With 154 million units sold, the Nintendo DS is one of the best-selling platforms of all time thanks to its huge library of software, innovative hardware and backwards compatibility with the Game Boy Advance. There’s a successor in the market in the form of the Nintendo 3DS and while that’s a more than capable handheld, it isn’t nearly as popular as the DS was back in the seventh generation of consoles. Below you’ll find a list with ten of the best-selling games and some thoughts about why they were so popular. Note that all the numbers were taken from Wikipedia.
1. New Super Mario Bros. (30.79 million copies sold)
As the name suggests, this side-scrolling platform set out to improve the traditional Mario formula and it succeeded. The plot is similar to previous games in the series (Mario fights through hordes of Bowser’s henchmen in order to save Princess Peach,) but new ideas come in the form of 2.5 graphics, moves from 3D Mario games (ground pound, triple jump, wall jump) and three new power-ups.
2. Nintendogs (24.67 million copies sold)
Who would have guessed that a pet simulation game was going to become extremely popular in the mid-2000s? When you think about it, the game’s mechanics are extremely simple: you use the microphone and the touch screen to interact with pets, but the secret to the game’s success is that in Japan, most people can’t have pets due to overpopulation, so this filled a gap in the market that other developers didn’t take advantage of.
3. Mario Kart DS (23.56 million copies sold)
At the time of its release, Mario Kart DS was one of the strongest entries in the go-kart series. This was the first game to be playable online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, the dual-screen capabilities of the console were put to great use (the top screen showed the race and the bottom screen showed the map,) there were new power-ups and there was an incredible number of modes to choose from.
4. Brain Age (20.13 million copies sold)
I have no idea if this collection of puzzle games has some background in neuroscience and if it’s actually good for your brain, but it was entertaining nonetheless. Some of the puzzles include math questions, reading aloud tests and Sudoku puzzles that are supposed to keep your brain active. The game uses the console’s unique hardware for most of the puzzles and one of the things that made the game such as success is that it clearly aimed at a casual audience.
5. Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (18.23 million copies sold)
As in pretty much every Pokemon game from the main series, Diamond and Pearl puts you in the shoes of a young trainer who travels around a specific region training, battling creatures and trying to stop the plans of an evil organization. These games follow that pattern, but they also added some innovations to the formula: you could play online, there were 107 new Pokemon, Pokemon contests were introduced and there were some changes to the traditional mechanics.
6. Pokemon Black and White (15.58 million copies sold)
The premise might be the same as in all the other entries in the Pokemon franchise, but Black and White were extremely popular because they brought some exciting changes to the formula. There was a seasonal cycle, new settings based in real life, rotation battles, fully animated sprites and new creatures to capture were introduced. It may still be Pokemon underneath it all, but these changes were still exciting.
7. Brain Age 2 (15.29 million copies sold)
People with Nintendo DS were really into edutainment puzzle games and the Brain Age series was the most successful. The gameplay in this sequel is remarkably similar to that of its predecessor (you play several minigames in the form of puzzles to keep your brain active) with some improvements here and there. That said, this is an accessible game that constantly rewards you for solving puzzles.
8. Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver (12.72 million copies sold)
For all intents and purposes, HeartGold and SoulSilver is another entry in the popular role-playing Pokemon games. There are new features, such as the possibility of your first Pokemon to follow you, talk to certain Pokemon and pick items they are holding, a minigame called the Pokeathlon and Voltorb Flip. But I think the most meaningful addition to the game is the possibility of using the Pokewalker, a pedometer shaped like a pokeball that lets you train and capture new creatures.
9. Animal Crossing: Wild World (11.74 million copies sold)
Animal Crossing is social simulation bliss, since this game is all about living in a remote village inhabited by anthropomorphic creatures and completing a series of tasks every day. One of the most important parts about the game is that it’s played in real time because the game sync’s to the internal clock and calendar, so there are special events during holidays and the time of day changes depending on when you play.
10. Super Mario 64 DS (11.03 million copies sold)
Super Mario 64 DS is exactly that, a remake of the seminal Nintendo 64 game released for the Nintendo DS and it didn’t disappoint. The remake includes everything that made the three-dimensional platformer great, as well as new characters, multiplayer modes and several minigames. If you missed Super Mario 64 or if you want to relive this adventure once again, this version is the one to get.