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The Complete Guide to Dolphin Emulator on macOS and Windows PC

Last update: Sep 25, 2020

Emulator on macOS and Windows PC

What is Dolphin?

Dolphin is regarded as the King of Emulator when it comes to Nintendo consoles. At the current time, this emulator is able to recreate games made for the GameCube and Wii consoles, for your desktop gaming pleasure. This software works with Windows, macOS, and Linux. But for this guide, we’ll be looking at how to get your new Dolphin emulator up and running for your mac or PC.

Installing Dolphin on desktop


On PC, you will need to first unzip the installation file into a publicly-accessible folder. It is recommended that you set your archive tool to create a new folder on Desktop or Documents. This allows you to locate it easily to begin installation. Once the files have been unzipped, locate the Dolphin.exe file and run it as administrator. Be careful not to remove this file from the folder or delete it, this may affect your ability to use Dolphin in the future. You can also create a shortcut to Dolphin.exe on your Desktop to make it easier to access, the next time around.


On macOS, the main installation file needs to be unzipped into a public local folder. The best locations for this is on the Desktop or in your Downloads folder. In order to unzip the files, you will need to double-click on the .zip file and it should automatically unzip files into the specified folder. This folder will be in the same location as the original file. In some cases, this method may not work and you may need to tweak elements in Terminal to get it to work. Since that’s a complex step you probably would be glad to skip, you can always get a free third-party archive tool from the App Store to help you extract the installation files.

Controls/Keyboard configuration


Pairing your GameCube controller with your PC for it to work on Dolphin isn’t a complicated process. Go to ‘Options’ on Dolphin and select ‘Controller Settings’. Under ‘GameCube Controllers’, select ‘Port 1’ and ‘Configure’. You can add more controllers to Dolphin by assigning them to different port numbers.


The Wii remote also works wonders with your new Dolphin emulator. Go to ‘Options’ on Dolphin and choose ‘Controller Settings’. From there select Wii remotes and configure your controller. You can also add more remotes with the same steps. But, since Wii remotes rely on motion input, you’ll need to set your Motion and IR controls. There will be a red dot on the screen and as you move your mouse, it’ll sense your movements and input it into Dolphin as a Wii remote motion input.

Keyboard/Gamepad for GameCube

Gamepad for GameCube

If you want to stick to classic desktop gaming, then you might want your WASD controls intact. To configure your keyboard or gamepad for GameCube games, here’s what you need to do : 1) Go to ‘Options’ and select ‘Controller Settings’ on Dolphin. 2) Select ‘GameCube Controllers’. 3) Choose ‘Configure’ and set it to ‘Port 1’ 4) You’ll now see the configuration screen for your keyboard or gamepad, as the picture above. To change an assignment for the keys, simply replace the existing setting with a setting of your choice. Save your settings and close the dialog box once you’ve made the necessary changes.

Keyboard/Gamepad for Wii

Keyboard/Gamepad for Wii

For some games that come with the Nintendo Wii, it is almost impossible to play them without the controls on the motion-sensing Wii controller. But, with Dolphin, you recreate the exact buttons with your keyboard or gamepad. Here’s how :

  1. Go to ‘Options’ and select ‘Controller Settings’ on Dolphin.
  2. Select ‘Wii Controllers’.
  3. As with the GameCube, you will see a dialog box detailing all your Wii Controls as in the picture above. Adjust the settings to your liking and save. Close the dialog box once you’re done with the changes.
  4. Move on to the ‘Motion Controls and IR’ area. The default settings are for cursor movements from your mouse. However, if you’d like to completely rely on your keyboard for controls, you can set the motion controls to be one of the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Gamepads can also be altered similarly. However, it is best to use a joystick for maximum sensitivity and directional control.

