I have owned (and eventually sold) over a hundred N64 controllers.
The Nintendo 64 Controller (N64): All You Ever Wanted to Know and More!
My fascination with the controller for N64 began about 2 years ago when I purchased my first Nintendo 64 system. Since that time I have owned (and eventually sold) over a hundred N64 controllers. I have become intimately familiar with this wonderful controller and all of its many components.
While I love Nintendo products and the Nintendo 64 in particular, the N64 controller seems to have one chronic, reoccurring problem: the analog control stick or "thumbstick." Now, I'm not saying nothing else can go wrong with them, but aside from this one issue, I have never had a problem that couldn't be easily fixed with a good cleaning (sticky buttons for instance). I hope you find this information useful, and feedback is always appreciated!
N64 Controller Overview and History
The Nintendo 64 system was released in the US in September 1996 and came with one controller. A few things that made the N64 controller different were the shape, colors, use of analog stick technology and the port on the bottom which was used for accessories like a controller pak or rumble pak.
While the N64 controller was not the first to use analog stick technology, it definitely played a large role in making the technology popular and mainstream. Also, many of the accessories were plugged into the bottom of the controller rather than in to the console itself. The shape and feel took a little time to get used to, but once you did many people preferred it to aftermarket alternatives that eventually came on the market.
Anatomy of a Controller
In a class all its own
With a total of 14 buttons and an analog stick, the N64 controller is truly one of a kind in design and function. The unique trident shape adds a dimension of comfort never seen prior to its release. It can be held in three different ways depending on the game that is being played.
N64 Controller Button Layout
All the Parts and Pieces...
Nintendo 64 Color Assortment
As a collector, I really enjoy trying to obtain the N64 controllers in every color it was released in. Nintendo 64 controllers initially came in six basic colors: gray, black, red, green, blue and yellow. This is the tip of the iceberg in color offerings! There were many other colors and combinations released over the years.
Later Nintendo released the "funtastic" colored systems and controllers. The funtastic colors were: jungle green, fire orange, grape purple, ice blue, smoke gray and watermelon red. These colors were made of transparent plastic so you could see inside the controller. You could also purchase the console in a matching color! I have owned every color released with the exception of fire red.
Orignal Nintendo 64 (N64) Grey Controller
The Nintendo 64 Control Stick Problem
Loose thumbstick have you down?
The one chronic problem experienced by many Nintendo 64 gamers is loose or worn out thumbsticks/joysticks. Inside the thumbstick assembly, there are two little plastic pieces that get worn down over time with repeated use, and that results in the control stick becoming loose and unresponsive. I would say at least half of the controllers I have refurbished come to me with unusable sticks. This is a very common problem.
For a long time, there was no real way to fix the problem short of finding another control stick assembly (usually from another controller) or buying another controller altogether. Fortunately, there are two different types of new aftermarket N64 thumbstick replacements on the market. One is commonly referred to as the "OEM style," and the other is called the GC or "GameCube style" thumbstick. Unfortunately, neither one offers the complete solution to every player type. Let's examine each type and look at their strengths and weaknesses.
This Is Why Your Thumbstick Is Loose
Inside a Thumbstick Assembly
How to Lube Your Joystick to Achieve Maximum Performance & Longevity!
OEM Style N64 Thumbstick Replacement
The OEM style N64 thumbstick replacement is virtually identical to Nintendo made sticks, and that's their weakness. Just like the originals, they tend to wear out quicker then the GameCube style replacements, and they are subject to the same design flaws of the original controller.
This weakness can be offset somewhat if you properly maintain and *strategically* lubricate the inside of the stick assembly with an appropriate lubricant. Don't just go in there willy-nilly with the wrong kind of lubricant. Too much grease, the wrong type of grease or any amount of grease in the wrong location and you will ruin your thumbstick. I found a good YouTube video that covers the lubrication topic and posted it below for your convenience. If you want the look, feel and performance of the original N64 controller, then this is the replacement for you.
GameCube Style N64 Thumbstick Replacement
The GameCube style N64 thumbstick replacement is my personal favorite. I love how it feels and it seems to have solved the premature wear problems that plagued the original stick design. The only complaints I have heard about this replacement is when playing certain games (Goldeneye, Smash Bros) there seems to be a delayed reaction when executing certain fast, complex moves.
