Gaming emulators are a tricky subject, wading through murky gray legal waters. It’s even trickier when it comes to trying to actually play legally acquired games, most of which are now available digitally and sold through very specific and proprietary channels. Such is the case, for example, of Wii titles available from Nintendo’s Wii Shop Channel. Fortunately for emulation gamers, Dolphin, perhaps the most popular, not to mention working, Wii emulators now lets you do just that.
We won’t dive into the ways gamers acquire games for use with emulators. The more or less official legal disclaimer is that they should own the game. In the case of the Wii, those games come in optical disc or digital downloads. The former usually requires some amount of ripping from physical to digital at most. The latter, however, was practically impossible, until now.
With the latest Dolphin update, users will not only be able to browse the Wii Shop Channel but also download and install games from there. And not just the free demos either. Wiiware and Virtual Console games are also available, but you’ll have to pay for those, of course.
That said, it’s not all automatic and you’ll need to go through a few hoops to make that happen. Most of those require extracting keys and certificates from an actual Wii, which might be a problem for those who don’t have one. Some might consider these hoops to be too much work and resort to the easier but less legit ways to get their hands on games.
This is a rather new development for the Wii emulation scene and a very significant achievement for Dolphin. Whether access remains possible in the future is still uncertain. Nintendo might push a server-side update that would somehow block access, but considering it’s attention is all on the Switch, it might not happen any time soon.