Nintendo DS Homebrew Guide

Running homebrew applications on the Nintendo DS is easier than ever these days, but if you didn’t get into the scene on the ground floor, knowing where to start can appear much more daunting than it actually is. The great thing is: you don’t need to crack open your DS and void the warranty. There are numerous peripheral options that handle this easily with no hardware mods required. DS Fanboy has served up a useful guide to the most popular peripherals and homebrew software. They explain the pros and cons of each peripheral along with the installation and uses of a few popular homebrew apps.

Already well versed in the homebrew arts? Then try some hacks we’ve featured previously, like building a serial interface or installing DSLinux and loading it with with software like this on-screen qwerty keyboard.

30 thoughts on “Nintendo DS Homebrew Guide

  1. This article seemed to skip the Datel Games ‘N Music, and a lot of people seem to like to talk smack about it. I have one, and haven’t had any real problems yet. It runs DSOrganize, DSLinux, and everything else I’ve thrown at it so far. There is the occasional hoop to jump through to boot something (rename the .nds to BootMe.nds), but that’s easy. Plus it was only 25 bucks at Best Buy.

  2. dmang:

    The M3 Perfect Lite microSD (NOT the Pro version) is the only slot-2 device that I know of with a real-time clock. It is also quite expensive. It works for both the GBA and the NDS. If you are using it in a GBA, it, of course, cannot play NDS homebrew.

    Since it is an older cart, it doesn’t support automatic DLDI patching like the newer NDS slot-1 cards support; you have to do it manually if the homebrew application requires patching.

  3. I love my DS for homebrew. I now use my DS as an organiser, an e-book reader, mp3/ogg player, as an MPD (Music Player Daemon) remote.

    Unfortunately, it seems some audio transistors burnt out, and the sound is now somewhat saturated, so I barely use the music functionality anymore… Next, the DS doesn’t support WPA2, which I switched back to recently (yeah yeah, I know it’s not foolproof, but it’s still a higher hurdle than WEP).

    I’m tempted by the GP2X, but would rather wait for the upgraded/rival system (which I cannot remember at this moment)

  4. @1: IIRC, my Extreme Flash Advance (homepage at has an RTC and never met a homebrew program it didn’t like. It’ll probably be a bit pricey to find nowadays, though — I don’t know if they’re still making them or not. If I had it to do over again, though, I would buy one that uses a flash card of some sort because the fixed-size storage runs out fast.

    If I were looking to buy a portable for homebrew (e.g. I didn’t already own one) now, I’d look at a PSP first. The price of a DS + R4 is about the same as a PSP + Pandora’s Battery — more, if you can hack your PSP by borrowing one or buying it and reselling on Ebay — and the PSP is a much beefier machine. Granted, you’d lose the touch screen, so if that’s important to you, never mind, but I think the processor is clocked about 5x faster, plus the Official Firmware feature set is a lot more fleshed-out.

  5. Someone needs to call a spade a spade. These flash cards are primarily used to run pirated ROMs, not for homebrew titles. This is alluded to in the linked article, which makes remarks like, “well regarded by many for its high compatibility with commercial ROM…”

  6. i play a couple of nes roms on mine but mainly i use it for nitro tracker although once the korg app comes out i might forget about it. i have the M3 ds real. i really like the homebrew scene on the DS but it seems like nothings been made in a long while or devscene hasn’t updated.

  7. i’ve been really impressed, there’s some fantastic homebrew stuff for the ds. quake / quake II, tyrian, descent, warcraft tower defense… all the sort of stuff i would pay money for.

  8. What would be cool is if someone built a small but powerfull computer that could conect to the ds through slot1 for extra ram and cpu power. That way you could run more powerfull apps.

  9. To jc:

    That is very much impossible. Primarily, Even if you physically manage to entwine a computer and A DS through The DS’s Slot one devise It would Do 0% good. A Processor Can not Piggyback Another Processor to give the weaker one more clocking power. Much less, the chip in a Ds Cart is just ROM. Nothing More.

    On to the Memory. Nintendo has Enabled and expanded the Ds Slot Two device to Accept “DS Option Packs.” One of them being a Memory Expansion pack That Came Exclusively with the Official Nintendo Ds Browser.


  10. I just got the M3DS Real last week! Ive had the MMD for a long time. The mmd is total crap in comparison. The M3 runs everything without any patching just copy and play! The only problem is having enough space to put all the great working programs and games for it! Everything on the mmd has to be patched or a workaround performed or files renamed or just plain doesnt work. I certainly wish I had never seen the mmd. Although I will keep it around so my friend and I can play a couple of the games that do work on it in multi. Other than that I wish I had never gotten it.

  11. @josh

    Check out the DSerial series of Slot-1 cards. It is possible to connect external devices to the DSerial, such as another processor, but offloading any significant functions to an external microprocessor would likely be slow. Serial access to external memory might also be feasible, but it again would be slow.

  12. For those of you attempting to “call a spade a spade”… I just wanted to let people know that I pretty much ONLY USE MY DS for homebrew.

    I bought 5 games with it when I bought it. I don’ t play a single one anymore.

    I downloaded a bunch of games to try out. All of them suck.

    The games I play on my DS are all emulated (genesis, nintendo), homebrew, or ported homebrew games.

    Frankly, 95% of the games on the DS and GBA suck, but the DS, having 2 screens and wifi, is a perfect platform for homebrew (mp3 players, mp3 streaming, vnc remote, web browser, linux, AIM and MSN clients, etc).

    I pack it around with me around the house and if I think about needing to leave someone a message or if I want to see if someone is on AIM, crack it open and send away… maybe do a quick search in DSOrganize or hobro to see what movies are playing, etc… frees me from my computer chair a little more.

    If you want to get it and pirate games, I’m sorry, but i have no pity for people who want to charge $30-40 for games like “Monopoly” which is actually bugged beyond playability, and “Konductra” and other games that I’ve played better flash games on newgrounds…

  13. Alright, having read through everything on this site, i still do not understand what i would need to buy to “unlock” the capabilities of my dsi. I know about the r4 cards but i simply do not know which one to buy, i have looked at this one:

    but i am simply not sure whether it is the right one, could anyone point me in the right direction, maybe post some links to what cards i should buy?

  14. @JudgeX: “If you want to get it and pirate games, I’m sorry, but i have no pity for people who want to charge $30-40 for games like “Monopoly” which is actually bugged beyond playability, and “Konductra” and other games that I’ve played better flash games on newgrounds…”

    So…what exactly is your problem…buggy games that are essentially rip-offs, or boring games that are overpriced? Arguing the counter-theft of a game from a developer that is swindling gamers with releasing buggy products is one thing, but advocating stealing for no other reason than the game is boring is just outright theft.

  15. Hi guys i just bought the r4 card for the ds got it in 4 days in the uk from they are based in china but what can i say they sent it and gave me a tracking number in 3 hours of purchasing. I also tried buying from but all i can say is they are a scam. sent 20 emails asking where my product was never recieved it and never got refunded. Im sticking with r4icards they are great

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