GameCube emulators

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Nintendo GameCube
GameCube-logo.png
GameCube-Console-Set.png
Developer Nintendo
Type Home video game console
Generation Sixth generation
Release date 2001
Discontinued 2007
Predecessor Nintendo 64
Successor Wii
Emulated
For other emulators that run on Gamecube hardware, see Emulators on GameCube.

The GameCube (GCN/NGC) is a 32-bit, sixth-generation console released by Nintendo on November 18, 2001, for $199. It has an IBM PowerPC Gekko CPU at 486 MHz with a ATI Flipper GPU. Nintendo, Namco, and Sega later designed the Triforce arcade board based on the GameCube, releasing titles for it the following year.

Nintendo released the successor, the Wii, in 2006, which was revealed to have very similar (albeit more powerful) hardware and compatible interfaces. This meant the Wii could run GameCube games natively rather than via emulation. While this was removed in later revisions, as well as the vWii mode in the Wii U, the hardware is still similar enough that GameCube games can be run via certain homebrew programs, most namely Nintendont.

Emulators[edit]

Name Platform(s) Latest Version Triforce GC
to
GBA
Broadband
Adapter
Retro
Achievements
Libretro FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
Dolphin Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD Dev[N 1]
Beta[N 1]
libretro core[N 2]
Dev (Ishiiruka-Dolphin)
~[N 3] [N 4] [N 5]
Dolwin Windows Linux 0.151 ~
Dolphin (Nintendo) Windows e2.8
Mobile / ARM
Dolphin Android Linux Dev
libretro core[N 2]
~[N 3] ? [N 4] [N 5]
DolphiniOS iOS Release
Beta
? ?
Dolphin MMJR Android git ? ?
Consoles
Nintendont Wii U Wii git ~ [N 6]
Dolphin Xbox One Xbox Series X/S 1.14[N 7]
libretro core[N 2]
? [N 5]
DIOS MIOS (Lite) Wii 2.11
  1. 1.0 1.1 The stable versions are years out-of-date and missing countless features and bug fixes. Beta or development versions are a better choice for almost all users; the stable versions should only be used if you have a specific need for them.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dolphin libretro core is currently at Alpha release and has bugs that are not present on standalone Dolphin.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Efforts to add Triforce emulation to Dolphin have stagnated at the upstream level, and current support requires a third-party fork. See #Triforce for further details.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Online Play via DNS Revive Server; Schthack PSO and System Link; Dolphin Gamecube XLink BBA Tutorial (Dolphin 5.0-12233 or higher for Windows and 5.0-16950 or higher for Android is required)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 work-in-progress, Topic: Gamecube Dolphin achievements soon?
  6. Nintendont includes support for the GBA link cable hardware, but only on the original Wii (model RVL-001).
  7. Use these builds until this PR merge.

Comparisons[edit]

Dolphin (compatibility)
The emulator of choice for the GameCube and the first and only emulator for the Wii. It's updated on a near-daily basis and has very good emulation of almost every game, though some games have known bugs on their issue trackers. It is the first emulator to boot the full game catalog of a sixth-generation home console (Before any emulator for the same generation rivals like the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and Xbox) and did so on September 2016. The developers maintain a wiki containing known bugs, tips, user-provided tests, and much more for every game. System requirements are high, more so for Wii games than GameCube. As of Dec 2022, Dolphin's compatibility is at 97% of the games being playable or perfect.
Ishiiruka-Dolphin
A fork of Dolphin optimized towards performance at the cost of accuracy and stability in the process.
Dolwin
An open-source Nintendo GameCube emulator which initially started development in 2004. With that in mind, it's not the most advanced but has interesting features and can boot and run some commercial games and demos.
Dolphin (Nintendo)
Nintendo made an emulator for Windows that was also called Dolphin. This official program does not run commercial games and has no connection to the open-source project.
Nintendont
While not technically an emulator, Nintendont is a compatibility layer that allows you to play GameCube games on the Wii and even the Wii U. It's compatible with nearly all GameCube titles (and Triforce games, too) and supports extra features such as memory card emulation along with support for additional controller input options such as the USB GameCube controller adapter, Classic Controller Pro, Wii U Pro Controller, and even the Wii U GamePad.
DIOS MIOS (Lite)
Another compatibility layer for the Wii (but NOT Wii U) that allows you to play GameCube games. The main version allows users to load games off of a USB device, while the "Lite" version loads games from an SD card. Nintendont serves as a direct successor to this project, making DIOS MIOS entirely obsolete.

