The 3DS is one of the best gaming consoles around, with a great library built up after nearly 10 years in circulation. But the system has also run into its fair share of technical hiccups over the years. There’s nothing worse than pulling out your favorite 3DS games, only to find the system doesn’t work as expected, particularly when you aren’t sure how to fix them.
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Below, we’ve compiled a list of known technical issues 3DS owners have been dealing with, along with some steps you can take to fix or prevent them. Some of these only apply to a particular version of the system — the original 3DS’ design is substantially different than the New 3DS XL, for instance — while others are issues that occur across the entire 3DS family.
How to get in touch with Nintendo
Nintendo previously had an error code lookup page on its site, but it has been streamlined into a basic search function now. To use it, visit the support page here and simply type in the error code in the search box in the top right. This will direct you to a page with an explanation of the error code you’re getting. You can use these resources for Nintendo Switch problems as well.
Your system is freezing or won’t turn offJeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
Just like mobile phones and computers, the Nintendo 3DS can occasionally lock up completely. In that state, it will not register the buttons you’re pressing, including the power button. Luckily, there is a relatively simple fix for this should you have it occur.
SolutionHold down the system’s power button for ten seconds for a hard reset, which will shut the console down. You can then turn it back on as normal.
Your system won’t wake up from Sleep modeJeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
If you’re finding that your 3DS won’t “wake” from its Sleep mode, your issue is likely related to the unit’s battery not being charged enough. This can occur when you open your first-generation 3DS and the screen refuses to come back to life, or after pressing the “sleep” switch on the side of a 2DS system.
SolutionBefore you try any other troubleshooting, press the power button on your system to turn it off and on again. If the problems related to sleep mode are no longer occurring, you’re all good to go.If it won’t turn back on and the light on your system is blinking red, try plugging in the charger and letting it charge until the orange charging light goes out again. If it isn’t charging, continue to the “console isn’t charging properly” section below.
Console isn’t charging properlyJeffrey Van Camp/Digital Trends
If your battery is dying after a short period of use, the issue could be related to either your charger or the system itself.
SolutionIf you don’t have the cradle, try plugging the 3DS into your wall outlet using a different AC adaptor.Should your 3DS does not charge while using the second adapter, the problem is likely hardware related, and the console should be sent in for repair.
Lines and smudges appear on your top screen
The original 3DS was a remarkable piece of hardware when it launched in 2011 thanks to its glasses-free 3D technology, but its external design was also quite flawed. When you open the system after having it closed, you may notice vertical lines appearing on the far-left and far-right portions of the top screen. They’re particularly noticeable when the 3D effect is turned on. This is due to the bezel surrounding the bottom touch screen being slightly too raised, causing it to make contact with the top screen.
Note: 3DS models since the original were modified to prevent this problem.
SolutionGet a screen protector as soon as possible. Though the lines left on the top screen are usually just smudges caused by the oil on your hands, if you were to bump or drop the 3DS while it was closed, this could turn into a full-blown scratch that would require a more extensive repair.You should invest in a 3DS kit like this one that comes with a microfiber cleaning cloth. Keep it with your system in its case, as you’ll still have to wipe the vertical lines off of the protector when you’re ready to play. Should your system take a tumble, however, the risk of a permanent scratch is now much lower.
Speakers are “popping” or making other undesirable noises
The 3DS’ weak point, across nearly every model, is sound quality. The console’s internal speakers are quiet, tinny, and generally a great incentive to buy a nice pair of headphones. If you’ve been using them in quiet environments, you may have also noticed a popping or crackling sound occurring.
SolutionNintendo’s solution to this is less than ideal. Try turning the volume up above 30% and see if the popping sound stops. If you can’t play the system at a high volume, your next step would be to use a pair of headphones — again, it’s not an ideal solution, but it’ll bypass the design flaw in the system itself.
Circle Pad isn’t working correctly
The Circle Pad on the left side of the 3DS isn’t the most resilient of components. Competitive Super Smash Bros. players can attest to its flimsiness, and it’s capable of breaking off entirely, which would require a more extensive repair. However, if your Circle Pad isn’t acting like it should be, you may be able to fix the problem by simply recalibrating it.
SolutionRecalibrating your Circle Pad is quite easy. Go to Settings and then Other on your 3DS, and scroll through the menus until you spot Circle Pad.
How to make a new Circle Pad
Before you send your 3DS in to be repaired by Nintendo, you might want to consider repairing the system yourself. This fix may violate your system warranty, though technically it does not require any disassembly.
SolutionFlatten out a small piece of polymer clay until it is the same size as the original Circle Pad.Press it on top of the small nub left from the original Circle Pad and ensure that it can still move in all directions.Score the indentation that has formed on the clay with a knife or toothpick, then throw the clay in your oven following the package’s instructions.
The touch screen isn’t responding
The touch screen on the 3DS is used extensively in the system’s games, but it can be quite a bit more finicky than the screens on iOS devices or even the PlayStation Vita. This is largely due to the system using a “resistive” screen that uses pressure and not electric conduction to function.
SolutionIf you’re using your finger to use the 3DS touch screen, try using a stylus instead. Its smaller point will increase the pressure on the screen, which should cause your inputs to register much more clearly.Press harder. The 3DS screen must be pressed quite a bit harder than most contemporary touch screens for it to register your inputs, particularly if you’re “sliding” the stylus instead of tapping with it.If you have a screen protector on your touch screen, you can also try removing it and see if this solves the issue, though we recommend getting a replacement protector as soon as possible.
Your system’s hinge is loose
If you’re using one of the original 3DS models, you might notice that the console’s hinge continues to move quite a bit even after it “clicks” into place. This is in contrast to the very stiff hinge seen on the original DS, and unfortunately, it isn’t something that can actually be fixed.
Note: Models after the original 3DS have largely rectified this issue.
SolutionUnfortunately, the best solution, as inconvenient as it sounds, is to upgrade to a newer 3DS model, such as the 3DS XL or the New Nintendo 3DS. These feature much tighter hinges that won’t be flopping around when you play while lying on your bed or couch.Want to save a little money? The 2DS is also a great option. Though it doesn’t feature a 3D display, it also doesn’t feature a hinge at all!
Games are running poorly on your “old” 3DS
Since the introduction of the more powerful New Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo has released several games that can technically run on both systems, but do not run well on older 3DS models. We’ve compiled a list of these games below, as well as what kind of glitches you can expect if you run them on an older model:Hyrule Warriors Legends: Older systems have trouble with this game, causing significant frame rate drops that really take the fun out of playing. We don’t recommend buying it if you don’t own a New 3DS.Code Name: S.T.E.A.M.: Enemy turns in this strategy game used to take an insanely long time, but a new update enables you to fast-forward them. On a New 3DS, you can speed up enemy turns up to be three times faster. You can only fast-forward them to be two times faster on an original 3DS.
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If you’re not looking to buy a new model, there’s not much you can do to solve this issue. We advise looking for a New 3DS, New 3DS XL, or New 2DS XL. Sadly some of the more recent 3DS games just don’t work or are glitchy on the original model. It’s hard to say goodbye, but it’s probably time to ditch your old model for the new.