Can the Nintendo 3DS Play DS Games?

It can but you might miss out on a few things due to feature changes

If you bought a Nintendo 3DS to replace your Nintendo DS, you'll be happy to hear the 3DS is backward compatible with almost all the games in the DS catalog.

However, as nice as it may be to play Nintendo DS games on a device as powerful as the 3DS, there are some things that you will miss out on. One feature that does work, for example, is Wi-Fi. If the DS game supports it, you can use your Nintendo 3DS to connect with other players regardless of the device they're using to play — be it a DS, 3DS, DSi XL, etc.

An illustration of a Nintendo 3DS user trying to play Nintendo DS games in the system.

How to Play Nintendo DS Games on a 3DS

The process does not work any differently than playing on a DS. You don't need to enable a special setting or update your device to play older DS titles on your 3DS.

  1. Plug your Nintendo DS game into the 3DS cartridge slot.

  2. Select the game cartridge icon from the bottom menu on your 3DS and the game will load.

How to Play a Nintendo DS Game in Its Natural Resolution on a 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS utilizes a higher screen resolution than the Nintendo DS. As a result, any Nintendo DS game that you play on the 3DS will look a bit stretched out and blurry.

However, it is possible to boot your Nintendo DS games in their original resolution:

  1. Before selecting the Nintendo DS game from the bottom menu, hold either the Start or Select button.

  2. Select the icon for the game cartridge, but keep holding the button down.

  3. If the game boots at a lower resolution than normal for 3DS games, you've done it correctly and you can release the button.

Problems With Playing Nintendo DS Games on 3DS

There are some other caveats when playing DS games on the 3DS:

  • DS and DSi games won't display in 3D on a Nintendo 3DS. While the 3DS does support 3D gameplay, that's only true for 3DS games specifically. Playing a non-3D DS game does not mean that it will be "converted" to a 3D game.
  • You can't access the Home menu while playing Nintendo DS games on the 3DS.
  • Your 3DS cannot access features or use accessories that accessed the Game Boy Advance game slot on the Nintendo DS (slot 2).
  • DS games are not compatible with SpotPass or StreetPass.
  • A few DS games required the use of the AGB slot. Those games are not compatible with the 3DS.
  • If a Nintendo DSi game was purchased outside of the PAL region, and the 3DS purchased from the PAL region, the game may not work properly.
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