Early Nintendo DS RPGs No One Remembers

RPGs are better on portable systems for a few good reasons. They allow players to multitask while they grind for levels and the Nintendo DS is certainly home to many a great RPG. There are some Nintendo classic franchises such as the various Pokemon titles along with Mario’s RPG adventures.


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Then there were more unique titles that took advantage of the system’s touchscreen like The World Ends With You. For every AAA game like those examples, there was also something on the lower end. The DS received a lot of RPGs in its early years and some remain completely forgotten to time. That doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad though as we will see.

Highest Metacritic Score: 73

Fighting enemies in Scurge Hive


October 19, 2006

There have been many attempts from developers over the years to make a spiritual sequel to EarthBound. Before the indie scene took off with games like Undertale, Contact was here. It began with a professor and his dog inside a spaceship before they landed on Earth.

They took a young child inside who fell off the ship in transit and landed on an island. The gameplay mostly resembles an action RPG and players could level up in a typical fashion. Interactions with the professor and and his dog often broke the fourth wall though, creating a truly bizarre experience with some relatively clever uses of the DS at the time. It’s a bit of an Isekai too.

5 Deep Labyrinth

Highest Metacritic Score: 57

Exploring the garden in Deep Labyrinth

Deep Labyrinth

August 15, 2006

Interactive Brains

Deep Labyrinth is a better example of an Isekai since it has an anime opening and everything. It began with a young boy driving to a mansion with his parents. Once he got inside, a portal swallowed him up and transported him to a mysterious and colorful new land.


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He meets a god-like platypus that gives him powers and tasks him with going through a series of dungeons to escape. It’s a first-person dungeon crawler with action combat. Players could swing weapons, protect themselves with a shield, or cast spells by tracing patterns with the Stylus on the DS’ bottom screen. It was a fine dungeon crawler experience, but there were certainly better ones on the system later like Etrian Odyssey.

4 Lunar: Dragon Song

Highest Metacritic Score: 59

Fighting a battle in Lunar Dragon Song

Lunar: Dragon Song

September 27, 2005

Japan Art Media

The Lunar series began in 1992 as a Sega CD exclusive. It got a sequel along with a litany of ports between the two games for years. Eventually, there was a push to make another sequel via Lunar: Dragon Song in 2005. It’s actually a prequel, set a thousand years before the first game and it stars a young delivery boy named Jian and his friend Lucia.

The battle system, in terms of gameplay and aesthetics, looks a lot like the Suikoden games. However, leveling up is far different. Players can choose to swap between two modes. One will grant players items in battle and the other will give characters EXP to level up. This branching battle system is a good reason why perhaps this RPG didn’t pick up a lot of steam on DS.

3 Mage Knight: Destiny’s Soldier

Highest Metacritic Score: 59

Fighting a battle in Mage Knight Destiny's Soldier

Mage Knight: Destiny’s Soldier

September 26, 2006

Big Blue Bubble

Turn-Based Strategy , RPG

Mage Knight: Destiny’s Soldier is an RPG that puts gameplay over story. Players can begin as one of five characters including Marcus, Deroc, Serio, Hangart, and Andiron. They all had classes and specialties. Marcus was basically a Ranger as he was skilled with bow combat.

At various places in towns, players could hire recruits to follow their main character into battle. Characters could be slid around maps like in a tactical RPG and take actions depending on dice rolls. Virtually everything in the game was handled with the Stylus, making it a very active experience.

2 Magical Starsign

Highest Metacritic Score: 69

Fighting a battle in Magical Starsign

Magical Starsign

October 23, 2006

Brownie Brown

Magical Starsign was a game developed by Brownie Brown who worked on some of the Mana games like Sword of Mana on Game Boy Advance. Speaking of the GBA, Magical Starsign is a sequel to Magical Vacation which was a GBA RPG never released outside of Japan. This makes the whole series obscure which is a shame because both games are delightful, lighthearted RPGs even though the scores are lower.


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Like Mage Knight: Destiny’s Soldier, almost everything is controlled via the Stylus even the dialogue prompts. Battles are typical turn-based affairs although the character limit was big and all heroes could perform a wide range of moves. Also, at the start, players could choose between a male or female avatar along with aligning themselves with either Dark or Light magic.

1 Scurge: Hive

Highest Metacritic Score: 70

Fighting enemies in Scurge Hive

Scurge: Hive

October 24, 2006

Orbital Media

Action-Adventure , RPG

Scurge: Hive is a hidden gem on two systems as it launched on both the DS and GBA in 2006. That was late for the GBA and both games are virtually the same both graphically and in terms of gameplay. The biggest advantage of the DS is the map at the bottom of the screen.

The game begins aboard a ship run by Jenosa, which gets overtaken by an alien parasite. After fighting the aliens off, the ship crash lands on a nearby planet and the Metroidvania adventure begins. Jenosa could level up by defeating enemies in action combat, starting with a basic blaster but more weapons, abilities, and gadgets would unlock along the way. Of the games in this list, Scurge: Hive is the one that should get the most attention.


Nintendo DS


Original Release Date
November 21, 2004

Original MSRP (USD)