Top 10 Best Platformers on Nintendo DS

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There’s nothing like a platformer for a quick fix of intense gameplay.

As Nintendo’s best-selling portable console, it’s no surprise that the Nintendo DS’s game library is full of great platformers with addictive gameplay and colorful graphics.

With so many fun and exciting games competing for your attention, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the fear of missing out.

To help give you that last little push you need to choose one and start playing, I’ve narrowed your search to only the best of the best. These are most iconic NDS platformers everyone should play at least once.


10. Yoshi’s Island DS (2006)

Yoshi's Island DS (2006) gameplay screenshot

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (1995) made a significant impact as one of the last great platformers to come out on the SNES. It pushed the system to its limits, and the result was mind-blowing.

Its sequel on the DS brings back the same core gameplay with new features galore.

There are many more babies other than Baby Mario, each granting Yoshi unique abilities. You can even carry Baby Wario on your back, which honestly sounds like torture.

The original Yoshi’s Island set itself apart with a unique art style, and Yoshi’s Island DS doesn’t stay behind. At the very least, it’s better than Yoshi’s Story (1997) on the N64.


9. The Legendary Starfy (2009)

The Legendary Starfy (2009) gameplay screenshot

Before 2009, audiences in the US and other Western countries never had the chance to meet Starfy: the cutest platformer character since Kirby.

That all changed with the release of the fifth entry in the series: The Legendary Starfy on the Nintendo DS.

This game has everything that makes the series work: a cute protagonist, a wholesome storyline, and superb underwater gameplay that everyone in the family can enjoy.

You’re not alone if you think Starfy is too similar to Kirby. You’ll even see Starfy wear costumes with special abilities!

It’s up to you to choose your favorite cutesy hero.


8. Super Princess Peach (2006)

Super Princess Peach (2006) gameplay screenshot

Super Princess Peach was the game where the regent of the Mushroom Kingdom proved that just because you always get rescued doesn’t mean you can’t take care of yourself.

In this game, Peach goes as far as to rescue the Mario Bros. rather than the other way around.

The Princess’s emotions are used as the basis for her abilities. You can keep track of her emotional state on the tactile screen while moving your character up top.

Besides the creative gameplay, the graphics are what drew me to this game. The world of Vibe Island is gorgeous, and every one of Peach’s emotional portraits is super cute.


7. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (2009)

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (2009) gameplay screenshot

Some Nintendo DS games challenge your multi-tasking ability by splitting vital parts of gameplay between both displays.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure tries to fry your brain with a match-three puzzle down below and action-platforming up top.

The better you do at the puzzle, the fewer enemies our British hero has to deal with on the top screen.

You could only get gameplay like this on the Nintendo DS, making it one of the biggest reasons to dust off your old portable in 2022.


6. Super Mario 64 DS (2004)

Super Mario 64 DS (2004) gameplay screenshot

Walking around the front garden of Peach’s Castle in Super Mario 64 (1996) is one of my first and most cherished gaming memories.

Super Mario 64 DS allowed me to share some of what that was like with my little sister while also giving me, a veteran, something meaty to chew on.

Instead of Mario, you’ll start the game as Yoshi and slowly progress through the different stages to unlock Mario, Luigi, and even Wario.

There’s a reason this is the tenth best-selling Nintendo DS game, you know?


5. Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005)

Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (2005) gameplay screenshot

Some people can’t get enough of Castlevania’s non-linear exploration and engaging combat. Thanks to Dawn of Sorrow, you can enjoy it on the go without sacrificing quality.

This game was the best the series had seen since Symphony of the Night blew everyone’s minds in 1997.

Despite the NDS’ limitations, it maintains many of the RPG elements that made SotN so good and ups the ante with the “Tactical Soul” power-up system and solid graphics.

The one thing I never loved about Dawn of Sorrow is that they replaced previous games’ unique Gothic portrait style with a bland anime art style.

Still, this shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying this title’s superb gameplay.


4. Kirby Canvas Curse (2005)

Kirby Canvas Curse (2005) gameplay screenshot

I have a ton of love and respect for developers that chose to engage with the Nintendo DS’s touch screen to create truly unique experiences.

Kirby Canvas Curse transforms the platformer genre by giving the player the power to draw their own platforms with the stylus.

With your magic paintbrush, you must draw roads for the Kirby-ball to roll on. These mystical lines also protect Kirby from projectiles, and loops give Kirby a speed boost that’s perfect for ramming enemies.

Despite these unique controls, HAL Laboratories crafted an exciting and challenging experience just as deep as other mainline Kirby titles.


3. Mega Man ZX (2006)

Mega Man ZX (2006) gameplay screenshot

Mega Man ZX is the NDS successor to one of my favorite gaming series of all time: Mega Man Zero (2002) on the GBA.

This new entry in the Mega Man franchise is set 200 years after Mega Man Zero and follows a protagonist who can call forth the strength of ancient warriors like Zero and X.

It’s a nostalgia festival for Mega Man Zero fans, who get to see their favorite characters come back as power-ups for the player character. You can even merge two of them together! It’s wild.

It takes time and skill to master its challenging levels and unrelenting bosses, but thanks to the gorgeous graphics, great soundtrack, and polished gameplay, it’s worth every second.


2. New Super Mario Bros. (2006)

New Super Mario Bros. (2006) gameplay screenshot

During the first half of the 2000s, the general feeling was that Mario had moved on from the 2D realm.

The last two mainline Mario titles – Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine – had been large-scale 3D platformers, and every Super Mario Advance game on the GBA was a SNES port.

Then came New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS.

It was the beginning of a new chapter for the Italian plumber. It took inspiration from the original Super Mario Bros. series but modernized it for the new millennium.

Better graphics, new power-ups, but the same tight gameplay: a recipe for success that became the best-selling game on one of Nintendo’s best-selling platforms.


1. Kirby Super Star Ultra (2008)

Kirby Super Star Ultra (2008) gameplay screenshot

Am I really including two Kirby games in the ranking?

You bet I am.

While Kirby Canvas Curse is a must-play on the Nintendo DS, Kirby Super Star Ultra should be everyone’s first Kirby game.

It has everything that makes the franchise work, including adorable graphics, superb 2D platformer gameplay, and the perfect balance between drama and humor.

There’s never a dull moment thanks to how the game is divided into different mini-campaigns and mini-games – each packed full of fun and flavor.

I don’t care that it’s a remake of a 1996 SNES title: Kirby Super Star Ultra is the best there is on the NDS.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely playing games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.