If you're a purist you'll probably much prefer playing DS software on the original hardware, whether it be for more vibrant colours, pixel perfection or a less awkward "Book Mode" experience. So let's take a few minutes to quickly eyeball some of the best games on the service and get some last minute DSiWare gems onto our DSes:
200 PointsAura Aura Climber; cheap and it's a full game with varios modes and a lot of things to keep it interesting for a good while.
Escapee Go; If you like pacman.
Flight Control; A lot of fun, gets hard pretty fast.
Dark Void Zero; Awesome retro platforming.
Trajectile; Challenging. A lot of rewards (not real rewards; achievement-like rewards).
ArtStyle Base 10; Infinite mode will have you hooked for hours (if you're that good)
ArtStyle Boxlife; Awesome, best DSiWare game.
ArtStyle Pictobits; HARD, awesome music.
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: MMA; A lot of levels, download/make levels.
Art Style: Pictobits is a brilliant puzzle game.
Can I post some Japanese DSiWare games? There is a small Virtual-On like game on Japanese DSiWare.
Battle of Elemental
The Tower, which is known as SimTower that was released by Maxis in the US. The game was developed by Japanese developers.
This DSiWare port was originally a full DS title.
Coropata, a really cute Incredible Machines game. Originally a DS title. Releasing today!
Yes, I think all these games are really damn good for the prices they are asking :P.
http://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2009/08/sujin_taisen_number_battles_dsiware is a really awesome mixture of a board game and a puzzle game. I didn't stop until I finished every level.
Snapdots. Its a reskin of guru logic champ. It is also available worldwide provided you did not cripple your 3DS by linking an NNID to it. Europeans need to access the Australian eShop to find it (change country in 3DS profile under system settings). Remember, to redownload it you need to access the Australian eShop (which makes NNID a worse safegaurd for purchases than not having one as it prevents this).
Number Battle is probably my favorite dsiware game. It's a strategy board game where you take turns placing numbered tiles on a grid. You earn points by forming different types of combos, based on the number on the tile and the direction of the paths on the tiles. One easy example of the strategy involved is if you place a 3 tile which has 3+ paths (let's say the paths go E, W, and S), and then build a 4 and 5 sequence on E and W paths, when you place a 2 on the S side of the 3, you'll get a combo for 2-3-4-5 twice, as game counts 2-5 going E and W. If there are additional branching paths off of the 4, you can get even more points for one play. Then you play the 1 on the 2 and you get even more points.
There's always room for turnabout though. Some of your tiles will be rainbow colored, indicating that other players can build off of your tiles (something that's usually not allowed). Rainbow tiles leave you open to have your combo blocked, but they also give you mobility. Non-rainbow tiles can only be placed adjacent to your other tiles (regardless of whether the paths connect or not) but rainbows can be placed anywhere. This means you can also place a rainbow anywhere on the board, to block the enemy. Add in items like ones which add/delete paths, change blocks from rainbow to non, land mines, etc, and you have a ton of depth.
I never played it online. I guess the dsiware MP servers are down now, or are being taken down soon. The campaign (which I'm still playing) seems to be long enough to justify the price (so far I've played ~15 levels), plus you can also go back to get gold medals.
Photo. Fucking. Dojo.
I'll go ahead and enthusiastically second Boxlife and Aura-Aura Climber, my two favorite games on the service, and add a few more which may be slightly off the beaten path...
Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon
By Fuse Games, makers of Metroid Prime Pinball and Mario Pinball Land. In a past life, these guys made the Pro Pinball games. It's only a single table, but it's really fantastic. Disclaimer: I'm no pinball wizard, video or other, but I have played this game a ton.
A Kappa's Trail
If you at all like stylus-based games this is a must-play. On the XL it should be particularly good. You guide a little kappa through a number of levels by drawing a path in front of him. There's a lot of timing involved, with tiles that move or fall out from underneath him and areas that are dark unless you tap lightbulbs to charge them up... and you're being chased by a Devil Hand too, so be quick about it.
My only complaint is that I have been troubled a bit by the game thinking I wanted to draw a line rather than scroll sometimes, so I've lost a few poor Kappas that way...
Stuff I like:
Pinball Pulse is probably the single greatest game of the service for reasons explained well above. One of my favorite video tables ever.
From Q Games: X-Scape and Trajectile are two of my very favorite games on the service. They're extremely well-made games; the only way you could not like them is that you just don't care for the gameplay (or, with X-Scape, the really odd graphic style).
From Wayforward: Mighty Flip Champs and Shantae are excellent as well, and I think each has an official thread.
Dark Void Zero is a must-play if you like fake NES games and quality shooting Metroidesque platformers.
Number Battle is exactly what the title implies: a really ingenious implementation of offensive number chaining. Some really crazy stuff is possible in this game. It made me sorry the original game that this is a stripped-down version of never came out in the US.
Mario vs DK is an excellent iteration. Totally on the Lemmings side - there is no Mario. But definitely worth checking out if you liked the GBA one or the Lemmings games.
Robot Rescue is a really awful looking and sounding game that has wonderful gameplay if you like the classic 90s style of single-screen careful-movement puzzlers. Also $2.
Spotto is good fun for $2, but Trajectile is the better blowing-stuff-up choice. Paper Plane and Pyoro 1/2 (aka Bird and Beans) are great too.
The Nintendo solitaire, for $2, is really lacking options, but it's pretty polished. I don't know if there are better options.
Art Academy is pretty awesome. There's no reason to buy both unless you really want the extra lessons, though.
The Mario alarm clock is a lot better than the built-in one, if you ever need an extra alarm clock around.
The Nintendo instrument tuner and metronome aren't half bad for the money.
