The Best NES Emulator for the Nintendo DS: nesDS

The Best NES Emulator for the Nintendo DS

Adding some retro functionality to your Nintendo DS is always a good thing. This time we will be showing off NES emulation for all your favorite 8-bit Nintendo classics.

Related Posts to Check Out

What Is The Best NES Emulator?

I was surprised to find that most of the emulation sites out there are pushing old NES emulators that are just slight modifications of their GBA counterparts. nesDS, on the other hand, customized the PocketNES code to take full advantage of the DS hardware and to improve performance and compatibility. It isn’t perfect, but I think you will find it quite suitable for most games.

Easy Installation

After some of my frustrating experiences getting some of my GP2X emulators to run, I was very happy with the simplicity of the nesDS installation. Assuming your homebrew cart doesn’t require patching, all you do is download the executable file and put it in a folder with some NES ROMs. (Actually, you don’t need folders, and your ROMs can be elsewhere, but folders usually help keep things organized)

For my CycloDS Evolution cartridge, I just copied over a folder (named “NES”) that had the executable and my ROMs on to MicroSD card, popped it in my DS Lite, and I was good to go. No configuration needed. (Configurations options are availible for tweaking, but I don’t bother)

If you need need installation assistance with older DS homebrew solutions, check out this wiki guide at PocketHeaven.

Video Tour of nesDS

To get a better feel for how nesDS handles, I’ve recorded a quick video that walks through some of the menus and shows a few popular games in action.

nesDS’s Best Features

  • High compatibility
  • Full speed for most games
  • “Rewind” feature with R-trigger
  • “Fast Mode” with L-trigger
  • Save states

Complaints & Limitations

  • Not a huge deal, but I can’t seem to navigate the menus with the D-pad and face buttons. It all seems to be touch-screen based. Since the menu options are small, you will need a stylus for best results.
  • There is no DPCM sound (SMB3 drums, Kung Fu laughing, etc), unlike PocketNES.
  • There is also no raw PCM sound (speech in Joshua, SCAT, Big Bird’s Hide and Speak), like PocketNES.

Download

89 Comments

  1. Dig says:

    I think you should start messing with the display tab on the menu some more. I use this emulator in my DS as well and the graphics tab can help out with the squashed Mario sprite.

    I don’t remember the exact details right now, but putting the stylus on the screen and moving it left or right will adjust the vertical scaling of the game. Moving the stylus up and down, however, will shift the image up and down. This means that if the stylus is moved to the far left in order to have an unscaled image where the graphics match their original form, then the stylus needs to be moved up or down in order to get the action in the center since the entire unscaled image can’t fit on the screen.

    I’ve managed to reach a happy medium pretty quickly where my Mega Man sprite isn’t too deformed and top and bottom of the game screen where nothing happens are outside of the visible area. Near-perfect emulation for all the games I play. Try it out sometime.

  2. racketboy says:

    Does it remember the visual settings?
    Does it have settings for individual games or for everything?

  3. Dig says:

    As far as I have found, I have set it once and it uses that setting for every game and keeps the same settings even after turning off the DS. I also use an R4 if that makes a difference.

  4. Pat says:

    First let me say how much I love your blog. I’ve been reading for awhile now but have never commented.

    Anyway, I don’t have any clue about the different MicroSD cards. Can any card work with the DS? What’s the best to buy at the best price? I looked up that CycloDS Evolution cartridge and it’s something like 65 bucks with shipping. That seems a bit much, but what do I know.

  5. jindofox says:

    Nice little review, but you left out one of my favorite features of this great emulator, which I just discovered for myself:

    The shoulder buttons are fast-forward and more useful, REWIND functions! This is great — if you screw up, just hit the L button to rewind a few seconds to try again.

  6. racketboy says:

    Pat, any MicroSD card will work on the CycloDS at least. Some older homebrew carts may not support the larger capacity MicroSDs.

    $65 is higher than normal. I paid about $56 for mine at RealHotStuff. Good place. At that price, it isn’t for everyone, but it has a lot of good features and as worth it if you are a DS addict and want to expand it’s capabilities.

    jindofox, thanks so much for that tip! That is a pretty cool feature!

  7. Mike says:

    The NES emulators for the GP2x are lacking, but most of the others are of high quality, IMHO

  8. Zandengoff says:

    The SMB3 sprite is squished because the DS does not have the native resolution to display every pixel of the NES vertical resolution. It is not a limitation of the emulation, but a limitation of the DS. If you check out the author’s site, he explains the reason for scaling.

