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Buyer's Guide:    Best Nintendo DS Games for Kids: Top Ten

A new feature at, our Buyer's Guides help make buying choices easy for consumers. We test hundreds of children's products and strive to keep up to date on the latest releases. Of course, every family is unique. We can't please everyone. However, we are able to select some special titles that are at the top of our "edutainment" list--those that have that extra edge in the categories of design, entertainment, education, and play value. 

Besides the letter grades we give most products, reviews on this site often come with a rating bar chart--a visual breakdown of how the product rates in a number of categories. If you'd like to know more about how software products are rated, click here.

As we test new software and products, we will update these buyer's guides to reflect current availability and up-to-date recommendations. These guides are intended to help parents make sense of the overwhelming choices available to them.

Video Games for Kids: Nintendo DS

The games we recommend stand out for multi-level and extensive gameplay and/or ease of use. 

1Professor Layton and the Curious Village - Best Games for the Nintendo DS

Professor Layton and his sidekick, Luke, guide players through a Victorian village, and kids need to solve a variety of brain-bending puzzles in order to advance. Riddles, slide puzzles, optical illusions, geometry, wordplay, mazes, and brainteasers are featured.

Product Description

"In Professor Layton and the Curious Village, you'll tackle over 130 puzzles as you unravel the mysteries of the village. Puzzles range from mazes and riddles to logic and sliding puzzles. Touch Screen controls make working through puzzles fun for players of all skill levels, and new puzzles are available weekly for download via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. Fully voiced animated scenes bring the story to life, while the eccentric villagers and the hand-drawn art provide a charm that appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike."

Recommended for: Children who enjoy solving puzzles, ages 7+.

Why do we recommend this game? This is a "smart" game that draws children in with an intriguing adventure story line--it's not just a collection of puzzles. The puzzles are untimed, so that kids can work at their own pace. As well, they're challenging but doable. To extend the life of the product, additional content can be downloaded using the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection.

[For more information, or to buy: Professor Layton and the Curious Village for the DS at - paid link]

2Animal Crossing Wild World - Best Games for the Nintendo DS

Tired of video games that run out of steam far too quickly? Animal Crossing Wild World for DS features a "virtual village" populated with human-like animals. Players live in their village, tend to everyday routines, and communicate with other villages. There is a 24-hour "real time" clock in the game, which means that the sun will set when the "real" sun sets. The game's clock also coordinates with real time dates, so that seasons change accordingly. Kids can fish and garden, interact with neighbors, collect furnishings for their homes, and so forth. The village life unfolds day by day.

Product Description
"Animal Crossing: Wild World takes you into a real-time virtual world where an entire village is waiting to be explored. Whether you want to decorate your home, catch bugs or fish, or just chat with the characters in your village, there's always something to do. Days and seasons pass in real time, and you can visit the vilages of online players -- even if they're a thousand miles away."

Recommended for: Children ages 6+. Note that children should have some reading and spelling skills, or they will need help from older siblings or adults.

Why do we recommend this game? The real-time clock in the game is a dynamic feature that is truly enjoyable. The only caution that we have so far is that Animal Crossing is very addictive! The real-time clock feature of the game might make some children anxious to play every single day. Replay value is exceptionally high: village life unfolds day by day, with new surprises over time.

[For more information, or to buy: Animal Crossing: Wild World - paid link]

3New Super Mario Bros. - Best Games for Children on the Nintendo DS

This Super Mario Bros. title is especially good for younger kids because it's slightly easier than most games in the series and genre, yet fun and satisfying.

Product Description
"New Super Mario Bros. for the DS lets you play an updated version of the classic Super Mario Bros. world, with all-new moves taken from other hit Mario games. When Mario and Princess Peach are taking a walk, a bolt of lightning hits Mushroom Castle. Mario goes off to investigate, but he returns Bowser has kidnapped Peach! He'll track down Bowser on the classic, original Super Mario Bros. map with all the moves he's picked up in the other games. Throw turtle shells, butt-stomp to crack open floors -- you can even use the tanooki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3. Use the DS dual screen to see where you are on a map & play fun minigames. Also includes a two-player mode where Mario and Luigi race and compete for coins."

Recommended for: Young fans of the Super Mario Bros. series and newcomers alike; ages 6-up.

Why do we recommend this game? Although it's (almost) mindless entertainment, it's great fun.

[For more information, or to buy: New Super Mario Bros. at - paid link]


Pokemon Diamond/Pokemon Pearl

Information coming soon!

Product Description
"Pokémon Diamond takes you into the new Sinnoh region, where two unique Pokemon are symbols. The Dialga and Palkia appear in myths and old folklore; legends say they can control space and time. The sinister organization called Team Galaxy is trying to rule the region by capturing and training thes Pokemon. During your adventure to complete your Pokedex and become Champion, these Pokemon & Team Galaxy will intertwine into the story and lead you on a fantastic journey across the Sinnoh region."

[For more information, or to buy: Pokemon Diamond or Pokemon Pearl for the DS at - paid links]


It's puppy love for our kid testers--they can't seem to put Nintendogs down. Nintendogs for the DS comes in three different versions which essentially define the breeds of virtual puppies kids can care for and play with: Chihuahua, Labrador Retriever, and Dachshund.

Nintendogs is truly unique. Kids use the built-in microphone on the DS to speak to their puppy, and the touch screen to pet and give commands to their dog. The graphics are adorable with photo-realistic puppies--and they remain puppies indefinitely (they don't grow up).

