8 Best Nintendo DS Emulators for 2023: Ranked and Reviewed

Gamersadmin July 25, 2023

DeSmuME – Feature-Rich and User-Friendly

Portable consoles are interesting, but once they’re out of the way, finding games and working hardware can be a challenge. When the console is as popular as the Nintendo DS, it becomes a problem for modern users. Fortunately, there is not one best Nintendo DS emulator, but at least 8 to choose from.

The DS is mobile, which means that the simulation needs to be available on multiple platforms, including mobile ones. It also means that emulation shouldn’t require high-end hardware, given the DS’ power limitations.

Here are the best Nintendo DS emulators for desktop and mobile devices.



melonDS, a Nintendo DS emulator, plays Super Mario Bros.

simulation: Nintendo DS and DSI
platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, and Vita
download watermelon

With the DS in the logo, colored red to look like a watermelon, this emulator is probably your best bet if you love Nintendo DS. It is an actively developed open source project, available on multiple platforms, mostly x86 ones. It is also officially available for Linux ARM, which means it can be easily ported to Android (which uses the Linux kernel and ARM architecture).

This emulator has big goals, which is to simulate both multiplayer and Wi-Fi gameplay. It started as a project by one of the developers who worked on DeSmuME, another Nintendo DS emulator.

It is often considered the best Nintendo DS emulator, but arguments can be made in favor of others, such as official support for mobile devices, rather than unofficial ports. However, it should be the first to try, because of its functionality, which makes it the best DS emulator.



DeSmuME is one of the best DS emulators out there.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platform: Windows, Linux and macOS
download DeSmuME

DeSmuME is a project that has been around for a while and has the maturity you would want from an emulator. This maturity is actively being developed, not only being an old program, but one with enough revisions to be stable and provide features for those seeking accurate emulation, as well as those who want to play games.

It can be used on Windows, macOS, and Linux as well as online, which makes it a very versatile app. The best versions are the original ones, and they will run the games with the best optimization. It has full Wi-Fi and Netplay support, as well as everything else from graphics and upscaling to various input devices.

melonDS and DeSmuME are often considered the two best Nintendo DS emulators and should be downloaded first.



BizHawk is a great cross platform emulator.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platformWindows and Linux operating systems
download Bizhawk

BizHawk is a name we hear a lot in the world of emulators, namely as a GBA emulator, or even as a Sega Saturn emulator. It’s also a Nintendo DS emulator, and while some might argue that multi-system emulators aren’t the best option if you want precision, they’re better if you want simplicity.

BizHawk also emulates the DSi, among other systems. It uses code from melonDS, which is one of the best Nintendo DS emulators. Notably, BizHawk has a great interface and can load firmware from many systems. You must provide your own firmware, which in this case means dumping the BIOS from the Nintendo DS.

BizHawk is a great choice for those who have a couple of DS favorites but also love games for other consoles/systems.


NO GBA dollars

No Cash GBA is a portable multi-platform Nintendo console emulator.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platform: windows
download NO GBA dollars

A GBA emulator that emulates a Nintendo DS? Well, No Cash or NO $, is a series of emulators, but the main tool emulates GBA and DS/DSi. The series also emulates other consoles, such as the SNES, Commodore 64, PlayStation, and more.

There are some downsides to this series of emulators, despite the fact that they are free. They are under active development but are not open source projects. This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, though, as they are Windows-only.

But, if you want a different Nintendo DS emulation experience, NO$GBA is the right choice. It is also preferred by developers because it has a great debugger. Although it is associated with Windows, it is confirmed to work with Wine on Linux.



GBE+ is a dedicated GBA and DS emulator.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platform: windows
download GBE+

GBE+ stands for GB or GameBoy Enhanced Plus. This is a rewrite of the previous project from the same developer, called GBE. It is primarily a GameBoy emulator, but it also emulates the DS. It is slightly lower on the list due to its slow update process.

Usually, the new version of the emulator is released every April 1, but not as a joke. The annual update makes it a bit difficult to recommend compared to other emulators that have daily releases, sometimes multiple releases per day.

GBE+ is still a good emulator, so much so that it was the first to emulate many things found on various Nintendo hardware. Even with its slow update process, it remains one of the best Nintendo DS emulators.

Note that the current 1.7 version does not come with libpng16-16.dll and that it must be extracted from the 1.6 package in order for the QT or GUI version of the emulator to run on Windows.



NooDS is a cross-platform DS emulator.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platform: Windows, Linux, macOS, Switch, and Vita
download no

Some may say that this is far from the best option when it comes to emulating DS, but it beats other emulators in terms of platform compatibility. Unlike RetroArch, which isn’t always the perfect choice for accuracy or even speed, there aren’t many DS emulators that can run natively on multiple platforms.

NooDS is an open source project that runs on Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, PS Vita, and Nintendo Switch. It follows the concept of rolling release and has daily updates on GitHub. While it may not rival melonDS or DeSmuME as the best Nintendo DS emulator for PC, it can certainly compete with them on other platforms.



DraStic is a Linux oriented DS emulator, mainly focused on Android and Linux platforms.

simulation: Nintendo DS
platform: Android, Linux, and Raspberry Pi
download DrasTic and on the Play Store

The stylized name should tell us that this is a Nintendo DS emulator. What it doesn’t tell us is that this is an emulator that only works on Android, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. While Android users are plentiful, specializing in a single platform brings benefits, but limits exposure.

The app works, but what hurts it is the fact that it is a closed source app, and only a paid version is available on the Play Store. There is nothing wrong with paying for a good product, but when there are some alternatives, people start to think.

Closed source and paid only are not a good combination in the simulation world, but that doesn’t detract from the quality of the product.



RetroArch is a front-end for the libretro API, and can emulate the DS, along with other consoles.

simulation: multiple systems
platform: multiple platforms
download RetroArch and on Steam

Last but not least is libretro’s primary machine, RetroArch. It is available on all platforms that users are likely to use, and it relies on cores generated by other emulators to run its emulation process. It’s a front end that looks good and is easy to use but uses the core of many popular emulators.

For Nintendo DS, RetroArch is based on the two best candidates, DeSmuME and melonDS. One of them is available as a core of RetroArch for mobile, which makes it a solid alternative for mobile users, who aren’t left with a lot of options for Nintendo DS emulation.

RetroArch works great on Android and iOS with support for multiple consoles, as well as popular desktop platforms like Windows, Linux, and macOS.

How to play Nintendo DS games

Using melonDS as an example, here’s how to play Nintendo DS games.

run a game

GTA: Chinatown Wars, running in watermelons.

melonDS is simple in this regard. It does not require any firmware unless you want to run a DSi game. You simply need to point the emulator towards the ROM, usually in a zip file. You should configure the controls to your liking.

Other emulators may require a BIOS, which you need to dump from your DS. As for the games, as always, you need to own the game to play it.

performance concerns

The Nintendo DS is by no means a formidable console to emulate. There have been reviews, but none of them should tax modern hardware too much.

Whether it is on desktop computers or on a smartphone, you have to use the best Nintendo DS emulator, which is one of the emulators on the list.


Nintendo DS has several viable emulators, but these eight are the best. Whether it is for PC, mobile or even consoles, DS has been emulated successfully. Performance shouldn’t be an issue, netplay is available locally and so on, depending on the title.

Depending on the emulator, some games may not work. Most developers have compatibility lists, so you can check ahead before downloading the best Nintendo DS emulators.


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