Nintendo DS emulators

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Revision as of 07:26, 19 October 2015 by (talk) (High Resolution: added DeSmuME libretro)
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The Nintendo DS handheld console

The Nintendo DS is a handheld console produced by Nintendo in 2004/2005. The main selling point was the use of dual screens for gameplay, with one being a touchscreen. It is the only console to have come close to the PlayStation 2 in lifetime sales, as a result of attracting a large amount of casual players, and even non-gamers, into the gaming community.

Emulating the DS has proven to be a pain for emulator authors due to its rather unusual hardware, although in some cases bugs that occur in emulators are due to the games being poorly-optimized or programmed.


Name Operating System(s) Latest Version GBA NDS DSi Libretro Core Recommended
DeSmuME Multi-platform SVN
DeSmuME X432R Multi-platform Build
No$GBA Windows, DOS 2.8b
dasShiny Windows, Linux Git
DuoS Windows 8/25/2012 Beta
Ensata Windows 1.4d
iDeaS Windows, Linux
Name Operating System(s) Latest Version GBA NDS Libretro Core Recommended
DraStic Android r2.2.1.2a
Dsoid Android SVN
nds4droid Android SVN
nds4ios iOS SVN


  • DeSmuME is very good, and very well developed but works best with higher end computers. This emulator aims for accuracy over speed but you can tinker with the vast amount of setting to get some extra FPS (see Common Problems and Solutions for tips). If you're still having a hard time running anything without the output playing like syrup try No$GBA. DeSmuME is recommended regardless of your PC power. Like all post-16bit emulators, DeSmuME isn't perfect. Expect nothing more than 60% at all times.
  • No$GBA focuses on speed, and has major compatibility issues and glitches. As this was first a GBA emulator, the 3D added by the DS is still very poorly handled. However, it might be an option for a very low end machine but don't expect a lot of games to run perfectly, or at all. A fan program, No$Zoomer, was released for version 2.6 which increases compatibility and more setting, as well as the titular zooming option. The biggest boost is noise cancellation which will clear up the static No$GBA makes with 3d rendering. Version 2.7a isn't compatible with No$Zoomer yet but does add resizing windows options but any increase of emulating skills is not noticeable. As of v2.8 it supports DSi games, and is currently the only emulator that does. Only use No$GBA for DSi games, its debugging features (if you do translate/romhack DS/GBA games) or as a last resort.

High Resolution

  • DeSmuME X432R is a fork of DeSmuME, that has many more graphical enhancement such as an option to increase internal resolution and use MSAA, See the DeSmuME page for more details. Check out this site to see what you're missing out on.
  • libretro port of DeSmuME also has an option to increase internal resolution since Augest 8, 2015 git commit. It requires a very high-end CPU to run at reasonable framerate.
  • DraStic has released a beta version supporting double the original resolution


Wi-Fi: Multiplayer, WFC and Wii/DS

  • Local Multiplayer and Download Play are not supported by any emulator. No$GBA can emulate it but the connection fails somewhere during establishing the actual connection (despite the names from the other DS showing just fine).
  • Nintendo WFC was successfully emulated with DeSmuME, but has quite a bit of requirements (Ethernet cable, though this can be circumvented with external software). After service shutdown, there was a version compatible with the fan servers (restoring all DLC data but sadly most multiplayer games had their content lost forever).
  • DS/Wii connection isn't emulated in any capacity.

GBA/DS Connectivity

Inserting a GBA card in Slot-2 in a Nintendo DS unit (that's not a DSi) while a DS game is running could unlock various gameplay features in some DS games. DeSmuME can emulate this: while playing the DS ROM, go to "Config, Slot 2 (GBA Slot)" and select "GBA Cartridge". Now select the GBA ROM file, and make sure its sav file is in the same folder. You may need to reset the game sometimes to see the effect in-game.


No$GBA added support for DSi games starting with version 2.8, although some games wont boot and others have graphical glitches.

Special Hardware

  • Guitar Hero Pad: Used in the "Guitar Hero: On Tour" series (required) and Band Hero DS. Supported by DeSmuME (Slot 2).
  • Piano for Easy Piano: Supported by DeSmuME (Slot 2).
  • Taito Paddle Controller: Compatible with Arkanoid, Space Invaders Extreme, Space Invaders Extreme 2 and Space Bust-a-Move. Supported by DeSmuME (Slot 2).
  • Tilt Sensor: Used in "Tony Hawk's Motion/Hue's Pixel Painter." No emulators support this add-on yet.
  • Rumble Pack: Supported by DeSmuME (Slot 2). Requires compatible Joystick.
  • Slide Controller: Required by "Slide Adventure Mag Kid". Yasu made a shoddy plug-in for iDeaS (recommended version was to try to emulate it. No emulators support this add-on at the moment.
  • Pokémon Keyboard: Bundled with the Pokémon Typing game (JP/UK/FR). The game refuses to boot without a keyboard, but it can be run on emulators with an anti-piracy fix and another DeSmuME-specific save bug fix. While it's playable using the on-screen keyboard on the lower screen, the keyboard wasn't actually emulated. There is a patched version of DesMuMe with a Lua script (Download by clicking on "Descargar".) that permits using the actual keyboard by mapping presses of the actual keyboard to taps of the virtual Touch Screen. However, the way the Lua script was coded mapped the virtual numbers to the actual number pad, presumably because the actual number keys are mapped to hotkeys. However, you can blank the hotkeys and modify the Lua script. Even then, not only is the emulated workaround a little slow, but saving is still broken. Use savestates, instead.
  • DS Camera: Accessory bundled with the Japan-only Face Training. Not to be confused with the built-in DSi camera. No emulators exist for it at all.

iQue DS Region Lock

Nintendo released their Nintendo DS in China under the name iQue DS, along with a few localized games. Much like they did with the GBA too. Except for one thing. While the Chinese DS ROMs are perfectly normal DS ROMs, besides the tiny fact they have region locking implemented, preventing them from running on any DS system that's not the Chinese iQue DS model (but any 3DS from any region will run these Chinese DS games, despite the 3DSs games being region-locked. Go figure.) No other DS games - not even Korean releases - do this.

If you try to emulate those ROMs with No$GBA, it just crashes. DeSmuME will at least boot, but always show the message that shows on real (non-iQue) DS hardware - a glowing message on a black background saying "Only for iQue DS" (in English) and just loop endlessly on that same screen. In the event you're desperate to emulate those releases, you'll want to change the ROM (with a hex editor) - specifically the byte at 0x1D must be changed from 80 to 00.