Why Do DS Games Look Bad On 3DS?

Nintendo is quite unpredictable when it comes to implementing backward compatibility on its latest consoles. While certain consoles have no backward compatibility (Switch), others can play last-gen games (Wii). In the case of 3DS, its hardware is just too different and can’t perfectly replicate DS games despite having a dedicated backward compatibility processor onboard.

Why do DS games look bad on 3DS? The answer lies in the higher native resolution of 3DS compared to DS, which results in games being upscaled to fit this new display size. Because of this upscaling, certain games look blurrier than they normally should- especially those with lots of dialogue and menu text.

If you look at DS games being played on an emulator, they tend to look better than the ones running on 3DS. This is because of the superior upscaling in emulators, and the fact that your modern computer display uses a more advanced type of LCD than the 3DS. However, you can fix the upscaling issue by running DS games at their native resolution on 3DS (this will result in black borders).

Why Do DS Games Look Bad On 3DS?

The DS has a display resolution of 256 x 192 on both screens- top, and bottom. Back in 2004, this was nothing short of amazing. Especially on a tiny 3” screen, which ensured more than sufficient pixel density.

Fast forward to 2011, and that isn’t satisfactory any longer. This is why Nintendo went with a resolution of 400 x 240 for the top display on the 3DS, and 320 x 240 for the bottom display. The top is an autostereoscopic 3D LCD screen, that merges two 400 x 240 LCD panels into one.

As a result, it has an overall resolution of 800 x 240. Which is 3.9 times the pixel count of the DS. With a perfectly even ratio (like 4), scaling would have been a lot easier.

But the odd resolution makes it tough to scale games perfectly onto the new screen. As a result, text and edges appear blurry- similar to what happens on old NES games when you play them on a modern 4K OLED TV. The scaling algorithm on emulators is just better, and they produce sharper images.

Plus, emulators can change the internal render resolution so that it matches your computer display. This isn’t something 3DS can do, as it relies on an actual DS processor (ARM9 core) to run old game cartridges. It even has a copy of DS firmware onboard.

That bit of firmware is the key to making your DS games look normal on 3DS. While booting up your DS game, press and hold either the “Select” or “Start” button. This will force the game to boot up in its original 256 x 192 format, and you’ll get black bars in the space left behind.

You can do the same thing with Download Play games, using the menu- just select the DS option. Then, press and hold either “Start” or “Select” as your game boots up. Internet settings can also be configured to run in DS mode.

Do DS Games Look Good On New 3DS XL?

As the New 3DS XL has a larger display than regular 3DS models, you might think it has a higher resolution. But that’s not the case, as a higher resolution would prove far too demanding for the hardware. Hence, the entire 3DS family shares a common resolution of 800 x 240 for the top display and 320 x 240 for the bottom display.

So your DS games won’t look any better or worse on a New 3DS XL. You’ll just get a bigger screen and bigger black bars when you boot games in their original resolution. The 3D mode doesn’t work with DS games, so you don’t have to worry about that.

How To Play DS Games At Their Original Resolution On A 3DS?

As I explained earlier, the process is quite simple. You just have to press and hold the “Select” or “Start” button on your console while booting up games. And it will play using the original DS resolution, with black bars.

This also applies to Game Boy Color games downloaded via the now-extinct Nintendo eShop. You even get a nice purple border around the game, which is centered perfectly in the middle of your screen (black bars on either side).

Is The 3DS Good For Your Eyes?

Depends on what you’re playing, and for how long. It is certainly not something that you should be doing for several hours at a stretch. Playing games on a tiny display places more pressure on your ocular muscles as they have to work harder to maintain focus.

The stress on your eyes increases with games that have lots of text. And when you turn on the 3D mode, it can feel nauseating or cause a headache. If you are facing these symptoms or know someone who does, abstain from using 3D mode and reduce the amount of time you spend on your 3DS.

Does 3DS Have Better Graphics Than 2DS?

If you aren’t familiar with the 3DS family of consoles, you might think it’s more powerful than 2DS (3 is greater than 2). However, 2DS is simply a budget version of 3DS that was released to capture a different market. It acts as an entry point for those who want to get into the 3DS game library, but aren’t interested in paying extra for the 3D feature.

2DS uses the same CPU, GPU, and RAM. However, it lacks a 3D display and doesn’t fold. Plus, there is a single speaker rather than the stereo speakers used in 3DS.

Is The 3DS Outdated?

As the console was first released in 2011, it’s certainly showing its age. New games for the 3DS aren’t being made, and Nintendo stopped manufacturing the console in 2020. Official support has been scaled down, and online servers are basically on life support.

The 3DS eShop will be shut down soon, and Nintendo removed the ability to add credits a while back. So yeah, 3DS is an outdated system. But that doesn’t make it obsolete, and there is plenty of fun to be had with a jailbroken 3DS.


I hope this article helped you understand why DS games look bad on 3DS. It’s a result of the upscaling, and odd resolution ratio (3DS has 3.9 times more pixels than DS). Sometimes, colors might appear washed out if you’re using the Power Saver mode.

Turn off Power Saver mode, and hold either “Select” or “Start” while booting up your DS games. They will run at the original resolution with borders, and no upscaling.


As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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