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Guide: Getting Your Nintendo 3DS Online

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Online tips for your shiny new handheld

For some gamers this year, a shiny new 3DS will be waiting for them as a Christmas treat. Nintendo's Wii U may be hogging plenty of attention, but the handheld deserves some limelight due to its ever-growing games catalogue and range of eShop offerings.

Of course, getting the most out of your 3DS really necessitates that you go online. While Wii U makes no bones about pushing you online in order to download the vital system update, it's possible for 3DS owners to skip that step and, as a result, miss out on a lot of the handheld's greatest qualities. When you take the system online you not only gain access to the eShop, but also online multiplayer, Nintendo Video and Swapnote/Nintendo Letter Box.

With online access transforming your handheld into an even bigger bundle of fun, we've put together a short guide for parents or any gamer who's yet to go online with the system.

Basic Internet Setup

The main thing to do, first of all, is to setup your internet connection with the system. Simply follow these steps:

  • Select System Settings, the icon with a spanner logo on your home page.
  • Tap Internet Settings, at the top left of the screen.
  • Select Connection Settings and then New Connection.
  • At this stage you can choose to follow a Tutorial or go for a Manual Setup. Our instructions are for the latter.
  • In the Manual Setup there are a number of options, including the use of the rather rare Nintendo Wi-Fi USB Connector. The simplest option is to choose "Search for Access Point", which will prompt the 3DS to identify your wireless internet connection.
  • There should be a list with your connection, so simply tap it and you'll be prompted to enter the Security Key/Password associated with your wireless connection.
  • If you've entered the security details correctly, your handheld will now connect to your Wi-Fi.

DS Internet Settings

As you no doubt know, the 3DS is backward compatible with DS software, but has a separate area to setup Wi-Fi for DS games. This will have the same restrictions as the original DS system, so only security up to WEP standard is supported. Please note that the main 3DS connection is used for downloading DSiWare from the eShop, so these DS settings only apply for online functionality within DS software when it's running.

  • On the main Internet Settings screen, select Nintendo DS Connections.
  • This works much like the 3DS equivalent, in this case tap on Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Settings on the first screen.
  • Tap on a free Connection box.
  • Once again, use Search for Access Point for the easiest option.
  • Select your connection from the list, and you'll be prompted to enter your Security Key.

Please note, if your internet connection has stronger security than WEP (which is supported in the 3DS system settings), it will not work for this DS-specific connection.

Enabling SpotPass

If you return to the Internet Settings screen, you can also enable SpotPass options. This is a free service that allows Nintendo and other game companies to send you messages and free content when the system isn't in use. This can vary from marketing messages to in-game content and DLC, which are detailed as they arrive in your Notifications screen — the green "speech bubble" icon that's second from right at the top of the home page.

  • Within Internet Settings, tap SpotPass.
  • You can opt-in or out of two separate SpotPass options by simply tapping them and selecting "Yes" to opt-in, or "No" to opt-out.
  • Automatic Software Downloads — This will include free in-game content such as weapon gems in Kid Icarus: Uprising, for example.
  • Sending of System Information — This option allows Nintendo to collect data and records of the games you're playing, the length of time played and so on.

System Update

Many current 3DS handhelds are coming pre-loaded with the most recent system update, but once your internet connection is applied it's worth following these quick steps to ensure that your 3DS is fully up to date.

  • Once again, go to System Settings from your home screen.
  • Tap Other Settings.
  • Navigate to the fourth page in this area, and then select System Update.
  • You'll be prompted to confirm the process and agree to terms — a good opportunity to make sure you've selected the right option — and the system will check the status of your handheld.
  • If it has the latest update you'll be informed and the system will restart. If it's not up to date, a progress bar will appear and the correct update will download and install. When complete the 3DS will restart, and it's recommended that you plug in the AC adapter during an update, as a loss of power during the process could cause damage.

Accessing the eShop

Once your internet settings are enabled you'll be able to play games online, register friends and use the 3DS Internet Browser, but the main benefit is access to the eShop with its range of exclusive downloads, retail downloads, demos, DSiWare and apps. These apps include Swapnote/Nintendo Letter Box, which allows you to send hand-written notes to those on your 3DS friend list.

To access the eShop, simply tap on the orange "shopping bag" icon and you'll be taken through a step-by-step guide. You'll also have the opportunity to connect your 3DS eShop account with your Club Nintendo equivalent, allowing you to claim rewards for your download purchases.