Running BIOS[edit]

To boot the GameCube's BIOS, you need a dump from real hardware. Dolphin does not require it to load games but can be set to use it if desired. Current development builds have introduced a feature allowing users to load the BIOS directly from the interface in the Tools list without needing to load a game. If you're on the current stable release, use XFB Virtual and disable "Skip BIOS" in the GameCube options. You will have to load a GameCube title so that the startup animation begins, and like on the original console, you hold the first controller's A-button down and the system will send you to the main menu instead of booting the game. You can then switch to another game with Change Disc, or you can explore the BIOS.

Peripherals[edit]

Name Dolphin Nintendont DolphiniOS Dolphin MMJR
GC/GBA Cable
Broadband Adapter
Microphone
Bongos
Game Boy Player

GC/GBA Cable[edit]

Nintendo produced a special cable (DOL-011) that allowed connectivity with the Game Boy Advance in specific games. Up to four ports could be taken up for the game. While the third-generation Pokémon games are the prime example of it being used in conjunction with Colosseum, XD, or Pokémon Box, they aren't the only games to do so.

Dolphin includes a GBA core based on mGBA that is tied to GameCube emulation, allowing for a very stable connection that works with features such as save states and netplay. Dolphin can also connect to standalone versions of mGBA or VisualBoyAdvance-M; this is necessary for some less commonly used features or cases where the GBA has to be disconnected from the GameCube. Both can be enabled by going into the controller settings and assigning the GBA to one or more ports. The general config menu also allows you to specify a GBA ROM to be used if using the built-in GBA core.

Nintendont includes support for the GBA link cable hardware, but only on the original Wii.

Game Boy Player[edit]

This add-on plugged into the bottom of the GameCube and allowed it to play Game Boy / Game Boy Advance games on a standard television; it had provisions against Game Boy Advance Video cartridges by returning an error after booting them. The launcher even supported the GBA-GCN link cable, where the Game Boy Advance would serve as the controller. Some GBA games like Super Mario Advance 4 and Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga took advantage of the add-on by adding rumble support. The hardware is essentially a peripheral containing Game Boy Advance hardware. A GBA BIOS file is required for this to work.

No emulator currently supports the Game Boy Player hardware and its features. With mGBA now integrated into Dolphin, support for it has been hinted at coming in the future.[1]

Broadband Adapter[edit]

This shouldn't be confused with netplay, which synchronizes emulation over an internet connection.

This add-on allowed the console to use LAN technology over ethernet. Mario Kart: Double Dash!! used it to play on a local network with up to eight other GameCubes, while Phantasy Star Online took it a step further to allow an internet connection for Sega's now-offline official game servers[2]. Kirby Air Ride and 1080° Avalanche also support this adapter. This feature was unavailable on the Wii despite having 802.11 b/g connectivity built-in and an official USB LAN adaptor.

It's possible to hook up zero or more of each of these configurations on one networked game:

  • A GameCube with the broadband adapter (of course)
  • A soft modded Wii/Wii U with Nintendont
  • A recent version of Dolphin with OpenVPN

Dolphin has support for the Broadband Adapter on Windows and Linux. Go to Config > GameCube. A drop-down for SP1 will have the Broadband Adaptor or BBA, depending on the version of Dolphin you're running. Their wiki contains up-to-date instructions on setting up a VPN.

Nintendont also supports BBA emulation for games that support the accessory.

Bongos[edit]

This special controller is used with Donkey Konga and other Donkey Kong games released for the GameCube. Dolphin supports this controller.

