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The Nintendo DS Lite almost had this popular Switch feature back in 2006

Nintendo DS Lite
(Image credit: Future/Nintendo)

The Nintendo DS Lite is widely considered to be one of Nintendo’s finest hardware refreshes. It helped spur the popular handheld to 154.9 million units sold, and addressed many of the contentious issues consumers had with the console’s original bulky design. 

However, it turns out the compact console was also equipped with a hidden, Nintendo Switch-like feature that was never used: the ability to output to a TV.

The unused feature, which is disabled on the Nintendo DS Lite, was discovered by a team of devoted gaming historians who call themselves ‘Lost Nintendo History’. The team consists of “people aiming to uncover and restore the secrets of Nintendo’s software and hardware,” and they’ve done exactly that with this fascinating find.

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According to the Lost Nintendo History team, who managed to get the hidden DS feature working via some clever hacking and trickery, found that part of the console’s SoC (System-on-Chip) would have allowed the Nintendo DS Lite to output the top display to a TV – imagine playing Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the big screen. 

It should be said that the ability to output to a TV is only found on the Nintendo DS Lite. The original Nintendo DS, Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS do not support the feature, or at least the team at Lost Nintendo History couldn’t replicate the hack on those models. 

If you’d like to try out the feature for yourself (completely at your own risk of course), the Lost Nintendo History team have provided a guide via their GitHub account. It’s worth noting that the Nintendo DS games run at a resolution of 256 x 192 pixels at a 4:3 aspect ratio, so you can only imagine how pixelated and blurry that will look on a 55-inch 4K TV.

Hybrid theory

One of the Nintendo Switch’s most appealing qualities is its hybrid nature. You can play on the TV or or take the console on the move in handheld mode, should you desire. The Wii U also experimented with using the TV and Wii U GamePad to create the sort of dual screen magic Nintendo conjured up on Nintendo DS, but it didn’t really work as dividing your attention between the two wasn’t particularly intuitive.

Nintendo's most recent iteration of the Switch, the Nintendo Switch Lite, is a strictly handheld only device and can't be connected to a TV. We expect that Nintendo's future device, possibly called Nintendo Switch 2 or Nintendo Switch Pro will keep the hybrid functionality but target a 4K resolution when connected to the big screen. 

Via GamesRadar+