Search for that spare stylus and your old charger; it’s time to check out the Best DS RPGs of all time!
The DS is the most popular handheld console of all time. That’s not just my opinion; it’s a fact, and with this accolade came a host of fantastic games.
And one genre that the console got right more than ever was the RPG.
Turn based battles, demons, dungeons and more NPCs than you could shake a stylus at. What other console can gives you so much tantalising tactical action to take with you on the road, to another country, or even to play under your desk at work?
Picking just 15 of the best DS RPGs was no easy task, mind you. There are some stunning titles and brain-wrenchingly difficult adventures to choose from, and picking my favourite felt like picking a favourite family member.
Still, here they are! Check out the best 15 DS RPGs of all time below and snap them up for your collection.
And while we’re at it, my favourite family member is my Mum.
15. Luminous Arc (2007)
First up on our list of the best DS RPGs of all time is Luminous Arc, a tricksy tactical RPG with a penchant for grid based battles.
View all of the action from a top-down perspective on the bottom touchscreen and keep up to speed with how much health your team has plus their stats on the top.
This is definitely one for gamers that like to get to the core of their characters and learn everything about them, with lots of cutscenes and sequences that give the player insight into what makes their party tick!
Long ago, God battled against Witches and Dragons and came out victorious, securing the fate of the world. It was a tough war, and he went to sleep for a long time afterwards to recuperate.
Well, the church has predicted that the whole sorry affair is going to happen once again, and God will be reborn to fight the evil Witches and dragons once more. Players control a group of dedicated mages and fighters who have trained for this moment since birth…
… I bet they’re glad all that training didn’t go to waste!
Work as a team to fight evil, make new weapons, and form bonds that even dragon fire can’t destroy… probably. Test your party against a mates team via Wifi multiplayer and see who is the strongest.
And try not to let the world implode… ok?
14. Glory of Heracles (2010)
Any greek Mythology fans out there will no doubt know that the Glory of Heracles is based on the legendary Hercules, Heracles being his Greek name. Witten by Final Fantasy legend Kazushige Nojima, this RPG is a vast title where exploring and battling demons are the aim of the game.
Unlike other RPGs where the player’s path is set in stone, The Glory of Heracles lets gamers roam around searching for enemies to battle, upping their stats and practicing their battle moves.
And I know what you’re wondering; is the game based on the real Heracles?
Well, not exactly, but there are lots of places that you might have heard Stephen Fry talking about in Mythos such as Sparta and Athens.
The turn-based battle system sees players standing on a sort of scaled down chessboard. Characters on the front row can carry out super-smash attacks on opponents with close range weapons, while party members on the second row wield projectiles and magical spells.
Use the stylus on the touchscreen to fire spells, getting in some ‘wingardium leviosa’ swish and flick style action. Complete puzzles to power up spells and improve your casting ability by visiting temples along the way.
Pick up Ether, slay demons, and generally win the glory that Heracles is so often famed for. This isn’t just a title for the history buffs; it’s an exciting game with a well thought out battle system that keeps gamers on their toes.
13. Avalon Code (2009)
Avalon Code takes the 13th spot in this list of the best DS RPGs of all time. It might be an unlucky number, but you’ll have nothing but good times playing this game.
When I tell you that Avalon Code comes from the same people that made the epic Harvest Moon series and also the studio responsible for some of the best Final Fantasy games on the DS, then it shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s one of the best RPGS around.
This magical RPG sees players controlling the keeper of the Book of Prophecy. It almost feels like a humongous cheat code, as the book allows players to change pretty much every element of the game, including the attributes of enemies in battle…
… that should make things a little easier!
The ‘code’ part of the title is one of the main draws of the gameplay. Like the code of a strand of DNA, certain elements mean certain things and can, with a tactical mind, be altered.
A rusty sword has parts of its code that denotes the rust. These ‘ill’ code segments can be removed to create a strong sword, and players can then attach them onto monsters to reduce their health and make them weaker in battle.
It’s all clever stuff and takes some thought to get used to. Still, once you get into the heart of the game you’ll be wondering why you can’t take the annoying code out of that person on the bus that just won’t stop talking loudly on their phone!
12. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (2010)
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has always and will always be one of my favourite DS games. Following eight years after Golden Sun: The Lost Age (that’s human years, not game years), Dark Dawn provided a much needed return to the franchise and the world of Weyard.
