Nintendo 64 (N64) Controllers — All You Ever Wanted to Know
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 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 definately 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 it's release. It can be held 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 6 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.
Which color Nintendo 64 Controller is your favorite?
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... - This is what happens when plastic pieces rub together for a long time!
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.
How to lube your joystick to achieve maximum performance & longevity! - Captivating title isn't it? :)
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.
A New Nintendo 64 Repair Thumbstick is available now!
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! Initial testing data is promising, and I will update this page as more testing data comes in. Here is a link to a forum post evaluating the new thumbsticks alongside existing replacement options:
An Amazing, Autographed N64 Controller!
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 buy 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 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 it's 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 collectable 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.
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. Pictured below is an advertisement for the controller from back in the day.
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.