How To Play Nintendo 3DS Games On Your VR Headset

Nintendo’s one-of-a-kind 3D handheld returns from the grave with the help of VR.

The Nintendo 3DS handheld blew us away when it was released back in 2011 with its ability to produce eye-popping stereoscopic 3D effects without the need for glasses. Like many other consoles, the 3DS is available to play as an emulator, but you won’t get to experience the 3D effect by emulating it on a regular screen.

However, with the aid of a VR headset, you can emulate the 3DS in all its stereoscopic 3D glory just by following a few simple steps.        

Installing The 3DS Emulator

There are a handful of different 3DS emulators out there but we will be using Citra for the purposes of this guide as it’s often regarded as the best. Navigate to the download page here and begin downloading Citra for your operating system. 

Open the downloaded file and you will be prompted to select an installation destination. It will then give you the choice of installing Citra Nightly and Citra Canary. Citra Nightly is the reliable tested version whilst Citra Canary is the same as Citra Nightly but includes additional experimental features awaiting review.

We recommend installing both versions but using Citra Nightly as it is the more stable version; only switch to Citra Canary whenever you come across a ROM (a digital copy of a game) that doesn’t work as it should with Citra Nightly. If both Citra Nightly and Citra Canary are unable to run a particular ROM, then chances are it is not compatible with the emulator.  

Loading ROMs

Now that Citra is installed, we need to load up some ROMs to play. Click on the “+” symbol in the main Citra window to add a destination folder for your ROMs. Try to keep all of your ROMs in a single location so that they can be found and accessed easily.

Where to find ROMs, how to get them working, and the legalities of owning them are beyond the scope of this guide. If you do decide to download ROMs however, make sure to do your homework beforehand as malicious ROM sites exist that will package all kinds of nasty surprises along with your download. 

Also, make sure to check the Citra Game Compatibility List as some ROMs work better than others, whilst others simply won’t work at all. Once you have your ROMs, this handy video guide will show you how to get them working with Citra. 

3DS Emulator Settings

Now that we have our emulator and ROMs we’re almost ready to play, but first, we need to familiarise ourselves with a few settings. Open up Citra, go into “Emulation” then “Configure” and a window should open up displaying the emulation settings. 

The “General” and “System” tabs allow us to change the emulation speed and CPU clock speed. Changing these settings can cause all sorts of in-game issues so we recommend leaving them alone unless you know what you are getting into.

The “Graphics” tab has a drop-down list called “Internal Resolution” that will let you adjust the resolution to improve the visuals. Just remember to only increase the resolution as far as your hardware will allow. If the game is lagging it is worth taking the resolution down a notch to see if that improves performance. 

In the same “Graphics” tab, go to “Screen Layout” and select “Side by Side”. Enabling this setting will horizontally mirror the Citra display and is essential to experiencing stereoscopic 3D. You can also play around with the “Depth” setting (the higher the % the greater the depth effect) and the “Screen Layout” to suit your preference. 

Finally, there is the “Controls” tab which is fairly self-explanatory and lets you map your controls onto your chosen method of controlling the game.

Playing 3DS In Bigscreen Beta

If you don’t have Bigscreen Beta already, it’s available to download and use for free. Head over to the Bigscreen website, select “Download” and choose your platform. Once installed, connect your headset to the computer and load up Bigscreen Beta. If it’s your first time using Bigscreen, you will be presented with a tutorial that we recommend going through at least once. 

Take your headset off and load a ROM using Citra in full-screen mode (select “View” then “Fullscreen”). If you put your headset back on you should see Citra presented on the Bigscreen cinema-type display inside your headset. 

Finally, go into the Bigscreen “Home” menu, select “My Room” then “Desktop” and you should see an option called “3D Setting”. Make sure this is set to “SBS” which stands for side by side. Enabling 3D SBS will merge the two mirrored Citra displays into one giving you the 3D effect, and now you’re good to go!

One final tip is to play around with the different environments that Bigscreen has to offer. For example, I fully nerded out by changing the environment to woodland so it would feel a bit like I was sitting in Kokiri Forest whilst playing Zelda.

Image Credit: Tony Mowbray

About the Scout

Tony Mowbray

Tony is a writer and host of the YouTube channel ‘VR Reviews’. He lives with his wife and kids ‘down-under’ in Australia and is an avid crocodile wrestler.

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