The best emulators for the Nintendo 3DS

GBAtemp_3DS_best_emulators.png

The Nintendo 3DS holds a special place for every gamer who owns the console. It was backwards compatible with the Nintendo DS, had a pocketable and portable form factor and came in various shapes and sizes (which could be confusing for those uninitiated). It also has Nintendo’s official support with first-party titles like Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn releasing only last year.

But for the tinkerers among us, the 3DS is also special for its ease to load it with homebrew apps, especially emulators. With a homebrew-enabled 3DS, one can have access to libraries of retro games from the NES to the PlayStation. Sure Nintendo’s current console, the Nintendo Switch, also has impressive homebrew emulator abilities; in fact, we shared our 5 best emulators in a previous post. But if you want to give a second life to your 3DS, you can’t go wrong with emulators. And since it’s been a while since the console has been out, support has grown and running emulators has been made easier and better.

As such, we decided to share our picks for the best emulators for the Nintendo 3DS. Let's jump right in!

1. Virtual Console Injection

vci.JPG

An interesting fact about the 3DS is that it shares similar ARM architecture with the Nintendo DS and the GameBoy Advance. This means that the 3DS has something of a hidden GBA inside of its hardware and can run GBA games natively. Via the Virtual Console, the 3DS isn’t emulating the GBA but in fact running it on native hardware with the actual performance of a GBA.

By means of Virtual Console injection (VCI), you can play GBA games natively, save for some games that require special hardware like WarioWare: Twisted. Thanks to the 3DS being backward-compatible with the GBA, VCI offers close to 100% speed and accuracy for GBA gaming.

You can also use the same method to “inject” games from other retro consoles including the NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameBoy Colour, SEGA Mega Drive, Game Gear and TurboGrafx 16 into the 3DS but since these consoles run on different architecture than the 3DS, you might face some issues.

To get started with VCI on the 3DS, GBAtemp member @Asdolo created the handy New Super Ultimate Injector (NSUI) tool which you can find out more in our discussion thread below.

:arrow: New Super Ultimate Injector GBAtemp discussion thread

2. DaedalusX64 3DS for N64 emulation

x64.png

The 3DS brought some of the N64’s most cherished titles back in remastered form like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask and Star Fox 64. But these were the few exceptions and gamers would understandably want to play more of nostalgic N64 games on the go. With the DaedalusX64 3DS emulator, what many have awaited for so long is now possible.

This N64 emulator for the 3DS is still a work-in-progress with a lot of the tested games facing performance issues. But only a few years ago, during the 3DS’ prime, many would have dismissed N64 emulation on the device as pure fantasy.

As such, even if it’s not a finished emulator that will play every N64 game, it’s worth a try if you want to play N64 games on your 3DS. You can refer to the compatibility list here which is being regularly updated. The emulator’s developer @MasterFeizz made an official thread with instructions on how to use the emulator and download links.

:arrow: DaedalusX64 3DS Official GBAtemp thread

3. TWiLight Menu++ for playing DS games without a flashcart

twilight.JPG

Yes, the 3DS is backward-compatible with the NDS and even packs a slot for its cartridges but what about bypassing the need for a flashcard altogether and play DS games directly from the 3DS’ SD card? This is now possible with TWiLight Menu++ (TWLMenu++) which was developed by GBAtemp member @Robz8.

As mentioned before, the 3DS shares the DS’ architecture and by using TWLMenu++, DS games run natively on the 3DS. Once you have installed the app’s CIA, you can drag-and-drop your ROMs onto the SD card, and play without the need for any additional steps. With this app, some DS games are even playable in 16:10 widescreen on the 3DS.

If you still want to hang on to a flashcard, TWLMenu++ also allows you to launch DS ROMs flashcard as well, via nds-bootstrap which is included in the app.

While it’s a 3DS that can get the most out of TWLMenu++, it also supports the DS Phat/lite. By loading it on a flashcard, TWLMenu++ allows you to bring the DSi Menu to your DS Phat/lite.

If you want to learn more, head to the official thread created by @Robz8 that already has over 2 million views. You’ll find more details as to how to use the app, download links as well as FAQs to help in troubleshooting.

:arrow: TWiLight Menu++ Official GBAtemp Thread

4. PCSX ReARMed for PlayStation Emulation

capsule_616x353.jpg

You might already know RetroArch as a handy frontend for multi-system emulation and the PCSX ReARMed core now allows for decent PS1 emulation on the 3DS. Emulating the PlayStation on the 3DS would, similar to the N64, also be dismissed as fantasy a few years back. With developments in the scene, it is now possible.

