The makers of Dolphin announced the GameCube and Wii emulator will come to Steam Early Access later this year. It promises to let users play classics like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Super Mario Galaxy with improved graphics and better performance than the original consoles offered. I’m sure Nintendo’s lawyers are thrilled.
“We are pleased to announce our great experiment—Dolphin is coming to Steam!” the creators wrote on Tuesday (via Nintendo Life). “We’re pleased to finally tell the world of our experiment. This has been the product of many months of work, and we look forward to getting it into users’ hands soon!” While Dolphin’s Steam page is already live, the emulator won’t officially be available through Valve’s storefront until sometime in the next few months.
The open-source emulator, which has been in ongoing development for two decades, will be free to download and will support 4K displays as well as modern controllers. It also has built-in netplay for online multiplayer, as well as support for community mods, randomizers, and custom level packs. Other perks include playing with save states, slow motion, and rapid fire.
The emulator’s makers are quick to point out that Dolphin doesn’t actually come with any games, something they note repeatedly on the Steam page. “This software is built to run legally acquired games,” one of the notices reads. “Dolphin Emulator does not come with games. We do not condone piracy in any shape or form.”
While players can take their existing game collections, rip them to PC, and then use those disc images on the emulator, there’s also no shortage of ways to download pirated copies of console games, which is one of the reasons Nintendo has historically treated emulation and all amateur development for its locked-down platforms with contempt.
Steam Deck users in particular have had a field day recently with using emulators to access their old game collections on the go, and often with better performance. Valve even accidentally included the icon for a Switch emulator called Yuzu in one of its trailers for the PC gaming handheld, before quickly deleting the reference.
In lieu of robust “Virtual Console” features on the Switch, emulators like Dolphin are a boon to retro gaming enthusiasts and preservationists alike. Just this week, Nintendo turned the Wii U and 3DS eShops’ lights off for good, making it impossible to digitally purchase a ton of amazing games. Homebrew projects like Dolphin are one way for the community to try and keep those games alive.