Loading games

It’s common for GameCube and Wii games to come in a compressed format due to the size of their original files. However, when accessing them on Dolphin, the games need to be in their original .iso or .gcm format. Here’s a quick tutorial to help you get your favorite Wii or GameCube games to load on Dolphin

  1. If your files are still in an archive file, extract them into a publicly-accessible folder such as Desktop, Downloads, or Documents.
  2. Once extracted, you will be able to see either the .iso or .gcm version of your game.
  3. Open Dolphin.
  4. Select ‘File’ and click on ‘Open’.
  5. Here, you will be greeted with a dialog box that allows you to select all the games that you’d like to load unto Dolphin. Select the correct .iso or .gcm file and let Dolphin load the game.
  6. Enjoy the game.

To close a current game, just use the ‘X’ button. If you’ve already set up your game directory on Dolphin, you can access any game by just double-clicking on it.

Tweaking graphics

Of course, when you emulate games from different consoles onto your PC and Mac, there could be some issues with the graphics setting being incompatible with your desktop display. But, on this emulator you can tweak a few things to help make your games look just like they do on their original console displays, depending on the graphics capability of your current set-up.

Native graphics

Native graphics

In most cases, the default setting on desktops for emulated game graphics is at the lowest possible settings. Depending on how advanced your graphic cards are, you can make a few changes to obtain a display as close as possible to the original GameCube or Wii graphics. Read on for a quick guide on how to do so.

  1. Select ‘Options’ on Dolphin and click ‘Graphic Settings’.
  2. You will then see an ‘OpenGL Graphics Configuration’ dialog box with all aspects of graphic settings and controls.
  3. Click on the ‘Enhancements’ tab.
  4. Go to the ‘Internal Resolution’ setting. From the drop-down menu, you will see various settings for different screen resolutions. They go up to 8x Native, which is for 5K displays. Select the most suitable setting that matches the maximum graphic ability of your desktop set.
    Internal Resolution
  5. Save your setting. If you have a game open, the new display settings should take effect immediately. Should you hear the background music skipping a few seconds, you may want to opt for a lower graphics setting for smooth gameplay.
  6. Do remember that when you toggle these settings, you may have to make further changes when playing a different game or choosing a game from another console source. Always set the display back to Native (640x528) before choosing a new display resolution that works with the current game.

Anti-aliasing settings

Anti aliasing settings

When porting games between devices, the graphics may not be as defined as they would be when played on the original game console. That’s where anti-aliasing on the Dolphin emulator comes in handy. Depending on your current graphic capabilities, there are some settings that you can play around with to give you the perfect display settings for your Wii or GameCube games.

  1. Choose ‘Options’ and click on ‘Graphic Settings’ on Dolphin.
  2. When you see the ‘OpenGL Graphics Configuration’ dialog box, select the ‘Enhancements’ tab.
  3. From the ‘Anti-Aliasing’ field, access the drop-down menu. You will see options up to 8x MSAA. Select the one most compatible with your current display hardware.
  4. Close the dialog box and enjoy your game with a higher quality silhouette.

Post-processing filters

Post processing filters

Dolphin has a few additional graphic adjustments just to make your gaming experience more fun. There are a few post-processing filters that you can apply to your current game to give it a unique display. Here’s how you can get your hands on these filters and give your game characters a cool new look, without drastically altering graphic settings.

  1. Head to ‘Options’ on Dolphin. Select ‘Graphics Settings’.
  2. Once the ‘OpenGL Graphics Configuration’ dialog box pops up, click on ‘Enhancements’.
  3. You will then see the ‘Post-processing Effect’ field, with a drop-down menu. Select one of the six available options ; 16-bit, bad_bloom, auto_toon, acidtrip, nightvision, and sketchy.

Cheaters this way

Cheats and video games are only natural to be found as a pair. And on Dolphin, you can go ahead and use the same cheats that you’ve used on your consoles, without worry. But, for the time being, this feature is limited to games for GameCube. Hopefully, the Wii ones follow soon. Here’s how to set up your cheats.

