Gamecard

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This page documents the Nintendo Switch Gamecard.

A Switch game cartridge, frontside
A Switch game cartridge, backside
Close-up of frontside PCB
Close-up of backside PCB
Close-up of stripped frontside PCB

For the Gamecard image format, see here.

For the Gamecard ASIC, see here.

Pinout

Gamecard-pinout.png

Pin Name Direction Description
1, 2 CD# Output Card Detect; Single pin on cartridge side (hardwired to GND). Bridges pin 1 (GND) and 2 (CD#) on slot side as cartridge is inserted
3 CLK Input Clock, 25MHz
4 RCLK Output Return clock; Game cartridge sends back CLK signal delayed by a few ns
5 CS# Input Chip Select
6 DAT1 Inout Data bus pin 1
7 DAT0 Inout Data bus pin 0
8 VCC 3.3v Input
9 DAT3 Inout Data bus pin 3
10 DAT2 Inout Data bus pin 2
11 VCC 1.8v Input
12 DAT5 Inout Data bus pin 5
13 DAT4 Inout Data bus pin 4
14 DAT6 Inout Data bus pin 6
15 DAT7 Inout Data bus pin 7
16 GND
17 RST# Input Reset

All IO use 1.8V for logic HIGH and 0V for logic LOW.

Slot Pinout

Annotated slot pinout

This just maps the cartridge pinout onto the slot on the console.

Pin Name
1 GND
2 CD#
3 CLK
4 RCLK
5 CS#
6 DAT1
7 DAT0
8 VCC 3.3v
9 DAT3
10 DAT2
11 VCC 1.8v
12 DAT5
13 DAT4
14 DAT6
15 DAT7
16 GND
17 RST#

Protocol

Switch game cartridges use a simple (but Nintendo proprietery) SPI-like bus with 8-bit width (DAT7..0). It is very similar to the bus interface of 3DS game cartridges, except with very different commands.

The Switch host starts a transfer by first pulling CS low, followed by clocking a byte each clock cycle. The bus data will always be ready before the rising edge of the CLK signal, so that it can be captured on the rising edge. After command bytes are written to the bus, the direction of the bus implicitly changes and the game cartridge responds. The Switch host keeps clocking while the game cartridge responds. After the transfer is ended, the CS line is pulled high again.

Commands are 16 bytes long, and followed immediately by a 4-byte CRC-32 over the command bytes. After this, the Switch stops driving the data bus, and the bus will be 'floating'. Due to the pull-ups on the bus, it will slowly converge to logic HIGH state. The Switch will clock 2 cycles to allow the bus to settle a direction change. The Switch host will then clock another cycle and if the game cartridge didn't receive the CRC OK, it will respond with "01". Otherwise it will respond with "00" and pull DAT0 low on the next cycle to signal it is busy. The Switch host will then keep clocking until the cartridge is ready.

When the game cartridge is ready to send the actual data response, it will pull the DAT0 pin high for 2 cycles to let the Switch host know. After this, the game cartridge will send the actual data response bytes.

The actual response bytes are also followed immediately by a 4-byte CRC-32 over the actual data response bytes.

Manufacturers

MegaChips
Uses package: LGA, TSOP-48
Uses card id: 0xC2
Lapis
Uses package: LGA, TSOP-48
Uses card id: 0xAE
Renesas
Uses package: LGA, TSOP-48
Uses card id: 0x23
SanDisk?
Uses package: ??
Uses card id: 0x45 ?