10 Best Puzzle Games On The DS & 3DS
When Nintendo debuted the DS back in the 2000s, the reaction was a sort of puzzled interest. What could this new touch screen bring to gaming? How would Nintendo deal with Sony's competing PSP, which promised console-quality gaming on the go? That puzzled interest soon turned into genuine success when players saw how developers could use the unique format to create interesting puzzles. (See what I did there?)
The 3DS carried on the hard work, and Nintendo's last generation of handheld consoles leaves behind a legacy of excellent, thoughtful, brain-bending puzzle games that are worthy of being highlighted.
Meteos was one of the first killer apps for the original DS. Created by Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the puzzle mastermind behind classics like Rez and Lumines, Meteos was an early proof-of-concept for how the second screen could enhance gameplay. It's a good example of why puzzle games flourished on the system.
The game is a falling-block style puzzler, but when you link similar blocks together, they blast off to the top of the screen. Chain several links back-to-back and your block rocket gains more power, scoring you more points. One might say that it's a… blast.
9 Professor Layton And The Curious Village
Though his series has gone dormant in recent years, Professor Layton was one of the DS' most visible mascots, emphasizing the platform's approachable design philosophy. The first game in the series still holds up incredibly well, too. In Professor Layton And The Curious Village you control the titular professor and his apprentice, Luke, as they explore the village of St. Mystere.
The residents of the village will assist you in your quest… provided that you solve their brain-tickling puzzles. The game mixes a beautiful aesthetic, an interesting story, and great puzzle design to fantastic effect.
8 Picross 3D
In Japan, Picross games have been appearing on Nintendo systems for years, but after the commercial failure of Mario's Picross in 1995, few of those made their way westward. That changed with the advent of the DS, when Picross DS and its excellent sequel, Picross 3D, found a new audience on the DS.
Picross DS is a good puzzle game, but Picross 3D is better. The added third dimension allows for more complex and interesting puzzles, as you use the stylus to chip out blocks and create 3D shapes.
7 Tetris DS
Tetris is a good bet on any system — it's hard to screw up the game's addictive loop of falling shapes and clearing lines — but Tetris DS stands out as one of the best entries in the long-running series.
In addition to the normal mode, the game adds several modes inspired by Nintendo classics like The Legend Of Zelda and Metroid. It also featured online multiplayer through the since-discontinued Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service. It remains a blast to play and a tribute to Tetris — and Nintendo's — legacy of puzzling perfection.
6 Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords
Take a basic match-three style puzzler in the vein of Bejeweled. Now make it a competitive, turn-based system, and mix in RPG tropes like experience points, sidequests, and stat-building. Finally, throw in a simple story, and you have Puzzle Quest: Challenge Of The Warlords.
Developed by the Australian studio Infinite Interactive, Puzzle Quest became a word-of-mouth sensation upon its release in 2007 thanks to its addictive combination of puzzling gameplay and RPG elements. It's kind of like peanut butter and chocolate: two great tastes that also taste great together.
5 Planet Puzzle League
Panel De Pon is one of Nintendo's most iconic puzzle franchises, but it's had a strange journey in the West. The original game was released as Tetris Attack, despite having no connection to Tetris, while later installments would get rebrands to fit in with blockbuster series like Pokemon.
Planet Puzzle League is the first standalone Panel De Pon game that was released without such a rebrand, allowing the competitive block-matching gameplay to shine. Plus, it's one of those games that asks you to hold the DS sideways like a book, which automatically means it makes you smarter.
4 Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
The first 3DS entry on this list, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker represents something of a full-circle moment. When Super Mario 3D Land was released on the 3DS, the game's excellent use of the 3D slider helped revitalize Nintendo's ailing handheld. Its sequel, Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U, introduced players to Captain Toad's delightful puzzle-platforming mechanics.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker completed the circle, first coming out for the Wii U, and then landing on the 3DS for players who needed their fix on the go. The game is a modern puzzle classic, as you guide Captain Toad through toybox-style levels in search of treasure, avoiding enemies along the way. It's cute, charming, and plenty of fun.
3 Mario And Donkey Kong: Minis On The Move
The Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series of handheld puzzlers has brought us plenty of gems, and Mario And Donkey Kong: Minis On The Move is one of the best. It challenges you to guide mini-Mario dolls through stages by placing down tiles to direct their movement. For an extra challenge, you can go for optional coins, forcing you to think on your feet.
The game also includes a level-creation mode, allowing you to challenge other players all over the world. The 3DS eShop is full of great puzzle games like this one, so you'd better grab it while you still can.
Another 3Ds eShop success story, BoxBoy started as a smaller, more experimental project from the developers at HAL Laboratory. The game is a seemingly simple puzzle-platformer in which you control the titular boxboy, Qbby, who is able to spawn groups of boxes to move around compact levels. Though it starts off simply, the puzzles slowly grow more complex until you get to some real brain-benders.
The game was so successful that it spawned several sequels and an Amiibo figurine, making BoxBoy a modern-day icon of sorts.
The 3DS was in dire straits after its original launch in the early 2010s. The system's high price and faddish commitment to a screen-popping 3D feature, along with an underwhelming array of launch titles, all contributed to chronic low sales and sense of impending doom. But Pushmo, a 3D puzzler released on the (wait for it) 3DS eShop, helped to change that.
The game asks you to push blocks to create platforms, allowing you to climb higher and push even more blocks. The game's cute style and fiendishly challenging puzzles made it an early 3DS success story, leading to a few sequels and an appearance in WarioWare — the ultimate stamp of Nintendo royalty.
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