The Steam Deck plays Wii U games really well. Zelda, Mario Kart 8, and Bayonetta all run brilliantly. And in Zelda’s case, you can even get mods up and running. How cool is that?
Believe it or not, it’s a fairly pain-free process as well. So long as you follow this guide, you’ll be up and running in around 10 minutes.
Part 1: Install Cemu via EmuDeck or as a Standalone
The first choice you need to make is whether you want to install the Wii U emulator Cemu on Steam Deck through EmuDeck or as a standalone. Let’s discuss our options.
EmuDeck is an all-in-one package that installs multiple emulators to the Steam Deck in one go. Each emulator is also preconfigured to work with the Steam Deck hardware and controls. In short, you install EmuDeck, load up Cemu, and you’ll be able to use it straight away without needing to tweak any settings.
The downside of EmuDeck, however, is that you’re left with several emulators you probably won’t use.
If you opt for a standalone version of Cemu, you’ll need to configure the controls and settings yourself, but when you’re finished, you’ll have Cemu and only Cemu installed.
Whatever you decide, I’ll walk you through how to get either version.
Let’s kick things off by booting into Desktop Mode on the Steam Deck. Do this by loading up the Deck, then by holding down the power button until a menu appears. Select Switch to Desktop and the Steam Deck will boot into the desktop environment.
You’re also going to need a web browser for this next part, which you can grab from the Discover store (the blue shopping bag icon).
When that’s installed, open up your browser and head over to the EmuDeck website. Click on downloads from the top menu, then scroll down the page slightly and click on Download Installer. This will download the EmuDeck setup file to the Steam Deck.
Open up the Dolphin file explorer (the blue folder icon) and click on Downloads from the left side. You should see the file EmuDeck.desktop as shown above.
Use the right trigger to click on it twice to open it. A new window box will appear. Click on Execute.
Now just follow the on-screen instructions and EmuDeck will install everything for you. Easy, right?
One thing I will point out just to save you some time, your Wii U games should be placed in the ROMs folder located inside the Emulation folder. Once you’re inside the ROMs folder, you’ll see loads of different folders for different systems. One of them will be named Wii U – that’s where your Wii U games go.
Install a Standalone Version of Cemu
Go to the Cemu website and, as shown above, download the latest stable version. When it’s finished downloading, close the browser and open the Dolphin file explorer (the blue folder icon). Next, head into the Downloads folder.
Inside the Downloads folder will be the Cemu zip file. Use the left trigger to click on it, then point the mouse cursor to Extract, then use the right trigger to click on Extract archive here, autodetect subfolder.
This will unzip the file and place it into its own folder. Open up that new folder and inside should be a launcher file named Cemu.exe.
Use the left trigger to click on this file and click Add to Steam with the right trigger from the menu that appears. Doing this will add Cemu as a non-Steam game and allow you to load it up like a normal app once it’s configured correctly.
Open up Steam and head into Library. In the search box, type “Cemu”. You should now see a program called Cemu.exe. Use the left trigger to click on it then use the right trigger to click Properties.
A new, larger window will now open. On the left side, click on Compatibility. Now, on the right of the window, you’ll see a tick box. Click on this box and from the drop-down menu select the latest Proton version. For me, it’s Proton 7.0-5.
Hit the big green Play button to launch Cemu. Now just follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation. The only thing worth focusing on here is the Game Path. Hit Browse and navigate through your internal or external storage to locate where you have your Wii U games stored. When you’re inside that folder, hit Open and Cemu will use that folder as the main game folder.
That’s it! Now your standalone version of Cemu is now installed.
Step 2: How to Configure Cemu on Steam Deck
Depending on whether you went the EmuDeck or standalone route will denote how you launch Cemu.
If you installed via EmuDeck, head into the start menu (the blue and white Steam Deck icon in the bottom-left corner of the screen), then all applications, and under C should be Cemu. Click on it to open it up.
If you installed the standalone Cemu, then you’ll need to locate it in Steam and hit the big green Play button to launch it.
