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Nintendo DS: The first five years

Whoa, hang a second. The DS has been around for five years? Strange as it sounds, it’s true – the DS launched in the US on November 21, 2004 to almost immediate success, and is well on its way to outselling every other major gaming platform in history. Current numbers put the DS (and its various incarnations) at nearly 115 million units sold worldwide, a runaway lead over Sony’s estimated 60 million PSPs.


Above: Five years, three iterations (with one more on the way)

To celebrate, we’re going to run through the past five years of the DS’s lifecycle, one that shows no real signs of disappearing in the coming years. We’ll look at its best and worst games, its various transformations over the years and how it helped pull Nintendo back from a distant third place running.


Above: The original design, first revealed in May 2004

E3 2004 was the world’s first glimpse at Nintendo’s Game Boy successor. It was touted as a “third pillar” of the company’s ongoing strategy, the other two being the Game Boy brand and whatever console they were supporting (GameCube at the time). While the first exposure was far from a wholly positive experience, it at least got people talking, and made everyone intensely curious about Nintendo’s out-of-nowhere machine.
 
2004 | 
2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008 | 2009

2004 – The Launch


Year in brief: The Nintendo DS arrived on Sunday, November 21, 2004, packed with a Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo cart. Its purpose was to showcase the system’s advanced (compared to the GBA) graphical prowess as well as the reasoning for a dual-screened handheld. Nintendo’s argument: a stylus input screen that made games simpler to control and more familiar than those loaded down with confusing button layouts. The demo was crisp, easy to control and a great promise of the full game that would release in 2006.

Criticism: The “simplified controls” plan would come to fruition later, but in the launch window, most games made poor use of both the stylus and the unique dual-screen presentation. In our opinion, we think the DS launch was incredibly weak, and took several months to remedy. A few naysayers also pointed to Nintendo’s long-dead Game & Watch units that clearly inspired the look and design of the DS. If it faded away, why would this $150 version fare any better?


Above: No one knew what to make of this bizarre contraption

Sales: Despite being available for less than two months of 2004, Nintendo reported 2.8 million units sold worldwide by the end of the year. This is partly due to Nintendo releasing the DS in the US first (a rarity) to capitalize on the “Black Friday” shopping frenzy.

Best game of 2004: Super Mario 64 DS

The N64 classic received slightly enhanced visuals, new modes and new characters to control, plus a reasonably entertaining four-player mode. We love the original to death, but feel the stylus controls were a huge headache and the lack of an analog stick didn’t help matters either. Play it on N64 or Virtual Console instead.

Honorable mention: Feel the Magic XY/XX

Worst game of 2004: Ping Pals

A crap-ass instant messaging “game” that expanded on the DS’s built-in PictoChat software, but in ways no one cared. Even in 2004 there were easier and cheaper ways to sneak messages around a classroom.

Hateful mention: Spider-Man 2

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27 comments

  • MB2KSpicules - December 8, 2009 4:33 a.m.

    Brettleston - always with the great articles. I can always count on Ninten-gold on this site when he's writing. But no honorable mentions for M&L: Partners in Time? Its on the pic at the top of the article! I personally prefer superstar saga on GBA, or the 2009 Bowser inside story, but it was still a great game of that year. And no Dementium: The Ward? I hope I'm not alone with Antista with the love for that game.
  • Kytl - November 27, 2009 5:09 a.m.

    getting Spirits Tracks for X-mas...that is all.
  • GameManiac - November 24, 2009 1:24 a.m.

    ...And SHORT LIVE CRAPPY THIRD-PERSON GAMES!!!
  • GameManiac - November 23, 2009 5:12 a.m.

    Wow... I think I have EVERY good game mentioned in this article, except the Advance Wars game (I prefer Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon) and that Castlevania game (i find them somewhat unfitting for me). I was ADDICTED to Pokemon Diamond, adored New Super Mario bros., Super Mario 64 DS, and many of the other games mentioned in this article. As of now, I have a DS Lite (and the regular one, despite the snapped hinge on it). I was actually thinking of buying a DSi, but I may want to change my mind when I learn more about that DSi XL. LONG LIVE THE DS!!!
  • super0sonic - November 22, 2009 8:08 p.m.

    I really like articles like these. Also I kind of want the DSi XL. I really like the ideal of a larger screen.
  • Cybermaster - November 22, 2009 3:09 p.m.

