Published on September 24, 2020    Updated on September 17, 2021

How to Play Nintendo DS Games on Your Windows PC

Suddenly felt nostalgic, and wanted to replay one your favourite DS games? Fear not, because there's an emulator that will let you play DS games on PC!

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It is July 1, 2005, it’s on fire outside, and you can’t sleep during the night since everything is burning because of the heat. You feel lonely, so you grab your DS in the middle of the night, but you forgot that your volume is set on high. Your mom hears it, her footsteps are slowly becoming clear the more she approaches. You can sense that she’s trying to listen to what you are doing, but jokes on her, you act like you’re sleeping.

Remembering those memories, makes you wish they created a time machine, but you don’t need that. Because you can play your favourite Nintendo DS games on your PC without having to relive the terrors of your mom appearing out of nowhere while screaming ” SHUT IT DOWN ”. Well, enough of my cackling. Today we will be taking a look at the best DS emulator for PC which will allow you to play any of your favourite games pretty easily. The name of the emulator is DeSmuME.

What’s DeSmuME and how to get it?

DeSmuME is open-source Nintendo Ds Emulator which started development around June 24th, 2009 and was released to the public back on November 27th, 2009.  The aforementioned is now considered as the most accurate Nintendo DS emulator which is capable of running a handful of DS games on a computer. The last DeSmuME version is 0.9.11 which was released in 2015. This version introduced several changes such as the ability to play your games on a higher resolution, bug fixes and other useful things.

But how do you get this emulator? It’s simple, head over to the download page, and get it from there. Note that you need to download the version that matches with your OS. For example, if you’re using an x64bit os, you should get an x64 bit build and vice versa.

How to set up the emulator

Setting up DeSmuME is extremely easy.  Just like the situation with the Sega Dreamcast emulator, this one is the same as it doesn’t require a brainer to install it.  DeSmuMe is a standalone program that doesn’t have an install wizard which means the installation is simple, just extract the emulator from the Zip file and you are ready to ride.

Fun fact, the emulator mustn’t be placed on your main C/drive as it may lead to certain conflicts. That is why it’s recommended to either place inside your user folder or a D/drive.

How to get Nintendo DS games?

” Where can I get ROMs for the DS? ”. That’s one question that has been repeated for the millionth time already, and it still does. A quick search on the internet can lead you to thousands of sites that provide what you need. These sites not only include a handful of DS American and European games, but also Japanese imports which are forever buried in the land of samurai.

How to configure the emulator

Configure controls

DeSmuME supports both keyboard and a gamepad of any kind, be it DirectInput or Xinput. To set up the controls, simply open the emulator> Config> Control Config, and then you’ll end up with the picture above. As you can see, the controls are set to keyboard buttons on default, to change them, simply click on the button you want to change until you notice the green colour shown above.

Loading the game

Before you load the game, DeSmuME has a specific folder named ”Roms ”. I highly recommend throwing all of your Roms right there. Unlike PCSX2, sometimes you don’t need to extract the Rar files containing the Rom. Anyway, to load a game, click on file> Open Rom> then chose the game you have downloaded. Once you press the game, it will launch immediately.

Fullscreen

To enable full-screen mode, press Alt+Enter, and press it again if you want to go back. Note that you can’t use the top screen once you’re in screen mode.

3D Enhancements

Looking back at the original DS handheld resolution, it sure looks awful to stare at, right? But what if I tell you that DeSmuME has the ability to enhance 3D graphics drastically to the point where you think you are playing an actual 3DS game. However, you can’t do this with a regular DeSmuME emulator.

Simply google ”DeSmuME X432R” This is a modified version of the emulator that renders 3D graphics in a higher resolution.  To enable high 3D resolution simply do this:

Go to View > Window Size and select either 2x, 3x, or 4x – as shown below.

Next, go to Config > High-Resolution 3D Renderer and select either X2, X3, or X4 – as shown below. For example, if you selected a 3x Window Size then you should select the X3 renderer.

Note that enabling these high-res 3D graphics may cause some unusual lag as this will be demanding for both your GPU and CPU. Luckily, you can always decrease the renderer from X4 to X3 or even lower to stop slowdowns.

How to save progress

With DeSmuME, you can save your progress at any time, and anywhere. You can use the feature by manually going into the file menu, save states, and then pick up the states you want to save your progress to. If you want to load your game, just do the same thing.

In case if you are someone who uses keyboard shortcuts, to save, simply press Shift+F1. To load, press F1. The game will load at the exact moment where you saved the game.

If you want to avoid all of this, you can simply save in-game and load at the same time whenever you desire.

