Why the Nintendo DS is the Greatest Gadget of the 21st Century

Nintendo's portable gaming powerhouse is to gadgetry as bacon is to food: the best. Allow Luke Westaway to explain why.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
3 min read

Why is the Nintendo DS the Greatest Gadget of the 21st Century? You may as well ask why bacon is the greatest food -- there are simply too many reasons to list. Nevertheless, now that I've made you hungry, I'll do my best to explain exactly what it is about the DS that rocks my socks off.

Let's start with its design. Thanks to its nifty clamshell build the DS was no larger than competing handheld consoles, but thanks to its dual-screen layout this miniature marvel packed a lot of gaming potential into a relatively slender package.

Nintendo could have just stopped there -- more screen real estate means more space for developers to play with, after all. But the company famed for its innovation wasn't about to pull any punches. It decided to make the DS' lower panel a proper touchscreen to boot.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Luke, in this day and age, I can barely move for touchscreens. They're everywhere I turn and, if you still find them even remotely exciting, you are a moron of gargantuan proportions. I hope you die alone in a ditch."

But the thing to bear in mind is that the DS first launched way back in 2004 -- years before the iPhone was even a glint in Steve Jobs' eye. The DS was the first device to deliver that touchscreen thrill to consumers the world over, and prove conclusively that touchscreens weren't just for ticket machines -- they could be a gateway to a glorious world of entertainment.

Apart from offering cool new hardware, the DS also paved the way for Nintendo's dominance of the casual gaming market. Before the DS, games consoles, both portable and otherwise, had always evolved by sticking more and more buttons onto their controllers. That's fine if you were there in the beginning, and your thumbs were already so hardened and muscular that you could put up a painting without needing a hammer, but most non-gamers must have found these pre-DS consoles frighteningly over-complicated.

The DS' stylus and touchscreen combination meant games became instantly accessible to those put off by other consoles. Games like Dr Kawashima's Brain Training were a huge hit with mothers across the land when the DS launched. But the DS also boasts a huge library of world-class role-playing games, shooters and other titles that are bound to please those who like pushing the dexterity of their digits to the limit.

With the DSi and DSi XL both adding new features to the DS range, and the superb-looking 3DS only months away, this is one gadget that's not going away anytime soon. It oozes quality, offers a tonne of beautifully implemented features, and is guaranteed to deliver hours and hours of unbridled gaming joy. Buy a DS, and, before long, it will magically transform in your mind from a static lump of electrical components into a loved and trusted companion.

Seriously, what more could you want in a gadget?

Update: As was correctly pointed out, the DS wasn't the first gaming device to use dual screens, and we've amended the article accordingly.