This page contains a brief overview of console modding and flashcarts. Game Tech Wiki may also have useful information.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Issues
- 3 Consoles
- 4 Handhelds
- 5 Resources
Flashcarts- Flashcarts (FC) are specialized cartridges that uses flash memory rather than read-only memory, meaning that it's reprogrammable. These are only available for cartridge-based systems as newer disc-based systems have DRM protections installed to only allow the disc reader to accept certain disc formats (meaning you can't simply burn a game image to a CD and expect it to work).
Modding - Modding (sometimes referred as "homebrew-ing" or "hacking") usually exploits some flaw in the system in order to achieve things that were never intended, in most cases to allow to load games from an external device to the system or launch "homebrew" applications. There are two types of modding:
- Softmod (SM) - Exploits a flaw found in a game or the systems software. Softmodding is usually safer and easier to perform in most cases, but there's still always that risk of bricking your console.
- Hardmod (HM) - Exploits a flaw found in the consoles hardware. Requires you to open up your console and perform some modification to the board itself. May involve some soldering, but isn't always the case. A popular form of hardmodding is the installation of modchips in order to bypass DRM protections on disc-based consoles, or installing SD/USB readers to systems that lack them in order to load homebrew applications. These are normally more technical and have a higher chance of bricking/damaging your console.
In regards of modding - You are at risk of rendering your console unusable, aka a "brick", when attempting to mod it. Each system is different in terms of difficulty, so use your own judgement when deciding if you want to mod it or not and to follow each step carefully. Any form of modding will void your warranty, though this is normally only a problem for newer systems, and may be difficult to resell if there's no way to "un-mod" it. Generally, it is NOT recommended to use video guides when modding, the reason being is they can become outdated and often don't follow all the steps or uses their own pre-configured "tools" for downloading which may not be the latest version. If you do decide to use one, make sure to check the date and see if there's also a some kind of written guide to compare it with and follow to make sure it's still accurate.
In regards of flashcarts - Flashcarts can only be purchased online and there are typically no official "reseller" for them, so take caution and avoid scams. Another thing to avoid is cheap clones which are common for EverDrives. EverDrive firmware has DRM in them to verify real EverDrive hardware being used and will brick clone EverDrives. You should try to buy directly from KRIKzz, or from an official reseller; however between parts shortages and the difficulty of getting anything in or out of an occupied territory you may be forced to buy from a scalper or a local seller on Craigslist etc. as current shipping times from KRIKzz are measured in months. Clone EverDrives will generally require you to use an older firmware with crippled functionality. If the price seems too good to be true, then it's probably a fake. If you're buying from eBay or a local seller, look at the item photos carefully to make sure you aren't overpaying for a clone. Note that SD2SNES/FXPak is an open source design (KRIKzz is just the largest seller) and "clones" of it aren't worse than buying any other cheap hardware from China.
PSIO (~$112) Requires internal modification and an available parallel port. Requires serial number and linked email account to get firmware updates.
Disc Swap Method (YouTube it) (can damage optical drive with excessive use)
UniROM Requires parallel port and cheat device.
FreeDVDBoot - A recently discovered exploit that takes advantage of the CD/DVD optical drive. With it, you're able to launch homebrew and even backups without needing any kind of special hardware or external modification. Only certain models are exploitable, however it should hopefully support more in the future.
Free McBoot Requires any one of the following:
- PS3 Memory Card Adaptor
- Agent Under Fire
- AR Max/AR Max EVO
- CodeBreaker Only compatible with fat PS2s and slim PS2s with model number SCPH-700xx.
- PS1 GameShark/GameShark
PS3 Modding (HM/SM)
3K3y ODDE (HM) (only recommended for unhackable consoles. Soldering required.)
EverDrive N8 PRO (FC) (~$200) The "don't ask questions just consume product" option. Takes microSD cards, supports oversized ROMs (up to 8MB each PRG & CHR), a dedicated coprocessor for running the firmware, an RTC and proper bus conflicts emulation. That last one means it will run pretty much every NES game known to man that isn't a pirate mapper. Massively overpriced and overkill, but if you want to waste the money to never worry about compatibility it's there.
