Despite being a 5-year-old title that was launched on what was basically smartphone hardware, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still one of the most visually appealing games ever made. The environmental design, mildly cell-shaded characters, and charming animations are a lesson in why good art direction can beat raw graphical power any day. But if you can have both, why not do so? One of the latest videos from a Zelda emulation fan shows the game running at an incredible 8K resolution with ray tracing modded in, courtesy of Nvidia’s ferocious new GeForce RTX 4090.
On the Wii U and Switch, Breath of the Wild is locked at 30 frames per second and maxes out at 1080p resolution. That’s because the Switch is built on Nvidia Tegra hardware—ARM-based, high-efficiency tech that’s also found in the Nvidia Shield set-top box. But using the Cemu emulator and a top-of the line gaming desktop, plus brand-spanking-new Ryzen 9 7950X and GeForce RTX 4090 parts, YouTuber Digital Dreams was able to push the game far beyond its original graphical limitations.
The video (spotted by WCCFTech) really demonstrates some of the incredible design work that went into the world of Breath of the Wild. With the smoother animation and the added reflective qualities of the modified lighting engine, the beautiful scenery comes to life in a way that it simply can’t on the Switch. The improvements aren’t perfect — you can see the lighting engine struggle with pop-in, especially when it’s handling thousands of blades of grass, shadows from trees, and fog effects in the notoriously choppy Hyrule Forrest. But it’s still worth watching, especially if you happen to have a high-res monitor available.
Want to try this out for yourself? It won’t be easy. In order to do it legally you’ll need a Wii U copy of Breath of the Wild, which you can “dump” to your PC and run on the free Cemu emulator with a series of free tools. But even running the base version of the game is taxing for most desktop PCs. If you want to add the modifications for higher framerates, reduced anti-aliasing, and the ray tracing reshade mod from the Digital Dreams Patreon, you’re going to need a monster machine.
Michael is a former graphic designer who's been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.