10 Of The Most Impressive Looking Games On The Nintendo DS

Nintendo's first console in the DS family might have been a little under-powered in terms of producing visually stunning 3D titles, but that didn't stop developers from pulling off some really impressive looking games.


COP: The Recruit

C.O.P. The Recruit went through a number of name changes before it released on the Nintendo DS in 2009. Originally intended to be part of the Driver series, the game was turned into it's own thing, although the game still uses the same map layout as Driver: Parallel Lines. Ubisoft manages to push the DS into areas many did not think possible with C.O.P. The Recruit.

The game is a third person shooter with driving elements. The open-world the game creates is not only impressive, but it's full of life with the city featuring lots of cars and pedestrians. C.O.P. The Recruit even managed to win several "Best of E3" awards including "Best Action Game" and "Best Graphics Tech" and it's easy to see why.

Unfortunately, the game, while visually stunning for the Nintendo DS, was fairly bland with a mess of a story. And while the engine is incredibly impressive on the handheld, it wasn't perfect and brought with it a host of technical problems that keeps C.O.P. The Recruit from being a great DS title.

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Dementium II

Dementium II is a first person, survival horror video game developed for the Nintendo DS. The original game was pretty stunning in its own right on the handheld, but the sequel amps everything up across the board. The series was originally pitched to be a Silent Hill game on the portable, but when Konami passed the developers went down their own horrific path.

The second game in the series features more enemies, larger maps, the ability to jump, and the removal of respawning enemies for a much more enjoyable experience. Dementium II features some truly grotesque enemies and a number of impressive boss battles all running at an impressively smooth framerate. 

Dementium II is also one of the few Mature rated title on the Nintendo DS, so if you are looking for something visually impressive that offers up a few jump scares, Dementium II should not be missed if you are a DS collector.

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Tony Hawks American Sk8land

The Tony Hawk series has always pushed the limits when it came to portable systems. The Game Boy Advance had an impressive take on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and the PlayStation Portable had the darn impressive Tony Hawk's Underground 2. But the DS also had its own visually stunning game in Tony Hawks American Sk8land.

American Sk8land runs silky smooth on the Nintendo DS in full 3D. Developed by Vicarious Visions, the game plays heavily on the cell-shading style that was used to great effect in games like Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast.

Tony Hawks American Sk8land features some impressive wide open levels and doesn't feel any less feature filled than it's console counterparts. Even if you pick this one up in 2017, you're bound to be pretty impressed by what it has to offer.

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Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded

The Kingdom Hearts games have always impressed on Nintendo handheld consoles, but Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded probably pushed the Nintendo DS to it's limit. The game featured an impressive engine that dosen't look half bad even in 2017.

Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded features some pretty impressive 3D graphics that weren't often seen on the Nintendo DS. When most games were doing stuff in 2.5D, Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded went full 3D with an engine that could handle an impressive amount of content. And while the engine did chug along when too many enemies were on screen, it'll still leaving wondering just how they manged to cram so much into such a small package.

Even more impressive are the worlds that the game has you visit. Each is built around a different style of gameplay, and the engine handles everything beautifully.Most game would be content trying to pull of an engine that can do one of these things well. Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded might not be the most loved of the Kingdom Hearts games, even on the DS, we think it's the most visually impressive.

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Dragon Quest IX

Dragon Quest IX was a massive release in Japan that that it managed to push Final Fantasy XIII from the top of the charts. Earning itself a perfect score from Famitsu, Dragon Quest IX had a lot of things going for one; one of those things being it's amazing visuals.

The game was the first core game in the Dragon Quest series to release exclusively on a handheld, so you know that the developers had to put something really special together. The game features some impressive graphics with tons of enemies and lots of unique looking NPC characters. One impressive thing to note was that the game showed every piece of equipment that you collect on your character, something rare in an RPG of this nature, and even more rare in a handheld RPG.