EverDrive N8 PRO Fami (FC) (~$200) The same product as the above, but 60-pin.
PowerPak (FC) ($135) Uses CF cards to play games. Supports Game Genie codes. Does not receive any updates anymore, but is still a good option if you need to use Compact Flash cards instead of SD cards, or if you're not willing to pay the extra $70+ for an Everdrive. Also has a built-in NSF player. Fan-made mappers are available, including ones that support save states, but these are unofficial.
Look at the compatibility chart to see if the games you want to play are supported. Expansion audio is supported by both carts, but a modification to the NES is necessary to support it. The Famicom does not require this modification.
FXPAK PRO (FC) (USD $225+) Has an FPGA to support most special chips, along with MSU-1 support (exceptions being SPC7110 chips, Sufami Turbo games, and the Hayazashi Nidan Morita Shougi series). Will play large ROMs such as Star Ocean and Tales of Phantasia. Firmware updates can be downloaded here.
Super EverDrive X5 (FC) ($60+) No special chip support. A good option if you do not care about special chips.
Super EverDrive X6 (FC) ($100+) Has a small FPGA to emulate DSP chips. A relatively inexpensive step up from the X5 if you only want to play Pilotwings or Mario Kart and don't want to pay more than double for the FXPAK/SD2SNES.
SD2SNES Rev. X: A hybrid of the original SD2SNES and SD2SNES Pro designs, this is the predominant Chinese-made clone flashcart that you'll find on Aliexpress, Amazon, and random "retro" stores. Same great compatibility as "genuine" (ie. built to the open-source specs by Ikari or KRiKzz) flashcarts, but may have random minor issues from earlier hardware revisions like bad MSU-1 volume balance, and don't expect any updates or help (especially not from the manufacturers) if something goes wrong.
NeoSD AES (FC) ($367+) The very first Neo Geo AES flash cartridge with an outrageous price tag to match. The ebay prices for in-demand Neo-Geo games make it look downright affordable though, so it's worth considering if you already have an AES and want to play more than one game on it without a traditional pirate multicart.
64Drive (FC) ($199 including CIC chip) Supports ROMs up to 256MB (2Gb) in size, includes RTC, possible future 64DD support with no need for ROM conversions. Much better option for developers than the EverDrive due to USB and WiFi support, along with a debugging button on the back. Also supports the separate UltraSave, which can dump/write saves from real carts to the 64Drive. 100% compatibility with all released games.
EverDrive 64 v2.5 (FC) ($106 including CIC chip)
EverDrive 64 v3.0 (FC) ($174 including CIC chip)
EverDrive 64 X5 (FC) ($120+ including CIC chip) Supports ROMs up to 64MB (512Mb) in size, although the SRAM is stored at the end of the ROM, which corrupts 64MB games that use the entire ROM and also saves (Pokemon Stadium 2 is the only known example), no RTC, 99.9% compatibility (no Animal Forest due to lack of RTC, and Pokemon Stadium 2 due to the previously mentioned SRAM/ROM sharing). Must reset before powering off to save. Also includes support for 64DD cart conversions.
EverDrive 64 X7 (FC) ($200+ including CIC chip) Supports ROMs up to 64MB (512Mb) in size, includes RTC, 100% compatibility with all released games, no need to reset before powering off to save.
With all three options, the UltraCIC II/III supports multiple CIC types. This is useful for Rareware games such as Banjo Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, removing the need for hacks.
ED64+/Super64: These are clones of the Everdrive 64 v1 or v2 cart. Earlier revisions of the ED64+ don't have UltraCIC and piggyback on a retail cart to boot, but revisions currently on sale include an UltraCIC III. Altra64 is an open-source Everdrive firmware replacement that doesn't brick clone carts.
POT Tweak (HM) is needed to run burned DVDs in combination with another mod. Ritek G04 mini DVDs are recommended for this purpose, as other brands can wear out the laser. Note that mini DVDs aren't made anymore and all remaining stock is in the hands of scalpers. The GameCube can read full-size DVDs if the top lid is removed/modified/replaced, but this reduces the life of the spindle motor due to the increased weight.
