Replace An N64’s Worn Out Joystick

As gaming consoles age the controllers will inevitably show some wear, and sadly may give out all together. [Kyle] couldn’t bear to watch his Nintendo 64 controller bite the dust so he replaced the thumb stick with one from a PlayStation. This is a bigger job than you might imagine because the two parts are fundamentally different. The original N64 stick uses a rotary encoder to output data to the control chip, while the PlayStation stick is an analog device. [Kyle’s] solution was to read the analog values using a PIC, but lower in the thread you can read about another user who pulled off a similar hack using an AVR. Both convert the signals into the rotary encoder format that the N64 chip is listening for. From the looks of the clip embedded after the break, this couldn’t work any better!


[Thanks Grazfather]

24 thoughts on “Replace An N64’s Worn Out Joystick

    1. Actually there is a redesigned 3rd party joystick that will last 10000x longer than the original. You can buy them for about 10$. Just swap out the worn out joystick for the redesigned new one and your good to go.

  1. This seems like a total overkill to get a worn out N64 control stick working again. You can dismantle the control stick. There are two pairs of plastic guide rails, one for the horizontal axis, one for the vertical axis, that the stick swings in. Its these that most commonly get worn out. Now, using a small piece of shapelock/”friendly plastic”/polymorph or even epoxy, the worn parts can be reconstructed back to their original shape. These materials will almost certainly be stronger than the original plastic used. Let it harden, make sure that stick can swing freely, and put it all back together again and start playing Mario Kart again to your hearts content.

    However, as a little programming project, this is a cool hack :-)

  2. N64 joysticks wearing out has been a problem since it first came out. You can get replacement drop-in joysticks for very cheap ( personally replaced all of the ones in my old controllers.

    This hack is a nice exercise, but its real value comes in the fact that the PSX thumb stick is much more comfortable feeling (smooth rubber coat), especially after lots of playing.. that alone may be worth trying this out..

  3. I submitted this mod, so I’m obviously a fan of it.

    I like it because buying a replacement stick is only a temporary solution. The N64 joystick is broken by design, destined to wear out. There are pot-based n64 plug in replacements, and they work. But they wouldn’t be featured on this site ;)

    Also, the video shown above shows an OLD version. His new version has different deadzone options, and of course there are pins left over that allow you to add new buttons for whatever you need. Plus there’s a programming header so you can change the code without having to open up the controller.

  4. This hack is sweet as hell. I’ve been repairing these with pieces of fiberglass PCB used as slide rails. I solved the friction problem with small roller bearings. They were attached with a small smooth shouldered screw. I had to cut a small portion of the end of the stick’s insert to accomplish it but it worked. What we have here today is something that seems like it would be a hell of a lot more accurate. The 007 screenshot is a nice touch too. Yes I do have this game and I still play it. That along with quite a few other classics. To sum it up, this is a great hack and I’ll probably wind up doing it with an Arduino. I’ll most likely use an xbox stick as they are easier to find for me. Once again, Great hack!

  5. @Jerran: I’m doing it with an xbox controller too. He’s now using the wii classic controller as it has the octo gate.

    @Brennan they’re more comfortable, and last, but it’s harder to do ‘flick’ actions, which is horrible for smash bros. Fortunately you can do pretty much anything when it’s hooked up to a uC

  6. @Brennan: I STRONGLY disagree. The Playstation sticks are very smooth and just feel “right” in comparison to the N64’s hard plastic, with too long of a shaft, and rough motion.

  7. @Bob: I pulled apart a couple of my N64 sticks recently because I was curious as to what exactly was wearing down to cause the wobble. To me, it seemed like it wasn’t those arms that were wearing, it was the white plastic “bowl” that the base of the control stick sits in.

    It seems to be made of a softer plastic than the stick itself, so over its lifetime it tends to grind it away, making the bowl deeper and causing the stick to “drop”. Its pivot point moves away from the centre of rotation, which gives it space to move freely without activating the rotary encoders. This is supported by the fact that if you get a new N64 controller, you can’t move the control stick anywhere along the Z-axis (if you take X and Y to be the directions it tilts), whereas worn ones have plenty of give in this direction.

  8. @MrTaco: I’ve noticed the same thing. A plastic ‘dust’ actually accumulates.

    @Anon: Yeah, good point. You could make the MCU not change the quadrature state unless the newX and nexY were a certain threshold distance away from oldX and oldY, and if they weren’t, don’t change state, and don’t move new to old. This effectively lowers the sensitivity.

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