You can turn your Steam Deck into a Nintendo Wii or GameCube - but there's a catch

This brilliant Wii and Gamecube emulator is coming to Steam, but you'll need to own physical copies of the games you want to play

Steam Deck review
(Image credit: Future / Katie Watkins)

I love the Steam Deck. Chances are you love the Steam Deck. And from this summer, retro games fans are going to love the Steam Deck even more. That's because the Dolphin emulator for Wii and Gamecube games will be available on Steam. The emulator is already available for free for a variety of platforms, but it'll be a lot easier to get it onto the Steam Deck when you don't have to faff around and do a manual install. And it'll play them in 720p, so visually they'll be a big improvement.

The one thing the app doesn't come with, though, is any actual games. And that's because if it did, Nintendo would sue the developers so fast and so hard they'd end up looking like the aftermath of a Chuck Norris movie battle scene, hurting in places they didn't know they had places. 

Buying and owning emulators is perfectly legal. Using them... it's complicated.

Yes, but that depends on where you get them from. If you download them from the internet they're almost certainly illegal, because unless you're downloading the games from Nintendo's store to play on the Virtual Console on a Nintendo device then they're not authorised and not legal. 

There is a workaround, however. If you don't already have the game discs, you can pick them up cheaply from auction site, make a personal backup, and play that backup via the emulator of your choice. And Dolphin is quite happy to tell you how to do that: there's a guide on its website

As far as Dolphin is concerned, downloading is illegal and thoroughly frowned upon; copying a friend's disc, likewise. The solution it recommends is for you to buy the game legally and then dump it to digital using either your own Wii console or a friend's one. Apps such as CleanRip enable you to do just that. Given that the chances of Nintendo suddenly putting its whole archive on Steam at bargain basement prices are probably zero, that's the only safe way to play some seriously great old-school titles.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (