It's fair to say that the Nintendo 64 controller was a groundbreaking release. While it wasn't the first games controller to showcase analogue input, it was the first to be shipped as standard with its host console and therefore became the first taste of this now-ubiquitous control method for many players. The N64 pad – along with its iconic three-pronged design – is instantly recognisable and it's hard to imagine experiencing seminal titles like Super Mario 64, Zelda: Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye 64 without it; however, even the most dedicated N64 fan will admit that it's far from perfect. The analogue stick, in particular, is prone to wearing out over time, and that means that playing N64 in the modern era can often be a frustrating affair. Finding pads that are in an acceptable state is becoming ever more difficult, and while third-party options are available, they tend to miss the mark in other areas.
One pad that has long been lauded as the best control option for the N64 is the Hori Mini Pad 64, a fairly radical re-imagining of the original pad which was only released in Japan. It's now worth a pretty penny online, putting it out of reach for many players. Thankfully, accessory maker Retro-Bit has solved this conundrum by producing the cannily-named Tribute64, a controller which takes inspiration from Hori's effort but has the added bonus of being available in a form that makes it compatible with the Switch.
Available in 'original port' and USB versions, the Tribute64 – like Hori's pad – loses the three-pronged design that made the original N64 controller so eye-catching. Instead, it opts for a more compact two-prong shape which shifts the Z trigger to the top of the pad, next to the L and R shoulder buttons (there are actually two Z triggers, although they both naturally do the same thing). The D-Pad is placed slap-bang in the middle of the controller, which means it's very hard to use for anything but moving around menu systems. Around the back, you'll find the port for your Rumble Pak or memory card. This is present on the USB version of the pad too, although it's just a hole with no actual connector present.
The Analogue stick – which is a close match to the one seen on the GameCube pad – is fantastic to use
The controversial placement of the D-Pad means you won't be able to play games that use the D-Pad exclusively, like Mischief Makers, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards and Tetrisphere. So while the impact of the D-Pad's placement is felt to a degree, it only impacts a handful of games – but if even one of those games is a personal favourite, you might struggle with this pad. It's (just about) a worthwhile sacrifice in our eyes, as the Tribute64 is arguably a lot more comfortable to use than the original N64 controller.
We're pleased to report that Retro-Bit has solved the N64 pad's biggest failing with the Tribute 64 controller. The analogue stick – which is a close match to the one seen on the GameCube pad – is fantastic to use. It doesn't stand quite as proud as the wand on the original N64 pad but it has a larger dead zone (120 compared to the original's 80) so it's more precise. The face buttons feel a little spongy, but then again, so did the ones on the original N64 controller. The shoulder buttons and Z triggers are superb, and are easy to reach. To cap it all off, the pad comes with a 10-foot cable which will be more than long enough for most people's living rooms (2.4Ghz and Bluetooth wireless versions are in the pipeline, according to Retro-Bit).
While the original port version of the Tribute64 obviously only works with the N64 itself, the USB model is compatible with the Switch, PC / Steam, Mac and many other devices which accept USB controllers. Using the Tribute64 on Switch is a hit-and-miss affair, as it lacks a second analogue stick as well as other features, such as the ability to push down the analogue stick itself. For example, Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen is borderline unplayable as you can't control the camera or sprint. However, depending on the game, you may find it to be an ideal interface; for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, its closeness to the GameCube pad makes it a great choice, so you're looking for a controller to help improve your performance, this could be the dream ticket.
It's a shame that Retro-Bit couldn't have factored in the two ports into a single pad, because if you fancy using this with your Switch and your N64, you've effectively got to buy the same product twice. Still, at $25 for the N64 version and $30 for the USB edition, it's not like these are unreasonably expensive products. If you're in the market for some pads to replace your ageing N64 controllers then this is a no-brainer; you could get four of these for less than what many sellers are asking for a used Hori Mini Pad 64 on eBay these days. Or, if you're a Switch owner looking for a new Smash Bros. go-to pad – or if you're keen to get a decent interface option for your PC or Mac – then we'd recommend giving the USB-based model a try.
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It's like the N64s little sister controller! Love it
I want one compatible with my Wii U. I have so many VC titles from the N64 on my Wii U that would benefit so much from a controller like this...
Still waiting for the Hyperkin Admiral, the dpad on this is really concerning
I had high hopes for the Enkko 64 stick replacement kickstarter, that Nintendo Life reported on some time ago, but it seems the creator has disappeared, so I am looking for good alternatives.
The Hori mini is fantastic. If this feels as good as that, then it is worth the money.
Again, if it doesn't have three prongs for my two hands, it's not a real N64 controller. I like my N64 controllers designed for a tri-handed being.
This is good for Mario but not so good for golden eye or any 64 shooters really. This uses the gamecube stick
That d pad placement is ridiculous.
I never got all the hate for the N64 controller. I dug it. May have something to do with Nintendo designing games to fit the controller.
Reminds me of Duke Ellington.
When I move out and finally start collecting, I'll snag a couple of these. They will be perfect for old-school multiplayer without breaking the bank or having wonky analogue sticks.
At that price I think I'll grab one. Shame about the D-pad but as it only affects a small amount of titles it should be fine. A perfect excuse to dig out the good old N64.
@Al_Godoy Yeah it would be good if the controller's worked with Wii and Wii U, I have virtual console games the controller would be useful for too.