Not everyone likes this game; in many ways, it’s a little bit like marmite. Expect lots of storytelling dialogue and in-depth plot lines that might infuriate some gamers.
I listen to audiobooks on a daily basis and write for a living, so it’s right up my nerdy street!
Fans of the 2D offerings will love the new 3D adventure. It still boasts all of the elements that made the first two games so exciting such as the use of Psynergy in battles with enemies.
As with other RPGs, chatting with NPCs and helping them with trivial things to gain information and skill points is a necessary part of the game. Not only does helping the people make you feel good inside, but it might lead you to an elemental spirit that improves your powers!
Wield your stylus like a magic staff and get stuck into the touch-screen gameplay. This is a bright and colourful adventure with dungeon elements that Zelda-fans might find somewhat familiar.
Maybe that’s why I like it so much…
11. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – Echoes of Time (2009)
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – Echoes of Time really doesn’t need an introduction. It would have been a poor list of the best DS RPGs without it, and Echoes of Time is often considered to the best of the bunch.
Often, but not always. Retro Dodo has high standards guys!
This Final Fantasy title has a brilliant single player mode, but what sets it apart from other games is the ability to grab your DS and play alongside your mate on the Wii. It’s not just WiFi multiplayer; it’s cross console multiplayer!
That’s some mind blowing stuff!
It’s easy to move between single player and multiplayer mode too, and there’s no having to load separate save files or a need to call your mate up at 1am to carry on playing the story with you.
As with every FF title, the storyline is an epic tale of mysterious artefacts, a young hero testing his mettle against the world, and races of magical beings to discover.
Expect turn based battles of the highest calibre with slick moves and ruthless monsters determined to destroy your party at every turn. Can you find the cure to eradicate crystal sickness and save a fair maiden?
10. Magical Starsign (2006)
Magical Starsign takes the 10th spot in this list of the best DS RPGs of all time. No, it’s not just a digital astrology chart; it follows two students embarking on a rocket to search for their teacher.
Of course, they’re not just kids from the local high school, not with those get-ups at any rate. This is the Will O-Wisp Magical Academy, and its your job to save the class and the lost teacher as you travel through the solar system.
Oh, and if you could save the universe and stop an evil alumnus from terrorising reality while you’re at it, then it would be very much appreciated.
Thanks in advance…
Like The Legend Of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, the stylus and touchscreen are the only means of controlling characters. Tap on characters and choose abilities to target specified enemies. It’s basically a point and click adventure with more gusto, which is exactly how we like them.
And how do these magical planet-hopping student warriors battle enemies? Well, as you might have guessed from the title, starsigns linked to the different planets set out spells that can be used.
As the planets move through the solar system, some spells become weaker and stronger depending on how far or close they are to the player. The same is said for the monsters that they come up against too, so checking maps and thinking about who is prominent in your battle plan is the key to success!
9. Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (2009)
Huh; Mario and Luigi in an RPG? Come on, everyone should know about Mario & Luigi: Bowsers Inside Story by now; it’s one of the best DS RPGs on the console and features turn-based battles that only the Mushroom Kingdom can produce.
Bowser’s Inside Story is actually the third Mario & Luigi RPG in the portable handheld series. There’s a big chance that you might see one of the other titles further down this list, but I’m not promising anything…
So what are Mazza and Luzza up to this time? Well, along with Peach, a bunch of toads, and Starlow the Star Sprite, they are sucked up by bowser and trapped inside his belly!
That’s gotta smell bad!
Bowser falls unconscious (unsurprisingly with all those people inside him) and Fawful takes over his and Peach’s castle after spreading discord throughout the kingdom.
In a weird turn of events, Mario and Luigi must control Bowser from inside his belly, guiding him as he heads out to defeat Fawful and bring peace to the world.
Yes, strangely Bowser often ends up being a bit of an anti-hero in these RPG games!
Make Bowser kick-ass on the top screen and control the Mario Bros. down on the touchscreen. It’s classic Mario action from start to finish, and twinned with the ability to control Bowser in battles, is one that fans of the moustachioed plumbers should definitely check out!
8. The World Ends With You (2008)
The World Ends With You takes the 8th spot in our list of the best DS RPGs ever to grace the world of gaming. Set in a shopping district in Tokyo (definitely a normal place for a game to occur), this title brings urban street feels to the world of role-play games.
Taking inspiration from the vibrant youth scene and street culture of Shibuya, this game has a bit of a Running Man meets Hunger games feel. Souls of the living are picked to compete in a competition to make it back to the real world and their old bodies.