SDload (HM) (Requires Action Replay, no soldering required)
GCLoader (HM) (~$80) The only GameCube ODE. Compatible with Swiss and with GCVideo mods.
Numerous game exploits (SM) Most need a softmodded Wii or another homebrew capable GameCube to write the exploited save to an SD card. Homebrew and games are generally launched from a memory card to SD adapter in slot B or Serial Port 2, sometimes called an SD Gecko or SD2SP2. The SD Gecko does not have access to DMA like the DVD drive has, so many games will lag/freeze, especially when using streaming audio or during FMVs; the SD2SP2 is slightly more compatible. This can be bypassed by burning DVDs (lol) or by getting an ODE, such as a GCLoader or an (out-of-print) WASP Fusion with an adapter board.
XenoGC (HM) (Quick Solder Board, ~$10) Simple drivechip, requires a burned Swiss disc to be useful.
PicoBoot (HM) ($5) Simple "IPL replacement" mod built on a Raspberry Pi Pico instead of a custom chip. Unlike Xeno it can boot directly to Swiss (or any other homebrew you want) from an SD2SP2 without a burned DVD.
KunaiGC (HM) (~$40) A new IPL replacement mod. Easier to install than PicoBoot (QSB instead of soldering directly to the IPL chip) with integrated Swiss and the potential to load homebrew onto its internal flash from Swiss in the future.
Swiss is a homebrew utility that can launch burned games, homebrew and games from an SD Gecko (supporting SDHC) or ODE, and can force options per game. Highly recommended.
Complete Softmod Guide (SM): Probably one of the safest and easiest consoles to mod (provided you follow everything correctly).
Some notable applications that can be used are:
- USB Loader GX - Useful for running Wii games off a USB drive and can also rip disc images to a HDD.
- WiiFlow - An alternative to USB Loader GX which can run games off of the SD card, and is updated more frequently. Can also run GameCube games if Nintendont is installed.
- Nintendont - Used to play GameCube games off a USB and even allows for official hardware to be used, provided your Wii has these ports, such as memory cards, GCN Microphone, GBA-link cable, etc.
- BlueBomb (SM): BlueBomb is an exploit that takes advantage of a flaw in the Wii and Wii mini’s Bluetooth libraries. Although it is the only exploit that works for the Wii mini, BlueBomb can run on the original Wii as well. This exploit also enables recovery from certain bricks, such as a banner brick.
Nintendont is a launcher for GameCube games in Wii mode. Works for the Wii and vWii, and supports any HID-compliant controller.
Most Wii homebrew, including the apps mentioned in the Wii section, will function on vWii
WUP Installer GX2 installs backups to the Wii U Menu.
Loadiine is a backup loader for Wii U firmware 3.0.0 - 5.5.1, and is the only way to load games from SD. As it loads games via the Mii Maker app, which doesn't use online features, it cannot play online at the moment. It only supports DLC if you bought the DLC first. It doesn't support Wii VC injection (i.e. Xenoblade and friends for Gamepad controls).
The Wii U is easily hackable even on the latest firmware. Through the use of injectors, you can install Wii and Gamecube games directly to your Wii U home menu. Follow this guide (SM) to install custom firmware, and see this thread for details on injection. (alternative injector that can also inject retro games)
An exploit was found early in the Switch's launch which not only made it vulnerable but multiple NVIDIA Tegra devices also. Since then Nintendo has released patched versions of the Switch which are currently "unhackable" at the moment. You can find out if it's been patched by the serial number. Be warned that you will be at risk of being permanently banned, especially if you try and pirate games, after hacking your Switch.
SX Pro by Team Xecuter (HM) (~$60) - A dongle that launches its own custom firmware and attaches to the charging port of the Switch. Useful for launching backups and homebrew applications. It works on any Switch that hasn't been patched or was released before June 2018. Ironically the product itself contains an anti-piracy measure that "bricks" the system if you try to reverse-engineer the dongle . That and the fact that it contains stolen code from other open-sourced projects have left Team Xecuter with a bad image in the homebrew community. Even better is the fact that two of the people leading Team Xecuter were arrested by the U.S. Federal Government, so it may become harder to order their stuff online.
