The Nintendo DS. Once a system I thought would spell the demise of the Nintendo handheld as we knew it, especially in the wake of Sony’s PSP device, went on to become a machine I would own multiple iterations of and spend countless hours playing. Games like Elite Beat Agents, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword, the Phoenix Wright series, and Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective are just some of the many games, at least to me, that truly made the DS something I had to keep charging due to the amount of times I drained its battery.
Of course, where there’s a handheld, there’s going to be a comic book game or two, and while I haven’t gotten around to playing a lot of what the DS had to offer in that space, I’d like to share a list of some of my favorite, in no particular order.
8) X-MEN: THE OFFICIAL GAME
For me what made a great DS game was when a developer crafted an experience that could only be played on the DS alone, something I surprisingly discovered in X-Men: The Official Game, released in 2006. Attacking, swapping your team of mutants and utilizing their unique abilities is all mapped to the touch screen is incredibly fun, and while I could have used a little more depth and puzzle solving in the game, it’s well worth a look if you can track it down.
7) ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN
This game on the PS2/GC and Xbox still stands as one of the best Spider-Man games to date and the same can be said of the Nintendo DS outing. Playing in a 2.5-D perspective, the game follows the same plot as the console game and features the same bright, colorful graphics that make it feel like a comic book come to life, even on the less powerful hardware of the DS and also still retains the ability to play as Venom, who can be controlled with either the face buttons or with the touch screen. Ultimate Spider-Man laid the ground work for another game that will be featured a little bit later down in the list.
6) IRON MAN 2
While nowhere near as good as the first Iron Man game on the DS (something that will also be looked at later,) Iron Man 2 is still a fun game, but not because of the title character. One of the big selling points about Iron Man 2 the game was the ability to not only control Iron Man, but War Machine as well, and it’s in this version of the game where the hero feels like more than a palette swapped version of the armored avenger. You move the character with the direction pad but all of his weapons are controlled with the touch screen, allowing you to accurately target enemies with missiles and attack 360 degrees with his mini-gun. Iron Man 2 is a pretty basic side-scrolling game that you would expect to launch with a movie, but War Machine’s unique control scheme helps to elevate the overall experience.
5) SPIDER-MAN 3
Not a lot of good came from 2007’s Spider-Man 3, a poor follow-up to the still well received to this day, Spider-Man 2. One good thing that did come out of the movie is the tie-in game on the DS, an excellent open world side-scroller, and yes, you heard that correctly. The game plays much like Ultimate Spider-Man however you can free-roam through various parts of New York, taking on side-missions and hunting down collectibles. Unlike Ultimate Spider-Man however, the combat is completely mapped to the touch screen and it works really well. You can attack enemies with swipes, tap on them to ensnare them in webbing and then drag them back in for follow-up hits. It’s a game I really want to talk about in the future, as I feel that given the hatred of Spider-Man 3 on home consoles this may have not been high on many people’s list of games they need to play, but anyone who loves Spider-Man and quirky DS games should get this in their collection.
4) IRON MAN
One of the earliest hits of last generation was the XBLA game Geometry Wars, a game that took inspiration from twin-stick arcade classics, of which this game also draws inspiration. Controlling Iron Man in the air from an overhead perspective with the direction pad and using the touch screen as a make shift second stick to shoot in all directions is an excellent fit for the handheld and something I’m sad has never been tried since, either in the sequel or as a downloadable game. The game is on the short side and dragged down by a paltry few non-twin-stick missions but neither of those faults should stop you from giving this overlooked game a shot.
3) THOR: GOD OF THUNDER
If you’re sensing a trend that when it came to games based on comic book movies having better games on the DS, it’s because that statement is true and evidenced by Thor: God of Thunder. This is a gorgeous looking 2-D action game with excellent controls, beautiful sprite work featuring gigantic bosses that take up both screens, which is something that one would expect from WayForward, the developers of this game. Thor doesn’t have many games in which to call his own, but this one more than makes up for that, as well as the poor quality of the outing on Xbox 360/PS3.
2) SPIDER-MAN: SHATTERED DIMENSIONS
Spider-Man has more outings on the DS than some other properties combined, and while some should maybe be looked over, this is one that shouldn’t be. Playing like a Metroid/Castlevania game that just so happens to feature Spider-Man, Shattered Dimensions DS takes the concept from the console game and spins its own unique tale with one less Spider-Man, but new bosses and story elements that serve as a fantastic companion piece for those that loved the console game. Great for fans of the character, Shattered Dimensions and exploration games like Metroid, there’s a lot to like in this package for a lot people with different tastes.
1) BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
Thor: God of Thunder developer WayForward appears once again in a game that maybe featured last, but is definitely not least, with a game that’s even better than their excellent looking, but simplistic game on the Wii. Characters animate smooth on top of looking great and swapping between Batman and a roster of other DC heroes is handled in a much more interesting way than on the Wii, so much that they overshadow the title character himself. For being such a hot commodity, Batman only starred in less than a handful of DS games, but quality they say, trumps quantity any day of the week.