With over 114 million units sold, the Switch is Nintendo’s 3rd best-selling video game console of all time. Right behind the DS and Game Boy/ Game Boy Color. However, it is also an entirely new type of console that has very little in common with any previous Nintendo handheld.
So, can you play DS games on Switch? Not unless you modify your Switch with custom software to run emulators for the DS. There is no Virtual Console service, and Switch Online lacks DS support which is quite surprising given that the Switch’s hardware should be able to emulate DS easily.
If you want to play DS games on a mobile platform, you need a 3DS as it has dedicated emulation hardware onboard. Or you could emulate DS games on your Android phone (which is of questionable legality). There might be DS games for Switch Online in the future, but Nintendo has released no official information on this subject.
Can You Play DS Games On Switch?
The Nintendo Switch cannot natively run DS games as it lacks a cartridge slot for DS. Its hardware is very different from the original DS architecture, with entirely new software on top. Nintendo could release an official emulator for the Switch via Switch Online, allowing it to run digitally purchased DS games.
They already did something similar with the Wii U. It was called Virtual Console and used software emulation to run retro console games. I am referring to it in the past tense because, by the time you read this article, the service might have been discontinued.
Nintendo released a statement to notify customers that they will shut down Virtual Console for the Wii U on March 27, 2023. So they are removing the last “official” way for modern gamers to purchase and play DS games. This means emulation is the only way to play backup copies of your old DS titles.
Nintendo Switch Backward Compatibility
The Nintendo Switch uses an ARM-based SoC with NVIDIA graphics. The DS and 3DS also use low-power ARM SoCs, but they are from an entirely different generation and feature ancient processor designs. On top of that, the graphics API and OS are also different.
To run DS or Wii games, the Switch needs emulation. Adding a dedicated 3DS or DS CPU on the motherboard will increase size, complexity, cost, and power consumption. Which makes it a no-go for a modern handheld console.
Software emulation is the only choice left, and Nintendo hasn’t invested the resources into creating a DS emulator for the Switch. This is perplexing since they have already done DS emulation via Virtual Console on the Wii U. Switch Online also relies on emulation to run NES, Genesis, and other retro console games.
Right now, the only way to play old Nintendo games on Switch (legally) is by purchasing a Switch Online subscription. Even with that, you don’t get access to all games from NES, SNES, N64, etc. Instead, you get a small collection of curated titles chosen by Nintendo (good luck if your game isn’t on their list).
Does The Switch Have Crossplay?
The Switch is Nintendo’s first console to support cross-platform multiplayer with consoles from other companies. For example, you could be playing Minecraft on PC and still get into a server with your friend who is using his Nintendo Switch. There are other crossplay titles too, like Among Us and Dead By Daylight.
Is A Switch Lite Worth It?
The Switch Lite is a cheaper, more compact version of the Switch with the same internal hardware. But it has a slightly smaller display and doesn’t feature detachable Joy-Cons. There is also no dock, so you can’t output video to a TV in docked mode.
Since there is no docked mode, you can’t select 1080p resolution. The Switch Lite also has a smaller battery, which means it has a shorter runtime. But it’s still worth it for folks who just want the portable portion of the Switch experience and don’t care much about living-room gaming.
Can The Switch Emulate DS?
It can, and you have a choice of emulators to use on your modded Switch. But first, you’ll need a Switch that is mod friendly. Switch units made before 2018 are the best for this, although any Switch with firmware version 4.1.0 will also do.
You can then install a custom bootloader and run homebrew software. Be warned- if Nintendo detects homebrew on your Switch, you will be banned from all of their online services. And there are malicious homebrew software packages out there that can damage or brick your Switch.
Finally, you can just turn your Switch into an Android system by installing the Android OS on it. This will allow you to run Android emulators for the DS, NES, Game Boy, GBA, etc.
Retro Gaming On Nintendo Switch
The Switch can play some popular retro games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Streets of Rage 2, Golden Axe, Mario Kart 64, Ocarina of Time, etc. However, these are locked behind Nintendo’s Switch Online subscription. Once you pay for this service, you will also get access to cloud saves, online play, and free DLC.
In addition to N64 and Genesis games, Switch Online also includes some NES and SNES games (over 100 combined). To get a more engaging retro experience, you can purchase NES, N64, SNES, and Genesis controllers for the Switch. These wireless retro controllers are made by Nintendo and feature rechargeable batteries.
If you want to play DS games on your Switch, you’re out of luck. Unless you’re willing to mod your Switch with custom firmware, it won’t run DS games. However, you can still play a number of NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis games on Switch via Nintendo’s official emulation service.
There is an alternative for folks who have lost their old DS and have a bunch of game cartridges lying around. Get on the used market, and find a cheap 3DS. Then, you can natively play DS cartridges on it (or install custom firmware to turn it into an emulation beast).