MKDS Workshop Part 1: Getting the Tools#

Hey! This series is also in video form! Click here to go the playlist or go to the bottom of the page for the video of this part.

Hello and welcome to the Mario Kart DS Workshop! This will be a tutorial series aiming to teach people through modding Mario Kart DS, particularly making custom tracks! You will learn all about making a track, from the modeling, to the ingame things like checkpoints! This first part will show you through the tools you will and will not be using, and how to set up some of them. If you have any doubts or questions, I recommend joining the Mario Kart DS Modding server, where the main community resides. Without further ado, let's dive in!

The Tools you WON'T need#

Let's start by highlighting the tools that are no longer recommended to use, mostly because they are dated and surpassed by other tools, or because they're not useful for modding MKDS.

Mario Kart DS Course Modifier

MKDSCM used to be the main tool for anything regarding MKDS, but nowadays, it is severely outdated and not recommended. There are many reasons: Course model creation is clunky and inefficient, as it doesn’t support quads or stripping, which are key to making a good model. It’s collision generator is just as bad, and the tool overall can even corrupt files. Plus, it lacks the ability to save anything you change! This tool is almost 10 years old, and is not receiving support any longer. It does have some uses still, but I will mention these later on. For now, steer clear of this tool!

Every File Explorer

Another tool that used to be rather useful for MKDS modding, nowadays it doesn’t have much use for this game specifically. It’s collision generator is also outdated, and it’s main purpose, browsing files, has been succeeded by newer tools. While it’s useful in other games, it serves no purpose here, so no need to use this one.


So this is kind of a tricky one. SketchUp is rather easy to use for some people, but for MKDS it isn’t the best option. It prevents you from utilizing vertex colors, which are important to shading a track model, and the model comes out buggy, which will cause issues when generating a track’s collision. This series will strictly be using Blender, so it’s recommended that you give that a shot for this.

DeSmuME Emulator

Chances are this emulator is what you might be most familiar with, but it’s not recommended when testing your tracks, mainly because it doesn’t emulate limitations of the DS hardware accurately. For this series, I will be using MelonDS instead, as well as Twilight Menu++ on my 3DS. A flashcart is strongly recommended, as testing on a console is the best way to go.

The first 2 tools have links here in the site, should you ever need them. With that done, let's mention the tools you will be needing!

The Tools you WILL need#

Mario Kart Toolbox

This handy program is the (almost) all-in-one toolset for modding Mario Kart DS! This program lets you do a lot of things within the game, such as editing the NKM, (checkpoints, CPU routes, cameras, objects, etc), creating the KCL (collision), editing text and kart stats, and most importantly, explore the filesystem in an easy and convenient way! It’s still a work in progress, but there is already a wide range of features that make modding this game a piece of cake. This is the tool that you’ll mainly be using. Download


Blender is an open source, free modelling program with tons of other features to boot. This is the main tool used for making course models, kart models, and the like. While it seems daunting at first, for MKDS we only use a small part of the features, which I will guide you through very soon. You can use either 2.79 or 2.8, but the latest tools support 2.8, so if you have never tried Blender, I recommend going straight to it. Download (2.83)

NNS Blender Plugins

A plugin for the aforementioned Blender, specifically Blender 2.8, which lets you export models in the Intermediate NITRO format, from which you will make your files compatible with the game. Download


A set of programs from the Nintendo DS SDK that converts the IMD format files mentioned before into the files MKDS will use. It also includes batch files for easy conversion. Unlike all the other tools, this one is not public, as it is pretty much copyrighted, being part of the DS SDK and whatnot. You will have to ask NinjaboySC in the Mario Kart DS Modding server for the file. __click here__


This program converts image files to the Nitro TGA format, which you will be needing for the creation of models. Download

There are tons more programs, which you will be able to find in the #getting-started and #tools channels of the MKDS Modding server, which I highly recommend checking once you get there. To avoid confusion and feeling overwhelmed, I will introduce tools as we go along, but these 4 are extremely important to begin with MKDS modding. Now, let's set up the plugins in Blender, and export our project as a ROM in Mario Kart Toolbox.

Installing the NNS Blender Plugins#

Tip: There is an option to import shortcuts from Blender 2.79 here into 2.8 in the splash screen, so if you come from that version I recommend doing that! It'll make it easier to adjust to 2.8.

1. Go to Edit > Preferences.

2. Open the Addons tab, and click on the Install button at the top right.

3. Look for the addon, and click Install Addon.

4. Once it's done, test it out by selecting the cube and going to the Materials tab. If you see a button called "Create NNS Material", it worked!

Now, let's wrap up by exporting your ROM as a project in MKTB.

Exporting your ROM as a project#

1. Once your ROM is opened, you will be greeted to this screen. Click on File > Export > Export Project.

2. Select a location to extract the game. (Preferably a brand new/empty folder)

3. It will ask you if you want to unpack archives. Click yes, and wait for it to finish.

Once it's done, check your specified folder and you'll see everything there. Your project resides in this .nkproj file, so don't delete it or anything! Don't delete anything from the filesystem unless you're replacing stuff. After exporting MKTB will ask you if you want to open the project, click yes. You will also notice the Export NDS function will be available, which we will use to build our project back into a ROM once our changes are done!

That's it for now!#

With all that finished, you are officially ready to start modding MKDS! The next part will show you through modeling, texturing, and creating the materials of your track in Blender! Remember to join the MKDS Modding Discord in the case of any doubts, and to get to know the community! Until then, see you around!

Video version:

Text version made by NintyYoshi on 09/18/20

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« This page (revision-1) was last changed on 21-Jun-2022 17:59 by DylanzuDS