All he wants for Xmas is a DS
October 14, 2012 7:14 AM   Subscribe

For the last two years my (now) 6.5 year old has been begging for a Nintendo DS. I've resisted this long but with the holidays around the corner I'm starting to bend. However, as I look at the options I'm torn. I play casual games but have never been a gamer. What should I buy, if anything?

Issues are:

1. We already have an iPad2, an iPod touch and an iMac in the house. They are all mine but the children are allowed to play with them on the weekends. There are lots of games on all of them. I'm very likely to pick up one of the supposed to be announced iPad minis for my wife for Christmas. Will the DS (which the 6.5 yo mostly wants for Mario stuff) quickly become a paperweight?

2. I love playing with him but it is he is getting heavy on my lap. We have enjoyed playing Machinarium, Plants vs Zombies, Minecraft and Botanicula together. He and his little sister (4.5) like playing marble blast gold and side by side. So if this is really about playing Mario Kart should I be looking at picking up a gaming system instead? At least that way more that one person can play. In which case Xbox, playstation, Wii? Or maybe I should just buy another desktop computer and set them up side by side?

3. I don't mind spending money on things we will use and enjoy but we are definitely on the frugal side of the street. Our TV is a perfectly decent old tube model that I picked up for $50 when my work upgraded, for example. I'd rather not have to drop $1000+ on a new screen to play games. The cost of the DS games also seems a little crazy to me given the amazing value of the high quality games I've purchased for play on the idevices or by buying Humble Bundles. So value for money is important. Also, my wife is not into playing video games AT ALL so I need to have all my ducks in a line in order to justify this purchase. Finally (again) this will be a weekend thing as the children aren't allowed to play on weekdays and I'm unlikely to play alone.

Thanks in advance for the advice.
posted by Cuke to Technology (20 answers total)
Why does he think he wants a DS? Can you put a cool case on the touch and call it "his"? It just seems like you already have plenty of stuff for them to play on. But that's me, I'm a mean mommy that way.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:35 AM on October 14, 2012

If he doesn't need the latest and the greatest, you could probably pick up a used DS lite (not DSi or 3DS) and half a dozen games for under $100. Check your local video game shop.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:47 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My older two have had their own DS. They prefer the ipod touch. Since you already have an ipod and an ipad, I think that you are covered. If you haven't already, get a dvr and zip through all the commercials. He won't want a DS as much if you do that.
posted by myselfasme at 8:05 AM on October 14, 2012

Best answer: We picked up a pair of used DSi machines for our kids a year ago when the kids were 8 and 5. They love them. We limit the time they spend on them to a couple of hours a week. They being able to take pictures on them and edit them in weird ways (even though they both have their own used digital cameras). They also love the included sound recording app.

We've bought a number of games, most of which don't get used much. The New Super Mario Bros. game is by far the most popular, even though we've had it for a year. They especially like the Mario vs. Luigi game they can play against each other.

Most all of our games we bought used, probably at about half of retail. I think part of why the kids like them is they can really own them and use them with minimal parental involvement. They'll soon be the experts with them, and you'll have to ask them how they work.
posted by DarkForest at 8:08 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: dawkins_7 it's a peer thing more than anything else. He has five cousins around his age and each of them have a DS. They also have Wiis at home, and they can play against each other on the DSs or on the Wii - mostly Mario games, which you cant get for the istuff. Many (though certainly not all) of his school friends have DSs as well. He also got to play Minecraft on a split screen (I think on xbox) with his teenaged cousin this summer and loved that.

I know the petulant cry "everybody has a DS" shouldn't necessarily win though.
posted by Cuke at 8:13 AM on October 14, 2012

For what it's worth, I own a Nintendo DS Lite. It's been untouched since I bought my first iPhone. I also have an iPad, and I can't imagine why I'd ever go back to a portable gaming device.

You've hit on most of the reasons why: games are about 10% of the cost, the iPhone screen is bigger (and the iPad screen is much bigger), and using a touchscreen is way more fun than using a stylus. Plus, I always have my phone in my handbag.

So here's my suggestion: Find out exactly which of the Mario games your son wants to play. Super Mario World? Mario Kart? Then do some research (or post back here) as to the best kid-friendly versions of those games in the App Store and give your son an iTunes gift card for Christmas so he can buy a couple and check them out. Way cheaper than any of the other options.

(On preview, I see your update. Okay. Maybe a secondhand DS?)
posted by Georgina at 8:17 AM on October 14, 2012

Best answer: My vote is to go for it, and get it all used. I have a DS, one of the older models. I bought it and nearly all of my games used. Glancing at the price tags, the most I've paid for a used game is $22. The DS was about $80 three or four years ago. I suspect they would be cheaper now since the 3DS is out.

