These days, game consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox use hard drives to store both games and their save data. However, things were different some 30 years ago in the days of the Nintendo 64 and PS1. Hard drives weren’t installed on home consoles because they were too expensive and slower than reading data from a game cartridge.
Talking of old consoles, do Nintendo DS games save to the cartridge? Yes, because Nintendo DS Game Cards have both flash and EEPROM memory. The flash memory is used to store game files while the EEPROM is used to store user data- saves, high scores, level progression, etc.
Interestingly, the Nintendo DS does have some internal storage of its own. However, this is used to store device settings (WiFi, profiles, etc.). Unlike the later DSi and 3DS models, the original DS can’t take SD cards.
Do Nintendo DS Games Save To The Cartridge?
Yes, because there is nowhere else for the saved data to go. The base DS has no internal storage, so Game Cartridges come with a small amount of EEPROM memory. Electronically erasable programmable read-only memory can be rewritten, allowing user data to be updated.
This includes your character’s level progression, content unlocked in the game world, and more. With the DSi (released in 2008), Nintendo added internal storage. They also put an SD card slot in the DSi (as well as its XL version).
Since the DS can also play Game Boy Advance games, you can get a clue as to how saves were stored on the GBA. That’s right, in the cartridge itself. Some early GBA games used SRAM (volatile memory) powered by a battery.
Meaning that your save files would die once the battery died. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue with DS cartridges that use EEPROM. You don’t need to power EEPROM as it’s non-volatile memory, so no battery will die and kill all your save data.
Do 3DS Games Save On The Cartridge Or Console?
3DS save data is more complicated than the DS. It comes with 2GB of internal eMMC memory (a type of flash storage). Of this, 0.5GB is used by the console to store system software. The remaining 1.5GB is used to store save data for games downloaded from the eShop.
Physical copies of games on the 3DS save directly to the cartridge. SD card storage is used for movies, music, and photos. The SD card on a 3DS card can also be used as storage for digital games downloaded from the eShop (now closed), or Virtual Console games (also closed).
To summarize, 3DS games save directly to the cartridge. So you can pull a Game Card from one 3DS and insert it into another 3DS. This way, friends and family can share the same game between multiple consoles (however, some games only support one save file).
How Do You Save Games On Nintendo DS?
First, press the “Start” button on your DS. It’s located on the right side of the touchscreen, above “Select”. Then, from the menu, select “Save” with your stylus (some games also let you select the save slot).
How To Insert A DS Game Card
Take your Nintendo DS, and make sure it’s charged and powered off. Then, turn it around so the backside is facing toward you. Insert your game cartridge into Slot 1 (this is for DS games).
The other slot is for GBA games, inserting a DS card into this slot means it won’t work. While inserting the card, make sure the label side is facing down, toward the ground. Push it in till it clicks, open your screen and press the Power button.
Playing Homebrew Software On The DS
For this, you’ll need a flash cart. I recommend the R4, although the SuperCard DSTWO PLUS is a newer and more feature-packed alternative. You put all your ROMs and emulators into a microSD card and insert them into the flash cart.
When you put the flash cart into Slot 1 on your DS, it will bypass the security and run homebrew software. For emulation, the best DS version is a DSi or DS Lite. The DSi has the fastest CPU of them all, along with more RAM compared to the base DS and DS Lite.
Cleaning A DS Game Card
To clean your DS Game Card, take a tiny microfiber cloth, and wet it with some 99% isopropyl alcohol. Then, wrap it around a thin screwdriver and gently rub each one of the contact pins on the card. On some DS cartridges that have been forcibly pushed in and pulled out a few too many times, the plastic dividers between the contacts will look bent.
You can take a flathead screwdriver and gently straighten out these plastic dividers to ensure proper contact between the console and the card. Finally, turn the ds upside down and blow out any dirt that has accumulated in the card slot. Wipe off the inside to make sure it’s dry before you start gaming.
Unlike the cartridges on old consoles from the 1980s and 1990s, DS cartridges don’t require batteries. They use EEPROM to store user data, which retains information even when power is cut off. This means your DS cartridges will easily last a couple of decades until the flash memory finally dies after too many read cycles.
To permanently preserve DS games, emulation is the best method. You can download ROMs or dump your own ROMs from cartridges using a modded DS. Modding your DS with a flash cart also allows you to run games from older consoles like the NES or Game Boy Color (a normal DS only plays GBA games).