Disclaimer: We do not advise using emulators or downloading ROMs online.

The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming computer that is set to compete against the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox. Since it is a mini-computer, this gaming console is capable of emulating classic consoles such as the PlayStation 2.

But what if you want to emulate Nintendo 3DS games on the Steam Deck, is it possible? Well, we are about to find out.

Can Steam Deck Emulate Nintendo 3DS?

The short answer is yes, the Steam Deck can emulate Nintendo 3DS games. All you need to do is to install a Nintendo 3DS emulator such as Citra and you can play your favorite 3DS titles on the go.

Nintendo 3DS emulation is huge for gaming enthusiasts who want to play on their PC. It is also one way to play 3DS titles without owning the actual console.

Now that the Steam Deck is here, it is a dream come true for emulator fans since they get the benefit of playing handheld anywhere unlike PC emulation where they are stuck in front of a computer.

How To Emulate A Nintendo 3DS On Steam Deck Using Citra

The best way to play Nintendo 3DS games on the Steam Deck is through Citra – an open-source 3DS emulator for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. Since the Steam Deck is a computer and is not a standalone console, it is compatible with Citra.

Before we get started, we would like to remind you that there is a fine line between emulation and piracy. Some would say that emulating Nintendo Games is piracy. That being said, we do not condone piracy by any means. Buy games through legal means if possible.

With that in the way, let’s get started.

Install Citra On Steam Deck

  1. Go to the Steam Deck desktop mode by pressing the Steam button then click on Power. Select Switch to Desktop mode.
  2. Open the Discover software center.
  3. Click on Application then click on Games.
  4. Click on Emulators.
  5. Scroll down until you see Citra. Click on it.
  6. Click the Install button in the upper right corner. Wait until the download is finished.
  7. Once done, press the Launch button on the upper right corner of the screen.
  8. You now have Citra. Time to install games and have fun.

Installing Nintendo 3DS Games on The Steam Deck Using Citra

  1. Upon launching Citra for the first time, a prompt will appear telling you to “add a new folder to the game list.”
  2. Before creating a new folder, you need to download Nintendo 3DS games online so open your browser.
  3. On your browser, type Nintendo 3DS Games ROM, and you will see a lot of choices. You may go ahead and choose the first result – usually, it is Romsfun.com.
  4. Download the game of your choice and transfer it to your game folder. You may create a Nintendo 3DS ROM folder on your Steam Deck storage, MicroSD card slot, or external Solid State Drive (SSD).
  5. Go back to Citra.
  6. Double-click on your screen to add a new folder.
  7. Select the folder where you have transferred your Nintendo 3DS ROM.
  8. You will now see the list of your available 3DS games.

Configure Your Citra Graphics Settings

  1. Open Citra on your Steam Deck.
  2. Head on to the Emulation on the top menu and click on Configure.
  3. Go to the Graphics Setting section on the left.
  4. Under Internal Resolution, select “3x Native (1200×720)” since it is the screen resolution of the Steam Deck. You may also set it to “2x Native (800×480) to reduce graphics card load.
  5. Adjust any settings that you want. But for now, the resolution change is what matters.

Configure Your Controller Settings

  1. Open Citra on your Steam Deck.
  2. Head on to Emulation on the top menu and click on Configure.
  3. On the left side, you will see the Controls setting section.
  4. Configure your controls the way you want to. This is a personal choice so go with the controller setting that you are comfortable with. However, do not forget that the A, B, X, and Y button is reversed on the Nintendo 3DS.
  5. Save your control configuration by clicking on the left sidebar. Press the Steam button and X.
  6. The on-screen keyboard will show up. Press the Enter key. If you have a keyboard plugged in just go ahead and press Enter directly. The reason why the on-screen keyboard needs to show up is that the “Okay” button on Citra is hidden below the Steam Deck screen and it will not show up even if you try as much.

Optimizing Controls

  1. Open Steam and check if Citra is on the game list.
  2. If not, click on Add a Game on the lower left side of the screen.
  3. Select Citra and click Okay.
  4. Go back to Gaming Mode by clicking on the shortcut on your home screen.
  5. Go to your Library and Open Citra from there.
  6. Once Citra is open, press the Steam button.
  7. Click on Controller settings.
  8. Click on the controller layout.
  9. Select Gamepad with Mouse Trackpad.
  10. Edit the Layout.
  11. On the Joysticks, set the Right Thumbstick Click to F. This is the shortcut if you want to Toggle Screen Layout.
  12. On the Left Thumbstick Click, set it to S. This is the shortcut if you want to swap Screens.
  13. Set the L4 Back Grip to X. This is the shortcut for Full Screen.
  14. You can configure your controller layout any way you want. However, doing these steps will give you access to the trackpad without losing touchscreen input.

That is it! Your Steam Deck is ready to play Nintendo 3DS games. Feel free to change the controller setup and graphics settings depending on your personal preference.

Also, Citra might get flaky or stutter at times but that is okay. All you need to do is to adjust the graphics settings and see if it reduces lags and stutters.

What Are The Available Screen Layouts On Citra

The Nintendo 3DS has two screens while the Steam Deck only has one so how can does this work on Citra?

There are four available screen layouts on Citra to choose from.

The default mode shows the primary and secondary screens in a stacked format. The primary screen on top and the second one below – it is similar to how the Nintendo 3DS screens looked in the actual console.

The Large Screen layout displays the main screen with a tiny secondary screen on the right.

The Side by Side layout shows the two screens beside each other in equal size.

The Single Screen option only shows the main screen and it takes the whole Steam Deck display. This is where the keybinds earlier are useful since you can switch between the primary and secondary screen in an instant.

Wrapping Up

The Steam Deck is a magnificent gaming console wherein you can basically play PC games and console titles. Emulating Nintendo 3DS games on the Steam Deck is no slouch too. It is smooth and can run all the best 3DS titles to date.

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Author

Aim is a content writer who loves playing Apex Legends and Dota 2. He also plays casual games such as Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokemon titles on his Nintendo Switch too. He sometimes streams on his Facebook Gaming page called Aimpossible.