Best Homebrew Games for the Nintendo DS

Go beyond store titles with these independently produced video games

A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue, photo taken during the 3DS launch event in NYC.

 Wikimedia Commons

Your Nintendo DS experience doesn't have to stop at your local game merchant. There's a huge online community dedicated to Nintendo DS homebrew: games programmed by amateurs and independent developers.

With a little homebrew know-how, you can access dozens of titles across multiple genres, including puzzle, role-playing, strategy, and action games. Here's a sampling of the best Nintendo DS homebrew the internet has to offer.

Real-Time Strategy (RTS): 'A Touch of War'

The Nintendo DS has plenty of turn-based strategy games — "Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon" is a good example — but it's a little lacking for heart-stopping real-time strategy (RTS) games.

Luckily, you can treat the Nintendo DS's RTS deficiency with "A Touch of War." It offers good times with big, colorful sprite graphics and medieval soldiers who are out for blood. Keep a store of air in your lungs; you won't have time to breathe.

Strategy: 'DiceWars DS'

"DiceWars DS" is an addictive strategy game that plays a lot like "Risk." It's you versus seven computer-controlled opponents, and everybody is hungry for land. If you're a fan of "Risk," don't let this one slip you by.

Roguelike Role-Playing Game (RPG): 'POWDER'

What's a roguelike RPG? It's dungeon-crawling in its purest, most merciless form. You explore endless labyrinths teeming with unimaginable evils and brimming with magnificent treasure. No two visits to the underworld are ever the same; the dungeon layouts change every time you plumb the depths.

"POWDER" brings the torment and satisfaction of the roguelike experience to the Nintendo DS. True to roguelike tradition, the game's graphics are simple, but you're not playing the game to gawk at the scenery. You're playing to better yourself as an adventurer.

Two-Dimensional Action: 'MegaETK'

Fans of the "Mega Man" series will find a lot to like about "MegaETK," a homebrew game that combines 2D platforming action with minor RPG elements. Jump around, blast enemies, take on colorful bosses, save money, and burden your little Mega Man clone with a shopping addiction.

Real-Time Strategy (RTS) / Tower Defense: 'Warcraft: Tower Defense'

If you're looking for a particularly intense experience, "Warcraft: Tower Defense" combines real-time strategy with tower defense — a genre that, as its name suggests, involves protecting a home base against an endless onslaught of enemies. In "Warcraft: Tower Defense," you defend against invading forces by building and upgrading projectile-flinging towers.

Two-Dimensional Action: 'Xrick DS'

"Xrick DS" is a Nintendo DS port of "Xrick" for the PC, which in turn is a side-scrolling game that's heavily inspired by "Rick Dangerous," a 2D adventure game developed for the PC in the late '80s.

Confused yet? The original "Rick Dangerous" was put together by Core, a company that went on to give life to one of ​gaming's most recognizable explorers: Lara Croft of the "Tomb Raider" series. Like its source material, "Xrick DS" is heavily inspired by the "Indiana Jones" movies. Expect lots of thrills, spills, and rolling rocks.

First-Person Shooter (FPS): 'Quake DS'

Bring the definitive '90s first-person shooter to the Nintendo DS with "QuakeDS." This was the game that you quietly installed and pecked at while your computer lab teacher droned on about some programming issue. Download the homebrew adaptation and relive the magic.

Physics/Puzzle: 'Pocket Physics'

If you enjoy making a mockery out of the laws of gravity in "Crayon Physics" or "Crayon Physics Deluxe" for the PC and iPhone, you'll want to download "Pocket Physics" for the Nintendo DS.

The basic premise should be familiar for fans of "Crayon Physics": You draw objects on the touch screen, and they become real and interact with their environment through accurate physics. Balls roll down ramps and knock over dominoes, and golf clubs swing on hinges to knock projectiles across the screen. Let your inner physicist burst forth.

Shoot 'Em Up: 'Geo Wars'

"Geo Wars" is a homebrew take on the beloved "Geometry Wars," a geometric shoot-'em-up game that was developed for the PC and adapted for several game consoles.

"Geo Wars" might be an independent title, but even the most seasoned player might mistake it for a professionally developed game. Its futuristic graphics and anime-style character portraits are fantastic, it has a compelling story, and it features 22 levels swarming with relentless enemies.

Puzzle Collection: 'PuzzleManiak'

"PuzzleManiak" is based on Simon Tatham's "Puzzle Collection" for the PC, Mac, and Linux. And as its name suggests, "PuzzleManiak" is soul food for any puzzle fanatic. Twenty-seven puzzles are available for your perusal, all generated by algorithms to ensure a unique experience every time you play. Available games include:

  • "Blackbox"
  • "Bridges"
  • "Fifteen"
  • "Filling"
  • "Flip"
  • "Galaxies"
  • "Inertia"
  • "Light Up"
  • "Map"
  • "Mastermind"
  • "Mines"
  • "Net"
  • "Netslide"
  • "Pattern"
  • "Rectangles"
  • "Samegame"
  • "Sixteen"
  • "Slant"
  • "Slitherlink"
  • "Solitaire"
  • "Sudoku"
  • "Tents"
  • "Unequal"
  • "Twiddle"
  • "Untangle"