The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’s Switch And Wii U Versions, Compared

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’s Switch And Wii U Versions, Compared

By now everyone knows that Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Nintendo Switch is a unique achievement, but how does the Wii U version of the game measure up? The latest video from Digital Foundry explains.

While Zelda: Breath of the Wild on both the Wii U and the Nintendo Switch appear to be mostly on par with one another, there are some differences when it comes to framerates. The video comparison, which deals exclusively with the first hour of the game so as to avoid spoilers, shows both the benefits and trade-offs associated with the two versions.

In docked mode, the Switch outputs the game at 900p compared to the Wii U’s 720p. On both systems the game is set to hard-lock at 20fps when it drops from its normal 30fps, but it doesn’t appear like one consistently outperforms the other. Instead, the Wii U framerate would drop in certain locations that the Switch handled fine, and vice versa for the Switch.

On one part of a hill, the Switch was able to maintain 30fps while the Wii U struggled, but in some ruins the situation was flipped. Digital Foundry hypothesises that this is due to a “hidden bottleneck” and could suggest that the game’s open world is partitioned differently on both platforms.

The bottom line then is that the framerate performance isn’t necessarily better for either the Wii U or docked Switch, just different. Of course, the rub comes in that when not docked, the Switch outputs in 720p, the same as Wii U, but with noticeably fewer framerate hiccups.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild’s Switch And Wii U Versions, Compared

At the higher 900p resolution when docked, the Switch version does look slightly better. “It improves the appearance of distant objects, moving transparencies like grass, and cuts down on pixel crawl on geometric edges,” Digital Foundry reported. Textures are also filtered at a slightly longer distance in the Switch version. And as far as audio comparisons go, while the Switch version has better sound sampling due to its higher memory, Digital Foundry concluded that the differences weren’t very noticeable.

As a result, there doesn’t seem to be too much of a discrepancy between the Wii U and Switch versions of Breath of the Wild. If you want to play the game mostly on your TV at a higher resolution, the Switch version offers some slight advantages but also suffers from many of the same framerate issues as the Wii U version. And if you want fewer framerate drops, then you’ll have to play the game on the un-docked Switch outputting at a lower resolution anyway (although on the Switch’s screen the pixel density will be higher, making the image look more crisp).

But Digital Foundry only looked at the first section of the game, so there could be more strike differences in some of Breath of the Wild‘s later, more visually demanding sequences.


  • I grabbed the Wii U version.

    I had some janky frame rate stuttering at the start of the game when you first see the open world, since then I haven’t had any noticible drops.
    I’m still in early game though, so like everyone else there is still much to see

    It looks like there is more fog spots on the Wii U, which still looks amazing.

    It’s looks great when you use the Wii U controller screen, the detail is condensed but it does look very washed and hazy, cant really compare it to the Switch

    • I got the Wii U version too but have gotten a bit further. I’m up to the first town/village and the frame rate tanks hard throughout when you are doing anything in and around the town. Could be the same for Switch for all I know. Also noticed the same consistent drops around stables. I have visited quite a few other environments and I would say on the whole the frame rate holds up really well with only the occasional stutter here and there.

      Another observation about the Wii U version. You are literally forced to use the gamepad for any puzzle or shrine that makes use of gyroscope. If, like me, you are using the pro controller then you have to charge up the gamepad and use the janky motion controls there instead. It is nowhere near sensitive enough and I had to flip around the pad in my hands just to get things where they needed to be to complete the puzzle. Not a deal breaker but very annoying.

      One last thing is that it is very important that you adjust your TV settings accordingly as the Wii U only outputs limited range. Most modern TV’s should be able to compensate with an HDMI Black level setting and it can really pay off when you start messing around with dynamic contrast, gamma and color settings. I have been able to minimize the washed out look and the contrast and lighting really pop now. Each to their own but when I first turned it on the game looked like hot garbage.

      • Another observation about the Wii U version. You are literally forced to use the gamepad for any puzzle or shrine that makes use of gyroscope. If, like me, you are using the pro controller then you have to charge up the gamepad and use the janky motion controls there instead.Huh, interesting. I hadn’t considered how they’d handle that, though I find the gamepad way more comfortable than the pro controller so have been using that anyway 😛 Didn’t find any problem with the sensitivity though, only used it for maybe one ball maze so far but it followed the movement 1:1.

