Review: Nintendo 64 Controller For Nintendo Switch

With the release of the Nintendo 64 library for Nintendo Switch Online, the company released a classic controller that works with the console. Much as they did with the NES and SNES libraries, this controller was released so that you could play the games as intended instead of trying to figure out a new button scheme with modern pro-controllers or joy-cons. But how well does the controller actually hold up when you connect it to the console and start playing games with it? Nintendo was kind enough to send us one to try out, and here are the results.

Review: Nintendo 64 Controller For Nintendo Switch
Credit: Gavin Sheehan

Okay, so first off, let's talk about the feel of this thing. Dimensionally, this is an exact replica of what an N64 controller should be. Yes, there are exceptions, but look at that design. The D-Pad, the six buttons, the joystick, the weird handles… It's all here. This is now a shrunken down version or some miniature recreation. Nintendo took the old specs and recreated them perfectly. That being said, there is a slight weight difference as this one has a slight bit of heft to it. The reason for that, which you'll see in the images below, is that they have added a "cartridge", which is part of the design and not removable, to the backport. For those of you who are younger and never played with this design, that backport used to house either a save cartridge or a rumble pack. Since the Switch saves automatically, and the rumble is built in, they made this piece a solid unit.

Review: Nintendo 64 Controller For Nintendo Switch
Credit: Gavin Sheehan

The controller has all the necessary buttons for the old-school titles, but for the newer games, they had to add a few things. As you see from the image below, the Z-Trigger serves as the LZ button, while the RZ button is a small button on top of the controller next to the charging port. The standard Home, Picture, and Connection buttons for the Switch are along the top panel, which we're assuming was done to keep the main face of the controller looking classic. Everything on here operates quite nicely, and after having played around with an original controller a friend of mine still owns, there's barely a difference to be seen. I do enjoy the fact that there's a 6' charging cord for this one, so you can play while connected to the Switch and not need to be right next to the screen. Pairing is no issue, either, since it's Nintendo's own design.

As far as gameplay goes, it took a minute to get back into the groove of using this controller since, being perfectly honest, I have not played on an N64 controller since 2008 at best. Most everything has been ported and conformed to standard controller formats, so relearning how to play Mario Kart 64, Yoshi Story, Starfox 64, and Mario 64 with these controls took a minute. (By the way, Nintendo has added a patch to Super Mario 3D All-Stars so that you can play Mario 64 with this controller.) But once I got back into the groove of things, everything played as it should. You can criticize this era of gaming all you want, when it works it works well. It just made me sad that titles like Goldeneye 64, WWF No Mercy, Paper Mario, and Super Smash Bros. are not available to try out (yet).

Overall, I really enjoyed playing with the Nintendo 64 Controller for the Switch, but to be honest about it, this is a nostalgia purchase. There are only two types of people who are going to get this controller: those who wish to experience these games the way they were meant to be played, and those who want to relive a piece of their childhood playing it on the original controller. That's not us making fun of the controller, or downplaying it, or saying not to get it. That's just the realistic expectation since I don't see a ton of gamers under 30 saying "I need this controller." That said, I would recommend to anyone who wishes to have this experience to get it, much like how you should play the NES, SNES, Game Cube, and Wii with their original controllers. Now that I have this, teenage me is just waiting for the next round of N64 games to come to Nintendo Switch Online.

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About Gavin Sheehan

Gavin is the current Games Editor for Bleeding Cool. He has been a lifelong geek who can chat with you about comics, television, video games, and even pro wrestling. He can also teach you how to play Star Trek chess, be your Mercy on Overwatch, recommend random cool music, and goes rogue in D&D. He also enjoys hundreds of other geeky things that can't be covered in a single paragraph. Follow @TheGavinSheehan on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Vero, for random pictures and musings.
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