Why Can’t I Play Wii U Games on the 3DS? (And Vice Versa)

The connection between the 3DS and Wii U is closer than any other Nintendo handheld and home console has ever been — technically. Now, why “technically”? Well, they both share similar UIs. They have their own dedicated social network (Miiverse), and of course there’s the shareable Mii characters. Super Smash Bros. on Wii U even allows the 3DS to be used as an additional controller.

So yes, the Wii U and 3DS have a pretty close relationship. However, there’s something that their rivals are doing that they haven’t done yet; not to mention that their early predecessors were even able to do it. That’s right, cross-gameplay.


The design of the Wii U and 3DS is incredibly similar. The point of the similar UI has already been brought up, but there’s a factor even greater than that — the dual-screen experience. Now, it’s true that while both these systems offer a dual-screen set-up, they approach it from different angles. Naturally, the 3DS focuses on 3D experiences. On the other hand, the Wii U focuses on having a second view completely independent of what’s happening on the main screen. Despite the different approaches, both of these systems still share set-ups that are so similar to each other; that’s why it’s very easy to imagine the same games being played across each platform. How so?

The 3DS has a gyroscope and accelerometer, just like the Wii U GamePad. That means that even a title like Splatoon that’s primarily reliant on the GamePad can be played just fine on the handheld. With the improved button layout of the New 3DS, this dream can be realized to an even greater extent seeing that practically all of the GamePad’s controls can be implemented. On the flip side, the Wii U is quite capable of mimicking the 3DS experience.

True, the lack of the 3D effect may be a bit off-putting for some titles; like Super Mario 3D Land for example, which actually does rely the 3D effect to an extent. Even so, Nintendo made sure that the 3D-effect was more of a luxury than a necessity. After all, the 2DS is a thing. With that in mind, the only real hurdle that would need to be overcome is the pixelation due to the fact that the games would need to be stretched out. Nevertheless, the precedent has already been set by means of the DS games that are now part of the Wii U’s Virtual Console library. If DS titles can be successfully played on the system, then 3DS titles shouldn’t be much of a problem.

Wii U DSThe Wii U can already play games from the original DS just fine. 

As mentioned before, this is something that’s already been done and is currently being done. Nintendo themselves got the ball rolling with the Super Gameboy back in 1994. This special add-on for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) allowed for Gameboy titles to be played on the big screen. Nintendo reintroduced the functionality with a similar add-on for the Gamecube which allowed Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance cartridges to all be played on the TV. Today, we have the PlayStation Remote Play feature of the PS Vita and PS4, which allows PS4 games to be streamed to the Vita. By extension, the PS Vita TV can also be stream PS4 titles, as well as play regular Vita titles on the TV screen.

Seeing that Nintendo has already successfully implemented these cross-play features in the past, and Sony has gone ahead and built upon the idea here in the present, it’s strange that after 3 years of the Wii U and 3DS sharing the spotlight, their relationship hasn’t really grown all that much. Only recently have we seen features like cross-buy come into play, and that’s still something that’s been implemented into a handful of titles.

Before, I brought up the topic of a hybrid system. I said that the idea does make a lot of sense, simply because there are so many instances where being able to play console titles while on the go would fit very well. Standing by that opinion, that’s why I think that Nintendo can, or rather should have jumped on the idea from the very beginning. As mentioned before, they have all the more reason to do so since the New 3DS has all the buttons necessary to replicate the Wii U GamePad, not to mention its added processing power (something that has been underused anyway).

remoteplay1It’s already being done elsewhere. 

In the past, handhelds and home consoles offered two different kinds of gaming experiences. With that in mind, playing a handheld game on the big screen was more a novelty than an actual ground-breaking feature. Today, the world is centered around having inter-connectivity between devices. From cloud-based applications to Bluetooth communication, having access to everything regardless of where you are is starting to become a commodity. So then, it seems only natural that gaming is slowly but surely starting to push in that direction, which is why it would make all the more sense for the Wii U and 3DS to share a deeper connection.

Nintendo may have already contemplated this, and they really may just be saving it for their future endeavors, but that doesn’t change the fact that the idea makes so much sense, it should have been implemented a long time ago. This may very well remain as nothing but a pipe dream until we see what they intend to do beyond horizon, but nevertheless, having that level of connection right now would be more than appreciated.

A.K Rahming
Having been introduced to video games at the age of 3 via a Nintendo 64, A.K has grown up in the culture. A fan of simulators and racers, with a soft spot for Nintendo! But, he has a great respect for the entire video game world and enjoys watching it all expand as a whole.