Dolphin Emulator: The Best Way to Experience Nintendo Games on Windows
Dolphin emulator is a software that allows you to play Nintendo GameCube and Wii games on your Windows PC with enhanced graphics and performance. It is one of the most popular and well-received emulators in the gaming community, as it can run most games with high accuracy and compatibility. Dolphin emulator also supports various features and enhancements, such as custom resolutions, anti-aliasing, anisotropic filtering, shaders, cheats, save states, networked multiplayer, controller support, and more.
If you are a fan of Nintendo games and want to experience them in a new way, or if you missed out on some titles that were exclusive to the GameCube and Wii consoles, then dolphin emulator is for you. In this article, I will guide you through the steps of installing, configuring, and using dolphin emulator on your Windows PC. Let's get started!
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Installing dolphin emulator on Windows is very simple. All you need to do is follow these steps:
Go to the official website of dolphin emulator and click on the Download button.
Select the latest beta or development version for Windows x64. The stable version is outdated and missing many features and bug fixes.
Extract the downloaded ZIP file into a new folder (preferably named after the version) or to replace an existing dolphin setup.
Run the Dolphin.exe file inside the folder to launch the emulator.
Congratulations! You have successfully installed dolphin emulator on your Windows PC. Now let's move on to the configuration part.
Dolphin emulator has two performance related configuration windows: Dolphin configuration and Graphics settings. You can also apply settings per game via their GameINI files. Dolphin is a very demanding program, so configuring it the right way is very important to run games smoothly. This guide assumes you are on the latest beta or development version. Many of these options were created after the release of Dolphin 5.0 Stable and thus 5.0 Stable is not supported by this guide.
Dolphin's default configurations are centered around a mixture of performance and compatibility. Faster computers may want to disable some of the performance hacks for more stability, whereas slower computers and many mobile devices may want to sacrifice stability for even more performance. In this guide, we'll go through some of the easiest ways to gain performance and note the downsides of the various performance hacks in order to help identify when they should be disabled for stability. Settings that do not pertain to performance will not be mentioned in this guide.
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Main Configuration Window
Enable Dual Core: A powerful option for gaining performance that has no downsides some of the time. May cause various random issues caused by splitting the CPU and GPU threads onto different cores. The most common downside to this performance boost is the risk for random "Unknown Opcode" issues and the associated crashes.
Enable Idle Skipping: Another powerful option for gaining performance that has no downsides some of the time. May cause various random issues caused by skipping idle cycles in games that rely on them for timing purposes. The most common downside to this performance boost is audio glitches or desyncs.
JIT Recompiler: The default CPU emulation engine. Fastest option with high compatibility.
JITIL Recompiler: An experimental CPU emulation engine that may be faster or slower depending on the game. Lower compatibility than JIT Recompiler.
Cached Interpreter: A slower CPU emulation engine that may help with stability in some games.
Interpreter: The slowest CPU emulation engine that has the highest compatibility but is too slow for most games.
Lock Threads to Cores: A performance hack that may improve performance on some CPUs by locking the CPU and GPU threads to specific cores. May cause instability or lower performance on other CPUs.
Override Emulated CPU Clock Speed: A performance hack that allows you to change the emulated CPU clock speed. Higher values may improve performance in some games that are not CPU bound, but may also cause instability or glitches. Lower values may reduce performance but also fix some timing issues or make games run slower.
Deterministic Dual Core: A setting that allows you to use dual core mode with netplay or movies. May reduce performance or compatibility compared to normal dual core mode.
Advanced Configuration Window
Enable MMU: A setting that enables the emulation of the Memory Management Unit, which is required for some games to boot or work properly. May reduce performance slightly.
MMU Speed Hack: A performance hack that skips some MMU checks and may improve performance in some games that use MMU. May cause crashes or glitches in other games.
Skip DCBZ clearing: A performance hack that skips clearing the data cache block zeroing instruction, which is used by some games to clear memory. May improve performance in some games, but may also cause graphical issues or crashes.
