Wii emulators

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Nintendo Wii
Wii-Console.png
Developer Nintendo
Type Home video game console
Generation Seventh generation
Release date 2006
Discontinued 2013
Predecessor GameCube
Successor Wii U
Emulated
For other emulators that run on Wii hardware, see Emulators on Wii.

The Wii is a seventh-generation home video game console by Nintendo released on November 19, 2006, and priced at $249.99. It has an IBM PowerPC CPU at 729 MHz with 88 MBs of RAM and an ATI Hollywood GPU. The Wii was a huge success with 101.63 million units sold, beating the likes of the Xbox 360 and PS3 by being cheaper and attracting a large number of casual gamers and non-gamers. Because of the Wii's and the GameCube's similarity, Wii emulation happened very quickly through GameCube emulation.

Emulators[edit]

Name Platform(s) Latest version Enhancements Hardware features
and peripherals
Compatibility FLOSS Active Recommended
PC / x86
Dolphin Windows Linux macOS FreeBSD Dev[N 1]
Beta[N 1]
libretro core[N 2]
Dev (Ishiiruka-Dolphin) (いし海豚)
97%
Mobile / ARM
Dolphin Android Dev
libretro core[N 2]
97%
DolphiniOS iOS Release Beta ? ? ?
Dolphin MMJR Android git ? ? ?
Ishiiruka (いし海豚) Android git ? ? ?
Consoles
Dolphin Xbox One Xbox Series X/S 1.1.5[N 3]
libretro core[N 2]
97%
Virtual Wii Wii U v5.5.6 * 99%
518 out of 522 reported titles
Hagi Switch Patch-based ? Only for selected titles
  1. 1.0 1.1 The stable versions are years out-of-date and missing countless features and bug fixes.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. Use these builds until this PR merge.

Comparisons[edit]

Dolphin
The only option for Wii emulation. This is probably due to the project going open-source, allowing more developers to pursue it early in the console's lifespan. It's updated on a near-daily basis and is very compatible, barring some noticeable issues with GameCube games. In addition, it is recommended to sync a Wii remote to play games, mainly because it can be difficult mapping the motion controls to a controller.
Ishiiruka-Dolphin
A fork of Dolphin optimized towards performance at the cost of accuracy and stability in the process.
Hagi
An official GameCube/Wii emulator developed by Nintendo European Research & Development (NERD). Hagi has been used primarily for re-releases on the Switch, such as Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy, Pikmin, and Pikmin 2.

Hardware features and peripherals[edit]

See this page for peripheral support by titles.
Name Dolphin Virtual Wii
Wii system software Wii System Menu * *
Virtual Console * *
Connectivity Wi-Fi & WFC
WiiConnect24 ?
DS connectivity *
Controllers Nunchuck
Classic Controller
Nintendo GameCube Controller ~*
Wii MotionPlus ~
Inputs Motion Controls (Gyro)
Built-in Speaker * ?
IR Sensor
5.1 channel surround as Dolby Pro Logic II *
Peripherals
Wii Speak * ?
Wii Balance Board ~[N2 1] *
PDP Headbanger Chat Headset ~[N2 1] ?
Portal Skylanders Portal of Power * ?
Disney Infinity Base *
Tablet uDraw GameTablet * ?
Drawsome Tablet * ?
Wireless Skateboard Controller ~[N2 1] ?
Ubisoft Your Shape Camera ~[N2 1] ?
  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 No support for emulating these peripherals (e.g. Your Shape Camera) but if you have the peripheral device you could use USB Passthrough. Also there is a pull request for adding Wireless Skateboard Controller emulation to Dolphin.

Wii System Menu[edit]

Wii System Menu and Wii Opera browser emulation using Dolphin emulator.png

Dolphin is capable of running the system menu. To get the system menu, one needs to use BootMii to dump the NAND of the Wii and import it. Refer to the NAND usage guide on the Dolphin wiki for more details.