They don’t seem to get any choice about whether they are picked for the challenge either, with kids being transcended to a battle realm at the drop of a hat!
This game really puts the DS through its paces and proves what an epic console it still is. Unlike many games where gameplay only takes place on one screen, the epic battles in The World Ends With you occur on both screens.
Use the stylus to carry out epic moves and try to make sense of what on earth is going on as you fight to stay alive. Shout commands into the microphone (if yours still works and isn’t filled with dust), and brush up your knowledge of the story alongside the many comics and Anime series based on the game!
This is another ‘critics favourite’ and one to add to your DS collection asap!
7. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (2009)
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is one of those games that takes Sci-fi lovers to geeky Valhalla. The storyline is fantastic, the gameplay is superb, and the battles with demons make Gandalf’s tussle with the Balrog look like a tickle fight.
Let’s start with the story. After a black spot appears in the Antarctic and threatens to expand and cover the earth, the world’s best soldiers sail towards it to see what’s on the other side.
Gamers control a brave soldier who must go through the black hole into what is being dubbed by humanity as ‘the Schwarzwelt’.
Anyone who has played any of the best Doom Games already knows how dangerous it can be to walk into strange portals, and supernatural demons are almost always waiting on the other side.
In a trip back to standard DS RPGs, gameplay happens up top while a 2D map and statistics sit down on the touchscreen. Random encounters happen everywhere with players entering a turn-based battlefield to fight.
Navigating the nuances of which attacks to use against opponents and choosing which moves allied demons should carry out provides a real brain ache.
Yes, allied demons. It’s like having the dema-gorgon on your team, though I imagine the language barrier is pretty tough.
As the sixth game in the Shin Megami Tensei series, the formula for Strange Journey has been throughly been tried and tested. Unlocking side quests by chatting to NPCs and other demons is always fun, and upgrading your soldiers suit never gets old.
Never played a Shin Megami Tensei game before? Give this a try and let us know your thoughts on our socials!
6. Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 (2012)
Pokemon Black 2 & White 2 is the unimaginatively named sequel to Pokemon Black and White. Still, it’s one of the best DS RPGs on the console and improves on two games that were already considered to be the best Pokemon games of all time!
It’s two years after the events of Black and White. Team Plasma have returned to cause havoc and new areas have opened up that were previously inaccessible or didn’t exist.
Start your journey in a new city, visit new places, and battle new trainers both out in the open and in the many gyms found throughout the Unova region.
Fun Fact – This region is more based on America than Japan, with a heavy lean towards New York. Ok, it’s not really a fun fact, but it’s a fact at least!
So what else is new in Pokemon Black and White? Well, there’s a new movie-maker style mode called PokeStar Studios. It doesn’t have anything to do with catching Pokemon but allows gamers to make movies with their favourite Pokemon!
The best feature for battle-heads is the ability to play against previous legendary trainers and champions from older Pokemon games in the all new World Tournament mode. Have a bash at beating Brock, Lance, Volkner, Misty, and many more all over again.
Regirock, Regice, and Registeel can be captured, along with tonnes of other new and exciting Pokemon.
If you haven’t played Black and White, then go back and get them first so you can really enjoy this upgraded experience!
5. Pokemon Diamond & Pearl (2006)
We might all be excited about the upcoming Pokemon Brilliant Diamond Shining Pearl combo for the Nintendo Switch, but Pokemon Diamond & Pearl on the DS is keeping many of us occupied until the new release.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I love a trek around Kanto, but the Sinnoh region is still one of my favourite Pokemon settings of all time. I’ve just got some great memories of playing this game!
If you’ve played any Pokemon game before, then the format won’t come as much of a surprise. Move around Sinnoh catching Pokemon, training them, and battling other critters and trainers on your way to the top.
For someone who fell in love with Pokemon back when Red dropped on the DMG, every new Pokemon game that comes out with updated graphics and new exciting features makes me feel like a kid on Christmas Day…
… or a 31 year old man-baby on Christmas Day…
As always, trading plays a big part of the games make up. It’s impossible to complete your Pokedex without trading with someone who has the other corresponding game and visa versa.
WiFi multiplayer makes an appearance too, eradicating the need for a link cable!
Find all of the 107 new pocket monsters and train them into warriors fit to pummel your mates into the ground. That’s the real spirit of Pokemon games, and we all know it!