Xecuter SX Core/Lite (HM) ($?) - A modchip that solders onto the SoC of the Nintendo Switch, which works on Switch units that have been patched from software (RCM) exploits, including Switch Lite. Discontinued as the manufacturer, Team Xecuter, has been dismissed due to legal issues.
Hwfly (HM) (~$100+) - The clone of the Xecuter SX Core/Lite chip. This chip even supports the Nintendo Switch OLED model, but could only launch Atmosphère rather than Xecuter SXOS, and the quality control is a bit problematic.
PicoFly (HM) (~$3) - A DIY modchip project based on Raspberry Pi RP2040 microcontroller.
RCMloader ONE (HM) (~$20) - It's a dongle similar to the SX Pro, it can load three different payloads: Atmosphere, ReiNX, and SXOS. It will only work if your Switch hasn't been patched (aka purchased before June 2018).
Atmosphère (HM/SM) - CFW for the Switch. Currently supports firmware up to 4.1.0, though an exploit has been found for firmware 4.2.0-7.0.1 no usable code has been released for it. This guide appears to be the easiest to follow to install CFW.
ReiNX (HM/SM) - Another CFW for the Switch. Again, similar install situation as mentioned before (unpatched, low firmware, etc.). This one appears to be developing an easier way of loading backups.
Switch hacking is still being worked on, so be sure to stay up-to-date on any new information.
Master EverDrive (FC) ($77) Can also play SG-1000 games.
Mega EverDrive X7 (FC) ($166) The premium option complete with an FPGA, save state support, supports up to 15MB (120Mb) ROMs, Sega CD memory card functionality, saves without reset, and has near instant load times, includes a pause button for Master System games, along with some other possibly useful features.
Mega EverDrive X5 (FC) ($89) Supports Sega CD memory card functionality, supports up to 7MB (56Mb) ROMs, has near-instant load times, saves without resetting, and includes a pause button for Master System games.
Mega EverDrive X3 (FC) ($45) A no-frills flash cart for those on a budget. Has near-instant load times, supports up to 7MB (56Mb) ROMs, and must reset the console to save games before powering off. Uses the exact same PCB as the Mega EverDrive X5, so it may be possible to mod it to be an X5 if you are skilled at soldering and can find out what the necessary parts are.
MegaSD (FC) ($244.10) A flash cart with built-in FPGA to simulate both the Sega/Mega CD addon and the SVP for Virtua Racing. The price tag is really something to consider though.
All 4 carts can play Master System games.
PCB v3 (HM) ($40, For Saturn models: Model 1 and Model 2 64pin IC) (Dead link)
SSIC8B (HM) ($37, For Saturn models: Model 2 32pin IC and Model 2 Sanyo) (Dead link)
Rhea (HM) From the creator of the GDEmu. Works with 20-pin Saturn models.
Phoebe (HM) From the creator of the GDEmu. Works with 21-pin Saturn models.
Satiator (HM) ($259) Expensive, but works on any Saturn without invasive mods, doesn't replace the optical drive and has high compatibility. Fits in the MPEG decoder card slot, so it doesn't work with VCDs or the few games that require the decoder.
Fenrir ODE (HM) (~$120+) Available for both 20-pin and 21-pin Saturn models.
MODE (HM) ($200) Works with both 20-pin and 21-pin Saturn models as well as the Dreamcast, supports SATA, microSD and USB. An optional wire harness adds an IGR button, support for automatic 50Hz/60Hz mode switching and disc swapping.
All PAL models, 3020 models, and Dreamcasts that came in a white and orange box can play burnt CDs without modding. Some 3030 models can, but not all, and Dreamcast that came in a black and blue box can't.
DC-SD ($18) Cheap, but compatibility is not great. Also requires the use of a loader. (Dead link)
GDEMU (HM) (~$122) Also uses SD cards. Emulates the disk drive itself, so compatibility is great. Will only work with certain model Dreamcasts, so be sure to check which one you have before ordering. The creator makes them in batches and you have to pay attention to get on the pre-order.
USB-GDROM (HM) (~$175-230) Uses any USB 2 media to load images from. Region Free, compatible with GDI, ISO, and CDI images. Works with all VA0 & VA1 models.
