So you’re in the mood for some Wii gaming but you don’t have the Wii console anymore. The only device you have is a Mac. Is it possible to run a Wii emulator and play Wii games on a Mac?
As it turns out, there are a handful of Wii emulators for Macs. In this article, I’ll cover the best emulators for Mac, and also some practical tips on how to set up the emulators.
Best Emulators for Mac:
1 – Dolphin
Dolphin is one of the most well-known Wii and GameCube emulators for Windows and Mac. In most cases, Dolphin has all the features that you need to start emulating Wii games on Mac.
It supports pretty much every GameCube or Wii game, as well as a wide variety of controllers. You can also remap the Wii remote buttons to your mouse and keyboard.
Even better, it supports dumping games. If your Mac has a DVD drive, you can RIP your Wii games and play them through the emulator. Do you have a lot of Wii games lying around but the Wii console is broken?
Now you can do something with those games. The good news is Dolphin runs quite well on the latest M1 Macs, the performance is much better than on Intel Macs.
2 – OpenEmu
I know, OpenEmu is technically not an emulator. OpenEmu is based on the Dolphin emulator mentioned earlier, it’s built-in to the OpenEmu backend. OpenEmu is more like a skin for Dolphin, with a focus on organizing retro video games.
The best feature of OpenEu is the Library that automatically adds cover art to the games. Once you install OpenEmu, you can drag and drop a ROM into the application, and it will load the cover art and organize it.
You can also dump a big collection of ROM games and it’ll automatically organize them into the right console categories. Most of the popular game controllers (PS4, Xbox, etc) are auto-mapped to keys too.
In some cases, you will need to download a specific Core to run a game. The Core will automatically download and install, but it might take a while.
3 – RetroArch
RetroArch is an open-source program that supports a wide variety of emulators. It’s a more advanced program that beginners might struggle to configure.
Technically it’s not an emulator, more like a file management service. It uses Libretro Cores, which contain emulators, and you’ll need to download the right core for the game you want to emulate.
What makes RetroArch interesting is that it’s available on so many operating systems, some of which are no longer supported. For example, it can be installed on Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 98/95, Linux, Raspberry Pi, Android, Apple TV, Xbox Series, Playstation 4, Steam, GameCube, and even web-browsers.
RetroArch also now officially supports the Metal API, Apple’s MAC OS graphics API. If you have an M1 Mac, I suggest using the Metal API version of RetroArch.
One more thing to note is the Steam version supports Remote Play, allowing you to invite friends to local-coop Retro games. The Steam version is also a little more straightforward than the standalone.
Best API for Macs:
When you start running emulators on your Mac, you’ll notice the option to choose your preferred graphics API. To get the best performance on the latest Macs, you want to choose Metal API. The reason is Metal API is Apple’s own graphics API and the performance is better on supported Macs.
The older OpenGL graphics API is no longer officially supported by Apple. Certain programs and games can still run on OpenGL but the performance might not be the best. Feel free to try changing the graphics API until you find one that delivers the best performance, it can vary dramatically.
Can You Run Windows Wii Emulators on Mac?
You can run Windows Wii emulators on Mac by using Crossover to dual-boot Windows. Bear in mind, using an app like Crossover or Rosetta to run emulators often tanks performance. I would try Dolphin or OpenEmu before you try the Windows versions.
How to Get Wii Roms:
Technically it is illegal to download Wii ROMS that you don’t currently own. For example, if you have a Wii CD, dump the files into a ROM, and then run that ROM with an emulator on Mac, that is legal.
However, it’s not legal to download and play ROMS for free, although you can easily do that with a few simple searches on Google. You can even find databases of ROMS that you can download and automatically add to one of the above emulators.
The Bottom Line:
With some patience, you can easily get Wii games running on a Mac. The recent M1 Macs have excellent hardware for emulators, and you can usually reach a stable 60 FPS on most games, even with upscaling turned on. From there you just need to connect a controller via Bluetooth and you can game like the good old days.