Of course, if you want to know what's happening on the 3DS eShop and which games are worth particular consideration, we review every download and provide extensive coverage in our 3DS eShop section here on Nintendo Life.

If you have any questions about internet setup on your 3DS, leave us a comment below and we'll do our best to help.

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User Comments (39)

Jeremyx7

#5

Jeremyx7 said:

The girl on the far right in that first picture is having WAY TO MUCH FUN with her 3ds! ._.

Flowerlark

#6

Flowerlark said:

Getting the 3DS and DSi online was a breeze. The huge headache was when I first set up my DS Lite for online connectivity. I spent 2 days playing with my wireless settings and combing support forums before I got it to work.

Otto-Soq

#7

Otto-Soq said:

That's my white 3DS XL!!!! I love it! Now i really want a white 3DS XL Flip n Play.

Burning_Spear

#9

Burning_Spear said:

Check out the first picture. The kid with the white 3DS looks like he's wishing he had a Vita. "Bleepin' Nintendogs!"

shinobi88

#10

shinobi88 said:

I wanted to talk about something VERY important. Which has a lot to do with online gaming. Read up and feel free to respond!

I am not yet 30, but I am old enough to be alive when the original NES was in its infant stages. As you all probably know, there was no online gaming for the NES. Every single game was a retail cartridge. Thousands of collectible NES games could be purchased and owned.

Due to the fact I grew up in this era, I am not just a gamer, I am a video game collector. I love having a physical copy of a game to plug in and keep on the shelf or in a shoe box.

Fast forward to today, and it sucks to be a video game collector. Especially for the 3DS. Let me count the way: 1. We are losing retail games to digital games (example: original Shantae was a physical GBC game, 3DS Shantae game will be download title), 2. Region Locking (example: check out videos for E.X. Troopers. It looks insanely awesome. But you can't play...it's region locked to Japan), 3. Retail games aren't being made due to competition from mobile games (Example: many games, like Assassin's Creed and Saint's Row, were cancelled from the 3DS launch lineup due to fear it wouldn't be able to compete with iOS and Android handheld devices, though those fears have somewhat subsided)

As you can see, that's a large chunk of potential great retail games I'll never see due to gaming trends in the 2010s. Just look at what Capcom is doing for Mega Man's monumental 25th anniversary. Instead of giving us an amazingly collectible retail game complete with a retrospective manual like the Mega Man Anniversary collection for GBA that never materialized was supposed to do, we get eShop versions of the original games. Which brings me to my final issue. To this day, I can still plug in physical cartridges to my old consoles 20 years after they were originally released. We have no proof that digital games, especially licensed games and 3rd party games, will still be available to play 20 years down the line, or even 5 years for that matter

shinobi88

#14

shinobi88 said:

According to all-knowing Metacritic, the 3DS currently has 21 games with 80% or better average critic score, while the Vita currently has 15. The 3DS has been on the market almost a full year more than the Vita. So technically, the Vita is winning in terms of quality games per month. Still, aside from a few games like Spy Hunter which appear on both systems, they both offer vastly different experiences. A truly wise man would own both

Windy

#15

Windy said:

@shinobi88 I agree 100% with you. I am 47 years old and have been around since the beginning of videogames. I made a prediction a couple of threads ago that within the next 3 years that every single game will be digital download. This will be very sad.

I have thought over the past few years to just quit the hobby and keep my old stuff and play through it. I sure have enough to keep me busy for years. I love the 3DS though and the online connectivity it has with swapnotes. However I can't help but feel sad that soon you cant get a cartridge for your games. My worry is more that your system can get broken or stolen and Nintendo does not allow you download a game or software but once and you can be out alot of money if that happens

Barbiegurl777

#16

Barbiegurl777 said:

The best advice I can give is:

Please turn on streetpass on your 3ds's for the new gamer's.

Because alot of want to streetpass & were lucky if we get 1 or 2 streetpasses in a month let alone a year depending on where you live. So please turn on the streetpass feature on your 3ds's. :) Thank You! :)

It helps in Puzzle Swap & Find Mii game in the Mii Streetpass Plaza & help's both people get new puzzles/puzzle peices & also tremendesly help's in find mii.