MODE (HM) ($200) Works with VA0 and VA1 models, uses SATA, microSD and USB. Compatible with CDI, GDI, CCD, MDF, and bin/cue images
PC Engine/Turbografx 16
Turbo EverDrive V2 (FC) ($86)
Super SD System 3 (FC) (~$200) Drop-in replacement for the CD-ROM2 family of expansions with support for HuCard images as well as bin/cue. Includes a Mega Drive 2 compatible multi-out connector with RGB, composite and stereo sound available.
Super HD System 3 PRO (FC) (~$250) Upgraded Super SD System 3 with a built-in HDMI scaler, SuperGrafx emulation, an upgraded analog circuit, and support for third-party FPGA-based emulators.
USB for 3DO (HM) (~$165-295) Uses any USB 2 media to load images from. Various boards for the various 3DO models.
Game Exploit (SM) (Requires: Original MechAssault, Splinter Cell or 007 Agent Under Fire)
Hotswap Method (HM)
various modchips available
earlier models can be soft modded then TSOP flashed.
RGH 3.0 (Slim and Phat) (Requires soldering & a NAND Reader)
DVD Flashing (HM) (Dead Link)
Reset Glitch Hack (Advanced users only) (Dead Link)
JTAG (Dead Link)
NES/SNES/PSX/MD (GEN) Classic
ModMyClassic (HM/SM): a group dedicated to modding "Classics/Minis" of popular consoles. So far they only support the NES/SNES Classic, the Playstation Classic, and the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis Mini, but seems to be planning on expanding to other systems like the C64 Mini and the NeoGeo Mini at some point.
Don't use PRO-C2 listed there, use a version found here instead. The version of PRO-C2 listed on CFW4Dummies is outdated and has a bug that breaks PSN PS1 EBOOTs.
Alternatively, you could try LME instead.
Henkaku (SM) is the only homebrew enabler for the Vita and Adrenaline is the ePSP CFW which allows to you run PSP games and homebrew. As always, wololo is the place for anything new in the PSP/Vita scene.
There are multiple ways to install henkaku depending or your firmware version:
|1.03 - 3.57||✗||Update to 3.60/3.65|
|3.61 - 3.63||✗||Update to 3.65|
|3.65 - 3.68||h-encore||~90%||PSN Account, Computer||
|3.69 - 3.70||Trinity||~70%||PSN Account, Computer||
|3.69 - 3.74||h-encore²||~25%||PSN Account, Computer||
Game Boy (Color)
El Cheapo SD (FC) ($52) Supports mappers MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, and MBC5, no RTC until version 2.0 is released, accepts microSD cards, supports games up to 4MB (32Mb), has 128KB (1Mb) SRAM (big enough for LSDj). Saving must be done manually in the menu before loading a new ROM (both saving to SD and loading from SD). There are other cheaper versions with lesser ROM sizes available (for example, if you don't care about Game Boy Color enhanced/exclusive games).
USB 64m smart card (FC) ($42) No RTC, only one .sav stored at a time (alpha hack available, but deletes saves on occasion), issues when having GBC and GB games in the same bank, and not the easiest to use. Only uses an MBC5 mapper, and tries to fake other mappers. There are game-specific hacks to fix any issues caused by this. Multisave menu, hacks Supports ROMs up to 4MB (32Mb). Two ROMs at a time are supported when not using a menu. IMPORTANT NOTE: This flash cart uses 3.3v flash chips directly wired to the 5v Game Boy bus. This could shorten the life of the cart and/or the Game Boy.
EverDrive GB (FC) ($88) No RTC, supports the use of MicroSD cards, mappers MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC5, Game Genie cheats, individual ROM sizes up to 8MB (64Mb), and saves for each game. Requires returning to the menu (with a reset button on the cart) to record saves.
EverDrive GB X5 (FC) ($60+) Same as the original EverDrive GB but doesn't require resetting to save.
EverDrive GB X7 (FC) ($140+) Supports RTC and an in-game menu with savesate support.
