'Zelda: Breath of the Wild': Nintendo Switch vs. Wii U differences — which should you buy?

Nintendo

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is pulling a Twilight Princess on Nintendo fans. Along with appearing on the Nintendo Switch, BOTW is coming to the discontinued Wii U as well. Which means fans have a choice to make: Should you buy Zelda: Breath of the Wild for Wii U or the Nintendo Switch?

If you never acquired a Wii U, the answer is simple: play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on the Switch when it launches in March. But if you already own the current-generation console, you may have a tough decision to make. Let's work our way through the major differences and weigh some of the pros and cons one by one.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: Graphics and other specs

Nintendo consoles are rarely known for their raw horsepower, and games typically look less crisp than content on competing consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Switch's hardware specs, like the Wii U, won't be winning any awards anytime soon. That said, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will look better on Nintendo's new console than it will on the Wii U. 

According to IGN, the game runs at a 720p resolution and 30 frames per second on both the Wii U and on the Nintendo Switch's built-in display. However, when the Switch docked in home console mode it upgrades the game to a 900p resolution. So if you have a 1080p television or better the Nintendo Switch version of the game will look better on your display.

The same report also notes that the Nintendo Switch version of the game will offer a better-sounding playing experience. 

"The Nintendo Switch version has higher-quality environmental sounds," the company told IGN in a statement. "The sound of steps, water, grass, etc. are more realistic and enhance the game's Open-Air feel." 

WinnerZelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo Switch version

Source: Xavier Harding/Mic
Source: Xavier Harding/Mic

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: Portability

This category is an easy one. If you've kept up with the flood of Nintendo Switch news, you probably know by now that the new console lets you seamless jump between home console mode and handheld mode. So the Nintendo Switch is the only console that will let you play Zelda: Breath of the Wild on-the-go.

To its credit, the Wii U version can be played using the gamepad's built-in display, meaning you won't have to stop your adventure for a bathroom break. But the system is still powered by a larger console that isn't designed to leave the house.

Winner: Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo Switch version

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: Controller Support

Source: Xavier Harding/Mic
Source: Xavier Harding/Mic

It remains to be seen which of Nintendo's numerous controller methods will work with Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We do know, however, that the Nintendo Switch supports far fewer official Nintendo control schemes than the Wii U. It's one of the console's major weak points.

We're still waiting for official details, but chances are the Wii U version will work with a lot more controller configurations. If you opt for the Switch you're basically stuck with the Joy-Cons — unless you're willing to pay extra for a new Pro controller.

Winner: Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo Wii U version

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: Exclusives

Both versions of the game are nearly identical when played, but Nintendo Switch owners can indulge in extra-special editions of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Nintendo's statement to IGN confirms a Special Edition and Master Edition of the game that will be available for Switch owners and not on the Wii U. If you're a collector interested in getting limited edition versions of the game, they won't come cheap.

Winner: Zelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo Switch version

Source: Nintendo/Nintendo via Nerdist
Source: Nintendo/Nintendo via Nerdist

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: Price 

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is priced at $60 for both the Nintendo Switch and Wii U versions. But if you're playing a Switch, that means coughing up the $300 for a brand-new console on top of the new game. Wii U owners only need to buy the game itself to get started.

Even worse, Nintendo isn't offering any sort of bundle that combines the Switch with Zelda: Breath of the Wild. So don't expect any discounts at all when the new system launches. If you already own a Wii U, it might be worth holding off on the Switch entirely until later this year when more games are available.

WinnerZelda: Breath of the Wild Nintendo Wii U version

Zelda: Breath of the Wild Switch vs. Wii U: So which version should I get?

When compared head-to-head, the Switch version appears to come out on top. If you don't mind buying the new console and you're okay with limited controller selection, it's also the better choice. However, if you'd rather save some cash and don't care as much about portability, graphics or the Master Edition, then go for the Wii U.

At the end of the day, though, you should just do whatever makes you happy. That's what Nintendo would want.

More Nintendo Switch news and coverage

For more info on what Nintendo revealed during its livestream, here's where you can get our hands-on with the Nintendo Switch, details on the Nintendo Switch pricerelease datepre-orders and battery life. If you're interested in the Nintendo Switch's games, here's info on the new Super Mario Odyssey game, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildSplatoon 2Xenoblade Chronicles 21-2-Switch and the goofy boxing game Arms.