The Nintendo DS is one of the best-selling systems of all time. Thanks to its innovative dual screen and its touch functionality, the system managed to capture the interest of avid gamers and non-gamers alike: billions of people used to own a DS at the time, and the system offered a huge library of games for everyone to enjoy.
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Among other genres, the DS was home to a great selection of visual novels, which felt at home thanks to the touch controls. There are many great visual novels to play on the DS, but which ones are the best games that no fan should miss?
5 Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials And Tribulations
- Release Date: October 3, 2007
- Developer: Capcom
- Platforms: DS, GBA, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations is the third mainline chapter in the Ace Attorney series, and it’s also the final title in the original trilogy of games. The game reproduces the same gameplay formula found in previous games, but the plot is far more intriguing, with new, captivating characters that will bring each and every single case to life.
The game doesn’t take full advantage of the DS’ hardware, but there is no real need to, as the game feels perfectly at home even without a graphical update (the original games were Japan-exclusive Game Boy Advance releases). There’s really not much else to say: this is the Ace Attorney series at its best, and it will be hard for any other future game in the franchise to top this game.
4 Hotel Dusk: Room 215
- Release Date: January 22, 2007
- Developer: Cing
- Platforms: DS
Hotel Dusk: Room 215 is a visual novel developed by Cing, who also developed Another Code (see further down the list). Players take the role of hard-boiled detective Kyle Hide, a man with a complicated past who’s going to spend a lonely Christmas Eve in an isolated hotel. However, every single hotel guest seems to have their own secrets, and Kyle will soon find out that some of these secrets could be connected to his own past.
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The game plays like a mystery book quite literally, asking players to keep the DS in a vertical position throughout the adventure. There are a few well-conceived puzzles throughout the adventure, but what stands out most about this game is the plot and characters. This is truly a hidden gem in the visual novel genre, and no player should miss the chance to play this game. The game also had a sequel, released on the DS as well, but it was never released in the US. Hopefully, at one point Nintendo will bring the series back and release both games in one single package, just like they’re doing with Another Code.
3 Trace Memory
- Release Date: September 27, 2005
- Developer: Cing
- Platforms: DS
Trace Memory (known as Another Code outside of the US) is a very basic visual novel, featuring protagonist Ashley Mizuki Robbins on a quest to find out more about her troubled past, after receiving a mysterious letter from her supposedly deceased father. The game is very short and simple, and this is what made it divisive for critics and fans at the time of release. However, its success in the early days of the DS contributed to the recent resurgence of visual novels, which were becoming a very niche genre at the time.
The story has a very coming-of-age feel to it, and it’s heavily targeted at adolescents, but that doesn’t mean that players of other ages won’t be able to enjoy its plot. Hopefully, the upcoming re-release on the Nintendo Switch will take the chance to polish up some areas of the game, making it the best it can possibly be.
2 Professor Layton And The Unwound Future
- Release Date: September 12, 2010
- Developer: Level-5
- Platforms: DS
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is the third mainline title in the Professor Layton series, and it’s also the final act of the original trilogy. The game has the same gameplay formula of its predecessors, mixing a visual novel and puzzle game in one single package. There’s nothing much differentiating this entry from other games in the series from this point of view.
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What makes this game the very best in the franchise is the plot. All three games of the first trilogy offer a great story and characters, but this game is easily the best thanks to a more intimate plot, revolving around some mysteries that have a direct connection with the titular Professor Layton’s past. Given that each entry is self-contained, this is definitely the best entry point to the series for newcomers.
1 Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is another great visual novel authored by Shu Takumi, the man who also wrote the first trilogy of Ace Attorney games. This time, the protagonist is Sissel, a man who gets mysteriously killed at the very beginning of the game, turning into a ghost. Players will need to use their new ability to possess objects to shed some light on his killing, giving his soul the peace he deserves.
Ghost Trick is easily one of the most peculiar visual novels of recent years, thanks to its intriguing gameplay concept, which gives the adventure a unique and distinctive flavor. Sissel may have only stayed with players for one single adventure but he’s indeed one of the most iconic ghosts in gaming history.
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