EZFlash Junior (FC) ($60) Supports RTC, MicroSD cards, mappers MBC1/2/3/5/1M/30, individual ROM sizes up to 8MB (64Mb), and saves for each game. Saves are only temporarily stored in the SRAM, then moved to the SD card on startup, so dying of RTC battery won't affect saves.
Repurposing bootleg carts: Any Pokémon game on eBay that isn't hundreds of dollars (and some that do cost hundreds of dollars) is actually a cheap flash chip and a CLPD to simulate the mapper wired to a bootleg PCB. These bootleg carts can be bought blank on aliexpress for peanuts and many can be reflashed with a dumper/flasher device like Joey Jr. These bootlegs almost certainly use 3.3V chips wired to the 5V cart bus. This could shorten the life of the cartridge and/or the Game Boy.
DITTO mini (FC) ($90–$145) works with a bundled USB flasher. The cheapest version is a bare PCB with no case; you are supposed to unscrew an official cartridge to use its shell. It has 2 MB of capacity, but it can only handle one ROM at a time. It is able to hold saves for games that have this feature, but it can’t send the savegame back to the computer. The flasher only works with Windows. Multi-game, save backup and macOS support are planned to the future.
(90€) was the first publicly available Pokémon mini flashcart. It was handmade on demand by an enthusiast. The flashcart had 512 kB of capacity and was able to handle multiple ROMs. It worked with a bundled USB flasher, which was made of gutted Pokémon mini cartridge connectors in the earliest revisions.
Game Boy Advance
EverDrive GBA x5 (FC) (~$100) has a Real-Time Clock and supports any standard GBA ROM file (no patching required). Recently received an updated model called the "EverDrive GBA X5 Mini" that has the same form-factor as a standard GBA cartridge (the older model would stick out of the system and look clunky, especially on the DS Lite).
EZ-Flash Omega (FC) ($40-50) has a Real-Time Clock and supports any standard GBA ROM file (no patching required). Users report that you must wait 3-5 seconds after saving in-game before turning the console off to avoid corrupting the save data, this is because of how the cart saves to the SD card.
EZ-Flash Omega Definitive Edition (FC) ($80-100) premium version of the EZ-Flash Omega with better battery life and some niche features including rumble and compatibility with Slot-2 linking in DS games. Fixes the regular version's save issue. Doesn't come with a smaller DS Lite sized case as it has a bigger PCB.
Ace3DS Plus clone (FC) (~$5-10): Generally the best Nintendo DS flashcart at the moment, these very common on AliExpress and eBay. Their compatibility isn't perfect, but they run a version of Wood and work on unmodded DSi and 3DS consoles. Be warned that there is a timebomb clone that looks very similar. Use the Ace3DS Plus kernel. Supports the DSi's latest firmware and MicroSDHC.
DSONE SDHC clone (FC) (~$5-10): Also very common on AliExpress and eBay at the moment, these cards have very good compatibility using Supercard's EOS kernel, however they do not work on unmodded DSi or 3DS consoles. They also have an extremely high dead-on-arrival rate so it's recommended to purchase 2 or 3 cards to ensure you get a working one. Supports MicroSDHC.
DSTWO+ Flashcard (FC) (no longer sold): Only Nintendo DS flash cart that has decent to good Super Nintendo emulation depending on the game due to the DSTWO+ having its own processor, but also drains your battery when using them. Used to be the only Nintendo DS flashcard with GBA emulation, however now all cards can use GBARunner2. Works on the DSi's latest firmware and supports MicroSDHC.
R4i Gold 3DS Plus (r4ids.cn) (FC) (no longer sold): One of the various R4 clones, but unlike the majority of them, these weren't that bad. No longer recommended due to the last batch being defective and unable to run DS games and now being out of production. Make sure the URL displayed on the flashcart is http://r4ids.cn/ or http://r4idsn.cn/ or else you'll be getting a timebomb clone. Supports DSi's latest firmware and support MicroSDHC.