Enable Block Merging: A performance hack that merges adjacent blocks of code to reduce the number of jumps and improve the efficiency of the JIT compiler. May improve performance in most games, but may also cause crashes or glitches in some games.
Enable Fastmem: A performance hack that speeds up memory access by using direct memory mapping. May improve performance significantly, but may also cause crashes if the game uses self-modifying code or anti-debugging techniques.
Dolphin's graphics settings are split into three main tabs: General, Enhancements, and Hacks. You can also access more advanced settings by clicking on the Advanced button. The graphics settings affect how the game looks and how fast it runs, so you may need to experiment with different options to find the best balance for your system and preferences. Here are some of the most important graphics settings to consider:
Backend: The graphics API used by dolphin emulator. The available options are Direct3D 11, Direct3D 12, OpenGL, and Vulkan. Each backend has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your hardware and drivers. Generally, Direct3D 11 is the most compatible and stable option, while Direct3D 12, OpenGL, and Vulkan may offer better performance or features in some cases.
Adapter: The graphics card used by dolphin emulator. If you have multiple graphics cards, you can select which one to use here.
Aspect Ratio: The ratio of the width and height of the game screen. The available options are Auto, Force 16:9, Force 4:3, and Stretch to Window. Auto will use the aspect ratio specified by the game, while the other options will force or stretch the game screen to fit your window or monitor.
V-Sync: A setting that synchronizes the game's frame rate with your monitor's refresh rate. This can prevent screen tearing, but may also introduce input lag or reduce performance.
Show FPS: A setting that displays the current frame rate on the top left corner of the screen.
Internal Resolution: The resolution used by dolphin emulator to render the game. Higher resolutions will make the game look sharper and clearer, but will also require more processing power and VRAM. The available options are from 1x Native (640x528) to 8x Native (5120x4224).
Anti-Aliasing: A technique that smooths out the jagged edges of objects and textures. Higher levels of anti-aliasing will make the game look smoother and more realistic, but will also require more processing power and VRAM. The available options are None, 2x MSAA, 4x MSAA, 8x MSAA, SSAA (depends on backend), and FXAA (depends on backend).
Anisotropic Filtering: A technique that improves the quality of textures at oblique angles. Higher levels of anisotropic filtering will make the game look more detailed and crisp and clear, but will also require more processing power and VRAM. The available options are from 1x to 16x.
Post-Processing Effect: A setting that applies various effects to the game after it is rendered. Some effects can enhance the game's appearance or atmosphere, while others can add artistic or cinematic flair. The available options depend on the backend and the shaders you have installed.
Force Texture Filtering: A setting that forces the game to use linear or bilinear filtering for textures, instead of the original point or nearest filtering. This can make the textures look smoother and less pixelated, but may also alter the intended look of some games.
Disable Fog: A setting that disables the emulation of fog effects, which are used by some games to create depth or atmosphere. This can improve performance and visibility, but may also reduce the game's realism or immersion.
Scaled EFB Copy: A setting that scales the EFB (External Frame Buffer) copies to match the internal resolution. This can improve the quality of some effects that rely on EFB copies, such as bloom, lighting, shadows, etc. However, it may also cause glitches or slowdowns in some games that use EFB copies for other purposes.
Force 24-bit Color: A setting that forces the game to use 24-bit color depth instead of the original 16-bit or 32-bit. This can reduce color banding and improve image quality, but may also cause minor graphical issues in some games.
Widescreen Hack: A setting that forces the game to use a widescreen aspect ratio, even if it was not designed for it. This can make the game fill your widescreen monitor or TV, but may also cause graphical glitches or incorrect aspect ratios in some games.
Skip EFB Access from CPU: A performance hack that skips the emulation of EFB access from the CPU, which is used by some games to read or write data to the EFB. This can improve performance significantly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Ignore Format Changes: A performance hack that ignores the changes in pixel format of the EFB copies. This can improve performance slightly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Store EFB Copies to Texture Only: A performance hack that stores the EFB copies as textures instead of RAM. This can improve performance significantly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Texture Cache Accuracy: A setting that controls how accurately dolphin emulator emulates the texture cache, which is used by the GPU to store and reuse textures. Higher accuracy levels can fix some graphical glitches or flickering, but may also reduce performance. The available options are Fast, Medium, and Safe.