As of 5.0-4588, it is possible to automatically get the System Menu, along with all other system software, by performing an online update (in the Tools menu).

Connectivity[edit]

DS connectivity[edit]

An unadvertised feature of the Wii is being able to connect to the Nintendo DS (and, by extension, the DSi and the 3DS through their respective retro-compatibility features). A few DS titles can do it, including but not limited to:

  • Mii Channel (a hidden feature that can be used in conjunction with a 3DS' Mii Maker application or some DS games)[1]
  • Pokémon Battle Revolution
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
  • Nintendo Channel

Unlike GameCube/GBA connectivity, this feature is still not yet emulated. So far, neither Dolphin nor any DS emulator supports this feature.

Controllers[edit]

Wii Remote[edit]

The main selling point of the Wii is its motion control devices relying on gyroscopic sensors to detect motion to detect the screen and simulate pointers, an IR sensor, and a "Wii Sensor Bar" on the top or bottom of the TV screen. The "Wii Sensor Bar" is just 2 red LEDs, and you can even use two candles on each side of the screen to get the same effect. Optionally, a nunchuck with an analog pad can be plugged into the Wiimote, and it also has its own gyroscopic controls. Some other, yet less common add-ons may be plugged in too.

You can simulate these controls with one of these modes:

  • Bluetooth Passthrough (since 5.0-910). This directly exposes a Bluetooth adapter to the emulated software, bypassing all host stack limitations. With a good enough adapter, this mode guarantees identical connectivity and behavior to the Wii.
  • Real Wiimote: Controlled only with an actual, physical Wiimote connected to the PC with Bluetooth. You may need to hold 1+2 on the Wiimote before clicking "Pair" in Dolphin.
  • Emulated Wiimote: Controlled only with a keyboard or gamepad controls you set up in the configuration. Considering the motion controls were basic enough for the first Wiimote, there are just options to set the directions for "Tilt", "Swing", and "Shake". The IR sensor is mapped to the mouse by default, though the option to go toward the screen is empty by default but available for remapping. The Nunchuck has its own motion controls. Depending on the game, you can just set up a few of these (typically, a button dedicated to shaking) and leave the rest empty. With presets, you can have each game use its own configuration. There are settings for sideways and vertical Wiimote positions.
  • Hybrid Wiimote: Allows for using both emulated controls and real Wiimote controls. It can be useful to control the IR pointer with a mouse in case there's no sensor bar. This feature has been removed since 5.0-7038.[2]

Up to 4 Wiimotes can be added. If they desynch and disconnect, they can be reconnected by pressing Alt+F5~8.

Wii MotionPlus[edit]

The enhanced incarnation of the Wiimote with better motion detection. It was used to great effect for improved swordplay in Wii Sports Resort and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. However, with this improvement comes additional complexity for setting up the gyroscopic controls.

As of May 2019, Dolphin now includes the option for an emulated MotionPlus controller, though some minor issues remain, and configuration is still being figured out. A real Wii MotionPlus controller can also be used.

Enhancements[edit]

