The Dolphin Emulator on the desktop has breathed new life to old Gamecube and Wii games by making them playable on Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. It works with almost all retail games, upscales to 1080p, and even supports the Wiimote. The newly released Android port is basically lacking all of that, but at least it's here!

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In its current state, Dolphin Emulator on Android is not viable for playing games. Think of it as a proof of concept. Games are going to crawl along at about 1 FPS, and crashes will be common while we wait for OpenGL ES 3 to be implemented (it's entirely CPU rendered right now). There is also no input method included yet – no buttons, no controller support, nothing. As you can see in the video below, it doesn't do a whole lot yet.

Like the desktop version, Dolphin on Android is completely open source and licensed under GNU GLP v2. The project is just getting started, so hopefully we'll have a viable emulator in the not too distant future. When that happens, the app won't come with ROMs, and you should technically only play games you have the rights to. But who am I kidding? Kids these days...

[Google Code, Dolphin Forums, Dolphin]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • atlouiedog

    It's neat in an early project sort of way. I wonder what kind of hardware it will take to run Wii games. Maybe two Ouyas duct-taped together?

    • Matthew Fry

      Hahaha! Reference get!

  • TheFirstUniverseKing

    Ha, wild. Too bad it'll take 5 or more years for smartphones to be able to play these games at a decent framerate.

    • Samuel Hart

      Phones aye, but many tablets actually have better hardware than even the WiiU.... Nintendo may do some things well, but hardware isn't one of them.... Hell, my Nexus 7 has more power than my playstation 3, and the Wii was WAAAAAY behind that when it came out.

      • TheFirstUniverseKing

        Trust me, the Playstation 3 is not weaker than the Nexus 7. And no Android tablet is more powerful than the Wii U. Smartphones and tablets use mobile processors, so even though they may have similar CPU clockspeeds and more cores, that doesn't suddenly mean they're more powerful than the consoles, especially when it comes to GPUs. Mobile processors and PC processors (which is what's used in the PS3 and Wii U) are entirely different beasts with different architecture. But I will concede that modern smartphones and tablets do have more ram than current consoles (aside from the Wii U which has 2GB, which is equal to most mobile devices).

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

        Emulation much like virtualisation is very inefficient and if memory serves you usually need specs that are about 9 fold to the original device.

        I like that we have Dolphin on Android though, because it slightly foreshadows. reshadows the possibility of both PCSX2 being on the mobile platform and OUYA supporting both of them (most likely after a few hardware revisions). It's good to see the 6th generation making it's way across!

        • Samuel Hart

          Oooh, true, I didn't think of the inherent overhead with emulators in general D:

          It'll be interesting seeing how it goes on the Ouya though, that might actually be worth trying. As it is, I'd HATE to try and run any Wii game on a piddly phone!!

          • andy_o

            You didn't think of a lot of things.

          • Samuel Hart

            Like your face! :D

            Oh sorry, we're making stupid insult statements now?

        • http://www.vrdwellersblog.com/ Miles Reiter

          True, the Wii would be iffy, but for Gamecube emulation, a modern smartphone is hugely more powerful, probably by a factor of about 12 times processor wise.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

            Another consideration would be the CPU architecture of both the host and emulated system, mostly whether it's RISC or CISC. The Gamecube uses a RISC architecture and so does most Android devices. I am not a hardware engineer, but I know that RISC takes up a lot more RAM than CISC. Since PowerPC (GameCube) and ARM/MIPS (most Android devices) are both RISC, there is going to be a lot of RAM overhead too.

            As devices get more powerful, emulation will become more feasible. That's the way it works.

      • Jays2Kings

        RAM != Overall Hardware. Yes the Nexus 7 has more RAM than a PS3 (but not as much as a Wii U), it has no where near the power of a PS3, it couldn't even run that terrible Walking Dead game made by Activision. It's also not more powerful than a wii (yes a game on Wii is on phones now, and the devs say that it's better looking, but in reality only somethings look better and somethings worse). I mean have you seen a game as pretty as super smash bros brawl or Metroid Prime 3 on a mobile device?

        • Samuel Hart

          Yes; the Epic Citadel test or Dark Pact..... they actually look better to my eye....

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

            I agree, my Galaxy S II runs Epic Citadel nicely. The demo is pretty, but I wonder how much battery I drain when I play it.

          • Samuel Hart

            ALL the battery O.o

            Seriously, a full charge will get me maybe 2-3 hours on Dark Pact.... Epic isn't do as much, sort of, but they still eat through it like nobodies business...

          • Jays2Kings

            I really think you should look at some videos of Metroid Prime 3 then. And let's just say that Epic Citadel or Dark Meadow looks better, the reason they look good is because there's not much action going on. In Citadel, there are no people, no creatures, nothing to fight, just a place with nothing in it but water and waving flags. And Dark Meadow only has you fight one enemy at a time, and they have very ugly models (and it's a good excuse since it's a horror game). Something like Metroid Prime you take on dozens of enemies, all while the game looks pretty. Same with smash bros., 4 people are fighting all while a bunch of action happens in the background, for example look at a video the f-zero stage on Brawl. Epic Citadel looks pretty but they don't really account for all the other things that makes a game a game (which is why it's just a benchmark), and Dark Meadow just pits you in one on one fights, not really enough to make you worry or want to run away.

      • http://profiles.google.com/zandmstudios Steven Zang

        To even suggest that the Nexus 7 is anywhere remotely near as powerful as a PS3 is lunacy. Please learn a little bit about computers before making such bold statements.

        And tablets do not have better hardware than the Wii U. That is also lunacy. The Wii U is like a desktop computer (not a top-of-the-line one though). Tablets don't compare.

