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Nintendo 64 Controller

Developer: Nintendo

Release Date: 1996

For Use With: Nintendo 64 and Nintendo 64DD Gaming Systems

Nintendo’s famous trident controller is an alien in your hand. Confusion overwhelms your senses the moment you take it out of the box (assuming you’re just now taking it out of the box for the first time). I was 10 years old when the Nintendo 64 debuted, and even then I was confused as hell. 20 years later, my gut instinct STILL tells me to hold the two short appendages to the left and right of the system’s cock that juts out of the center. Why? Because that’s what us human beings call “normal.” This Nintendo 64 Controller is ANYTHING BUT NORMAL!

n64 controller colors

The proper way to hold the Nintendo 64 controller for 99% of their game library is to position your right hand on the short handle on the right, and place your left hand on the long center piece sticking out of the middle. This allows you to easily operate the analog stick and z-button (located on rear of center appendage) with your left hand’s thumb and index finger respectively. Your right hand’s placement feels familiar, giving you access to 6 buttons with your thumb and 1 shoulder button with your index finger.


The controller’s layout isn’t terrible, but it is painfully awkward at first. I immediately notice that my hands feel way too close to each other, an issue I may not have had as a child with small hands. In fact, the controller might even be a little too large for young kids or ones with small hands. I distinctly remember my neighbor and best friend telling me that the 6-button Sega Genesis controller was the best on the market because it was small enough for his overly tiny hands. And Microsoft released a smaller version of their original Xbox controller due to complaints on its bulkiness. Nintendo didn’t conform, instead making you figure that shit out on your own! But after some practice, your hand will start to feel a little less silly, and kids are great at adapting.




It feels as if Nintendo just wasn’t ready to commit entirely to the analog stick, so they created a controller that could function with traditional d-pad controls in addition to the 3D analog controls. This is more than the successful Sony can say about their smash hit debut system and its original controller (see pic above). Same goes for Sega and their ill-fated Saturn controller (see pic above). Gamers who wished to get the most out of their 3D video games on the PlayStation or Saturn were forced to purchase additional controllers like the Dualshock or the Saturn 3D Control Pad that weren’t even available at the systems’ launch dates. This is one of very few areas in which Nintendo bested Sony with their plan for the future of gaming.

There’s very little that can be said about the Nintendo 64 controller that would classify as “positive” or “nice.” Other than the awkward configuration, the button choices are a little weird, even though they do actually work pretty Song_of_Storms_(Ocarina_of_Time)well. What do I mean? Well, the A, B, and R buttons all make sense, but the L button is often without a designation due to its location on the controller. And then there’s the whole c-button thingamajigger. This whole thing is confusing at first, but it really can serve a very functional purpose depending on what a gaming developer decides to do with it. In many games the c-buttons are used for camera control (see Super Mario 64, Cruis’n USA), while other games utilize them for specific functions with each button performing a different feature (see Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time), some are simply a repeat function where all 4 c-buttons do the same thing (see Super Smash Bros.), and others will have no function at all.

The absolute worst thing about the c-button is when a character’s movement relies heavily on those buttons. Games like Turok and Goldeneye 007 use the c-button’s directional layout as a way to maneuver your character. More often than not, first and third person shooters would use the left and right c-buttons to make your character strafe left andControl_Style right respectively while using up and down to angle your character’s view point. While all of this sounds very foreign by today’s standards, it was all we knew back then! The concept of dual analog sticks was an uncharted idea at the time, so we were forced to make it work… and we did!

The one thing that I can say about the Nintendo 64 controller is that it WILL grow on you over time. While awkward at first, your hand will adapt to the semi-ergonomic contours of the controller with some use. It might look funny and it definitely feels funny, but eventually you will begin to appreciate the button configuration and the ease of button access for your thumbs. In game’s that require a d-pad instead of the stick, the developers kindly utilize the L button and forget the Z button entirely due to its location in proximity to your left hand. Most game’s found a way to intuitively take advantage of the Nintendo 64 controller, so maybe Nintendo had a reason for its designs.

While kinda ugly, this is more or less what SHOULD have been the N64 Controller!

While kinda ugly, this is more or less what SHOULD have been the N64 Controller!

Despite the relentless bashing Nintendo gets for its oddball controller, I find it to be an enjoyable experience after some practice, and it houses some really cutting edge concepts that other developer’s would emulate in the future. The Nintendo 64 controller features a port on the back where one can plug in various accessories or peripherals. The most common plug-in accessory for this would be the rumble pak, but others include a controller pak (memory card), transfer pak (works to transfer data from N64 to and from Game Boy), and possibly more through third party developers. Both Sega and Microsoft would emulate the controller ports for their upcoming systems (see Dreamcast Controller), and the rumble feature is now a standard built-in feature for all controllers across the board.

One of many accessories for the N64 Controller port.

One of many accessories for the N64 Controller port.

The Nintendo 64 controller was really an odd gaming controller, but it is famous and infamous at the same time, creating a long lasting legacy as it carved out its own spot in gaming history. Gamer’s will likely never forget holding it in their hands when they mashed the Z button for the first time to make Mario do a long jump in Super Mario 64. Or the bleeding blisters they got in the palm of their hands making Mario and company do their dirty work in Mario Party. Or memorizing the songs in Ocarina of Time and using the c-buttons to play the tunes to perfection.

C_Buttons(N64)Nowadays it can be tough to find a quality Nintendo brand N64 controller. They obviously housed the patents for its design because 3rd party knockoffs ranged from “almost like the real thing” to “what the fuck.” So finding a true authentic Nintendo 64 controller in working condition is difficult, thus the reason for the lofty prices online. The biggest issue surrounding these controllers is the condition of the analog stick. Overuse or abuse of the stick can and will cause it to weaken, almost to the point where it cannot even operate properly. So if you’re looking to build up a stock of controllers, expect to pay for them. But in my opinion, the Nintendo brand ones are as sturdy as they come and well worth the price.

Written by Nerdberry


What’s up yall? David “Nerdberry” here! I am the founder of Nerd Bacon and the current co-owner (and CEO) along with partner David “theWatchman!” I hail from North Carolina, hence my love for all things pork! Oh, you’re not familiar with NC? Well I’m not 100% sure, but I am pretty confident that NC and VA lead the nation in pork production. I could be wrong, but even if I am, I still love bacon!

Come enjoy some bacon and games with us yall.


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