Disclaimer: We do not advise using emulators or downloading ROMs online.
The Steam Deck is one of the latest gaming consoles from Valve that can run a whole Steam Library. It is a mini-computer in portable housing where you can play anytime and anywhere you want. You can also plug in a monitor for a full console experience.
On the other hand, the Nintendo GameCube has made its mark as one of the best consoles of all time. It has an excellent game library with a great mix of first-party and third-party titles.
Since the Steam Deck is a mini-computer, is it possible to revisit these GameCube classics through an emulator? That is what we are about to find out.
Can Steam Deck Emulate Nintendo GameCube?
If you are looking to find a way to emulate Nintendo GameCube games on the Steam Deck, then you are in luck since you can do so through Dolphin – a free and open-source emulator for GameCube and Wii. It runs on Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux – which is the base of SteamOS.
The Steam Deck is a handheld gaming device that aims to take a bite of Nintendo Switch’s huge player base which could be a reality soon.
The Switch has a catalog of SNES and NES games through its Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Meanwhile, the Steam Deck has a lot of free and open-source emulators for Nintendo consoles such as the GameCube.
How To Emulate Nintendo GameCube On The Steam Deck
Follow these steps to emulate the Nintendo GameCube on your Steam Deck through Dolphin.
But before going ahead, we just want to remind you that we do not condone piracy. Emulating Nintendo games has been around for decades now. There is still a fine line between the legitimacy of emulating games and piracy so tread carefully.
Let’s get started.
Install Dolphin Emulator On Your Steam Deck
- Power up your Steam Deck
- Open the menu on the lower left side of the screen.
- Click on Power.
- Click on the Switch to Desktop mode. You will be transferred to the SteamOS desktop interface.
- Head on to Application and click on Discovery.
- Click on the Search bar and type “Dolphin” and press enter. If you are not using an actual keyboard, press the Steam button + X to bring up the on-screen keyboard.
- Click on Dolphin.
- Click on Install in the upper right corner and wait for the installation to finish.
- You are done! Dolphin Emulator is now installed on your Steam Deck.
Add Dolphin Emulator As An Actual Program
- Open Steam while in Desktop mode.
- Click on Add a Game on the lower left corner of the screen. You may also click on the Games tab on the top menu then click on Add a non-Steam game.
- Select Dolphin.
- Click on Add Selected Program.
Launching Dolphin For The First Time
- Switch to Gaming mode.
- Press the Steam button to open your Steam Library.
- Head on to the non-Steam game section.
- Click on Dolphin Emulator and click Play.
Configure Dolphin Emulator On Steam Deck For The First Time
- Open Dolphin Emulator.
- Click on Configuration.
- Navigate to the Backend Settings.
- Click on Audio Backend.
- Select Cubeb under the Audio Backend drop-down menu. This will allow you to have in-game audio while playing your GameCube game.
- Click Close.
- Click on Graphics just beside the Configuration settings.
- Click on the Backend drop-down menu and select OpenGL.
- Move to the Aspect Ratio and set it to Force 16:9 to simulate a wide-screen experience. You may also leave it on Auto if you want to retain the 4:3 aspect ratio of the GameCube.
- Move on to the Enhancements section.
- Change the Internal Resolution to 2x Native 720p since it is the default resolution of the Steam Deck.
- Leave the other settings as is or configure them based on your taste.
- Click Close to save your changes.
Setup Your Steam Deck For The GameCube Controls
- Open Dolphin Emulator.
- Click on Controllers beside the Graphics settings.
- On Port 1, you will see the Standard Controller. Click on Configure beside it.
- On the Device drop-down menu, select FDL/0/MicrosoftXbox360/0.
- Head on to the Profile name and set it to Steam Deck or whatever name you want. Click Save.
- Under the GameCube Controller, you may remap the buttons based on your personal preference. You may also bring up a photo of the GameCube controller and re-map the equivalent buttons on your Steam Deck.
- Click on Close and you are ready to have fun!
Download Nintendo GameCube Games
This step is just for demonstration purposes. Again, avoid piracy as much as possible and support your game developers since they worked hard to bring us these titles.
- Open your Steam Deck.
- Head on to Desktop Mode.
- Open your Browser and search for “Nintendo GameCube ROMs”. You may also click these links to open the two most popular ROM sites – Romsgames and Romsfun.
- Select the game you want to play and download the ROM.
- Create a Nintendo GameCube ROM folder on your Steam Deck. You may save this folder on your internal storage, microSD slot, or external SSD if you use one.
Time To Play GameCube Games On Your Steam Deck
- Open your Steam Deck.
- Make sure that you are in Gaming Mode.
- Open your Steam library.
- Head on to Non-Steam Games.
- Launch Dolphin Emulator.
- Click on Open.
- Navigate to your GameCube folder.
- Select your game.
- Click Open.
Issues Surrounding GameCube Emulation On The Steam Deck
There are concerns when emulating Nintendo GameCube games on the Steam Deck. Some of these issues include lags, stutters, ROM installation errors, and many more.
The good thing is, that these issues do not appear that much while emulating games on the Steam Deck.
There are lags and stutters whenever you would load heavy games. However, it is not detrimental to the whole gaming experience. Once you get past the initial loading screen (when the stutters happen), games become smooth and it feels like you are playing on the actual GameCube – except that it is portable.
Moreover, the ROM installation problem can be remedied by downloading the ROM on a PC, extracting it there, and just transferring the file to the microSD or external SSD, whichever you choose. The issue sometimes lies in the SteamOS not extracting ROMs properly.
Lastly, the battery life is also a concern since emulators could possibly draw more power than regular games. However, there are a lot of things that you can configure such as limiting the FPS, reducing screen brightness, and adjusting graphics settings so that the Steam Deck does not push itself too much.
Emulating Nintendo GameCube games on the Steam Deck is as simple as downloading Dolphin Emulator and loading your game. It does not take much to configure and you can certainly game on the go immediately.
Ultimately, the Steam Deck is a dream come true for fans of emulators. If you are interested, you may also emulate the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo 3DS on the Deck for more gaming options.
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