Best Role-Playing Games on the Nintendo DS

The Nintendo DS features a strong library of role-playing games (RPGs), a boon for aspiring heroes who only have time to engage in quests during their morning subway commute. Role-playing games are typically associated with swords, sorcery, and young heroes who must be built from the ground-up before they can defeat the ultimate evil. However, RPGs often employ multiple themes outside these medieval stereotypes, which is especially true of the best role-playing games on the Nintendo DS.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest V. Image © Square-Enix

Square-Enix's Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride is a stellar remake of a classic RPG title that appeared exclusively in Japan on the Super Famicom (called the “Super Nintendo” in America). You fill the shoes of a boy hero who tags along on his father's quest to slay a demon. The quest is eventually passed on to you as you grow, get married, and produce children who fight alongside you. You can even tame and recruit enemy monsters to aid you on your journey. It never hurts to have a two-headed dragon on your side when you're up against ​the Lord of the Underworld.

The World Ends With You by Square-Enix is a unique RPG with battle scenes that make heavy use of the Nintendo DS's touch screen and stylus. Set in Shibuya, Tokyo, the game stars a boy named Neku who's forced to battle for his life with ethereal strangers called “Reapers.” The World Ends With You reflects the life and color of the Shibuya district: the latest fashions protect Neku against enemy attacks and stylish pins unleash powerful magic on the Reapers' forces.

Chrono Trigger is another Square-Enix title, a modified port of an RPG that originally appeared on the Super Nintendo in 1995. Chrono Trigger is one of the most beloved games of all time, and its graphics, music, and gameplay still hold up very well on the Nintendo DS. Players are put in charge of a party of kids who must travel back and forth through time to stop an apocalyptic evil from destroying the world. The Nintendo DS version of the game features bonus dungeons that are not available in the original game.

Nintendo's Pokemon games are often dismissed as kid stuff, but don't let the sugary cute aesthetics fool you: Pokemon is an extremely deep and complex series that appeals to gamers of all ages. That's not to say it's inaccessible to young players (millions of enthusiastic kids say otherwise). Pokemon Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum is very easy to play but can take months to master. The variations between the three versions are minimal, with the main difference being the types of Pokemon available to be caught and trained. Pokemon's hook has long been “Gotta Catch 'em All!”, much to the dismay of many parents.

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time

Mario & Luigi: Parnters in Time
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. Image © Nintendo

Mario and Luigi have long been associated with hopping around and saving a Princess who can never seem to avoid being captured, but they've starred in their share of role-playing games, too. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time by Alpha Dream and Nintendo mixes traditional RPG gameplay with action elements commonly found in Mario games: the brothers execute traditional attacks, like stomping on enemies and clobbering them with fireballs. The in-game writing and script are hilarious, with plenty of quotable moments.

When Square-Enix first announced that the ninth chapter of the beloved Dragon Quest franchise would exist on a portable game system, people wondered if the Nintendo DS had the necessary power to bring the game to life. The answer is a resounding yes. Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies has a core quest that will engage you for hours, plus you can spend ages messing around with optional side quests and treasure maps.

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