Can Nintendo Switch Games Be Played on 3DS?

By now you probably already know that you cannot play digital or physical Nintendo 3DS game titles on the Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo’s decision not to include backward compatibility on the Switch to allow playing of 3DS games is a bummer because a lot of gamers enjoy playing their favorite older games on their new consoles.

Recently while having a discussion on Nintendo Switch games with a friend of mine they asked me if the opposite was possible.

Can Nintendo Switch games be played on 3DS? No, you cannot play Nintendo Switch games on Nintendo 3DS. One of the reasons you can’t is because the two consoles’ game cartridges are different. Nintendo Switch titles are also not available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop, so you cannot also buy and download a digital copy of a Switch game. Most video game companies design their new consoles in a way that encourages gamers to move to that system. I, therefore, see why Nintendo wouldn’t want to make it possible to play Nintendo Switch games on 3DS.

Also, the focus is usually on making newer consoles backward compatible to enable them to play games from older consoles, not the other way around.

Why can’t you play Nintendo Switch games on 3DS?

Nintendo Switch Cartridge compared to 3DS. My thanks go to NintendoToday for this comparison. For a fab comparison between the physical differences of these two cartridges, take a look at their Nintendo Switch game cartridge Vs 3Ds game Cartridge comparison article.

Here are a few reason why you can’t play Nintendo Switch games on 3DS

  • Different cartridge sizes 

Because both the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS use game cartridges, I understand why many gamers would think it is possible to play Switch games on 3DS.

However, the cartridges of these handheld consoles are not the same.

The Nintendo Switch’s card is longer and larger than that of the 3DS, so it cannot fit in the 3DS game card slot.

The Nintendo Switch also only plays cartridges specifically meant for it.

  • Compatibility issues

Most Nintendo 3DS games are fun, full of adventure, and engaging.

So it also makes sense why a lot of Switch owners would want to continue playing them on their new Nintendo Switch console.

In the past, new Nintendo consoles could play the games of their predecessors. 

For example, the Nintendo 2DS is capable of playing 3DS games.

The fact that Nintendo 3DS games are designed to be played on two screens makes Nintendo Switch games that are made for single screen play not compatible with the 3DS.

So it would take a lot more than simply loading a Nintendo Switch cartridge to be able to play it on 3DS.

  • Switch games are not available on the 3DS eShop

Another reason you cannot play Nintendo Switch games on the 3DS is that they’re not available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for you to buy and download.

And, with the recent announcement by Nintendo that it will be discontinuing production of the 3DS and closing the Nintendo 3DS eShop in some areas, the possibility of digital Nintendo Switch titles being available on the 3DS in the future are next to zero.

Now that Nintendo is shifting its focus to the Switch consoles, it is possible that we could see 3DS games on the Switch soon.

The recent trademark renewal for some of the existing 3DS titles has fueled rumors that Nintendo could be planning to release 3DS games on the Switch.

Currently, however, Nintendo’s official position is that because the Nintendo Switch is not a successor to the 3DS you cannot play 3DS games on the console and vice versa.

What now that you can’t play Nintendo Switch games on 3DS?

The Switch lite is a fantastic replacement for the 3DS. But, if you love the 3DS, just keep it, love it, and continue to play games on it. You can always buy a Switch later.
  • Get yourself a Nintendo Switch Lite

Since the release of the Nintendo Switch Lite, the popularity of the 3DS console has been on a slow and steady decline.

This is largely because the Switch Lite is seen as the replacement for the Nintendo 3DS.

Many gamers have sold or put away their Nintendo 3DS for the slim, light design, Nintendo Switch Lite that has non-detachable controllers.

It might also be time for you to upgrade your console to the handheld and easily portable Switch Lite if you can afford it.

The Nintendo Switch Lite retails for $199.99 which is slightly more than the cheapest Nintendo 3DS. 

The Switch Lite is the perfect console if you’re looking for a handheld gaming device to replace your Nintendo 3DS, and aren’t interested in the TV mode capabilities offered by the larger Nintendo Switch.

To capitalize on the popularity of the Switch Lite, the console has sold close to 14 million units since its launch in 2019, Nintendo has plans to bring popular 3DS titles to the Switch family.

The Nintendo management says making 3DS franchises available on Nintendo Switch Lite will increase the “appeal” of the console as a handheld device.

Some of the Nintendo 3DS games I would want on Switch are Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Super Mario 3D Land, and The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

  • Continue gaming on the Nintendo 3DS 

The Nintendo 3DS is still an awesome portable console with a huge games library built up over the 10 years the console has been around.

The 3DS large collection of games dwarfs what is available on the Nintendo Switch.

So, if you don’t feel like getting yourself a Nintendo Switch, keep on enjoying the Nintendo big hitters like Animal Crossing: Wild World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and Mario Kart 7 on your Nintendo 3DS.

The fact that 3DS games are cheaper than Nintendo Switch games is more reason why you would want to stick to playing the Nintendo 3DS.


The Nintendo Switch Lite was introduced to bury the 3DS, which is finally happening with the announcement by Nintendo that it will discontinue production and provision of software updates of the console.

So it makes sense for the gaming company not to have made it possible for you to be able to play Nintendo Switch games on 3DS because they want you to upgrade as they release newer consoles.

In most cases also the focus is on including backward compatibility on newer consoles so they can play games of their predecessor and not making newer model Nintendo games capable of being played on the predecessor console.

The way I see it is you can continue playing your favorite Nintendo games on the 3DS but keep in mind that soon you’ll not be able to get game and software updates.

If you haven’t already, you’re better off planning to upgrade to the Nintendo Switch Lite if you’re looking for a purely handheld and portable console to replace your Nintendo 3DS.

You can keep the 3DS as a collector’s item.


Is there any chance the Switch will get a 3D screen like the 3DS? Unfortunately, no. It’s extremely unlikely we’ll see a Nintendo console with a 3D screen again. 3D screens, I’m sorry to tell you, were a bit of fad. The future seems to be heading more in the direction of Virtual reality and augmented reality.

Will Nintendo do ever make another clam-shell style handheld? Well, it can never be ruled out. After all The folks at Nintendo are the people behind the outrageously creative Labo sets. So anything is possible. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Nick Sinclair

Nick Sinclair, a gaming aficionado since the Commodore 64 era, studied Creative Computer Games Design in university before founding his own gaming company. Discovering a passion for content creation, Nick now helps gamers squeeze every drop of fun out of their favorite gaming hardware

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