Some of my more kid-friendly titles are: De Blob, The Legend of Starfy, Chibi-Robo Park Patrol, Phineas & Ferb, New Super Mario Bros., Yoshi's Island, Super Mario 64 DS, Scribblenauts, and Lego Harry Potter.

The older DS models (not the 3D version) also play Game Boy Advance games, which you can pick up for less than $10 sometimes. That opens up the door to the original Mario games, including Dr. Mario, one of my favorites. I believe the DSi version can download games, like you can on the Wii.

If you do decide on a system instead of the DS, I'm torn between recommending an xBox 360 or a Wii. Nintendo has a new system, the Wii U, coming out - which makes me unsure of the time the Wii has left. I'm sure it's years, but I'm wary of new games only being released on the Wii U. That being said, I love my Wii too and there are tons of games your kids could play together or alone. The Wii also plays Game Cube games, so that's a whole other group of titles to pick from. The xBox has many more titles than the Wii, but no Mario. As your kids get older, they may be more interested in the titles offered on xBox than the Wii, and the online community is so much larger on the xBox (if that's something you'd allow your kids to do when they're older). And since Microsoft hasn't announced a next gen console, they will continue to release new games for the xBox.

I cannot recommend the PS3. The games that are Playstation exclusives are mostly out of your kids' age range. Even in our household (two adult gamers, one being me with my love for kid's games), the PS3 is mostly used for blu-ray discs and watching Netflix.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:21 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly I think the DS is a great system. There's tons of kid friendly games out there that can be bought cheaply. As your son gets older, he might want to try some more sophisticated kinds of games, ones with plotlines and characters and such.

The DS also has a lot of educational content (not that the ipad and such don't). One of my favorite things to do with my DS is the 'Americas Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking' cooking tutorial. It's not a game, but an interactive cookbook that walks you through a few hundred recipes. You can cook together as a family too, and tell the system how many people are cooking, and whether or not they are allowed to use heat or knives. (So, like, the game might tell you to cut up the vegetables, then tell your son to drizzle olive oil on top).

I really think outside of casual gaming, the DS is the best platform on the market right now. It has the best variety, most family friendly stuff, most fun and unusual applications.

I agree with youngergirl that a used system and used games shouldn't put you too far back, and there's a lot of potential to grow with it.
posted by Caravantea at 8:33 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm the uncle who spoils his nephews and I thought that the Touch was going to kill their love for the DS, but you said the magic word when you said that his peers have the DS set-up. The reason they all still play with the DS is the ability for them to play against each other. They refer to playing together as "versus" mode and they are all gaga for that, especially the 6-9 year olds. They definitely prefer the Touch and iPad when they are alone, but they will pretty much wear their fingers to the bone playing MarioKart on the DS against each other. I'm not a very good judge of the value proposition, but I can say that little boys are pretty much crazy into playing the DS in groups or pairs. We just had three of them for the past 24 hours, and despite having every form of electronic entertainment known to man, head-to-head play on the DS got a ton of action. The downside is that they don't really like to play it by themselves as much as the iPad or laptop, but they love the "versus" mode.
posted by Lame_username at 8:36 AM on October 14, 2012

I would get a used DS and look for used games for it. Nintendo has a lot of fun games that won't get ported to the IOS or Android ecosystem.

Another way to try out games is the Gamefly rental service.
posted by dragonplayer at 8:59 AM on October 14, 2012

We have a PS3, a Wii, a still-useful PS2 and an XBox and my kids have an iPhone and an iPod Touch ... yet both of them (18 and 11) are currently in their rooms, happily playing the new Pokemon DS games. By far, the best gaming investments our family has made.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 9:01 AM on October 14, 2012

Response by poster: Buying used is an excellent suggestion. I will look around. It hadn't even occurred to me that you can buy used games. Of course! I'm also glad to hear that many of you have found that the systems have some staying power with the kids. And now I know what "versus" mode is. Thanks everyone.
posted by Cuke at 9:08 AM on October 14, 2012

Don't buy a console instead of a DS. The console+games will be more expensive than the DS+games and not really what your son wants. Nintendo handhelds are built like bricks (as in, kids in my family have never had one that broke in less than than 10 years of heavy use) and you can let your son carry it around in his bag on trips or play with it unsupervised without worrying about him ruining it. The games will definitely be more expensive than iphone apps, especially the games with licensed characters, but worth the money in terms of play time if your son really gets into them.
A cheaper alternative if you're technically savvy and willing to play somewhat fast and loose with copyright laws is an emulator on your desktop but you won't have access to online multiplayer stuff or the newest games.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 9:09 AM on October 14, 2012

Best answer: I don't have an opinion on the DS, we don't have one, my daughter has never asked. She did, however, talk longingly about the Wii for long enough that I relented. We also had an old CRT TV, a 21" that worked perfectly well, although with letterboxing movies, etc. made for small viewing. We found it virtually impossible to play the Wii on the CRT. Especially if there was any side-by-side action in a game (which most have) I really couldn't see what was going on well enough to keep from getting sulky and frustrated. I ended up ditching the CRT and buying a 27" LCD (same height as the CRT, extra width) which was no where near a thousand dollars (more like $350).

