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The 3 Best GameCube Emulators for PC in 2024

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The 3 Best GameCube Emulators for PC in 2024

Key Points

  • Nintendo’s GameCube is over 20 years old and is loved by many gamers for its classic games.
  • PC emulators are the easiest way to replay GameCube games today.
  • The Dolphin emulator is the most popular GameCube emulator and supports over 97% of GameCube titles.

It is hard to believe that Nintendo’s GameCube is over 20 years old. This classic console was loved and hated by gamers, as many fondly remember its games, while others loathe its lack of power. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, it is hard to argue that the console didn’t have some fantastic games. However, PC emulators are the easiest way to replay those classic GameCube games today.

A GameCube emulator lets gamers play almost every title without worrying about having the original hardware. Most modern computers can easily run these older games, and some GameCube emulators can also run Wii titles. There are even options like upscaling and online multiplayer. Now, let’s take a look at the best GameCube emulators.

What Is an Emulator?

An emulator is a tool that allows an application to run on hardware and software it was not designed for. Therefore, an emulator imitates the original device and its software, which certain programs require. Emulators are commonly used for video games because collecting retro consoles can be challenging, and having them ready to play is even more difficult.

A video game emulator makes it possible to play a game on a PC or other console that it was not made for. While we are looking at GameCube emulators for PCs, there are also emulators designed to run on other consoles. Emulation also exists outside of gaming and is a powerful tool many companies employ to run older applications on modern systems.

Nintendo GameCube Overview

The Nintendo GameCube came out in 2001 as the successor to the Nintendo 64. Despite many years of success, the GameCube underperformed compared to the competition coming from other sixth-generation consoles like Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation 2. The GameCube notably used miniDVD technology, but it did not support video playback.

Since the GameCube did not use cartridges, save data was stored on memory cards, and players could connect up to four controllers directly to the console. There were also a lot of accessories available, like the Game Boy Player, link cable, and e-Reader. Despite its weak performance, the GameCube has a lot of memorable titles such as Mario Kart: Double Dash, Luigi’s Mansion, and Super Smash Bros: Melee.

The Best GameCube Emulators

Despite the GameCube’s lasting popularity, it doesn’t have a lot of emulation options. However, it has one of the best emulators available for any game console. Additionally, our favorite GameCube emulator works on other devices and game consoles. Before picking one of the emulators below, be sure to look closely at the features and which accessories it supports.

Dolphin

Dolphin is by far the most popular GameCube emulator, and it came out just two years after the console. Despite its age, developers continue to work on and improve the program. It supports over 97% of GameCube titles, reproduces all of the console’s original features, and supports most of its accessories.

Dolphin can upscale games, which is great for playing on a 4K monitor. It also has one of the best user interfaces, as Dolphin will automatically download the box art for the games and display them on the main menu. Last but not least, Dolphin can play Nintendo Wii games, and it even supports the Wii Remote via Bluetooth or a GameCube controller with a USB adapter.

Pureikyubu

A lesser-known yet still very good GameCube emulator is Pureikyubu. It was formerly known as Dolwin, and the developers built it as a research tool rather than a means to play games. Surprisingly, Dolwin is nearly as old as Dolphin, but its development was dormant for many years. Unfortunately, Pureikyubu does not support Wii games.

Although Pureikyubu is not targeted toward gamers, its focus on accurate hardware emulation means it does an excellent job of recreating the original experience. While it doesn’t have a lot of flashy extras or an impressive interface like Dolphin, Pureikyubu still has basic options like controller mapping.

RetroArch

Finally, RetroArch is unlike the other emulators on this list. It is actually a frontend software that loads various emulators called cores. Dolphin is one of the cores that users can add, allowing them to play GameCube and Wii games. RetroArch is the go-to program for many emulation users because it is so convenient.

Additionally, it creates a seamless user interface where you can view all of your games on one page rather than opening separate emulators and sifting through a list of titles. Plus, it automatically downloads the box art and information for each game. Unfortunately, RetroArch does take a little while to set up, and you will have to acquire the bios for each console separately.

How to Use a GameCube Emulator

GameCube emulators on a PC work like most others; they are available for download online and, once unzipped, can play your favorite games. Since Dolphin is the most popular GameCube emulator, let’s do a quick walkthrough from downloading to playing your first game.

Step 1: Download the Emulator

Dolphin website download page
Download Dolphin from the official website.

First, download the Dolphin emulator from the official site. It is best to download the latest beta version since these offer the newest stable updates. Avoid the development versions, as those have new changes that haven’t been tested. Also, avoid the legacy versions, which are very old and may not work on the latest Windows operating systems.

Step 2: Launch the Emulator

Launch Dolphin after extracting zip file
Unzip the emulator and run the application file.

Next, open the downloaded folder. Dolphin downloads as a .7zip file, which some versions of Windows cannot unpack. If File Explorer doesn’t let you unzip the folder, you must download and install 7-Zip on your computer. Otherwise, highlight the folder and click the Extract all button to unpack its contents. Then, open the newly unpacked folder and run the Dolphin application file.

Step 3: Configure the Controller Settings

Use the display, configuration, and controller buttons to set up Dolphin
Take a moment to configure the settings and map the controller.

With Dolphin up and running, the first thing that I do is go to Config and enable the downloading of game covers in the Interface tab. Next, I switch to Graphics and enable V-Sync in the General tab before setting the resolution in the Enhancements tab. Finally, I go to Controller and press Configure next to Port 1 to map my controller.

Step 4: Import Games and Start Playing

Add a GameCube game to Dolphin before starting to play
Add a game to Dolphin to start playing.

Now that everything is set up how I want, I use the Open button to find a game. You must have a GameCube .iso file to play. Locate the game file on your computer and click Open. After adding the game to Dolphin, highlight it and click Play to launch it.

Wrapping Up

As the GameCube gets older, more people than ever are trying to relive the nostalgia of playing classics like Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart. However, prices keep climbing, and working consoles are getting harder to find. Luckily, the GameCube has one of the best PC emulators out of all retro consoles, which should help keep fans happy and gaming for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Dolphin support GameCube accessories like bongos and dance mats?

Yes, accessories like the Donkey Kong bongos and dance mats work with Dolphin. Keep in mind that not all accessories are guaranteed to work. Additionally, you will need an adapter to connect these accessories to a PC’s USB port.

Is Dolphin available on other devices?

Yes, Dolphin is one of the few PC emulators that is actually available on other devices. This includes other game consoles like the Steam Deck.

What is it like playing GameCube games with a PC emulator?

Emulators like Dolphin work great for playing retro games. However, there is no replacement for a physical console and disc for those looking to relive childhood memories.

Can you save games in Dolphin?

Yes, Dolphin gives users the option to save games just like the original hardware. Instead of physical memory cards, it uses a “virtual” memory card, and the saved data is stored on the user’s computer.

Does Dolphin support all GameCube and Wii titles?

Dolphin supports 97% of GameCube games and most Wii games. Remember that GameCube games must be in .iso format, while Wii games must be in .wbfs format to run in Dolphin.

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