I've heard good things about the dominant series of music programs, but I haven't plucked up the courage and points to download them yet. I'm really looking forward to trial versions on the 3DS eShop.
Here's what I recommend.
All of the Art Style games
Mario VS DK: Minis March Again (It's more like the 2nd game than the 1st though so if you don't like Lemmings style gameplay you won't like this)
X-Scape (sequel to the JPN only Gameboy game X. Could easily be released as a retail title and shares many similarities with Starfox Command - made by the same Dev team)
Trajectile (brilliant little puzzle game that is quite reminiscent of Peggle, but in reverse)
Link N' Launch (brilliantly innovative Puzzle game from the guys who made Puzzle League/Tetris Attack/Panel De Pon)
Dragon Quest Wars (A fun little multiplayer focused strategy game from the Fire Emblem guys)
Spotto (Lovely little action puzzler, lots of charm and lots of fun!)
Aura aura Climber (Great little arcade "platformer", has that "just one more go" feel to it)
Cave Story (A perfect port of the WiiWare/PC game)
Brain Age/Brain Training Express (Despite the name, it's actually an all new Brain Age game split into two! All new exercises and a new and totally hilarious "Challenge Mode"!)
Face Pilot (If you can get it work in your room, it's a great little Pilotwings style game! Made by HAL of Kirby/Smash Bros fame it's great fun and very relaxing - if you have the right lighting conditions)
Wario Ware Snapped (Like the above, it requires the right lighting conditions, but it's a great laugh! It is really a one trick pony though, but it's great if you're looking for a game to have a laugh with some buddies!)
Mighty Flip Champs (A mind bending puzzler, amazing stuff! From the guys who made Shantae!)
Pinball Pulse (From the guys who made Metroid Prime Pinball, it may only be 1 table, but it is brilliantly well designed!)
Photo Dojo (Probably the funniest game you'll ever play, especially if you get some mates to join in taking photos of you! The gameplay isn't anything really special but it's just so utterly hilarious!)
Dr Mario Express (It's Dr Mario, nuff said. If you like Dr Mario elsewhere, you'll like it here!)
Flipnote Studio (Animation creation software, with Youtube like uploading functionality. Probably the best thing to ever hit DSiWare and it's completely free! so it's a no brainer!!!)
That should get you started! (I would also recommend Puzzle League Express, Paper Plane/Paper Airplane Chase, Art Academy and Pyoro/Birds & Beans if you don't already have them elsewhere)
GameCentral's Best of the Rest of DSiWare:
These are recommendations I've made before, BUT any chance to do so again I guess.
Fieldrunners - This tower defense game didn't sell me at first. Its biggest problem is that you have to EARN fast-forward on each stage, which means at least one sloooow run-through of each. Which gets pretty boring to watch. So after "beating" the stages, I thought I was done. But then I decided to try the higher difficulties, endless mode, and trying to best myself... well, I've surely put over 100 hours into it by now. Months back I reached my goal of passing 100 waves on Endless Hard on each stage, and thought I could retire. But then playing some other tower defense games brought me back. Like I'd heard great things about Defense Grid on PC, but the way big waves of tiny enemies seemed so indistinguishable returned my desire for the clearly distinguishable towers and enemies of this game. So I've been trying different types of strategies for the old stages, even if they're not getting me any further.
Starship Patrol - Another tower defense, but very different. Fieldrunners is all about playing the same stages over and over, trying different methods in creating paths. This game has set paths, and you can only put weapons in set spots. But again everything is unique enough, and every time I failed I would have some tweak of strategy to try next time. I haven't put as much time into this one as Fieldrunners, but having gotten Perfect on all 30 stages without using the extra items, there's not much room for me to grow.
Alpha Bounce - Arkanoid TO THE MAX. You have a huge map of space, each square containing a stage of brick-bashing ball-bouncing gameplay. Finish a square and you open up that path to freely "walk" through. Win at the squares with special icons, and you can get new types of powerups, replacements for your bouncer, the ability to move more than one square at once, and so on. Clear entire planets of squares to get pieces of map. So you go through slowly increasing your brick-destroying capabilities, trying to get enough pieces of map to find Earth.
I got the Animal Crossing one, but I imagine they're feature-equivalent. And yeah, the ability to have three alarms, each with unique sounds and volume settings is pretty nice. You can even use the sounds recorded from the standard DSi Sound program.
...Phew. What are your personal picks? The beauty, to me, of DSiWare, is how it sat in this awkward space where no one really knew what the future of digital was. So the App Store had only just opened for business, and the DS itself was a format that primarily played host to boxed, physical games sold on store shelves. Where would digital content fit in?
Originally Posted by David Jenkins
Best of the rest(in no particular order): Maestro! Green Groove, Starship Patrol, Reflect Missile, Art Style: PiCOPiCT, Alt-Play: Jason Rohrer Anthology, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!, Primrose, Glow Artisan, Sujin Taisen: Number Battles, Art Style: INTERSECT, Rytmik, Aura-Aura Climber, AlphaBounce, Pop Island: Paperfield, Zenonia, Surfacer+, Dragon Quest Wars, and AiRace.
I find that the best DSiWare games are those which place great gameplay concepts above all else, to the point where some of them would never be greenlit as normal, boxed DS software. No one's going to stick a game called "Reflect Missile" on a store shelf, or "Sujin Taisen: Number Battles", or "Wakugumi", yet the DSi Shop made these games a real possibility.
I think Simon Parkin summed up the beauty behind the best DSiWare games in his review of the wonderful Reflect Missile:
Originally Posted by Simon Parkin
More developed than a throwaway Flash game, yet less self-conscious and showy than a WiiWare or Xbox Live Arcade effort, it's a product that ignores the spectacle and bluster of gaming in order to more clearly celebrate the raw elegance of good design