Yes, that title sounds ridiculous. Some of you are asking “Why bother?” and others, “Is that even possible?” Instead of writing about it at length, it’d be easier if I just showed you a side-by-side comparison:

Original on console.

Emulated on PC.

That’s a huge difference. Those images are from the game Okami, originally for the PS2 and ported to the Wii. There’s actually an official HD remake for the PS3 coming out soon, and the emulated game still looks better. Alright, so now I’ve shown you it was possible. And why? If you can, then why not? You can make pretty games beautiful with just a little tweaking and know-how. Games that were held back by  inferior hardware can get the horsepower they deserve to make their graphics come alive.  The Legend of Zelda series, already gorgeous, is given a phenomenal upgrade, and there are dozens of other examples out there. But I think that’s enough convincing. Before your excessive salivating becomes embarrassing, I think I’ll tell you how you can make this happen. It’s important to note that this will also work with Gamecube games, as they use the same emulator.

1. Making Your Computer Ready To Run Gamecube/Wii Games

[box_info]Note: Creating .ISO and ROM files requires a small hack in your Wii Console. This type of “homebrew” is not supported by Nintendo, much like Jailbreaking isn’t supported by Apple. Use at your own risk. – A tutorial for that process is available here.[/box_info]

First, you need to install some programs. Rawdump 2.1 will allow your drive to read the game disc. That’s right, you need to buy the physical disc first; this method won’t work any other way.

After Rawdump 2.1 is installed, run it, insert the disc, and select “Start Dump.” The file you’ll have afterwards will end in .wii or .wod. Select the file, and select “Convert Raw To .Iso.” This is the actual file type that the emulator will recognize and run.

The emulator itself is called Dolphin. Make sure to install the right one for your OS. These guys update this emulator constantly, so be sure to check back often for the latest version of this open source tool.

Alright, at this point, you have all the minimum requirements to play your game on your computer! But there’s much more fun to be had.

2. Changing The Settings To Meet Your Needs (And Fantasies)

If you’ve ever tried working with an emulator in the past, you’ll know that it can be complicated work. This is because nearly everything about the game you’re emulating can be modded or customized and depends on your computer. It’s mostly unique for everyone. One of the best things about Dolphin is that they try to make things as simple as possible, but even though that’s the case, emulation depends entirely upon your computer. If your hardware is older, you’ll need to turn down the settings. If newer, feel free to crank them up to ridiculous extremes (there’s something about HD Mario Kart that really makes me smile). I can’t pretend to know what your computer is capable of, so listing precise steps for customizing graphical quality and speed is pointless. You can find out for yourself relatively easily, though. The Dolphin forums are very active, and very receptive to answering specific questions. Just make sure you know your PC/Mac specs beforehand.

What I can tell you, though, is everything else.

Here’s what you’ll see when you open Dolphin:

The exact layout will vary depending on what version you have, but as you can see, the main buttons are all mostly self-explanatory. The “Config” and “Graphics” buttons you’ll have to tinker with on your own, but the one on the far right is easy to explain.

If you’re playing a Wii game, why not use a Wiimote? Here’s what you’ll need: at least one Wiimote, a wireless sensor bar and bluetooth capabilities (either from external USB or internal adapter).

Make sure your bluetooth USB is plugged in (if need be).

Click the “Wiimote” button in Dolphin. You should see something very similar to this:

Make sure Input Source is set to “Real Wiimote.”

Next, press the 1 and 2 buttons on your Wiimote at the same time and then click on “Pair Up” under the Real Wiimote heading.

Your Wiimote will vibrate once it’s connected. Click “Refresh” and it should tell  you that you are connected to one Wiimote. You can use this process to connect to up to four at a time.

And this is the simplest part. Take your wireless sensor bar and put it on your monitor. Because the sensor bar is just a source of infrared light that the Wiimote detects, you don’t have to do any configuration with it.

If you’d prefer to use a regular controller, plug it into a USB slot and click “Pad” in the Dolphin menu instead of “Wiimote.” After that, configure the buttons to your preference.

3. Open The File And Play! ….Kind Of

After you’ve optimized your settings for your computer and connected your Wiimote (or other controller), open the .iso file you made earlier.

And most of the time, it’s that easy. The rest of the time, there might be a problem. Emulation isn’t the same for every game, and even those games that have all the bugs fixed might need fine-tuning. If it’s a problem you can’t live with, or the game doesn’t run at all, go to the forums again. Your problems will most likely be settled in an afternoon (if that). Once all the details are taken care of, you’re free to enjoy the world of emulated video games, with HD graphics, improved audio quality, and infinite save states, at your heart’s content. Or at least until life pulls you away again.

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