I believe most players will find this to be a suitable replacement due to the overall solid performance and the fact that it will last for a while. Many of the people who buy my refurbished controllers write to me and just go on and on about how much they like this particular thumbstick. I guess it just comes down to personal preference.
New Nintendo 64 Repair Thumbstick
Repair Box N64 Replacement
I had the privilege of testing a soon-to-be-released N64 thumbstick replacement stick. This replacement is shaping up to be the best yet. Perhaps, finally, someone has got it right? This replacement combines the best of both worlds... high-quality plastic and components with original Nintendo feel and performance!
An Amazing, Autographed N64 Controller!
This is one of the rarest and most expensive Nintendo 64 controllers in existence. The one pictured above may be the only autographed one of its kind. This controller was signed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takaya Imamura, both of whom are famous Nintendo game designers.
Star Fox Competition N64 Controller
Arguably the crown jewel in any serious collection, this controller is highly prized for its rarity and unique history. The story goes that this controller was manufactured by Nintendo specifically to be given away as a prize to winners of the Star Fox Game Competition that was held at the 1997 E3 conference. This controller is identified by the gold-colored top and solid black bottom. Also, and most importantly, there is gold Nintendo 64 Logo on the top center of the controller. It is thought that some of these controllers may have been given to Nintendo employees as well. It is estimated that fewer than 100 of these were ever made. These controllers are very hard to come by and are rarely found on eBay. Expect to pay $300–$400 if you're lucky enough to find one. I expect the price will continue to go up as more and more collectors enter the market.
Nintendo Power NP100 Gold N64 Controller
The Nintendo Power NP100 Controller was available for a limited time to Nintendo Power magazine subscribers. It was available on a first-come-first-served basis and the supply was extremely limited. The controller is gold in color and features the "Nintendo Power 100" emblem in black & gold across the top front of the controller. Originally available for $30, it now commands upwards of $150 on eBay. Alas, another very desirable controller to add to your collection if and when you can find it.
Nintendo Power Millennium 2000 N64 Controller
The Nintendo Power Millennium 200 Controller was given away to 1000 lucky subscribers in celebration of the new millennium. This controller is silver on top and glossy black on the bottom. All of the buttons, except the red "start" button were black. This is another highly sought after controller due to its limited availability. This is definitely a must-have item for any serious N64 controller collection. Prices range from $200 - $300 (see example below) and vary based on the condition of the controller. Competition on eBay is fierce for collectible N64 controllers, and often sellers end up removing/canceling the listing because they receive "private" offers from bidders offering them huge sums of money to cancel the auction and sell to them directly.
Connect a N64 controller to a PC USB Port
Connect your Nintendo 64 joypads to your PC USB port. All buttons are supported, perfect for any emulation program but also works with any modern PC game. It allows you to play all PC games designed to be played with joysticks. Really plug and play, it makes your PC a real gaming platform. Please Note: Please use original controllers along with this adapter. Third-party controllers may not work properly with this adapter.
Aftermarket (Non-Nintendo) Controllers
There are many aftermarket controllers available for the Nintendo 64. Many can be purchased brand new for less than $20. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Personally I prefer the look, feel and overall quality of authentic Nintendo controllers, but I have used many aftermarket controllers in my time and had no problems with them. They are a great alternative if Nintendo controllers are too pricey or limited in availability. Most online retailers offer both original and aftermarket controllers for sale.
© 2010 tremogg
Do you own an Nintendo 64 Controller?
Harry Weyer on June 20, 2020:
Thanks so much for posting all this great information on Nintendo controllers. This information was exactly what I was looking for in order to make some informed purchases. I am so pleased that someone took the time to share their knowledge with the less knowledgeable. Kudos for you!
sergio george on December 21, 2018:
i have a question for you, i ll be happy if you answer. I remember 20 years ago a friends N64 controller,It went broken. It was clear white, complety clear, with no color on it, that seemed to be a little stronger in his form, i mean, it was a little more thick than the other controllers he had, also it seemed to be an original controller not an imitation, cause i would know it at that time. Do you know what N64 controller am talking about, can i find a controller with that caracteristics today? i appreciate your attention, thank you!
