We’ve finally come to the third and final installment of my look back at the magnificent Nintendo DS system. In part 1, I reminisced about the era of the DS Phat, and in part 2, I examined the DS Lite’s reign. Now, unsurprisingly, I will take a look at the much more recent time of the DSi.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars – March 17, 2009
Rhythm Heaven – April 5, 2009
Nintendo DSi – April 5, 2009
Flipnote Studio – August 12, 2009
Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box – August 24, 2009
Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story – September 14, 2009
Scribblenauts – September 15, 2009
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – December 7, 2009

In 2009’s run-up to the DSi, the critically acclaimed (but woefully low-selling) Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was released. A quick bit of trivia here, Chinatown Wars is actually the DS’s highest rated game on GameRankings. Pick it up now, it’s cheap.

The DSi was released April 5, 2009. Despite perhaps being a less significant revision from a consumer’s perspective than the Lite was to the Phat, the DSi nevertheless brought with it a host of new features that gave new life to the aging portable. Chief among the changes was the addition of an online store and the corresponding internal memory to download games. Also of interest was the inclusion of front and rear facing cameras. Sadly, the DSi also marked the end of the historic run of the GBA, which had lived on through backwards compatibility in the DS and DS Lite.

Launching along side the DSi was Rhythm Heaven, a murderously hard rhythm game, with ads famously featuring Beyoncé Knowles.

The DSi’s store, named DSiWare was lacking in desirable content for some time after launch. That changed dramatically in August, when the animation application Flipnote Studio was released. This amazing (and free!) program opened up a world of animation possibilities, taking advantage of the DS’s still inspiring touchscreen capabilities.

In a round of high profile sequels, the Professor Layton hype train chugged ever forwards in 2009 with the release of the series’ second game, The Diabolical Box. The Mario & Luigi series received its most critically acclaimed entry in 2009 with Bowser’s Inside Story. Zelda also got its second entry on the DS in 2009 with Spirit Tracks. The game played much the same as its predecessor (a good thing), although it did have those annoying train and flute portions (a bad thing, at least if you ask me).

The much touted and highly innovative Scribblenauts arrived in September of 2009, following a blow-out performance at E3 that summer.

Dragon Quest IX

Image: Dragon Quest IX box art. Square Enix.

Pokémon SoulSilver/HeartGold – March 14, 2010
WarioWare D.I.Y. – March 28, 2010
Nintendo DSi XL – March 28, 2010
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies – July 11, 2010
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future – September 12, 2010
Shantae: Risky’s Revenge – October 4, 2010
Super Scribblenauts – October 12, 2010
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn – November 29, 2010

The DS saw its next round of Pokémon in 2010 with remakes of the GameBoy Color games Gold and Silver with HeartGold and SoulSilver. Not only did these games bring to modern gamers what is perhaps the biggest Pokémon experience ever created (Gold/Silver is essentially two full PokéGames in one), it also introduced the world to the PokéWalker. This little step counter could be carried in gamers’ pockets and on belts to earn experience for Pokémon, even when they weren’t playing. Anything to get PokéAddicts physically active.

WarioWare D.I.Y. also came out in early 2010. This new entry in the WarioWare series gave gamers a wealth of opportunity for creativity by letting them build their own mini-games. Best of all, player made D.I.Y. games could be shared online.

The DSi hardware received a small tweak with an alternative version in 2010 with the XL. This variant came with all the features of the DSi, but also included a bit of packed-in software, and one serious boost in size. The system was clearly built to appeal to the elderly and those with vision trouble, but its massive screens were a boon to the traditional gamer crowd as well.

July of 2010 saw one of the DS’s biggest releases ever. The long awaited Dragon Quest IX sold beyond even the lofty precedent set by its predecessors in Japan. Thanks to some serious promotion in the West by Nintendo, it also did well over here. All of this for good reason, too. The game is an RPG with seemingly bottomless depths, helped along by additional, downloadable, quests.

2010 also got big name sequels to big name DS franchises, specifically Professor Layton with The Unwound Future and Scribblenauts with Super Scribblenauts. The beloved GBA RPG franchise Golden Sun also, finally, got the sequel fans had long clamoured for with Dark Dawn.

The obscure cult classic GameBoy Color game Shantae got a DSiWare sequel in 2010 with Risky’s Revenge. This side-scrolling action adventure game scratched every itch fans felt.

Okami Den

Image: Okami Den box art. Capcom.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective – January 11, 2011
Pokemon Black/White Version – March 6, 2011
Okamiden – March 10, 2011
Nintendo 3DS – March 27, 2011

With the dawn of 2011, the DS release calendar thinned significantly. Although I’m sure we’ll have a decent stack of worthwhile titles when the year is over, not many stand out so far.

The DS once again proved itself the Pokémon franchise’s best friend when Black and White hit with much fanfare in March. That month also saw the release of the sequel to the much touted Capcom 3D action adventure game Okami, with Okamiden.

Of course, 2011 is the year the old DS winds down its incredible 7 year journey, with the arrival of its true successor, the 3DS, coming early in the year. From its humble beginnings in 2004 as a rushed product, lacking in games, and sporting a rather unfortunate design aesthetic, to the gargantuan heights of launching some of the biggest franchises of the 21st century, the DS took a remarkable path.

The DS is the best selling system of all time. That’s for incredibly good reason too. As you can see from the list of titles I’ve assembled in this three part series, the system had a remarkable line-up. Some of the best and most innovative games ever created were made for the DS, often inspired by its unique design. Incredibly, the 60 or so titles I’ve mentioned in these articles is but a taste of what the system has had to offer. Exploring individual genres and franchises more deeply would lead an interested gamer to dozens more titles. Put simply, the DS wields one of the best, if not the single greatest, roster of games ever assembled for a single system.

The DS had a long life, and it was clearly time for a successor when the 3DS came along, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I will miss the original DS. With its seemingly endless parade of humble, quirky, unique, often amazing but typically diminutive titles, the DS always seemed to have something for me to play and enjoy that I had never experienced before.

Remembering the DS: Part 3, The DSi