  9. racketboy says:

    Cool — thanks for the heads-up
    I just thought it was interesting that most everything else looked good. And Mario looked funny no matter where he was on the screen.

  10. Zandengoff says:

    It’s cool, Just though I would point out that it was the DS and not the emulator. I would call it a testament to great programming that he was able to overcome the hardware limitations so well.

  11. racketboy says:

    No doubt — thanks again :)
    I’m gonna try to re-do my video to included the new things I’ve learned from the comments.

  12. Jordan says:

    two things:
    1. I love your site!
    2. Which emulator do you recommend for snes roms?

  13. racketboy says:

    I haven’t actually got around to trying an SNES one yet. I will do so soon and follow up with another post like this one.

    Thanks!

  14. onter says:

    i want that yellow nds!!!is that a pokemon/zelda limited edition??

    nice review..thanks dude!!

  15. racketboy says:

    That’s just a side effect of the lighting.
    It’s actually standard white.

  16. Car says:

    hi everyone, i wanted to know if anyone could tell me how to get this thing to work, i have the cyclods evolution i copy the file nesDS_src and my roms but the roms dont show up when i start up the program? not sure what i’m doing???
    Thanks

  17. racketboy says:

    Do you have the roms zipped? (what is the file extension?)
    Also, do you have them in another folder?
    BTW, for the best help, please post this question in the forum.

    Thanks!

  18. This emulator is perfect! Exactly what I was looking for, thanks for the post. This along with my PowerPak and I’ll have my NES library wherever I go…freakin’ sweet.

    Sorta on/off topic, I’ve also been looking for a TurboGrafix-16 emulator that will run on the DS but haven’t found any. Anyone know of one?

  19. racketboy says:

    To my knowledge, there isn’t a good TG16 emulator for the DS yet. Only the “big” platforms like the PC and XBox seem to have good ones right now. Maybe someday…

  20. Lex says:

    Hey I just discovered this site and I love it. I am trying to put the NES emulator on my DS. I the download file to my ds and downloaded the rom “Blades of Steel”. I can find it on my DS but it says it doesn’t recognize the file extention “.nes”. Any help would be appreciated. And also I appologize if this question is too stupid. Im new to emulators.

  21. racketboy says:

    All of my games have an .nes extension on them…
    do any other games play?

  22. Bastion says:

    The PSP also has an awesome NES emulator (RIN). The games look awesome on the psp’s screen!

  23. jano says:

    My ds sais’s the driver is missing! what is the driver?

  24. seeger says:

    im a real computer dummy but i do love the original nintendo and i love my ds and would love to combine the 2. i dont understand anything your other readers are saying and really need step by step help to get this working on my ds. will you help me? please please please im begging for your help

  25. racketboy says:

    I guess I’m not sure what you issue is…
    Do you have a homebrew cartridge for your DS?
    If so, you just need to put the emulator file I linked to on the memory card and also some NES game ROMs.

  26. Alex says:

    So I tried nesDS on my Acekard 2, and it worked the first time with Zelda, but when I tried it with Super Mario Bros (you know that classic game) It started me in world 0 which is like a castle underwater and I don’t actually get to play the game. Now when I boot into nesDS it just locks up! soooo ummm….. yeah wtf man?!

  27. na says:

    ok i dont know were to get the roms can u help me

  28. jambo222 says:

    Can someone pls email me details on how and where i can run the nes ds emulator pls and where i can get the roms for it

  29. jorge says:

    I tried it on my R4 and the files will not appear. Is this compatible with R4?

  30. racketboy says:

    I don’t have one, but I would this it would be…

  31. JJ says:

    Im trying to get the nesDS site but its gone now and i cant get your mirror to work. What can i do to get this for my ds?

    thaks

  32. racketboy says:

    The mirror still works for me….

  33. m.ratajczak says:

    Hey, if there is a chance to snesDS acted like nesDS?

    When I use nesDS I browse the files in my microSD (using the R4 DS) and it would be nice if snesDS can also browse the files.
    Racketboy can do it for us? please, please …

  34. racketboy says:

    Not sure how I would do it…. Sounds like you need to talk to the developers :)

  35. m.ratajczak says:

    hehe, I thought that you have certain skills developers: P
    I thought that, after collecting nesDS from your web page I can browse the files.

    other nesDS so do not work, I mean to others you have to ‘put’ files ROM, as well as in snesDS. the exception is nesDS from you …

  36. racketboy says:

    Oh wow — that’s kinda weird…
    But no, all I did was take the copy I downloaded from the developers site and put it on my server just in case :)

  37. justin says:

    this is by far the best NES emulator out there for the DS
    thanks

  38. Jahbreeze says:

    The home page for nesDS looks like it’s down. Any idea if it has moved, or where to?

