Dolphin – Wii Emulator (even the newest versions of Ubuntu)

Jarret B

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May 22, 2017
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With gaming consoles being sought after at an all-time high, most consoles are hard to find or too expensive. Older consoles, such as the Wii, are favorites for some people. For those running Linux, we can use a Wii emulator called Dolphin to play Wii games.

The process is a fairly simple one that will get you up and running so you can play Wii games on your Linux system.

NOTE: Dolphin also has a version for Windows and Mac.

So, let’s get started preparing your system for Wii games.

Dolphin Installation

Open a Terminal and type the following command:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:dolphin-emu/ppa

The next step depends on your version of Ubuntu. If you have Version 18 or less, execute the Terminal command:

sudo apt install dolphin-emu

If you have a version above Bionic Beaver, then you need to perform an extra step.

NOTE: The way to tell easily, is when you execute the above command there will be an error that there is no Release file for your Ubuntu version.

Open ‘Synaptic Package Manager' then click on 'Settings' and select 'Repositories' from the drop-down list. Once a new window appears, click on the tab labeled as 'Other Software'. Scroll down to the bottom of the list and you should see s line with a checkmark next to it that starts with ''. Click the line once to select it and then click on the 'Edit' button. Whatever the ‘Distribution’ name is set, you need to change it to ‘bionic’. Click the ‘OK’ button to make the changes then click ‘Close’.

Back in a Terminal, use the commands:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install -y dolphin-emu

Exit the Terminal and you are ready to begin getting games.

Getting Games

Technically, you should only download the games that you own. There may be places online and locally where you can buy actual game discs. Once you own the game, you can download it or copy it from the disc.

To find a game, search on the Internet for Wii Rom downloads. If you have a specific game in mind, then add it to the search string.

Online, you need to look for files with an extension of 'wbfs'. The 'wbfs' files are compressed, whereas ISO files are not. There are files with an extension of 'nkit.iso'. These files are not playable from Dolphin.

Once you have a game, place it in a folder that will contain all game files, so they are easily found by the emulator. It may be best to place them in a folder in your Home directory. Some people just make a folder.

Before we can play a game, we must configure a controller. The initial device will be the keyboard and mouse, but we can do better.

Connecting a Wiimote or Other Controller

Not every Wii remote will work. I tried a generic Rock Candy Wiimote and it would not work. I then used a remote that had ‘Motion Plus’ and it worked fine.

To get Linux to see your Wiimote, make sure you have Bluetooth enabled.

From a Terminal, enter the command:

sudo apt install lswm wminput libcwiid1

Once the command has installed all the files, run 'lswm' and then quickly press the '1' and '2' buttons on the Wiimote. If there is a connection, you should see the Bluetooth MAC address listed in the Terminal.

A problem arises that there is no easy way to connect the sensor bar to a computer. An easy way around this is to get small tea light candles and candle holders for them. Candles give off infra-red light, so you can place these in front of your monitor or laptop. This is a makeshift sensor bar. If you open Dolphin and click on the icon for 'Controllers', you should see a window similar to Figure 1.

Figure 01.jpg


Towards the bottom is the section titled 'Sensor Bar Position'. Most likely you will place these on the bottom of your monitor so change the option to the bottom. Under 'Wiimotes', make sure it is set to 'Real Wiimote' if you are using a real Wiimote.

I also have a wired controller that I use. When I hook it to the USB port, I can open a Terminal and run ‘lsusb’. The result for the device is ‘Bus 001 Device 006: ID 0e6f:0187 Logic3 Rock Candy Wired Controller for Nintendo Switch’.

For controllers other than a real Wiimote, choose ‘Emulated Wiimote’ for the specific Wiimote number you are choosing. Once selected, click on ‘Configure’ for that Wiimote number.

At the top for ‘Device’, it should default to ‘xlib/0/keyboard mouse’. Choose the down arrow at the right of the box and select your device from the dropdown list. Here, I can choose ‘evdev/0/Performance Designed Products Rock Candy Wired Controller for the Nintendo Switch’. Now you can map the new controller buttons to the Wiimote buttons. Be aware, looking at Figure 2, of the various sections of buttons. The 'IR' is the movement of the Wiimote by the Sensor bar. There is also the 'swing', 'tilt' and 'shake' of the Wiimote itself. There is also the D-Pad on the Wiimote. Under 'Extension' you can configure the 'Nunchuck', 'Guitar', 'Drums' and 'Turntable'. Be aware of any game you play that requires an extension device. Make sure it is configured for the Extension before you start playing the game or you will be stuck. You'll have to quit the game and reconfigure the appropriate movement or Extension. Sometimes, this is necessary to get the right 'feel' for the game. It probably took me 4 times to get things right for a specific game.

Figure 02.jpg


Playing the Emulator

Start up Dolphin and you should see an initial window asking if it is ok to send statistics to the developers. Click either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ as you prefer.

Once the program starts, click on ‘Options’ and the ‘Configure’ from the drop-down list. In the next window, click on the right arrow in the top row of the window. Move over until you see ‘Paths’. Click on ‘Paths’, then select the ‘Add’ button. Find the folder where you placed your ‘wbfs’ files and select the ‘Open’ button. Click ‘Ok’ to close the ‘Configure’ window.

If you selected the proper folder, Dolphin should refresh the game list in the main window and display all your available games.

NOTE: Just because a game is listed, does not mean it will run in the emulator.

Click on a game that is listed to play, or double-click the game. A new window should appear with the selected game playing in it. You can maximize the screen as you need.


Using Dolphin will give you a new way to play your favorite games. Some people may have their Wii system sitting in a closet or may not desire to hook it all up. Dolphin gives you an alternative.

I hope you found this article informative and manage to play some Wii games.

This is gonna be an awesome project. I was was given a Wii setup a month ago.
I was actually researching that exact thing with little girl. Pointing her in the right direction introducing her to this project and her upcoming Raspberry Pi 4 build.
Sold my console, was tired of Microsoft spyware.

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