Both the 3DS and Vita are home to more than just games thanks to their virtual download shops. The two handhelds took a cue from smart phones and recognized there is a market for more than just games on a miniature computer you can carry in your pocket.

Before the age of online stores for downloading games and apps on video game handhelds, however, Nintendo experimented with the idea of non-games on a gaming platform and released some interesting DS “games” with the full retail treatment.

Created by popular Japanese artist Toshio Iwai, Electroplankton looks like a game, and even comes packaged in the same box as a game, but offers a much different experience. It’s a simplified music creation tool with a relaxing aesthetic. There are no levels, or even goals. Instead, players (or creators) manipulate elements of the screen to create music.

The game was hard to find when it released in North America in 2006, but Nintendo has since released it in piece-meal form on its eShop.

100 Classic Books
Released in 2010 not long after Amazon’s Kindle was beginning to prove that people didn’t mind reading books on something other than paper, 100 Classic Books is exactly as the title describes. The cartridge contained 100 classic books that could be read on your Nintendo DS. In a strange collaboration, the game was published by Nintendo and book publisher HarperCollins. You could even up the number past 100 by downloading books over Wi-Fi.

As a sidenote, this game is a very strong contender for our next Super Replay, so get ready.

Jam Sessions and Jam Sessions 2
The Jam Sessions series gave players (or perhaps creators would be more appropriate as it was for Electroplankton) the opportunity to emulate a guitar on their DS.  Holding down certain buttons would activate certain chords, and you would strum the touch-screen which displayed a virtual guitar string. You could also administer assorted effects like distortion or delay. The original did well enough to allow Ubisoft to release a sequel with Jam Sessions 2.

Art Academy
Art Academy has since become a franchise for Nintenendo with a Pokémon Art Academy game on the way, but it started on the DS in 2009 with simply titled Art Academy. With it, aspiring artists could learn assorted drawing and painting techniques using the touch screen as a canvas and their stylus as a paintbrush.

Nintendo DS Browser
Before the release of the iPhone in early 2007, which arguably popularized Internet on mobile devices, Nintendo tried its best to bring a web browser to its handheld with the release of the Nintendo DS Browser in Japan in 2006. It released in North America the summer of 2007. Sold as a cartridge and an extra piece placed in the Game Boy Advance slot on the DS, it used the handheld’s built-in Wi-Fi to give players a web browser. It didn’t work very well, unfortunately, and was discontinued shortly after its release.

KORG DS-10 and KORG DS-10 plus
Much like Electroplankton and Jam Sessions, the KORG “games” are music simulators, and they’re impressively diverse. We were so impressed with the KORG synthesizers for DS that we placed them on our best DS games of all time list. The series is still going, too, with a version already released for 3DS, and another planned for release in September. Of course, where they used to be offered in a box at retail, you can now find them on the 3DS eShop.

What do you think of these non-game games? Do you like them? Or are your handheld gaming devices used strictly for gaming?