The 8 Best Nintendo DS Puzzle Games to Buy in 2018

Prepare yourself for optical illusions, number puzzles, and riddles

Brothers playing handheld video games
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The marriage of puzzle games and Nintendo handhelds is a long-held tradition that’s both popular (Tetris sold 35 million copies), approachable, and has stood the test of time for nearly 30 years. The Nintendo DS is no exception to the rule, bringing over 350 puzzle games that reinvented the genre and the way we play them. So if you want some helpful advice when it comes to which ones you should play, we put together a list of the best puzzle games on the Nintendo DS, and yes, Tetris DS is included.

The Nintendo DS’s dual screens and touch functionality provide a whole new realm for the genre, whether it’s filling out letterboxes in traditional style puzzle games like Crosswords DS or reading information to solve clues and riddles. The puzzle games we rounded up will please any type of gamer, as many of the titles combine other gaming elements like action-adventure, 2D platforming, and much more. So read on to see which games you should pick up and play today.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box

Courtesy of Amazon

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box delivers a whimsical mysterious tale that involves solving over 150 fresh brain teasers, mazes, logic problems, and more. Its well-written and illustrated storyline feature cutscene animations, a music score, charming graphics, and enthralling puzzle challenges, making it the best overall puzzle game on the Nintendo DS.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box has you embark cross-country by train to solve a mystery surrounding a cursed box that kills anyone who opens it. Gameplay revolves around moving to different locations and talking to people while solving different puzzles with no time limits. Puzzles include matching the shape of a key to a keyhole, finding details in a picture, or reassembling torn maps. Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box will last you about 12 to 15 hours of gameplay and you’ll have the ability to return to any puzzle once you solve it.

Best for Kids: Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4

For ages 8 through 10, Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4 offers an educational puzzle game on the Nintendo DS. The game hinges on the curriculum-based card series of the same name, quizzing children in subjects of science, math, English, geography, history, and more.

Brain Quest: Grades 3 & 4 is loaded with over 6,000 unique questions and two modes: Brain Mode, which quizzes kids with fast-paced games in their favorite subjects, and a Quest Mode, which takes them on a light, fun-filled adventure where they solve problems through quiz games. The educational questions in the game vary (one moment they might have to connect matching words with the stylus and the next they could categorize rivers from the longest to shortest). Even if kids are not well versed in some subjects, the game helps to develop a curiosity while rewarding them with points and prizes. The game also includes Sudoku for all ages and ranges in 4x4, 6x6, and 9x9 puzzles.

Best Platformer: Kirby Mass Attack

Kirby Mass Attack puts you in charge of commanding a cute little army of sassy pink blobs in a side-scrolling platform puzzle adventure. Using a stylus and the Nintendo DS touchscreen, you will control ten Kirbys as you overcome various enemies and obstacles while finding hidden treasures.

It’s all about problem-solving in Kirby Mass Attack; you can command your team to overwhelm enemies via strength in numbers or delegate individual tasks to complete challenges that require a specific number of Kirbys. Gameplay involves you collecting as much fruit as you can to restore your army while gathering everyone together to break down barriers, avoid traps, and unleash devastating attacks where you fling each individual at enemies. At the end of each level, you’ll be given a medal for how well you’ve done while unlocking additional mini-games.

Best Timeless Classic: Tetris DS

It just wouldn’t be a best puzzle game list without Tetris, and despite originally released in 1984, the addictive gameplay keeps on coming back in new forms. Tetris DS gives the timeless classic a fresh coat of paint on the Nintendo DS with six new addictive modes and an exciting multiplayer experience.​​

Tetris DS features a main standard mode that goes off the original formula of the puzzle game where blocks fall from the sky and it’s up to you to rotate and organize them in rows to clear without overflowing the top of your screen. While you can play alone, Tetris DS offers a competitive push mode where you face off with a friend locally or CPU in a race to clear as many lines as possible while filling up the opponent’s side of the screen with pushed up blocks. Multiplayer matches allow up to 10 Nintendo DS players to duke it out using only one Tetris DS cartridge.

Best for Brain Exercises: Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day

Like cardio for your mind, Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day offers an edutainment puzzle game filled with several mini-games designed to exercise your brain. The game is based on a book called “Train Your Brain: 60 Days to a Better Brain” by neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima who found that performing math equations and reading aloud could help retain mental clarity.​

Brain Age 2 starts you off by creating a profile and performing a Brain Age Check using three random tests to determine — from years 20 to 80 — your brain’s age and responsiveness. The games three modes include a Quick Play option that helps you practice mini-games, Sudoku (with 100 puzzles), and Daily Training, which gives you a Brain Age Check to record your updated brain’s age. Brain Age 2 includes activities surrounding rock paper scissors, playing simple songs on a piano, matching symbols, math recall, and much more.

Best for Creativity: Scribblenauts

The objective of Scribblenauts is perfectly captured in its catchphrase: “Write Anything, Solve Everything”. The best creative and most original Nintendo DS puzzle game on the list is full of action and allows players to summon almost any object by typing in their name on the touchscreen.

The 2D crayon-style, side-scrolling adventure of Scribblenauts includes 200 levels in 10 themed areas where you’ll do everything from rescuing an injured person in the snowy mountains, to getting a cat off a roof, and even exterminating a room full of rats. You’ll have at your disposal over 30,000 objects to use and combine, including animals, weapons, vehicles, famous people, and Internet memes to solve puzzles in any creative way you choose. Each object has their own physics and behavior, so you can get lost in the game picking endless possibilities. 

Best for Traditional Puzzles: Crosswords DS

When it comes to traditional puzzles on the Nintendo DS, nothing beats Crosswords DS. The game not only includes over 1,000 crossword puzzles but comes with word searches and anagram puzzles as well.​

Crosswords DS is designed in a way for players to hold their Nintendo DS like an open book and use their stylus to touch the puzzle screen and fill in letters, slide word tiles in anagrams, and circle hidden words. All three puzzle modes allow for varying difficulties for both newcomers and seasoned veterans and feature unlockable puzzles with new challenges. Crosswords DS is the perfect choice for anyone who wants a more simplistic and relaxing puzzle game with a functional and ergonomic control scheme that feels like the real thing.

Best for Intensity: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Even the title 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors evokes intensity — the mature puzzle game for Nintendo DS lures gamers in with a thrilling visual story surrounding a deadly conspiracy. It's up to you to save yourself and eight other people in a life-or-death game where success means escaping from a sinking cruise liner.

The gameplay of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors features two types of puzzle elements: escape the room challenges where players are trapped in a room and must examine their surroundings in order to exit, and dialogue narrative involving making decisions that impact the direction of the story. While escaping rooms, players will combine objects to create tools and engage in puzzles such as baccarat, magic square, math problems, and other brain teasers. Depending on your decisions, you’ll be branched off in one of six storylines, each with a special ending; the true ending, however, requires multiple play-throughs of the game and finding out new information.