirely clear, the controls are difficult to master or even understand, and the game feels so massive that the learning curve borders on ludicrous. I’m not sure how to even attempt to explain the basics of the game here.

But that makes it that much more satisfying when it all finally clicks and you begin recruiting folks across the galaxy while demolishing your opponents. Part chess, part space simulator, Infinite Space is both incredibly frustrating and terribly addictive if you can get past its flaws.

5. Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

The Final Fantasy Tactics series is one that has seen new life on Nintendo’s handheld properties. While War of the Lions (an updated remake of the original Final Fantasy Tactics) may have gone to the PSP, the two new games in the series went to the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS respectively.

Thank goodness.

The touch screen acts as a manner of movement and also of move selection. Beyond that, it’s basically an inventory. Sound familiar? Tactical combat is the name of the game here, with a storyline that any self-respecting Final Fantasy fan would love. It helps that there’s always something more to do in the game. I’d… rather not disclose just how much time I’ve put into my own copy.

6. Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City

While being a seemingly unconnected block of words, Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City is a game that falls into many of the same categories as Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. It’s a JRPG where you create and name your party, complete with a job and class systems. Where it differs is in sheer presentation and use of the gimmicky touch screen.

First off, any game where you can immediately be a Prince or Princess is to be lauded. Secondly, the game utilizes the touch screen interface in order to have the player draw a map of their surroundings. It might sound silly, but given how difficult the game is, having a detailed map will benefit the player more than they might think.

Though most of the games on the Nintendo DS use the gimmicky hardware features in some way, the games themselves don’t fall into the trap of being based on said gimmicky features, and rather, subtly use them to enhance the game. With the Nintendo 3DS is currently focused too much on remaking classic games in 3D or pumping out games that barely have any substance just to show off the 3D, Nintendo could learn a thing or two from the success of the handheld that the 3DS is supposed to replace.

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