The Nintendo DS ushered in a new era of handheld gaming when it launched in 2004. While not immediately synonymous with survival games like the PlayStation or PC, the DS steadily amassed an excellent library of survival titles over its lifespan. Ranging from forgotten gems to landmark horror classics, these games challenged players‘ nerves and reflexes with high stakes gameplay. Here are the seven best survival games that pushed the DS to its limits and stand the test of time.
The Rise of Survival Games
Survival games surged in popularity in the late 1990s thanks to groundbreaking titles like Resident Evil (1996) and Metal Gear Solid (1998). This brutal genre drops players in hostile settings like post-apocalyptic worlds and derelict spaceships, then forces them to overcome limited resources and constant threats. Survival games ratchet up tension through ominously dark environments, violent confrontations, and sparse health/ammo.
According to VGChartz, Resident Evil as a franchise sold over 100 million units by 2016. However, early survival games were predominantly found on PlayStation, PC, and Xbox. The DS was not initially viewed as a fitting platform given its more casual and family-friendly image. But thanks to the DS‘s massive install base of 154 million units sold, developers eventually brought mature survival games to the double-screened handheld.
Lost in Blue
Lost in Blue masterfully adapted the survival genre to the DS by turning the focus to long-term resource management rather than moment-to-moment action. Developed by Konami and released in 2005, Lost in Blue strands teenagers Keith and Skye on a deserted island after a plane crash. With its tropical setting and plot echoes of the hit TV show Lost, it tapped into the cultural zeitgeist.
As the most open-ended DS survival game, Lost in Blue empowers players to approach survival however they wish. The Touch Screen shines through intuitive inventory management. Vital stats like hunger and sleep must be balanced carefully. Fishing, hunting, cooking, and crafting activities provide satisfying progression. Fading to black upon character death stresses the fragility of life. While ultimately repetitive, the freedom and customization grant lasting appeal.
Lost in Blue sold over 1 million copies worldwide, proving handheld survival games could succeed. Its popularity spawned several sequels and imitators on DS like Survivor. Critics praised the addictive resource management but complained about graphical simplicity and a lack of narrative. However, Lost in Blue nailed the replayable survival sandbox experience years before it became commonplace.
Resident Evil: Deadly Silence
Bringing Capcom‘s 1996 PlayStation masterpiece to DS, this remake expands the original with new modes while retaining its survival horror brilliance. Resident Evil popularized the genre by trapping players in the zombie-infested Spencer Mansion with limited ammo and save points. Clever puzzles, foreboding atmosphere, and grotesque enemies provide constant dread.
Deadly Silence retains the iconic pre-rendered backgrounds while upgrading the visuals. The top screen displays attacking zombies while the Touch Screen handles inventory management. Entirely new "Rebirth Mode" utilizes DS features like microphone voice commands. Multiplayer options allow cooperative zombie destroying. Even with primitive graphics, Deadly Silence preserves the pioneering survival horror experience that spawned 25+ games and several movies.
Selling over 1.2 million copies, Deadly Silence proved the viability of mature-rated games on DS. Critics praised the fidelity to the original while lamenting dated presentation. However, Deadly Silence remains the scariest and most cinematic survival game on the platform. No other DS title captures the original Resident Evil magic better.
Dementium: The Ward
2007‘s Dementium: The Ward brought gritty, original survival horror to DS. As a patient suffering amnesia in a warped hospital, you must battle hallucinatory creatures while piecing together clues about your identity. The creepy setting filled with blood-soaked gurneys and flickering lights heightens the tension. While derivative of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, its quality distinguishes it from other DS horror games.
Players view the horrors through a first-person perspective for maximum immersion. Real-time combat forces tactical use of melee and projectile weapons as monsters swarm your position. The Touch Screen adds interactivity to actions like entering codes into keypads. Your heart rate audibly rises when injured, upping the stakes. Despite simplistic graphics, the disturbing environments and jump scares leave lasting dread.
Selling over 300,000 copies, Dementium gained a cult following. Critics praised the length, graphics, and ambiance while noting repetitive gameplay. Two sequels expanded the mythology before the studio Renegade Kid shut down in 2016. However, the original Dementium shows what the DS could achieve within the technical limitations and stands among the top DS horror games.
Aliens in the Attic
While most survival games aim for horror, Aliens in the Attic provides family-friendly action. Loosely based on the 2009 movie, the game sends a group of kids to fight off an alien invasion in a remote vacation house. Their zany weapons like bubble guns and potatoes add charm while still challenging players. Vibrant cartoony graphics and comical dialogue make it accessible for all ages.
As one of the only side-scrolling platformers for survival games, it channels 16-bit classics. Switching between characters like tech wiz Tom or tough girl Hannah adds variety. Packed with secrets and collectibles, the Metroidvania-style progression rewards exploration. Bosses require pattern recognition and quick reflexes. Cooperative multiplayer amplifies the fun.
Releasing in 2009, Aliens in the Attic had modest sales but satisfied younger DS owners. With its potent nostalgia, it shows survival games can provide thrills for audiences besides mature horror lovers. Aliens proves being "kid-friendly" need not undermine survival stakes. The mix of cartoon charm and thrilling alien battles makes it a total blast.
Touch the Dead
This gory on-rails shooter brings fast-paced zombie slaying action to DS. Like arcade classics House of the Dead, Touch the Dead constantly swarms players with the undead. The Touch Screen cursor offers smooth and accurate limb-targeting for visceral dismemberments. Limited movement focuses firefights on reflexes and precision. High scores and rankings breed competition.
The moody environments like eerie carnivals and hospitals immerse players while creatures lunge from all sides. Fighting massive bosses like a undead clown tests nerves. Online leaderboards tracked high scores among friends. While critically panned for repetitive gameplay, Touch the Dead provided quick pick-up-and-play zombie destruction unmatched on DS.
Little Red Riding Hood‘s Zombie BBQ
This bizarre entry combines fairy tale iconography with arcade zombie slaying for a creative twist. Players control Little Red Riding Hood or samurai Momotaro through vibrant storybook worlds overrun by cartoony zombies. Wacky weapons like throwing anchors and fireballs add to the chaotic fun. The two screen display provides greater environmental awareness.
With colorful sprites and absurd enemies like zombie mushrooms, it exemplifies Japanese gaming charm. Quick reflexes help dodge projectiles and environmental hazards across forests, temples, and cities. Bonus stages break up the pacing. Unlockable characters and weapons encourage repeat play. While imperfect, the refreshing style and arcade intensity make Zombie BBQ a true hidden DS gem.
Despite minimal sales, Zombie BBQ gained a cult following for trying something different. Its family-friendly approach makes zombies accessible for younger players. While Nintendo systems are rarely associated with survival games, Zombie BBQ and others prove the DS could compete with mature titles on PlayStation and Xbox.
Pushing the Limits
The Nintendo DS‘s catalog contains some surprisingly thrilling and mature survival games. With standout original titles and strong ports, developers worked around technical constraints to craft engrossing horror worlds. Clever use of dual/touch screens and multiplayer features expanded the experiences. These memorable games remain worth revisiting whether you want thoughtful simulation, arcade action, or seat-jumping terror. For portable survival gaming, DS owners were far better off than expected thanks to innovative developers unafraid of Nintendo‘s family-centric reputation. While waiting for the Switch to get more survival games, these classics prove the DS could hold its own.