2008's most impressive DS games

Reflection is customary at the end of the year. Where were we? What happened? What games did we love? And as we stared down at our copies of Club Penguin and Personal Trainer: Cooking, our thoughts turned to: What were the DS games that actually tried this year? Despite the sea of shovelware trash, 2008 had so many advancements in terms of graphics, sound, cutscenes, and other things we take for granted on consoles that we simply had to celebrate the 10 most impressive efforts of the year.

P.S. - If you're looking for GR’s DS game of the year, we can't truly say, but we only gave one DS game a 10 this year, if that means anything to you.

Of all the advances to celebrate in DS games this year, Professor Layton achieved them all way back in February. Whether it was a surprising amount of spoken dialogue, inventive touch screen use or downloading new content via Wi-Fi, Prof. Layton proved the system was a media powerhouse even with a cartridge handicap. While it may not have gotten all the consumer love here it did in Japan, this pile of brain bending whimsy raised the bar in many ways.

Above: Layton's Euro/Japan animation mash-up in action

Cutscenes were the biggest feat. While some elite titles we mention later have beautiful CG vignettes, Layton's hand-drawn style was pleasingly unique, more reminiscent of Little Nemo comics than Naruto.

These exquisitely animated moments reminded us of a Miyazaki film, no small praise, and wanting to see the next one made us slog through even the most headache inducing question from the weird, though wonderfully realized, residents of St. Mystere.

Though Activision sold an ungodly amount of frankly crappy Guitar Hero: On Tour add-ons, we couldn't give the award to something that actually caused us physical pain. While it approximated playing a standard guitar controller as best as could be expected, any game that warns you playing it will destroy your hand is worthy of nothing. That's why we choose to recognize Taito's DS Paddle, for use on their rereleases of Space Invaders and Arkanoid, and not just because we feel no pain using it.


We heartily endorse both the PSP and DS versions of Space Invaders Extreme anyway, and we look forward to its XBLA release, but when you plug this import-only - though relatively inexpensive - dial into the GBA port, you will really be playing SIE, or its sister title Arkanoid, the way it was meant to be played. After first using the d-pad and then turning the paddle, we noticed a whole new level of subtlety in movement and control that Space Invaders was designed to handle 30(!) years ago.

The best add-on makes a great game better, not twists one's hand into painful contortions.


  • marioman50 - December 17, 2009 4:45 a.m.

    "but why.... WHYYYYYYY???!!?!!!" @nik: me too, w00t!
  • nik41507 - December 17, 2009 12:14 a.m.

    I clicked on the link from 2009's best games
  • sourpunch - December 17, 2008 5:54 p.m.

    You know I don't have any of these :( the only one I played was ninja gaiden demo off of the nintendo channel (Wii). Lack of money really sucks. Lol I just forgot to type in the words before I hit post and got "Ooops - that's not what was written in the image. You may be a robot. Try again." Me being a robot is news to me.
  • dreamgor - December 17, 2008 1:39 p.m.

    FFIV and WEWY is the best portable games i've played... they struck me dumb with amazement and when i think i'm done with it they just reveal new fantastic things
  • ssj4raditz - December 17, 2008 8:09 a.m.

    "It's like how dial-up modems worked when the first caveman successfully landed on the moon with Genghis Khan." LOL
  • TheSuburbiaRuins - December 17, 2008 4:25 a.m.

    First feature, good job Henry. I will actually look into many of these now
  • Corsair89 - December 16, 2008 11:25 p.m.

    WEWY, FFIV, and NinjaTown are amazing games. I wasn't thrilled by Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, though. Ninja Gaiden II is better because it is way more fun to chop enemies to bloody pieces than poke them with the stylus.
  • DontPanic - December 16, 2008 10:49 p.m.

    I must have that SIE paddle...
  • DEATHWISH - February 13, 2009 9:53 p.m.

    Ninja Gaiden was the the sh't on DS. Sadly, I never met anyone else who actually played it. >.> Ohh well. Glad you see it though, Henry.
  • secretsearcher - December 22, 2008 5:50 p.m.

    I never really got into the whole final fantasy thing, but IV looks real good. I'll have to get that. Anyway, props to GR for giving the DS a chance to shine.
  • supersonicsparky - December 18, 2008 9:03 p.m.

    Korg was to complicated, and I just couldn't get into TWEWY, I wanted to love it, but it just didn't click.
  • Gingerbread - December 17, 2008 10:49 p.m.

    those look like some cool games
  • GR_HenryGilbert - December 17, 2008 5:49 p.m.

    Yeesh, thanks for spotting the Arkanoid f-up. I owe you a no-prize. However, I just fixed it, so history will remember me spelling it right.
  • Bronzus - December 17, 2008 10:46 a.m.

    Arkanoid is a SHITE game. Good paddle, though.
  • year20xx - December 17, 2008 7:52 a.m.

    It's "Arkanoid." With no E. Kind of important when honoring a game to spell it right. I wouldn't reeeeaally care, except that it's such a good list of this year's significant DS games.
  • Cwf2008 - December 17, 2008 2:38 a.m.

    And really how many f**king Final Fantasys have there been anyway? I would guess at about 5 Final Fantaasy VII, 3 Final Fantasy V...PLEASE MAKE THE EMO RPG STOP!
  • Cwf2008 - December 17, 2008 2:29 a.m.

    fourth. Really though its sad so few games on the DS are good...
  • skyguy343 - December 16, 2008 10:50 p.m.

    i love that dial thing

Showing 1-18 of 18 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000