Dual screens on a handheld mobile gaming device? Nintendo took the risk, and it paid off. The Nintendo DS is the best-selling handheld gaming console of all time, and the second best-selling console of any size. Initially designed as a standalone system to complement the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, the Nintendo DS would soon be seen as the Game Boy Advance’s successor, thanks to its backwards compatibility with GBA games in addition to its large library of quality Nintendo DS games.
Released in 2004, the Nintendo DS was out just before the release of Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP), which would go on to become the first real competitor to Nintendo’s grip on the handheld gaming market. Despite this, the Nintendo DS went on to become insanely popular, and it’s dual screen design lives on today in a newer console called the Nintendo 3DS.
The original DS saw two remakes over the course of its life, first with the DS Lite in 2006 and then with the DSi and DSi XL in 2009. With its clamshell design reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance SP, the Nintendo DS was a durable machine. The design of the original model was built well enough that children could drop it without damaging it — a major concern of Nintendo’s and an advantage over the PSP. It’s biggest feature was the touchscreen on the lower screen, which allowed for unique input in games and changed the way that developer’s approached game design. Its games moved from bulky cartridges to slim “Game Cards”, though it retained an extra slot on the bottom for backwards compatibility with Game Boy Advance games. It was also the first handheld console to support wireless connectivity without any additional peripherals.
Further refining the handheld system, Nintendo released the DS Lite, which was essentially a slimmer and lighter form of the original DS with brighter screens. The largest evolution to the gaming system came in the form of the DSi and DSi XL, which introduced cameras to the front and back of the device and dropped support for GBA cartridges. The DSi XL also introduced the concept of having two handhelds on the market at the same time with varying screen sizes, since the XL had significantly larger screens.
Continuing the tradition set by its predecessors, the Nintendo DS saw the next generation of Pokemon games released, this time called Pokemon Pearl, Diamond, and Platinum. In fact, the DS had more generations of Pokemon games released for it than any previous Game Boys, including Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, Pokemon Black and White, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2.
The first major Pokemon games released for the system in 2006, Pearl and Diamond, saw the addition of 107 new Pokemon, as well as the ability to connect to other Nintendo DSs over WiFi. Graphics got a huge upgrade as well, bringing the Pokemon games into the modern age and brilliantly mixing 2D and 3D graphics. Later, the remakes of the Game Boy Color games Pokemon Gold and Silver, titled HeartGold and SoulSilver, were released, allowing gamers to relive some of their favorite games with improved graphics and features.
In a first for any of Nintendo’s handhelds, the DS saw the release of another generation of Pokemon in 2011, this time called Black and White. Black and White introduced a whopping 156 new Pokemon, and was also the first to get a direct sequel in the 2012 release of Pokemon Black 2 and White 2.
Many other popular games were released for the system as well, including New Super Mario Bros., Nintendogs, Super Mario 64 DS, Brain Age, Animal Crossing: Wild World, and WarioWare: Touched!
In comparison to past Game Boys, the Nintendo DS had many new methods of input, including the touchscreen (using your finger or the included stylus), new X and Y buttons, and a microphone. The dual screen design proved that Nintendo wasn’t getting lazy in the handheld gaming department and was still willing to take risks to stay competitive.
As one of the most modern devices that can be emulated, the Nintendo DS is an extremely popular system to emulate on PCs, tablets, and smartphones. The dual screen design, with the lower screen being a touchscreen, lends itself well to the touchscreens of modern tablets and smartphones. It’s truly a unique console that lives on for a good reason.