Hack and / - Wiimote Control

Why let your Wii have all the fun? Find out how to connect your Wiimote to your computer and use it as a mouse or an input device for any number of popular gaming emulators.
Wiimotes for NES Emulation

One of the first things I wanted to do with my Wiimote after it was connected was to use it as a controller for my various game system emulators. But, before I go any further, if you do use a game system emulator like nestra, fceu, snes9x or MAME, be sure you have full rights to use any ROMs you might have. Make an appointment with your lawyer for details, but essentially, to play a commercial ROM, you should own the corresponding game.

With the legal disclaimers aside, the Wiimote makes a great wireless NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) controller. All the basic buttons are there, and all that's left to do is rearrange the button mappings to work with either nestra or fceu NES emulators. Both programs use slightly different mappings, so I created files called buttons-fceu and buttons-nestra and placed them in ~/.cwiid/wminput. First, buttons-nestra:

Wiimote.A               = KEY_0
Wiimote.B               = KEY_1
Wiimote.Up              = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Down    = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Left    = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Right   = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Minus   = KEY_TAB
Wiimote.Plus    = KEY_ENTER
Wiimote.Home    = KEY_PAUSE
Wiimote.1               = KEY_Z
Wiimote.2               = KEY_SPACE

After I set the regular NES buttons, I had a few extra to bind, so I bound the A button to pause the emulator, the B button to set nestra to normal speed and the home button to reset the game.

The fceu emulator had completely different keybindings, so here is my buttons-fceu file:

Wiimote.A               = KEY_F7
Wiimote.B               = KEY_F5
Wiimote.Up              = KEY_A
Wiimote.Down    = KEY_S
Wiimote.Left    = KEY_Z
Wiimote.Right   = KEY_W
Wiimote.Minus   = KEY_TAB
Wiimote.Plus    = KEY_ENTER
Wiimote.Home    = KEY_F10
Wiimote.1               = KEY_KP2
Wiimote.2               = KEY_KP3

In addition to the standard buttons, I bound the B button to save a game state, A to restore and home to reset the game.

Now, to use either of these configuration files, all I need to do is tell wminput to load these files instead:

greenfly@minimus:~/$ wminput -c ~/.cwiid/wminput/buttons-nestra 
Put Wiimote in discoverable mode now (press 1+2)...

Because wminput sends regular keyboard events, I don't have to do anything special to nestra or fceu.

Wiimotes for SNES Emulation

The Wiimote worked great for NES games, but how about SNES (Super Nintendo) emulation? I actually purchased a few different SNES games for the Wii virtual console, and I also bought a Classic Controller so I would have all the standard SNES buttons. It turns out that wminput also can bind keys to the Nunchuck and Classic Controller attachments, so all I had to do for it to work with snes9x was create a new configuration file that mapped all the keys. Here is my buttons-snes9x file:

Wiimote.A               = KEY_X
Wiimote.B               = KEY_S
Wiimote.Up              = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Down    = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Left    = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Right   = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Minus   = KEY_TAB
Wiimote.Plus    = KEY_ENTER
Wiimote.Home    = KEY_ESC
Wiimote.1               = KEY_C
Wiimote.2               = KEY_D

Nunchuk.C               = BTN_LEFT
Nunchuk.Z               = BTN_RIGHT

Classic.Up              = KEY_UP
Classic.Down    = KEY_DOWN
Classic.Left    = KEY_LEFT
Classic.Right   = KEY_RIGHT
Classic.Minus   = KEY_SPACE
Classic.Plus    = KEY_ENTER
Classic.Home    = KEY_ESC
Classic.A               = KEY_D
Classic.B               = KEY_C
Classic.X               = KEY_S
Classic.Y               = KEY_X
#Classic.ZL             = 
#Classic.ZR             = 
Classic.L               = KEY_A
Classic.R               = KEY_Z

Even though I planned to use the Classic Controller, I tried to map as many of the regular Wiimote keys to buttons that made sense, so you could potentially play at least some games with the regular Wiimote as well. If you notice, I also left bindings for the special ZL and ZR keys blank, so you could bind them to extra keys.

