7 Best Nintendo DS Ports that are better on the handheld

The Nintendo DS' iconic library is not just games made for the platform. Some of the best games on the handheld are ports of old games. These are seven of the best Nintendo DS ports ever.

Best Nintendo DS ports

7. Mystery Dungeon: Shiren The Wanderer

Mysterious Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer is the Nintendo DS port of a 1995 Super Famicom game, marking its release 13 years after its original release in Japan to North America on the DS. Set in feudal Japan, players control the wandering samurai Shiren and his companion, a talking weasel named Koppa, embarking on a quest to find the legendary Golden City. Developed by Chunsoft, known for their Mysterious Dungeon series, the game belongs to the roguelike genre, popularized by titles like Pokemon Mystery Dungeon.

The dungeons and towns in-game are vibrant and detailed. The music, ranging from simple melodies to fanfares, complements the ambiance effectively.  The gameplay is the actual highlight of Shiren the Wanderer, representing a true rogue-like experience. The grid-based, turn-based system requires strategic navigation through dungeons, facing various monsters and uncovering items. Permadeath is a significant challenge, and accumulating powerful gear becomes crucial. 

The game demands players learn from mistakes, recognize patterns, and grow wiser with each attempt. The inclusion of NPC companions and a Rescue System through WiFi adds depth to the gameplay. Despite its difficulty, the game is motivating rather than it is frustrating as the core gameplay is a callback to the challenging era. It is indeed a successful port of an almost forgotten game. 

6. Resident Evil Deadly Silence

Resident Evil: Deadly Silence seamlessly translates the horror classic that started the zombie craze not just in the gaming industry but all of the media on the DS. This is the amazing handheld port of the original 1996 game. Retaining the atmospheric intensity and iconic gameplay elements, the graphics faithfully replicate the visuals of the original, with the grayscale FMV sequences adding to the horror.

The musical score remains crisp and impactful, enhancing the horror experience, while the inclusion of voice acting, albeit hilariously bad, contributes to the nostalgic B-movie charm.

Gameplay, while honestly archaic even at that point in time, is still the standout feature, maintaining the fun, easy-to-learn, and engaging elements of the original. The DS edition introduces new features like assigning the knife to the 'L' trigger and providing convenient use without occupying inventory space. With isometric camera angles and well-executed controls, the game's replay value is high, encouraging players to explore alternate paths and decisions. Bonus features include touch screen puzzles, stylus-driven knife fights, and multiplayer options.

5. Dragon Quest V: Heavenly Bride

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride stands out as one of the finest old-school role-playing games, boasting an exceptional balance between exploration, battles, storytelling, and character development. As the fifth installment in the Dragon Quest series, it was originally released exclusively on the Super Famicom in Japan and is part of the Zenithian Trilogy. 

While the trilogy follows the chronological order of Dragon Quest VI, IV, and V, each game is loosely connected and can be enjoyed independently. The Nintendo DS remake marked the first international release of Dragon Quest V, featuring improved graphics with a 2D/3D hybrid and a rotatable camera, enhancing the overall gaming experience.

The game's deeply personal connections and stories add a layer of nostalgia and emotional resonance. The player recounts a personal history with the Dragon Quest series, particularly with Dragon Quest V.

The gameplay revolves around exploration, turn-based combat, and progression through various life stages of the Hero. The world unfolds gradually, offering diverse methods of exploration, such as sailing and flying. Random encounters in battles are swift, with strategic options beyond simple attacks. The recruitment of monsters into the party adds an interesting element, akin to later Pokémon mechanics. While some areas have a noticeable encounter rate, the game avoids excessive grinding, offering spells like Zoom and Evac for convenient travel and semi-addictive mini-games like TNT Board and Casino. 

4. Front Mission

Despite numerous iterations bearing the Front Mission name, the series' first game, obviously named Front Mission, often goes unrecognized for initiating the Mecha strategy experience. The remake, Front Mission 1st, was originally released for the PS1 and later for the DS, has finally made its way to North America under the title "Front Mission."

Front Mission introduces subtle visual changes, providing more detailed backgrounds and a higher resolution. While not pushing the DS's visual boundaries, the remake of the SNES original demonstrates commendable effort, seamlessly transitioning 2D elements like new wanzers and equipment. The narrative follows Roid Clive and the Canyon Crows unit, working for the Oceanic Community Union during the Second Huffman War, providing a straightforward yet well-executed storyline with a gritty war atmosphere.