Screen Filters

Magnification filters enhance graphics to make them look better than the real hardware. You can access this feature by clicking on View > Magnification Filter, then select a filter. Note that each filter offers a significant change. You can pick up the filter which you think fits your needs.

Change LCD Layouts

As you already know, the nature of the Nintendo DS has two screens can make Nintendo DS emulation a bit awkward. Luckily, DeSmuME offers you options. You can change the arrangement of the second screen. You can even hide it so you can blow up the main screen.

Now, to change the LCD Layout by going to View > LCDs layout

Since modern monitors are widescreen, for a better-looking LCD layout, I recommend changing the layout to Horizontal.

How to fix some issues you will encounter using the emulator

Here are some problems that you might probably encounter when using the emulator, but don’t worry, there’s a solution for anything:

I Can’t open DesmuME

Whenever you’re about to open the emulator for the first time, you may perhaps encounter an error like this:

The program can’t start because MSVCP100.dll is missing from your computer

The fix for this problem is easy: Go to the Microsoft website, and download the file I linked you with. If it doesn’t work, make sure to run the emulator using compatibility mode.

Save States error

This problem could mean many things: It could be because you’re loading a save state from a different game or different region of a game. For example, if you’ve captured the save state of an NTSC game, they will only work with an NTSC game. Meaning, PAL games are bound not to save. Secondly, You probably have a save state corruption that is blocking you from saving. The fix probably won’t make your eyes happy, but the only way to solve this is to delete all your save states and start from zero. I highly recommend saving in-game all the time to avoid any problems.

DesmuME is running too slow

I remember the first time I used the emulator. I was using an AMD Athlon II paired with an ATI Radeon HD 2400. You can imagine the dreadful results inside your mind. Anyway, to use this emulator you need a decent CPU and GPU. For those who can’t afford the best stuff, an I5 2400 with an Nvidia GT 710 is more than enough to run the emulator at full speed with no problems.

Useful Tips

Here is some useful stuff that will come in handy for you when using the emulator:

Fast Forward

Fast forward is the feature that speeds up the game. To access it, simply press the Tab key. Hold it down and let go until you want the fast-forwarding to end.

If you want a permanent way to enable fast forward, you can do so by pressing the “+” key several times. This will increase the frame rate. Pressing “-” will lower the frame rate back to normal speed.

Capturing Screenshots

While in-game, press Ctrl+F12 to capture a screenshot. By the way, DeSmuME will save the screenshot as a PNG and toss it in the “Screenshots” folder. Note that it will save the screenshot in its original 1×1 size and use the vertical LCD layout.

Recording Gameplay

If you require recording yourself playing a game on the emulator, DeSmuME will allow that. Simply do the below:

1-Go to File > Record AVI.
2-DeSmuME will prompt you with the Save As window. Enter the name you would like for your movie clip, then click Save.
3-DeSmuME will prompt you with the Video Compression window. Leave it as “Full Frames and click OK.
4-To stop the recording, go to File > Stop AVI.
5-That’s all. DeSmuME will render your gameplay in 1×1 size and with the vertical LCD layout.

Transferring saves from an emulator to another one

The bad news is that DeSmuME’s save states are exclusive to DeSmuME so they cannot be transferred to other Nintendo DS emulators.

The good news is that saves in-game can be transferred. They have a DSV file extension. These files can be transferred to other Nintendo DS emulators that also use the DSV format.

Alternative Emulator

MelonDS

There’s one alternative to DeSmuME, and that is MelonDS.  The emulator is considered by many to be the #1 Nintendo DS emulator. It has native support for enhanced 3D graphics (3D upscaling). It also offers several features such as Various display position/sizing/rotation modes, (WIP) Wifi: local multiplayer, online connectivity, OpenGL renderer, 3D upscaling and other features that are coming with every new build. The emulator is still in progress, and you can download anytime you want.

While I recommend DeSmuME, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at this alternative as well so that you can take a look at what it can offer. Although it does have WI-FI feature which DeSmuME lacks, the latter is still superior at the moment.

NO$GBA

This is another emulator that is capable of running a handful of DS games, but sadly, I haven’t got the time to try it out yet. For discovery, I wanted to include it on these articles so that interested people can give it a try.

RetroArch

RetroArch is a frontend for emulators, game engines and media players. It enables you to run classic games on a wide range of computers and consoles through. The aforementioned has MelonDS core and it enables you to run DS games on your Windows PC, or even your phone.

Conclusion:

With this emulator, you can run a plethora of games. However, with our guide, the experience will become much better.

That’s it for the guide, thank you for reading.

FreeckyCake

Just your average gamer who enjoys hunting hidden gems and underrated games - but still open to any game in the industry if you ask me! My favorite game is Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams and nothing comes close to it to this very day IMO. I highly recommend you to play it!

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