Playing GBA, DS and 3DS game on single portable device - flashcarts or emulation?

themanuel Jul 29, 2019.

  1. themanuel
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    themanuel GBAtemp Maniac

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    Oct 6, 2009
    United States
    Michigan, USA
    Hello, all.

    I have always been into console emulation but only marginally interested in handhelds. I was wondering what the best way would be to play GBA, DS and 3DS game in a single handheld device. As a bonus, it would be nice to be able to play NES/SNES games too.

    I had a hard time reading through the flashcart page of the Wiki so it is not clear to me if there is a reliable way to do all that with a 3DS or 2DS.
    As an alternative, I wonder if there is a portable device with enough CPU power to emulate all those systems and still be able to see dual screens for DS/3DS games, say a Windows 10 tablet with controller attachments, or something like that.

    Is there an easy answer to this or just lots of incomplete options?
     
  2. Vague Rant

    Vague Rant Deceptively cute

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    Aug 7, 2008
    Melbourne
    You can play most of the GBA/DS/3DS library on any model of 3DS without a flash cart via soft-modding/custom firmware. There are, of course, exceptions.

    GBA
    The 3DS includes the hardware necessary to run GBA games natively via AGB_FIRM. This has excellent compatibility, discounting games with special hardware like accelerometers. You also have no link cable support, so no multiplayer. You can find or inject your own GBA ROMs and install them to the Home Menu on a hacked 3DS.

    NDS
    nds-bootstrap is an NDS ROM loader which patches games to load from the SD card instead of from the cartridge slot. Compatibility is very good, but not quite as good as a flash card. Flash cards aren't free, but will run slightly more DS games and some would argue more easily (e.g. without the need to apply anti-piracy fixes and such manually), but for most users nds-bootstrap is probably enough. Flash card naming is a mess, but if you do decide to get one, you probably want something in the R4i Gold 3DS family. It's worth noting that DSi-exclusive games are an exception here, you can't currently run those via nds-bootstrap or any current flash cards. DSiWare however, you can install on the 3DS just fine.

    3DS
    You can install 3DS games directly into the Home Menu like eShop games instead of running them from cartridges. Don't buy a 3DS flash card, they're not a good deal when you can do everything they offer for free.

    NES/SNES
    There's several NES and SNES emulators on 3DS. bubble2k16's are probably the most user-friendly and run well even on original-model 3DSes, but you might want to opt for a New 3DS (or New 2DS) if you plan on playing any special-chip SNES games. As a general rule though, you should be able to play the majority of the SNES library and probably the entire NES library on any 3DS.
     
  3. Redhorse

    Redhorse GBAtemp Regular

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    Apr 18, 2017
    United States
    Between a Rock and a Hard Place for now
    Even though he's already answered for you, I'm going to second what he said with my input,

    I would hack a 3ds and use a DS2i Flashcard, it is [the tiny-est bit] higher on power use but can emulate everything SNES, GBA, GB, GBC. NES, DS ++ of course not DSi but there are few of those that do, and the rest can be installed on the 3ds.

    Using the DS2 makes drag and drop a breeze; on the cart w/out the whole install process to go over again each time you want to install. There are a very few that will play better on the 3ds than on the Flash cart (NES/SNES etc,) but basically, this is the easiest, quickest setup IMO.

    You can use the cart he suggested but the emulation on the DS2 is better, though I suggest getting the original, 2nd hand if can't find it new since they stopped making them [they make a new one [DS2+], but the older one is better IMO], not the newer one. Oh, and it works on every single 3/DS version console ever made, with or without cfw
     
    themanuel likes this.
  4. themanuel
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    themanuel GBAtemp Maniac

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    Oct 6, 2009
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    Michigan, USA
    @Vague Rant
    Thank, mate. That was an incredibly useful summary.

    I was hoping the answer to my question would include a physical 3DS because I know emulation is not quite mature for 3DS games yet. The software-only path seems like it would work for me. I assumed that the compatibility lists for GBA injection here, and nds-bootstrap here are what I would be dealing with, which is perfectly fine by me. The vast majority of games I'm interested in are green, while a very few have light issues but are playable.

    Is there any obvious choice for custom firmware that you would recommend?
    I'll need to go down that rabbit hole when I get the hardware but it looks like there plenty of tutorials here in the site.
     
    Last edited by themanuel, Jul 31, 2019 - Reason: updated links
  5. themanuel
    OP

    themanuel GBAtemp Maniac

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    Oct 6, 2009
    United States
    Michigan, USA
    @Redhorse:
    Thank you for your input as well.
    To make sure I understand, what you suggest is using a custom firmware for 3DS titles and the flashcart you mentioned for everything else, correct?
     
  6. Redhorse

    Redhorse GBAtemp Regular

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    Apr 18, 2017
    United States
    Between a Rock and a Hard Place for now
    Yes. Correct, unless there are regular titles that you will replay for say the GBA that you want to permanently install on the 3ds, then you would install those. But I have always opted for simplicity. "simplicity is the Hallmark of Genius'

    There are enough 3ds DL only [eshop] titles you'll want to install and since there is a 300 title limit, that can be reached quicker than you think.

    recap: 3ds cfw for 3ds titles both cart & eshop titles and DS2 for the rest.
     
    themanuel likes this.
  7. Vague Rant

    Vague Rant Deceptively cute

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    Aug 7, 2008
    Melbourne
    @themanuel LumaCFW is pretty much the only major CFW option at this point; it does pretty much everything you could want in a CFW.

    As for a tutorial, I'd strongly recommend 3ds.hacks.guide. It's the gold standard of CFW guides.
     
  8. themanuel
    OP

    themanuel GBAtemp Maniac

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    Oct 6, 2009
    United States
    Michigan, USA
    Outstanding. Thanks again. I'm keeping an eye on the official Nintendo eBay store to see if the black New 3DS XL comes back in stock. I should have gotten it yesterday while they still had them.
     
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