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How Bethesda was able to fit Skyrim on the Switch

It looks better than you’d expect

Screenshot of Skyrim on Nintendo Switch Nintendo

Skyrim on Nintendo Switch is a very good port of a very good game, and getting it to run on Nintendo’s hardware couldn’t have been an easy task even though the game is getting up there in years. Digital Foundry took a deep dive into this version of the game to talk about how Bethesda was able to pull it off, and what concessions needed to be made for Nintendo’s relatively underpowered hardware compared to its competition.

“While docked, Skyrim operates at a native 1600 x 900, while playing in mobile mode shows us the first sign of compromise,” Digital Foundry said. “When we looked at the Switch port at Gamescom, everything indicated a native 720p resolution, but the final code reveals more: a fairly basic form of resolution scaling designed to sustain smooth performance. Under load, resolution drops back suddenly to 896 x 720 — 70 per cent of the native pixel count.”

The game looks a little better when docked, but it’s not a shocking change by any stretch of the imagination. The game looks pretty good no matter how you decide to play.

“And certainly in performance terms — crucial to a game like this, far more so than incidental detail — Skyrim delivers,” Digital Foundry said. “You may lose the odd frame due to streaming, but across six hours of gameplay, the title delivered a solid 30 frames per second throughout. The sheer consistency here is worth commenting on — it's on par here with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of the game and it just feels right. Similar to Doom, the analogue nubs on the Joy-Cons aren't the best interface for the game, but the experience holds up well overall.”

You can watch the video above and read the entire article if you’d like more details, but the takeaway is that the game is a lot of fun, and works very well. While it may sound as if a lot of liberties were taken to fit the game on the Switch, you’ll be surprised how little you actually notice once you begin to play.

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