The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is no stranger to the modding community, whether it’s making Zelda into a playable character or adding gear from classic games. But every now and then, mods give us a glimpse of what Nintendo could accomplish in the future, even if the official hardware hasn’t caught up just yet. One ambitious YouTube channel has modified Breath of the Wild to run at 8K resolution with ray tracing enabled, and it takes the game from “gorgeous” to “jaw-dropping.”
The video is available on the Digital Dreams YouTube channel. For those not familiar with it, Digital Dreams promises viewers the "best next gen (sic) graphics and photorealistic gameplay" by running upscaling mods on popular games. Generally speaking, Digital Dreams runs these mods on PC games, such as Grand Theft Auto V and The Witcher 3, where installing mods and tinkering with graphical settings is relatively easy. But every now and then, the channel turns its attention to console games, including Breath of the Wild.
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Once you get past the novelty of a Switch game running at eight times the resolution you’re used to, the video pretty much speaks for itself.
Digital Dreams guides Link through a variety of environments, including a forest, a swamp, a mountain, a beach and a village. Every new area shows a degree of sharpness, color and fluidity that simply isn’t present in the default game. The lighting effects in particular look subtle and realistic, thanks to ray tracing.
Another advantage to Digital Dreams’ setup is that the game runs at 60 frames per second rather than the Switch’s 30 fps. Anyone who’s spent some time on a powerful gaming PC, the PS5 or the Xbox Series X is well aware that a high frame rate can make a significant difference in both graphics and gameplay. Getting graphically demanding Switch games to run at 60 fps is difficult, though, due to the machine’s relatively modest specs.
The bad news, of course, is that the average player is not going to get a chance to experience 8K Breath of the Wild anytime soon. Upscaling the graphics requires running Breath of the Wild on a PC, which requires Switch emulation. This questionably legal process demands a lot of processing power by itself — upping the game to 8K resolution and adding ray tracing demands even more. It also means you’d need an 8K monitor to get the most out of the game, and those are pretty rare at the moment.
This actually isn’t the first time Digital Dreams has attempted to run Breath of the Wild in 8K. Back in January, the channel released another 8K/ray tracing Zelda video, but that version wound up muting a lot of the subtle “watercolor” effects that made the original game so mesmerizing. The new video seems much more faithful to the Switch version.
If you have an extremely powerful PC (and you'll need something that can compete with the best gaming PCs on the market), a little modding know-how and a willingness to navigate the complicated legality of emulation, you could try this for yourself. But at present, this way of playing Breath of the Wild is simply out of reach for most people. Perhaps in the distant future, when Nintendo re-releases old games directly into our brains via the Switch Pro Max Ultra Neural, the rest of us will be able to try something similar.
- Read more: Everything we know about the Switch Pro