Dragon Quest IX is as impressive as it gets for an RPG of this nature, especially on a handheld. And it's even cooler that you can play though the game with three friends which adds to how impressive the tech under the hood really is.

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Realistic racing games aren't very common on handheld consoles because of the power that they require to, well, pull off realistic cars and driving mechanics. GRID manages to pull this off pretty well thanks to an impressive graphics engine.

The game might be a stripped down version of its console counterpart, but it brings with it the the same great presentation, something quite commendable on the Nintendo DS. The tracks you race on are full of well-detailed scenery, buildings and objects, and the cars are all rendered quite well, even as high speeds.

The garage lets you trick out your cars in a multitude of ways and serves as a really nice way of seeing just how quality the models rendered by the engine really are. It's not the arcade style racing game that I like, but it's one of the best looking racers on the DS.

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Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn

People tend to think that Ni no Kuni was a gorgeous PS3 exclusive game, but that isn't entirely the case. Ni no Kuni DS was a Japanese exclusive that, just like it's PS3 brother, is considered one of the most beautiful games for the system.

Released in 2010, just before the release of the Nintendo 3DS, Ni no Kuni was a late release on the original DS and meant that Level-5 had a lot of time to really understand what the Nintendo DS was capable of. Work on the game began in 2008 meaning this was in development and released before the PS3 edition.

Using a fixed third-person perspective Ni no Kuni is a gorgeous RPG that features a large open world to explore. The game was created in collaboration with Studio Ghibil and critics and fans alike praised the art style as some of the best the Nintendo DS had ever seen. Even in 2017 the game looks stunning and it's only a shame it never released outside of Japan, although fans are said to be working on a translation patch.

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First-person shooters seemed like a no-brainer on the Nintendo DS, but the graphical limitations of the system made creating one a difficult task. Moon is not only up to the task, but pushes the Nintendo DS into uncharted territories in terms of graphical presence.

The game takes advantage of some impressive lighting effects and volmumetric fog to create and experience like not other on the handheld. The game is a technical masterpiece and could easily be confused for a game on the much more powerful Nintendo 3DS. It's amazing that the devs managed to get this game running at an incredibly smooth 60 frames per second. That's a pretty insane frame rate for any DS game, full stop.

Of all the games on this list, Moon is probably the one game that you could pop in right now and still be impressive by its visual power. Chances are you'll be spending a fair bit of time simply admiring the games use of complex geometry to render some impressive areas, as well as all the little details that really help to draw you into the world that Moon sets up.

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Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword is a game that really shouldn'e work on the humble Nintendo DS. I would have assumed a Ninja Gaiden to at least use the 2.5D style that so many other games utilized, but Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword goes pseudo-3D that brings it closer to its console counterparts. Not only that, but the game is as fast as the console editions of the series.

This pseudo-3D style means all the characters are rendered in full 3D, but the world is all pre-rendered, much like the early Resident Evil games. The game is also one of the few titles that requires you to hold the DS sideways like a book to play.

All that characters look great on and the DS runs smoothly, even when there is a lot going on. Sure, the pre-rendered stages help this, but it's still impressive. The ninja magic that you have access to is also impressive with some nice particle effects. The game also managed to win a bunch of awards thanks in part to its slick graphics.

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Nanostray 2

You can pretty much place either Nanostray games on this list, as both games are impressive on the visual front. These scrolling shooter were developed by Shin'en Multimedia, a studio known for pushing whatever console they release a game on, see Iridion 3D on the GBA, and the Nintendo DS is no exception here.

Nanostray 2 in particular makes this list not only because it's a gorgeous game to look at on the DS, but because it fixes pretty much everything that people had issues with in the original. That said, Nanostray 2 still places the focus on the graphical quality rather than on the fancy touchscreen controls of the Nintendo DS.

Critics praised the impressive 3D graphics, but had issues with some of the sluggish controls. Still, when you are looking at Nanostray 2 from simply a graphics point of view, it impressive just what they managed to create on the fairly underpowered Nintendo DS.

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