The Nintendo 3DS is one of the most popular handheld consoles of all time.
According to sales data, the 3DS managed to sell 75.94 million units across its lifetime, which puts it slightly behind the PlayStation Portable (or PSP) and a fair distance ahead of the NES.
While that means the 3DS didn’t quite achieve the popularity of the DS, it was by no means a failure, with a huge library of excellent games launching for the console across its lifespan.
Titles like The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, Fire Emblem: Awakening, and Pokemon X and Y gave 3DS owners something to look forward to, and more obscure gems like SteamWorld Heist and Crimson Shroud gave experimental gamers a conversation starter or two.
Recently, Nintendo announced that it will be ending online play and other online functionality on both 3DS and Wii U.
This means that everything pertaining to the 3DS’ online systems will hypothetically be unavailable after that point, although Nintendo has clarified that you will still be able to redownload purchased software or updates “for the foreseeable future”.
With all of this in mind, you might be wondering whether it’s possible to back up 3DS game saves so that you don’t lose your data when online services are shut down.
Here’s our guide on how you can back up 3DS game saves.
Article Key Takeaways
- Nintendo 3DS: Highly popular handheld console.
- Sales: 75.94 million units, behind PSP, ahead of NES.
- Popularity: Less than DS, but not a failure.
- Game Library: Includes major and experimental titles.
- Online Service: Nintendo ending for 3DS and Wii U.
- Backup Feature: Save games to SD card, limited compatibility.
- SD Card Necessity: Essential for save backups.
- Homebrewing: Alternative for backing up saves, technical expertise required.
You can back up 3DS game saves to your SD card
Assuming you have an SD card inserted into your 3DS system, it is possible to create save data backups, which will then be stored on that SD card.
This process, according to Nintendo, is compatible with every system in the 3DS family, including the original 3DS and 3DS XL, as well as the New 3DS lineup.
All you need to do is head to the game on your 3DS’ Home menu, then touch the arrow at the bottom of your system’s touch screen.
You should see an option marked “Save Data Backup”. Naturally, that’s the option you want to select. This should create a backup of that game’s save data on your SD card.
If you want to restore a backed up save, you need to head to your 3DS’ System Settings menu, where you’ll find an option marked Data Management.
You can then select the Save Data Backup option and restore the save for whichever game you’re looking to play.
Do all games support 3DS save backups?
Unfortunately, as Nintendo itself clarifies, not every game is compatible with the backup feature.
It’s not entirely clear why this is the case, but some have theorised that it may be due to players potentially attempting to cheat on certain software when duping saves or swapping them with other players.
Unfortunately, this means that save backups cannot be created for retail-based 3DS games, which means you can’t create a save backup for any game you’ve bought on cartridge.
This might sound like a slightly ridiculous restriction when considering that most 3DS games are cartridge-based, but sadly, those are the stipulations Nintendo has put in place.
As such, if you’re looking to back up a game outside of the 3DS’ downloadable library, you might struggle.
Can you back up 3DS saves without an SD card?
Sadly, it’s not possible to back up 3DS saves without an SD card, at least not while using the built-in 3DS operating system.
This is because, unlike the Nintendo Switch, the system doesn’t support cloud saving, so it’s not possible to upload save files to the cloud and then grab them later.
As such, if you don’t have an SD card inserted into your 3DS system, you won’t be able to make any save data backups.
Thankfully, SD cards are relatively cheap to obtain. Bear in mind that the 3DS only supports SD cards up to 32GB in size, so make sure you don’t buy anything with a bigger capacity than that.
What if your 3DS won’t back up your save?
You can try a few things if your 3DS won’t back up your saves. Here’s a quick troubleshooting guide with steps to try if your 3DS won’t behave itself.
- Switch the system off and on again. We know that “try turning it off and on again” isn’t the newest tip in the book, but it’s an old adage for a reason: it often works. Try switching your system off – not just putting it into sleep mode, but fully switching it off – and then switching it on again after a few seconds.
- Make sure your 3DS is fully charged. Sometimes, the 3DS refuses to behave itself when it doesn’t have much charge left, so you should make sure that your system is fully charged before you try to back up saves. In fact, the console may even alert you that the charge level is low before you attempt the procedure, and if it does, you know you need to hook up your charger and let the battery recover a little.
- Check your SD card is the correct capacity. If you’ve inserted an SD card that exceeds the 3DS’ maximum capacity, then you may find that your console won’t do what you ask it to. Make sure that your SD card is 32GB or below, and you shouldn’t have any problems backing up your save.
- Make sure the game you’re trying to back up is compatible. As we’ve established, not every 3DS game is compatible with the backup process, unfortunately, so you should check that the game you’re trying to back up works with the process. If it doesn’t, then there’s nothing you can really do to back up your 3DS game saves, sadly.
Will homebrew software help me backup my 3DS saves?
One option many gamers turn to when it comes to keeping their consoles running long past their proverbial sell-by date is homebrewing.
This refers to when users create custom software for machines that are no longer supported by their parent companies, although homebrew software is also often made for consoles or devices that do still enjoy support.
The 3DS is no stranger to the homebrew scene; homebrew methods certainly exist for the 3DS, and it’s more than possible to install custom software on your machine, which may indeed solve your save backup problem.
However, you should be aware that since homebrew software isn’t officially sanctioned by Nintendo, it can be tricky to install and maintain a homebrew 3DS operating system.
In addition, the process of installing said system may be difficult, so you shouldn’t attempt it unless you know you have the level of expertise necessary to go through with the procedure.
You can find a basic guide on how to begin homebrewing your 3DS right here. Be aware that you will require extra peripherals if you want to go through with this, including a second 3DS, a compatible 3DS cartridge, or a soldering iron, depending on which method you choose.
As you can see, it is indeed possible to back up 3DS game saves, although there are a number of restrictions on the process that make it useful only in a handful of cases.
Homebrewing could serve as a possible solution, but it should only be attempted by those who are confident they can complete the procedure without bricking their console, and if that’s not you, don’t be ashamed; you’re not the only one!
It’s unlikely Nintendo will introduce a new method for backing up 3DS saves now, unfortunately, but at least save games are generally stored on their respective cartridges, so you don’t need to rely on the 3DS itself to keep your save data, well, safe.
Visiting Nintendo’s official Support Page is highly recommended for in-depth instructions and assistance. Platforms like GBAtemp are invaluable for insights into third-party applications and community advice. It’s essential to follow secure methods to prevent data loss or damage to your system.