Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Top 5 Nintendo DS Shoot ‘Em Up Games

The DS, one of many stalwarts in Nintendo’s lineage of handheld phenoms, held a variety of great games across many, many genres. One genre that was a little harder for enthusiasts to indulge in on the DS, however, was the shoot ‘em up genre. 

Despite the genre’s seemingly natural fit for the two-screened gaming device, only a handful of notable shoot ‘em ups reside in the system’s library. 

Thankfully, of the few shoot ‘em up games that did make it over to the DS, many of them are bona fide excellent games that any fan of the genre should make a point to play. Today, we’ll highlight the top five shoot ‘em ups on DS so that you can start addressing those gaps in your play history.

Space Invaders Extreme

Space Invaders Extremelaunched in 2008 in order to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the popular defensive shooter. 


Fast-paced and brimming with energy, the game enchanted players by packing a familiar formula with a whole lot of action. A testament to its gripping nature, Space Invaders Extreme has reappeared on several systems and platforms in the years since its original release. 

Still, it is pretty hard to beat the feel of the game on a nice, compact DS system.

Spicing up the winning formula from the first Space Invaders release, Space Invaders Extreme spices up enemy formations and speeds to test players with a variety of challenging situations. Boss ships, unlockable power-ups, and rapidly advancing enemy fighters await players at every turn. Space Invaders Extreme is properly remembered as an energetic, intoxicating spin on an arcade classic, and one of the DS’s best shoot ‘em up titles.

Metal Torrent

Metal Torrent, a bullet hell vertical shoot ‘em up, makes up what it lacks in content with a whole lot of bullets. More than most can handle. 


Primarily a game for those who enjoy chasing high scores, Metal Torrent allows players to pick one of two ships (the overpowered Red Orion, perfect for beginners, or the weaker Blue Nova, which expert-level players should select if they are looking for a challenge) before tackling an eight-phase onslaught of enemies, bosses, and bullets. 

Did I mention that there are a ton of bullets? It’s not called bullet hell for no reason.

If chasing high scores is not enough replayability for you on its own, you can also select an enemy pattern randomizer mode, which should add some surprises to the game’s standard waves of enemies. 

Between high scores and randomization, incredibly intense bullet hell gameplay, and two different ships to master, Metal Torrent is an excellent game to play for bullet hell noobs and veterans alike – really, the game is great for anyone who loves chasing down high scores.


Nanostray, a 2005 shoot ‘em up published by Majesco, wowed players back in its day with enjoyable gameplay and a variety of game modes. Players can conquer Adventure Mode’s challenging set of eight levels, and then they can chase high scores for those levels in Arcade Mode. 


While the multiplayer mode leaves something to be desired, Nanostray’s Challenge Mode adds a lot to the game, tasking players to hit certain objectives while working against weapon limits, score targets, and other restrictions. 

Nanostray’s challenges are exhilarating. Add fun bullet hell gameplay and some impressive DS visuals to the package, and it becomes clear why Nanostray earns its high rank among the DS’s meager shoot ‘em up offerings. 

Perhaps the game could have used some more polish in some areas, such as with slowdown when too many enemies are blown up at once, or perhaps it could have provided a more intriguing backdrop to its Adventure Mode, but overall, Nanostray is an excellent get for fans of shoot ‘em ups.

Big Bang Mini

Big Bang Mini is a vibrant, exciting, and unique entry in the shoot ‘em up genre (huge collection here). Its claim to fame is its intuitive use of the DS’s touchscreen, which allows players to move their ship and fire their shots completely independently of one another. 


It’s easy to get overwhelmed when first trying out this system, but players often learn quickly, especially because every missed shot explodes off of the corner of the screen and sends dangerous debris catapulting toward the player’s ship on the bottom screen.

With chaotic and fun gameplay, Big Bang Mini is a treat to learn and master.

Big Bang Mini is also a technical delight. Beautiful, colorful visuals pop off of the handheld screen and create a spectacular treat for the eyes as players dispatch wave after wave of enemies. 

Additionally, the wonderfully catchy soundtrack will have you tapping your toes along to the rhythm while you tackle one enemy after another in Big Bang Mini. Overall, it’s no question as to why the game is considered to be one of the very best shoot ‘em up titles on the DS.

Ketsui Death Label

Ketsui Death Label comes from Cave, makers of some of the most widely beloved shoot ‘em ups out there, especially of the bullet hell variety (heard of Mushihimesama, possibly the most insane bullet hell title out there?). 

In appropriate fashion, then, Ketsui Death Label is an immensely challenging bullet hell DS title that makes perfect use of the compact handheld with great controls and pretty pixel graphics (a necessity when you are combing through fields of bullets).

As a mostly boss rush game, Ketsui Death Label is different than most shoot ‘em ups. Every encounter is exciting, heart-pounding, and tough as nails. Victory does not come easily, and each downed behemoth is even more satisfying than the one before it. Thankfully, though, with eight difficulty levels, players can get acclimated to Ketsui Death Label a little bitbefore jumping into the hair-pulling bullet artistry that dominates later encounters.

All in all, Ketsui Death Label shines with the standard set of features required of any shoot ‘em up: great controls, nice looks, and a whole lot of bullets. Its boss rush focus helps condense the action to spotlight only the most intense and exciting showdowns, making the game one of pure adrenaline. It’s incredible to play and nearly impossible to put down, earning its position as the number one DS shoot ‘em up.

Have you tried any of the above titles? Do you agree with their spots on this list? Are we missing any other hidden gem DS shoot ‘em ups? DS owners looking for a good shoot ‘em up title normally have to dig pretty deep into the console’s library.

While others may disagree with this ranking or even nominate some of their own favorites for a spot on the list, we hope that we’ve made that next deep dive just a bit easier for you by spotlighting some of the system’s highest quality shoot ‘em up titles. 

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