    One complaint: TWEWY should be the game of 2008.
  • lymanzaar - November 21, 2009 10:18 p.m.

    When I had gone to surgery in the Summer of '07, I had my best friend give me Superman Returns on my DS. It was so we could both play a $5 dollar game together. It was so stupid, I was laughing. But laughing hurt due to my surgery, so set the game aside til I recovered.
  • Xeacons - November 21, 2009 4:17 p.m.

    Personally, I think the DSi XL should be treated like a new color. It's just a DSi, only BIGGER! So if you already have one, don't sweat it. I don't see it as a new system (or even a new version). I just hope it doesn't kill some great game launch like the DSi did last year (RIP, GTA:Chinatown).
  • TRAVthe3RD - November 21, 2009 1:10 p.m.

    why are you guys shocked bout the constant updates when they did exactly the same thing with the gameboy advance.. think the sp then the micro..
  • QWERTYCommander - November 21, 2009 5:12 a.m.

    Does anyone know what the DSi XL is for? It doesn't have anything that the regular i doesn't, besides better battery life. It's just for people with big hands/poor eyesight.
  • griffed88 - November 21, 2009 5:08 a.m.

    i just got a dsi, but I'm pretty sure I'm gonna swap it out for a psp go. I hate havin to carry games around and I like the games on psp waaaaay more than the ds. I'm not a huge Zelda fan and neither am I a huge Mario fan. Metroid is sweet, but all that shovelware sucks lol
  • church117 - November 21, 2009 4:02 a.m.

    ooo. woops. i mean 14th
  • church117 - November 21, 2009 4:02 a.m.

    third. haha
  • Spybreak8 - November 21, 2009 2:21 a.m.

    This is the Joystiq picture I was referencing: http://tiny.cc/Zm4rP It makes me laugh every time.
  • Vagrant - November 21, 2009 2:18 a.m.

    What? Barely even one mention of Phoenix Wright?
  • Spybreak8 - November 21, 2009 1:59 a.m.

    Nintendo says it's just like Pokemon, collect em all! Lol seriously they marketed the DS to old people and then had to make the XL so they could read the DS Lite's small text lol. I have a DS Lite and sold off my DS along with Mario Kart Super Circuit, since Mario Kart DS has all the tracks (kept F Zero though)! If I had a younger brother (I'm the youngest) I'd get him another DS so we could play wireless locally, one thing I enjoyed alot at college. One thing I'd like is to see my overall driving time for Mario Kart (like Rockstar stat page ha), gawd prob be a solid 2 years. Star Fox Command is a great game but the exclusion to skip those fucking annoying missile missions is the reason its on my shelf and I contemplated selling that sucker. Touch works well with gameplay but sometimes the stylus gets in your way (with Zelda and Metroid), and they're making the stylus BIGGER!? wtf oh and I bought a M3 DS card to play all my games on one card, watch videos/movies and listen to my music on the go. (I do not pirate games on my card, I use it legitimately.) Like to say my fav game of all time on the DS is China Wars and Meteos and Tetris also has an honorable mention. Oh maybe the fact that the DS isn't selling like hot cakes now is the fact that everyone already has at least 2?! lol (You guys should have used Joystiq's DS printing money picture for this article ^^)
  • SuperStingray - November 21, 2009 1:29 a.m.

    I don't see why it's so bad that Nintendo's making a fourth iteration of the DS. It's like complaining that there's at least a hundred different brands of PCs.
  • NotBraze - November 21, 2009 12:46 a.m.

    I have the original 2004 version, and I was tempted by the DSi when it was first announced but the lack of GBA support was a deal breaker for me. I have a few great DS games, but the majority of my handheld collection is GBA games. When I heard about the DSi LL I was hopeful that a bigger system meant that'd there would be room for a GBA slot but of course, there is not. They aren't even going to offer GBA games over DSiWare. Bad move Nintendo.
  • Conman93 - November 21, 2009 12:29 a.m.

    I love my ds. Has some of my favourite games. Prof layton Pokemon and Zelda of course. Hopefully it wont change dramaticaly for another 5 years
  • 510BrotherPanda - November 21, 2009 12:09 a.m.

    I know this might never happen, at least not IRL, but I want something that can play my Gamecube discs like a PSP, Nintendo. Not a huger DS.

Showing 1-20 of 27 comments

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