Nintendo 3DS emulators
|Type||Handheld game console|
The Nintendo 3DS is an eighth-generation handheld game console by Nintendo, released on March 27, 2011, for $249. The original model and the 2DS had a dual-core ARM11 MPCore at 268 MHz and a single-core ARM9, 128 MBs of RAM and 6 MBs of VRAM, and a DMP PICA200 GPU. The New 3DS and New 2DS XL models upgrade this to an 804 MHz quad-core ARM11 and 256 MBs of RAM, along with an extra pair of shoulder buttons and a right analog stick.
The most notable feature of this console is the use of autostereoscopic (glasses-free) 3D, which can be configured using a slider. This was omitted on the cost-reduced 2DS and New 2DS XL models, which were released due to eye health concerns with children whom Nintendo advised not to use the 3DS' stereoscopic mode (though it is speculated that said advisories were more for liability reasons in case of a health-related lawsuit).
|Name||Platform(s)||Latest Version||New 3DS||Retro
|PC / x86|
|Mikage||N/A (WIP)||✗||✗||✗||✗||~ ||✓||TBD (WIP)|
|Mobile / ARM|
|Mikage||N/A (WIP)||✗||✗||✗||✗||~ ||✓||TBD (WIP)|
- Citra (compatibility)
- An open-source Nintendo 3DS emulator made by experienced emulator developers. The devs insist that it's still experimental, but as of mid-2019, around half of all games are fully playable with minor or no issues, on top of that its partially supports HOME Menu. An official Android version was released in May 2020.
- An emulator developed by Tony Wasserka, a.k.a. neobrain, focused on optimization and stability in Android and PC, willing to fill the gap left by Citra. It is closed-source but developers will release the source code bit-by-bit after the official app release. Mikage is an stage of development, but it fully emulates the HOME Menu and can play many commercial games already.
- Panda3DS (WIP compatibility list)
- An emulator founded by Alber and wheremyfoodat (Peach), and currently developed by an array of developers. It can run many games, even including some Nintendo 3DS applets.
- A unique 3DS emulator designed for macOS systems. Its GitHub activity started on May 5, 2019. The main programmer is a self-proclaimed dog-lover and has previously created CorgiDS and DobieStation, though the former seemed to be abandoned. Corgi3DS is mainly indigenous, but the preliminary Wi-Fi code was ported from melonDS' code. The project is on an indefinite hiatus. PSI said this about the matter: "Haven't worked on it in several months, it's basically a hobby project of mine that I touch when I feel the urge".
- Based off Citra, it is the first 3DS emulator to run on iOS/iPadOS devices. It is being developed by Antique.
- A closed-source Nintendo 3DS emulator, presumably made by the iDeaS author. Little is known about it other than that it can run simple homebrew. It cannot be used for playing games.
- Another open-source Nintendo 3DS emulator, made by experienced developers in the DS hacking scene. It was released shortly after Citra and received similar progress for a few months, but was eventually aborted by its authors after a while.
|Circle Pad Pro/C-Stick||✓||✓||✓|
|Motion Control (Gyroscope/Accelerometer)||✓[N 1]||TBD||TBD|
|3D Screen||✓[N 2]||✗||✗|
|3DS/Wii U Connectivity||✗||✗||✗|
- Citra supports motion control in Mouse (Right click), CemuhookUDP and SDL modes.
- Citra supports Stereoscopic 3D mode (Side by Side, Anaglyph, Interlaced, Reverse Interlaced).
- Citra supports Front and Rear cameras in single (2D) and double (3D) modes. Camera can be still image or system camera.
- Citra supports microphone as Static noise and Real device.
- Citra supports touch-screen in Emulator Window and CemuhookUDP modes. It's possible to use button mapping.
Emulation of Nintendo Network is possible with Pretendo: Open-source project that aims to recreate Nintendo Network for the 3DS and Wii U using clean-room reverse engineering. Pretendo supports any client that can interact with Nintendo Network.
Currently Citra does not support true online play and thus does not work with Pretendo, and does not show signs of supporting true online play at all. Mikage may provide support in the future though this is far from certain.
3DS vs. CIA
There are two types of 3DS game images currently:
- Includes .cci (CTR Cart Image), aka .3ds - data on physical carts, can be executed right off the bat, not used much since no one bothered to develop a CFW solution to load them yet (besides converting them to CIA) and only overpriced flashcarts (Gateway/Sky3DS) can load them.
- Includes .cia (CTR Importable Archive) and .cxi - installers that unpack game data to the SD card or the 3DS NAND memory. Some homebrew apps (FBI, DevMenu) can install CIA files on 3DS systems with CFW installed. Digital games are often distributed as CIAs.
- Note that CTR (Citrus) is the internal code name for the 3DS.
Due to one format being so far restricted to overpriced flashcarts and the very slow Citra development (meaning playing on an actual 3DS is still the preferred way to go), the CIA format is preferred in many sharing websites, downloader tools and even tools to dump your own games.
However, converting a CIA image to 3DS format (and vice-versa) is still possible with no loss of content. Read the Encryption section below for a guide.
Some outdated dumping utilities intended for use with Citra (like braindump) produce damaged decrypted 3DS images that can't be easily converted back. No known solution exists so far to fix those dumps.
Most dumps online are also encrypted. This encryption poses no problem for playing game images on an actual 3DS since it can deal with that encryption with internal keys included in the bootrom, but becomes a problem when trying to emulate them on PC. Citra requires additional encryption keys to play encrypted games. If you want to play encrypted games on Citra without these keys, you'll have to convert your game images to the decrypted format.
Formerly, decrypting those ROMs used to require real 3DS hardware (bafflingly enough, Citra devs still ask users to do this even nowadays). It required files generated by a real 3DS called xorpads unique to that game version, using the encryption engine within the 3DS. After this part, these xorpads (which are big) can be used with PC tools (or other 3DS-based homebrew) to produce the decrypted game image. After that, some 3DS homebrew (Decrypt9, GodMode9) included tools to directly convert encrypted images to decrypted images with a single button press, but those still require a real 3DS.
The game changer was the sighax exploit, which allowed for the dumping of the 3DS bootrom, which includes these encryption keys. This file can be downloaded from the Emulator Files page. You can then use a program like fuse-3ds to decrypt games using this file. Simply place boot9.bin in the same folder, run the program, mount the encrypted CIA or 3DS, and find the decrypted.cxi file inside (usually in the first folder). Citra should be able to load this file without issues.
Due to these keys being available, Citra can now play encrypted games (3DS or CIA) without decrypting them. Read this page. Then, go to this Reddit page and copy the code from the second comment (credit floppydoppy2). Copy it and make a new TXT file named aes_keys.txt. Place this TXT file in the sysdata folder of Citra's user directory. This key file is already included in the 3DS Shared Data download in the Emulator Files page.