How to Legally Obtain ROMs/ISOs of Nintendo Games (Part 1)

It used to be easy to obtain ROMs for emulators. One could easily go online and download all the games they desired. But there are many reasons why you can’t and shouldn’t now. Legality issues, risk of viruses, and Nintendo’s actions against sharing their ROMs online make downloading ROMs a bad idea.

However, all hope is not lost! It is possible to dump your own games without violating any legal or copyright rules, and therefore have games ready to play on these emulators. In this article we’ll begin discussing how one could legally obtain ROMs of Nintendo games.

An assortment of various Nintendo game discs and cartridges .  One could obtain ROMs or ISOs of these games using methods listed in this guide.

Preface

Emulators are very popular nowadays, and they’re a fantastic way of enjoying your favorite classic video games. They come with so many benefits, such as improved resolution and support for any controller or device, to name a few. You can even use a console as a dedicated emulator system. But, of course, you need actual games to play on the emulator.

Nintendo has made this very hard, as of late. They’ve threatened legal action against many ROM hosting sites and had their games taken down. Even if you do manage to find a (sketchy) site that still has ROMs available for downloading, technically you’re breaking the law. But not if you can work around it!

The Legality of Emulators and ROMs

Legally speaking, downloading ROMs from the internet is pretty much always considered piracy. It’s downloading games you didn’t pay for. On the flip side, however, there is nothing illegal about downloading and running emulators. So, if we want to use emulators for their various benefits over standard consoles, how do we get games to use with them legally? The answer is something I want to encourage and teach all readers here to do: dump your own game collection.

The legality of this is that it is perfectly okay to make backups of data that you legally own. So, if you legally own a cartridge or disc, you can take a backup of its data for safe keeping on your hard drive. It’s useful in the event your game gets lost or breaks (the downfall of both discs and cartridges). And it of course has the added benefit of being able to use with emulators.

However, this becomes illegal when you decide to share that game you just dumped. You end up with two copies of a game, and the person you shared with gets a copy that he or she did not pay for. I would like to make it clear that this article, this blog, and I myself do not support sharing or obtaining games by any illegal means whatsoever. We are only focusing on and encouraging legal methods of obtaining these games.

What Can Be Dumped, and The Methods of Dumping

I’d like to show that it is possible with little to moderate difficulty to obtain ROMs from pretty much anything. Many of these methods involve hacking consoles, which I won’t discuss, but I will include tools needed on those hacked systems. This article simply shows what systems and tools can be used to obtain ROM backups. Future guides will show in detail how to actually use these tools to dump your games. Click here for Part 2, which is on dumping Nintendo discs!

Here’s a list I put together on how to obtain ROMs or ISOs of all types of Nintendo games.

NES/SNES/N64 games:

Method 1: Cartridge dumper
Example 1
Example 2

Method 2: Dump a Virtual Console title from a hacked Wii, Wii U, or 3DS
Wii VC:
Requires: Hacked Nintendo Wii, PC
Tool: vcromclaim
Can extract NES, SNES, and N64 ROMs from VC titles.

Wii U VC (as well as SNES Classic):
Requires: Hacked Wii U or SNES Classic, PC
Tool: Wii U VC Extractor
Can extract GBA, NES, and SNES ROMs from VC or SNES Classic titles.

3DS VC:
Requires: Hacked 3DS
Tool: GodMode9
Can dump GB, GBC, GBA, NES, or SNES VC titles, then ROMs can be extracted.


Gamecube/Wii/Wii U games:

Dump from disc on GameCube, Wii, Wii U or PC with supported disc drive

Gamecube:
Not recommended by me, but I will include it for informative purposes.
Requires: GameCube with Action Replay or Modchip, SD to memory card adapter, SD Card, Swiss (homebrew loader)
Tool: CleanRip
Can dump only GameCube games.

Wii:
Requires: hacked Wii with Homebrew channel, SD Card or USB drive
Tool: CleanRip or USBLoaderGX
Can dump Wii and GameCube games.

Wii U:
Requires: hacked Wii U + hacked vWii mode if ripping Wii games, SD Card or USB drive
Tool: Disc2App (Wii U disc), USBLoaderGX or CleanRip (Wii discs), DDD (Wii U digital titles)
Wii or Wii U discs can be dumped, as well as Wii U digital titles.

PC:
Requires: Supported disc drive (see below)
Tool: FriiDump (Wii & GC),
Can dump GameCube or Wii games with supported disc drive.
List of supported disc drives for Wii & GC


Nintendo Switch games:

Dump from cartridge using a hacked console
This method is complicated and not recommended. The Nintendo Switch hacking process is much more challenging and risky than the other consoles. You could also get banned by Nintendo for playing games that were dumped (even the original cartridge). But, once again, it’s worth including to show that it is possible!

Requires: Hacked Nintendo Switch Console
Tool: GCDumpTool (cartridges), Goldleaf (Digital titles)
Switch Game Carts and digital titles can be dumped.
More information on dumping Switch carts


Game Boy/Game Boy Color/Game Boy Advance games:

Method 1: Cartridge dumper
Example 1 (GB and GBC games only)
Example 2 (GB/GBC/GBA support)

Method 2: Dump GBA cartridge using GameCube
Required: Gamecube, Action replay or modchip, SD to memory card adapter, Game Boy Player or GBA Link cable

Using a Game Boy Player
Tool: Game Boy Interface

Using a GBA Link Cable
Tool: GBA Link Cable Dumper

Method 3: Dump GBA games from Wii U/3DS virtual console

Wii U
Requires: Hacked Wii U
Tools: Wii U VC Extractor
Can dump GBA Virtual Console games from Wii U

3DS
Requires: Hacked 3DS
Tools: GodMode9
Can dump GB/GBC/GBA virtual console games from 3DS

Method 4: Dump GBA cartridge on DS
Requires: Nintendo DS Phat or DS Lite, DS Flash Cartridge
Tool: GBA Backup Tool


Nintendo DS/3DS games:

Method 1: Dump using hacked 3DS
Requires: Hacked Nintendo 3DS or 2DS
Tool: GodMode9
Can dump any DS or 3DS cartridge

Method 2: Dump using a DS or DSi over wifi
Required: Nintendo DS phat/DS Lite/DSi, DS Flash Cartridge
Tool: Wooddumper
Can dump DS and DSi cartridges over Wifi
More info: http://wiki.no-intro.org/index.php?title=Nintendo_DS(i)_Dumping_Guide


Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions – I’m happy to assist! And go ahead and follow this blog if you find info like this useful!

Click here to move on to Part 2, which is on dumping Nintendo discs!

Further reading: The Ellis Workshop’s Wii Hacking Guide

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