How To Play DS And 3DS Games On Steam Deck (2023)

How would you like to play games like A Link Between Worlds and Mario Kart DS on your Steam Deck? If that’s you, then check out How To Play DS And 3DS Games On Steam Deck!

The Nintendo DS is a system that lasted for a long time. Even when it was succeeded by a different system, it was still an iteration on the DS.

There are a lot of beloved games that are stuck on that family of systems. Just check out our list of the best Nintendo DS games and the best Nintendo 3DS games for a whole list of titles that you just can’t play anywhere else.

Luckily, that’s where emulation comes in.

Thanks to the advent of the Steam Deck, you don’t lose that portable experience that the DS and the 3DS had as a major selling point too, so you can just feel like you’re playing on a massive DS.

In this guide on How To Play DS And 3DS Games On Steam Deck, we’ll explore the best DS/3DS emulation options, how to install them in two separate ways, how you can modify your experience in order to have incredibly crisp quality and how you can add Nintendo DS and 3DS ROMS to your main screen.

Table of Contents

The EmuDeck Method

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The Emudeck Method will install a wide variety of emulators other than those made for playing DS and 3DS games, including emulators for the following systems:

  • Sega Genesis
  • SegaCD
  • Sega32X
  • PC Engine
  • WonderSwan
  • Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Super Nintendo Entertainment System
  • Mame
  • FBNeo
  • Master System
  • Dreamcast
  • Neo Geo
  • Super NES Widescreen
  • Genesis Widescreen
  • Game Boy
  • Game Boy Advance
  • Neo Geo Pocket
  • GameGear
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • PSP
  • Nintendo 64
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Nintendo GameCube
  • PlayStation 1
  • PlayStation 2
  • PlayStation 3
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • Nintendo Switch

It’s super simple to install EmuDeck onto your Steam Deck. The Steam Deck itself is essentially open-source, which means you can install whatever you want on it as long as you’re willing to mess around to find any workarounds to any issues that might arise.

In order to install EmuDeck on your Steam Deck, all you need to do is:

  1. Format an SD card to ext4 or btrfs if you’re looking to store ROMs on your SD card.
  2. Download the EmuDeck installer by using the Steam Deck browser
  3. Copy the EmuDeck installer from your downloads folder by dragging and dropping the file onto your desktop
  4. Run the file.
  5. Run through the various steps that EmuDeck gives to you. You’ll need to select exactly what emulators you want installing. It’s not too much of an extra effort to install every single emulator, but if you want you can only install Citra.

Once you’ve done all this, all you need to do is dump all of your ROMs and firmware onto the Steam Deck itself. We’ll go further into how to do this later in the article.

What’s The Best DS/3DS Emulator?

There are a ton of different options when it comes to DS emulation. It’s a world of emulation that’s heavily explored, as you’d expect from a beloved Nintendo system that lasted for a long, long time. You can choose from the following options when it comes to emulation:

  • Citra
  • DeSmuME
  • DraStic DS Emulator
  • RetroArch
  • MelonDS
  • OpenEmu
  • No$GBA

EmuDeck installs the RetroArch MelonDS Core, so if you decide to install it through that system then you don’t need to think about what the best emulator is.

However, if you want to install them separately, you’ll have to think about the best one.

RetroArch offers access to a lot of other systems, and has a wide variety of settings that you change, but it doesn’t offer access to the sheer amount of customizability that Citra does, so it depends on whether you want ease of access to dozens of different systems and dozens of different cores, or if you want the very best possible DS and 3DS emulation.

Citra, however, has some incredible features. You have full multiplayer support on the emulator, 10x internal resolution which means that you can play games in extremely crisp quality, and you can even play in full 4K.

There’s even local wifi support, which is something that a lot of other emulators simply don’t have.

How To Find Emulators Without Using EmuDeck

You can find all of these emulators in the Discover store, and just download them. As with every other emulator installed through this method though, it doesn’t automatically set the best settings for your emulator, which can add time onto your set up and sometimes be a bit of a pain.

We’re going to only explore the best settings for Citra on the Steam Deck, since that’s the very best in DS and 3DS emulation, but you can find guides for the other emulators online.

Best Citra Settings

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Okay so, first of all, go into the Graphics tab and click Renderer. This will bring up a drop-down menu that allows you to modify the resolution to your hearts desire.

Usually, if you’re playing a game in handheld mode, then you’re able to change that setting to up to 3x native, which is 1200*720.

Since this is the max that the Steam Deck can output at, this is the highest setting you should use if you only plan on playing the game in handheld mode.

However, if you’re planning on playing the game in docked mode using one of the many different Steam Deck docks that are available now, then you can mess around with the resolution until it looks good on your TV.

You can also mess around with the controls in the settings, so that you have something that feels comfortable to actually play, but what is comfortable will change from person to person, so it’s up to you to mess around for a while, test out different controller configurations and really work out what feels best on a Steam Deck.

You can also create multiple controller configurations.

The only other thing you really need to do is make sure that you set up a folder in the Citra window that will search for all of your games. But if you’ve installed this through EmuDeck then you should already have that folder.

If you don’t, make sure you modify this setting so that any newly added game will show up in Citra.

How Do You Get Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS Roms For Your Steam Deck?

Thanks to the age of the system, you can find basically any ROM that you want for the DS and the 3DS online.

We can’t link to them here, but all you need to do is search for the game that you want followed by the word ‘ROM’ and you should be able to find whatever you want.

Normally, we’d explain how to dump your own games, but it’s incredibly complicated to do and a lot of DS games cost a small fortune thanks to scarcity.

Since you can just find these ROMS online, you can also play any ROM hack that you want on your Steam Deck.

All you’d need to do is find a ROM patcher, and then you’re sorted, and often the ROM hacks comes with a patching system.

That means that you can play the very best Pokemon ROM hacks on an incredibly powerful system, and it means that you can improve games such as Pokemon Platinum with hacks such as Pokemon Renegade Platinum that makes the game harder and allows for a greater variety in Pokemon.

How To Have ROMS Appear On Your Steam Deck Home Screen

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If you want your ROMs to appear on your Steam Deck home screen, then this is your lucky day.

If you’ve installed EmuDeck, then the good news is that you already have Steam ROM Manager. ButIf not, then all you need to do is find this nifty tool in the Discover store.

Once it’s in your grasp, just run the application and simply toggle the systems the ROM Manager should cycle through as it searches for games.

Click preview, then finally click on generate app list. All you need to do then is to wait for the application to find artwork for the game and then click save app list!

That’s it! Now you can access your ROMs from the Steam Deck menu.

Thanks for checking out our article on How To Play DS And 3DS Games On Steam Deck! Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more gaming guides and Steam Deck news!

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Ryan Easby

Ryan is a seasoned retro gaming features writer with bylines at Fanbyte, PCGamesN, Lost In Cult and more. When he’s not writing, you can find him playing retro video games.

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