Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Dave Farquhar
Just because you have a new shiny Smart TV doesn’t mean you don’t want to enjoy some of your favorite video games of the past. But it’s not always clear how to connect your old Wii to a new smart TV. In this blog post, I will cover the various options to hook up a Wii to a smart TV, or any other type of digital flat panel TV.
Connect a Wii to a digital flat panel TV or Smart TV
There are generally three viable ways to connect a Wii to a smart TV or other modern digital flat panel TB, but not all of them are necessarily viable in all cases. There is a perception that Smart TVs only have HDMI inputs, and while older connector types are becoming less common, they aren’t completely extinct. You can convert the Wii’s output to HDMI, but before you do that, it can pay off to look around and see if your Smart TV has RCA inputs hiding somewhere. The HDMI inputs usually get top billing in the visible places on the set, but sometimes you can find RCA inputs hiding on the underside of the TV, out of sight and out of mind, but completely usable. Try out the input menu from your remote to see if your TV might have composite or component inputs too.
We will cover the three connection options in the following order:
- Component RCA
It is possible to mod your Wii to output other formats, but for the sake of this blog post, I am assuming you want to connect and unmodified Wii console to an unmodified TV. My goal is to help you get up and running with a minimum of hassle, possibly without the need to buy anything additional, and in the case where you do need to buy something, to present options that are readily available.
Connect a Wii to a TV over component video
The best option from a stock, unmodified Wii console is component video. Component is an analog RGB signal that separates the video into Y, Pb, and Pr signals along with stereo audio. Although a digital signal will be cleaner, component video gives the best possible analog picture and it will still look good on a modern Smart TV or digital flat panel TV if it has those inputs.
The Wii component cable has the bespoke Nintendo AV connector on one side and 5 RCA plugs on the other side of the cable. If you’ve misplaced yours or never had one, replacement Wii component cables are readily available and inexpensive. Here is an Amazon link if you don’t have a local game store near you that still carries one.
The component inputs used to be on the back of televisions where they were readily visible. But lately, manufacturers have been putting them on the underside where they are easy to overlook. This does more readily accommodate mounting the TV to the wall, but it also means you may have a very useful input and have no idea it’s there.
Plug the cable into the AV output on the Wii, then plug the component cables into the RCA jacks on your TV. The video signals are color coded so you don’t mix them up. Select the component input on your TV, and power on your Wii. If the colors look wrong, double check to make sure you didn’t reverse any of them.
The most common hookup method for the Wii always was composite video. During the Wii’s heyday, composite was the one video connector type you could count on most TV sets having. Composite is an analog signal that only separates video from the two audio channels, so the picture quality isn’t as good as component, but it’s still usable and you may have very happily used it back then without knowing any other option existed. Some TVs have a trio of RCA jacks for composite, while others have the component jacks do double duty. You can tell the double duty jacks by the color coding. If one of the RCA jacks is half green and half yellow, that means you can plug a composite signal into that jack.
Hooking up your Wii to a TV over composite works the same way as component. There is a very good chance you already have a Wii composite cable, but if not, composite cables are readily available. Plug the gray and of the cable into the AV port on the Wii, then plug the yellow cable into the yellow RCA jack, and the red and white audio plugs into the red and white RCA jacks. Select composite input on your TV, power on your Wii, and you’ll see your games.
If you have confirmed your TV doesn’t have composite or component inputs, or if you’ve already used those inputs for something else, you can connect your Wii to HDMI. You can get dedicated Wii HDMI converters online, just keep in mind you will need to wait for shipping. The quality on these can vary, depending on which signal they convert, and how well they convert the signal. Some of the composite to HDMI solutions out there work rather well, and some of them sacrifice quality to meet a price point.
The latter two options costs more, but will also work with other older Nintendo consoles like the NES, SNES, and N64 or a Sega Genesis if you have any of those you also want to use.
Let’s review the three sub-options:
Dedicated Wii to HDMI converter
In the case of a Wii-to-HDMI converter, simply plug the converter into the AV output on the Wii, and plug the HDMI side into an available HDMI port with any HDMI cable.
RCA to composite to HDMI adapter from Best Buy
A bulkier but more convenient option to connect a Wii to a Smart TV is to use the Wii RCA composite cable if you already have one, and plug it into an RCA to HDMI converter. I have reviewed one of those devices, the one sold at Best Buy, and found it usually works rather well, and it is very convenient. You probably have a Best Buy near you, which means you can buy it easily, and that also means you can return it easily if it doesn’t work well.
Cheaper composite to HDMI adapters
You can also buy a cheaper knock off from Amazon for around $15. Keep in mind the cheaper converter will take longer to arrive, and returning it in the event of any problems maybe a little more difficult. Mixed results are the norm for these adapters. When they work well, you’ll never tell the difference between it and the adapter from Best Buy, except that you had to supply your own power adapter. But they are more likely to produce lower quality audio, lower quality video, or no video at all. These connectors usually need supplemental power, frequently in the form of USB.
If you aren’t using the USB port on your TV to power something else, you can use that to power the cheaper RCA to HDMI converters. Otherwise, an old phone charger is a common choice. For safety’s sake, try to use a name brand charger rather than a no name charger you bought at a gas station.
Connecting either type of composite to HDMI adapter to a Wii and Smart TV
In the case of either type of adapter, there is a switch on the side to choose 720p or 1080p output. If you aren’t happy with the output, flip the switch. The right one to use for your TV doesn’t necessarily always give the best output.
Hook up is easy. Supply power to the adapter, plug and HDMI cable between the adapter and the TV, and plug the composite video plug into the RCA ports on the converter and the gray side of the plug into the Wii. Select the appropriate HDMI input on your TV, make sure the converter box is receiving power, and power on your Wii. Double check all the connections and the 720p / 1080p switch, and you can usually get a usable signal without much fuss.
So if you want to turn a holiday weekend into a Wii-kend, you have some options to connect your Wii to a smart TV, just depending on how big of a hurry you are in and how much you want to spend. But in any case, the prices tend to be reasonable, and the solutions allow you to enjoy Mario and the gang on your modern big screen.