The PCSX ReARMed developers recently changed the 3DS builds to use PCSX4ALL’s Unai renderer, which is less accurate but faster and now allows many PS1 games to run at full speed. This is mostly applicable for the New Nintendo 3DS while the old 3DS won’t be able to emulate many games at full speed.

We have an official PCSX ReARMed discussion thread, complete with download links and compatibility list for you to learn more about.

:arrow: PCSX ReARMed Official GBAtemp Discussion Thread

_________________________​

That’s it for our best 3DS emulator picks! Are there any other emulators that you use and would recommend?
 

lordelan

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
5,230
Trophies
1
Age
41
XP
4,934
Country
Germany
Fun fact for those unaware:
You can use RetroArch's fantastic netplay feature to enjoy a cross platform run on some multiplayer NES games like Contra between the 3DS and the Switch.
Just use the same core, the same rom, enable netplay on the 3DS (disabled by default) in RetroArch's settings and you can start a 2 player game but everyone holds his own device.

Of course this also works with two Switch consoles (and even better) but since I still had my N3DSXL laying around I just checked it out and it indeed worked like a charm.
 

enderer

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2015
Messages
355
Trophies
0
Age
32
XP
1,149
Country
United States
not sure if it's relevant, but anyone attempting to play e-reader gba games should use gbarunner2 (runs through twilightmenu++)
 

SuperDan

Im Aware ... Im Unaware
Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2016
Messages
2,936
Trophies
1
Location
Londoner , Living In Louisiana ...
XP
4,448
Country
United States
The Arcade cores don’t run a lot of games properly. Some of them are displayed sideways and most are suffer really bad from slowdown making the whole arcade experience on the 3ds a dud.
Oh i see ... you'd imagine RA could handle them well ... as they do fine on PC Ps Vita and damn near everything else ..... and being OldSkool arcade Games ... should be very easy to pull off i have quite a few CPS1 & CPS2 Roms ( Big 2D fighter fan SF2 ect ) and they look perfect and play very well no issues at all same with the Neo Geo Fighting games ..... maybe in time ,,, .. everything will be perfect .. i thought the Mario 64 Port was Amazing way better looking than DaedalusX64 higher rez im sure and all around solid port ... i was hoping for more to come out .... not seen any yet
 

Feffe

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2008
Messages
196
Trophies
0
XP
1,313
Country
Italy
VC injection is good, but lacks cheats. Snes9x and mGBA 3DS are great emulators.
Bubble's Snes9X has some minor graphical glitches (i.e. the mosaic effect is missing or some effects in Mario RPG) and it's based on a very old version of Snes9x. It's a good emulator which overall does its job well but Injection is better. However, as you said, it supports cheats (and I think fast-forward?).

I prefer mGBA to Injection for GB/C games, because IMHO they are too small pixel-perfect and they look ugly full screen. mGBA applies a nice filter and they look OK. Plus it lets you play GB games using SGB colors or the GBC palette.
 
Last edited by Feffe,

the_randomizer

The Temp's official fox whisperer
Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
30,777
Trophies
2
Age
36
Location
Dr. Wahwee's castle
XP
18,168
Country
United States
Bubble's Snes9X has some minor graphical glitches (i.e. the mosaic effect is missing or some effects in Mario RPG) and it's based on a very old version of Snes9x. It's a good emulator which overall does its job well but Injection is better. However, as you said, it supports cheats (and I think fast-forward?).

I prefer mGBA to Injection for GB/C games, because IMHO they are too small pixel-perfect and they look ugly full screen. mGBA applies a nice filter and they look OK. Plus it lets you play GB games using SGB colors or the GBC palette.

Is it fast though? Are there audio crackling or frameskip issues with mGBA? I have a 2DS XL but was wondering about how well mGBA can handle games like FFV Advanced vs GBA VC injection.
 

Feffe

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2008
Messages
196
Trophies
0
XP
1,313
Country
Italy
Is it fast though? Are there audio crackling or frameskip issues with mGBA? I have a 2DS XL but was wondering about how well mGBA can handle games like FFV Advanced vs GBA VC injection.
mGBA is getting better and better for GBA games but it's still not there IMHO. As you said sometimes the sound is cracking or there are some minor frame drops. GB/C emulator seems perfect, way better than Retroarch with Gambatte (where audio is off and/or crackling).

