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

The GameCube (GCN/NGC) is a 32-bit sixth-generation console released by Nintendo on November 18, 2001 for $199. It has a 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 next year.

Nintendo released the successor, the Wii, in 2006 where it was revealed to have very similar (albeit more powerful) hardware and compatible interfaces. This meant that the Wii could handle GameCube games natively rather than use 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 Wii Triforce Libretro Core FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
Dolphin Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD Dev ~[N 1] [N 2]
Ishiiruka-Dolphin Windows Linux macOS Dev ~ ~
Dolwin Windows Linux 0.151
Dolphin (Nintendo) Windows e2.8
Mobile / ARM
Dolphin Android Linux Dev ~[N 1]
Dolphin MMJR Android git
git (360)
~
Consoles
Nintendont Wii Wii U 2021-07-12 ~ N/A ~
  1. 1.0 1.1 Requires the Triforce branch to work. It is very old and unsupported.
  2. Currently at Alpha release and has bugs that are not present on standalone Dolphin.

Comparisons[edit]

Dolphin
is 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 catalogue 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 May 2021, Dolphin's compatibility is at 96% of the games being playable or perfect.
Ishiiruka-Dolphin
is a fork of Dolphin optimized towards performance at the cost of accuracy and stability in the process. Its most important features are:
  • Async shader compilation (Avoiding shader compilation time)
  • Galop's DX11 Texture Encoder/Decoder (Improve Texture decoding specially EFB TO RAM)
  • Pre-compiled Vertex loader & Optimized vertex decoding using SSSE3 and SSE4
  • Dolby Pro Logic II support for XAudio and OpenAL
  • Custom Texture improvements to allow directly compressed texture loading including mipmaps
  • DSP - Time Stretching Option (Improve sound output to avoid sound skipping on slow machines)
  • DX9 support for old machines
  • Modified Post Processing interface to support:
  • Multiple Stages allowing more complex effects.
  • Depth and native gamma as inputs.
  • Custom version of DolphinFX that work under dx11 and ogl
  • SSAO and DOF.
  • Texture Scaling Support
  • Bump Mapping with advanced material properties
  • Phong Specular reflection to improve lighting quality
  • Tessellation and Displacement Mapping
  • Rim Lighting
  • Bump auto-generation to improve lighting
Dolwin
an open-source Nintendo GameCube emulator which initially started development in 2004. It went into hiatus but is now active. 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
Is not actually a GameCube emulator, only emulating certain peripherals. Heavily relies on the hardware similarities between the Gamecube/Wii/Wii U to work. Included here due to its partial Triforce compatibility.

Running BIOS[edit]

To boot the GameCube's original 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, as well as hybrid XFB. If you're on the 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 into 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]

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, which allows for a very stable connection that works with features such as save states and netplay. Dolphin can also connect to standalone versions of mGBA; this is necessary for some less commonly used features such as e-Reader support or cases where the GBA has to be disconnected from the GameCube. Both of these 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.

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 had support for 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.

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

Broadband Adapter[edit]

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

This was an add-on that 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. 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 with Devolution
  • 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 has partial BBA emulation for certain games.

Bongos[edit]

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

Microphone[edit]

This was an accessory bundled with Mario Party 6 & Mario Party 7 that 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.

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, as well as a custom IPL.

Dolphin used to have Triforce support, however it was removed several years ago. Nevertheless, a branch remains, and it 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, with many having 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 (public) good 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 ran through Nintendont.

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 Xbox and 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 was only able to 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.

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]