  39. racketboy says:

    That’s odd — I guess he killed it?
    Good thing I have it mirrored :)

  40. stamp says:

    Does the nesDS you have mirrored support DLDI?

  41. racketboy says:

    not sure — how would I find out?

  42. Thank you so much you have just made it official the Nds has taken over my life.

  43. Chalo says:

    Help! Whenever I try to download the emulator on this site on my mac it downloads as a blank file. Anyone else having issues. What does it the download look like on your desktop?? Mine looks like a “new sheet” in word.

  44. Golgo 14 says:

    Chalo,
    For some reason, on a mac this downloads as a text file. Just delete the .txt extension so that the file ends with .nds and you should be fine.

  45. Elwood says:

    Overall this is a great emulator. The games tend to run at full speed with only the more “busy” games getting any real slow down.

    However, it can be hard to certain games to run, as some games (such as SMBros.) will only run if it’s a specific dump of the game. Others will glitch or start you in the negative world.

    Also a handful of games won’t work no matter what, namely Mother/Earthbound Zero, Ninja Gaiden 3, Adventures of Lolo 2, Double Dragon 2, and TMNT 2. Punch-Out is a garbled mess and basically unplayable. Also a few games like TMNT1 and SMBros 3 have minor graphics glitches on the main character’s sprites.

    As a whole, the games work great. But it’s sad that these popular ones don’t.

  46. Elwood says:

    Here is a compatibility list for NES DS. This should help some people figure out which games will work, and in the case of some of them figure out which dump of the game will work best.

    http://gbatemp.net/index.php?showtopic=81903

  47. choconado says:

    I seem to be having a problem running this through the acekard 2.1. The first time I loaded it up, it worked fine, like a dream. Then, from that point on, it freezes up at the starting screen, where you select the files. The buttons do nothing at all. I’ve tried redownloading this many times, to no avail. Am I doing something wrong??

  48. Corey says:

    At 1/19/2009 2:30 PM, Elwood said…

    Overall this is a great emulator. The games tend to run at full speed with only the more “busy” games getting any real slow down.

    However, it can be hard to certain games to run, as some games (such as SMBros.) will only run if it’s a specific dump of the game. Others will glitch or start you in the negative world.

    Also a handful of games won’t work no matter what, namely Mother/Earthbound Zero, Ninja Gaiden 3, Adventures of Lolo 2, Double Dragon 2, and TMNT 2. Punch-Out is a garbled mess and basically unplayable. Also a few games like TMNT1 and SMBros 3 have minor graphics glitches on the main character’s sprites.

    As a whole, the games work great. But it’s sad that these popular ones don’t.
    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Try downloading other copies of the games. I noticed that certain “rips” of the ROMs aren’t necessarily that good. Especially when you start looking at the modded and hacked ROMs. As for the other poster who asked where they can get ROMs, I use bitTorrent’s to get all of my ROMs. That includes my NES, SNES, Genesis, DS, and GBA. And recently I jailbroke my iPhone and have been downloading tons of .IPA’s (iPhone’s application and game extension). Apps that run anywhere from $0.99 to $75 in the iTunes store I’ve been getting for free. It’s freaking awesome. Oh and one other thing about the person who mentioned their R4 Card. Be wary about the R4 as the original manufacturer was sued by Nintendo and has ceased making the cards. There are still some R4 cards out there for sale that have been stocked in a warehouse. But about 85% of the R4′s out there are cloned and there’s a good possibility it will end up bricking your DS (just in case you don’t know “bricking” is a term used when your DS locks up and basically becomes useless, making it as useful as a brick). Personally I think the best card out there is the CycloDS. Sure it’s a little more expensive but it is worth it. And just be sure you are buying for a certified dealer. These cards are also being clones as is just about everyone out there. Sorry for the long post but I had alot to say. Any ?’s just post here, I’ll check back, or just email me. If that’s okay with the head man, Mr. Rackboy that is. Have a good day.

    Corey

  49. chris says:

    actually, EarthBound Zero does work. You just need a .sav file that has the names entered (the problem is with the naming screen). So once you get that, you should be fine. It’s a pain finding one, so you have to make one yourself with an emulator on the computer…

  50. ivan says:

    Bro this is the most easy thing to do I just got my ds lite today from a friend and is allready pimped with the large list of NES games TNX a LOT

  51. Joson says:

    To THE GREAT AUTHER:

    I love your program,but there is a game runing uncorrectly,because the layer problem,maybe you can fix,think you.

    http://download.92wy.com/info/19215.html

  52. JPWang says:

    Hi racketboy!
    I believe it’s very diffcult about done the best NES emulator for NDS. Thank you a lot!!

