How to get the Nintendo Switch experience on Wii U

Still not sold on Switch? Do you have an old Wii U gathering dust in a cupboard? Then we have a hack or two for you

If you're 'umming' and 'ahhing' about picking up a Nintendo Switch at launch - it has a hefty price tag and a distinct lack of packed-in games after all - all is not lost. Remember that old Nintendo console everyone got excited about and then plain forgot about for four years ago? We have just the use for it...

There's nothing quite like the palpable sense of anticipation before the release of a brand new console - doubly so when said console is coming from the hallowed halls of Nintendo.

But not everyone is sold on Nintendo's new handheld/console mashup, and a fair chunk of potential users are going to hold back and see whether Switch fares better than Wii U in its infant months.

However, just because you're not willing to part with a pretty sum of cash to own a Switch in March doesn't mean you can't enjoy something close to the same experience. So with a Wii U console and GamePad to hand, we've got a few gaming hacks to transform your old bit of kit into a bona fide Switch clone...

Wii U can recreate Switch's tabletop mode and its handheld mode

Since Wii U is the direct precursor to Switch, the two systems share lot of key features. Wii U's GamePad might be a little chunkier, and it might stream its content from the console rather than processing it within the handheld like Switch, but it still works as a wireless gaming device.

It also has the same size screen as Switch (6.2 inches) so you're not losing out when it comes to display real estate. So if you want to pop into handheld mode and play Breath of the Wild or Mario Kart 8, you can sit back, free up the TV and enjoy some pure Nintendo goodness.

Best of all, you can recreate Switch's tabletop mode by investing in a charging dock (they're usually less than £10/$10). Simply plug it into the mains, slot your GamePad on top of the dock and you've got one Switch-aping Wii U hack.

Nintendo Wii U has all the big Nintendo franchises that Switch has - including Splatoon and Mario Kart 8

Nintendo notoriously takes its time when it comes to new first-party titles - but for once that inclination for lengthy gaps between Marios and Zeldas will actually give us Wii U players an advantage going into 2017.

For a start, every major Nintendo franchise currently in rotation is represented on Wii U. The Legend of Zelda lovers have Breath of the Wild coming (as detailed below) to add to the likes of Hyrule Warrors, Windwaker HD, Twilight Princess and more.

Then there's Mario Kart 8. The best MK to date is getting a Deluxe outing on Switch, but all it's getting are a few new racers, karts and items. So the version you have on Wii U is just as mind-blowing as the one yet to be released on Switch.

Wii U has Splatoon (a brilliant, hugely underrated property that makes multiplayer shooters fun again without the need for blood or ultraviolence) and it has New Super Mario Bros U, Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker and Paper Mario: Color Splash.

And it has Super Smash Bros for Wii U. End of.

Capture some retro magic with a decal or two for your Nintendo Wii U

Not everyone likes decals (mainly because there are a lot of cheap ones out there that don't do your Wii U justice), but track down the right one you can make your one-colour console and GamePad look seriously swish.

We really love the decals that transform your Wii U into a platform of yesteryear, and some of ones we've found among the excellent selection at are an easy recommendation.

Just check out this one that turns your Wii U into a NES, all with a set of easy to apply vinyl stickers. They're also less than £20 (although that doesn't include shipping outside the US).

Nab a special edition Wii U console to keep your GamePad stylin' and proflin'

Nintendo Switch may well have a nice alternative edition featuring a fetching blue and red Joy-Con setup that looks far snazzier than the regular black version, but that doesn't mean it's going to outshine Wii U.

Who wants a boring old Nintendo Switch controller when you've got yourself a glitzy special edition console and GamePad for Wii U, such as the rather gorgeous The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD Premium Pack above.

With a black chassis and gold Zelfa motifs all around the edging, this is one seriously attractive bit of kit - and it will cost you a LOT less than a Nintendo Switch will at launch.

Don't fret about the Joy-Con - Wii U's GamePad has motion control built in

We're not convinced many games outside of 1-2 Switch and the like will really invest that deep in the motion control aspects of the Joy-Con (save maybe the next Mario Party), so you're certainly not missing out by sticking with your Wii U.

