Watch GTA V For The PC Run On A Modded And Heavily Overclocked Nintendo Switch
When you read that headline, you're probably thinking it's like Doom on the NES, or like running GTA V on the OG Game Boy—a trick, or "hack" that doesn't really use the original hardware. Well, you'd be mistaken. This is the real PC version of GTA V running on real Nintendo Switch hardware, albeit one that's been heavily modified and had its software stack completely replaced.
The event took place over at the Geekerwan YouTube channel, where the tech-tuber explains the extremely painful process of getting first Android, and then Ubuntu Linux, onto the Nintendo Switch. He also goes over the outline of overclocking the system. As he explains, the Nintendo Switch's Tegra X1 processor is highly-overclockable thanks to its origins as an SoC for desktop-like mini-machines such as NVIDIA's Shield TV box.
After cranking the clocks up to 2.3 GHz on the CPU and some 1267 MHz on the GPU, Geekerwan installs Android. He demonstrates that, configured this way, the Switch can be used like any other Android tablet, including the ability to connect a keyboard and mouse and use it as a productivity device. Of course, the real purpose is to play Android games.
While testing in Android, Geekerwan shows off a few mobile games, including Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. The former game doesn't run well at all—as an open-world exploration title, it's heavy on CPU speed, and that's what the Switch lacks; even overclocked to 2.3 GHz, its meager A57 CPUs aren't much to write home about compared to modern ARM chips (nevermind Apple or x86 CPUs.) Despite being a newer and arguably prettier game, Honkai: Star Rail runs much better on the Switch thanks to being a more GPU-oriented game with smaller yet more detailed environments. Geekerwan remarks that Honkai is fully playable on the overclocked Switch.
Geekerwan also tests some emulators while in Android. PlayStation 2 emulation is quite good on Android, and indeed the classic racing title Gran Turismo 4 runs flawlessly, albeit with somewhat-poor performance. Geekerwan remarks that GT4 is one of the hardest PS2 games to emulate, and that less-demanding PS2 games will likely run just fine. He also tries to emulate PlayStation Vita, but unfortunately PS Vita emulation for Android isn't all the way there yet.
One of the most successful things he tries on his overclocked Switch is the Android version of Half-Life 2. That's right: there are native Android ports of a fair few PC games, including Half-Life 2, Resident Evil 5, Borderlands 2, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and others. These ports were done by NVIDIA specifically for the aforementioned NVIDIA Shield TV, and unsurprisingly—considering the Switch has the same hardware—they run fantastic on the overclocked Switch.
That's not how Geekerwan got GTA V running, though. Instead, he replaced Android with the full-fat version of Ubuntu Linux. This gives him access to basically any ARM Linux software, and that includes various translation layers to run both x86 and Windows software on Linux. Using these layers, he's able to get the Windows versions of AAA PC games running on the Switch, but don't get too excited, because none of them are particularly playable.
The best result that he got was with Titanfall 2. Impressively, despite the already-meager hardware being handicapped by translation layers, the overclocked Switch manages to crank out a nearly-playable 15-30 FPS in Titanfall 2's story mode. The game looks incredible on the little Switch screen, but the audio is severely bugged and the low framerate makes the twitch shooter hard to enjoy.
Geekerwan also tested God of War (2018) as well as, of course, GTA V. Neither game offers playable performance, but as the YouTuber himself says, the fact that they work at all—and they do work flawlessly aside from the bad performance—is incredibly impressive regardless.
Likewise, the folks who worked so hard on the hacks for the Switch hardware as well as the Linux translation layers used in the video deserve all respect. Geekerwan is clearly a talented tech in his own right, but he's still relying on the work of others to make all this possible, and the fact that it works at all is astonishing.