Name Dolphin
Graphics Resizable Internal Resolution
True Color Rendering
This is an enhancement that reduces banding by forcing the emulated hardware to the highest bitdepth possible. Read this for more information. It is useful especially on non-CRT displays, producing nicer looking gradients.
Widescreen and ultrawide hack
To get full native widescreen, try Swiss.
This can even run on a real GameCube/Wii if you wish.
Texture packs [N2 1]
Ray-tracing Implementing ray-tracing in an emulator is unfortunately quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future.
However you can try "Screen-Space Ray Traced Global Illumination" shader using ReShade.
Demonstration
Pre-rendering AA
(MSAA, SSAA)
Super-resolution techniques
(DLSS, XeSS and FSR 2+)
Requires access to the depth buffer and temporal data like motion-vectors so it's quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future.
Besides any GPU that can use DLSS can run Dolphin at 8k native with ease anyway.
RTX Remix Implementing RTX Remix technology in an emulator is unfortunately quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future.
Besides, Dolphin already supports most of RTX Remix features such as access to assets, texture replacement and post-processing effects etc.[1]
On top of that you can use ReShade.
Performance Overclock
Internal Framerate Hack
Frame generation technologies
(LSFG, DLSS-G, ExtraSS and AFMF)
Implementing frame generation technology in an emulator is unfortunately quite challenging and unlikely to be feasible in the near future, however post-processing techniques such as motion interpolation is quite possible. Input latency will be a crucial factor, but its impact likely varies depending on the specific technique employed, it's recommended to use after applying the "Internal Framerate Hack".
While AFMF or LSFG can be used with Dolphin, please be aware that some visual glitches and artifacts may occur at this time.
Preload optical disc image to RAM
For users with sluggish multi-platter HDDs or plagued by horrible seek times, this enhancement might offer smoother experience, potentially reduced power consumption; it also shines when disc images reside on a network drive.
Although keep in mind that preloading image would take some time, and it will require additional amount of RAM capacity.
*
Post-Processing Post-rendering AA
(FXAA, TXAA and MLAA/SMAA)
Post-rendering scaling
(Sharp bilinear, Lanczos and FSR 1)
Filters
NTSC filters, HDR tonemapping etc.
Shader Chain WIP[N2 2]
TAS features Macros/Scripts/Lua
Rewind
Fast-Forward/Turbo Speed
Savestates
Movie recording/playback
Controls Mouse Injector Compatible *
Input lag-mitigating technique
Quality of life Streamable compression format
Built-in Graphics mod editor/manager ~[N2 3]
Built-in Cheat Manager
Built-in Custom resolution/CRTSwitchRes
For using this on Windows OS you need CRT Emudriver.
Another option is using EDID editor tool such as "Custom Resolution Utility".
Exclusive to libretro core at the moment.
Also there is a project for achieving software emulators like libretro cores and GroovyMAME send the raw RGB data over a network to a core running on MiSTer, it basically turns the MiSTer into a GPU for the emulator allowing for easy setup and use with CRT TVs/Arcade monitors.
Per-Game Profiles
Command Line Options
On-Screen Display
Showcases messages, controller input state which is useful for speedrunners, performance data, active settings, and various notifications.
Big Picture Mode WIP
Misc RetroAchievements WIP
Free Look
Free Look is a enhancement feature that allows manipulation of the in-game camera.
*
Debug Features
  1. Dolphin lets you dump game textures and also replace game textures with new custom ones.
    Main article: Texture packs#GameCube/Wii
  2. Dolphin had a DolphinFX project for OpenGL backend but it's now obsolete.
  3. There is a pull request for adding graphics mod editor/manager to Dolphin. In the meantime you can use Graphics Mods; an exciting new feature introduced in 5.0-16763 that allows users to modify games through a method of defining targets and then applying actions to those targets. Currently, Dolphin supports three actions: Skip, Move, and Scale. These are modifications to the target groups. In addition to this, Dolphin has some built-in Graphics Mods that apply to certain target groups. These include "Native Bloom" - scaling the "Bloom" target group down to the correct resolution, "No Bloom" - skipping any texture labeled in the "Bloom" target group, and "No HUD" - skipping any textures under the target group of "HUD". You can define these or your own Target Groups in any game through using Dolphin's Texture Dumping tool or EFB dumping tools.

Arcade variations[edit]

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars[edit]

Capcom's Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars is the only arcade game that runs on Wii-based hardware, which supports JVS inputs, has no Wi-Fi or Bluetooth hardware, and runs a specifically developed version of the Wii's OS (named IOS) which has no system menu and boots right into the game after powered on.

The game, related hardware, and operating system are yet left unemulated.

Twitter user @dev_console claims to be working on dumping this board NAND and keys, which could result in this hardware being emulated.

Emulation issues[edit]

For more information about Nintendo Wii hardware and reverse engineering;

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]