Thank You! ;)

Happy Gaming! (^_^)

Muzer

#19

Muzer said:

@Windy Hate to be devil's advocate here (and I reckon this comment will likely get removed), but this is the one and only time when piracy is a good thing. Say in 10 or 15 or 20 years' time when everyone's lost interest in, say, the Wii, and perhaps one or two of the best WiiWare games have been rerelased/remade for the consoles or computers of the time and the rest simply forgotten about, I'm sure that in the dark corners of whatever the internet will be then, you'd still be able to find downloadable versions of the entire WiiWare back catalogue available to play on any old Wii console you might happen to own, just as today you can find full downloadable back catalogues for obscure and popular consoles alike from 20 years ago, thus ensuring these games aren't lost to time. Of course, I'm not condoning piracy at all - downloading games you don't own a licence to is obviously illegal, and downloading games which you don't own a licence whilst they are still being sold is also very immoral and is one small factor in the poor state of today's game industry, but like it or not, the vast majority of these games would be left forgotten if it weren't for pirates. Take the 3DS - if it never gets hacked, do you really think all the great 3DS eShop download exclusive games like Pullblox, etc. will be playable in 20 years' time unless you happen to find a second-hand 3DS complete with SD card assuming it hasn't been lost or wiped and used for a camera or the next console or whatever where the original owner happened to have purchased these games? I'm quite confident that at the same time, assuming there isn't a massive clampdown on abandonware between now and then, near enough every single piece of WiiWare will be available for anyone who cares to spend a few minutes getting everything set up.

This is why, in general, I prefer physical media. Because with physical media, you don't need to be a pirate to ensure that the games are still playable long past the end of the console's useful commercial life.

TruenoGT

#20

TruenoGT said:

@Muzer I think your opinion is as valid as any other and I appreciate this viewpoint into the discussion. Because of the proprietary nature of games in general (and the limitations of licensing), maintaining accessibility to older game collections is difficult, but important. I can't count the number of times I played a an old game (rom, VC release or otherwise) which entertained, surprised and delighted me much like an old book might. Like any other medium, the newness/oldness alone should not determine it's value, and the preservation of the older games is critical. However, I will say that compilations and digital re-releases have also made it possible for a wider audience to enjoy and legally own many older games which is great (though to your point, licensing keeps many games out of the digital realm). I think that preservation of access to physical media as well as digital availability both have value in the market for those reasons. I hope that both continue to exist and as long as people continue to buy cartridges/discs, they'll continue to be available.

SCAR392

#22

SCAR392 said:

@Windy @shinobi88 For you guys still loving the physical media above... VC releases and other digital media is a good thing, and bad in some ways. Whenever I start a VC game, no matter what past console it's from, it's like playing a brand new game that has just came out(new), like Megaman 9/10. There's kids that wouldn't be able to play the very first Mario game, unless they were on the internet somewhere, and Nintendo's online shops are the only way to legally buy those old games in "like new condition". I believe that the digital versions of the old games on whichever consoles online shop, are the true original games, and are the way they were meant to be played. Nintendo obviously kept the original build of those games on a HDD or something for all those years, and released them on a more powerful system unaffected by the limitations of those old consoles. Those old consoles could only do so much, but did everything it needed to and what was expected of it at the time. Now, pretty much any device released can run any game up to the N64, without even having the specific "OS" N64 used, running an emulator. The bad, is like you said, it feels like you were ripped of everything that made those original copies special. Nintendo(any company really) has shared their creativity and innovations, never forgetting their original intent, or idea of how gaming/tech should be, by allowing anyone with their most current console to have alot of their main games from their long history available in their original form in their online shop. Games on VC are better compared to the physical copy in quality, adding 480p, and clearer sound. The games in your cartridges were digital all along, they just had shell. I recall when the Wii, codenamed Revolution was announced, and so many people were excited to see motion control in new games, and the fact that the Wii remote looked like a NES controller held sideways. The only way a digital library owned by a company can be lost forever, is if the company dies, internet doesn't exist anymore, or the data is wiped clean manually. Just think how convenient they've made distributing a game look, and the possibilities they've opened up to anyone owning their newest device(any company). You could say the same thing about about any media. The Beatles are still selling music after the original records, tapes, cds have been released through iTunes/any online music/video/app shop.

SCAR392

#23

SCAR392 said:

Also, wouldn't it be interesting if an alien found a 3DS, realized it needed electricity to work, and saw these games all because they were on one SD card left in the SD card slot?

grumblegrumble

#24

grumblegrumble said:

I got the red XL when it came out and I am loving it :) I highly recommend the upgrade for current 3DS users!