        I noticed the full/limited range setting in the Switch’s settings, I was wondering what that was about/why you’d ever choose Limited. Is that only for HDMI, or does that affect component as well? Also what kind of adjustments do you have to make to fix it? I mean if I can’t tell there’s a problem in the first place I’m probably going to be ok, but if there’s knowledge to be gained here I’m all for it 😛

        • I had issues with the gamepad and the shrine where you rotate the big block of platorms thing around to make the bridge, had the game pad going upside down and all over the place and multiple times it’d spazz out and i’d have to cancel the puzzle and retake control for it to be aligned correctly and perform 1:1 motion again.

          • had the same issue. upside down controller and rotated 90 degrees. should have a button to just recenter the controller.

          • Yeah, that’s the one i’m talking about. It looks crazy while you’re doing it, like this really shouldn’t be how they intended the puzzle to be solved yet here we are. Had to hold the pad upside down and look under while holding position to hit the button to keep it in place. Hoping there’s not too many more….

        • True, the movement is 1:1 however the puzzle mentioned below is a case where it shows the movement is not sensitive enough for this type of puzzle.

          Giving advice on TV settings is very tough given the differences between brands and how they name different settings and how each one affects your picture. I have a Samsung JU7000 and turning the HDMI black level to ‘Low’ and changing Dynamic contrast to Medium really helped things a lot. If playing on Switch you would always set full range colour if you have a compatible TV. These kinds of settings are the next best thing if playing on Wii U. If you are happy with the picture then I would say leave it as is but if you’re curious then definitely have a muck around in the settings and try to find these settings. Just take note of your current settings before changing anything though…

      • I got the Wii U version too but have gotten a bit further. I’m up to the first town/village and the frame rate tanks hard throughout when you are doing anything in and around the town.
        Playing on a switch, can confirm no frame drops in the villages at all so far.
        I get the occasion frame drop when im in battle during a lighting storm, or when the wind picks up and im looking off into the distance.
        Otherwise very smooth experience both in tablet mode and TV mode.

      • I’m up to the third/ forth village/town and have found a few stables, not noticible drops as yet.

        On the Wii U controller it looks a little washed out and hazy I meant, looks fine on my TV.

        • You didn’t notice the frame rate dropping in the first village? It practically locks at 20fps the entire time you are there. Not much fluctuation, it pretty much locks at the low frame rate.

          • Kakariko right? Ruining around there now, no noticible drop, certainly not 20.

            But, I can get it to drop running through the main town road in Hateno during the day (active people)
            They have the village, hill and you know what perfectly framed looking from the front gate.

      • I dont know if the switch version is different with motion/gyroscopic controla but you can turn it off on switch at least. Check the options.

        • The game will force you to use the motion controls at certain points. The option for turning it off I assume is mainly for aiming the bow.

    • Hi, can you play it on gamepad without using the tv like wind waker?
      Thanks in advance

      • On the Wii U tablet controller?

        Yes, yes you can. You just tap the screen to swap instantly between TV and controller screen

  • Is it any surprise? The Switch CPU is more powerful than the Wii U’s, but the GPU’s are roughly even \ slight edge to the Wii U in pure TFLOPs.

    • As I haven’t seen any benchmarks for the switch yet. It’s rumored to be X1 derived. The x1 maxwell is about 50% more powerfully in gflops than the rv770 in the wiiu and if the switch is using a pascal cored x1 it’s over double.

      • Problem is corespeed, corespeed is roughly half what the Shield runs at, and 1/3 in handheld mode. And all I’ve heard is that it isn’t pascal powered.

  • Hm, maybe I could grab a cheap as chips Wii U for this instead of forking out for a Switch. I’m not fussed about the portability, and there are no other Switch games I want to play.

    Or I could wait for work on the PC Wii U emulator version to finish and play in 4K :p

    • I’d say just get a Wii U for a few pennies.

      The thing about games is they are same regardless of resolution. If the game is great/stinks in SD it will be as such in 4K.

      Also, if you emulate and have a perfect emulator you are not going to get better performance as the emulator will be (as the name implies) emulate the hardware – including its limitations.

