Believe it or not, at some point, the Nintendo 3DS was considered to be a great handheld with its XL model, but it’s just not when you compare it to newer portable consoles like the Switch. The 3DS XL is now relatively small, which was apparently a problem for a fan, who figured out a way to enlarge it –double screens and stuff— use another, meatier handheld: the Steam Deck.
This isn’t the first time that Reddit user’rising_tony‘ has attempted to recreate the Nintendo 3Ds – minus the eponymous 3D effect – on a larger scale using the Steam Deck and its touchscreen. A few weeks ago, she shared a video of another setup on Reddit using the Citra 3DS emulator running on a gaming PC, with a desktop monitor replicating the handheld’s top screen and a Steam Deck that replicates the touchscreen and physical game controls. Performance was great, but it lacked the 3DS’s second best feature: portability.
Yesterday, ‘rising_tony’ shared a video of a new setup that was instead completely portable and totally awesome, even adding even more weight to the already heavy 1.5-pound Steam Deck. The desktop monitor has been replaced by an 8-inch Samsung tablet mounted directly to the Steam Deck using a custom 3D-printed attachment you can see more detail here.
All 3DS emulation is now handled by Citra on the Steam Deck, which has more than enough processing power for that, but to make the installation work with two screens, some clever solutions were needed. A “dummy HDMI plug” was created using a connected USB-C dongle to “force the steam deck to create a second display that vertically extends the desktop”. The enclosed Samsung tablet runs the Steam Link Android app and the Steam Deck actually streams the second dummy screen to it.
Streaming video always introduces latency, but in this case, the Samsung tablet was connected to the Steam Deck with the same USB-C dongle, and tethering was enabled. This one meant that both the console and the tablet used the same physical network, with streaming speeds of up to 100MB/s. That reduced the latency and lagged enough to the point where it was almost unnoticeable, and according to ‘rising_tony,‘ “even the shooting gallery minigames in Ocarina of Time are untouched, and with motion controls they are a piece of cake.”
While no hardware or software has been modified to make this work, we can still call it an incredibly clever hack, and another reason to consider investing in a Steam Deck.