The Nintendo GameCube was a great console. Wouldn’t it be great to revisit some of those games today, even if you don’t have the original console anymore? You could play GameCube games on a Wii U, but you might not have one. Instead, we’re going to show you how you can play your GameCube games straight on your computer using emulation.
While competitors like the PlayStation 2 may have sold better, the GameCube could boast that it was a purple box with a carrying handle. It also had some excellent games, like Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Super Mario Sunshine.
If you have your own methods for playing GameCube games on your PC to share, or just want to revel in some old-school gaming memories, be sure to head to the comments below.
Download Dolphin Emulator
To run GameCube games on a computer, you’ll need a piece of software called an emulator. You can get emulators for all sorts of tasks — simply put, they mimic another platform on your computer. There are various tools out there for our task at hand, but unquestionably the best for GameCube (and Wii) emulation is Dolphin Emulator.
Dolphin Emulator is the best for several of reasons. It can play every GameCube game ever released — some better than others, but the developers are always making improvements. Dolphin will run them regardless of region, has local multiplayer where applicable, and supports the GameCube controller via a USB adapter like this one.
Perhaps most notably of all are the visual improvements. Although the GameCube only supported a 480p resolution, Dolphin Emulator isn’t limited in the same way. You can apply anti-aliasing to smooth out edges, and in some cases apply custom high definition texture packs. It can put quite a strain on your computer if you want the best graphical fidelity since a GameCube runs differently from how a computer does.
Head over to the official Dolphin Emulator site and download the latest version. Run the installer and progress through the wizard. Once done, launch the program from your Start menu.
Prepare Your GameCube Games
Sadly, you can’t just pop a GameCube disc in your computer and launch that. You’ll need to create a disk image (ISO) of the game so that Dolphin Emulator can run it.
If you have a specific DVD drive, you can use Friidump to rip the ISO directly. Only a select few LG drives work though, as specified on Friidump’s site. Nevertheless, you might find it worthwhile to purchase one of these drives from somewhere like eBay (they’re old and no longer produced), install it in your system, and run Friidump.
Alternatively, you can use a Wii console and SD card. You’ll need to install the Homebrew Channel on your Wii to get started. Details on how to do that can be found over on WiiBrew’s Homebrew setup guide. Once done, you’ll then need to download CleanRip, extract it to your SD card, and install it via the Homebrew Channel. CleanRip will guide you through the process with on-screen instructions, but you can also refer to Dolphin Emulator’s ripping games guide for advice.
I recommend that you store all your GameCube ISOs in the same folder on your computer. It’ll make things easier in the next stage.
Using Dolphin Emulator
With Dolphin Emulator open, double-click Dolphin could not find any GameCube/Wii ISOs or WADs. Double-click here to set a games directory… Navigate to where you’re storing the ISOs and click Select Folder.
It will then sync all of your ISOs and list them out with their logo, name, publisher, size (all GameCube games will be the same size) and current compatibility rating. Five stars means that the game runs perfectly with no issues, while four stars represents a fully playable game with minor graphical or audio issues. Three stars or below means the game crashes regularly and you probably won’t be able to progress too far in it.
Before launching, you might want to edit your settings first. You’ll find them in the Options drop-down; let’s do the most important first. Go to Options > Controller Settings. In Port 1 it’s set to Standard Controller by default, which is a GameCube controller. Hit Configure to see how it’s mapped to your keyboard. You can click any of the buttons to change the assigned keys.
Next, go to Options > Graphics. You may want to come back to this screen after you’ve tried out a game and seen what your system can handle, but you should enable Use Fullscreen first. Switch to the Enhancements tab for some more advanced features, like Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering. Note that these will take a strain on lesser systems. Check out Dolphin Emulator’s guide to performance for more information.
When you’re ready to play, simply double-click a game from the list and it’ll launch. If you ever want to customize an individual game’s settings, right-click it and select Properties. Here you can override core options, apply patches, and apply cheat codes.
Get Your Game On!
You don’t have to chuck out all your old GameCube games. It’s time to burn them to your computer and get to playing them through an emulator. Who says you need to play modern games? There’s a huge back catalog of GameCube games to explore!
If you’re looking for more retro emulation, be sure to see our guides on how to run original PlayStation games on your PC and how to run PlayStation 2 games on your PC. There’s no denying that Sony’s systems had some great exclusives too!
Which of your GameCube games will you be emulating first? Have you used an emulator before? Tell us down in the comments!