My rule of thumb is:
NES: Injections. Bubble has sound issues.
SNES: Injections (using DarkAkuma's SFROM Tool), Bubble for the handful of unsupported games even though it's not perfect.
GB/C: mGBA, games are blurry / too tiny with Injections. mGBA also has SGB support.
GBA: Injections. Open AGB Firm is very interesting though.
MS/MD: Bubble, but iirc 32x is better on Retroarch.
PCE: Bubble (Injection compatibility is very low)
Everything else: Retroarch
 

coinblock

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Sep 4, 2015
Messages
247
Trophies
0
XP
237
Country
GBA/GBA games like that require a gyro or camera can be played with mGBA, which supports both accessories using the 3DS hardware!
 

the_randomizer

The Temp's official fox whisperer
Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Messages
30,777
Trophies
2
Age
36
Location
Dr. Wahwee's castle
XP
18,168
Country
United States
mGBA is getting better and better for GBA games but it's still not there IMHO. As you said sometimes the sound is cracking or there are some minor frame drops. GB/C emulator seems perfect, way better than Retroarch with Gambatte (where audio is off and/or crackling).

My rule of thumb is:
NES: Injections. Bubble has sound issues.
SNES: Injections (using DarkAkuma's SFROM Tool), Bubble for the handful of unsupported games even though it's not perfect.
GB/C: mGBA, games are blurry / too tiny with Injections. mGBA also has SGB support.
GBA: Injections. Open AGB Firm is very interesting though.
MS/MD: Bubble, but iirc 32x is better on Retroarch.
PCE: Bubble (Injection compatibility is very low)
Everything else: Retroarch

Good to know, currently using GBA injections as I'm very picky about audio issues (no issues at all with audio in VC injection), Snes is also good with injection. Not interested in NES or PCE to be honest, just trying to find the best way to utilize my hacked 3DS :P
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheCosmicWarrior

TheCosmicWarrior

Well-Known Member
Newcomer
Joined
May 4, 2020
Messages
53
Trophies
0
Age
18
Website
www.youtube.com
XP
586
Country
United States

The Nintendo 3DS holds a special place for every gamer who owns the console. It was backwards compatible with the Nintendo DS, had a pocketable and portable form factor and came in various shapes and sizes (which could be confusing for those uninitiated). It also has Nintendo’s official support with first-party titles like Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn releasing only last year.

But for the tinkerers among us, the 3DS is also special for its ease to load it with homebrew apps, especially emulators. With a homebrew-enabled 3DS, one can have access to libraries of retro games from the NES to the PlayStation. Sure Nintendo’s current console, the Nintendo Switch, also has impressive homebrew emulator abilities; in fact, we shared our 5 best emulators in a previous post. But if you want to give a second life to your 3DS, you can’t go wrong with emulators. And since it’s been a while since the console has been out, support has grown and running emulators has been made easier and better.

As such, we decided to share our picks for the best emulators for the Nintendo 3DS. Let's jump right in!

1. Virtual Console Injection


An interesting fact about the 3DS is that it shares similar ARM architecture with the Nintendo DS and the GameBoy Advance. This means that the 3DS has something of a hidden GBA inside of its hardware and can run GBA games natively. Via the Virtual Console, the 3DS isn’t emulating the GBA but in fact running it on native hardware with the actual performance of a GBA.

By means of Virtual Console injection (VCI), you can play GBA games natively, save for some games that require special hardware like WarioWare: Twisted. Thanks to the 3DS being backward-compatible with the GBA, VCI offers close to 100% speed and accuracy for GBA gaming.

You can also use the same method to “inject” games from other retro consoles including the NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameBoy Colour, SEGA Mega Drive, Game Gear and TurboGrafx 16 into the 3DS but since these consoles run on different architecture than the 3DS, you might face some issues.

To get started with VCI on the 3DS, GBAtemp member @Asdolo created the handy New Super Ultimate Injector (NSUI) tool which you can find out more in our discussion thread below.

:arrow: New Super Ultimate Injector GBAtemp discussion thread

2. DaedalusX64 3DS for N64 emulation


The 3DS brought some of the N64’s most cherished titles back in remastered form like The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask and Star Fox 64. But these were the few exceptions and gamers would understandably want to play more of nostalgic N64 games on the go. With the DaedalusX64 3DS emulator, what many have awaited for so long is now possible.

This N64 emulator for the 3DS is still a work-in-progress with a lot of the tested games facing performance issues. But only a few years ago, during the 3DS’ prime, many would have dismissed N64 emulation on the device as pure fantasy.

As such, even if it’s not a finished emulator that will play every N64 game, it’s worth a try if you want to play N64 games on your 3DS. You can refer to the compatibility list here which is being regularly updated. The emulator’s developer @MasterFeizz made an official thread with instructions on how to use the emulator and download links.

