Believe it or not, at one point in time, the Nintendo 3DS was considered a large 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 one fan, who came up with a way to supersize it—dual screens and all—using another, beefier handheld: the Steam Deck.
This isn’t the first time Reddit user ‘rising_tony’ has attempted to recreate the Nintendo 3Ds—minus the namesake 3D effect—on a larger scale using the Steam Deck and its touchscreen. A few weeks ago, they shared a video of a different setup on Reddit that used the Citra 3DS emulator running on a gaming PC, with a desktop monitor replicating the handheld’s top screen and a Steam Deck replicating the touchscreen and physical gaming controls. Performance was great, but it lacked the 3DS’ second best feature: portability.
Yesterday, ‘rising_tony’ shared a video of a new setup that was instead completely portable and completely awesome, even if it added even more weight to the already heavy 1.5-pound Steam Deck. The desktop monitor was replaced by an 8-inch Samsung tablet attached directly to the Steam Deck using a custom 3D-printed attachment you can see in more detail here.
All of the 3DS emulation is now handled by Citra running on the Steam Deck, which has more than enough processing power to do so, but to make the dual screen setup work required some clever workarounds. A “dummy HDMI plug” was created using a connected USB-C dongle to “force the steam deck to create a second display that extends the desktop vertically.” The attached Samsung Tablet is running the Steam Link Android app and the Steam Deck actually streams the second dummy display to it.
Streaming video always introduces latency, but in this case, the Samsung tablet was connected to the Steam Deck using the same USB-C dongle, and tethering was enabled. This meant both the console and the tablet were using the same physical network, providing streaming speeds of up to 100 mb/s. That reduced the latency and lag enough to the point where it was almost imperceptible, and according to ‘rising_tony,’ “even the shooting gallery minigames in Ocarina of Time are unaffected, and with motion controls they are a breeze.”
Although no hardware or software was modified to make this work, we’re still happy to declare it an incredibly clever hack, and yet another reason to consider investing in a Steam Deck.