What Is the Nintendo DS?

Original Style Nintendo DS ("Phat")


“Nintendo DS” is a general name that applies to all versions of Nintendo's popular dual-screen handheld game system, including the Nintendo DS, the Nintendo DS Lite, the Nintendo DSi or the Nintendo DSi XL.

This wide definition seems confusing at first, but most gamers use proper names to make a distinction between the different Nintendo DS builds. 

Fans of the first generation Nintendo DS often refer to the bulkier hardware as the “DS Phat.” Nintendo officially terms it as the “original style” Nintendo DS.

This profile outlines the capabilities of the original style Nintendo DS, or the “Phat.”

Nintendo DS Release

The Nintendo DS hit American stores on November 21, 2004, followed by Japan on December 2, 2004. It was the first Nintendo console to release in America before Japan. It's the successor of Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, another popular handheld system.

Nintendo DS Functions

The Nintendo DS's primary function is, of course, to play games and entertain the masses. Whereas most game systems today offer a true multi-media experience, the Nintendo DS clings to the comfortable simplicity of plugging in a game and playing it. Nintendo DS games are officially referred to as “game cards.”

One feature that helped the Nintendo DS move at retail is its backward compatibility with Nintendo's previous handheld system, the Game Boy Advance (GBA). The Game Boy Advance cartridge slot is located at the bottom of the DS.

The system does have a few surprises. For instance, each Nintendo DS comes pre-loaded with PictoChat, a picture-based chat program that lets a locally-based group of people express themselves.

The Nintendo DS can access a Wi-Fi signal, which allows for competitive online play in certain titles. In some games, only one game card is needed for up to four players. The Nintendo DS can also download game demos in game retail outlets that contain “DS Download Stations.”

In February 2006, Nintendo released an Opera browser for the DS. It's since been discontinued.

The Nintendo DS also functions as a clock and an alarm.

Nintendo DS Games 

The system's touch-sensitive screen and the built-in microphone lets developers experiment building unique games that can't be replicated fully on other systems. The Nintendo DS has particularly earned a favorable reputation as a family-friendly machine. Games like the puzzle-heavy Brain Age and the pet simulator Nintendogs helped propel the DS's enormous success and landed it in the hands of kids, adults, the elderly, experienced gamers, and beginners.

The Nintendo DS's puzzle games and role-playing games are unmatched. Platformer games like New Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man ZX prove that the challenge offered by two-dimensional action games is ageless. Less conventional games are plentiful, too: you can whip up a meal with Cooking Mama. You can even monitor your fitness with Let's Yoga and Let's Pilates.

Nintendo has crafted a game line called “Touch Generations," a selection of titles that are meant to appeal to gamers of all ages and skill levels. Some Touch Generations titles include Brain Age, Elite Beat Agents, and Hotel Dusk: Room 215.

Nintendo DS Price

After the introduction of the more compact Nintendo DS Lite in 2006, Nintendo eased up on manufacturing the original style Nintendo DS. Major retailers like Amazon and Best Buy don't tend to carry the units new (though an isolated console may be floating here and there), but it's easy to find them used. As with most used electronics, prices on a used original style Nintendo DS vary widely and are largely determined by the seller, with rare colored editions commanding up to $200 USD from collectors.

How Much Does a Nintendo DS Game Cost?

Most Nintendo DS games cost $29.00 – $35.00 USD. Retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon frequently put DS games on sale, and chains such as GameStop and Blockbuster sell used titles at reduced prices.

Nintendo DS Competition

The Nintendo DS has two direct competitors: Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses. Which one is right for you?