      • All solid points. I’ve seen second hand Wii U’s going in the $2XX range, so I’ll probably end up doing that. I can’t justify $460 for one game, but I can justify $200 and something.

        • I’ve seen second hand Wii U’s going in the $2XX range, so I’ll probably end up doing that.

          What?! I only paid around $200-250 new for mine. Granted this was when Dick(ed) Smith were clearing out (of video games) but even then the console shouldn’t cost more than $150.

          Unless they have suddenly become as rare as working Dreamcasts, you’re getting ripped off there.

          • I have been hoping to pick up a cheap wii u to play this, which I assumed would be easy following the switch launch. But they are all selling for around $250, $200 minimum. If you know of anywhere to get a $150 or less wii u, do share your information!

  • Having a hard time not impulse buying a switch for one game. I did the same with skyward sword and i’m sure anyone can guess how that turned out…

    • I bought a Switch on impulse on Friday Night when I heard that Zelda was reviving crazy good reviews. I have a Wii U as well.

      No regrets so far, it’s pretty amazing.

      Skyward Sword was OK, but I reckon it would have been better without motion controls.

    • It was the best decision of your life when you found out just how many other awesome games there were on the Wii that you suddenly had access to? 😛

      • How to reply in a non console war way?

        *Wide eyes, smile, slow reverse locomotion*

      • I got my WiiU for SM3DW and Skyward Sword and never regretted it. Play the heck out of those games, MK8, DKC, Mario Maker, Splatoon, Smash, XCX and a few others. If I ever wanted to play any other game… I have Steam? I’m perfectly happy for having paid what I paid for the WiiU to have access to those Nintendo exclusive games. That simple truth is what most Nintendo detractors don’t get.

  • I have the Wii U version but it is unplayable for me. It was fine at the start but now I can only play for 5-10 minutes before it freezes.

    Not sure if it is the game or the console that is the problem.

    • Holy crap, yeah somethings broken man.
      Take it back for a refund, it’s easy, just say it’s not working when everything else is fine (assuming that is the case)
      If you get home and it’s still crashing, it’s the WiiU

    • Do you have the disc copy or the downloaded copy? I’m trying to avoid this when I buy it for my Wii U!

      • I had a disc copy but I think it was my WiiU that was faulty.

        I returned the game to JB and bought a Switch instead!

  • I was half expecting to see 60 fps vs 25 fps, much like Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate on the New 3DS vs Old 3DS.

    • Huh. I played the first 25 hours of MH4 on the Majora nXL I grabbed to test it out, and didn’t notice any difference in performance when switching back to my regular 3DS. Then sold the nXL because it didn’t seem to offer any benefits over the regular at all (c-stick wasn’t good to use, extra buttons were practically unusable with how awkward they are to reach for, “super stable 3D” wasn’t that stable can can’t be turned off when it’s glitching out without shutting down the game to go into system settings).

      • MH4U has a higher frame rate, better anisotropic filtering, and better draw distance on the New 3DS. There’s a video on DigitalFoundry proving it.

        Then sold the nXL because it didn’t seem to offer any benefits over the regular at all

        But now you can’t play SNES games or New 3DS exclusive titles, then there’s games such as Hyrule Warriors and Terraria that perform really poorly on the old 3DS.

        • I can still play SNES games. On my SNES 😛 And isn’t Xenoblade the only exclusive title? Which I already have on my Wii, and will only be playing (read: continuing. And hopefully one day finishing) there.

          Also I don’t think I even know what anisotropic filtering is 😛

          • The 3DS is a handheld though, so SNES and Wii games on the go are awesome.

            Also I don’t think I even know what anisotropic filtering is 😛

            Take a texture and angle it from your standing perspective, so let’s say a road that’s going off into the distance, anisotropic filtering will make sure that the entire road, from your feet to the horizon, are shown in perfect texture quality.


          • I think for the most part I play more DS and 3DS at home than anywhere else, though either way playing/buying games I’ve already played/bought has never been that appealing to me.

            The filtering thing – seems… weird. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the left image happen in a game before?

  • This will seem like a baity comment, but it’s a shame the Switch didn’t come with some kind of power buff when it gets docked. The visually fidelity is clearly good enough to tell a good story and support a great game, but it’s a shame when a brand new system already has frame-rate issues. That just says underspecced really and the price doesn’t support that.

