Are the Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL Backward Compatible?

Can the Nintendo 3DS play DS games?

The Nintendo 3DS and 3DS XL are backward compatible, meaning that both systems can play nearly every single Nintendo DS game, and even Nintendo DSi titles.

To play a DS game in a 3DS or 3DS XL, simply insert the game into the 3DS cartridge slot and pick the game from the 3DS main menu.

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

Games that require the AGB slot are not compatible.

How to Play DS Games in Their Original Resolution

Nintendo 3DS and XL automatically stretch lower-resolution DS games to fit their larger screens. This results in some DS games looking blurry. Fortunately, you can boot your Nintendo DS games in their original resolution on your 3DS or 3DS XL. Here's how to fix this resolution issue.

  1. Hold either the START or SELECT button before selecting your Nintendo DS game from the bottom menu.

  2. With the button still held down, tap the icon for the game cartridge. If the game boots at a smaller resolution than what's normal for 3DS games, it means you've done it correctly.

  3. Play your Nintendo DS games as you remember them: crisp and clean.

3DS Backward Compatibility Limitations

In addition to the resolution issue, there are some limitations to playing older DS or DSi games on a Nintendo 3DS system:

  • Older titles don't work with StreetPass or SpotPass.
  • You cannot access the HOME menu.
  • Older games that use the Game Boy Advance game slot on the Nintendo DS cannot access accessories when playing on a 3DS system.
  • Some DSi games that weren't purchased in the PAL region might not be playable 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.