Nintendo 3DS emulators

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Nintendo 3DS
3ds.png
Nintendo 3DS XL
Developer Nintendo
Type Handheld game console
Generation Eighth generation
Release date 2011 (3DS)
2014 (new 3DS)
Discontinued 2017 (new 3DS)
2020 (3DS)
Predecessor DS(i)
Successor Switch
Emulated
For other emulators that run on 3DS hardware, see Emulators on 3DS.

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 ages 6 and under 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).

Remember, certain titles are exclusive to the New 3DS, New 3DS XL and New 2DS XL. Make sure your chosen emulator supports these variations if you want to play them.

Emulators[edit]

Name Platform(s) Latest Version New 3DS Hardware features Enhancements Compatibility FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
Citra (PabloMK7 fork) Windows Linux macOS git ~ ? ?
Lime3DS Windows Linux macOS 2109 ? ? ?
Panda3DS Windows Linux macOS 0.8 ~ ~ 34%
46 out of 135 reported titles
~
Mikage (御影) Windows Linux N/A (WIP) ~ ~ ~ N/A ~ [1] TBD (WIP)
Lemonade Windows Linux macOS Alpha 2.1 ? ? ?
Citra
citra_libretro
Windows Linux macOS libretro cores[N 1]
Former website
~ ~ 63%
327 out of 519 reported titles
Corgi3DS Windows Linux macOS git ?
TronDS Windows Linux 1.0.0.5 ?
3dmoo Windows Linux git ?
LemonLime Windows Linux macOS git ?
VVCTRE Windows archive ?
Mobile / ARM
Citra (PabloMK7 fork) Android git ~ ? ?
Lime3DS Android 2109 ? ? ?
Citra MMJ Android git ~ ~ ? ~ ~
Panda3DS Android 1.0 ~ ~ ~ ? ~
Limón iOS 1.0.8.5.1 ? Discontinued, Use Folium ~
Mikage (御影) Android N/A (WIP) ~ ~ ~ N/A ~ [1] TBD (WIP)
Lemonade Android Alpha 2 ? ? ?
Citra Android iOS [N 2] libretro core[N 1]
Former website
rinsuki builds for iOS
~ ~ 63%
327 out of 519 reported titles
  1. 1.0 1.1 Similar to Dolphin, PPSSPP and melonDS libretro cores, the standalone version of Citra is highly recommended over the libretro core as the libretro core version is outdated and can be slow and unstable.
  2. iOS support only available with rinsuki builds.

Comparisons[edit]

Citra
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 supports lots of hardware features and enhancements. An official Android version was released in May 2020, also there is a VR project for this emulator called "CitraVR". As of March 4th 2024, the lawsuit filed by Nintendo against the management of the yuzu emulator has led to the unfortunate decision to cease official distribution of yuzu and Citra.
Citra (PabloMK7 fork)
A fork of Citra that was initially created to add online play[1], but continues to receive new updates and other new features following the end of support for upstream Citra. PabloMK7 was a contributor of Citra. The repository has also seen work from GPUCode, who was one of the most active contributors for Citra before the repository was deleted.
Citra MMJ
An unofficial Nintendo 3DS emulator for Android written by weihuoya and forked from Citra. Offers less stuttering and greater performance than mainline Citra on Android, along with additional features.
Limón
Port of Citra to iOS/iPadOS devices, developed by Jarrod Norwell. Previously known as emuThreeDS. Now continued as a multi emulator, Folium.
Lime3DS
Fork of Citra. The main goal of the project is to act as a revival of Citra[2].
Lemonade
Fork of Citra. Previously known as Citra-Enhanced. Development ceased temporarily in March, 2024[2] due to the stoppage of Citra development. After which, the project changed its focus to the Android platform and planned to add new features and enhancements. However, due to critique stemming from Lemonade's developers stealing code from other forks, violating Citra's GPL license, and berating developers of other forks[3], the team has since abandoned the project[3].
Mikage
An emulator developed by Tony Wasserka, a.k.a. neobrain, which focuses on optimization and stability on Android and PC, willing to fill the gap left by Citra. It is closed-source, but the developers have stated that they will release the source code bit-by-bit after the app's official release.[1] Mikage is in an early stage of development, but according to its developers it already supports some hardware features and several commercial games.
Panda3DS
A HLE approach 3DS 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.
Corgi3DS
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 seems to have been abandoned. Corgi3DS is mainly indigenous, but the preliminary Wi-Fi code was ported from melonDS' code. The main programmer said that they "haven't worked on it in several months, it's basically a hobby project of mine that I touch when I feel the urge". Thus, the project is on an indefinite hiatus.
TronDS
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.
3dmoo
An 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.

