Modder transforms Nintendo Switch to play GTA 5 thanks to RAM upgrade

The release of the successor to the Nintendo Switch is expected in 2025, signaling the end of its lifespan. However, a French modder has decided to bypass the wait and has transformed the existing Switch OLED into a Linux machine with 8GB of RAM.

Despite their relatively low profile, YouTuber Naga has been conducting interesting experiments with the Switch. In their most recent video, uploaded on June 28, they showcased the modded Nintendo hardware running Linux and an impressive 13 PC games.

The games showcased in the 38-minute video ranged from popular titles such as Fallout: New Vegas and Far Cry 3, to newer releases like Final Fantasy VII Remake and GTAV. Naga impressively demonstrated each game to varying and unexpected levels of skill.

Despite being released on the PS3 and 360 in 2013, Grand Theft Auto V is still notoriously difficult to run on low-budget PC hardware. While the Nintendo Switch OLED has the same internal components as the original Switch from 2017, Naga has upgraded it with an additional 4GB of RAM to improve its performance.

It is notable that official Switch ports have been made possible by the Nvidia Tegra X1, and although it was only able to run a brief segment of GTAV at 22FPS, this reaffirms the Switch’s long-lasting success. While no open-world gameplay was shown by Naga, it is likely that it would not perform well on the Switch.

Demonstrations of other titles such as FFVII Remake and Watch Dogs also achieved an average of around 20FPS. Despite having their settings set to low, it is likely that with some additional adjustments, these games could reach a smooth 30FPS.

The Switch can be hard-modded to achieve all of this. Naga has shared a detailed video demonstrating the process, which involves soldering an RP2040 chip to initiate the mod (which is the microcontroller chip from Raspberry Pi).

In order to enhance the capabilities of the Switch, Naga decided to install an additional 8GB of RAM. They carefully evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of two potential brands, Hynix and Micron, which could also be utilized by users themselves. It was quite nerve-wracking to witness, as the Switch’s RAM is an essential element for the device to function properly.

In addition, Naga incorporated custom cooling into the Switch by including thermal pads and a generous amount of thermal paste.

The magic that allows PC games to run inside is achieved through the use of Ubuntu, a Linux distribution, along with software such as Wine and Box64. Proton, developed by Valve, also utilizes Wine to provide a translation layer for Windows on Linux.

In addition, Box64 adds an extra level of functionality by allowing for the execution of both x86 and x64 applications on ARM architecture.

Typically utilized on devices such as the Raspberry Pi, which runs on ARM architecture, this is ultimately what enables the Switch to play games.

Setting up the Switch’s hardware mod was a sweat-inducing task, but the majority of the video is dedicated to the jumps required to properly configure the Switch with Ubuntu. Naga must manually create partitions and sectors on the flash storage memory, which has also been upgraded from 32GB to 512GB.

In addition to the 13 AAA games that were featured, Naga has also shared multiple videos showcasing the impressive abilities of this hack. With the 8GB mod, Naga was able to achieve nearly 60FPS while running the original 2008 version of Dead Space on Low settings. Other games, such as Gears of War, had some stuttering with frame rates fluctuating between 45FPS and sub-30.

Despite Naga’s demonstration of World of Warcraft running at a steady 50FPS and peaking at 90FPS in menus, making slight adjustments to the settings caused the performance to drop below 50FPS during combat.

Another video from two weeks ago demonstrates Naga’s ability to emulate the PlayStation Vita on the Switch OLED.

While Vita emulation is not yet reliable enough for smooth gameplay, it is remarkable to see the significant progress that has been made. Although some 3D games, like Batman: Arkham Origins, may have sound issues, they still generally run smoothly. Additionally, smaller 2D games are almost at a playable stage.

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