Guide: Getting Your Nintendo 3DS Online

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.