3DS Homebrew Channel And Custom Firmware

Nintendo has always been very wary about allowing independent and homebrew developers making games for their consoles, and the 3DS is no exception. It’s locked down, and a few 3DS and console hackers have spent years searching for a method that will easily allow anyone to run unsigned code. That day is finally here. The exploit is called NINJHAX, and it allows anyone to install the Homebrew Channel, the repository for everything awesome in the world of 3DS homebrew development.

The latest exploit relies on a bit of code in a retail game – Cubic Ninja – to run unsigned code. This game includes a level editor that allows players to share different levels by QR codes and 3DS’ camera. By carefully crafting one of these QR codes, the 3DS gains the ability to run the Homebrew Channel

If this exploit sounds familiar, you’re right. The most common way to open up a Wii for homebrew development is Smash Stack, an exploit found in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This exploit also works by modifying custom stages, and opened the door to a wealth of homebrew development for the Wii.

In the video below, [smea] shows off his exploit by starting Cubic Ninja, going to the QR code level editor, then loading up homebrew games. A copy of the game that enables this exploit, Cubic Ninja, is required for this exploit. Last week, you could buy Cubic Ninja for a few dollars on eBay and Amazon. Today, the price has settled around $50, with a few very dumb or very eager people paying up to $300. If you already have the game, you’ll only need to get the homebrew starter kit, generate a QR code, and start installing unsigned code. All the instructions are available on [smeal]’s site.



29 thoughts on “3DS Homebrew Channel And Custom Firmware

    1. Right? I was kinda mad because the pre-announcement said the game would be revealed on Friday, and I had it budgeted out. Then it got revealed 3 days early. I’ve got no interest in pirating anything but damn if I’m not bummed about this.

  1. >Because this exploit gives anyone with a hacked DS full run-time control, almost anything that can be done with a 3DS is possible, including very easy piracy.


    >and of course cheat your way through Pokemon ORAS.



    No one calls him that. It’s smea or smealum.

    Brian, please do your research carefully about these things. It’s bad enough when people start losing their shit because “OMG U CAN DO DA PIRACYZ W/ DIS” and then it leads to “WHEN WILL WE BE ABLE TO RUN PS3 EMULATOR ON DS PLZ”.

    If there were some more things you wanted to add to the article, you could mention that most of the applications run via the exploit (at release) have been made open-source with a link to https://github.com/smealum and maybe a ctrulib tutorial to get people motivated into developing for the new 3DS home-brew scene.

      1. pretty sure ninjhax is only a usermode hack, meaning piracy is impossible at this stage. The limits of the exploit are not artificial according to smea, so getting full access may be more difficilt than just waiting a couple of.. days.

    1. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m pretty sure that through his experimentation into the exploit and running unsigned code sme managed to brick his console. Thus smea had his console modified so that he can reflash it using that usb port. This exploit is legit

  2. The whole “OMG HOMEBREW IS PIRAcY!” argument is complete BS. Blaming homebrew for piracy is about as useful as blaming Oil companies for killing the dinosaurs.
    Piracy was already rampant on the 3DS. There are several flash carts that allow not only DS(L) games but full 3DS games to be pirated. There was no need for this to enable piracy. It was already done.
    Anybody who says that homebrew is only an excuse for piracy obviously hasn’t noticed that most homebrew systems came out after piracy was already an issue and went out of their way to avoid piracy using their tools.

    Can idiots finally stop the FUD around homebrew so the rest of us can just enjoy writing cool stuff to run on our own hardware and have fun?

    1. Here Here, +1. I don’t buy most consoles anymore for this reason. Its total bullshit that you buy a $400 piece of hardware, yet don’t get to use it. My $170 NUC has way more capability, and I run in steam streaming all my games, watch movies, hulu, netflix, web browser, and emulators, and have any use of bluetooth headsets, usb controllers, display to any tv or monitor with a $7 cable, use USB drives for storage, use network storage, the list goes on and on. SteamBox all the way

  3. Awesome. I was using my DS for homebrew before smartphones were big. There’s some cool stuff- music, video, emulators, browser, IRC, VoIP, damn there was even a program for ARP replay attacks. I actually owned most of my games too, ROMs are just far more convenient.

