Can you play 3DS games on Switch?

Clearly, the 3DS’ stereoscopic effect cannot be replicated on any other console but there are ways to play 3DS games and experience original 3DS content on the Nintendo Switch.

Can you play 3DS games on Switch?

You can play 3DS games on Switch via official ports and remakes or emulation. The Nintendo Switch is not compatible with physical 3DS game cards and you can’t transfer digitally downloaded 3DS games to your Nintendo Switch.

Read on below for information about which original 3DS games got Switch ports/remakes, which emulator is best for playing 3DS games on Switch, and more!

3DS games ported to Switch

You can experience 3DS content on Switch as many original 3DS games have been ported to or remade for Nintendo Switch.

Box art for 3DS games Monster Hunter Generations and Hyrule Warriors Legends placed over box art for the respective Switch ports, Generations Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition

The most high-profile 3DS games – i.e., brand new games released specifically for 3DS – that have been ported or remade for Switch are probably Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate and Hyrule Warriors Legends (technically not an original on the 3DS but that version did include exclusive content).

The Switch has now outsold the DS & 3DS combined and a quick Google search shows plenty of demand from Switch players wanting to play 3DS titles.

I’ve put together a list of original 3DS games that can be played on Switch via an official port or remake below (note that this list doesn’t include the many original DS games that also got Switch releases – just 3DS). 

Plenty of popular franchises and series had dedicated original 3DS releases, including Legend of Zelda, Pokémon, Super Mario, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing, and Streets of Rage (my personal favorite). 

However, relatively few original 3DS games (and, in fact, none from the franchises mentioned above) have been made available natively on Nintendo Switch via a port or remake.

But all hope is not lost! There is another way to play 3DS games on Nintendo Switch…

3DS emulation on Switch

It is possible to play 3DS games on Switch via emulation. 

Numerous clever and resourceful people have demonstrated that the Switch is able to run even intensive 3DS games like Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask using the Citra 3DS emulator for Switch

Citra 3DS emulator

The Citra 3DS emulator is an open-source project that started work on 3DS emulation for Android way back in 2013. It’s one of the many popular emulators used by streamers on Twitch.

Citra runs on the Nintendo Switch’s native operating system Horizon but you will need to have a moddable Switch in order to set it all up (and overclocking the Switch’s CPU may help).

Proceed at your own risk! You may end up causing your Switch to display the blue screen of death.

An alternative method to get 3DS games on your Switch via Citra: Set up Citra on a desktop OS (currently only Windows and Linux are supported) and use Switch Remote Play to play it on your Switch from your PC.

Flip Grip

The Flip Grip is a third-party accessory for the Nintendo Switch created by video game historian Jeremy Parish, engineer Mike Choi and Fangamer. 

The Flip Grip allows the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons to be attached along the longer edge of the console to make on-the-go vertical/portrait orientation gaming possible. 

Screenshot of YouTube video showing user playing a 3DS game in vertical orientation on Nintendo Switch using Flip Grip accessory
Image credit: YouTube/TCPixel

While Parish took inspiration from some old-school arcade cases that used CRT monitors installed in vertical mode to suit certain games, the Flip Grip is also a fantastic accessory for playing 3DS games on the Nintendo Switch.

Playing Switch in vertical mode allows for much greater visibility and more accessible functionality on 3DS games that make heavy use of the 3DS’ bottom touchscreen. 

Nintendo Store 3DS purchases

Many original 3DS titles were only available as digital releases (like games 4, 5, and 6 in the Ace Attorney series). 

That means that, unless you previously purchased the software, there is now no official way to play these games as Nintendo closed the 3DS and Wii U eShop on March 27, 2023.

As digital-only 3DS titles are now not available to download and play on the original hardware – let alone on the Nintendo Switch – your only option for playing these games in the future is to explore emulation.

Hopefully, the option to redownload previously purchased software remains available for a while yet, and, given that I archive and delete a lot of Switch games that I don’t play too often, I hope the same option exists when the Switch store inevitably shuts in the future.

3DS games with data transfer to Switch

Some 3DS games support data transfer between the 3DS and Nintendo Switch:

Transfer Pokémon from 3DS to Switch

Pokémon HOME is a cloud service that enables players to transfer Pokémon between various compatible games in the franchise. 

In order to move Pokémon from your 3DS to your Switch, you’ll need a Nintendo Account, Nintendo Network ID, and a paid Premium subscription to Pokémon HOME.

That might all sound a bit much, but it’s probably worth it if you grew super attached to your Gen VI Pokémon (as I did… love Delphox!).

You can also thank your lucky stars that the process doesn’t include using a clunky console web browser because the Switch doesn’t have one.

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate Save Data Transfer App

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate supports save data transfer between 3DS and Switch versions. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download the Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate Save Data Transfer App on 3DS (from the Nintendo website).
  2. Launch the app on your 3DS and select the option to link 3DS and Switch. This will generate a transfer password (provided your 3DS is connected to the internet)
  3. Launch Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate on Switch and select Data Transfer in the main menu.
  4. Select the 3DS/Switch option and input the transfer password you generated on your 3DS in step 3 above. 
  5. On the Save Data Transfer App on 3DS, select the ‘save data transfer’ option and press send data when prompted.
  6. Head back into the Data Transfer menu on the Switch version and select the option to choose data when prompted.

Physical 3DS cartridges

The Nintendo Switch’s single game card slot only accommodates Switch game cards.

Nintendo Switch game cards are much smaller than 3DS game cards, meaning the Switch is not backward-compatible with physical 3DS games (or any other physical Nintendo game card or cartridge, for that matter).

3DS games on Switch Online

There is currently no indication that 3DS games will become available for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, despite Game Boy and Game Boy Advance titles recently being added to the library.

Playing 3DS games on Nintendo Switch – Summary

There’s no perfect way to play your favorite 3DS games on the Nintendo Switch. The closest you’ll get to the authentic experience is by playing an official Switch port or remake of an original 3DS game.

You can explore emulation, but you’ve been warned: Don’t come crying back here if you break your console while trying to mod it! You’ll also break your Switch if you try to stuff a 3DS game card into it. 

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