Last updated: 04MAY2023 (see Changelog for details)
It is relatively easy to install custom firmware on a Nintendo 3DS, but it does involve quite a few steps. This video guide is meant to be a supplement to this excellent written guide — think of it like a visual companion for those who want to see the process in action.
Table of Contents Will you get banned for hacking your 3DS? Recommended tools Hack your 3DS Add 3DS games to your console Add DS games to your console Misc Notes Changelog
Will you get banned for hacking your 3DS?
A common question is whether your Nintendo Network ID (NNID) will be banned for hacking a 3DS that is associated with your account. As far as we can tell, Nintendo hasn’t banned any accounts simply for having a hacked console, but in the past they have banned accounts when people play leaked games online before they release, or playing modded versions of games. However, that isn’t to say that Nintendo won’t take that stance in the future.
Personally, I did a full data wipe on my 3DS before hacking it, just out of an abundance of caution. I was able to easily download new versions of the games I had purchased previously, which made the transition seamless for me. However, if you have important save games you want to maintain on your device, you can hack the console without wiping its data first.
To get started, you’ll need a few items:
Nintendo 3DS or 2DS. Any model will work fine, and it can be from any region. The “New” models will provide better performance with some emulators. I recommend doing this guide with a good amount of charge on your battery.
Computer. This process is simple, in that you mostly are just downloading and moving files to an SD card. It will work with a Windows, Linux, or Mac computer, and you could even do this on a Chromebook or Android phone if you are tenacious.
MicroSD card. I personally use a 128GB card for the best balance of price, storage size, and read/write speed. You can use a 256GB card, but there are reports that it can slow down the loading experience or mess with GBA graphics and custom themes. It is not recommended to go beyond 256GB, and many recommend a smaller card (32GB or 64GB) for a smoother experience.
32GB card: SanDisk Ultra 64GB cards: Samsung EVO Select SanDisk Ultra 128GB cards: Samsung EVO Select SanDisk Ultra 256GB cards: Samsung EVO Select SanDisk Ultra
MicroSD card reader. I prefer this one from Anker, but there are plenty of options out there.
Software. If you are using a card larger than 32GB, you need to format it to FAT32. You can do this on Windows using the guiformat tool. You can “Erase” the card using the Mac’s built-in Disk Utility app, with the format MS-DOS (FAT) option. I also recommend using 7Zip (Windows) or The Unarchiver (Mac) to unzip the any zip files you download as part of this installation process.
Note: If you intend to use any force injected games or software make sure you format your SD card in FAT32 with an allocation size of 65536 using guiformat. This will prevent a visual bug that will appear on certain games like Pokemon Emerald.
Hack your 3DS
First and foremost, the authority on hacking the Nintendo 3DS is this guide. I recommend following those written instructions, and they are what I used in jailbreaking my own 3DS console. The video above is meant to be a visual companion to the established guide, and in time it may come to pass that the video becomes outdated as new processes and efficiencies come to light. If a significant update comes out, I will be sure to create a new video to maintain its relevancy.
Note that the video above was made with the Homebrew Launcher (super-skaterhax) process, and depending on your device the written guide may suggest a different approach to hacking your console. If that occurs, I recommend ONLY consulting the written guide, and not the video above.
As you get started, be sure to read their FAQ to learn more about compatibility, ban risks, and more. Personally, I formatted my 3DS ahead of time, and did not log into my Nintendo Online account with the device before (or after) doing the jailbreak. This was a personal preference in order to use an abundance of caution.
If you run into any issues with the written guide, I recommend consulting their Troubleshooting page, and if that doesn’t resolve your issue, they recommend joining the Nintendo Homebrew discord server for further assistance.
After you are done hacking your 3DS, here is a handy list of things you can do with your console. I will update this page in the future as I create more videos showcasing what you can do with a 3DS running custom firmware.
Add 3DS games to your console
Naturally, one of the best uses for the Nintendo 3DS is to play 3DS games on it! But with the eShop closing, and secondhand cartridges becoming prohibitively expensive, let’s discuss the four ways you can play 3DS games once you have a modded 3DS.
- Install cartridges directly onto your 3DS. Boot your 3DS into GodMode9 by holding down the START button while pressing POWER ON. Navigate to GAMECART and then choose the file with the “trim.3ds” file extension. Choose “NCSD image options…”> “Install Game Image” and the game will be installed onto your 3DS.
- Dump cartridges into 3DS ROM files. Boot your 3DS into GodMode9 by holding down the START button while pressing POWER ON. Navigate to GAMECART and then choose the file with the “trim.3ds” file extension. Choose “Copy to 0:/gm9/out” and once complete, you will find the 3DS ROM file on your SD card. Note you will need to decrypt the 3DS file in order to use it in emulators like Citra; here is the program to use, and instructions are in the video above.
- Load ROM files onto your 3DS. Load a 3DS or CIA file directly onto your microSD card. Boot your 3DS into GodMode9 by holding down the START button while pressing POWER ON. Navigate to SDCARD and wherever you stored the 3DS file. Press A when hovering over the game file, then select “NCSD image options…”> “Install Game Image” and the game will be installed onto your 3DS.
- Digitally download 3DS games onto your device. There is an eShop alternative called hShop which will give you access to the 3DS digital library. This app won’t be directly linked on this website. Once you have found the app, its installation page will have a QR code. Using the FBI app, go to Remote Install > Scan QR Code and scan the hShop QR code. This will install the app.
Add DS games to your console
The Nintendo DS was one of my favorite handheld consoles, and these games can run natively on any 3DS model. Setting them up to work on a modded 3DS is also super easy.
