How to Play Wii Games on Ubuntu with Dolphin

Linux has no games. That’s an Internet adage that you’ve heard more times than you care to think about, especially as a Linux user. Thankfully, it’s wrong, really wrong. There are plenty of great games for Linux and loads more if you count the ones emulators make available. The open source Dolphin emulator brings a huge chunk of the Wii ecosystem to Linux, and that includes plenty of Gamecube titles, too.

Dolphin isn’t some shady freeware piece of junk that’s going to run like garbage and mess up your computer to boot. It’s a proven open-source project that’s been in active development since 2003. The Dolphin developers take their project seriously and are constantly making technical improvements to expand its library and improve performance.

Dolphin is available for a wide range of platforms. On Ubuntu, it’s packaged and ready to install from a PPA repository maintained by the Dolphin development team.

Open up a terminal and add the PPA to your Ubuntu install and update your package lists.

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

After the update finishes, you’re ready to install Dolphin. Again, you can use Apt to install your new Wii emulator like any other Ubuntu package.

sudo apt install dolphin-emu

After the install, Dolphin will be available from Unity’s search feature. Type in “dolphin,” and you’ll see the emulator’s icon.

Dolphin is available through Unity

Click to open the Dolphin Emulator. The screen that greets you is very plain. When you get some games added to your library and your controllers and settings are configured, it will be much more active.

Dolphin Wii emulator running on Ubuntu

Dolphin doesn’t require a Wiimote or any other gaming controller. There is a virtual controller that comes with the emulator. However, you can choose to connect one or more Wiimotes to your Ubuntu PC.

The Wii remotes rely on Bluetooth, so before you can use them you need to have a Bluetooth receiver configured on your computer.

Install the packages that you need for the remote to work well with Linux from Ubuntu’s repositories. Yes, they are actually in the default ones.

sudo apt install libcwiid1 lswm wmgui wminput

There is also a Linux kernel module that you need to get the most out of your remote. Add uinput to “/etc/modules.” This will tell Ubuntu to load the module each time it boots up.

sudo echo "uinput" >> /etc/modules

You can either restart your computer or run sudo modprobe uinput to load that module that you need.

Connect a Wii remote to Ubuntu

The program that you will be using to connect your Wii remotes is wmgui. It provides a basic graphical interface for managing remotes as well as the Wii nunchuck and classic controllers.

Press “Connect” in the top menu of wmgui. It will then prompt you to hold the 1 and 2 buttons on the remote itself. The process is similar to pairing it with a Wii.

Dolphin Emulator Settings

Dolphin has a number of different options for configuring your ideal emulation setup. There are options beyond what you’d traditionally find on the console, including graphical enhancements to take advantage of the additional power available to PC owners.

Graphics

Dolphin Graphics Settings

The graphics menu features tweaks and improvements to adapt Dolphin to your machine’s graphics capabilities. It allows you to switch graphics APIs, increase resolution, tweak rendering features like anti-aliasing, and a lot more.

Controllers

Dolphin Controller Settings

Dolphin allows you to manage multiple Wiimotes and Gamecube controllers. It even has an option for adding a Wii balance board. Using Dolphin’s built-in controls, you can configure each individual controller to your preferences.

You can get games a couple of different ways. Some of them are legally gray, and others are downright illegal. The best way to get your games is to create backups of the games that you already own.

Traditional ripping software isn’t going to work for Wii games. The simplest way to handle creating backups is to install homebrew on a Wii console and use the software available through that to create your backups. Then you can transfer them to your Ubuntu PC and run them with your newly-configured Dolphin emulator.

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