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The 5 essential DS games of Christmas 2008

The titles that should be on your list if they're not in your collection
Product: Top 5 DS charts | Format: DS
by True
It's got to the point now where there aren't enough numbers left in the universe to count how many games are available for Nintendo's remarkably successful DS. And an awful lot of those games are good 'uns, too – games that, regardless of your tastes or predilections, you really should play, just because they're brilliant.

But where do you start?

Allow us, dear reader, to guide you gently by the hand, and humbly offer you five suggestions as to the very best the DS can offer. If you're new to the DS, some of these games may not be on your radar – or perhaps you just missed them the first time around.

Whatever, you really should pick them up, and with Christmas just around the corner, what better time to drop hints about the tiny little DS cartridges you want to see poking out of your stocking come December 25th? These stone-cold classics will keep you playing happily well into next year and will ensure you'll have the happiest of all possible gaming Yuletides. Enjoy!

The 5 essential DS games of Christmas 2008
5. Elite Beat Agents 
Developer: iNiS
Publisher: Nintendo

How best to describe Elite Beat Agents? It's frankly madness: besuited secret agents attempt to motivate and cheer all and sundry through the medium of dance. Sounds crazy, right? But it's a *good* kind of crazy – the kind of crazy, in fact, that will have you beaming with happiness. A remake of the Japanese game Osu! Tatake! Ouendan!, Elite Beat Agents asks you to tap or slide your stylus across onscreen markers in time to keep the titular agents dancing. It's hugely engaging, especially as you're tapping away to some choice songs from The Rolling Stones and, er, Avril Lavigne, among many others. Compulsive and life-threateningly moreish, this is a slice of splendid surreality that will lighten your soul.
4. Advance Wars: Dark Conflict
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo

How can a turn-based strategy game be so wonderfully addictive? We're sure there's a complicated equation that can explain this, but the fact is that Advance Wars: Dark Conflict is so much fun that it will cause you to be late for buses, miss important meetings and, in all probability, lead to divorce when your partner realises you're spending much more time with your DS than you are with them. It's a gloriously constructed game, with precision-engineered units such as tanks, infantry and artillery all existing in beautiful balance with each other. This is a deep game indeed, and will exercise brain-muscles and fun-glands you didn't know you had. Throw in online multiplayer and you've got endless possibilities for turn-based battling. Who knew war could be so much fun?
3. 42 All-Time Classics
Developer: Agenda
Publisher: Nintendo

So maybe every one of the games present here isn't actually an all-time classic – Soda Shake, for example, isn't something you'll spend much time with. But who cares? Because the fact of the matter is that there's an amazing 42 games packed into a DS cartridge the size of your thumbnail, and the goodness herein far outweighs the odd clunker. There's a huge variety of card games, from Texas Hold 'em to Sevens, plus there's Chess, there's Backgammon, Bowling, Darts, Solitaire… the list goes on and on. And perhaps the biggest surprise is just how addictive the best games here are – doubly so when you play them online against actual human competitors. It's hard to fault this package – it really does contain something for everyone, and offers untold weeks of play. Brilliant.
42 all-time classics
2. Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

It's not often that games are praised because they're funny, but Partners in Time is a grand exception; it's witty, charming and hilariously self-referential, and is one of the best-written games we've ever played. It's also a fantastic action RPG with a novel twist. Perennial plumber brothers Mario and Luigi travel back in time and meet their younger selves, meaning you get to juggle four characters to solve puzzles and fight bad guys – and each of the foursome has his own particular powers, allowing for a splendid layering of abilities, whether it be throwing baby Mario on to the top screen or hurling fireballs at the evil Shroobs. This is a classic that'll hoover up your spare time and put a big smile on your face.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo

There are few games as enthralling as Nintendo's Legend of Zelda series; each iteration is an absorbing fantasy epic, an adventure filled with wonder and awe. Phantom Hourglass is no different, even miniaturized to fit inside the humble DS.
It takes its cue from the GameCube Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, following directly on from that game and using the same evocative cel-shaded cartoon graphics. As the hero Link, you sail the seas of Hyrule, exploring islands and fighting monsters via brilliantly implemented touchscreen controls. You simply use the stylus to direct Link where you want him to run, and tap on enemies to slash them with your sword. It's simple, it's effective, and it really shows off what the DS can do when it's used well. All in all, Phantom Hourglass is a game you simply must own. It'll transport you in ways that few games can.

Reviewer photo
True 11 December 2008
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