Dead or dying, DSiWare's days are numbered

Be sure to grab the jewels of the DSiWare library while — and if — you still can.

As of this writing, it seems that large swathes of the DSiWare library, previously accessible via the 3DS eShop, are no longer available for purchase in North America. From the sounds of things, almost everything released prior to 2010 is gone, as well as a good chunk of games released in the front half of that year, but the 3DS' region lock makes it difficult for a non-American like me to personally verify the extent of the potential delistings, so for the sake of being broad, you can classify the impacted library as "most of the games you like or remember".

Now, given that Nintendo can typically be relied upon to provide advance warnings of delistings of end-of-service terminations, and that this is only an issue in one specific region thus far, my initial suspicion is that these disappearances are purely down to some technical or administrative error, and don't necessarily signify that the end of DSiWare support on 3DS is imminent. That said, even if this is a momentary issue, is this not the wakeup call we might have needed to properly, finally catalog and re-appraise the DSiWare library while we still can? Is it really wise to blithely presume that the pirates, long run rampant across DS and 3DS, already have things covered? Is a service that only intermittently works really all that useful, anyhow? (Again, Sony, the answer's no.)

With those thoughts in mind, I've thrown together what I hope is a solid, but by no means comprehensive, last-minute shopping list of DSiWare games that I would recommend as priority acquisitions for anyone who wants to experience the highs of DSiWare: that is, games that are exclusive (or nearabouts) to DSiWare — so, no Shantae, no Puzzle League, no Mr. Driller & no Dark Void Zero, interesting as they may be— including several Japan-only games for those with a Japanese 3DS, with the presumption being that those people are able to buy and/or read 'em.

(A lot of these games didn't garner a ton of attention and released at a time where capturing DS footage was not simple or cheap, so try to bear with the quality of some of the included videos, and/or the commentary.)

I'm sure there are games I've overlooked (or simply forgotten about, DSiWare's old), so feel free to comment with your own suggestions... and, in the event that North America doesn't regain access to all these games soon... sorry for rubbing it in, I guess.

A Kappa's Trail

  • Price: $4.99
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Brownie Brown

In an era of multi-touch, pinch-to-zoom gestures, A Kappa's Trail's rather cumbersome touch-heavy control scheme is really starting to show its age, but the laid-back charm of Brownie Brown's puzzle-laden adventure game is enough to carry the game beyond whatever frustration the controls may cause. (The fact that the visuals absolutely reek of Mother 3 doesn't hurt, either.)

Art Style (series)

  • Price: $$4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49 each
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Skip / Q Games

Successor to the Japan-only Bit Generations series for Game Boy Advance, the Art Style series brought Skip's (and, for one title, Q Games') retro-chic stylings to the world, with seven bite-sized games that broadly span the puzzle game spectrum; the YMCK-scored NES homage Pictobits / Picopict is a fan favorite, but you can't go wrong with any of 'em. (I'm personally fond of Base 10 / Code, for whatever that's worth.)

Aura-Aura Climber

  • Price: $1.99 / €1.99 / £1.79
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo

A decade after release, Aura-Aura Climber remains Nintendo Software Technology's sole wholly original creation, and while it's not the most auspicious showpiece — the production is less Art Style, more circa-2006 browser promo game — it's a deceptively well-considered, grapple-based score-chaser, and one Nintendo's seen fit to give away quite a few times via Club Nintendo and other seldom-remembered initiatives.

Dragon Quest Wars

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Square-Enix / Intelligent Systems

IntSys' simple, monster-centric Dragon Quest tactics games veers much closer to a chess-style board game than the likes of Fire Emblem, and while the single-player component is lacking, the game does at least feature a single-system hotseat multiplayer, meaning that one might realistically get to play this game against another human being at any point in the future. (Naturally, the online multiplayer functionality went out of service years ago.)

Flametail / Trailblaze: Puzzle Incinerator

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Mindware

From prize-winning amateur prototype to one-third of the WiiWare title MaBoShi to standalone DSiWare release, Flametail's unique and addictive turn-based-Snake-but-on-fire game system has been honed to near-perfection. (Useless fact about Flametail: some of the art was drawn by Kanako Urai, who the world knows better under her wrestling persona, Asuka.)

Glow Artisan

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Powerhead Games

In a perfect world, the award-winning grid-based color-streaking logic puzzle Glow Artisan would be spoken about in the same breath as evergreen puzzle games like Picross and sudoku; instead, it's only ever spoken about in the same breath as forgotten DSiWare gems like Glow Artisan. (Versions have existed for iOS and Windows Phone but I believe they're long dead.)

