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.

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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.



Joson says:


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

JPWang says:

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

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!!

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.

A. says:

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

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.



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?

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……

zach says:

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

Shawn says:

I’m getting to black screens. Help?

Pinky says:


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?

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!

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.)

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.

aldrea says:

has anyone heard of $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.

Bob says:

OMG this is so awesome!

tyler says:

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

adrh says:

So is this Cyclods Evolution or what?

@ 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.

joe says:

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

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.

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?

Y says:

Plz where found the ROM

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.

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