The Ultimate N64 Buyer’s Guide – Our Favourite Accessories

N64 Buyers guide image showing Rob holding an N64

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The N64 was my first-ever console. I was seven years old, and I’d spent months debating whether I wanted the SNES or Nintendo’s newest machine, reading magazines, looking in the Argos catalogue, and talking it over with my friends. When I opened it on Christmas Morning, I lost my mind; Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario 64 were better than I could have ever dreamed of, and the graphics blew me away.

In every possible way, this console is my childhood encapsulated. I played games on here with both my parents and my friends, as well as diving into some of the most immersive single-player adventures of all time. It’s the console that made me want to become a Games Journalist one day, and it still fills me with excitement every time I see it.

Today, I’m going to compile a list of my favourite N64 accessories in the ultimate N64 buyer’s guide, the ultimate peripherals that complement this console and the ones that are needed to play games in 2024. But first, kick back for a little history lesson.

The N64 – A True Gaming Icon

nintendo 64 on a shelf

Releasing in 1996 in Japan & North America (June and September respectively) and in March 1997 in Europe, the N64 marked the first time that Nintendo had delved into 64-bit technology. It heralded a new dawn of graphics, giving us our favourite characters in 3D for the first time, going on to sell 32.93 million consoles in its lifetime.

Four-player multiplayer without having to use a link-up peripheral was a huge deal back in the day. The PS1 only offered 2 player multiplayer natively, and it didn’t have games like Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party, or Diddy Kong Racing. It also didn’t have Ocarina of Time, a title that is widely regarded as the best game of all time and one that still scores highly with critics today.

The N64 was discontinued in 2002, and plans for the 64DD never really came to fruition before the arrival of the GameCube. Still, you don’t think something like a console being discontinued was ever going to put the Retro Gaming community off, do you? Today, there are so many amazing new peripherals being made for the N64 as well as hundreds of stores with original tech catering to the nostalgic gamers amongst us.

What follows is a list of our favourite accessories, our go-to items for retro Nintendo 64 gaming in the modern day. It’s a nice mix of old and new, and it should get you up and running on classic N64 titles in no time!

Brawler64 Wireless Controller

brawler64 wireless

I love wired controllers; I grew up with them, after all, but even I can’t deny the benefits of ‘untethered gaming’. The Brawler64 Wireless Controller from Retro Fighters looks and feels more like a modern gaming controller, so if you’re more used to playing the Nintendo Switch with the Pro Controller or playing on a PS5, then this will make the jump backwards to a retro console feel a little more familiar.

The Brawler64 is lightweight, comfortable, and charges via USB-C, a cable that many of you should have at home already. Rather than having one Z button on the back of the console, this controller has 2, and all of the buttons feel smooth and have a fast response when pressed.

With around 8 hours of play from a single charge and a sturdy wireless receiver that holds a Controller Pak in it, you’ll have everything you need (bar rumble functions) to play both first and third-party games with a solid and, in many ways, current controller design.

Check out our full review of the Retro Fighters Brawler64 Controller.

Original N64 Controller

Original N64 controller box

Of course, some of you might want that complete old-school original N64 feel right down to plugging the original controller into the front of the console. Slotting those little grey plugs in and testing how far back I could sit away from the TV was all part of the process for me, and it still brings back memories of sitting in my PJs playing Donkey Kong 64 whenever I see one.

The original N64 controller comes in a variety of colours, and my friend Danny has made it his mission to collect them all, (he’s like the ginger Ash Ketchum of the controller world). For me, however, the original grey controller, the one I received with the console, is still the best. These controllers have just one Z button on the back akin to the Wiimote trigger, and they have a slot on the back to insert either a Controller Pak or a Rumble Pak, which means that games which require memory-saving functions can’t have Rumble (you couldn’t have it all back then!)

This initial controller colour scheme is something that has been copied by designers in the Retro Gaming world for many years, and the controller itself is imbued with nostalgia. Plus take a look at that box, it’s the stuff that dreams are made of!

HDMI Upscaler

Kaico N64 HDMI adapter

The number of people who still have small CRT TVs as I write this article is probably very limited, unless, like us, you’re a dedicated Retro Gamer with a Retro Gaming setup in another room of the house. The reality is that many of us have a 4K TV for a main TV in the living area of the house, and most models these days just have HDMI inputs. I know I can’t plug in RGB connectors or a Scart Cable into my LG 4K TV, so I need to rely on an HDMI Upcscaler to connect my N64 to the TV.

The main benefit of Upscalers is that, as the name suggests, the graphics get upscaled from the original signal. We’ve reviewed plenty of HDMI cables and adapters for older consoles, and the results found with the N64 are very pleasing. We’ve seen more clarity and UI elements are easier to navigate thanks to everything looking smoother and less jagged on larger screens.

Check out our review of Kaico’s HDMI Adapter range.

