Salvaging Games From A Broken 3DS Is Surprisingly Easy

Salvaging Games From A Broken 3DS Is Surprisingly Easy

My 3DS bit the dust a few months back. Rather than pay for Nintendo to fix it, I waited for the New 3DS. Unfortunately, most of my games were purchased digitally, and you can’t just insert an old SD card into a New 3DS. On Nintendo platforms, games are tied to the hardware. Dumb? Yes. Reality? Also yes! So I got on the phone with Nintendo to find out what my options were.

The short version is I was able to get my games back pretty quickly. The longer version? Well…

See, the handheld refused to hold a charge. I swapped the battery for a new one, plugged in a different cable, and tried every other trick around the Internet, but nothing worked. It was dead.

Honestly, I’d been looking for a reason to purchase another 3DS for a while. I’d been jealous of the larger screen on the 3DS XL, but that didn’t seem worth spending a few hundred dollars. When my 3DS went kaput, however, and a new-and-improved model was on the horizon, the stars had aligned. The question was how my digital games were going to make the journey.

On just about any other device these days, handheld or not, it’s simple. You connect an existing store account to a new device, download the old software, and move on with your life. On most platforms, even your save files are stored in the cloud, so you won’t lose progress on your games.

The 3DS does not work that way.

For anyone with a working 3DS, the process is annoying but ultimately straightforward. By flipping on on both 3DS machines and initiating a system transfer, the content will slowly but surely move from one device to another. Since my 3DS won’t turn on, that’s not a possibility.

I was prepared for the worst. Could my games be lost forever? Would Nintendo force me to fix my old 3DS? Fortunately, I’m happy to report the process was quick, easy, and painless. Yep!

It began after my New 3DS showed up. Nintendo’s phone lines were swamped, so I dropped into their web chat. After an hour of endlessly queueing up, I gave up and submitted a support ticket. Nintendo promised to get back to me quickly, and this showed up just a few days later:

I responded and said this didn’t solve my issue. Impatient, I called Nintendo in the meantime.

The whole call lasted less than 10 minutes. I barely had to explain my situation to the Nintendo representative that picked up before he was taking down my information. Clearly, I was not the first person to call about this problem. He asked me for my Nintendo Network ID, quizzed me about a few purchases made to the account, and asked for the serial number for my New 3DS.

And that was it.

The rep told me it’d be two business days before the ID was transferred to the new device, and an email from Nintendo would show up when the process was complete. Sure enough, two days later, an email from Nintendo popped up and told me to log in on my New 3DS.

After punching in all my information, I headed over the ye ol’ eShop. Drum roll please…


While I have to re-download my games, all of the purchases are on my New 3DS. It feels good to have Pushmo back in my life. (If you haven’t played Pushmo, what’re you doing? Go fix that.)

There’s a catch, of course: my save data didn’t move over. Nintendo doesn’t store saves in the cloud. The New 3DS uses Micro SD cards and I don’t have a way of reading them on my computer, so there’s no way to drag the data from my old 3DS SD card to my New 3DS SD card.

Nintendo has published a support document for transferring data, which a Kotaku reader, who recently emailed us, tried out. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for him, and the 3DS wouldn’t recognise his save data. Like me, Nintendo moved his Nintendo Network ID from an old 3DS to a New 3DS, rather than going through the formal system transfer process. Maybe that’s it.

Nothing with Nintendo is without a few bumps in the road, but it was mostly a pleasant experience. Please tell me if you’ve had a difference one, though, and I’d be happy to listen!

I’m mostly upset about losing all of the StreetPass data. My dang puzzle pieces! Sigh…


  • Not sure if the comment went through the other day when I posted in a New 3DS story, but I did a OG to XL transfer weeks before the release of the New, and my digital copy of Animal Crossing didn’t make it over.

    Shouldn’t have called my town Chernobyl then.

  • It really is beyond a joke that Nintendo haven’t started tying your purchases to your account yet, as opposed to the hardware. Both Sony and Microsoft (not to mention Steam on the PC) figured this out close to a decade ago. How long is it going to take Nintendo to get with the times?

    • So if I have a 2DS and a 3DS I would have to buy games twice in order to have them on both systems? Is it even possible to have them on both systems using the same Nintendo ID?

      • Nintendo digital purchases are bound to a single console. Only exception is transferring them to a new device, in which case the software in question is removed from the original device.

        So bad. Even the NNID does naught to help – in fact it makes it even worse because NNIDs are locked to a region much like the games – further limiting your options when trying to use say, a US NNID on a EU/AU device.

        Basically means if you lose/destroy a device, you lose everything.

        • 1) It’s a good business decision, more purchases means more money for them. Plus, can you imagine if a bunch of friends just shared an account? All that lost revenue and people get to play games they didn’t pay for.

          2) As this article has proven. A lost/destroyed device doesn’t mean you lose everything.

  • My original 3DS is still going fairly strongly, although I keep it charging on my desk most of the day so I’m not actually sure how well the battery is holding up. Really want to upgrade to a new 3DS… but don’t have the cash.

    But yeah, losing my Streetpass data is one of my worst fears. So many puzzle pieces! I’m honestly not sure I would start again if I had to.

    • I didn’t think I would start again after my original unit got bricked. And I did hold off for a while.

      But then the monster took hold again >_

  • Dumbly, while over in the US myself and travel mate bought each other 3DS’s for each other as xmas presents, not knowing that the archaic process of region locking was still a thing. Would a data transfer, or the method that this story explains be of any use to me if I were to buy an aussie DS?

    • Pretty sure that’s a “no”. The transfer checks in with the Internet regularly, so there’s no way it’s going to let you transfer software and settings across regions.

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