R4 (FC): If you don't have a Nintendo DSi and are okay with the 2GB MicroSD limit the original R4 can be alright, although you're most likely going to get a clone because the original R4 team disbanded shortly after the R4's release. The clone cards (although not the greatest) get the job done, just be sure to get an R4 flashcart and not an R4 SDHC, R4 dual core, etc. Usually found for around $5-$7, does not support DSi or MicroSDHC. The R4s usually come with Wood Firmware but if they do not be sure to install it for a much better-recommended experience. Has recently gotten a new lease on life thanks to Boot9Strap (see below) making it possible to use ancient flashcards like the R4 on the 3DS.
If using an older or clone flashcart, it is still possible to get firmware updates, albeit third-party, to work with newer games. To see the (very) expansive list of supported carts plus download links, go here: RetroGameFan firmware
Most DS flashcards work on an unmodded DSi and all work on a softmodded DSi with Unlaunch installed. Softmodding is generally easier and free, however flashcards have slightly higher compatibility with DS games.
TWiLight Menu++ (SM): The easiest way to homebrew your DSi is by using an exploit called Memory Pit which takes advantage of a flaw in how the DSi Camera handles data. All you need is an SD card. Once modded, you can play NDS ROMs or DSiWare off your SD card and also includes various console emulators that work to some degree.
hiyaCFW (SM): Custom firmware that allows running the DSi Menu from SD card, called SDNAND, which allows for safely installing homebrew and DSiWare. Formerly required for TWiLight Menu++, however no longer recommended for general users as TWiLight Menu++ has more functionality and is easier to use.
CFW (SM) ($0): Boot9Strap (formerly known as Sighax) gives full control over the 3DS, and CFWs such as Luma3DS run on top of it. This is the best method if it is available, as it is free. See Plailect's guide for up to date information on the required firmware and the methods used to install Boot9Strap. There have been reports of people using CFW being banned, so take proper precautions and try avoiding online functionality.
freeShop is homebrew used in combination with the above hack to download games directly from Nintendo's server, so long as you have the necessary titlekeys.
As of system update 11.8.0, changes were made on how download request were dealt with to the server. Normally, freeShop (or any program like it) simply sends a HTTP request to the server and the server responds by sending the content. The program then makes a spoof ticket to trick the 3DS into thinking it's a legitimate download and proceeds to download the request. The system update made it so the 3DS now has to send an encrypted version of this ticket back to the server which then checks it before being allowed to download, rendering freeShop unusable as the server will quickly know the ticket is not legit.
DSTwo+ Flashcard (FC) ($53.99): NDS flashcard, only have access to 'NDS-mode'. Note: You may need to update some flashcards with an NDS before you can use them on a 3DS. You should under no circumstances use the 3DS functionality of this card, or you will risk bricking your 3DS. Install Boot9Strap/CFW instead (see above)
If you have an NDS flashcard that was patched out by a previous 3DS/DSi update or never worked on 3DS/DSi, the latest version of Luma3DS will allow you to use it; follow the "A9LH to B9S" section of Plailtect's guide above to update your CFW. If you don't want to update, you can try using the TWL Slot-1 Launcher for cards that were blocked by updates or the R4 Stage2 TWL Flashcart Launcher for NDS/NDSL only cards. Note that both of these require CFW to be enabled already to install these.
Gateway (FC) (~$60): Can be used for Homebrew, backups, and CIA installation, with EmuNAND support to upgrade to the latest 3DS version. Only works on versions 4.1-10.7.0. New 3DS requires either Cubic Ninja or Ocarina of Time 3D to use. CFW is a superior option, and it is free.
SKY3DS/SKY3DS+ (FC) (~$75): Works on all firmware (as of 11.4.0), as it emulates a real card. Only useful for backups/piracy, as homebrew will not work, although Ninjhax will work with Cubic Ninja as a ROM. Non-upgradeable. The blue-button version will support unlimited games, whereas the red-button version will only support 10 games forever (even if you switch out microSD cards), although this has been cracked. There is also an orange button version, SKY3DS+, which supports recent anti-piracy in games. Use this one where available, if going this route. Clones are available (QQ3DS which comes with a DS flash cart DS support, r5sdhc). If playing games online, you will need a private header, which can be retrieved from any physical 3DS cart. You will be banned from Nintendo's servers otherwise.
EverDrive GG (FC) ($140)
- RetroRGB's guide (ROM / Flash Carts page with links to various custom carts for many consoles)