Metal Torrent

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Arika

One might sooner associate Arika with puzzle games like Tetris, Street Fighter EX or even Endless Ocean than bullet-hell games, but the studio does have some pedigree in that genre, having produced several highly-regarded arcade conversions and adaptations during the mid-00s; Metal Torrent is their sole original game in this genre, and while the budget nature of the game meant all semblance of personality or narrative was ignored in favor of a pure focus on score attack, the final game is a brief but excellently-constructed caravan-style score attack game that is perhaps only bested on DS by Arika's own Ketsui adaptation. (Yes, the online leaderboards are dead.)

Mighty Milky Way

  • Price: $7.99 / €7.99 / £7.19
  • Publisher/developer: WayForward Technologies

You'd be forgiven for forgetting there were two whole Mighty games before WayForward struck gold with Mighty Switch Force, and of those two games, Mighty Milky Way is definitely the lesser-regarded title, purely as a consequence of its relatively late release date, but the game offers all the retro-infused audiovisual polish that WayForward's original titles were known for, and the gravity-slinging nature of the puzzles makes it feel slightly less rote than its predecessor. (Said predecessor, the early-DSiWare darling Mighty Flip Champs, did receive a port to the PSP as part of the PSP Minis initiative.)

Pinball Pulse: The Ancients Beckon

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Fuse Games

D'ya like pinball? Here's a pinball, from the makers of the Pro Pinball series and Metroid Prime Pinball. It's a good pinball. (Footage begins at 2:35.)

Rhythm Core Alpha 2

  • Price: $9.99 / €9.99 / £8.99
  • Publisher/developer: SoftEgg

DSiWare was blessed, but mostly cursed with its fair share of throwaway music creation apps that offered only the simplest of experiences; Rhythm Core Alpha, on the other hand, offers a sketchpad, sequencer and performance tool so dense that it not only eclipsed the alternatives on DS but remains competitive with the KORG apps released for 3DS, all these years later. (The app is capable of exporting MIDI, as well as ASCII data; the developers used to offer external tools for direct .mp3 conversion, but their site seems to be down.)


  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / D4 Enterprise

Based on the final game by defunct Puyo Puyo studio Compile, the Japan-only rotating-board logic puzzle Guru Logi Champ, this Nintendo-published DSiWare version strips away the peculiar menagerie of duck characters from Compile's GBA game and focuses quite squarely on the squares, which just may have contributed to the fact that barely anyone knows it exists.

Spin Six

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Creatures Inc.

Based on the Kurupachi 6 minigame from the Japan-only Creatures-made GBA title Nonono Puzzle Chalien, this game offers pure arcade-style action-puzzle gameplay based around matching groups of numbers... which, given the abundance of puzzle games on DSiWare, may not seem like such a big deal, but most other games in this category lean much more in the direction of stage-based logic puzzles and aren't particularly dexterous, so if you want to scratch that itch, Spin Six is a fine place to start. 

SteamWorld: Tower Defense

  • Price: $7.99 / €7.99 / £7.19
  • Publisher/developer: Image & Form

SteamWorld: Tower Defense's status within the SteamWorld pantheon is slight: it's a competent, if not especially memorable tower defense game that sold well enough to ensure its successor, SteamWorld Dig would be developed and targeted primarily at the 3DS download market, but devs Image & Form haven't show much interest in porting or revisiting it and it'll probably die with DSiWare, so the completionists out there ought to grab this while they still can.

Wakugumi: Monochrome Puzzle

  • Price: €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Mitchell

Mitchell Corp, creators of such puzzle games as the endlessly-cloned Puzzloop and the Nintendo-published Polarium and Sujin Taisen: Number Battles, were somehow able to come up with yet another black-and-white puzzle game, this one a DSiWare exclusive; while this aesthetic might compare unfavorably to the likes of Art Style, the puzzle design is airtight and the three modes do a good job of maximizing the versatility of the core mechanic. Of all the Nintendo-published games on this list, I'd be tempted to call this one the most underrated. (It doesn't help that it wasn't ever released in North America, of course.)

WarioWare: Snapped

  • Price: $4.99 / €4.99 / £4.49
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Intelligent Systems

Nintendo took more than a few stabs at camera-centric DSiWare games and of those efforts, WarioWare: Snapped is perhaps the least underwhelming: the game's 20 gesture-controlled minigames were mostly designed as a setup to make the player do silly poses, which are covertly photographed and shown back to the player at the end of the game. It's a gimmick that only works once, but for a DSiWare camera game, that's as good as it gets. (If memory serves, a whopping zero Snapped microgames were remade for WarioWare Gold on 3DS.)


