The Best on DS: Puzzle Games

Tetris is to Game Boy as [?] is to DS…

By James Stank. Posted 03/03/2011 11:00 3 Comments     ShareThis

The Best on DS: Puzzle Games
It may not seem like it, but each portable system is defined by its puzzle games. On the original Game Boy, Tetris was the title that started Nintendo’s phenomenal handheld run. Tetris was a simple game, yet complicated enough to keep players enthralled for hours. The trend of great puzzle games continued this portable generation as well, with Lumines being one of the first must-have games for PSP. As far as DS goes, great puzzle games were there for every part of the system’s life span. As with the Game Boy before it, DS is the system for puzzle games. However, not all of them came in the form of Tetris. Thanks to the touch-screen, new ideas were born that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else. Here are the team’s picks for best puzzle games on DS.


Meteos Screenshot

Speaking of a title that wouldn’t have been possible on any other system, Meteos was one of those early games that showed people what they could expect from Nintendo’s newest portable. Co-developed by Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Super Smash Bros., Meteos brought the quick and intense action of Smash Bros games to the puzzle genre. The idea of how to play the game was pretty simple, but an easy game this wasn’t. Different colored blocks called “Meteos” continually fall randomly from space (the top screen) to your planet (on the bottom screen). In order to save your planet, you must launch these blocks back into space before it is destroyed. Easy, right?

You would use the stylus to scroll columns of blocks vertically, trying to get three of the same blocks touching vertically or horizontally. Once you did, they would rocket up into space, or at least they did most of the time. If you were only launching a few blocks, they may easily break out of the atmosphere. If you were launching a ton of blocks sitting on a match of three many layers below, the whole mass would hardly go anywhere. So how do you go about getting rid of blocks that are too heavy to make it into space? By making more matches in mid-air. Once you launch a group of blocks, you can continue to make matches with them, powering their rockets, or lightening the load enough for a few of them to break into space. You could also launch single blocks up from your planet by touching them and swiping up on the touch-screen. This would send the blocks airborne to connect them to a group of blocks already in mid-air so you had more options when matching blocks.

Of course, that’s only the basic part of the game. Meteos came with multiple game modes, so you were never playing the same level twice. You could play until you failed, or you could play what could be called a “story mode.” Better yet, all the meteos that were launched into space were counted, which you could use to buy new planets and items. Items did things like destroying a chunk of blocks on the screen to destroying all blocks horizontally and vertically aligned with the item. As with Smash Bros., Meteos was full of incredible menus, music, and a sheer amount of fun. This isn’t just one of the best puzzle games this generation, it’s one of the best games.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future - Screenshots

Each of the first two Professor Layton games received tons of recognition from puzzle fans everywhere. With two solid adventures under his belt, Layton set out to complete the hat trick, delivering yet another fantastic and challenging game. Unwound Future may be the best Layton game yet, as not only is Layton’s past revealed, but a possible future is as well. It turns out that in a possible future, Layton isn’t such a nice guy, and Future Luke needs the help of the puzzle genre’s dynamic duo to make sure that this future doesn’t become reality.

It all starts with a literally explosive presentation of a time machine, and things only get worse from there. After that, it’s up for Layton to do what he does best; solve puzzles. Unwound Future has plenty more of the puzzles and brain teasers that fans of the series have come to enjoy, with some new game modes thrown in as well. There are so many puzzles in this title that it’s unlikely that you will ever get through all of them.

Presentation has also stepped up since the prior Layton game, with more polished scenery and backgrounds. We already know of two games featuring Professor Layton in development for 3DS, and odds are that when we look back at that system, Layton’s puzzle games will once again be some of the best that money can buy.

Tetris DS

Tetris DS Screenshot

As I said in the introduction, Tetris was the title that arguably made the Game Boy what it was. So isn’t it fitting that once again Tetris can be looked to as one of the best games on a Nintendo handheld? Tetris DS is quite possibly the greatest Tetris game ever made. No other version has as much style, polish, and variety as the one created by Mario & Co. The same Tetris gameplay that you’ve come to know and love hasn’t changed, but everything else has been improved.

To start with, Tetris DS features multiple gameplay options, and each one of them is decked out in a classic 8-bit Nintendo theme. That’s right, as you’re playing classic Tetris, Mario will be hopping and running all over the top screen, changing his behavior depending on how well you are doing. In addition to that, you’ll have awesome remixes from classic Nintendo games to listen to while you try to clear your lines. New modes such as touch, puzzle, mission, push, and catch have also been introduced, and each revolves around a classic Nintendo character.

In mission mode, you’ll try to help Link accomplish a set of goals, while in catch mode, you’ll try to stick falling tetrimonos together, while rotating them mid-screen, trying to make a square. Once you do, the blocks will charge up and it’s up to you to make sure that they destroy a metroid. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that this title supports the Nintendo WiFi connection for up to 10 players. Yes, 10 people playing Tetris together with items included– and only one game card required for local multiplayer! It doesn’t get more hectic than that. With the insane amount of success that Tetris DS had, here’s hoping that Nintendo is already planning a Tetris 3DS.

So there you have it. There were plenty of titles to choose from, but we narrowed it down to what we believed are the top three. Did we get any wrong, or are we missing any? Let us know in the comments.

3 Responses to “The Best on DS: Puzzle Games”

  • 135 points
    juno2023 says...

    It was awesome getting Planet Puzzle League on the system. Polarium was a pleasant surprise. Puyo Pop Fever is another solid “group dropping blocks” puzzler. Pokemon Trozei! continued the trend of Pokemon-themed puzzle titles being awesome. Finally, the Puzzle Quest series is a ton of fun in its own right.

  • 441 points
    Terr says...

    Layton & Miles Edgeworth are my favourite puzzle games on the DS for sure

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