    • When its docked it does get quite a significant boost over being undocked, when you undock it the GPU downclocks from 768mhz to 307mhz which is pretty massive.

      Its just that even at full power in the dock its nowhere near as powerful is a proper home console.

      • nah, the gpu is *always* downclocked to 307mhz to hit lifespan targets, so it runs slower when docked as it’s running at a higher resolution

    • it’s a shame when a brand new system already has frame-rate issues. That just says underspecced reallyNot really, any system can suffer framerate issues regardless of how powerful it is if the game’s not properly optimised.

    • I haven’t noticed any slowdowns on Switch, docked or not.
      But the game is beautiful even though it’s a port of a Wii U game. And without starting the game from scratch for the Switch it would keep some Wii U limitations.
      I would say wait for Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8, Splatoon 2 etc to really see how it really goes.

    • It does get a ‘power buff’ when docked. It also runs at higher resolution when docked though so the potential performance boost is cancelled out. I actually hear it gets better performance when undocked at the lower resolution.

    • I’m really surprised that everyone’s being so nice about the frame rate issues. All the arguments over the internet over 30fps VS 60FPS (VS 100+ for PC) and this is a launch title than regular drops to 20 fps.

      I guess it shows how good the game is that people are tolerating it, but honestly, in this day and age? That’s really peculiar. Not a good sign AT ALL for the new system.

      • I’m playong on wii u and haven’t noticed them all that much, for me it’s worrying for the switch long term being a launch title, a first party title and supposedly just a port from a previous system. It’s heavily stylised too and worse than the frame rate issues for me are the more noticable filtering going on, it seems to be on both versions going by youtube but the filtering on the floors is whack

    • But the price is not justified solely by the guts but also by the screen! Just think how much more expensive smaller and less powerful smartphones than it are, (and being able to make and receive calls is not the cost differential since that technology is available in $30 mobiles.)

      People keep comparing Switch’s cost and specs unfavourably to the competition’s, but it is apples to oranges.

  • As someone who primarily games on PC with everything maxed out at 60 fps, I’m finding the Wii U version perfectly playable. The only drops I’ve encountered are in towns and when you shoot those explosive barrels.

    • Though after playing some more last night I gotta say I’m encountering more and more, especially in the rain and with lots of bad guys on the screen. Not ideal but still not unplayable.

  • Getting this for Wii U this week, might pick up a Switch and a GOTY edition if it gets one

  • For anyone worried about the wii u rest assured the frame rate drops aren’t noticeable or often. I rarely even notice any and it is totally playable.

    • If they aren’t noticeable, how do you know often they are?

      Here is my take (Wii U version):
      The ARE noticeable and they DO happen reasonably often.

      The game is playable but it is one of the worst nintendo games I have ever played in respect to being balanced for the hardware it runs on.

      I think people are largely being diplomatic and rising above the odd frame drop which is fair – but anybody saying there aren’t many frame drops is in my opinion no longer paying attention to the frame drops.

      This isn’t a comment on the quality of the game, the jury is out on that one. I’m just saying – if you stop and pay attention, you will have to admit that there are frequent drops in frame rate.

  • What are the load times like with the Wii U? I’m playing on the Switch, just curious…

    Also, re: frame stuttering, when I get it, it usually is when my camera angle is around 45 degrees, if I’m close to eye level (or directly overhead). Keeping the camera angle close to eye level minimizes any stuttering issues.

  • I’m playing on WiiU and the frame drops are completely intolerable. This isn’t a game that occasionally dips from 30 to 20fps. It’s a game that occasionally rises from 20 to 30fps. It baffles me that Nintendo released a game in this state as I don’t think I’ve ever played a Nintendo game with performance issues. Anywhere where there’s any type of architecture or detail – towns, stables, bandit camps, Korok Forest, Zora’s Domain, or Sheikah Towers with the black sludge on them, are an instant 20fps lock. I’d really like for Digital Foundry to do another comparison test in these environments. It also really discourages you from exploring anything that looks interesting because you know the frames are going to be horrible. The only time it doesn’t dip is when you’re walking around in an open grassy field, while you’re not fighting enemies and there’s no rain.

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