The Best Nintendo DS Strategy Games

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The Nintendo DS was an instant success when it was released back in 2004. This revolutionary handheld offered gamers an innovative way to experience fantastic games. Between the dual screens, touch screen, wireless connectivity, and Game Boy Advance backward compatibility, this console was a must-have. But a console is nothing without its games, and the DS delivered on that front with a massive library of great games.

One genre that saw generous support for the DS was the strategy game. With touchscreen controls, players could now easily move their troops with just a swipe of the stylus. All of these titles made excellent use of the DS hardware. There were plenty of great experiences to be had on the DS, from Fire Emblem's first Western release to a fun new spin on the Pokémon franchise.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

The first time Westerners were exposed to this series in anything except Super Smash Bros. Melee, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a tactical roleplaying game where players control troops in a fantasy world. The game follows Marth, the prince of Altea, on his quest to reclaim the throne. In order to complete his task, Marth must assemble a sizeable army of different troop types and take to the isometric, grid-lined battlefields across the world.

Like many tactical RPGs, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, players can move a unit within their movement range as well as complete an action such as combat or healing. This title works similarly, but with one significant inclusion - units are permanently dead once slain. This may not seem like a big deal, but each unit has its own backstory and personality, making them even more valuable than the regular grunt. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a must-play title with a lot of charm and challenge.


Lock’s Quest

Released in 2008, Lock’s Quest is an RTS featuring the titular Lock in his quest to build formidable fortresses. An evil engineer has created a clockwork army with the intent of destroying the kingdom, and it is up to lock to out-engineer Lord Agony.

Throughout multiple levels, Lock must build defenses with the touch screen before entering a battle phase where he must fight the clockwork army and stop them from destroying his defenses. The building phase is controlled through the touch screen, allowing players to quickly and easily place their builds with precision. While a pretty simple title, Lock’s Quest is extremely fun and an easy entry point into the RTS genre.


Pokémon Conquest

An interesting crossover between Pokémon and Nobunaga’s Ambition, Pokémon Conquest is a fun strategy title featuring everyone's favorite Pokémon during Generation 5. In this title, the player assembles a team of Pokémon to fight the various warlords scattered across the region in a quest to bring unity to the land.

Unlike other games in the series, this title utilizes turn-based strategy over strict battling. Players must move their Pokémon on an isometric level in order to corner and attack enemies. Each Pokémon has its own special moves to add some flavor to your units. If you're a Pokémon fan looking for some extra strategy and challenge in your favorite series, Pokémon Conquest is a fantastic choice.


Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

The last entry in the Advance Wars series, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is a darker take on this strategy franchise. The gameplay is nearly the same turn-based strategy from previous entries but with a few notable changes. Units can now be leveled up during combat, status effects have been added, and new terrain changes things up.

Players can take their units across 26 story missions and 38 training missions, giving players plenty of content to experience. This title also features a custom map maker, allowing users to share their maps with their friends and play against each other in local multiplayer (sadly, the online multiplayer feature no longer works). Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is a fantastic strategy title that anyone can enjoy.


Plants vs. Zombies

One of the most popular strategy titles of the 2000s, Plants vs. Zombies is a weird and quirky strategy title where you play as a homeowner with a green thumb who must fight off hordes of goofy zombies. In this title, players go through various levels fighting increasingly difficult zombies with different and unique plants. The player must place these plants in a grid on their lawn in order to stop the incoming waves of zombies.

While being a pretty simple strategy game, there is a lot of fun to be had as well as plenty of challenging levels to keep you on your toes. This is a must-play if you somehow missed it back in 2009.


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  • Updated March 11, 2021
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