I guess if it's only 20 bones that's not too bad. Not crazy about the controller design but maybe I'll give it a shot. Loving my new 8bitdo n30 pro C edition controller though. It's the best 3rd party controller ive ever purchased. This reminds me. Better go buy Mario 64 on wii u
I like how I can't get past the second sentence without reading an inacurate account of history. Atari 5200 shipped with an analog controller like 13 years prior.
Sorry, a useless d-pad means this controller is dead to me.
As I said in the first article about this joke....
Gonna get a Forest Green USB version to play Yooka-Laylee with on Switch. And if Rare Replay does ever come too Switch, lookout! These things will be sold out everywhere.
Yeah, no. The N64 controller was fantastic the way it was.
@Sinton Yeah Enkko is a point of contention for those of us that paid and never received anything with no option of a refund.
I’ve never seen an alternative to the N64 stick that controls as accurately as the original. Even the Hori stick is overly sensitive, making aiming harder and more twitchy in some games. Also the article mentions that this controller is more accurate as it has a larger dead zone. Actually it’s the other way around. The original is best, you just need to get one with a tight stick - or better still, buy one new. The price is great, but Nintendo life has a habit of saying that that new products are better than the original ways to play. They said that the ultraHDMI is better than RGB+CRT for example, which is definitely not the case.
Hell, it’s about time!
No no no no no, give me the trident controller over this.
It looks like a Sega Dreamcast controller
Disappointed the Mario 64 slow walking test wasn’t used to test the stick....
@Ichiyama Agreed, I never understood it - the original feels so natural to me.
I guess a decent controller if you have alien thumb that is a bit longer than average peoples thumb.....yeah go for it........
you know i have been looking at this as my original N64 controller Stick just doesn't work anymore so this review was really helpful, i will SO be ordering this now especially as getting an original N64 controller in good working condition AND at a decent price is hard
It actually looks pretty damn good for Smash Ultimate... if the game recognizes the 2 extra buttons, you can re-map the dash attacks there instead of remapping them on the c-stick/right stick so it would be easier to perform short-hop dash attacks.
The thumb sticks were a good call. I replaced all my N64 sticks with replacement Gamecube ones
Absolutely despise that d-pad placement. Good grief. Would it have really hurt that much to just put it nearer the analogue stick like the Switch pro controller? If you don't need it then great but personally I quite like using a d-pad over the analogue on occasion if I can.
@SegaBlueSky nuff said brother
If Nintendo started selling N64 games on Switch, this would interest me a lot.
The obvious ones, Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Pokemon Stadium 1-2 (with support for connection with the VC gen 1 and gen 2 games!) Goldeneye 007, Banjo Kazooie...
But also the Star Wars titles, Rogue Squadron and Shadows of the Empire!
But I see no need for a USB version of this controller otherwise.
@wazlon @Al_Godoy you can get a cable adapter that plugs into a Wii remote, and allows you to use a real N64 controller on Wii U VC N64 games. It registers it as a classic controller. You can tweak the button set up too. I have it and used it for the N64 games on Wii U. Would work with the original Wii too.
You can get them from here:
They also do similar adapters for SNES and GC controllers to Wiimotes, including all 3 in 1.
Finally a way to play my WiiU n64 games proper
Nope. Want controller with d pad in proper place. When?
The N64 was my wrestling machine. I dont know if this controller would even work with the Acclaim WWF games. That required the d-pad. Otherwise, it should work with everything else I play, like Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, WCW Revenge, etc. Also, that price point is amazing.
@Tempestryke Don't you own any original N64 controllers? The d-pad is excellent and isn't the failure point on them. Well worth keeping around for d-pad games, even if it's retired from regular use due to a worn out analog stick.
That said, the excellent Retro Fighters controller from a year or so back has a d-pad positioned in a useful place. Sounds like it's the better option for you.
@Atariboy No, I never owned one. And I don't want a stupid N64 controller.
At the risk of sounding like a cranky, sleep-deprived brat, (which I kind of am right now,) I just want a regular shaped controller with the d pad right where it should be and no stupid joysticks.
I want it to plug into the switch, or at least use regular batteries so I won't be out 300+ dollars down the road when they no longer make those batteries.
Frankly I'm getting a little tired of Nintendo changing the design of their controllers every generation. Plus giving the most current consoles stupid, gimmicky controllers with speshul batteries.
I'm not griping at you for the record. Sorry if it seems that way. I'm just tired and cranky and griping in general.
@GravyThief you, sir, are an angel.
Some how I make my wii u gamepad play switch games and its funny..
@GravyThief Awesome, thank you! I do have the SNES to Wii adapter but since then got a SNES Mini so those controller's can plug directly into the Wiimote.
I honestly do not see why the controller above would be a better choice than this:
@Al_Godoy I'd recommend you to get one of the PDP Fight Pads for Wii U. It's based on the GC controller, so that makes it very comfortable. Has a decent dpad and most importantly the analogs are good. Plus they come in different designs so there must be one you like (the Zero Suits Samus one is beautiful).
Seems OK for n64 games, not really for switch games...
I bought some replacement sticks for a couple of my N64 controller from play asia years ago. Pretty simple job to open them up and switch the sticks around. Better than throwing the whole thing away!
@andykara2003 Alright, that's what I want to know. F-Zero X and Goldeneye/Perfect are my main gigs on N64 and they require very precise control. I'll have to look into stick refurbishing and keep an eye out on steelstick, see of he comes up with another batch. Also nice to hear about rgb + crt, that's my setup.
Edit: Enkko posted some interesting links on his kickstarter. Apparently multiple people now doing stick replacements and steel sticks.
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