Meet the Nintendo 3DS fans who hope to finally “beat” the puzzle swap by tracking down their rarest puzzle yet


I remember the thrill of my youth, pulling my 3DS out of my bag at the end of the day and seeing the familiar blinking airy indicating I had gotten a StreetPass while I was out and about. I would open the app and see Miis of various people I had passed that day with cute messages and silly hats. And every time I would immediately open Puzzle Swap to see what puzzle pieces they had given me.

When I started Puzzle Swap, I had delusions that one day I would be able to complete every puzzle while passing other 3DS owners on the street. I quickly learned that this is an almost impossible fantasy for many reasons, one of which is that several of the available puzzles can’t even be unlocked unless I travel around the world on special, time-limited events where unique puzzles are developed dealt. I chose to complete the various Mario, Kirby, and Zelda-themed puzzles that appeared on the device by default or as part of occasional online updates. Admittedly, I’ve never managed to do it.

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Now my 3DS is gathering dust in a cupboard somewhere, its online services were permanently disabled earlier this year, and my motivation to operate it has long since dried up. But a dedicated group of fans are still trying to fulfill the dream of collecting all the Puzzle Swap puzzles and are working strenuous to find their white whale: ANA: the rarest puzzle of all.

Chasing ANA

The missing puzzle is a bit strange. It is called ANAでDS, abbreviated as ANA, where ANA stands for “All Nippon Airways”. This is a special puzzle distributed in 2012 from July 21 to September 30 in Japan, but only in three selected airport locations: Terminal 2 of Haneda Airport (Tokyo), New Chitose Airport (Hokkaido), and Naha Airport (Okinawa). Furthermore, the puzzle itself cannot be transferred to others via StreetPass. You can collect pieces from others who have them if you already have the puzzle unlocked, but since the event ended over a decade ago, there is no “legal” way to get the puzzle if you didn’t receive it at that time. As a result, the puzzle is extremely sporadic compared to other puzzles distributed more widely, having eluded many hunters over the years.

An image of the completed ANA puzzle, courtesy of the Nintendo fan Wiki. Notably, while all the other puzzles have high quality images, all we have of ANA is a photo of a 3DS screen. <a href=
Image of the completed ANA puzzle, courtesy of Nintendo fan Wiki. It’s worth noting that while all the other puzzles have high-quality images, all we have of ANA is a shot of the 3DS screen.

This is where Benny and his fellow puzzle hunters come in.

Benny runs a Discord server called The Search for ANAでDS, where about 20 people have been collaborating for the past few weeks to find the last missing puzzle. Benny tells me that he only recently became interested in finding ANA, after his love of the 3DS was reignited thanks to a home app called NetPass, which lets players get StreetPasses over the internet.

Through his interest in NetPass, Benny stumbled upon and joined the search for the Japanese-exclusive Big Mac (photo of a Big Mac from McDonald’s), which was only officially cataloged last month. Just before this, other members of the community managed to track down another time-limited puzzle that was exclusive to the EU Mario and Happy. With Mario & Happy and Big Mac included, 62 of the 63 Puzzle Swap puzzles were officially uploaded to the internet and available for anyone to download. Only one puzzle remained, and Benny’s next target was clear: ANA.

“These puzzles were easier to recover because the required SpotPass data had already been dumped by users onto the Internet; it was basically just a matter of finding the data,” Benny explains. “In this case, it’s more difficult because, to our knowledge, the ANAでDS puzzle data hasn’t been dumped anywhere publicly, so we have to find someone who has the puzzle so we can recover the required data directly from them.”

What Benny and his fellow hunters need to document ANA is plain at first glance: they just need to find one person who has the puzzle unlocked on their 3DS and who is willing to upload the file from their SD card to the Internet. That’s it! No homebrew or modding is required, and the person doesn’t even need to have completed the puzzle. One piece is enough.

Since May, the group has been spreading the word across news sites, subreddits, forums, and other communities in an attempt to find ANA. Once the file is uploaded, the community will take care of the issue and merge the puzzle into a larger file with all the other puzzles, allowing anyone who wants the full puzzle collection and doesn’t mind a bit of homebrew to download all 63 puzzles from the site once.

“If anyone has a puzzle, you can email us at, send us a direct message on Twitter/X to @PuzzleSwapANA, or join our Discord server at and we’ll walk you through the simple steps to recover your puzzle’s SpotPass data (should take 10 minutes max),” Benny explains.

Puzzle maintenance

It may seem strange that the community has united around a game called Puzzle Swap, especially after Nintendo’s official announcement interrupted online communication for the device earlier this year. While local transit is still possible, which means StreetPass itself still works, few people will be carrying a 3DS in their bag in 2024.

However, many of the community members I spoke to told me that it was Nintendo discontinuing service for the 3DS console that motivated them to pick up the handheld again.

“Personally, I use it about as much as my Switch, but I think the shutdown has motivated many people (at least me) to start archiving, modifying, using replacement services (e.g. Pretendo), etc.” – said Croton, another community member who was heavily involved in the hunt, “like I forgot when the shutdown was announced, but I had just modded on a random Tuesday in October, and when the SpotPass archive server started recovering game data, I modded 4 of my family’s other 3D computers to archive them for more data.”

Even if it’s a relatively unknown or niche part of the 3DS console’s legacy, it still matters.

As of this writing, ANA hunters have one lead – comment on NintendoLife article from a user who claims to have ANA on his DS. The community has reached out and is waiting for a response. In the meantime, they are keeping their eyes peeled for other leads on the ANA, in case this one doesn’t pan out. But the overall mood is hopeful.

Maybe he’s right – it only took 13 years.

Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Have a story tip? Send it to

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