Dual-Screen Sleepers

Thanks to DS, we have many great games that exceeded all expectations and gained a following. So what are the best DS sleeper hits?

By James Stank. Posted 02/25/2011 11:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

DS has given us many fantastic memories, and many of them would not have been possible on any other system. Thanks to DS, many “weird” games were given a home, and some of them exceeded any expectations that one could have had for them. A game where you play as an attorney or a surgeon may not have sounded like a hit at the time, but since “touching is good,” these titles and many more would go on to spawn numerous sequels and critical acclaim. So, what are the best DS sleeper hits? Read on to find out.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

Phoenix Wright 3 Art

Objection!!! The Phoenix Wright series had gotten its debut in Japan on the Game Boy Advance, but with the release of DS Capcom saw a chance to introduce Phoenix Wright to the rest of the world, and what an introduction that would be! Despite being an enhanced port of a four-year-old Game Boy Advance game, it would go on to sell more than 700,000 copies worldwide, with 366,000 of them in North America alone. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney was one of the most entertaining DS games out there, as you solved cases and uncovered the truth while dealing with crazy, but memorable characters. Since the release of the first game on DS, we have seen four more games come out under the “Ace Attorney” label for Nintendo’s handheld, and more are on the way, including Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright on 3DS. Thanks to DS, Phoenix Wright has become a series that will hopefully be around for many more years.

Trauma Center: Under the Knife

This time it was Atlus that showed the world what it could do with DS. Atlus was known for superb and consistently great RPGs under the Shin Megami Tensei umbrella, but now it was about to be known for something else: the operating room. Trauma Center put you in control of a surgeon with special powers as he attempts to stop a complicated virus from destroying humanity. The missions near the beginning of the game have you removing glass from victims and patching them up, but by the end you are using high tech lasers and ultrasounds to identify and destroy viruses. The game is also widely known as one of the hardest games you could play on DS, the final virus battle being particularly one to remember. Throughout the game you’ll help out your patients, while helping your character understand and accept his gift as a surgeon. There are now four other games in the Trauma center series, spanning Wii and DS, and you can bet that there will be more in the future.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future - Artwork

Who doesn’t like solving mysteries or ingenious brain teasers? That’s probably what Level 5 was thinking as they created Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Layton can be compared to Sherlock Holmes for his quick wit and superior intelligence. Here Layton and his assistant Luke are called to the village of St. Mystere in search of a golden apple. But as we know, things were never easy for Holmes, and they aren’t easy for Layton either. You’ll have to help him master more than 100 brain teasers and minigames as you discover the truth behind the apple. You could also go online and download new new puzzles from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. What made Layton possible only on DS? Well, like Trauma Center it was the touch screen. The touch screen played an integral role in solving the puzzles. Some were simple, like circling objects, while others were more complex. Each Layton game has sold more than 4 million copies, and with his new 3DS game on the way, don’t expect that trend to change.

Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!

Brain Age is one of those games that no one saw coming. Dr. Kawashima was a famous man in the neuroscience field, so famous in fact that Iwata wanted to interview the man. Iwata had heard about a book that Kawashima wrote, and wanted to see if they could make a game out of it. They did, and Brain Age was born. The title would test you in math, memorization, and reflexes to see whether your brain was “young” or “old.” All the while you were guided by a floating Kawashima head. A game so simple became an international phenomenon selling more than 15 million copies, and spawning a sequel that was almost as powerful. Once again, the touch screen played a main role while playing Sudoku or solving math problems, as you would write your answer with the DS stylus. While Kawashima has since defected to Xbox 360land, there is no doubting the surprise hit and influence that Brain Age had on the industry.


Perhaps the biggest sleeper hit that Nintendo DS ever saw was Nintendogs. To the untrained eye, it may have looked like a simple pet simulator for children, and maybe that’s what it was intended to be. However, Nintendogs turned out to be an unstoppable force for DS, right when things were still tight with PSP. Thanks to the different versions of Nintendogs, DS units were flying off store shelves like never before, and no one could keep the title in stock. This simple game arguably made better use of all of DS’ features than any other game before or after. You could touch your pet, talk to it, play games with it. Every one of the DS’ many features was used here and used well. The different versions combined went on to sell more than 24 million units worldwide, making it the second best selling DS game ever, second only to New Super Mario Bros. That’s quite an achievement if you ask me. I doubt anyone thought that Nintendogs would be Nintendo’s secret weapon. With the launch of 3DS, Nintendo is once more going to the Nintendogs franchise, this time with cats, and again, the dogs will deliver.

So how did we do? Did we leave out any sleepers? If so, let us know in the comments. While you’re at it, tell us which DS sleeper game is your favorite. DS has many great titles to choose from, and from the look of things, 3DS will have even more.

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