Spooky

#25

Spooky said:

I think I can honestly say that I have helped more people get online with their Nintendo consoles then anyone else in the world! I really am not exaggerating when I say this either...long story

Dambuster

#27

Dambuster said:

I just want to play MK7 online with out getting booted or waiting ages for a game!!

Muzer

#29

Muzer said:

@SCAR392 I agree with you about virtual console, and it's certainly a good thing to get people playing games they never would have, or haven't played in a long time. But just remember, the titles released on virtual console are but a small subset of all the games released for those systems back in the day - simply for legal/licensing reasons, it's not possible to get all NES games released until the copyright expires in approximately a century's time or whatever. Considering that even now there are licensing issues with WiiWare games (with many of them being permanently removed from the Wii Shop Channel), I don't think any of us expect a virtual console of the future to contain every piece of WiiWare - in fact, I would expect they would mainly concentrate on retail games, leaving WiiWare very under-represented, unless copyright law gets changed with regards to software.

slidecage

#30

slidecage said:

downloads are not new (well maybe in the states it is) but i remember i think it was 10+ years ago japan was doing downloads . i think it was even on the gameboy you could walk into a store with a blank cart go up to a machine and it would download a game into the cart (now back then it was a single cart item so so you wanted mario, you played it beat it you would go back to the store and download your new game but you would lost your mario game forever

Windy

#31

Windy said:

@Muzer You Raised an excellent point. I hate piracy its absolutely what killed the dreamcast. But you are right as software becomes obscure which some already has people look to piracy as the alternative instead of paying the outragious prices of obtaining that Rare copy of the game. all the way around this is sad. what does Nintendo, Sony, microsoft do? well they do what they need too, to fight off this stuff

Windy

#32

Windy said:

@SCAR392 I'm sure I will buy into Digital download. I'm a gamer and love to play. If digital will be the only way to go soon. well then so be it. I will download to play. I wont like it. but I will do it. These companies are not dumb they know that.

Just a side Note....Crimson Shroud which is download only is absolutely Awesome! Check Phillips review then if you like RPG's go download it! It doesnt play Like any RPG ever made. It's a Pen and Paper style with an absolutely Awesome Narrative for the storyline. Best storyline I've seen in years in a videogame.

AutumnShantel

#34

AutumnShantel said:

Wow, I love the way the XL looks! There's always the downfall of getting a console at release, they come out with better colors and designs later...

rjejr

#35

rjejr said:

On topic - maybe it's just me, but I have the hardest time getting the three 3DS in my household online. Not in the house where they are set up, that's fine, but in hotels or McDonalds, anywhere random. I've had laptops and netbooks and an iPod Touch and now a Galaxy Tab and getting online is usually as simple as hitting a checkbox. Too many hoops on the 3DS, I don't even bother anymore. Streetpass is a nice addition, and it only took my kids a few hours for NSMB2 to get the Spotpass message today, but it should still be simpler to connect to hotspots.

UnseatingKDawg

#37

UnseatingKDawg said:

I will admit, shinobi88 and Windy have valid arguments - I'm only 19 myself, and I like to collect the cases and some other gaming memorabilia. But I will also say that the VC service for the Wii and 3DS (even though the 3DS is currently lacking in this department) has served me well. Without these services, I would never have been able to obtain classics like Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, or Donkey Kong Country. Heck, I'm even slightly disappointed that I'm getting the new Paper Mario game via download for Christmas because the carts were sold out in stores. So, downloading games can be good or not so good dependent on the situation. But, I don't think the download-only age is coming so soon. The way I see it, Microsoft and Sony are probably going to follow Nintendo's footsteps for the 8th generation: all retail games will be sold via stores or downloads, with some download-exclusive titles. Then once the time has come for the 9th generation to begin, they'll check the records for the 8th - if there were more retail purchases, then they'll have more physical copies; it there were more downloaded purchases, then they'll have more downloadable titles. Or, maybe they'll take a whole new turn. You never know with videogame companies. They always throw curveballs.

Windy

#39

Windy said:

@Luigifan141 yup we got off topic sorry about that. Myself, I sometimes get caught up putting myself right in the middle. I will try and be mindful of what the topic is.

On Topic: I want an MMORPG on 3DS now that would Impress me bigtime.

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