Emulation on PC gives the ability to play games you already own on modern hardware. While some people are purists and will tell you that original hardware is the only way to go, the Dolphin emulator is actually worth checking out.
The Nintendo Gamecube is one of the most underrated consoles. While it has some quality first party titles, the third party kept it from rivaling Xbox and PlayStation 2. Like with most consoles out there, there are emulators available.
Typically emulators will render the game in its native resolution meaning that if the system had only 240p resoution, that’s all you got. While that’s not a big deal for sprite based systems like the Super Nintendo, early 3D systems did not age well at all and suffer tremendously if you play them on a modern HDTV. Dolphin gives you the ability to upscale the renders of Gamecube games to give them a rich, smooth graphics like on Wii U and Xbox One. It also saves you $200 on a component cable that provides minimal enhancements.
In addition to upscaling, the Dolphin emulator also allows you take screenshots in game and record gameplay. The latest version is compatible with the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive if you have a headset making the games true 3D. The Dolphin Emulator also is compatible with every single game in the Gamecube library so any game you’re looking to play, Dolphin will play it.
What you need to install Dolphin.
Installing Dolphin is as simple as installing any other program. Below is a list of files that you’ll need to download before proceeding with the rest of the guide. Each file is a direct download so it should show up at in your downloads folder. This installation process is for Windows Vista or higher. So if you have another OS, you’ll have to seek help elsewhere. Sorry.
Using a Gamecube controller with Dolphin
You can use any windows compatible controller with the Dolphin emulator, but I suggest going with the real deal. Gamecube controllers can work with the PC provided that you have the Wii U gamepad adapter that either came with Super Smash Brothers or sold seperatly. It’s $20 and will work with any Gamecube controller even the Wavebird. While its sole function with the Wii U is to play Smash, its use with the PC is much more expansive.
Before starting Zadig, make sure your GameCube adapter has both USBs plugged in. Once Zadig is started follow the images below for easy setup
Once the adapter is good to go, plug in your favorite GameCube controller and go back to the Dolphin emulator. From there, select controllers and set port one to GameCube Adapter for Wii U. You can toggle the rumble on and off and simulate the DK bongos if you have a set, but all the buttons will be mapped automatically which pretty nice.
Choosing your graphics on Dolphin
One of the best features of Dolphin is that you can choose to either keep the native resolution or upscale to fit your modern rig. Right now I have it set to 2k and I can achieve 30fps with a GTX 970. Your results may vary and I suggest going up one notch at a time to see if your system can handle it. I thought I could shoot for 8k and it crashed the program. I also only have a 2k monitor so I’m good with the 2k.
To change the graphics on Dolphin, click on graphics then Enhancements. This will give you a slew of options to tailor the game to your liking. As you can see, I have mine set to 1440p, 8x MSAA (makes the game really smooth) and Anisotropic Filtering set to 4X. Of course you can set it to whatever you want and playing around with it is half the fun!
Playing ROMS on the Dolphin emulator.
The Dolphin GameCube emulator only plays backups of GameCube and Wii games. Most DVD drives will not read the discs because of Nintendo’s copyright protection. So you’ll have to download a backup of a game that you already own from a file sharing site. Typically I just search “GameCube Title ISO” into Google and it pulls up a site that has the file. These are free for the most part, just download at your own risk; while emulation isn’t illegal, downloading ROMS could get you a polite letter from your ISP telling you to stop.
GameCube ROMS are usually 1.5GB in size and come in a zipped file format known as 7z. You can right click the file and choose to expand it in the folder of your choice. I prefer to keep them all in one folder so that Dolphin can easily index your files and you can load them right from the directory instead of digging through your file folders. Note- depending on your settings in 7z, you might need to drag the ISO file into the main folder for Dolphin to index.
Once you’ve followed all of these steps, you’re ready to play some GameCube games on your PC! From here you can choose to take screenshots in game, record video and even save your place right in the middle of the action. I hope this guide is easy enough to navigate. if there are any questions or comments, post them in the section below!