4. Chrono Trigger (2008)
Chrono Trigger takes the 4th spot in this list of the best DS RPGs of all time!
To this day, Chrono Trigger is still one of the most sought after rare SNES games on the internet. Some copies sell for over $1800, which is why I would advise anyone reading this article to go for the DS remake instead!
If you haven’t read my pieces on Chrono Trigger before, then you’re in for a real treat! The game came from the minds of a bonafide gaming supergroup.
We’re talking the creator of the Final Fantasy series, the creator of the Dragon Quest series, and a DragonBall Z artist!
Wow; that’s basically gaming royalty!
When people think about RPGs for the DS, Chrono Trigger sometimes gets lost behind Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy. But the truth is that it more than holds its own with all the regular names.
So what’s the score with Chrono Trigger? After a teleportation devices goes on the blink, Chrono must move through time and stop all manor of things from happening in both the past and the future.
Not only does Chrono have to save his companion, but there’s also an evil force trying to end the world and alter history.
Trust me when I say that this is one of the most well thought out games ever made. The premise is fantastic and the combined might of the developers involved has resulted in a title that will still be exciting to play decades from now.
3. Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time (2005)
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time takes the third spot in this list of the best DS RPGs of all time. Yes, it’s the other Mario & Luigi RPG that I told you about earlier, the prequel to Bowser’s Inside Story and my favourite Mario RPG!
Like Chrono Trigger, time travel is the secret to success in Partners in Time. Join Mario, Luigi and their baby counterparts ad they travel through the ages to… you guessed it… save Princess Peach.
Seriously, why doesn’t she just get a job as a holiday rep or a plumber or something. It’d be much safer for her!
After Professor E. Gadd chats to the duo about the time hole, the brothers set off to chase the evil Shroobs responsible for catching her.
Expect colourful, turn-based battles with the quintessential Mario & Luigi RPG humour that makes these games so hard to put down!
In many ways, Partners in Time feels a lot more like Superstar Saga, one of the best GBA RPGs of all time, though it’s certainly a lot darker. We’re talking Nintendo level of dark, however.
That’s still cute characters, just with sharper teeth.
Control the baby bros. up top and the plumber bros. on the bottom screen as you complete puzzles and battle enemies with mad skills and duo abilities!
2. Dragon Quest V (2009)
Our runner up in the best DS RPGs of all time is the mighty Dragon Quest V!
How many games see the main character growing from a baby into a family man? This is one of the most engaging RPGs for the DS with a story and characters that suck you into the narrative from minute one.
Gamers experience one hero’s journey to manhood, taking part in everything from family life to the day job of slaying monsters. It’s like one of those coming of age movies my girlfriend forces me to watch, though this time I can wield weapons and turn it off whenever I want!
Hand of the Heavenly Bride uses RPG elements utilised in the previous 4 games. Battle with foes to earn experience points and upgrade your hero’s armour as you progress through the game.
Here’s the bit that you’ll love the most; taming monsters and coaxing them into the party is now an option!
That’s right, monsters are playable characters. Some of them even ask to join you instead of the other way around!
Tactically, this game is a tour-de-force. Keeping a cool head and thinking about every move in the battles is the only way to come out of each skirmish alive. Plan attacks carefully and take your time; only fools rush in!
1. Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver (2009)
Pokemon HeartGold & SoulSilver was always going to take the prize for the best DS RPG of all time. Ok, the best DS RPGs as I can’t choose between them. Think of it as a special-buy ‘2-4-1’ entry!
In my humble opinion, these are the two best games for the DS, period. I’ve played them both, and of course I’ve swapped Pokemon between them using two DS consoles.
The Johto region beats Kanto, Sinnoh, Galar, and all the others in my opinion. Plus, these updated GB Color games look fantastic on the DS.
Gold and Silver first made an appearance back in 1999. 10 years later, the DS versions improved gameplay and boasted better graphics. It made an already epic title into an absolute masterpiece.
These remakes also had improvements to the original too. Remember that dodgy menu system? Well, it’s gone, with a new and sleek menu replacing it and making it easier to access Pokemon and items. Battle and trade online without a link cable, and enjoy two screens for the price of one!
Let’s talk about legendary Pokemon too. Lugia and Ho-Oh take some serious beating when it comes to the big guns. Mewtwo is cool and Zamazenta is certainly a badass, but Lugia and Ho-Oh still feel like and look like legendary creatures.
You know, this could be the quintessential Pokemon version. There, I’ve said it, and I stand by it!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.