Over two years ago, Nintendo’s DSi went on sale in the United States, and it’s still going strong. That’s how it worked: It had two screens and used touch controls. It had a microphone and a clamshell design like its predecessors, but it also had a bigger screen and a few small digital cameras built in. Perhaps the most important new thing wasn’t something that could be seen in the system itself. In the software, it was there, too. In the DSi Shop.
It was inspired by Nintendo’s home console’s WiiWare service. The DSiWare service was launched the same day the DSi system went on sale. You can download games to your DSi from the service. As a result, Nintendo’s handheld was put in more direct competition and comparison with some other ways to get games when you were on the go. This is good for the consumer because it means there are more options for people to get games on the go.
DSiWare, as a whole, hasn’t been very well known in the last two years. But those who have been paying attention have been able to play some truly great games. If you’re just tuning in now, we’re here to help make those efforts more well-known with this list of the best of the best. You can see our favourite DSiWare downloads here. We’ve looked back at our thoughts and opinions on each one for the last two years, and we’ve put together this list of our top. These are the games that are sure to be a hit. They’re worth your time and money, and they won’t let you down.
What’s more, Nintendo’s new 3DS eShop is going to be up and running very soon – maybe even at the end of this month. When it does, these games will also be on sale on the newer 3DS. You can also move any you already own from your older DSi to your newer 3DS.
To see what DSiWare has been up to in its first two years, let’s dive right in and see what it has to offer. We hope that the next era will bring even more original downloads.
Tetris Party Live
Publisher: Tetris Online Inc. | Developer: Tetris Online Inc.
Release Date: November 22, 2010 | Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
DSiWare’s Tetris game is number one on our list. When the first Game Boy came out, Tetris was included as a bonus game. It’s just common sense that you should be able to spin, shift, and build lines of falling blocks on every Big N portable that comes along, even if you don’t own a Game Boy.
To get the classic Tetris gameplay in a variety of ways, Tetris Party Live lets you play in a number of different ways, from the traditional Marathon mode to a variety of multiplayer options, including online play over Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection. It’s a lot of value for a five-dollar investment, and we’re happy to call it the start of our “Top 10” list.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: NST
Release Date: June 8, 2009 | Price: 800 Nintendo DSi Points
Much of Nintendo’s first-party games for DSiWare were called “Express,” which was a name given to a wide range of digital re-releases that had been cut out of old cartridge games. When Brain Age Express, Master of Illusion Express, and Clubhouse Games Express came out, the “Express” name started to get a little old pretty quickly. We were already getting tired of the whole thing just a few months in. It was then that Nintendo came out with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! – and the concern didn’t stop. There was a game called Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 on the Nintendo DS in 2006, and this game is based on that.
Then, no. That wasn’t true. Nintendo’s main character must lead an army of Mini-Mario wind-up toys through obstacle-filled stages in this new Mario vs. Donkey Kong game that looks and plays a lot like the one that came before it. It has its own set of unique, new puzzle challenges where Nintendo’s main character must lead the toys to safety and into an exit door. March of the Minis used this idea for the first time, and it fits perfectly with the smaller scope of DSiWare. You can play a few levels at a time without having to switch out a cartridge.
They’re back! Also, it beats its predecessor when it comes to customization. The level editor that comes with it can save over 15 times as many stages as MvDK2. The first few months of first-party games on the DSiWare store made us a little nervous. Mario and Donkey Kong helped us get over our fears enough to make our top 10.
Mighty Flip Champs!
Publisher: WayForward Technologies | Developer: WayForward Technologies
Release Date: June 1, 2009 | Price: 800 Nintendo DSi Points
When Mighty Flip Champs came out, it was one of the first new games to come out for the DSiWare service. It wasn’t just an old game that had been ported or cut out of a cartridge. When the new download service came out, it came out early and quickly became one of the first must-have games in the DSi Shop. Because of it, we all went crazy.
“Flipping” through different dimensions was the way you had to solve the puzzles in Mighty Flip Champs!, which made you control Alta, the young magic-wielding wizardess who also had a wand. People could walk and climb ladders up on the top screen. At the same time, a reflection of her position was also being shown on the touch screen below. Then, at any time, you could “flip” Alta into the next page, which would change everything. Is this crazy? It was, and it still is, because this game is so hard that even people who bought it on the first day might not have figured out all of its levels.
When Mighty Flip Champs! was released, WayForward Technologies, a studio that has since made another one of the best DSiWare games, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge, came out. It is set to make a third game, Mighty Milky Way, which will be out soon. We are sure that when it comes out, we will have to change this countdown again at some point.