Store XFB Copies to Texture Only: A performance hack that stores the XFB (External Frame Buffer) copies as textures instead of RAM. This can improve performance significantly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Immediately Present XFB: A performance hack that presents the XFB copies immediately instead of waiting for the next frame. This can improve performance slightly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Fast Depth Calculation: A performance hack that uses a faster algorithm for depth calculations. This can improve performance slightly, but may also cause z-fighting issues in some games.
Disable Bounding Box: A performance hack that disables the emulation of bounding box calculations, which are used by some games to determine the position and size of objects on screen. This can improve performance significantly, but may also cause graphical glitches or crashes in some games.
Dolphin emulator has many features and enhancements that allow you to customize and improve your gaming experience. Here are some of the most useful and interesting features you can use with dolphin emulator:
Dolphin emulator supports various types of cheats, such as Action Replay codes, Gecko codes, patches, and memory editing. You can use cheats to modify various aspects of the game, such as unlocking items, changing stats, enabling debug modes, etc. To use cheats with dolphin emulator, you need to follow these steps:
Create a text file named after the game's ID (e.g., GALE01.txt for Super Smash Bros. Melee) and place it in the \Dolphin\User\GameSettings folder.Write the cheat codes in the text file using the appropriate format and syntax. You can find cheat codes for various games online, such as on Dolphin's wiki or GeckoCodes.org.
Launch dolphin emulator and right-click on the game you want to use cheats with. Select Properties and then click on the Gecko Codes tab.
Check the boxes of the cheats you want to enable and click on Close.
Start the game and enjoy the cheats.
Note that some cheats may not work properly or may cause glitches or crashes. Use them at your own risk.
Dolphin emulator supports save states, which are snapshots of the game's memory and state at a given moment. You can use save states to save and load your progress at any point in the game, regardless of the game's native save system. This can be useful for testing, debugging, or skipping parts of the game. To use save states with dolphin emulator, you need to follow these steps:
Launch dolphin emulator and start the game you want to use save states with.
Press Shift + F1 to F8 to create a save state in one of the eight slots. You will see a message on the screen confirming the save state creation.
Press F1 to F8 to load a save state from one of the eight slots. You will see a message on the screen confirming the save state loading.
Note that save states are not compatible across different versions of dolphin emulator or different settings. They may also cause glitches or crashes if used improperly. Use them at your own risk.
Dolphin emulator supports networked multiplayer, which allows you to play online with other users who are using dolphin emulator. You can use networked multiplayer to play games that support local multiplayer or LAN modes, such as Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or Animal Crossing: City Folk. To use networked multiplayer with dolphin emulator, you need to follow these steps:
Launch dolphin emulator and go to Tools > Start Netplay.
Select whether you want to host or join a session. If you want to host, you need to choose a game from your library and configure the settings, such as number of players, latency, and chat options. If you want to join, you need to enter the host code provided by the host.
Click on Start or Connect to start or join the session. You will see a list of players and their ping on the netplay window.
Start the game and enjoy the networked multiplayer.
Note that networked multiplayer requires a stable and fast internet connection and may not work well with some games or settings. You may also need to configure your firewall or router settings to allow dolphin emulator to communicate with other users.
Dolphin emulator supports taking screenshots of the game screen, which can be useful for capturing memorable moments, sharing your progress, or creating guides or tutorials. To take screenshots with dolphin emulator, you need to follow these steps:
Launch dolphin emulator and start the game you want to take screenshots of.
Press F9 to take a screenshot of the current frame. You will see a message on the screen confirming the screenshot capture.
Go to \Dolphin\User\ScreenShots folder to find your screenshots. They will be named after the game's ID and date/time.
Here are some examples of screenshots taken with dolphin emulator:
Dolphin emulator is a powerful and versatile software that allows you to play Nintendo GameC