Microphone[edit]

This accessory, bundled with Mario Party 6 and Mario Party 7, allowed the GameCube to receive audio from the memory card slot. There were also other games known to support it.

In Dolphin, set slot B in the emulator settings to the microphone. In the operating system, you then make your default recording device available.

Nintendont includes support for the GameCube microphone hardware, but only on the original Wii.

Triforce[edit]

The Triforce is an arcade system board developed jointly by Namco, Sega, and Nintendo, with the first games appearing in 2002. The system hardware consists of a retail GameCube motherboard, with custom devices interfacing with the EXI, SI and DI, and a custom IPL.

Dolphin used to have Triforce support. However, it was removed several years ago. Nevertheless, a branch remains and can still be used, albeit with some difficulty.

Compatibility is patchy, and while all games boot, many require memory patches via gecko codes to progress beyond error screens. This is further compounded by the abundance of patched or modified dumps floating around. Many of which have patched headers for use with Nintendont, or being renamed versions of their GameCube counterparts. This is most prevalent with Mario Kart Arcade GP 1 & 2, with there being no good (public) dumps at all. The site that previously hosted the gecko codes for Triforce games has since shut down, and the replacement site does not have codes for Triforce games, requiring codes to be manually downloaded from the Wayback Machine. Furthermore, games have multiple revisions, and codes only work on specific revisions.

To use the Triforce branch, certain settings must be modified:

  • Under Config/GameCube, SP1 and Port 1 need to be assigned to AM-Baseboard.
  • To actually play games, cheats need to be enabled. While the Mario Kart games have patches on their Dolphin Wiki pages, codes for other games should be downloaded from here.

Triforce games can also be run on a Wii using Nintendont.

There exists a modified build of the Dolphin Triforce branch known as DolphinTriforce-Brodostar, which can run Virtua Striker 4, Virtua Striker Ver 2006 and F-Zero AX (both games crash or run extremely slow normally). It also has all of the Gecko codes/controls preconfigured. You can download it here.

Another suggestion is to use the latest builds by Crediar, found here. Most games work correctly with minimal amount of patches needed, so these builds are the most recommended right now for Triforce emulation.

There are 2 pull requests by Zopolis4 to add preliminary support for Triforce back into upstream Dolphin, but the work is very old and unsupported.[3][4]

Panasonic Q[edit]

The Panasonic Q GameCube console.

The Panasonic Q (sometimes referred to as GameQ by Gamecube fans) is a hybrid version of the GameCube with a DVD player manufactured by Panasonic in cooperation with Nintendo. The system was officially released only in Japan. A feature of its main competitors, the Xbox and the PlayStation 2, the GameCube lacked commercial DVD movie playback functionality due to the use of the Nintendo optical discs format for games and the correspondingly small disc tray. Initially, the Panasonic Q could only play games and DVDs from Japan; however, a modified version, which could play American games and DVDs, began to be sold from Import shops, making it a popular console to import from Japan. The unit was priced at around ¥41,000 JPY, and the modified version was priced at ¥46,000 JPY. The Panasonic Q is capable of using almost all of the GameCube hardware upgrades. A special version of the Game Boy Player was designed for the Q because the Player was designed to fit onto the bottom of the GameCube, and the Q's different bottom form factor kept the Player from being installed. Other features of the Panasonic Q include a backlit information LCD, a front-loading slot disc tray, an optical sound output supporting Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS, a separate subwoofer jack, and a stainless steel chassis. These high-end features, as well as the aforementioned multimedia playback capabilities, have made the Panasonic Q a popular console to collect.

The Q system was licensed by Nintendo, released on December 13, 2001, and was discontinued on December 18, 2003, due to low sales.

Forks[edit]

Ishiiruka-Dolphin

Resources[edit]

  • Dolphin Wiki - The most comprehensive wiki for the Dolphin emulator and games. Good for any fixes/tweaks/settings you should know beforehand.

References[edit]