Publisher: Nicalis | Developer: Nicalis
Release Date: November 29, 2010 | Price: 1000 Nintendo DSi Points
It was a big deal when Nintendo added Cave Story to its WiiWare service. For years and years, this game had been available as a free download for PCs. It had a huge fan base for an indie game, and people lined up to play it again on a real home console. Cave Story came to WiiWare in March of 2010. It took a long time and there were a lot of setbacks, but it was worth it.
Even though it didn’t get much attention, it also made its way into the DSi Shop. This DSiWare version of Pixel’s classic game is just as fun as the Wii version, but its portability makes it even more appealing because it can be played on the go. if you haven’t played this game before, you should. The DSi lets you play it on the go.
The game’s developer, Nicalis, is going to finish the hat trick soon, with the release of Cave Story 3D for the 3DS this August. It will look a lot different than the original, but most people will still prefer the pixel style of the original game. Here on DSiWare, you can get that now.
Art Style: Aquia
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: April 5, 2009 | Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
Day One: If you have a DSi, you can download six games from the new DSi Shop. These include a free web browser, a camera-based WarioWare sequel, three games that were already on the market, and this game. Aquia is the art style. The big hit of the first day.
With a lot of passion, Aquia brought the Art Style brand down to mobile devices. This water-themed puzzle game could wash your mind away in a matter of seconds with its deceptively complex new twist on the classic “match three” game. With a vertical tower of blocks spread across both screens, you used the D-Pad to move other blocks that were hovering outside the tower. Then, you lined them up and hit A to send them crashing into the tower’s side. The force of your attack would knock other blocks out of the way on the other side, and you’d do it again. All the while, you’d be trying to line up three colours that looked the same. A lot of fun, but hard to get used to at first.
The Art Style series has seen a lot of different designs on DSiWare over the past two years, but Aquia is still one of the best. We’re still grateful that it was available as a choice on Day 1, so we didn’t have to waste all of our free DSi Points on other, less interesting options.
Dragon Quest Wars
Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: Intelligent Systems
Release Date: September 28, 2009 | Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
When this DSiWare-exclusive spin-off design was announced, it made a lot of noise around the world. Dragon Quest is a big deal in Japan. Then it was revealed that the game would be made by Nintendo’s own in-house studio, Intelligent Systems, which is best known for making Fire Emblem and Advance Wars. A lot of hype and excitement was built up for the final product, and it lived up to all of the hype and excitement.
In Dragon Quest Wars, you could play chess with classic Dragon Quest monsters like Slimes, Golems, Draackies, and more. You could also play against up to three other people at the same time with full Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection support. Intelligent Systems had a lot of experience with strategy when they made this game. The interactions and abilities of each of the six different types of monsters became deceptively complex, even though they were still very easy to understand on the surface.
People who like chess should look no further than this game for their fix.
Publisher: Nintendo | Developer: Q-Games
Release Date: January 18, 2010 | Price: 500 Nintendo DSi Points
You can’t have a portable gaming device without a good tower defence design, and Nintendo’s Starship Defense fits the bill for the DSi with ease. Developed by the same team that made games like Star Fox Command and the PixelJunk series for the PlayStation, this DSiWare-exclusive take on the genre looks like it was drawn on graph paper. The striking visual style is just one of many things this game has done well.
There is no other way to play Starship Defense than with the stylus. This means that you can move turrets around on your ship’s hull and move through menus quickly. The enemies show up on the top screen in advance of their attack, which helps you plan your strategy. And, as in all great tower defence games, it’s incredibly satisfying to see your strategy and placement of emplacements completely destroy the opposition once the onslaught starts.
Fans of this game can also check out two other DSiWare games made by Q-Games, Trajectile and X-Scape. Trajectile is based on an interesting missile-reflecting mechanic that impressed us when it came out, and X-Scape is a 3D shooter that serves as a sequel to an obscure Game Boy game.
Photo Dojo (DSiWare)
It’s hard to not have fun when you fight. A lot of people like Photo Dojo, but they don’t like how simple it is or how few game modes there are. Its versatility and use of the DSi’s features, like the built-in camera that lets you become the world’s best fighter, are great. When it comes to the price, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with this one if you have some friends to play with and don’t mind having a good time with them.
X-Scape (or 3D Space Rank in PAL regions) is the sequel to a Game Boy game that was only available in Japan. It is one of the best games on the DSi store. As the ace pilot of the VIXIV super tank, you fight aliens across a number of Tron-like worlds. X-Scape has a very long campaign that still holds up very well today. This one was also made by Q-Games and Dylan Cuthbert, the man who made Argonaut and Star Fox.
Fun fact: The tunnel music from this game was used in Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U.