7 Best Nintendo DS RPG games to start your journey on two screens

The Nintendo DS is one of the best platforms for playing RPGs. It is the first to introduce a touch screen on a mainstream scale and its battery life is immaculate. This allows any player to play the games they want for an extended amount of time. Here are seven of the best RPGS on the beloved handheld gaming device.

Best nintendo ds rpg games

7. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Weirdo title aside as one would expect from Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days' uniqueness lies greatly in its innovative gameplay. While most DS games struggle to impress visually, this DS RPG mirrors the graphical prowess of its PS2 counterpart, Kingdom Hearts 2. The attention to detail is evident in the staggering variety of textures and the rendering of over 144 unique weapon types, contributing to a visually stunning experience.

The game also manages to overcome the limitations of tiny DS speakers, delivering impressive audio. There may be recycled tracks but this is expected given the origins of the characters and stages. As mentioned earlier, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is widely known for its gameplay. 

Introducing the "Panel System," players must strategically manage and arrange various item panels to build their inventory, adding a puzzle element to the game to what is usually a JRPG affair. This departure from the magic system of its predecessors breathes new life into the hack-and-slash gameplay. The incorporation of a Limit Break, familiar to Final Fantasy fans, added familiar but a dynamic component to the combat. 

As for the story, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days weaves a fascinating narrative, yeah, let us leave it at that. This is where confusion starts that even the most die-hard Kingdom Hearts fan could not possibly comprehend. 

6. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV is one of the better Final Fantasy titles due to its enduring core gameplay. Initially released for the Super Famicom, the title became an instant classic with groundbreaking graphics, memorable music, and a narrative that set the standard for RPGs. The DS remake not only pays homage to the original but elevates the experience with significant enhancements, introducing a fresh layer of depth to the story, an augmented gameplay system, and challenging difficulty, making it the toughest version of Final Fantasy IV.

The narrative follows Cecil, captain of Baron's Red Wings, navigating moral dilemmas as his kingdom pursues the world's crystals. The DS remake enriches the story with new scenes, altering the script and breathing fresh life into characters. The gameplay retains traditional RPG elements, with turn-based battles, exploration, and the introduction of the Augment system, adding a strategic layer to character customization. The DS version's difficulty spike and updated systems provide original fans with a new way to re-experience the game. 

Per usual, Final Fantasy IV is well-produced just like the rest of the mainline titles of the Franchise.  The graphics showcase some of the best visuals on the DS, featuring smooth 3D animations and dynamic battles. The music, though an update of the original soundtrack, leverages the DS's improved sound capabilities. The presentation excels with redesigned cutscenes taking advantage of the DS's 3D capabilities, voice acting adding depth to character interactions, and the overall immersive experience solidifying Final Fantasy IV DS as a timeless classic. 

5. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies

Another usual suspect in the RPG arena arrives in the form of Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. This JRPG features a captivating narrative that begins with the player assuming the role of a Celestrian, a guardian of the mortal world. Assigned the duty of protecting the town of Angel Falls, the protagonist, accompanied by mentor Aquila, encounters a young woman named Erinn and her grandfather under attack by monsters.

The game's innovative enemy placement system eliminates random encounters, allowing players to choose their battles strategically. The narrative unfolds as the protagonist embarks on guardian duties, aiding townspeople and engaging in tasks such as collecting benevolessence and helping spirits move on.

Dragon Quest IX introduces a well-designed vocation system, allowing players to switch character roles at Alltrades Abbey. The inclusion of skill points enhances character development, encouraging thoughtful allocation for proficiency in weapons, spells, and abilities. The alchemy system and treasure-hunting mode add depth. With a playtime of around 40 hours for the main story, Dragon Quest IX stands out as a remarkable RPG for the DS, offering a compelling narrative, engaging gameplay mechanics, and a variety of features that contribute to its status as a standout title of one of the best selling handheld systems ever. 

4. The World Ends With You

The World Ends With You (from here onward shall be referred to as TWEWY) stands out in the heavy-loaded DS JRPG library by defying the typical conventions of the genre. Developed by the same team behind Kingdom Hearts, TWEY exhibits brilliant art direction by Tetsuya Nomura and Gen Kobayashi, featuring unique character designs, imaginative monsters, and a vibrant, modern setting in the Japanese shopping district of Shibuya.

