What You Need to Know About Backward Compatibility of Nintendo 3DS

Can the Nintendo 3DS Play DS Games?

A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue, photo taken during the 3DS launch event in NYC.
A Nintendo 3DS in Aqua Blue, photo taken during the 3DS launch event in NYC. Wikimedia Commons

The Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL are backward compatible, meaning both systems can play nearly every single Nintendo DS game (and even Nintendo DSi titles). Games that require the AGB slot are not compatible.

All you need to do is plug your Nintendo DS game into the 3DS cartridge slot and pick the game from the 3DS’s main menu.

However, due to their screen size differences, Nintendo DS games do not fit the full screen of the newer devices.

Read on to see how to fix this resolution issue.

Tip: The Nintendo 2DS is also backward compatible with the Nintendo DS library. You can read more about the Nintendo 2DS in our FAQ page.

Backward Compatibility Limitations

In addition to the resolution issue just mentioned, here are some other limitations that are seen when using older DS or DSi games with Nintendo 3DS family systems:

  • The older games do not work with StreetPass or SpotPass
  • You can not get to the HOME menu
  • Older games that use the Game Boy Advance game slot on the Nintendo DS can not have their accessories accessed when playing on a 3DS system
  • Some DSi games that were not purchased in the PAL region might not be able to be played on a 3DS from the PAL region. In other words, you might not be able to play a DSi game unless it was purchased in the region where it's being played

How to Play DS Games in Their Original Resolution

Be aware that the Nintendo 3DS and XL automatically stretch lower-resolution DS games to fit on the larger 3DS screen, making some games look a little blurry as a result.

Fortunately, you can boot your Nintendo DS games in their original resolution on your 3DS or 3DS XL.

  1. Before selecting your Nintendo DS game from the bottom menu, hold either the START or SELECT button.
  2. Tap the icon for the game cartridge while still holding down the button.
  3. If your game boots at a smaller resolution than what's normal for 3DS games, that means you've done it correctly.
  1. Now you can play your Nintendo DS games as you remember them: Crisp and clean.