Quick Start Guide for Using Dolphin (Wii Emulator)


Who should read this guide?

This guide should serve as a quick pointer for first time Dolphin user.

A couple of things you should know about Dolphin:
  • Previously Dolphin had used the subversion numbering, e.g. Dolphin r7990. In the recent months the developer had switched to git numbering, resulting in a release name such as Dolphin 3.0-458. Higher number means latest version.
  • You might find that some games are playable on a certain version, yet unplayable with the subsequent/later versions. So always choose the best version to play the games. For example, Rhythm Heaven Fever will only playble on older version of Dolphin.
  • There are a couple of games that require a customized or patched Dolphin version to play properly. E.g. Xenoblade Chronicles.
  • To check whether a game is compatible to play in Dolphin, check out their Wiki for a list of compatible Wii games. This list will also contains the issue that the games are having and workarounds for fixing it.

More after the break.

An example of compatibility information for Fatal Frame 4 - Mask of the Lunar Eclipse that list the problem, issue and solution for the game.

At the end of the page is the user comment when testing out the game. Feel free to post your result here for others to view.

Why Dolphin is popular?

  • It supports almost all kind of commercial Wii games, GameCube games, Wii homebrews, etc.
  • It supports the real Wiimote (including motion plus) and nunchunk. Additionally, it support the wiimote speaker, rumble motor and IR (wireless sensor bar).
  • If you do not have the real Wiimote, do not worry because Dolphin is able to emulate the Wiimote and even extensions such as Nunchunk, Turntable, etc.
  • It is constantly updated and has a very hot support forum.

Using Dolphin

When launching Dolphin for the first time, you will see the following screen.

Main window for Dolphin 3.0-458

Configuring ISO Directories

By setting your Wii ISO directories, you will be able to see a list of your wii games in the main window. This is similar to a game library.

To do so:
1. Go to Options > Configure.

Configure option in Dolphin

2. Add the folder containing Wii ISO by clicking on the 'Add' button. Make sure you tick the 'Search subfolders' option as well.

Adding Wii roms in the paths

3. After adding the path, you will see your main window had been populated with the list of your Wii roms. Too bad this feature does not present on PCSX2 (A popular PS2 emulator).

NOTE: Dolphin only support GC/Wii files with extensions such as .elf, .dol, .gcn, .iso, .ciso, .gcz, and .wad ONLY. If your Wii roms is in other format such as .wbfs, you will need to convert it to supported format (e.g. .iso) by using WiiBackupManager. Guide to using it can be found here.

Configuring Graphics

Graphic menu icon
By default everything is configured to the most optimize settings. Any changes that are made are changed in real time. So you can see the changes even while the game is running.

Choose the correct Internal Resolution

Make sure you select the Internal Resolution that reflects your current monitor resolution for best texture quality. Lower this value if you noticed any slowdowns.

Select the correct internal resolution
NOTE: If you are a Windows 7 user, V-Sync option will only work if you are using any of the Aero theme. For those that uses the Classic theme, it will not work even if this setting is checked.


Game Hacks

There are several settings that you might need to change when playing certain games. For anything else just leave them untouched.

EFB Copies
Texture is the fastest setting. However in games such as Fatal Frame 4 (or Project Zero 4): Mask of the Lunar Eclipse, you will need to select the RAM option to view the photos taken with your camera.

Texture Cache
Almost all games run well with the default setting (Fast), with the exception of Grand Slam Tennis.

OpenMP Texture Decoder
Make sure you check this if your processor has more than 2 cores, e.g. i7.

Configuring Audio

DSP menu icon

DSP setting for Dolphin

There are two types of DSP Emulator Engine that Dolphin use, HLE (High Level Emulation) and LLE (Low Level Emulation). Although HLE is the fastest, you might noticed some audio issues such as shuttering or lack of background music in certain games. Good thing about HLE is it is fast and almost all games support it, with a few titles in exception.

