If you own an Australian PAL 3DS console, then you'll know how painful it is to see 3DS games on sale going to waste during Black Friday in the US. Or not being able to play that Japan exclusive game on your own 3DS without having to buy another 3DS console from Japan.
Ahh Nintendo and their region locking... until Gateway 3DS came along! Buy game, download ROM, and play!
But alas, there are a few things magic required in order for this to work.
- A Nintendo 3DS (of any variety) with the right firmware between 4.1 to 4.5 (inclusive), so make sure of this before you rush out to buy a Gateway card!
- A Gateway card (both red and blue)
- An SD card with at least 1gb of free space (the one that came with your 3DS is fine)
- A micro-SD for the 3DS ROM you want to run.
- An SD card and microSD reader for your PC
A quick thing to note is the difference between SysNAND and EmuNAND. Gateway 2.0 brings a new feature which allows you to upgrade a fake copy of the firmware without actually going past firmware v4.5.
Your console firmware (SysNAND) still remains on a version between 4.1 to 4.5, and whenever you're on Gateway Mode you're running EmuNAND (any firmware). This allows you to run roms built on firmwares newer than v4.5.
Some things to do before beginning the process.
- Turn off WiFi on your 3DS.
- Have the 3DS fully charged or plugged in
Upgrading 3DS firmware to specific version between 4.1 to 4.5
If your 3DS is on a firmware older than 4.1, then you're gonna have to upgrade it.
Don't do an, online upgrade. It'll take you straight to the latest version and then the Gateway card won't work.
To determine what firmware certain games need, use http://3ds.essh.co/ and filter by the firmware you want. Be careful, games may have different firmware versions depending on which region it's for.
To help you decide, some great titles to choose from are:
- 4.1 Bravely Default (JP)
- 4.1 New Super Mario Bros 2 (US, PAL)
- 4.1 Project X Zone (JP)
- 4.1 Scribblenauts Unlimited (US)
- 4.2 The Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time 3D (China)
- 4.3 Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask (US)
- 4.3 Paper Mario Sticker Star (US) (I'm half hearted about this one, it feels like shovelware)
- 4.4 New Super Mario Brothers 2 (Taiwan)
- 4.4 Castlevania Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate (US)
- 4.4 Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (US)
- 4.5 Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D (US)
- 4.5 Fire Emblem - Awakening
- 4.5 Luigis Mansion 2 (US, JP, PAL)
- 4.5 Pokemon Mystery Dungeon - Gates to Infinity (US, PAL) (Again, feels like shovelware)
Remember, although there is lots of shovelware games, buy the games that are actually good!
If you need any help, I've written a more detailed post about it here.
Get the Gateway firmware
The Gateway doesn't come with a micro SD card so you have to find you own.
Grab the firmware from the official site.
At time of writing, I downloaded v2.0beta1.
Installing the Gateway exploit
You'll need both SD and microSD cards for this part.
From the firmware package:
- extract "GW_BETA_RELEASE_2.0b1\Launcher.dat" to your SD card
- Put the SD card into your SD card slot.
- extract all the contents from "Blue Card (R4i)" to your microSD card
- Put the microSD into your Blue Gateway (installer) card.
- Put the Blue Gateway card into your 3DS
- Run it like any normal DS game
You should see the Gateway logo on the top screen and on the bottom a blue screen with some writing.
Select "GW_INSTALLER.NDS" and follow the steps to install the exploit.
Once done, turn off the 3DS and remove the Blue Gateway card.
Backing up your SysNAND
This requires a minimum of 1GB free space on the Nintendo 3DS SD card, and will take approximately 10 minutes.
Every console has a unique NAND image and if you accidentally update the onboard system NAND then there is currently no known way to restore back to 4.5 through software means.
The only recovery option is to restore via hardware using the backed up NAND image as a last resort.
So please make sure you physically copy the file created by our tool from the SD card to your computers hard drive.
To boot your 3DS into the Gateway menu, go to Settings > Profile > hold "L" and click on "Nintendo DS Profile". Don't let go of L until you see the menu!
It should work within 5 seconds. If it doesn't, just restart it and try again.
Once in, select "Backup System NAND" and press A to confirm. This will take approximately 10mins to complete. At first it'll show "Reading" for some time, but then the progress bar will appear.
Here is my pink 3DS in all it's glory. And yes, you'll have plenty of time to get acquainted with this screen.
Making sure you've backed up the unique NAND for your 3DS, copy all the files from the SD card onto your computer.
In the meantime, turn off the 3DS.
Creating your EmuNAND
Once the copying is done, put the SD card back into your 3DS and turn it on and get back into the Gateway menu.
This time, select the last icon "Format EmuNAND". It'll warn you about wiping all the data off the SD card, but it's fine because you should've backed it up. This will take about 5mins to complete.
For me, I didn't lose any save game process (on New Super Mario Bros 2) when switching between SysNAND and EmuNAND because (I'm guessing here) it doesn't seem to be associated with the SD Card.
Upgrading your EmuNAND firmware
Finally, go to the left-most icon in the Gateway Menu and select "Boot Gateway Mode".
The screen will blank out for about 5 seconds before loading up the main menu. Click on "Settings" and make sure that the firmware version says "GW3D v4.xxx" on it!
Otherwise, you're looking at the original firmware (SysNAND)
and should stop immediately!!!
Set up the wireless access point on your EmuNAND and upgrade the firmware THROUGH THE INTERNET. It is unconfirmed what will happen if you upgrade through a ROM.
At time of writing the latest firmware is v7.0. It's only a few days old but it causes some trouble with Gateway and (for now). On emuNAND v7.0, there is; no access to the eShop. random crashes, unable to play roms outside of console region.
Loading a ROM
Once you have your "whatever.3ds" rom, put it onto your microSD card by using Win32 Disk Imager.
Select the file and select your MicroSD drive, hit "Write". Takes about 5mins to write 1gb on USB2.
Slip the microSD card into the Red Gateway card and throw it into your 3DS.
Boot into Gateway mode via the Nintendo DS Profile exploit and you should see the game appear in the main menu.
There's nothing special about loading the game. Just tap or press A to load it.
Note that each time you shut down the 3DS, you will have to boot into Gateway Mode before you can load the rom.
- If you're after a 3DS with firmware 4.5 or lower, then check the box for "(C) 2012 Nintendo" or earlier. It's right there on the same side as the WiFi certification, barcode and "Original Nintendo Seal of Quality".
- The colour of the 3DS doesn't matter. I keep telling myself this because mine is pink... :\
- The beauty of the EmuNAND is that if your firmware upgrade process goes horrifically wrong, your 3DS won't get bricked! Just restore the image from your backup on the PC and try again.
- To help you keep track of which mode you're in, I strongly advise you to arrange the icons in SysNAND and EmuNAND differently. For example, in SysNAND put the Settings icon first whilst in the EmuNAND put the game icon first.
- To prevent accidental firmware upgrades, enable parental controls!
- In Gateway mode/EmuNAND, exiting the Settings app will revert you back to normal mode (non-Gateway mode). I am not sure if this is still in the SysNAND or not, but it's definitely something to keep in mind.
- At the moment, only one rom can be loaded per microSD card at a time. To load another game, you have to use Win32 Disk Imager again.
- Gateway 3DS
- 3DS Releases
- Gateway 3DS and other flashcarts - Update and Support Thread | GBAtemp.net
- Detailed Guide : How to Setup and Use gateway 3ds to play 3ds games on N3DS V4.5
- Nintendo 3DS (and 3DS XL): Upgrading firmware to v4.1-4.5
- Documentation, manuals and guides included with Gateway firmware