"Emulators" allow you to play old games from past systems on your computer, or on a console like the Nintendo DS. They can also serve as a platform for homebrew games. An interesting thing about new gaming technology is that hobbyist programmers will immediately begin developing emulators for whatever's hot and fresh.
Here are descriptions of a handful of great emulators that imitate retro game consoles on your Nintendo DS. Keep in mind that while the distribution of emulators is legal, the distribution of emulated games--ROMs--is illegal (except for homebrew games).
An emulator for the Nintendo DS that goes way, way back. StellaDS lets you play Atari 2600 games on your Nintendo DS. It runs well, is compatible with a large number of games, and supports sound. StellaDS is also packaged with some ROMs that are in the public domain.
If you're old enough to remember your own bulky ColecoVision console, you'll be amazed at the efficiency of ColecoDS, a ColecoVision emulator for the Nintendo DS. One of the most polished emulators for the Nintendo DS, ColecoDS is a favorite in the homebrew community.
PomDS emulates Apple ][ games for the Nintendo DS. Play classics like Oregon Trail
and King's Quest
in their most primitive, most beloved forms.
Relive your earliest days of computer gaming with FrodoDS, a Commodore64 emulator that's been ported to the Nintendo DS. Even the LOAD"*",8,1 command is still necessary for it to run--though FrodoDS can input it automatically for you if you don't feel particularly nostalgic for old code.
NesterDS is a Nintendo DS port of Nester, a popular emulator for NES games. NesterDS hasn't received an update in quite a while, but it still boasts a high success ratio with its games, and runs them smoothly. It's a popular choice for retro gaming enthusiasts who want to play NES on the go.
The Super Nintendo is arguably the most beloved game system of all time, and many perfect emulators have been programmed in its honor. SnemulDS, as it happens, isn't quite perfect--but it's still the best SNES emulator the Nintendo DS has to offer. It features sound, runs at a good speed, and most games are compatible with it.
The Sega Genesis competed alongside the Super Nintendo, and it garnered a pretty impressive game library of its own. jEnesisDS pays tribute to the Genesis with a competent Nintendo DS emulator that plays most of the 16-bit console's classics.
The Sega Master System was meant to be a direct competitor to the Nintendo Entertainment System, but it never had a chance to flourish in American retail. Apprentice Minus DS will play the Sega Master System's library on the Nintendo DS, as well as Game Gear titles.
Despite this emulator's unfortunate name, it's a pretty good piece of work. It lets you experience Game Boy games on your Nintendo DS, which will give you a good idea of how handheld gaming evolved to become what it is today.
Released in 1999, the Bandai WonderSwan was a Japan-exclusive handheld gaming system that was developed by the Game Boy's dad, Gunpei Yokoi.
Though the WonderSwan never overtook the Game Boy Advance's popularity, it had some titles worth playing. The WonderS emulator offers a decent WonderSwan experience on the Nintendo DS.