        • nezbla

          (source, Wikipedia)
          Technical specifications
          Nintendo has released technical specifications of the Wii U hardware, which are listed below. These specifications are subject to change.[3][5]Note: Neither Nintendo nor IBM has verified any clock speeds given.Processors

          Main article: Espresso (microprocessor)

          CPU: IBM PowerPC 750-based tri-core processor "Espresso"[3] reportedly clocked at 1.24 GHz.[84]

          GPU: AMD Radeon High Definition[3] processor codenamed "Latte" with an eDRAM cache built onto the die[85] reportedly clocked at 550 MHz.[84]
          There are no entry level PCs on the market with specs even resembling that.

          • http://profiles.google.com/zandmstudios Steven Zang

            OK I concede that I wasn't correct there. Thank you for the correction :)

      • Adam92Wilkins

        yea but the only problem is that the tablet would need to run android and emulate the wii on top. Which is very taxing on the system. I think it's pretty safe to say we have another 5 years before this happens and is decently smooth.

      • GraveUypo

        you're crazy. nexus 7 barely has more power than a ps2. it's a far cry from ps3 still. maybe with tegra 5.

      • onpoint G

        Your Nexus 7 has more power than your P3......LOLLOLLOL, Sorry I just couldn't help myself..matter of fact I could just didn't want to. I just can't believe you thought your portable device has more power than a P3.

        • nezbla

          Hooray for randomly rubbishing somebody's point. You rock!
          Also, depending on how you benchmark it, there are any number of ways that you could describe the Tegra3 processor as out-performing the Cell proc that's inside a PS3. It can process around 10 times the number of instructions in the same time because of the differences in architecture.

          No, this doesn't mean it runs games better, there are more factors to take into account, but... is the proc in a Nexus 7 "Faster" than the cell proc in a PS3. Yes, yes it is.

          HAHAHAHLOLOLOLOLOL h4x0rz.
          ... idiot.

  • RitishOemraw

    Seeing as there isn't even a decent ds emulator (read: no lag)
    I doubt this will be good for use until at least 5 more years.

    Too bad, there are some games I'd like to play with it :(

    • Phenomen

      you can do it on your PC

    • gladgura

      I do not believe the DS has been emulated properly anywhere PC or Mac. It is all about how well the hardware can be emulated. Since the Game Cube/Wii hardware has been emulated well on PC & Mac, I don't see why not on android. I say it might take 2 years.

      • RitishOemraw

        Hmmmm maybe the DS suffers from dual-screenality (a term I made up to indicate the added hardships in creating an emulator for a two-screen device which in the future will also concern the WiiU)

      • swerve

        Actually DraStic emulator is amazing for ds emulation
        It has run everything I have tgrown at it in full speed

    • PINJ

      5 Years? In 5 Years Mobile Games Wil Absolutely Destroy PS3 gfx.

      • RitishOemraw

        No doubt about that, but Im talking about the state of emulated games on android. They tend to be more taxing on the hardware.

        The Nintendo DS was released in 2004 and still android can't emulate it properly.

        The wii is from 2006 (and didn't p the gfx limit from the gamecube that much)
        Also, no decent emulator to date.

        • Dan C

          The reason DS is so hard to emulate (emulation in general, but especially the DS) is you have to reverse-engineer proprietary hardware and software. If that was released to the public, I'm sure we'd have perfect emulators in no time.

        • PINJ

          -_- The REASON Phones Cannot Properly Emulate The DS Is Because Of Its Infrastructure, And Ridiculously Weird Screen Sync. To Further Prove My Point, Phones In 2007 Could Emulate n64/PSOne Games.

        • donkeyhigh

          DraStic is a DS emulator for Android. Basically it runs everything, smooth as it can go. Also, incredible custisation options, like screen layout and such. For example, in Super Mario Bros, you dont really need both screens, so I made the "map-screen" really tiny, up in one corner, and the main screen big. Also, works with Moya controller, which I use for all my emulators. The Zelda igames are also amazing with my Note3 and touch-pen. Oh, and it uploads your savestates to your google drive.

          • WORPspeed

            already using it, great app, but thanks for the tip regardless ;)

          • Justin

            I have drastic such a good emulator pokemon black 2 even works and in some games cheats are installed

  • Drew M

    I think Dolphin has SSE extensions which will have to be rewritten in NEON for this to be viable.

  • GraveUypo

    rofl it'll take a good 5 years before smartphones can emulate these consoles.

    • Andy

      Good point there. Our current fastest mobile CPU is clocked at 1.9 GHz but clock speed isn't anything..architecture has a lot to do with it. Look at the advances from the ARMv6 to the ARM cortex a15. We have 600-800% increase since the ARMv6 days..I say only about 2 years until this is actually possible..

      • GraveUypo

        the point you're missing is that a core i5 is more than twice as fast as an arm a15 on the same clock speeds, and the pace in which mobile cpus improve has already started to drop (not gpus tho, those still climb like crazy).
        imho it'll still take a good 4~5 years to emulate a wii on a cellphone/tablet decently (like i said 4 months ago)

  • gladgura

    I am far from perfect when it comes to typing but... "Dolphin on Android is completely open source and licensed under GNU GLP v2." I believe "GLP" should be GPL for General Public License. I think Dolphin on Android is an awesome idea & can't wait for the finished product or even when it reaches the BETA stage.

  • Steez


  • secret

    What do you have to rename the ROM file on the android nexus 7

  • donkeyhigh

    To everyone claiming the Android cant emulate DS, try DraStic. Runs everything flawless. And real userfriendly, great GUI, lots of options, and just overall amazing.