Can You Play 3DS Games on Nintendo Switch?

By John Adebimitan

Now that you have a Nintendo Switch, I understand why you want to know whether those old games you used to play on your 3DS console can play on your new Nintendo Switch. I don’t like to be the bearer of bad news, but it’d be a straight NO if you ask me whether you can play 3DS games on Nintendo Switch. 

If you’re just a regular gamer and aren’t ready to go into some hacking/emulation, this is not possible. Unlike 3DS, which is a successor to the older Nintendo DS and Nintendo 2DS models, the Switch is a completely redesigned console that is not backward compatible. Therefore, neither the Nintendo 3DS games nor any other accessories are compatible with the new Switch console. 

However, if you really want to do this, then you can install a DS/3DS emulator on your Switch. While I wouldn’t advise you to do this, I think that’s the answer to the “can you play 3DS games on Nintendo Switch” question. Note, however, that it can put your console at a risk which is why Nintendo advises against it and is at war with the emulation community.

Can you play 3DS games on Switch?

If you’re not ready for some hacking, Nintendo 3DS games are not officially playable on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is neither a new edition nor a successor to the Nintendo 3DS, so it only runs games developed specifically for the console. Besides, 3DS is a dual-screen console, and Switch is a single screen, so the games are built differently.

Yes, you can with some emulation!

You will need some emulation done to play 3DS games on Switch. But you most likely won’t enjoy it – there are always performance issues, and Nintendo will most likely block you. 

There are now unofficial 3DS emulators for the Nintendo Switch, but they only run on hacked Switch consoles. However, this is no longer easily possible with current Switch models. Also, downloading games for the emulator is illegal.

Many games developed for the Nintendo 3DS would only play to a limited extent on the Switch anyway, as 3DS games often make use of both displays on the handheld – and the Switch only has a single display. Also, the 3D effect would be impossible on the Switch screen.

Can you play DS games on 3DS?

Yes. Nintendo DS games are playable on Nintendo 3DS family systems. However, certain Nintendo DS games that use accessories in the Game Boy Advance slot of the Nintendo DS or Nintendo DS Lite are not compatible with Nintendo 3DS systems.

Consumers don’t need to worry about backward compatibility since the Nintendo 3DS supports all Nintendo DS games except those that use the GBA slot accessory.

Other exceptions may be games that have been purchased country-specifically. For example, an American game version may not work on a European Nintendo 3DS.

Problems can also occur with various games in the Nintendo DSi series. However, these are also usually limited to country differences.

Note: These are for educational purposes only, and we neither encourage nor can be held liable for any damage following this would cause to your Switch. In fact, we do not recommend playing 3ds games on Nintendo Switch.

How to play 3DS games on Switch

Even though it’s not officially possible, the only way to play 3DS games on Switch is by installing custom firmware. Then you need to install a custom homebrew. 

What to consider 

  1. What jailbreak and rooting are for the iPhone and Android is called “homebrew” on the Nintendo devices. This breaks the closed system via existing security loopholes on earlier Nintendo Switch so that changes can be made.
  2. The homebrew only runs under the firmware 3.0.0 version and can hardly be used on any device.
  3. A USB cable (USB-A to USB-C), a PC, and a microSD card with 32 GB of free storage space are also required.

Tips and warnings 

  • Every time you modify your Switch OS, you risk bricking the console. That means you can make the console unusable at the software level (softbrick). Many softbricks can often still be repaired. However, if a repair is no longer possible, it is called a hard brick, and the console can no longer be saved.
  • I generally do NOT recommend installing homebrew on your Switch. If you use pirated software combined with emulators, you support copyright infringement.  
  • There is also a risk that Nintendo will detect tampering, and your Nintendo Account and console will be blocked from the Nintendo eShop and all other services. This means you can no longer play your Switch games through the Nintendo Switch Online service. In addition, you can no longer download system and game updates for the Switch.

3DS vs Nintendo Switch – key differences and why we love each

Let’s first look at the fundamental differences between the two consoles:

Game availability3983 games 2273 games 
Weight235 grams 299 grams 
Screen 6.2-inch touch screenDual 3.53 inches screen 
Definition720p240p for the top one, touchscreen for the bottom one
Key features Plays Switch games onlyMotion-gaming is possible with Joy-conAbility to play on the TV with the dock (included in the pack)Stereo speaker Compatible with motion-sensing controllers Possibility of closing on itself3D possible (by activating it)Has a front camera Autostereoscopic display 

Key differences 

The Nintendo 3DS is a portable dual-screen console that benefits from the excellent reputation of its predecessors. However, the Nintendo Switch adopts a hybrid concept that allows you to take it with you while serving as a home console. 

1. Convenience and playing experience  

New 3DS and 3DS XL are the latest models in the family that allow you to optionally view games in three-dimensional images without wearing any glasses. Furthermore, they have a facial tracking system that detects the player and modifies the viewing angle of the 3D effect. 

Switch is Nintendo’s most recent console, and I like that it is a hybrid model between a portable and desktop console. So, you can start a game comfortably from your sofa and then take it with you to continue playing anywhere.

Switch consists of the console, which can be separated from the controllers (called joy-cons), the two controllers, and a base into which the console can be inserted.

There are three ways to play: in TV mode, by placing the screen on the base and separating the two controls (called Joy-Con); in desktop mode, designed for when there is no television and the screen is placed vertically, holding it with a pin, and in portable mode by attaching the controls to the sides of the console.

2. The technical power of the two consoles

The Nintendo 3DS compensates for its modest power with a double screen, one of which has touch functions. As its name suggests, a 3D option is available. You get a standard HD resolution (720p) for the Switch, and it can suit a living room TV and the 6.2-inch portable screen. This is also tactile.

3. For which player profile?

Like its sister, the Nintendo 2DS, the 3DS is primarily for a young audience. This is not only due to the content offered but also to the robustness of the console, its autonomy, and its accessibility.  

On the other hand, the Switch is aimed at gamers looking for a different way to play. With multiplayer games such as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Super Mario Party, it is also suitable for a family audience. However, fans of handheld consoles will be won over by the two models with different game offers, despite common franchises.

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