The most common Nintendo 3DS problems, and how to fix them

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.

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

Customer SupportWebsite

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 off

Jeffrey 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.


  • Hold 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.
  • Should you notice the console starting to freeze more often, Nintendo recommends updating to the latest system software. To do this, go to System settings and then select the Other settings option. Continue tapping the right arrow to scroll through the pages until you encounter System update, answer OK or I agree to all questions, and plug in your 3DS charger to assure that the console doesn’t lose battery power.
  • If you are still encountering problems after updating the system, the problem could be with the game you’re playing. Check the eShop for any new updates and try using the Nintendo 3DS Download Repair Tool on the game in question. It can be found in the eShop under “history” and “redownloadable software.” Follow the on-screen instructions to repair the installed software. This will not erase any saved data you have on the 3DS.
  • But if none of these solutions work, the problem may be hardware-related. Go through Nintendo’s online repair service and have them examine your 3DS and SD card.

Your system won’t wake up from Sleep mode

Nintendo 3DS XL hands on 5Jeffrey 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.

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  • Before 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 properly

Nintendo 3DS XL hands on 6Jeffrey 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.


  • If you have a 3DS charging cradle, plug the cradle into an outlet and place your 3DS in it. If the system isn’t charging, Nintendo recommends sending in the console, AC adaptor, and charging cradle to be replaced.
  • If you don’t have the cradle, try plugging the 3DS into your wall outlet using a different AC adaptor.
  • If the console charges when using a different AC adaptor, this means the previous adaptor is faulty. Purchase a replacement unless your 3DS is less than a year old, in which case Nintendo can provide a replacement here. If you purchased the charger separately, it has a 90-day warranty. This is especially important if you recently purchased the New Nintendo 3DS, as it doesn’t come with a charger out of the box.
  • 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.


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.


Circle Pad isn’t working correctly

Nintendo 3DS XL Review joystick handheld gaming system

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.


How to make a new Circle Pad

3DS XL Broken Circle Pad Quick Fix

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.


The touch screen isn’t responding

Nintendo 3DS XL Review lower screen buttons handheld gaming system

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.


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.


Games are running poorly on your “old” 3DS

Super Mario MakerWill Fulton/Digital Trends

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:


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.

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