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

Joel Loynds

The Nintendo Switch is just shy of retirement, with the anticipated follow-up slated for 2025. However, one French modder has decided to skip the wait and upgraded the current Switch OLED to an 8GB RAM Linux machine.

YouTuber Naga has gone relatively under the radar with their Switch experiments. The latest video uploaded on June 28 showed off the modded Nintendo hardware running Linux and 13 different PC games.

These ranged from fan favorites like Fallout: New Vegas and Far Cry 3, to more modern titles like Final Fantasy VII Remake and GTAV. Over the 38-minute video, Naga shows off the games to varying and surprising degrees.

Grand Theft Auto V, despite launching in 2013 on the PS3 and 360, is still known to be a tough game to play on budget PC hardware. Nintendo’s Switch OLED still houses the same guts as the original Switch from 2017. However, Naga has added a crucial additional 4GB of RAM to give it a fighting chance.

This Nvidia Tegra X1 has surprised us with official Switch ports, but seeing it run a very short segment of GTAV at 22FPS just shows why the Switch has had such longevity. Naga doesn’t show off any open-world gameplay, but we’d suspect it doesn’t run well.

Other titles like FFVII Remake and Watch Dogs were also demonstrated, averaging around that 20FPS mark. Each PC version has had its settings switched to low, but we’d suspect with a bit of extra work this would be able to reach 30FPS.

All of this is done by hard-modding the Switch. Naga shows the process in a fairly detailed video, including soldering an RP2040 chip to kick-start the mod (that’s Raspberry Pi’s microcontroller chip).

To add more power to the Switch, Naga then adds 8GB of RAM. They even weigh up the pros and cons of two brands you could use yourself (Hynix and Micron). It’s quite stressful to watch, as the Switch’s RAM is a critical component needed to use the device.

Naga also added custom cooling to the Switch, by adding in thermal pads and a healthy dose of thermal paste. 

While the magic works inside, getting PC games to run is done through the Linux distribution Ubuntu and software Wine and Box64. Wine is part of what Valve’s Proton utilizes to provide a Windows translation layer on Linux.

Box64 meanwhile, provides another layer to run x86 and x64 applications on ARM architecture. 

Usually used on systems like Raspberry Pi – which use ARM – this is what is actually getting the games to run on the Switch.

If the Switch’s hardware mod was sweat-inducing, the jumps to get the Switch working properly with Ubuntu take up a majority of the video. Naga has to essentially set up partitions and sectors on the flash storage memory manually. This was also upgraded to 512GB from 32GB.

Aside from the 13 AAA games shown, Naga has multiple videos showing the capabilities of this hack. On Low, with the 8GB mod, Naga was able to get Dead Space (the original from 2008) running at nearly 60FPS. Others included a hitchy-looking Gears of War jumping between 45FPS and sub-30. 

Naga even showed off World of Warcraft, which sat pretty much above 50FPS and reached as high as 90FPS in menus. However, altering the settings a tad saw this performance sink to sub-50 in combat.

Another video posted two weeks ago shows Naga emulating the PlayStation Vita on the Switch OLED. 

Vita emulation is still a long way from being reliable to enough to play on, but it’s hugely impressive to see how far it has come. Some 3D games like Batman: Arkham Origins have messed up sound, but seem to hold steady. Smaller, 2D games all seem to be nearing a playable state.

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