  • Price: $7.99 / €7.99 / £7.19
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Q Games

Nintendo's DSiWare offerings tended towards puzzle games and bite-sized, pick-up-and-play experiences, with X-SCAPE, the out-of-nowhere sequel to Argonaut Software's 3D, Japan-only Game Boy tank game X, being the big exception: it's a meaty, story-laden shooting game with a flat-poly, retro-future chic and a moody Kazumi Totaka soundtrack (and, in PAL regions, an absolutely terrible name). 


Card Hero Speed Battle Custom

  • Price: ¥800
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo / Intelligent Systems

Nintendo & IntSys' end-of-life collect-em-all RPG for GBC, Trade & Battle: Card Hero, saw a surprise revival in the DS era with a new game Kousouko Card Battle: Card Hero, that featured a new secondary "speed battle" rule set, among many other additions and improvements; what's more, a specialized followup was released exclusively for DSiWare that focuses exclusively on the speed battle mode and contains a multitude of balance changes with competitive play in mind. Once again, the appeal of the game is greatly diminished now that the online service has ended, and the retail game is better value if you're just looking for a one-and-done single-player experience, but it's still fun to get a glimpse at one of the few Nintendo series that never made it overseas. (I've never so much as seen it played, but the recent Fire Emblem TCG is said to be based around the Card Hero system.)


  • Price: ¥1000
  • Publisher/developer: lukplus

Technically, this indie Incredible-Machine-goes-moe game isn't DSiWare-exclusive: it originally saw a retail release in 2009 in extremely limited quantities, and was eventually ported to DSiWare in 2014 for the sake of all those who couldn't stomach the ridiculous prices of the original cartridge version. (As luck would have it, the developer announced a long-awaited PC port just this week.)

Dekisugi Tingle Pack

  • Price: ¥500
  • Publisher/developer: Nintendo

Nintendo released plenty of standalone Mario- and Animal Crossing-themed DSiWare apps internationally, but like most everything related to Tingle, this app pack was exclusive to Japan. No, the value of a Tingle-themed calculator or fortune-teller app isn't especially high in 2020, but it's not like it was worth much more a decade ago, either.

Jaseiken Necromancer NIGHTMARE REBORN

  • Price: ¥800
  • Publisher/developer: Konami / Hudson

Jaseiken Necromancer's recent international outings (on the TurboGrafx-16 Mini, and as an extremely late, unlocalized Wii U Virtual Console release) have been met with utter befuddlement, but in Japan, this early-era PC Engine RPG is remembered... well, not fondly, but it's a game that was around, and when it comes to forming nostalgia, that's pretty much all it takes. Jaseiken Necromancer NIGHTMARE REBORN, then, is a sequel to PC Engine game that originated on feature phones and was ultimately reworked for DSiWare, and while it's not an especially lavish or user-friendly game in the slightest, it's certainly an improvement over the original and a fine throwback in its own right. (Hudson also managed to get Yuzo Koshiro on board for some of the music, if that helps seal the deal.)

Korogashi Puzzle Katamari Damacy

  • Price: ¥500
  • Publisher/developer: Bandai-Namco / Noise

On one hand, Korogashi Puzzle Katamari Damacy was, perhaps, the final, definitive sign that Katamari had been completely commoditized by Bandai-Namco; on the other hand, it's a fairly respectable mechanical sequel to Cosmo Gang: The Puzzle and Pac-Attack, so it could be much worse (unless you can't stand Hatsune Miku, in which case, it's as bad as could possibly be).

Neko no Iru Tangram: Neko to Iyashi no Silhouette Puzzle

  • Price: ¥500
  • Publisher/developer: Jupiter Corp

I cannot profess to be a tangram connoisseur but the conceit alone of this particular tangram game is brilliant: there's a silhouette of a cat idling about at the back of your screen, and while it will occasionally interact with your game, it's mostly just there to act as a cute and calming presence. Add more idling cats to more games, please.

Noroi no Game: Chi & Noroi no Game: Oku

  • Price: ¥500 each
  • Publisher/developer: Square-Enix / Epics

I'm sure many of you are aware of, if not familiar with, Nanashi no Game, Square-Enix's DS game centered around a haunted Famicom-style RPG, but did you know it had a sequel? The second game threw in a masocore platformer in addition to the RPG, and these two supplementary DSiWare releases are essentially sequels to that game, featuring all-original (and even tougher) levels, additional graphics and stage gimmicks and unlockable content like BGM from the first two games. (The series finished up with an iOS game in 2012, by the way.)

Sagittarius A-Star

  • Price: ¥1000
  • Publisher/developer: lukplus

Heavily inspired by games like Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga and the somewhat obscure Jaleco game Cybattler, this humble shooting game is anchored around a melee slice mechanic that challenges the player to slice enemies along their weak points in fast succession in order to rack up huge chain combos; unfortunately, it was simply too late a DSiWare release to be viable for international publishers, so it never left Japan.