- The main reason to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a PC is it supports higher resolution and frame rates.
- You can obtain the game installation files by dumping them from your Nintendo console onto an SD card.
- Emulators like Cemu, Yuzu, and Ryujinx allow you to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC.
- Optimization tips include choosing the correct resolution, ensuring a compatible CPU, and using graphics packs to enhance performance.
Want to know how to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC? The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BoW) is one of Nintendo’s best-selling video games and received near-perfect reviews. It took the gaming industry by storm and everyone was playing it. Unfortunately, it is a Nintendo exclusive and only available on Nintendo Switch and Wii U.
Not everyone can justify buying a Nintendo Switch just to play one game. The good news is that it’s possible to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC and it even provides several advantages over the original version. So whether you have a Switch or not, this guide will show you the best way to play Breath of the Wild on PC.
Why Play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC?
The main reason to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on a PC is it supports higher resolution and frame rates. For example, mid-range PCs can run the game at 4K resolution with a stable 60fps.
In comparison, the original version running on the Nintendo Switch was locked at 30fps at 720p or 1080p in docked mode. Aside from the improved graphics and framerate, you can also utilize third-party mods to enhance the gameplay.
You can also follow these steps to emulate Breath of the Wild on the Steam Deck.
How to Get Zelda: Breath of the Wild Installation Files
Getting the files for Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a legal grey area. The legal way to do it is to dump the files from your Nintendo console onto a mini-SD card and then copy the files to your computer.
However, in order to do so you need to jailbreak your Nintendo console, which voids the warranty, locks online access, and can brick your device. If you go online with a jailbroken Nintendo, you risk being banned from online services.
The alternative method would be to use a pirated ROMS. We don’t condone piracy and won’t be discussing that method in this article.
Here’s what you need:
- Own a Nintendo Switch (or WII U)
- Own a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
- Jailbreak your Nintendo Switch.
- Install Homebrew, Atmosphere, NXDumpTool, and Goldleaf.
- Dump Nintendo Switch game files to an SD card.
- Copy files to your PC.
- Open the files with an emulator.
An alternative to this is you could buy an already modded Nintendo Switch from a second-hand marketplace. They’re often sold at reduced prices because they lack core features like online functionality.
Dump Nintendo Switch Games to an SD Card
The process is rather involved and will vary depending on the devices you use. To dump Wii U files for the Cemu emulator, you can use this guide. Other emulators can run Nintendo Switch files.
For Nintendo Switch, when you jailbreak your device, you can use Goldleaf and NxDumpTool to dump your Nintendo games files to your PC. The tool is available in the Homebrew App Store.
First, insert your game cartridge into your Nintendo Switch. Then open NDumpTool and follow the steps to dump the files onto your SD card. From there, you should have the NSP installation files for your game, which you can move to your computer and open with an emulator.
Prod and Title Keys
Even if you have the game installation files, you won’t be able to run them without the Prod and Title keys. These are kind of like your game license keys that will decrypt the files.
Unfortunately, Nintendo quickly takes down content that describes the exact process of how to access these keys, so we can’t cover it in detail. However, you can search YouTube for videos on the process.
The idea is to use your own keys. You need to install a Lockpick_RCM program on your Switch and use a payload injector. The keys should be dumped into the SD/switch/ folder. From there, you can copy them to the correct folder in the emulator you choose once you move everything to your PC.
You might need to make a new folder called “Keys” within the emulator installation folder. The files you want to add there are prod.keys and title.keys. You can follow this Ryujinx tutorial for more details, and the same process can be applied to other emulators.
Emulator to Play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC
There are quite a few Nintendo emulators out there. Each offers a variety of features and the performance varies as well. The emulators are free, so you can always test each one to see which works best on your machine. Of course, the performance you get will depend on your PC’s hardware.
1. Cemu Wii U
Cemu offers the best performance but it’s only compatible with the Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Another upside to Cemu is it has lots of performance mods like support for 4K 60fps and many others designed by the community. There’s even an uncapped framerate mod. If you have the Wii U version of BoW, then Cemu is your best option.
Yuzu is a little faster than Ryujinx at emulating Nintendo Switch games. It’s a free open-source emulator. Yuzu supports a wide range of graphics options, ranging from the native 720p all the way to 8K. It’s recommended to set the resolution to your monitor’s resolution.
Ryujinx is a Nintendo Switch emulator, it can’t run Nintendo Wii U games. The performance is not as good as Cemu, but if you have a moderately powerful computer you should be able to run BoW without any issues. Ryujinx also supports 4K at 60fps, but it’s much more demanding on your system.
Configuring Nintendo Emulator Controls
While most emulators support a mouse and keyboard, you may want to sit back and play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a controller as intended.
We will use the Cemu emulator for our example below, but the process is the same with others. First of all, make sure your controller is connected to your PC either via a cord or Bluetooth. You need to configure your controller before you start the game.
Open Cemu, and under Options, select Input Settings. Here is where you’ll map your controller buttons. Add a name to your profile to make it easier, select Wii U GamePad from the emulated controller list, and then choose your controller from the drop-down menu. In our opinion, the Xbox controller is the best way to play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC.
Now, click on a button you want to remap and then press the corresponding button on your controller. Since Nintendo uses the same controller letters as Xbox, it’s easy to match them. You can always change this later on. For the Left Axis and Right Axis simply move the analog stick in the direction shown.
PlayStation controllers are a little trickier because some emulators don’t detect them, at least when they’re connected through Bluetooth.
One workaround is to use DS4 Windows, a free program that emulates your PlayStation controller to an Xbox controller. Also, if you’re using an emulator from Steam such as Dolphin, you shouldn’t have to use DS4 Windows because Steam supports PlayStation controllers.
Once your PlayStation controller is registered as an Xbox controller, repeat the same steps and rebind all the keys as needed. The downside to using a PlayStation controller for emulation is the key symbols don’t match the on-screen prompts of Nintendo Switch games. For example, “B” is “X”, “A” is “Circle”, and so on. It can be a little confusing at first.
Emulator Optimization Tips
Now let’s wrap up with some optimization tips to improve the performance of your emulators. Each emulator has various settings that you can tweak. The most important would be to choose the correct resolution, ideally one that matches your monitor’s resolution.
One thing to keep in mind is emulation is very CPU intensive. You need at least a quad-core CPU to run games at 60 frames per second. The GPU is important too, especially at higher resolutions, but the CPU does most of the work. If your CPU is always at 100% utilization and you’re experiencing stutters, even on the lowest settings, it may be your CPU that’s bottlenecking your system.
Secondly, enable Async Shader Compile, which will eliminate most stuttering at the cost of some graphic pop-in. It’s also recommended to use Vulkan as the Graphics APU if you have a GeForce graphics card.
With Cemu, you can download a wide variety of community graphics packs. Open Options, Graphics Packs, and click on Download Latest Community Graphic Packs. You can adjust specific settings such as Shadows and View Distance too. Other emulators should offer similar performance packs. You might have to play around with different packs until you find the sweet spot between performance and visuals.
While it’s complicated to set up at first, once you manage to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on PC, you probably won’t ever want to play it on the Nintendo consoles again. The experience is much better on PC because you can run it at higher frame rates and higher resolutions, not to mention tweak custom graphics settings and install additional mods.
The image featured at the top of this post is © Yasin Hasan/Shutterstock.com.