:arrow: DaedalusX64 3DS Official GBAtemp thread

3. TWiLight Menu++ for playing DS games without a flashcart


Yes, the 3DS is backward-compatible with the NDS and even packs a slot for its cartridges but what about bypassing the need for a flashcard altogether and play DS games directly from the 3DS’ SD card? This is now possible with TWiLight Menu++ (TWLMenu++) which was developed by GBAtemp member @Robz8.

As mentioned before, the 3DS shares the DS’ architecture and by using TWLMenu++, DS games run natively on the 3DS. Once you have installed the app’s CIA, you can drag-and-drop your ROMs onto the SD card, and play without the need for any additional steps. With this app, some DS games are even playable in 16:10 widescreen on the 3DS.

If you still want to hang on to a flashcard, TWLMenu++ also allows you to launch DS ROMs flashcard as well, via nds-bootstrap which is included in the app.

While it’s a 3DS that can get the most out of TWLMenu++, it also supports the DS Phat/lite. By loading it on a flashcard, TWLMenu++ allows you to bring the DSi Menu to your DS Phat/lite.

If you want to learn more, head to the official thread created by @Robz8 that already has over 2 million views. You’ll find more details as to how to use the app, download links as well as FAQs to help in troubleshooting.

:arrow: TWiLight Menu++ Official GBAtemp Thread

4. PCSX ReARMed for PlayStation Emulation


You might already know RetroArch as a handy frontend for multi-system emulation and the PCSX ReARMed core now allows for decent PS1 emulation on the 3DS. Emulating the PlayStation on the 3DS would, similar to the N64, also be dismissed as fantasy a few years back. With developments in the scene, it is now possible.

The PCSX ReARMed developers recently changed the 3DS builds to use PCSX4ALL’s Unai renderer, which is less accurate but faster and now allows many PS1 games to run at full speed. This is mostly applicable for the New Nintendo 3DS while the old 3DS won’t be able to emulate many games at full speed.

We have an official PCSX ReARMed discussion thread, complete with download links and compatibility list for you to learn more about.

:arrow: PCSX ReARMed Official GBAtemp Discussion Thread

_________________________​

That’s it for our best 3DS emulator picks! Are there any other emulators that you use and would recommend?
I love all the options for emulators. I got to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles and managed to beat it on this little device. It's not too powerful, but it's a really solid device for emulators.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dartz150 and Prans

Clydefrosch

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
5,879
Trophies
1
XP
4,021
Country
Germany
It's funny how two are not really emulators in the classical sense of the word and the other two aren't really playing most games at 100% speed.
Most interesting 'emulators' right now would probably be a better title.
 

BaamAlex

S̶̥͝l̷̹̀͗e̶̼̖̩̅͊e̷̛̦͉̦p̷̘͌͝i̵͇̠̞̿̌n̷̰͚͌̓͝g̷̦̲̍̆͝
Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2018
Messages
4,184
Trophies
1
Age
26
XP
3,461
Country
Germany
Daedalus is definitely a nice emulator. And pcsx...i will test that out.
 

Centrix

Stop Poking the Moogle!
Member
Joined
Aug 28, 2008
Messages
1,000
Trophies
0
Age
37
Location
Seattle,WA
XP
1,018
Country
United States
I find it really weird not to cover the basics like genesis, snes etc. with Bubble2006k's suite of emulators. One of the few solutions optimized for old3DS, handles superfx and segaCD scaling well on new3ds, and the interface is far simpler and less hassle than injectors or retroarch. Its the place I would recommend anyone to get started.

I agree, I have used injectors, and while they can be both time consuming and fun to use; emulators I feel are the perfered method. I use snes9x, virtualnes, picodrive, and mGBA to emulate my games. All of them work great and run smoothly with out any real slow downs or sound hickups.
 

raxadian

Well-Known Member
Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2018
Messages
3,193
Trophies
1
Age
38
XP
2,956
Country
Argentina
It's funny how two are not really emulators in the classical sense of the word and the other two aren't really playing most games at 100% speed.
Most interesting 'emulators' right now would probably be a better title.

Eh, we know there are better options, the Vita is definitely better as a portable console that can run emulators but... the 3DS is more fun.

Heck I bought a Vita to havk it last year and I haven't even turned it on since last year.

Plus a GBA game on a 3DS is almost like playing the game on a GBA.
 
General chit-chat
Help Users
  • No one is chatting at the moment.
    Veho @ Veho: https://i.imgur.com/fap39PL.mp4