Nintendo 64 Homebrew Via Game Shark

The Nintendo 64 is a classic console now, and much loved, despite losing in commercial stakes to the dominating PlayStation from Sony. It’s one that doesn’t always get as much attention in the homebrew and hacker scene, compared to platforms like the NES and Game Boy. This means the tools required to work with the console aren’t as well-known. However, there’s a remarkably easy way to load homebrew on to the Nintendo 64, if you’ve got the right hardware.

To pull this off, you’ll need a N64 Gameshark, particularly a version higher than 3.0. These included a parallel port and the relevant onboard logic to allow the console to receive data and commands from an attached computer. [Nathan] demonstrates using the gs_libusb utility to deliver homebrew code to the console, using a USB to parallel adapter to make it easy from a modern computer.

The tools are available on github if you wish to try the hack for yourself. Most hacks we see of the platform are of the portable variety, but if you’ve got something fresh, you know who to call.


10 thoughts on “Nintendo 64 Homebrew Via Game Shark

  1. Whelp time to dust off my old Xplorer64 and see if I can get something together. The Xplorer64 is meant to be compatible with the same parallel port linking software xlink but I’ve never seen it in action or had a reason to mess around with it like this so who knows but I’d imagine they’d all work on the same principle.

  2. Ha :) Fun! I definitely have a couple of the USB to Parallel cables laying around and an N64 (I love Mario Golf and have yet to find an emulator that doesn’t garble some part of it-suggestions wanted :D) but alas no Gameshark. I will definitely be on the lookout for one at the next RGN meeting!

  3. Hasn’t this been known for about a decade and a half at this point? Sure, it wasn’t all nicely packaged and put up on Github, but I distinctly remember being able to use a GS 3.2 and some homebrew software from the N64 dev scene to run a build of Neon64 (a NES emulator for N64) circa 2002, 2003 or so.

  4. I am surprised that a flash cart for the N64 hasn’t been developed (or if it has, that it doesn’t get more exposure)
    NES and SNES flash carts are definitely a thing (with various FPGAs and things to handle the different memory mappers) but N64 I haven’t seen.

    1. You haven’t looked very hard, then. There are *two* flash cartridges for the N64, the EverDrive 64 and the 64drive.

      Personally, I favor the 64drive, both because I know the guy who made it (marshallh) and because it has a boatload of features that make it the ideal platform for N64 homebrew. It supports being connected to a PC via USB for real-time debugging and code uploads in addition to the microSD card slot, plus it has 256 megabytes of RAM on-board, so you can create homebrew which has far and beyond more data than would have been available on a contemporary N64 cartridge.

      To top it off, Marshall documented a set of “secret knocks” – a sequence of addresses and values that can be written in order to unlock access to the cartridge’s features to the code actually running on the N64. That is to say, you could conceivably create a homebrew N64 game which uses any free RAM space on the cartridge as expansion RAM (with the caveat that you must DMA data over to the main 8 megs for the CPU to access it), and has block-level read/write access to the microSD card slot.

    2. Actually there is a flashcart. It’s called the everdrive 64. It basically is like a game cartridge that you put an sd card in loaded with an os, roms, and even neon64 (an nes emulator). You can use cheats and even backup, write, and load controller pak saves. The cheaper v2.5 model is about $100 while the v3 model (with a battery in it so you don’t have to hit reset to save) is about $170

      1. There’s also the 64drive, which presents a much more polished user interface as well as being more amenable towards homebrew.

        Full disclosure: Other than being friendly with the creator of the 64drive, I’m not being compensated in any way for my kind words. I’m just a really happy owner of both a 64drive v1 and a 64drive v2.

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