Gameplay in Front Mission involves controlling mechs called wanzers, each with distinct body, arms, and leg parts, offering a unique take on the strategy RPG genre. Emphasizing strategy over RPG elements, combat revolves around targeting specific parts to destroy wanzers. The game's customization aspect, allowing players to create unique wanzer setups, remains a standout feature. While offering an enjoyable experience, the game's longevity feels somewhat limited compared to later entries in the series, with additional features providing limited incentives for prolonged engagement. 

3. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV is an iconic game that introduced the Active Time Battle (ATB) system, marked the series' transition to more developed characters and narrative, and set standards for future RPGs. Despite multiple ports to the PS1, Wonderswan Color, and GBA, technical issues hindered each version. The DS remake, however, surprised fans with new features, retaining the original's charm while introducing significant enhancements.

Visually, the DS remake showcases improved graphics, with a standout opening CG sequence. While character models have some shortcomings, the environment is visually appealing. Voice-acted scenes and a remixed soundtrack contribute to the overall immersive experience. The game's graphical style, reminiscent of FF9, maintains the essence of the original while offering a fresh look.

The storyline remains true to the classic tale of Cecil, a Dark Knight on a redemptive journey. The plot, though somewhat stereotypical due to setting early RPG standards, is praised for its simplicity, brisk pacing, and climactic nature. The DS version introduces voice-acting scenes, enhances narrative engagement, and the music quality surpasses the original, making it a well-rounded package.

Gameplay undergoes significant changes in FF4DS, with increased difficulty presenting a notable shift. Enemies move faster, hit harder, and exhibit altered behavior, contributing to a challenging but rewarding experience. Boss battles feature revamped attack patterns, requiring strategic thinking. Skills, spells, and items are rebalanced, providing a fresh approach to gameplay. Decant Abilities, allowing customization of commands, and the introduction of a new game plus mode contribute to the game's depth. Despite minor flaws, FF4DS stands out as a remake that surpasses the original, offering a thoroughly enjoyable and enhanced gaming experience.

2. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, a remake of the original Fire Emblem, offers a modernized experience to preserve the essence of the original game without inducing boredom. The story is characterized by a straightforward narrative where Marth leads an army to reclaim a continent from the Shadow Dragon. While the story receives a modest evaluation, it is acknowledged that its simplicity doesn't significantly impact the overall enjoyment, emphasizing that the game's strength lies elsewhere.

The graphics were praised for surpassing DS standards, with detailed tiles adding depth to maps. The music features somber tones with occasional uplifting tunes, deriving remixes from the original Fire Emblem. Fire Emblem's core strength lies in its enjoyable strategic experience. The review emphasizes the game's focus on mathematical calculations for predictable damage outcomes rather than relying on RNG. The grid-based movement system, distinct unit classes, and the new Class Swap feature contribute to a diverse and engaging gameplay experience. The six difficulty levels cater to various player preferences.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is deemed a fitting experience for strategy veterans and newcomers alike. While it may not excel in storytelling, its engaging gameplay, diverse characters, and replayability make it a worthwhile addition to the Fire Emblem series.

1. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is, without a single doubt, the greatest JRPG of all time. The Steam version of this game is the better buy but with the DS, you can have it on a portable. But then again, there is the Steam Deck. Yet it is not as portable as the DS. Chrono Trigger for that matter is much more preferable on the DS. 

Chrono Trigger is a timeless classic and one of gaming's first true masterpieces. The game's premise revolves around a young protagonist and friends traveling through time to defeat a powerful evil force, combining elements of sci-fi and high fantasy. In terms of gameplay, Chrono Trigger employs an Active Turn-Based system, providing a seamless and instinctual experience. The ease of use, natural flow, and the introduction of dual and triple techs contribute to the game's excellence.

The game utilizes 2D sprite animation with an overhead view, featuring expressive character models, immersive settings that differentiate eras in time, and captivating artwork. The sound and music score received high praise, with memorable individual character themes and a score considered among the finest in video gaming. 

The game embraces timeless and archetypal themes, delivering a hero's quest, a struggle to save the world, and a compelling time travel narrative. The story successfully weaves together classic fantasy elements, creating an instantly familiar yet beautiful experience. Chrono Trigger as a classic and emphasizing its resonance as a true work of art. For those familiar with the original, the DS version offers additional treats, including an arena mode, two new dungeons, and unique items.