The narrative revolves around Neku Sakuraba, who wakes up in Shibuya with amnesia and discovers he can hear others' thoughts. The mysterious Game unfolds with a text instructing him to complete missions within a specified timeframe or face erasure by the Reapers. TWEWY's strength lies in its realistic setting, relatable characters, and captivating story.

The game's phenomenal soundtrack, featuring diverse genres like rock, J-pop, rap, and techno, contributes to the immersive experience. The combat system is a highlight, with innovative features and addictive gameplay. Players control Neku on the bottom screen using various Pins with unique attacks, while also managing a partner on the top screen. The dual-screen battles are challenging and rewarding, requiring strategic coordination.

TWEWY introduces a variety of features, including experience points earned in real-time and a dynamic difficulty system. Pins, representing attacks, can be leveled up and evolved, adding depth to character progression. The game also incorporates a food system, allowing characters to consume items for temporary boosts.

3. Pokemon Black and White 2

The DS probably has the best Pokemon games of all time. And Pokemon Black and White 2 is the best among the rest. This game represents a pinnacle in the otherworldly success of the Pokemon franchise. Released as a direct sequel to Pokemon Black and White, these games showcase Game Freak's ability to build upon and improve their predecessors, ensuring the series remains fresh and relevant after all those years. In this entry, new characters like the mysterious Akuroma are introduced. 

A notable improvement in Pokemon Black and White 2 is the sound design. The inclusion of impressive music pieces, some featuring actual words, addresses a historical weakness in previous Pokemon titles. Graphically, the games set a standard for DS titles with detailed sprites, captivating 3D cutscenes, and creatively designed environments.

The gameplay is lauded as exceptional even though it retains the traditional Pokemon formula of turn-based battles. Even after nearly two decades, Game Freak can deliver a near-perfect RPG Pokemon Black and White 2. 

2. Etrian Odyssey

Etrian Odyssey, developed and published by Atlus, harks back to the golden era of dungeon-crawler RPGs, offering a nostalgic experience for players who appreciate the challenges of the genre. Set in the intricate Yggdrasil Labyrinth, the game's plot takes a backseat to its focus on gameplay reminiscent of old-school RPGs. Players must assemble a team of adventurers, customizing up to 16 characters with unique classes, specializations, and abilities. 

The main feature of Etrian Odyssey lies in its challenging turn-based battles, where players face a variety of foes, including formidable FOEs. The game's difficulty is notably high, demanding strategic planning, resource management, and efficient mapping to navigate the labyrinth successfully. The town of Etria serves as a central hub for RPG conventions, offering questing, item transactions, and a resting place at the inn. The game's difficulty and reliance on meticulous mapping may deter some players, but it caters to those seeking a demanding and rewarding experience reminiscent of classic RPGs.

Aesthetically, Etrian Odyssey maintains a subdued tone with a first-person perspective during exploration and static, yet beautifully drawn sprites in battles. The music, composed by Yuzo Koshiro, enhances the old-school charm. While not universally appealing due to its challenging nature and adherence to traditional RPG mechanics, Etrian Odyssey is the old-school cool with the most modern take.

1. Chrono Trigger

The number one game on this list is basically the JRPG G.O.A.T. A timeless classic indeed finds its Nintendo DS with minimal changes from the original SNES version. SquareEnix's masterful RPG, initially released in 1995, remains a beloved title. The DS edition retains the charm of the original while introducing subtle improvements, making it a must-have for both long-time fans and newcomers to the Chrono Trigger experience.

The DS version faithfully replicates the SNES release with minor enhancements. The touchscreen controls streamline menu navigation, offering a convenient alternative to traditional button inputs. The addition of a map function and the preservation of the original's lush graphics and superb musical score contributes to the overall immersive experience. The DS iteration also includes the captivating animated intro by Akira Toriyama and features cut scenes that enhance the narrative.

The core of Chrono Trigger lies in its compelling and lean storyline and innovative gameplay. Players embark on a time-traveling adventure with protagonist Crono and a diverse cast of characters, exploring different eras to shape the course of history. The active time/turn-based combat system remains a standout, allowing strategic combinations of character abilities and fostering engaging battles. The game's re-translation improves on the original script, fixing grammatical errors and enhancing emotional depth while preserving the essence of the SNES classic.

Chrono Trigger's enduring appeal is underscored by its captivating narrative, memorable characters, and timeless gameplay mechanics. The DS version, despite minimal changes, successfully introduces the legendary RPG to a new generation while offering a nostalgic trip for dedicated fans.