Using voice commands, kids train their puppy to do tricks, such as shake, lie down, sit, and roll over. They use the stylus to stroke the dog, who wags his/her tail, trots about, and even moves up to the screen and greets his/her "master". Contests, such as the agility and obedience trials, require kids to first train their puppies, and earn them money to buy more supplies. As children progress, they are able to earn enough money to purchase more puppies to keep the first one company. Kids take their pup for walks, meet neighborhood dogs, find dog toys, throw discs for their pup, and so forth.

Product Description
"In Nintendogs 3: Labrador & Friends you'll get to train and care for a a puppy, without having to clean up all those soiled newspapers. As you teach your puppy to obey, it'll start competing in dog shows. See if your dog can earn money you can use to buy new breeds!"

Recommended for: Kids ages 6-11. It should be noted that some kids will tire of the game once the novelty has worn off. However, for some children (especially those who love pets and virtual pets), this game is just right. It can be, and is probably best when, played a little at a time.

Why do we recommend this game? Nintendogs doesn't play like a traditional video game, and it "shows off" the snazzy features of the Nintendo DS. It's refreshingly fun, appealing to many little video game "veterans" and a whole new group of dog-loving, virtual pet fans as well.

[For more information, or to buy: Nintendogs Labrador Retriever & Friends for the DS at - paid link]

6Mario Kart DS 

Information coming soon!

Why do we recommend this game?

[For more information, or to buy: Mario Kart DS for the DS at - paid link]

7Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass reviewInformation coming soon!

Product Description
The epic story of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker continues as Link finds himself lost in a new adventure. Link and Tetra, the leader of a band of pirates, discover a ghost ship in dense fog. Link falls into the ocean when Tetra gets into trouble, and he wakes up alone on the shore of a mysterious island. Throughout the game, Link collects sand for his Phantom Hourglass, which allows him to explore deeper and deeper into a time-limited dungeon in his quest to find Tetra. Featuring intuitive touch-screen controls and innovative puzzles, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass offers new challenges for fans of the series and an easy-to-grasp introduction for gamers new to The Legend of Zelda. The robust single-player adventure will have Zelda veterans and newcomers alike engrossed by the story as they move through the game with the stylus. A special two-player battle mode lets players connect locally or via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. One player controls Link as he tries to gather as many Force Gems as possible, while the other player manages the enemies who pursue Link. The replayability of these winner-take-all matches is virtually endless.

Recommended for:

Why do we recommend this game?

[For more information, or to buy: The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass for the DS at - paid link]

8The World Ends With You (for Teens)

Information coming soon!

Product Description
"Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that you will soon cease to exist. That's the message that Neku found on his phone in The World Ends With You. He has only 7 days until then to restore hope to the city's population by using the coolest fashions, friends and fighting skills. This game was previously known as Subarashiki Kono Sekai on its release in Japan. It fully utilizes the capabilities of the Nintendo DS, and takes major influence from Japan's modern day culture including its people, music, clothes, food and design."

"Immerse yourself in an amazing audio soundtrack featuring a diverse fusion of bleeding-edge hip-hop, rock, and techno A tale of friendship, hope and overcoming your challenges, creatively told with a modern edge Shop till you drop! Keep abreast of the latest Trends to stay one step ahead of the fashion scene and your enemies Trade items with friends using Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Action-packed minigame fun that can be enjoyed by up to four players via DS Wireless Play Engage the Chance Encounter mode via DS Wireless Play to share data with fellow game users you bump into in the real world."

Recommended for:

Why do we recommend this game?

[For more information, or to buy: The World Ends With You at - paid link]

9Kirby Squeak Squad 

Information coming soon!

Product Description
Kirby's back and ready for a bellyful of adventure, in Kirby Squeek Squad. When someone steals some strawberry shortcake, the pink powerhouse sets out after them, learning new skills. All the classic floating, jumping and battling of a classic Kirby game are here, but with a massive boost. You'll mix and match abilities that Kirby copies, by using the stylus to drag them together inside Kirby's belly (located on the touch screen). The powers themselves now have the ability to affect the environment, as well as foes. Burn trees and grasses with the Fire ability, freeze water with the Ice ability. In sub-game mode, this game also features multiplayer fun for up to four players, using either Multi-Card or DS Download Play over DS Local Area Network."

Recommended for:

Why do we recommend this game?

[For more information, or to buy: Kirby Squeak Squad for the DS at - paid link]


Animal Genius

Information coming soon!

Product Description
"Players must master over 140 rounds of diverse game play to populate five different habitats with animals and rack up points in an immersive game that pushes animal knowledge to the next level. Using the Nintendo DS stylus, players must compete in five different games, which require a combination of quick thinking and sharp reflexes. The five games include Creature Collector, Scratch 'N See, Matchomatic, Maze Munch and Animal Expert. ESRB Rated E for Everyone."

Recommended for:

Why do we recommend this game?

[For more information, or to buy: Animal Genius for the DS at - paid link]

Also Consider:

Hannah Montana Music Jam

Finally a game based on a popular character in the media that is worth more than just star appeal.

Product Description
"In Hannah Montana: Music Jam on the Nintendo DS, girls are transported into the exciting and sometimes crazy world of Miley Stewart and her alter ego Hannah Montana. Playing as both characters, kids practice their musical talents, coordinate high fashions, and live out their dreams of becoming a pop star in Hannah’s greatest musical challenge yet. To help her win this competition, players use their Nintendo DS touch screen to master instruments including lead, bass, and rhythm guitars, along with drums. On top of everything else, a new and mysterious pop-star blasts onto the scene to steal Hannah’s thunder."

Recommended for: Hannah Montana fans, ages 6+.

Why do we recommend this game? While games based on popular characters in the media are not always rich in content, and the first Hannah Montana game disappointed us as well, this one is engrossing and valuable.

[For more information, or to buy: Hannah Montana: Music Jam at  paid link]