Nintendo Game Card
Media typeFlash ROM
CapacityDS/DSi: 8–512 MB
3DS/New 3DS: 128 MB–8 GB
Nintendo Switch: 1–64 GB
Developed by
Weight3.5 g (0.12 oz)
UsageNintendo DS family
Nintendo 3DS family
Nintendo Switch family

A Nintendo Game Card is a proprietary flash storage-based format used to physically distribute video games for certain Nintendo systems. The game cards resemble both smaller and thinner versions of Hudson's HuCard, the storage medium for the PC-Engine, and the Game Pak ROM cartridges used for previous portable gaming consoles released by Nintendo, such as the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance.[1]

Nintendo DS

Nintendo DS Game Card

Left to right, top to bottom: Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance Game Paks, with Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Switch game cards

Game cards for the Nintendo DS range from 64 megabits to 4 gigabits (8–512 MB) in capacity.[2][3] The cards contain an integrated flash memory for game data 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.

According to an IGN blog by Backbone Entertainment, 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.[4]

Nintendo DSi Game Card

Many Nintendo DS titles released after the launch of the Nintendo DSi in 2008 include features that enhance gameplay when played on the Nintendo DSi console. Most of these games are compatible with the older DS models, however, a select few retail game titles were released that worked exclusively for the Nintendo DSi consoles for reasons such as requiring camera functions. These titles have game cards with white-colored casings. All DSi-exclusive games are region locked. Examples of DSi-exclusive game cards include Picture Perfect Hair Salon. While these white game cards can be physically inserted into original Nintendo DS consoles, their software does not function due to the missing hardware features and will display an error message. 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.[5]

Infrared support

Pokémon Black Version game card, showing its translucency behind light

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 and Active Health With Carol Vorderman, which connect to the included pedometers, Pokémon HeartGold and SoulSilver, which connect to the included Pokéwalker accessory,[6] and Pokémon Black and White and Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, which connect DS systems facing each other.[7][8]

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

Game cards for the Nintendo 3DS are from 1 to 8 gigabytes in size,[9] with 2 GB of game data at launch.[10] 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, DS Lite, DSi or DSi XL[11]

"New" Nintendo 3DS Game Card

These game cards only work on "New" Nintendo 3DS systems, and if inserted into an older Nintendo 3DS system, will display a message displaying it is incompatible. They look exactly the same as normal Nintendo 3DS Game cards.

Nintendo Switch

A Nintendo Switch Game Card from above (left) and from behind (right)

The Nintendo Switch uses non-volatile flash memory technology similar to SD cards that are officially called game cards. These are distinct technologies from volatile game cartridges that are similar to RAM boards. This iteration is smaller and has a larger storage capacity than its previous versions.[12] Despite its similarities, the Switch is not compatible with DS and 3DS cards.[13] The game cards used in the Switch are non-writable and save data is stored in the console's internal memory, unlike DS and 3DS game cards, which are writable and able to store save data.[14]

Because of their small size, Nintendo Switch game cards are coated with denatonium benzoate, a non-toxic bitterant, as a safety precaution against accidental consumption by young children.[15] Videos of users intentionally tasting game cards and reacting with disgust at the taste became a meme prior to the console's launch, which originated from Jeff Gerstmann's actions on a Giant Bomb webcast.[16][17]

The cards come in a variety of capacities: 1 GB, 2 GB, 4 GB, 8 GB, 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB.[18] 64 GB cards, which are made using XtraROM technology from Macronix, 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,[19] and then delayed it again to 2020, where they eventually released.[20][needs update]


  1. ^ Vuijk, Rafael (11 October 2006). "First Nintendo DS cartridge information". Dark Fader (Rafael Vuijk). Retrieved 10 February 2010.
  2. ^ 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!)". Archived from the original on 11 July 2011. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  3. ^ Adam Riley (15 July 2007). "E3 2007 News - Archaic Sealed Heat (Nintendo DS) RPG Details". Cubed³. Retrieved 4 November 2007.
  4. ^ Sara Guinness (16 June 2006). "MechAssault DS Developer Diary". IGN. Archived from the original on 25 December 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2020.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "Pokewalker Operations Manual" (PDF). Nintendo. Archived (PDF) from the original on 13 March 2021. Retrieved 7 July 2021. The Pokéwalker accessory is a pedometer specially designed for use with a Pokémon HeartGold or SoulSilver Version Game Card, by using infrared communication between the Game Card and the Pokéwalker.
  7. ^ "Pokemon Black 2 Instruction Booklet" (PDF). Nintendo. Archived (PDF) from the original on 17 June 2021. Retrieved 7 July 2021. You can connect to nearby Nintendo DS systems using Infrared Connection.
  8. ^ "Pokemon Black Instruction Booklet" (PDF). Nintendo. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 April 2021. Retrieved 7 July 2021. You can connect to nearby Nintendo DS systems using Infrared Connection.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Nintendo 3DS Game Cards Look Like This". Siliconera. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  12. ^ "Nintendo Switch will use cartridges". Polygon. Vox Media. 20 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  13. ^ Arnold, Cory (21 October 2016). "Nintendo Switch not compatible with physical 3DS or Wii U games". Destructoid. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  14. ^ 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."
  15. ^ Dornbush, Johnathon (2 March 2017). "Nintendo Switch Game Cards Taste Terrible". IGN. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Nintendo Switch cartridges 'taste so bad'". BBC News. 2 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  17. ^ "New trend: Putting disgusting Nintendo Switch cartridges in your mouth". The Daily Dot. 6 March 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2017.
  18. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (13 March 2017). "Why Nintendo Switch games are ending up more expensive". Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  19. ^ Mochizuki, Takashi (27 December 2017). "Nintendo Delays Rollout of 64-Gigabyte Switch Game Cards Until 2019". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  20. ^ Rahming, A.K. (24 December 2019). "Switch game cards potentially getting a 64GB variant". Nintendo Enthusiast. Retrieved 25 December 2019.