Brecken on November 24, 2018:
Question... Can aftermarket guts be used in original casing and vice-versa?
n64 on October 06, 2018:
N64 e3 controller looks like one of those fake ones... the second one i mean not the autographed example. if you look carefully you can see the bottom half is gold not black as it should be. this article was posted around the time all the fakes came out so easy to have missed.
Willy on November 25, 2017:
Original cost of the colored controllers?
Casey Harris on November 01, 2017:
I actually have a one-of-a-kind n64 controller as far as I ca tell. I figure I'll eventually put it up at auction, but it's an atomic purple with a manufacturing defect that left a string of the plastic running diagonally across the face of the controller, including the Nintendo logo and the start button. It also got a couple of extra drops of plastic dripped onto it during the same error. In the past year I haven't been able to find any other examples of this kind of defect for sale, let alone an atomic color. Someone traded it into my shop one day and the employee who took it in didn't notice the difference right away.
A cool collectible now! Glad someone took relatively good care of it!
Anon on October 01, 2016:
My original N64 controllers are starting to have a problem where they suddenly will not register a particular direction. If I try to move left it registers right. The same problem has happened to 3 controllers. The joystick isn't really worn, surprisingly, I've had some of them since 97. But one is brand new. Can you help me figure out a fix for this kind of problem?
williamslaw on May 12, 2014:
Wow, you did a good job creating this lens.
anonymous on August 22, 2013:
if anybody has any of these are n64 controllers or items for sale email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
anonymous on July 18, 2013:
@anonymous: Yes its a deep purple, the atomic purple is much more clear
anonymous on June 03, 2013:
So it grape purple transparent or is it solid colored? If it is transparent, is it darker colored than atomic purple?
anonymous on May 17, 2013:
Does anyone know about the multicolored n64 controllers as I have found 1 but can't find no info on it, it is a red and green one any answers would be greatly appreciated
anonymous on February 14, 2013:
The day I bought my N64 in 96, I saw that the analog stick was going to wear out as it was designed. Maybe that was done on purpose so more replacements could be sold?!? But I did coat the assembly with white grease made for this kind of application. Today my controller still works and feels just like it did when I first used it.
anonymous on February 07, 2013:
I recently started playing some of my favourite old N64 games on an emulator for Mac (Sixtyforce)... There are a few glitches with graphics here and there, but overall it has been a joy to revisit my childhood. I especially enjoyed Ocarina of Time which I just completed today. I bought the USB adapter that is mentioned above on a bit of a whim. I'd seen a YouTube video of someone configuring it to work with a PC, but as a Mac user I didn't have much faith that it would work. I was really surprised when I plugged it (and the controller) into my Mac and it worked straight away, without having to programme keys or anything. Amazing. I'm not a technical wizard or anything, so I was amazed at how the facilities exist for me to play these games even now. I'm not much of a gamer anymore as I tend to get very addicted very quickly and can easily "waste" a lot of time playing games. The N64 was the last console that I played really (I know, I know, a lot has changed since then) so it has been a treat to rediscover it again. Found this website wonderfully distracting. Might buy another controller at some point and try out some two-player games. Sorry for babbling, just wanted to put my sentiments out into the world somewhere. :)
Unchain3dAuthor on January 17, 2013:
Hey!! Really really cool lens! I loved the N64 controller! So original and unique. Awesome collection btw!
sus1974 on October 14, 2012:
Very nice lens!
Thanks for the info on analog stick repair, I've got a couple controllers with the infamous loose stick problem, hopefully I can get those back in good working order!
anonymous on October 11, 2012:
Good site you have here mate, helped me a lot. Do you know where I can buy a good oem style replacement thumb stick. A lot of people complain that replacement sticks have sensitivity issues that make games like goldeneye and smash bros difficult to play. From reading your article it sounds as though these people may have bought a game cube style stick. If there is such a thing as an oem aftermarket stick that behaves just like the original (even if that means wearing early) I'd definately be interested in buying some. Thanks again mate
thewafflingprem1 on October 07, 2012:
very cool lens. I have never personally had any problems with my joystick but i have seen others that have had the loose joystick problem. keep up the good work!
anonymous on September 01, 2012:
Yes I sure do! Has anyone ever tried molding new plastic (from, for example, another object, like a plastic fork) on those two black pieces that wear away after being rubbed at by the white control stick, and then used a dremel to shape it properly? I have opened up the control stick assembly myself, and it doesn't seem as though the white stick wears away so fast, if at all. Is the white stick made of a stronger plastic than those two black pieces? What kind of plastic are those black pieces made of? Can the same kind of plastic be molded back on?
