Aug 20

Top 10 best DSi Games for Kids

I was asked a few months back ‘What’s a good DSi game for a 6 year old?’. The friend was buying for her nephew and was not a gamer so had zero perspective.

Having seen this piece on Kotaku I can’t help but think of the list I generated for the friend and how different it is.



Whilst the average age of a gamer in 2011 is 30 – for whom this list may be perfect for – six year old kids have a very difference set of acceptable criteria. As a gamer and developer through the years myself I definitely wanted to put the right games in front of said nephew and instill the gamer passion for life.


What makes the DSi a good system is it’s portable, great for small hands and relatively cheap. What’s not good is the shovel-ware and buckets of licensed rubbish that’s out there. So here it is. My top 10 best DSi games for children. It’s not exhaustive and the list is in no particular order, but is grouped by good firsts and follow ups.



Super Mario Bros.– good balanced title that escalates in difficulty. Some boss battles may require parent assistance.

Yoshi’s Island – easy to pick up and play, only a couple of hard ‘finish the level in x seconds’ levels.

Scribblenauts – be expected to answer lots of ‘how do I spell…?’ questions, but a delight to experiment with and one to let a young mind’s imagination free.

Lego Star Wars 2 – The first one is a little awkward in places but this one has the original films and is generally better over all.

Zelda 4 swords* – free download from the DS shop.


Follow ups:

Mario 64 – huge platformer. Classic title. Easy to find second hand too. More spatial awareness and co-ordination required over Super Mario Land.

Zelda Phantom hourglass –stylus heavy but looks wonderful.

Mario Kart* – fun, but can feel like a wasted investment if it’s the first title. Young players aren’t great at controlling the faster carts and the shoulder buttons on the DSi often break when dropped and are required to race optimally.

Lego Harry Potter 1-3 – use of stylus and need to speak parcel tongue into the mic. Helps if they have seen HP1&2

Plants Vs Zombies is probably good, I’ve only played it on PC, Ipad and Iphone and it works well on those. (The Zombies aren’t scary by the way)



Lego Batman – some funny cut scenes, but the levels are somewhat bland. Kids may not know who the characters are, and not get some of the references.

Mario&Luigi: Bowsers Inside Story – clever title, but not super polished. Has some very hard moments.


*Fun with friends! Some titles have multi-player connection, great if friends have DSi with same games.


What criteria am I looking at here? Well, I’m basing the titles on the capabilities and interest of a 6 yo boy. Generally: Nothing heavy on reading or interaction that requires great coordination. Games should be polished enough to be able to explain themselves and be obvious throughout as to what to do next.


photo by Michel Filion