Android bot sits on a question block from Mario, playing with a DS.

How to emulate Nintendo 3DS games on Android

Emulation offers an accessible and affordable way for you to play older games that can be difficult to get hold of nowadays. Your Android phone can emulate most home and handheld consoles up to the fifth generation of consoles, but even Nintendo’s later PDAs are no sweat for a modern smartphone.

Let’s talk about setting up and using a Nintendo 3DS emulator on your Android phone.

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The best Nintendo 3DS emulator on Android

The first step is of course to choose an emulator. There are a surprising number of options, but the differences between the best of them depend on your personal preferences.

Citra and RetroArch are basically the best 3DS emulators. Both are open source and available on most platforms.

RetroArch emulator

RetroArch can emulate a plethora of consoles, including 3DS, Wii, Wii U, GameBoy, PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, SNES, Sega Genesis and more. This is possible because RetroArch acts as a kind of hub, consisting of many emulators built for different consoles.

It is available on Windows, Linux, Android, macOS and iOS – but it can also run on some consoles, such as the GameCube. RetroArch provides a complete list of platforms supported on their website. For more information on its adaptability, our RetroArch Windows installation wizard dives into its expansive configuration options.

Download: RetroArch (Free)

Citra emulator

Citra was the very first 3DS-capable emulator, built for PC. It is currently available on Windows, Linux, macOS and Android. The Citra team has a wonderful list of game compatibility which even categorizes the games supported on a scale from “not tested” up to “perfect” so that users can see the progress of a game’s compatibility tests.

Although RetroArch has the benefit of greater availability and more supported platforms, we will use the 3DS-focused Citra for this article. The Citra team has maintained consistent and significant support over the years, and the Android app is well optimized – it even includes support for the gamepad!

Download: Citra emulator (Free)

Warning! Regarding ROM

It is our responsibility to remind you that it is illegal to obtain ROMs in any way other than ripping them from a disc or cassette that you own. You may only rip ROM completely for your own use, not for distribution purposes, from games you own. Nintendo is particularly strict when it comes to sharing and downloading their ROMs, so be careful.


But as long as you do not sell ROMs, you should be most secure from legal issues. When obtaining ROMs from online databases, make sure that the source is reputable and that the files are secure before downloading. ROMs will never be EXE files, and they will never ask for greater access to your device.

How to set up and use Citra on your Android phone

Once you have downloaded Citra to your Android phone, you are just a few steps away from playing your favorite games in the 3DS.

Prepare your games for emulation

Before launching the app, you may want to have your game files stored in a suitable folder on your Android device. It may even be best to create a new folder titled 3DS Games or Citra Games.

This does not need to be prepared before starting the app, but it will make your initial installation easier – when you start Citra for the first time, you will be asked to select the folder from which your games will start. This can be changed at any time by tapping the folder icon in the upper right corner.

Games on the Nintendo 3DS use a CIA extension, but they must be decrypted before use – this extracted file will use the 3DS extension. You can extract the files with a tool like WinZip, but Citra also lets you extract a 3DS file from the CIA directly on the app’s home screen. Just tap the file icon, select Install CIA, and select the CIA file from your downloads. The rest is easy.

How to play games on Citra

With a small library of 3DS games ready to go, you’re ready to start playing.

  1. Start Citra and accept the requested permissions. It can request microphone access – this is for DS games that use the microphone for gaming purposes.
  2. Select the game folder you prepared earlier and press Select this directory.
  3. Once your directory of decrypted games has been selected, the home screen will list all your games, accompanied by an icon.
  4. Press your choice to start it. A small loading box appears when the emulator loads the necessary shaders. After this you are good to go.


The best 3DS emulator for Android

When we tested Citra, we chose two games from their compatibility list, New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Resident Evil Revelations. The former was labeled “good” and the latter was labeled “poor” on the compatibility list. We found that Super Mario offered an overall pleasant experience, with only a few strains. Resident Evil, on the other hand, had some texture and model flaws, as well as a crash.

We have no doubt that Citra is a great way to enjoy compatible games, and the team’s perseverance assures us that they will only continue to expand and improve the available compatible games. Citra is a simple recommendation – perhaps the best way to emulate 3DS games.

#emulate #Nintendo #3DS #games #Android

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