TwistedWiseman on August 03, 2012:
No but My friend did and we sure did play the hell out of it!
Great lens btw, it's in the 5000 + rank, Well done! I need to follow your example and try and make at least a lens close to yours.
anonymous on April 30, 2012:
Hey there! Awesome stuff that you cover all the rare controllers. For the Hori Mini Pads, you are only missing a picture of the Red Hori Mini. Also I made this Hori Mini Pad Color Variations article:
anonymous on February 21, 2012:
You N64 Controller page is very well done! :)
I like the Gold one best, just stood out to me.
Edutopia on February 14, 2012:
You are right, this is all I ever wanted to know and more! Good job on the lens.
Miha Gasper from Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU on February 04, 2012:
Very interesting lens. I didn't know game controllers can be collectible items... Thanks for graphic an detailed presentation!
anonymous on January 18, 2012:
@cocktailsexaminer: hey your TV is not the issue its just the N64's were designed specificly for CRT TV's so you def notice a fuzzy pic on a modern set; there is a way to rectifie it, first do an RGB mod on the N64; (only if you have an NUS001 model though) there is loads of info on the net but there are also places that do the mod if you look hard enough. Another thing you can do once the mod is done is look at upscaling the picture.. you can check out arcadeforge for scale-ing gear.. or you can maybe try internal route.. not seen anyone do it with an N64 but have seen some intersting Nes component mods.. have a look round. I also reccomend plasma TV's over LCD they give a better warmth over the N64's pic.. hope that helps. PS I would not reccomend using any other joystick other than the official Nintendo sticks in the pad as the steps that the joystick makes would suffer for accurate control.. but I find you only need to replace em once a year or so and its only about 5 quid to pick up a replacement stick on ebay
anonymous on January 06, 2012:
@cocktailsexaminer: you need to plug it into an upscaler to look good on the newer TV. try to get one with a lag adjuster otherwise you will have lag between what you play and what you see.
jadehorseshoe on December 29, 2011:
GREAT Lens!!!!!!!!!!!! ....Amazing Details!
SimonJay on December 22, 2011:
Wow amazing lens never knew there was so much info on a n64 controller the gamecube is probably my fav nintendo controller then followed by the N64s
cmontijo on September 30, 2011:
i like the lens :))))
cmontijo on September 30, 2011:
I had the gold one that use to come with the N64 bundle
cocktailsexaminer on August 12, 2011:
N64 question for you - I still have mine in great working condition, but when I plug it into my Sony HD flat screen the gameplay is fuzzy. Is my TV too new or is there an issue elsewhere?
digitaltree on July 15, 2011:
Nice Lens, my controller never have the problem you mentioned in here, but i have to be careful when i was playing mario party boat paddling mini game. It left me a mark on the palm from continuously spinning the analog stick, painful but i just kept going lol. well i wanted to win the mini game.
nth281 on May 31, 2011:
Very cool! excellent Lens! If you're a fan on flash games I made a lens on them, have a view!
ben186422 on May 11, 2011:
I have the pokemon system and controller. The first one showed in the video. So much fun (:
hunksparrow on April 02, 2011:
One of the best controllers ever. Every time I see one I think of Goldeneye and Mario Kart. Great lens.
anonymous on January 11, 2011:
you got good stuff in this lens. keep on writing great lenses.
JanieceTobey on November 22, 2010:
Very informative lens on the n64 controller!
josh237 on November 18, 2010:
This one is put together very nice.I like how you took your time on this one. Do you have a lens on the actual nintendo system? I could sure use one!
ChemKnitsBlog2 on November 18, 2010:
I can barely use a controller myself, I'm all thumbs. But this is a great, comprehensive lens. Great job!