- Dump cartridges into NDS ROM files. Insert your cartridge, then boot your 3DS into GodMode9 by holding down the START button while pressing POWER ON. Navigate to GAMECART and then choose the file with the “.nds” file extension. Choose “Copy to 0:/gm9/out” and once complete, you will find the 3DS ROM file on your SD card (in the gm9 > out folder). This process can be done with NDS save games, which are in the “.sav” file extension.
- Launch games using Twilight Menu. As part of the jailbreak process, you should have the Universal Updater app installed on your modded 3DS. While connected to your local network, open Universal Updater and install the Twilight Menu app. If you’d like, you can download the app and install it manually by adding the contents of its “3DS” zip file to the root directory of your 3DS microSD card, then install the CIA file via FBI (another app you should have installed on your modded 3DS already). Once installed, you should have a roms folder on the root directory of your SD card, and a subfolder named “nds”. Place your NDS ROMs in that folder, and your .sav files in the “saves” subfolder. From there, launch Twilight Menu and navigate to that folder to start your games.
- Add NDS games to your Home menu. To do this, you will need to download the NDS Forwarder Generator app from the Universal Updater store. Once installed, you will find it in the Homebrew Launcher app, and once you open it up you can navigate to your NDS folder and install your games to the Home menu. Note that you are limited to 40 total NDS titles unless you do the next step. To remove games from your Home menu, go to Settings > Data Management > DSiWare and delete them there (the games will remain on your card, just not on the Home screen).
- Bypass the 40-game limit. If you want more than 40 NDS games on your Home menu, you will need to use a tool like YANBF. Installation and setup instructions are provided on their GitHub page, and if you run into any issues, here is a great thread to check.
To launch DS games in their native resolution, but with smaller screens, hold the START button when launching Twilight Menu (keep holding START until you see the screens appear). The same trick can be applied to DS games that have been installed on the Home menu.
Note that if you add DSiWare games to your device via the hShop, those will count towards your 40-game limit.
The console’s home screen is limited to 300 icons/shortcuts. If you install more than that, you will have to access them via FBI > Titles > (name of game) > Launch Title.
– added DS games section
– added 3DS games section
– added Table of Contents for easier navigation
– added notes re: microSD and app limitations, thanks to feedback!
– Published guide
4 thoughts on “3DS Hack Guide”
Hey Russ, Really like how you filled in a niche and your ytube/website has gained a serious hold in the over saturated retro scene. If you don’t mind (and don’t take offence), I would like to add my own 2 cents on my own personal experience with the 3ds, who knows might even help out a fellow retro gamer in a future video. 1. my personal experience with emulators- I use a) mGBA (for gb,gbc,gba) b) snes9x for SNES c) TemperPCE for tg16 d)VirtualNES for NES – all of these standalone emulators I run through the Homebrew launcher (.3dsx files) – This has the advantage of not taking up icon limits (300) and runs them just as good as the .cia apps. However I run Picodrive (megadrive and SMS) through the .cia app, as according to their own literature i believe it runs CD games better than the .3dsx file (sorry cannot remember exactly). I have experimented with retroarch a few years ago and found it to be extreemly buggy and annoying so I steer well clear. The above emulators run these systems really great and are good for large rom libraries as they can be scrolled through really quick (unlike twilight menu that takes ages to scoll through large rom libraries (place in folders like atari 2600 to find games quicker). Twilight menu – if you hold start or select when launching a DS game it will play the game in Native resolution (smaller on screen but no blur). Twilight menu play DS games natively (no emulation, takes advantage of backwood compatibility) – exactly the same as when launching a DS game on 3ds (ie hold start or select when launching a DS game on standard 3ds to display correct resolution). Also noticed you finally bought one of the finest consoles in history (shame the producer of this fine console has serious anti-consumer arrogant policies). I have a 2 white n3ds, a black n3ds (unlike NA they are not to hard to find EUR region ones over here) and a top screen IPS majoras mask n3dsxl. And the n3ds is by far IMO the best console I own – the only recomendation i would highly recomend is getting some faceplates – I have the smash bros and monster hunter 4 plates (and other not so good ones), cannot underestimate how faceplates change the entire feeling of the 3ds – just do it. A limitation of FAT32 file system is the maximum 4GB file size and it will not let you copy 4GB files like Donkey Kong country, however a work around is to extract the 4gb file directly to the sd card (first need to compress file (add to archive) and then extract directly to sd card) – I have not read about this anywhere and feel more people need to know about this – .3ds file are superior as they work on emulators as well) – only works on windows 10 or 11 and 7-zip (not winrar)
On a final note thanks for reading my ramblings (i get the feeling you will actually read this as you have responded to my ytube comments (the difference between a good ytuber and a bad ytuber IMO, is weather or not the listen to their audience). Usually only post comments when i drink beer and am drunk – it’s hot here and is just what we do over here – Take care. I am located in Perth Western Australia
Graham, these are great tips, thank you very much! I am about to start tackling retro game emulation so this advice is very helpful. I’m still going to try RetroArch just because I’m curious to see how it fares today. Thanks again!
Edit. when launching the Twilight Menu app hold start or select to display native resolution
Hello! (Some help here)
First I just wanted to say thank you for the guide. It was very helpful, a lot of details, and thank you for providing all the tips with the guide, and video.
I just have a question if someone can help. I was able to setup Twilight Menu++ without inconveniences, and the games are running great.
However, everytime I start any game, I need to press start 2 times to access the game that I select. For example, I select Pokémon Platinum, then a black screen appears in the lower screen and it tells me to Press Start, and then some letters appear after and the same happens: Press Start and the game loads.
I do not know if this is normal or if this is something that can be fixed to load the game without pressing Start twice?
Thank you in advance.