On the other hand, LLE is the most reliable and you will definitely not experiencing any sound issue with this. It is basically the exact 'sound driver' for the real Wii console engine. However your game will become very slow when using LLE. Some games such as Super Mario Galaxy 2 will require LLE emulation in order to playback the BGM properly or clearing the Grand Star Level. Rhythm Heaven Fever also requires LLE to play the BGM.

NOTE: By default Dolphin does not include the files required to use the LLE setting. To do so, you will need to dump the file from your actual Wii console. Luckily someone (uncredited) had done so and I will put the download link at the end of this post. 

The archive contains 2 files, dsp_coef.bin and dsp_rom.bin. Just extract the archive into your 'Dolphin directory/User/GC'.

Audio Backend
Basically the DSP converts digital into analog wave and then sent them to audio backend.

NOTE: Although many had claimed that XAudio2 offers better sound quality, I experienced some random crashes when using it. I have no issue at all when using DSound as the audio backend.

Configuring Controls

Dolphin is able to emulate Wiimote (using keyboard + mouse) as well as supporting extensions such as Nunchunk.

Below is the settings that I used before I purchase my Wiimote with Motion Plus and nunchunk.

My wiimote settings for Dolphin

My nunchunk settings for Dolphin

Note: Don't forget that you can save the key mapping as profile too. Who knows, you might prefer different kind of control scheme for different types of games.

Profile settins for different games

Transferring Game Saves

Dolphin support two kind of game saves. State saves as well as memory saves (just like you saved the game using the actual Wii console). I am still unsure whether the game saves are transferrable between Dolphin and Wii since I don't have an actual Wii console. I used my PC for game.

Things to know about state saves:
  • You can only load game state saves for that particular Dolphin version that you used to create it. Loading the game state saves in other version (whether older or newer) will crash the game.
  • Game state is stored in DolphinDir/StateSaves using naming such as GameTitle.s01 (with 01 being the save slot).

Things to know about game saves:
  • Unlike State saves, game save are readable and transferrable across any version of Dolphin. 
  • Game saves (the actual save file) is stored in DolphinDir/Wii/title. 
  • When you switched to a newer version (or revert to the older version), you can simply copy and paste this entire directory to transfer your game saves.
  • In more details, the real folder where all your game saves are stored is '00010000' under the 'DolphinDir/Wii/title' folder. However for safety reason it is best to copy the entire title folder. You will see many folders with numbers such as 524e4545 when opening this folder. Basically each folder store your game saves for a game. 
Game saves folder under the 'title' directory. Each directory stores game saves for different games.

Comparing game saves between PCSX2 and Dolphin
Dolphin game saves are somehow different from the memory card concept that is used in PCSX2. In PCSX2, each memory card is stored as a single file, e.g. save01.ps2 and there is a capacity limit on each memory card. In Dolphin, game saves might consist of several files and each of these game saves are stored in a folder that are specific and unique to that game (regardless of the saving slots).


There are several pre-configured Hotkeys by default that should come in handy:
  • State Save Slot 1-8 : Shift+F1 ~ Shift+F8
  • Toggle Full Screen : Alt+Return
  • Connect Wiimote 1-4 : Alt+F5 ~ Alt+F8

You can customize these hotkeys by going to Options > Hotkey Settings.

Hotkey Settings for Dolphin

Customizable hotkeys for Dolphin

Extra Notes

  • When you left Dolphin idle for some time, your wiimote will get disconnected. Re-enable it by pressing Alt+F5~F8 or  go to Tools > Connect Wiimote 1~5.
  • Always check the Dolphin compatibility list before starting to play any Wii games to know any issue that might exist for that game. You never know a bug in the game that might totally break the game.


Hopefully by reading this guide you will have a better understanding on this amazing Wii emulator and enjoy Dolphin at its full potential!

Download Link for LLE DSP emulation files [MediaFire]


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