Hack 3DS
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

If you're a firm follower of retro gaming, then you'll no doubt be aware of the fine line you have to tread when it comes to piracy and copyright theft.

To fully enjoy gaming's history, devices like flash cartridges have become essential; some games are prohibitively expensive on the secondary market, making them impossible to acquire for most people, while unreleased prototypes and fan-translated versions of regional exclusives can only be played using a flash cart, or via emulation – both of which mean you're dealing with ROMs or ISOs, and are therefore stepping into the murky world of software piracy.

It's easy enough to mitigate this shift in morality; if you're talking about a game from a developer who has long since vanished – or if the game in question is subject to a licencing deal which has expired and means a re-release is unlikely – then resorting to piracy doesn't have the same impact as if you were downloading a PS5 or Nintendo Switch game from the internet, as there are still legal channels to buy those.

Of course, there are layers to this argument that we could debate all day. Still, there surely comes the point when, if a game cannot be purchased either physically or digitally with profits going back to the original IP holder, then the 'crime' of piracy is less objectionable; to think otherwise would be to shut off thousands of video games and not allow the vast majority of players to experience or enjoy them ever again.

This brings us to our main topic: you should totally hack your Nintendo 3DS so you can play games you've downloaded from the internet. Yes, you heard us right. The popular handheld is now, in its creator's eyes, a dead console. Nintendo recently shut down access to the 3DS eShop (along with the Wii U eShop, so this argument applies to that machine, too), which means you can no longer purchase games digitally for the system (you can, however, still download games you have already purchased – for the time being, anyway). These games are still available online, but just not from Nintendo – and hacking your machine with custom firmware is now the only viable way to access the entire library of the 3DS.

When a platform holder cuts ties in this way, it's easy to argue that the consumer has the right to leverage that system's library by other means – otherwise, the console's usefulness is intentionally limited by its manufacturer. Sure, there are a great many games which can still be purchased physically – and we'd encourage you to do so, as even buying a pre-owned game will contribute something to the broader video game industry (be that at a store, which will use that money to buy more stock, or from an individual, who could potentially use the funds from the sale to buy another video game).

However, in the case of the many amazing digital exclusives that were on the 3DS, those games are effectively lost, pending a possible re-release on another system (and, given the unique 3D gimmick of the console, you could argue that even then, you're not getting the whole experience).

Titles like Pullblox, HarmoKnight, Attack of the Friday Monsters, Crimson Shroud, Gotta Protectors and The Denpa Men: They Came By Wave are now no longer available for purchase, even if you wanted to buy them – so hacking your 3DS to gain access is the only way you're going to enjoy these titles again. And what about Sega's glorious series of 3D-enabled titles? Sure, some of these are now on Switch, but the use of autostereoscopic 3D really elevated them to another level (Galaxy Force II is practically worth the price of a 3DS on its own), so it would be a crying shame for them to disappear forever – and that's precisely what will happen if you don't already own them and choose not to hack your console.

We're sure there will be some people who see this encouragement to piracy as a negative, and we will admit, it does feel a little wrong to promote what is essentially theft, but if you can't get these games legally, who does it harm in the long run?

Perhaps you disagree and don't feel that consumers should be hacking any piece of gaming tech? Maybe you're in complete agreement and have already hacked your 3DS. Wherever you stand on this topic, let us know by voting in the poll and leaving a comment.

Would you hack your 3DS? (430 votes)

  1. Yes, I've already done it32%
  2. Yes, I'm considering it50%
  3. No, I'm not against it, but it's not for me12%
  4. No, I would never hack any games console4%
  5. I don't have an opinion either way1%