The Wii U GamePad comes with a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope so you can enjoy proper motion controls either while using the controller in conjunction with your TV or purely through the GamePad itself.

Not every game on Wii U offers this functionality, but it makes the likes of Mario Kart 8 a lot more challenging when using motion controls to drive. 

Invest in a Wii U Pro Controller because it's not that different from the Switch version

Nintendo Switch's new Pro Controller certainly looks nice, and while it has received a few updates to bring it in line with Nintendo's new console vision, the finished product isn't that far removed from the Pro version you can buy for Wii U.

In fact, if you're looking to enjoy your Wii U in tabletop mode (just like you would a Switch), the Pro Controller is a must. It feels far more ergonomic and comfortable to use than the GamePad (especially if you're planning a big session with Breath of the Wild).

It's also a lot cheaper, with official versions going for less than £30 on Amazon and third-party versions going for less than £20 (although we'd stick to the official one as it offers a better build quality overall).

Make your GamePad far comfier than Switch with a 'comfort grip'

Since you're going to be using your GamePad quite a lot in handheld mode to really help recreate that Switch experience, you're going to need to invest in a bit of kit that will make that sometimes clunky peripheral a lot comfier to use.

There are a ton of third-party options out there, and most of them are pretty inexpensive, but keep in mind that you might need to get them from third-party sellers/specific retailers now that Wii U is out of production. This Comfort Grip from dreamGEAR (£5) is one option and is incredibly easy to fit onto your GamePad.

You can also invest in grips that are hardier to ensure your GamePad doesn't crack or shatter if you drop it around the house.

You've got a whole library of Virtual Console titles to choose from

If the NES Classic and the mania that surrounded its release has taught us anything, it's that people still love classic Nintendo titles and the firm's long-standing Virtual Console program is easily the best way to enjoy them on Wii U.

And while Wii U won't have access to GameCube emulations in the same way that Switch will further down the line, Wii U still has a formidable library of titles.

That's everything from games on NES, SNES, GameBoy, GameBoy Color and more. It's a huge selection (and one that's likely to grow as Nintendo rolls out more for the ever-expanding Nintendo 3DS audience).

Oh, and did we mention you can play N64 games on your Wii U GamePad? Actual Ocarina of Time. Actual Super Mario 64. You get the idea.

Leave Switch for dust with a high capacity battery for Wii U's GamePad

As a standard, the Wii U GamePad and Nintendo Switch offer the same battery life - that's around three or so hours with wireless on and a full capacity game (such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) on the go. Thing is, you can upgrade your GamePad and blow Switch right out of the water.

The officially licensed GamePad High Capacity Battery (£23 from Amazon) replaces the existing battery in your device (just remember you'll need to unscrew the back to fit it, much like you would with PS4 to change the hard drive).

Adding in this far more powerful battery will supercharge your GamePad from a meager three hours to a whopping eight. Sure, you can't take it out of the house (damn you, previous generation limitations), but you can toddle round the house using it for nearly three time as long as Switch.

Grab yourself a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Finally, how could we end this little guide without including arguably the biggest software selling point Switch has to offer? Even when they're a underwhelming or not quite as deep as you might have hoped, there's an almost elicit magic that comes with owning a new Zelda game - and Breath of the Wild could be the most exciting one yet.

And, best for all for non-Switch adopters, it's coming out on Switch AND Wii U. And, since Switch isn't a PS4 Pro-aping powerhouse, there won't be a huge disparity for Wii U owners, either. Nintendo might have stopped producing Wii U's, but with a brand new Zelda spinning in its drive, the old girl has got plenty of life left in her yet.

And voila! Your Nintendo Wii/Nintendo Switch makeover is complete. Sit back, relax and your enjoy your generation-defying bit of kit. Happy gaming!

Dom Reseigh-Lincoln has been writing for T3 for over half a decade now, covering everything from mobile phones and laptops right through to video games and gaming peripherals. Purveyor of an excellent beard, as well as some perpetually cheeky offspring, Dom likes to wind down in his spare time by listening to heavy metal.