Wiimote Control for MAME

One of the best game system emulators out there is MAME. MAME emulates classic arcade games, and there are many guides out there (including in Linux Journal itself) on how to use MAME to create your own arcade cabinet. Well, I haven't cleared away the time for that project yet, but I did want to use my Wiimote and Classic Controller attachment for MAME games. MAME has a large number of bindings (press Tab in MAME to see a list), so it was difficult to choose which to bind to the extra keys. Here is a sample buttons-xmame file I created:

Wiimote.A               = KEY_P
Wiimote.B               = KEY_5
Wiimote.Up              = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Down    = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Left    = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Right   = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Minus   = KEY_2
Wiimote.Plus    = KEY_1
Wiimote.Home    = KEY_F3
Wiimote.1               = KEY_LEFTCTRL
Wiimote.2               = KEY_LEFTALT

Nunchuk.C               = BTN_LEFT
Nunchuk.Z               = BTN_RIGHT

Classic.Up              = KEY_UP
Classic.Down    = KEY_DOWN
Classic.Left    = KEY_LEFT
Classic.Right   = KEY_RIGHT
Classic.Minus   = KEY_2
Classic.Plus    = KEY_1
Classic.Home    = KEY_F3
Classic.A               = KEY_LEFTCTRL
Classic.B               = KEY_LEFTALT
Classic.X               = KEY_SPACE
Classic.Y               = KEY_LEFTSHIFT
Classic.ZL              = KEY_5
Classic.ZR              = KEY_P
Classic.L               = KEY_Z
Classic.R               = KEY_X

In addition to the standard bindings you might expect, the home key resets MAME; the plus key selects single player; minus selects two players; ZL on the Classic Controller and B on the Wiimote insert a coin; and ZR on the Classic Controller and A on the Wiimote pause. These are by no means perfect bindings, so I recommend you experiment with different keys that work better for you.

The possibilities with wminput go much further than what I've presented here. There also are configuration files that use the analog joystick inputs on the Classic Controller, the IR sensors on the Wiimote and the accelerometers on the Nunchuck. Wminput isn't just a handy way to play video games on your laptop or desktop. The fact that the connection to the computer is wireless makes the Wiimote a great gaming input for a MythTV client or other computer connected to your PC. As for me, I think I'll be spending a few more days trying to beat this impossible Super Mario Brothers hack that has been floating around the Internet.

Kyle Rankin is a Senior Systems Administrator in the San Francisco Bay Area and the author of a number of books, including Knoppix Hacks and Ubuntu Hacks for O'Reilly Media. He is currently the president of the North Bay Linux Users' Group.


Kyle Rankin is a director of engineering operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, the author of a number of books including DevOps Troubleshooting and The Official Ubuntu Server Book, and is a columnist for Linux Journal.


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Thad Boyd's picture

Okay, so you've got a script for fceu, one for snes9x, etc. That's cool, but it seems that you have to restart wminput manually every time you want to switch config files, which really inhibits its usefulness as a remote control for an HTPC. I'd like to be able to use my remote to select an NES game in my MythGame list, then turn it sideways and use it as an NES controller -- without resorting to hacks like, say, setting the Up arrow key to work as Left on the NES D-Pad, or setting up a shell script that restarts wminput with a different config file and then launches the program (but requires me to re-pair).

Doesn't look like there are any plugins as yet to let the program reload the config file when a certain program is launched, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Key Combo?

Rob's picture

is it possible to use key combinations for this? CTRL+ALT+LEFT ARROW

And what about Slackware?

Dr Who's picture

Did anyone think of trying this on Slackware? Either 11.0 or 12.1 or Current.

Re:Did anyone think of trying this on Slackware? Either 11.0 or

Dr Who's picture

Well it works after remembering to reset the BT dongle. Slackware is stil the best OS for the enterprise.

Ubuntu Intrepid

Anonymous's picture

Works great on Ubuntu Hardy, but has anyone got it to work on Ubuntu Intrepid?

something to do with uinput version...?

Gens Control

schwieb's picture

I don't even have a Wii and I had to buy one of these controllers! They are totally awesome!

Though this may be sacrilegious, in addition to the NES emulators I use mine with the Sega emulator Gens. Here is my configuration!

# Wiimote Gens
Wiimote.A = KEY_F5
Wiimote.B = KEY_F5
Wiimote.Up = KEY_LEFT
Wiimote.Down = KEY_RIGHT
Wiimote.Left = KEY_DOWN
Wiimote.Right = KEY_UP
Wiimote.Minus = KEY_TAB
Wiimote.Plus = KEY_ESC
Wiimote.Home = KEY_ENTER
Wiimote.1 = KEY_A
Wiimote.2 = KEY_S

Thanks for the article.

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