  1. First, set up a game directory for the game you want to use cheats on. For help, see Configuring directories.
  2. Go to ‘Options’ and click ‘Configuration’.
  3. Under ‘Settings’, check the ‘Enable Cheats’ checkbox.
  4. Go back to your GameCube games directory and locate the game of your choice. Right-click to open ‘Properties’. You will see multiple tabs in the dialog box. Select ‘AR Codes’ as below.
    Cheaters this way
  5. Add a check for every cheat you want enabled and they should update the game automatically.

Saving stuff

The great thing about Dolphin is that this emulator lets you save a game at any point in your game progress. This is great for when you’re facing a hard level or the boss just doesn’t want to let up. Below are the steps to halt your game in time and save it for those tricky parts in the game.

Saving stuff

Saving a game

  1. Go to ‘Emulation’ on Dolphin. You will see an option to ‘Save State’.
  2. Save your game into any of the open slots available. Dolphin lets you save up to 10 game sessions.
  3. Besides saving a state, you can opt for saving to a file. This way, you can save an infinite number of games, without maxing out your save slots.
  4. To do this, you will need to go to ‘Emulation’ and select ‘Save State’.
  5. You will be given an option to ‘Save State to File’. Enter a custom filename for your saved game and you’re done! Make sure you save it to a specific folder or on desktop so that you can find it later.

Loading a game

  1. To load a previously saved game, head to the ‘Emulation’ option on the Toolbar and click on ‘Load State’. You can also use the F1 key as a shortcut to access your saved games.
  2. Select ‘Load State to Slot’ and pick out the correct saved state you’d like to load.
  3. You can also load a game that you’ve saved to an external file on your hard drive.
  4. To do this, go to ‘Load State’ once more and select ‘Load State from File’ instead.
  5. Choose the file you need and let Dolphin load it for you. Done!

Just some extras

Configuring directories

This step is just to help you get all your games organized into Dolphin so that you can get them up and running quickly at a later date. Here’s a quick set up guide for your game directories in Dolphin

  1. Extract all game installation files from their archives. Dolphin can’t read compressed files so this step is crucial.
  2. Open Dolphin. You will see a message about the ISOs and WADs on your current installation of Dolphin emulator. If there are no games yet, you will see this, message : Dolphin could not find any GameCube/Wii ISOs or WADs. Double-click here to set a games directory..
  3. Double-click the message. You will be redirected to select the folder where your games are in.
  4. Select all your game folders and wait for Dolphin to detect all your game files.
  5. Once complete, you will see a full list of your games on the screen.
  6. Save your settings and close the dialog box.

Taking screenshots

To take screenshots, you can use the ‘ScrShot’ button directly from the Dolphin emulator toolbar. Screenshots are saved into the default location which is Documents > Dolphin Emulator > ScreenShots Files will be saved into PNG formats and will need to be manually converted to JPG formats. The hotkey for this is F9. You can also go to ‘Emulation’ and select Take Screenshot, as below.

Taking screenshots

Going fullscreen

When you load a GameCube or Wii game on Dolphin, it is set to open in a window by default. But, if you want it to be displayed in fullscreen, you can click on the ‘FullScr’ button on Dolphin to activate fullscreen mode. Another option is to use the Alt+Enter hotkeys to toggle between views. The ‘Esc’ key also works to get out of fullscreen mode, however, this can prompt Dolphin to ask if you want to exit your current game session. So maybe the Alt+Enter hotkeys are a better option.

Game speed

Video game fans only know too well those unskippable intros and lengthy character chatter between game levels. Dolphin has a neat feature that helps you to fast forward your GameCube or Wii games to avoid waiting for these annoying intros to be over. Just use the ‘Tab’ key on your keyboard to speed up your game. In some cases, the key may not work as it should. To fix this, go to ‘Options’ and select ‘Hotkey Settings’. Disable the emulation speed limit to tab function. Now your ‘Tab’ key should work as a fast-forward button.


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