Once Cemu is loaded, look to the top-left corner of the screen. See “File”? Click on that.
Your main options here are Load – something you’ll seldom use because you can click twice on a game icon to load them up – and Install game title, update, or DLC.
The second option is worth knowing about as this is how you install game updates and DLC. Depending on the file type of the game you may need to install it as well, but if you’re using unpacked Wii U games, they should show up without the need to install them.
When installing title updates or DLC, click on Install game title, update, or DLC and you’ll be sent into the file explorer to point Cemu to where you have the specific data saved.
Once you’ve downloaded or got hold of the title update data or DLC you’re after, the general file structure works like so: Region > Update > Game Name > Meta. Inside the meta folder is usually a file named meta.xml. When you click on the file twice, it’ll load into Cemu and start the title update or DLC installation process.
Now for the fun stuff. Cemu lets users tweak individual game settings. That means it can be scaled for both high-end and low-end hardware, which is great.
Much like before, instead of clicking File, click on Options then select Graphics Packs. This is where you can tweak game settings.
Note: Options also houses the place to configure a controller if you went the standalone Cemu route.
As an example, I have Mario Kart 8 installed. When I click on the + next to the game name, it opens up the options below it. Then it’s just a case of clicking on Graphics and changing it to what makes sense.
If you’re playing in handheld mode, there’s no reason to put the resolution higher than 720p. If you’ve got your Steam Deck hooked up to a TV, though, that’s when it’s worth considering upping the resolution further, though this will affect performance, so use it wisely.
This area is also where you’d turn mods on and off. It’s worth keeping this in mind for when you’re getting Breath of the Wild mods up and running.
Where to Get Wii U Games on Steam Deck (Legally)
The easiest route to get Wii U games to for use on Steam Deck is to rip them yourself. Cemu has its own guide for this, but the general idea is to use a program named Dumpling to rip games from either the disc tray or the internal or external storage.
You’ll need a FAT32 formatted USB storage device or an SD card, a way to transfer the files to the Steam Deck (like Warpinator), and – obviously – a Wii U console with Internet access.
- Turn on your Wii U console and login into your account
- Make sure the save password feature is turned on in the settings
- Insert your game disc and your USB device or SD card
- Load up the web browser and head to https://dumplingapp.com/
- Click where it says “Launch Dumpling”
- Click on “Dump a game disc” or “Dump files to use Cemu online”
- Make sure it’s the right account
- Click “Start” and the dumping process will begin
After a while your game and data should be dumped and ready to be transferred over to the Steam Deck. I prefer to transfer it first to my PC and then use Warpinator to send the data over to the Steam Deck via my router. But if you’ve got a preferred way of transferring files, go with what works for you.
What Wii U Games are Compatible?
Cemu utilizes games in the WUD or compressed WUX file formats. It’s important to note, these files need to be converted to the Loadiine format (Loadiine is a wrapper for Wii U games installed on an SD Card). Some programs actually have an unpack for Cemu feature that auto-completes that step for you. And yes, it’s very, very helpful.
If it’s not in the Loadiine format, or it’s a Wii U ISO file, you’re going to need to set up a “keys.txt” file inside of Cemu’s directory, which is a pain to do and I can’t help you due to keys containing personal info data that can’t legally be shared.
In short, go the Loadiine route. It’s much simpler and saves you a headache in the long run.
How Is Cemu Performance on Steam Deck?
Really well! Out of the 10 games I tested, only one – Amazing Spider-Man 2 – didn’t work. Mario Kart 8 runs brilliantly once the shaders have compiled, and I was able to run The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at around 40 to 45 frames per second. Not bad, eh?
Upping the resolution to 1080p when the Steam Deck is docked may cause some games to struggle, so in that case it’s worth dropping back to 720p and using the Steam Deck’s built-in FSR function to upscale the image quality to 1080p.
Running games at 720p frees up a decent whack of graphical power that can then be used elsewhere. Plus 720p plus FSR looks like 1080p to most people, so it’s a worthwhile trade-off for sure.