In other words, of you don't want to buy a new TV, don't buy a console.
posted by looli at 11:08 AM on October 14, 2012

I have a 12yo son who has loved and played with his various DSes as often as he is allowed for years. I wouldn't worry about it turning into a paperweight. You should get the most advanced used one you can, as more games would be compatible for longer.
posted by Requiax at 11:49 AM on October 14, 2012

Another plus on the "used DS" side is, I am notoriously cruel and awful to my electronics, they bang around in bags and purses full of keys and get lost for months and dropped from heights and whatever other bad things you can think of, and my DS has remained in perfect working condition for 6 years. I don't even have a case for it. If this is a situation where your kid wants something of his very own that he doesn't have to share, then a DS is something that can stand up to plenty of abuse, especially if he's comfortable using an iPad with supervision.
posted by Mizu at 3:22 PM on October 14, 2012

Seconding Scribblenauts. It's teaching my 5 year old how to spell at an alarming rate!
posted by plinth at 4:28 PM on October 14, 2012

I'm an adult (nominally) and I have an Ipad, Iphone and a 3DS. One thing I've noted is that while the Ipad is great for short games, anything longer or with a story I have to go to the DS. I pretty much use the Ipad for reading and the DS for gaming. I've never managed to break a Nintendo handheld and I tend to drop things. Games tend to go from 10-20ish, used, depending on how popular the game was.
For game choice I'm very fond of the Zelda games and many of the Mario games are massively fun. Mario & Luigi Bowser's Inside Story is great! I'd also suggest looking into the Professor Layton games; which are puzzle games with an interesting story & characters. It may be a bit hard but it's fun. There's various life simulation games that are a lot of fun; Harvest Moon or Rune Factory. One thing I'd be careful about; just because the DS tends to have a younger audience do NOT assume that every game is for kids. They DO have games with blood and gore.
posted by stoneegg21 at 7:01 PM on October 14, 2012

I have an old DS Lite from back when they first came out that my kid has pretty much totally taken over. We have six games total, and he is perfectly happy playing those games again and again. He loves to play Pokemon, Animal Crossing and LEGO Harry Potter. We also have a math game for it that he plays willingly for fun.

Since we got an iPad 2 he definitely uses that more often, but he uses the DS more in social gaming situations with his friends (he is allowed to take the DS to a friend's house; he is not allowed to take the iPad).

The DS is also handy for times when I know ahead of time that we'll be stuck waiting somewhere boring like the doctor's office. (I have a nice Android phone but I don't always feel like letting him play on my phone. Sometimes I want to play on my phone.)
posted by BlueJae at 9:23 PM on October 14, 2012

The best analogy I ever heard about why you'd want to own a dedicated handheld gaming console as opposed to just an iOS device for all your gaming needs is as follows.

An iPhone/iPod Touch has a camera and for taking photos, it's serviceable. Great, even. But if you wanted to take awesome photos, real high quality photos, you'd want as DSLR camera.

Similarly, while there are some great games on iOS devices, they can't compete with the real, dedicated gaming experiences that DS or the Vita can offer. Angry Birds is fun, but does it compare to Zelda, or Mario Kart? Personally, I don't think so. I own a 3DS and a Vita as well as an iPhone and iPad and while I'm more inclined to play a quick, disposable game on my iDevice while on the toilet or commuting, the 3DS and Vita are giving me experiences like New Super Mario Brothers 2 and Uncharted and they're the games I'm more likely to play while in bed or plonked on the couch on a lazy Sunday.

I would second the idea of getting a used DS. But perhaps a used 3DS would be better... it plays both DS and 3DS games and it'd save you the inevitable need to upgrade when your kid realises the 3DS is newer (and exists). With the recent release of the 3DS XL there's bound to be a bunch of cheap 1st gen 3DS' out there. Plus he might want to take it out and about to get some Streetpass hits to allow him to proceed to the higher levels of Find Mii and complete puzzles in Puzzle Swap, which means he'll use it more often. A standard DS doesn't feature Streetpass.

Also, if your son wants to play Mario Kart and this is partly a peer pressure thing, it might interest you to know he can play Mario Kart DS and Mario Kart 7 online against his friends. So he's bound to get some extra use out of it from that, too.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:02 AM on October 15, 2012

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