Controller Pak

Controller Pak

If you want to save your progress on many third-party games like Mystical Ninja Starring Goeman and WWF Attitude, then you’ll need a Controller Pak memory unit. Like the games you’ll be using them on, there are first and third-party brands of Controller Paks to use, and they can be picked up for around £10/$15. The originals only had the equivalent of 32KB save capacity on them, which is insanely small when you consider how much we need on our iPhones today!

The official Nintendo 64 Controller Pak was the one I always plumped for back in the day, something that I carried on into my GameCube peripheral purchasing too. Still, there are plenty of other brands on offer like this JoyTech Controller Pak that came with a second-hand controller I recently bought. They come in different capacity sizes and colours, just like the Memory Cards that you might have used on the PS2 back in the day, and each N64 game will tell you whether a Controller Pak is required on the front of the box.

Rumble Pak

Rumble Pak

Feeling a controller rumbling for the first time felt like a whole new world had been opened up. I got my first Rumble Pak attachment when I bought LylatWars (Star Fox 64); it came in a big box with the game, and I remember just sitting there in awe when I stuck it into the controller and felt every blast and scrape of my Arwing.

Like the Memory Paks, there are many different types of Rumble Pak out there to buy on second-hand sites, all of which do the same job. They make your controller a lot heavier, but it’s incredibly worth it. They can be picked up today for around £10-15/$15-20.

Expansion Pak

Expansion Pak for the N64

While there are multiple brands for Controller & Rumble Paks, I would only ever go for the bona fide Nintendo Expansion Pak for the N64. Now, there’s a strong chance that your N64 already has one of these installed; lift up the little cover on the top of the curved part of the console, and if you see this red dotted grid staring back at you, then you’re all set up.

If you don’t see one, however, then it’s definitely worth getting an Expansion Pak for your new N64 setup. I got mine with Donkey Kong 64, a game that needed the Expansion Pak to be played. It provided better graphics and increased the RAM from 4MB to 8MB. It also brought more enemies into play in Ocarina of Time and generally improved gameplay in every game. They cost a little more than the Controller & Rumble Paks, but they arguably do a more important job, so that’s to be expected. You can currently buy Renewed Expansion Paks on Amazon for £66/$61.

3 Games To Get You Started

Timeless Classic
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

One of the N64's seminal titles and the most iconic Zelda game in the series, Ocarina of Time has captured the hearts and minds of millions of gamers since 1998. It's one of the greatest stories in gaming and a timeless classic.

Iconic Platformer
Donkey Kong 64

DK's first 3D adventure was an absolute tour-de-force and my favourite Rare game, beating Banjo-Kazooie and GoldenEye 007. It's my favourite platforming adventure game for the console and a superb game for players of all ages.

Nostalgic Brilliance
Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 is still Mario's greatest adventure and one of the first games that many of us had for the N64. From the very first screen where players manipulate Mario's face to your showdowns with Bowser, this is a perfect game from start to finish.

I don’t think any of these games will be a surprise considering that I’ve already mentioned them all already. Ocarina of Time is the greatest game on the console; Donkey Kong 64 is a close second; and everyone needs to own Super Mario 64 as it’s not only Mario’s first 3D adventure but also one of the most seminal adventure titles of all time and a game that many other titles have taken inspiration from over the years.

Donkey Kong 64 also has a multiplayer element where the Kongs have to attack each other using their weapons, but if you want to check out some more multiplayer titles, get stuck into our catalogue of the greatest Nintendo 64 games ever made!

Everdrive 64 X5

Everdrive 64 X5 cartridge

If you’re serious about your retro gaming and want to play games that you’ve been writing yourself for the N64, then the Everdrive 64 X5 could well be worth getting your hands on. It boasts a space for an SD card to slot in the side, allowing you to play homebrew titles on your N64 with ease.

If you’re the kind of gamer that has save states on your PC or ROMs of your existing games that you have 100% legally obtained, then you can load these onto the Everdrive via your SD card and play classic titles from your back catalogue without having to continually change cartridges.

Protective Game Sleeves

A selection of Seb's N64 games on his table

I’ve managed to keep many of my N64 games in great condition, which is surprising considering how many times I’ve moved over the years. That’s largely down to the fact that they’re all in protective game sleeves, inexpensive plastic covers that help to protect the cardboard boxes the games shipped in.

Unlike the plastic game cases we get today, these boxes sometimes fell foul of little rips and tears; that’s why boxes in great condition can go for hundreds of dollars these days. Using a plastic sleeve will help to keep the current condition of your game boxes and prevent them from deteriorating further down the line. They also make your old boxes look shiny and new too!

N64 – A Visual Compendium

The cover of Bitmap Books N64 - A Visual Compendium

Of course, if you want to take your N64 knowledge to the next level and learn everything there is to know about this console and all its games, then you should take a look at N64 – A Visual Compendium from Bitmap Books. Our friends over at Bitmap Books make some incredible reference books for all of our favourite consoles, giving us an excuse to keep thinking about gaming long after we’ve turned the screens off.

Get in-depth with the history of the console, discover more about games like Shadows of the Empire, GoldenEye 007, and Banjo-Kazooie, take a closer look into the creation of the controller, and immerse yourself in all things N64!

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