  4. So I have a complex question. I have an American 3ds and an Australian new Nintendo 3ds. I want to pass region locking and system transfer my American 3ds to my Australian one. Or, if possible, use this to allow me to play American cartridges on my Australian new Nintendo 3ds. Is it possible???

  5. I hope once a full firmware re-write is possible the need for that specific game goes, thus the games resale value should fall again as people that have done the flashing put it back on the market. Much like Passkeys were back in the day.
    Homebrew scene on the original DS was amazing – I was just using a fairly crappy GBAMP (thats right a device for GBA movie playing) – and yet I could;
    – Run a comic book reading
    – Run Moonshell, a pysduo- OS with File browseing and loading, MIDI, OGG and MP3 playback, image viewing and a bunch of other things.
    – Run PuzzilManik DS (excelent thing that made puzzles on the fly – now sold on iOS)
    – Run a RSS feed checker and a email checker (ok, the last was really crude, but functional)
    – FTP program
    – Ports of Knytts Storys (allowing Dont Eat the Mushroom to be played – the greatest artistic game of all time)
    And finally (I kid you not this is real);

    – An experimental image viewer that allowed 3D autosteroscopic viewing on the ORIGINAL DS. Not magic eye, real steroscopic different-image-to-each-eye 3D. Original DS (fats) when held sideways had a slight irregularity to the top screen that allowed it. It blew my mind.

    I only hope that the 3DS homebrew scene becomes so rich. With the cameras and extra horsepower all sorts of interesting things should be possible

  6. I don’t know if smashstack was the most common. Perhaps in the US?

    I remember Zelda being the first, then bannerbomb (which was possibly the most popular since it only needed an SD card). After they patched bannerbomb Lego Indiana Jones was pretty much the only game that could do it. The price was very inflated and I bet those got passed around a lot!

    Then bathaxx (Lego Batman) was released just before letterbomb (which IIRC could not easily be patched by nintendo without breaking something). But the Wii was quite old by the time letterbomb was released, so doubt it was used as much.

    But the Wii is slightly different since it allowed loading stuff from an SD card, I remember reading jokes about how messy the Wii save game import routines must’ve gotten to patch these exploits!

    1. > I don’t know if smashstack was the most common. Perhaps in the US?

      Everybody has Smash Bros. Zelda was the weird middle ground where some people played it on GC, and some people bought it for Wii.

      Yeah, looking at the numbers, 12 million for Smash, 5 million for TP.

      1. I think Smash Bros was more popuar (as a game for exploiting the wii) in NTSC-U than other Reigions. Id put money on bannerbomb being the most popular method overall though.

        Smash Stack is obviously the most comparable to this though – by exploiting a custom level editor.

        1. Not in PAL land, when I wanted it absolutely no shops had it and on eBay it was at least £60!

          Though for a while it was the only widely available hack that worked for PAL (smash stack wasn’t as easily available here as it was for NTSC-U) so it may have had some popularity due to that.

          But I would still put money on bannerbomb since you didn’t need any game!

  7. Hi!

    Homebrew development is awesome in consoles because… well… it’s hacking and programming… and that’s cool. However, the problem is that it’s -also- used for cheating in online videogames and for piracy.

    There is another homebrew in progress for the Wii U (Mario Kart 8), but the developer has been sensible and has not released anything to prevent cheats and piracy. He has even modified the in-game textures and texts. I am not sure if the hack can live in the user and the kernel land, though.

    Homebrew is just a tool… it’s up to its user to decide to do good things or bad things with it.


    1. On the DS and 3DS in particular this is a non-issue. Flash carts have been around for ages and allow very easy piracy. These days a 3DS compatible one can be had for $15. The only reason to develop homebrew now is to develop homebrew.

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