Hardware features[edit]

Name Citra Citra (PabloMK7 fork) Citra MMJ Mikage Panda3DS
3DS system software HOME Menu * * *
DS Mode TBD
Virtual Console ? TBD ?
3D Screen [N 1] [N 2] ? TBD ?
Amiibo TBD ~*
Inputs Circle Pad Pro/C-Stick TBD ?
Motion Control (Gyroscope/Accelerometer) [N 3] [N 4] TBD TBD ?
Camera [N 5] [N 6] TBD ?
Microphone [N 7] [N 8] TBD ?
Head-tracking ? ? TBD ?
Touch-screen [N 9] [N 10] ?
Connectivity SpotPass/StreetPass * ~* TBD ?
NFC Reader/Writer * TBD ?
Nintendo Network * TBD ?
Download Play TBD TBD ?
DS(i) Connectivity TBD ?
Wii U Connectivity TBD ?
  1. Citra supports Stereoscopic 3D mode (Side by Side, Anaglyph, Interlaced, Reverse Interlaced).
  2. Supports Stereoscopic 3D mode (Side by Side, Anaglyph, Interlaced, Reverse Interlaced).
  3. Citra supports motion control in Mouse (Right click), CemuhookUDP and SDL modes.
  4. Citra supports motion control in Mouse (Right click), CemuhookUDP and SDL modes.
  5. Citra supports Front and Rear cameras in single (2D) and double (3D) modes. The camera can be a still image or system camera.
  6. Supports Front and Rear cameras in single (2D) and double (3D) modes. The camera can be a still image or system camera.
  7. Citra supports microphone as Static noise and Real device.
  8. Supports microphone as Static noise and Real device.
  9. Citra supports touch-screen in Emulator Window and CemuhookUDP modes. It's possible to use button mapping.
  10. Supports touch-screen in Emulator Window and CemuhookUDP modes. It's possible to use button mapping.

DS Mode[edit]

Wikipedia - Nintendo 3DS backwards compatibility

In addition to its own software, the Nintendo 3DS is backward compatible with all Nintendo DS and Nintendo DSi software. Like the DSi and DSi XL, the Nintendo 3DS is incompatible with DS software that requires use of the Game Boy Advance port. Nintendo DS and DSi software cannot be played with 3D visuals on the 3DS.

  • None of the 3DS emulators support this feature. There was a feature request for implementing this feature to Citra emulator.

Enhancements[edit]

Name Citra Panda3DS Mikage
Graphics Resizable Internal Resolution ? ?
Ultrawide hack
Widescreen already supported on 3DS system.
However for DS backwards compatibility titles you need to use patches to play in widescreen mode.
There is no support by system for render games in other ratios such as ultrawide 21:9 and 32:9.
?
Texture Replacement ~* ?
Ray-tracing
(DXR, VRT and MRT)
Implementing ray-tracing in an emulator is unfortunately quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future.
However you can try "Screen-Space Ray Traced Global Illumination" shader using ReShade.[4][5]
Pre-rendering AA
(MSAA, SSAA)
? ? ?
Super-resolution techniques
(DLSS, XeSS and FSR 2+)
Requires access to the depth buffer and temporal data like motion-vectors so it's quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future.
Besides any GPU that can use DLSS can run these emulators at 4k native with ease anyway.
Performance Overclock * ?
Internal Framerate Hack ? ? ?
Frame generation technologies
(LSFG, DLSS-G, ExtraSS and AFMF)
Implementing frame generation technology in an emulator is unfortunately quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future, however post-processing techniques such as motion interpolation is quite possible. Input latency will be a crucial factor, but its impact likely varies depending on the specific technique employed, it's recommended to use after applying the "Internal Framerate Hack".
While AFMF or LSFG could be used with Citra?, please be aware that some visual glitches and artifacts may occur at this time.
Preload ROM image to RAM
For users with sluggish multi-platter HDDs or plagued by horrible seek times, this enhancement might offer smoother experience, potentially reduced power consumption; it also shines when images reside on a network drive.
Although keep in mind that preloading image would take some time, and it will require additional amount of RAM capacity.
? ?
Post-Processing Post-rendering AA
(FXAA, TXAA and MLAA/SMAA)
* ? ?
Post-rendering scaling
(Sharp bilinear, Lanczos and FSR 1)
? ?
Filters ? ?
AI-powered filter compatible
(Freestyle)
? ? ?
Shader Chain ~[N2 1] ? ?
Inverse tone mapping compatible ? ? ?
TAS features Macros/Scripts/Lua ? ?
Rewind * ? ?
Fast-Forward/Turbo Speed * ? ?
Savestates ? ?
Movie recording/playback * ?
Controls Mouse Injector Compatible ?
Input lag-mitigating technique ?
Quality of life Built-in Graphics mod editor/manager ?
Built-in Cheat Manager * ?
Streamable compression format ?
Per-Game Profiles ? ? ?
Command Line Options ? ? ?
Big Picture Mode ? ?
Misc RetroAchievements ?
EmuVR support Exclusive to libretro cores at the moment.
Debug Features ? ? ?
  1. Exclusive to libretro core.

Game images[edit]

3DS vs. CIA[edit]

There are two types of 3DS game images currently:

NCSD-type
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.
NCCH-type
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.

Encryption[edit]

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.

Emulation issues[edit]

For more information about Nintendo 3DS hardware and reverse engineering;