Boot up your PC and get ready to visit Hyrule in sweet 4K as we delve into the best Wii U emulators of the year!
The Wii U got a bit of a bad rap when it came out. It’s very much the stepping stone that took us from the Wii to the Nintendo Switch, and that means that we should all be saluting it instead of slagging it off behind its back!
I had one of these when it first came out, sold it before I went travelling, and recently bought one again to replay Windwaker and Twilight Princess in HD. But, if you don’t have a Wii U, then there are a couple of ways you can play these games on your Laptop or PC.
There are only three programs in this list of the best Wii U emulators. Like some of the other emulator lists we’ve written for new consoles, it’s still very much early days.
Plus, only one of the programs in the list below is open source, so there’s not a lot of code manipulation going on for people to make their own programs off the back of them.
Still, here’s our list of the best Wii U emulators for you to play Wii U games right now and some information as to how emulators work for newbies to the scene.
Like attempted burglary into the Halls of Erebor, downloading ROMs
is illegal. Please check the copyright laws in your part of Middle Earth before downloading emulators, and only rip games from your own dragon hoard, capish?
Table of Contents
- Closed Source
Cemu is undoubtedly the best Wii U emulator on the internet. Any program that sees Mario Kart 8 running at 8K and BOTW running at 4K is a surefire winner, and Cemu is continuously improving month on month.
Quite a lot of the emulators that we cover here on Retro Dodo are open source programs capable of being updated by other users. Cemu, however, is closed source. This means that it has a dedicated team of people updating the program on a fortnightly basis.
When BOTW first came out for the Wii U, the Cemu Patreon page was pulling in around $22,000 a month. That’s how much people wanted this thing to be able to play the new Zelda adventure!
Regular readers know how much I love a good website when it comes to emulation. If it has lots of information and FAQs, then I’m instantly on board.
The Cemu website is great and has a well-laid-out compatibility list showing which games work well and which ones still have problems.
The most important thing to remember with Cemu is that it’s an ongoing project. It works great now, but the developers are continually working to make sure that goes from strength to strength, so keep checking for updates and support the cause.
- Open Source
- Windows, Linux
It might be the first ever Wii U emulator on the scene, but Decaf takes the Number 2 spot in this list of the best Wii U emulators of all time!
Good news for Linux users; decaf works on both Windows and Linux. It’s a reliable program that is starting to produce great results too.
As an open source program, it doesn’t have the same kind of monetary backing as Cemu. This emulator has all the makings of something great and is slowly caching up with Cemu, but it’s still got a way to go before it can match everyone’s favourite Wii U emulator in terms of compatibility and user experience.
Bugs occur frequently and the compatible games list is smaller, but things are moving forward.
The more people that download Decaf and pitch in with its development, the faster this community driven program will reach the big leagues.
3. Nintendo eSHOP
- Nintendo Switch
Ok, we’ve done that thing again where we put a paid app or shop in at the end of an emulator article, but hear us out.
This is one of the best ways to play Wii U games on an updated console, both on your TV and in handheld mode without experiencing lag or frame rate drop.
And, it’s 100% legal, so you don’t need to worry about Doug Bowser and actual Bowser knocking on your door in the middle of the night. They’ll feed you to a Chain Chomp without a second thought!
There are lots of Wii U games available on Switch including Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, and the games I’ve mentioned above to name but a few.
No, they aren’t free and you can’t play ripped ROMs of your own games, but these titles are probably the only way you can guarantee a flawless gaming experience without any messing around!
How Do Emulators Work?
You know how Bilbo puts the One Ring on and turns invisible? He’s still the same Hobbit, but you can’t see him. Well, an emulator program is invisible, but it makes your computer think that it’s a hobbit…
… wait, that’s not right.
Emulators make your PC or laptop think that it’s a games console. They digitally recreate the internal gubbins of your SNES, Nintendo 3DS, or Dreamcast, making virtual wires and chips that mimic the original console.
Think of an emulator as being a little like iTunes. It’s a program that plays files, and those files are called ROMs.
What Are ROMs?
ROMs are digital versions of the carts and discs that you slot into your consoles. People have taken to using software to copy the files off their existing games in order to play on handheld emulators or on their PC with better graphics.
Ripping files from games that you own is fine, but like taping the radio, sharing ROMs that you’ve made with other users or downloading other ROMs is illegal.
Not seagull or beagle; illegal. We can’t stress that enough!
What Are The Benefits Of Using The Best Wii U Emulators?
There aren’t many Wii U emulators on the scene, but the ones that are here are already pushing the boundaries of what the Wii U is capable of.
There’s no way a Wii U console could play Mario Kart 8 at 8K graphics. I’d love to see Yoshi bossing some of those tracks on a cinema screen with out of this world visuals!
Also, the Wii U doesn’t have the greatest games list, unless you like Zelda titles, so not everyone will want to buy one. Playing BOTW and Twilight Princess HD on a handheld console sometime in the future certainly sounds appealing!
Why Is Emulating A Nintendo Wii U So Difficult?
Wii U games are big, which means they require a lot of processing power to run. We’re not talking about running the best ZX Spectrum games here; these are huge titles with lots going on.
A Wii U and a smartphone are two very different devices, so handheld Wii U emulation probably won’t happen for a while yet. Citra is one of the best Nintendo 3DS emulators for this reason as handheld devices are a lot closer to mobile phones in their makeup.
As Cemu has a dedicated team, they’re making much more progress with finding solutions to emulating these big games. We’re excited to see how the project progresses and other great programs from the team.
How Do I Download The Best Wii U Emulators?
We’ve linked you to all three programs in the article above. Don’t worry, closed and open source emulators are both perfectly legal to download and tinker with, so no one is going to lock you up.
It’s the ROM sharing that will get the cops coming around. You can’t play games in prison, so behave yourself, alright?
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 33 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.