Nintendo game card

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Nintendo game card
Media typeROM cartridge
CapacityDS/DSi: 8–512 MB
3DS/New 3DS: 128 MB–8 GB
Nintendo Switch: 1–32 GB
Developed by
Weight3.5 g (0.12 oz)
UsageNintendo DS line
Nintendo 3DS line
Nintendo Switch line

A Nintendo game card (trademarked as Game Card) is a cartridge-based format used to physically distribute video games for certain Nintendo systems. The game cards resemble smaller, thinner versions of the Game Pak cartridges for previous portable gaming consoles released by Nintendo, such as the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.[1] The mask ROM chips are manufactured by Macronix and have an access speed of 150 ns.[2] The cards contain flash memory,[citation needed] including game data, and a writable portion for saving user data for Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS titles.

Nintendo DS[edit]

Nintendo DS Game Card[edit]

Clockwise from left: A Game Boy Color game cartridge, a Game Boy Advance game cartridge, and a Nintendo DS game cartridge. On the far right is a United States Nickel shown for scale.

Cards for the Nintendo DS ranged from 64 megabits to 4 gigabits (8–512 MB) in capacity[3][4] The cards contain an integrated flash memory and an EEPROM to save user data such as game progress or high scores. However, there are a small number of games that have no save memory such as Electroplankton.

Based on an IGN blog by the developer of MechAssault: Phantom War, larger (such as 128 MB) cards have a 25% slower data transfer rate than the more common smaller (such as 64 MB) cards; however, the specific base rate was not mentioned.[5]

Nintendo DSi Game Card[edit]

In 2008, the Nintendo DSi was launched. The console offered various hardware improvements and additional functions over previous Nintendo DS iterations, such as the inclusion of cameras. While many Nintendo DS titles released afterwards included features that enhanced gameplay when played on the Nintendo DSi console, most of these games retained compatibility with the original DS iterations sans enhanced features. However, a select few retail game titles were released that worked exclusively for the Nintendo DSi consoles for reasons such as requiring camera functions, and these titles have game cards with white-colored casings (all DSi-exclusive games are region locked). Examples of such game cards include Picture Perfect Hair Salon. While these white game cards can be physically inserted into original Nintendo DS consoles, their software did not function due to the missing hardware features. These DSi-exclusive game cards are fully compatible with the Nintendo 3DS family.

Prior to the release of the Nintendo DSi, Nintendo encouraged developers to release DSi-exclusive games as DSiWare downloadables instead of retail game cards that would not function on older Nintendo DS consoles.[6]

Infrared support[edit]

Despite all iterations of the Nintendo DS line lacking native infrared support, certain titles made use of this type of communication function using game cards with their own infrared transceivers. These game cards are generally glossier and darker than common Nintendo DS game cards, and reveal their translucency when exposed to light. Examples of such game cards include Personal Trainer: Walking, which connect to the included pedometers, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, which connect to the included Pokéwalker accessory, and Pokémon Black and White and Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, which connect to other games.[citation needed]

Although all iterations of the Nintendo 3DS family support native infrared functions, Nintendo DS games still use the infrared-enabled game cards themselves when played on a 3DS system, reserving the native infrared for Nintendo 3DS-specific software.[citation needed]

Nintendo 3DS[edit]

Game cards for the Nintendo 3DS are from 1 to 8 gigabytes in size,[7] with 2 GB of game data at launch.[8] They look very similar to DS Game Cards, but are incompatible and have a small tab on one side to prevent them from being inserted into a DS.[9]

Nintendo Switch[edit]

A Game Card from above (left) and from behind (right).

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridges that are officially called Game Card. This iteration is smaller and has a larger storage capacity than its previous versions.[10] Despite its similarities, the Switch is not compatible with DS and 3DS cards.[11] The game cards used in the Switch are non-writable and save data is stored in the console's internal memory, unlike the DS and 3DS's game cards, which are writable and are able to store save data.[12]

Due to their size, the Game Cards are coated with denatonium benzoate, a non-toxic, bitter-tasting agent, as a safety precaution against accidental consumption by young children.[13] Videos of users intentionally tasting the cartridges became a meme prior to the console's launch, which originated from Jeff Gerstmann's actions on a Giant Bomb webcast.[14][15]

The cartridges come in a variety of capacities: 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8GB, 16 GB and 32 GB.[16] 64 GB cartridges were planned to be introduced in the second half of 2018, but due to unspecified circumstances, Nintendo delayed the launch of this variant to 2019.[17]


  1. ^ Vuijk, Rafael (11 October 2006). "First Nintendo DS cartridge information". Dark Fader (Rafael Vuijk). Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  2. ^ "Nintendo: NDS Disassembly". GainGame's Blog. Archived from the original on 25 February 2010. Retrieved 10 February 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ Ni no Kuni was the first DS game to use a 4-gigabit card "GoNintendo: Level 5's press conference - massive info roundup (Fantasy Life announced, Ninokuni's massive DS cart, and much more!)".
  4. ^ Adam Riley (15 July 2007). "E3 2007 News - Archaic Sealed Heat (Nintendo DS) RPG Details". Cubed³. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  5. ^ Sara Guinness (16 June 2006). "MechAssault DS Developer Diary". IGN. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  6. ^ Craig Harris (25 March 2009). "GDC 09: DSi Hybrid, Exclusive Carts Soon". IGN. Fox Interactive Media. Archived from the original on 27 March 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ Yeung, Karlie (17 December 2010). "3DS Cartridges Could Store Up to 8GB". Nintendo World Report. Retrieved 31 January 2012. The memory size for Nintendo 3DS cartridges will range from one to eight gigabytes, reports major Taiwanese newspaper China Times.
  8. ^ Pereira, Chris (21 June 2010). "A Look at the New Nintendo 3DS Game Cards". UGO Entertainment. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 20 November 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  9. ^ "Nintendo 3DS Game Cards Look Like This". Siliconera. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  10. ^ "Nintendo Switch will use cartridges". Polygon. Vox Media. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  11. ^ Arnold, Cory (21 October 2016). "Nintendo Switch not compatible with physical 3DS or Wii U games". Destructoid. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  12. ^ Schreier, Jason (20 January 2017). "Nintendo Answers (And Avoids) Our Switch Questions". Kotaku. Retrieved 20 January 2017. "Nintendo Switch game cards are non-writable; game save data is stored in internal NAND memory."
  13. ^ Dornbush, Johnathon (2 March 2017). "Nintendo Switch Cartridges Taste Terrible". IGN. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  14. ^ "Nintendo Switch cartridges 'taste so bad'". BBC News. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  15. ^ "New trend: Putting disgusting Nintendo Switch cartridges in your mouth". The Daily Dot. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  16. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (13 March 2017). "Why Nintendo Switch games are ending up more expensive". Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  17. ^ Mochizuki, Takashi (27 December 2017). "Nintendo Delays Rollout of 64-Gigabyte Switch Game Cards Until 2019". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2017.