Play Zelda: Skyward Sword in Ubuntu 11.10

Skyward Sword on Ubuntu

Disclaimer:  Don’t you dare steal this game.  It is incredible and worth every dollar asked for it.  As you can see, I am using my own disc.  At $49.99, this game is a great value.

My beautiful wife did a terrible thing to me this Christmas.  She got me a copy of Zelda:  Skyward Sword.  Of course it doesn’t sound all that bad now does it?  Well, it is bad for 2 reasons.

1)  I love video games.  I also love being productive.  The two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.  When I get into an adventure game, I’m in it for the long-haul, from start to finish.  This how-to is my feeble attempt to parlay a Wii game into actual work.

2)  I have this 60-inch 1080p television.  The Wii will only output games in 480p, which is unacceptable on a grand display such as mine.

Then I remembered.  I have on my desk an extremely powerful machine.  Nvidia 550GT graphics card, a ton of RAM, and an AMD 1090T processor that should be able to run a Wii game no problem in all its 6-core glory.

Also on my desk is a ZaReason Alto 3880 review unit with an i7 2630QM processor, 8GB RAM and Nvidia GTX 570M mobile graphics.  So basically, an unholy beast mutant or power and portability.  So, I’m going to run the game on both machines and show you how to do it on your own!

We will be using the Dolphin emulator.  I will show you how to install it and get it to take full advantage of your hardware.  Read on for details.

First, we need to install Dolphin.  It’s not available in the Ubuntu repositories and we don’t want to build it from source.  The best way to get it is from the Playdeb repository.  So, let’s add it!

In plain-Jane Ubuntu, you can simply open up the Dash and start typing ‘software’, and you will see the ‘software-sources’ program appear.  From the screenshots, you’ll see that I am using Kubuntu, but it makes no difference.  Launch it and click on the ‘Other Software’ tab.

Ubuntu software sources
Software Sources

Now, click on the ‘Add’ button at the bottom of the window.  Add the following line.

deb oneiric-getdeb games

Zelda Linux Software source
Add apt-line to software sources.

Click OK and close the window.  Now, fire up your terminal and do:

wget -q -O- | sudo apt-key add -

This will add the repos key to your trusted list.  Now:

sudo apt-get update

After you add the playdeb repository, you can install apps and games directly from their website.  They use the apt-url protocol to ask your package manager to install packages directly from a web-browser.  This is handy if you are at the website and wish to browse their offerings, but for our purposes we can just install it directly from the command-line like so:

sudo apt-get install dolphin-emu

Now, we can start up Dolphin.  This is NOT a guide for setting up your Wii-mote.  That’s another can of worms.  Let’s configure your graphics.  It would be good to know what your screen resolution is right now.

From the main window, select ‘Graphics’.

You’ll notice here that OpenGL is selected by default.  This is what you want.  Next, select what you want your full-screen resolution ot be.  Use YOUR native resolution, unless your machine can’t handle it, in which case, go lower and lower until you can get acceptable performance.  Lastly, check ‘Use Fullscreen’.  While in-game, you can use Alt+Enter to go back to windowed mode.

Next, go to the enhancements tab.  As I mentioned earlier, the Wii outputs at 480p.  It’s native resolution is 640×528.  I assume that this is a compromise between NTSC and PAL formats, but that is a completely different conversation.  If you accept the default internal resolution, you will get the most authentic experience.  The emulator will scale the native resolution of the Wii to the native resolution of your monitor without interpolating the image.  Basically, it will be pixelated, but will be void of the composite artifacts you get when connecting a Wii to your television.  It looks quite nice.  This will not give you full HD geometry however.  If you desire maximum fidelity, select ‘Auto (Window-Size).

OK!  We are ready to roll.  Go to File:Boot from DVD drive.


About Dean Howell

Aside from being a huge Sega fan, Dean is an LPIC certified Linux professional with over a decade experience. In addition to spending his free time burning through the classics from Sega and evangelizing open source, he's also the editor-in-cheif of The Powerbase.
  • virgil fatu

    Can you play this game without the Wii controller?

    • Dean Howell

      Yes. You can. There is an option in the menus to emulate the Wii-Mote and Nun-chuck with a control pad. It would be a little tricky for this game, but you could make it work…

      • virgil fatu


  • sven

    Huh? Did “Boot from DVD drive” really work for you? I can’t imagine it did with the original disc.

  • Marcelo Machado

    you know if i can download the sourcecode from playdeb to compile the package of dolphin from ubuntu 11.10 on ubuntu 13.10?

    its because in some changes on source code they remove this option and now i need login on windows and use an old compile version with this option to play the ZSS on emulator
    the option is ’emulate wiimotion plus’

    i try compile directly from but this option doesnt exist on this src.