  53. GoOfy says:

    hey guys help me plz… when i start the nesDS.nds on my nintendo ds appears in the bottom screen some white letter but instantly the letters dissapears and both screens get black i waited a few secs and nothing happens :(! what can i do? i use r4 deluxe… help me plz!!

  54. Don J says:

    I have a mac and every time I am trying to download the mirror version it sends me to a blank page.

  55. A. says:

    Don J, just right click and ‘download item’.

  56. lulu says:

    Hey, guys, could you help me?
    i’m tryin to make this thing work but i can’t.
    i put on my dscard a folder named “nintendo” and inside, the “nes.nds” and all the roms(example: harvestmoon.smc). when i turn on the ds, i see the icon”nes.nds” but there is no rom!
    please, help me!
    ps: would be amazing if you answer me by email. lulu95@oi.com.br

    thanks!

    lulu

  57. RandleSR39 says:

    Hey thanks for this man… but i have a question. i have an r4 right. i downloaded the nds file but where do i save the roms? anywhere?

  58. jack daniels says:

    thx for keeping this mirrored, if it wasn’t available i would constantly be thinking there was something cool i was missing out on. also, i just bought an r4, didn’t brick me yet *crosses fingers* however, always be weary……

  59. zach says:

    after puting this in my apps folder on my acekard2i it froze up right as i lunched it

  60. Shawn says:

    I’m getting to black screens. Help?

  61. Pinky says:

    Hi,

    Please help, I have the nesDS.nds file on my edge card and also have mario bros3 working fine but when i put other .nes roms on there it doesnt work! what is going wrong?

  62. Antonio says:

    I’m having a problem that alot of others are having with the acekard 2 the NESDS loads but once it takes me to the screen where all the roms are i cant do anything my DS just freezes. any helpful tips would be appreciated. thanks!

  63. Nemephosis says:

    Is there a version that actually works more often than five percent of the time? I turn it on, I get to the nesDS menu, and it doesn’t respond. I have to power off and on again.

    It’s worked before but tonight it just totally refuses to do anything. It’s certainly never taken more than 25 tries before (12 at the most.)

  64. Nemephosis says:

    and now I see the last few comments (they go from oldest to newest)…

    I also have an AceKard 2i. Guess it’s a problem specific to that.

  65. aldrea says:

    has anyone heard of dealextreme.com???? $56 for a slot 1 card??? I got mine for 11 AFTER tax. it’s a DSTT card. u get the software off the dstt website for ds roms, and then you can add a snes emu or another emu, as long as the executable ends in .nds. the DS software also has a “GBA mode” for those using a NDS/NDSL.

  66. Bob says:

    OMG this is so awesome!

  67. tyler says:

    i’ve got a DSi and a R4i and when i put it up it just goes black. anyone know why?

  68. adrh says:

    So is this Cyclods Evolution or what?

  69. @ tyler R4i is a cheap piece of clone junk….please will everyone stop buying r4′s! ds games are around $30 each at least spend $30 or $40 and get yourself a decent card….if your using dslite get the m3real perfect bundle or if you have the dsi get the m3i zero…these cards are 100 time better than the r4 and with the dslite and the perfect bundle you get gba compatibility as well.

  70. joe says:

    how could I buy an emulator to be able to play the old nes games on my ds

  71. SgtThom says:

    This emulator is from perfect.It does not have 100% with game that using the extra chips use in famicom version.For example the VRC6 for example Akumajou Densetsu, Madara, Esper Dream II.And VRC7( Lagrange Point) play without the extra sounds that come with this chip and have graphical glitches.Also it’s pretty sad it doesn’t support DPCM channel.

  72. sfBru says:

    great emulator ! ! does anyone know how to save game files? finally found my all time favortie baseball stars. however i cannot figure out how to save… anyone know how?

