The Nintendo Switch is the hottest new handheld console. And with 114 million units sold, it’s Nintendo’s 2nd most popular console ever. But backward compatibility is a complicated topic for Nintendo’s latest offering.
Old Nintendo fans might be asking “can the Wii and the Switch play games together?”. Sadly, they can’t because the Switch doesn’t include any form of emulation to support backward compatibility with old Nintendo consoles. It also uses tiny cartridges, similar in size to SD cards, rather than game disks like the Wii and Wii U.
Since the Switch’s hardware is so different from any Nintendo console before it, emulation can only be done via software. Nintendo doesn’t even include Wii games in their Switch Online service, which is different from the Virtual Console service that was shut down in 2019. With no support for official emulation, the only alternative is to emulate Wii games yourselves.
Can The Wii And The Switch Play Games Together?
No, the Wii and Nintendo Switch are two very different systems with vast differences in their hardware and software. One is a full-size home console that accepts disks, while the other is a handheld that uses tiny cartridges that look like SD cards. The Wii uses an IBM PowerPC processor called Broadway, in combination with an ATI GPU.
In contrast, the Switch is powered by an NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC that utilizes ARM Cortex A57 and A53 CPU cores in combination with a Maxwell GPU. And the graphics API is also custom, it’s called NVN. To conserve power and reduce complexity + costs, Nintendo elected not to include the processors from old consoles on the Switch.
That’s why it can’t even play 3DS games natively, despite being the direct successor. The Switch is an all-new family of consoles, and will probably be succeeded by a Switch 2. Similar to how the DS was succeeded by the 3DS.
Can You Play Nintendo Wii Games On The Switch?
Technically, yes- but not directly because the Switch can’t even run a Nintendo Wii game disk. Even if you plug in an external disk drive via the Switch USB port, it will not read Wii games. However, you can play updated ports or remasters of old Wii games that have been released on the Switch.
Some examples include Xenoblade Chronicles, which has been re-released on Switch with updated graphics. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has also received a Switch port, with an all-new control scheme designed to take advantage of Joy-Cons.
Can You Transfer Games From Older Systems To Nintendo Switch?
There was a feature on the old Wii U and 3DS consoles that allowed you to transfer your game purchases on the eShop from one console to another. That way, if your old Wii died you could transfer the data and purchases over to your Wii U.
However, this feature was shut down along with the eShop. This means you can’t access your digital purchases made on Wii U/ 3DS using your Switch.
Local Wireless Multiplayer On The Nintendo Switch
Thankfully, the Nintendo Switch does have a few good features going for it. It supports wireless local multiplayer. Some games allow you to share one Joy-Con with your friend so both of you can play split-screen.
Other ones even support Mosaic mode which lets you connect up to four Switch consoles together. The Switch can connect with up to eight Joy-Cons or Pro controllers simultaneously. And there are games (Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for example) that support up to eight people simultaneously in co-op or versus modes.
Nintendo Switch Backward Compatibility Explained
There are two reasons why Nintendo didn’t include any native backward compatibility when they designed the Switch. Firstly, it’s a portable handheld that’s meant to be reasonably priced and very power efficient. So including custom emulation hardware or copies of the chips from previous consoles is out of the question.
Next, Nintendo wants to push its Switch Online subscription service. This includes digital copies of old NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis games that you can download and play on your Switch (using software emulation). Nintendo makes and controls the distribution of its own emulators, and they decide which games are worthy of being put on the cloud service.
Making A Handheld That Can Play Old Nintendo Wii Games
Switch Online is neat if you are someone who needs Google guides for unzipping an archived file with WinRAR. But if you don’t want to pay Nintendo twice to play the games you already own just because your old console died, emulation is a nice alternative. Whether it’s an NES game or a Wii game- there is an emulator out there for it.
Some talented Nintendo fans have even made a Switch emulator, and it’s called Yuzu. You can even create a handheld emulation beast of your own by purchasing a handheld PC (like this one) and installing emulators on it. The Steam Deck (if you can get one) is an excellent Switch alternative, plus you can install emulators on it to run Wii games.
While playing Wii games directly on your Switch isn’t possible, there are ways to get around this issue. Emulation is the obvious answer, and you can create your own Switch alternative that plays games from every old Nintendo console. You can do this by purchasing one of those handheld PCs that are super popular these days (the Steam Deck is the best one, but there are cheaper options).
If you don’t feel comfortable with emulation, you can look up the Wii game you want to play and if it has a Switch port. Only a couple of Wii games have Switch ports, so the chances are low. But other than that, you don’t have many options.