The debate is long over on whether or not Breath of the Wild is an amazing game. By overwhelming accounts from the many of us who have played it, and even more watching others play it, this is a special game that was a next level jump from Nintendo that a lot of us really weren’t expecting from them at the time.
While some found the article Is Breath of the Wild Worth Buying a Switch For? a bit strange, it’s a question that many had and that related directly to how big a difference in performance and experience a player could expect playing this game on one Nintendo system versus the other.
While the overall experience is generally the same, most players agree that the stronger hardware on the Nintendo Switch make it a better platform for playing Breath of the Wild over The Wii U because of a better frame rate, slightly sharper (better) graphics, and less stuttering thanks to the better hardware.
How the BOTW Debate Started in Wii Vs Switch
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild came out in 2017 at the tail-end of the Nintendo Wii U’s lifecycle. It was supposed to be released earlier, but delays during development as the game designers made sure to get BOTW right might that it would be released late in the console’s lifecycle. At the time there were even rumors that it wouldn’t come out, but Nintendo did ultimately keep its promise of delivering the game on the Wii U system.
While the Wii U had promise, it was limited by the same things that many gamers complained held back its potential since the very beginning: Graphical capabilities and processing power.
These two common complaints about the Wii from gamers would rear their ugly heads once again, and while Breath of the Wild gave an incredible and immersive experience on the Wii, the occasional stuttering or dropped frames broke that immersion.
Not everyone experienced this, but there was enough that the feeling of BOTW not reaching it’s true potential was palatable with many avid gamers despite the positive early reviews.
Then The Nintendo Switch Was Released
It wasn’t until the Nintendo Switch came out that Nintendo Games truly felt like they transitioned to the next generation. This includes The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which plays decently on the Wii U but performs much better on the Switch.
To date, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has sold over 27 million copies, making it one of Nintendo’s best-selling video games of the last decade.
There was something about the Wii U that was holding the new bold open-world game from Nintendo back. Since open-world games require a lot of CPU processing power, it’s easy to see why Nintendo wanted to wait to simultaneously release the game on both platforms. Not only that, but Breath of the Wild makes for a very good launch game to sell new consoles.
The Processing/Power Differences
The Nintendo Switch utilizes Nvidia’s very own Tegra X1 chip and it’s the same chip it uses in even the newest OLED release (Source). The Tegra X1 is the chip Nvidia uses in its Nvidia Shield TV devices. The chipset is not only clocked faster than the Wii U, but the Switch has more TFLOPS, a faster GPU clock speed, and 2GB more RAM.
So what does this all mean in layman’s terms?
All of this leads to a better-performing system, which is to be expected considering it’s a generational leap. In-game this meant no dropped frames, no lagging or stuttering, and the ability to show sharper, slightly more detailed graphics which in an open world game is crucial.
How Do The Switch and Wii U Versions Compare In Terms Of Performance?
The release of the Switch meant a direct comparison could finally be made. A player could play Breath of the Wild on the Wii U and on the Switch and see how each experience was the same or how it differed.
1. Each Have A Target Frame-Rate Of 30 Frames Per Second
One of the surprising things to note is that both of these games do have the same target frame rate of 30 FPS. However, while docked, the Switch version does render the game at 900p. While the unit is undocked, it renders at 720p. This is perfectly acceptable considering the screen is so small, meaning there’s no strain on the frame rate.
While not full-HD, it’s impressive for such a small and compact system. The Wii U version achieves 30 FPS, but it only renders the graphics in 720p. This is much less impressive and it doesn’t look great on a large format display because of it.
This creates the rare situation where an incredibly large screen can actually make the game look worse than it otherwise would.
2. They Have The Same Content
This is a big one that you should know. When you buy the game on the Wii U, you are getting the same content as someone on the Switch and vice versa. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about having anything gatekept from you depending on what system you are looking to play the game on.
The exact same content is available on both systems.
3. Less Stuttering
One of the major things you will notice when you play the Wii U version is that there tends to be a lot of stuttering when you get to densely populated areas like the Kakariko Village. This is where the Wii U starts to struggle.
You will certainly notice a lot more stuttering and drops in the frame rate on the Wii U version. It’s not going to completely detract from the gameplay, but it is certainly noticeable and the same issues aren’t entirely present throughout the Switch version.
However, you may notice drops in framerates on the Switch version, too, but not at nearly the same level.
4. You Get Higher Quality Sounds
One of the minor things that you might notice when you play the Switch version and the Wii U version side by side is that there are a lot better sounds with more definition on the Switch version. That’s because the Switch version delivers improved audio.
This means that you can notice better audio effects that can make the entire experience much more immersive. These are subtle things, but they can make a big difference to your experience considering it’s such an immersive game.
You will notice sounds of water, grass, steps, and more are much more realistic and bringing the world of Breath of the Wild to life.
5. Slightly Better Textures
Another thing that you might notice is that there are better textures on the Switch version. The difference is negligible unless you are comparing them directly side by side, but for detail oriented gamers this will make a difference.
Wii Vs. Switch Breath of the Wild: Which Is Better?
There is no doubt that the Switch version of Breath of the Wild is the better version. Nintendo likely delayed the release of Breath of the Wild to truly use the game as a showcase for what the new hardware was capable of. It only makes sense it offers a better experience.
However, Nintendo also did a great job of not leaving the Wii U in the dust. They released a good version of Breath of the Wild without having to cut core gameplay elements. The performance certainly leaves a lot to be desired on both versions considering a lot of games hit 60 frames per second in the current generation.
However, the game plays and feels great. It’s no wonder it’s one of Nintendo’s best-selling games of the last two generations and why millions of fans cannot wait for Breath of the Wild 2 to release. If you are wondering which platform you should get the game on, it’s very simple.
If you only own a Wii U, get it on the Wii U. If you own both consoles, it’s best to make the leap and get it on the Switch. While both offer good experiences, the Switch version gets the edge and it’s the definitive way to play the game.
Check Amazon.com for your copy of Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch
Enjoy The Breath of the Wild!
Breath of the Wild is a truly incredible game, and many gaming YouTubers have commented that this is one of the rare modern experiences where a video game does a remarkable job of creating that sense of joy and wonder while gaming that modern gamers don’t get to experience very often.
This is a game that truly creates an entire world to explore, and while playing it on the Wii is better than not playing it at all, there’s little question that the Switch is the clear winner in any head to head comparison against the Wii when looking at which system is better for playing Breath of the Wild (BOTW) on.
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Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.