  73. Y says:

    Plz where found the ROM

  74. Y says:

    Plz help me

  75. Nikomaru says:

    Thanks for the review and the quick instruction, racketboy. I wouldn’t have found this emu if you hadn’t posted a mirrorlink. I love the nesds. I’ve finally beaten SMarioW for the first time ever! (yeah, I’m not a pro-gamer, just an enthusiast)
    On my AceKard2, I had troubles at first getting the emu to work. It wouldn’t start from the file browser screen. Then I used the AK2′s autopatching feature (found by pressing Start while the file is highlighted). The emu started working more readily. I think there is some sort of autoconfigure built into the file itself, because now it starts up with little to no problems whatsoever. I’ve done nothing to upgrade the AK2′s file yet, so I don’t know if that’ll affect the NESDS when I do.
    The only problem I have is with the touch screen’s sensitivity. I can’t seem to get it to not register my touches everywhere else on the screen but where I touch. Needless to say this makes it difficult to load and save the rom’s state for later play, as well as making the sometimes needed adjustments to the emu’s display.
    Also, people keep asking for roms, as if IT’S not AS EASY AS TYPING NES ROMS IN A SEARCH BROWSER. I got mine through torrents like some other smarty-pants. Quit asking for ROMS! RB doesn’t have any and isn’t going to link them for you!
    Thanks, again, Racketboy, for helping people relive their youths in a portable fashion.

  76. Anon says:

    Yeah by the way just get the roms at romulation.net …

  77. nubby says:

    Hey guys. Wasn’t gonna post here because its old but it comes up on good when you search best NDS NES emulator
    Wanted to say that yes the CycloDS is expensive.
    AceKard is better, cheaper.
    Got my AK2 from realhotstuff : good site!
    Got here in i think 3 days.
    Usually AK2 is the FIRST game to get ROM’s working.
    Infact my sister wanted to try a game before she bought, and AK2 had it working the first day, just had to update the firmware!
    It has worked flawlessly with all but ONE game I’ve “tried before I bought” and that one game had even more problems with all other devices!

    I got my AK2 for I think $18 shipped from realhotstuff.com – best buy I ever made!

    Here is the same exact thing I got – still with free shipping – Works on original “fat” DS and DS lite!
    http://realhotstuff.com/acekard-free-shipping-p-438.html

    Got a DSi or DSiXL? Get this one!!!
    http://realhotstuff.com/acekard-free-shipping-p-321.html

    Both $18 shipped. If you’ve got $20 bucks and want to play some games – get one of these, you can play all your GBA, NES, SNES, GBC and more games on the go!

    Oh – forgot to mention – you DO need a microSD card.
    I got a 4GB for $9 at my local microcenter.

    Need to buy one of those, too? Check on realhotstuff, they have the Acekards bundled with them for cheap – or buy them on Amazon! BTW never buy memory cards on ebay even trusted sellers sell fake stuff!
    Note that 1GB will probably hold every NES and SNES game ever made, and the other GB would hold every GBA game ever made. – 2GB is all you will ever need, but if you can grab the 4GB “just in case”.

    For ROMs, for DS, GBA, GBC, SNES, NES, PS1, GCN, and practically every console ever made, go to romulation.com!

    If you need something or want to know something about the Acekard 2 (Which I’ve had for two years and is still functioning fine!) email me at imranh101@gmail.com

  78. Help a swedish man says:

    Hello!
    I’m from Sweden and I need your help!!!
    When I take my rooms on my nesds so can i don’t find them..
    Can you give me a site *nes rooms* on this e-mail ”Please”
    I need your help! ;)

  79. juanpesos1995 says:

    whrere rom is finded?? i need know please!

  80. sonicstar5 says:

    i cannot seem to get this to run earthbound zero, it gets to the file select screen and the graphics stop, but the music keeps playing, as a huge earthbound fan, id like to see nesDS to be able to play this rom, can someone look into this?

  81. corey says:

    why does mine freeze i use a acekard2i is it compatible with it?

  82. Rortiz11b says:

    I tried this on my dsi and it does everything yours does in the video but after you click the morio icon it goes black and stays black. what should i do …

  83. null says:

    This works pretty good, i only wish the GFX were not scaled I would not mind 4:3 overscan on the screen but other than that, this is a great program for the dsixl

  84. Camo says:

    hi i tried to put it on my r4i but i just cant get the games to appear can yu plz HELP ME

  85. Andres says:

    How do you save the games I always have to start over again! how do I save in, for example Super Mario Bros. 3???

  86. sonic007m says:

    When i load snesds i get for a millisecond the menu, but then both screens go black… i fixed this once, but cannot remember how! if any solutions, plz email me
    dennis.vlemmix@hotmail.com

  87. dave says:

    can this play famicom games?

  88. jorge says:

    i need to find the fuckin roms…..

  89. Gannicus says:

    I also think think maybe involved with scaling is happening with the Castlevania games .. Unless that is just me.

Leave a Comment