When it comes to sprucing up your retro consoles with a mod-con or two, there is no shortage of options. From new shells to upscalers and converters, RGB mods to devices that emulate OG disc drives, old video game systems are being upgraded and refurbished like vintage cars these days, giving them a new lease on life and keeping our treasured childhood systems alive and well some 20, 30, even 40 years after they were first designed and released. Integrating old consoles into modern living room ecosystems can be a challenge, though, and that's where little devices like BlueRetro's N64 Adapter come in handy.
Cables used to connect pads to our consoles and we didn't think too much of it. Short of tripping over them on a journey to the fridge to retrieve another beverage, they were a necessary evil that didn't seem that evil at the time. Fast forward to the 2020s, though, and being tethered to your console feels strange and restricting. Dangerous, even, if you're concerned for the welfare of your ageing hardware. What if somebody trips and sends that beloved 8-/16-/32-/64-/128-bit system flying!?
This plug-and-play Bluetooth dongle — a collaboration between BlueRetro, 8BitMods, and RetroTime — aims to allay those fears with a convenient wireless option that slots into a controller port of your choosing and plays nice with pretty much any Bluetooth pad you care to pair.
In the box, you get the device itself in a little plastic sleeve, plus some light instructions which cover the absolute basics and direct you to the browser-based web interface for more in-depth options and customisation (more on that later).
Build quality-wise, it feels like an official product, with a high-quality finish and a look that marries perfectly with the console's aesthetic. Compare this to the WaveBird's boxy receiver for the GameCube, and this is a decidedly sexier, more streamlined piece of kit.
Nintendo's official Switch Online-exclusive wireless N64 pad is the natural mate for this adapter, although the availability of those is patchy to say the least, with stock disappearing mere minutes after it arrives in Nintendo's online stores regardless of your territory. Still, if you have been lucky enough to acquire one of those official pads, connection to this adapter is a breeze. Plug the adapter in, turn on the console, and the green LED will start pulsing. Hit the sync button on your NSO pad and within moments the LED in the adapter goes out and the controller is good to go.
In practice, we had to turn off the console and retry the connection again with every new pad we tested, but once paired they worked without issue. It supports a host of controllers out of the box — including the main pads from Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, plus retro-focused third-party options from the likes of 8bitdo, Hyperkin, Retro-Bit, and more (check out the full list of tested pads and how to pair them all here) — with more such as the Retro Fighters Brawler64 pad being added via firmware updates.
In our time with it, the NSO pad, the Switch Pro Controller, and our 8bitdo FC30 all functioned almost without issue. We experienced one mysterious dropped connection mid-race as we were hurtling down the side of Grass Valley in Snowboard Kids — obviously less than ideal, but it was a one-off occurrence and we didn't have any connection issues beyond that.
Switching between wired controllers and this dongle to test latency, any input lag that does exist wasn't noticeable. We were playing over HDMI, which will obviously introduce its own latency versus connection to a CRT screen, but we were impressed at how responsive everything felt.
The adapter supports rumble for compatible titles, and also comes with four virtual memory paks built in, each featuring a whopping 256KB of space (the same as the originals, to ensure compatibility) to save game data for carts that didn't carry onboard memory. It's possible to switch between these virtual paks by mapping that cycle function to an unused button on your controller via the BlueRetro web interface.
This is where things get a little more complicated and go a little beyond the advertised 'Plug & Play' nature of the device. It's nothing too confusing for retro fans familiar with tweaking emulators and downloading firmware, but it does take a little research, and you'll need a Bluetooth-capable desktop or Android device to access it (it wasn't having any of it with our iPhone, so we cracked out the laptop instead).
We had to google DarthCloud's video (below) in order to unlock rumble and memory pak functionality (and to be able to switch between the two on the fly via a press of the Home button) but once that was done, it worked without a hitch. It's possible to remap any button you like on a per-controller basis, too, although we stuck with the defaults.
Although it's not possible to move existing physical memory pak saves to this device via the N64 itself — holding start while firing up a game only lets you delete save files on that pak, NOT transfer them to other paks, unfortunately — you can load any saves you have backed up via other methods (Everdrive 64, for instance) onto one of the virtual paks via the web interface. So yes, we managed to load up our Mario Kart 64 ghost of that one time we pulled off the shortcut on every lap of Mario Raceway and save it securely in another place for posterity. Happy days.
You can mix and match with wired controllers as you like, or even plug in four of these adapters if you've got them. The makers warn that four dongles might prove too much for your console's power supply unless it is in tip-top state — and let's face it, if you're still using your original PSU from the late '90s it's likely not in the best condition — but theoretically, you can connect four wireless pads with no issues.
And that's about it. We updated our firmware with zero problems via the web config. Yes, the customisable features could be more user-friendly for total noobs, but the likelihood is that if you're the sort of person reading a review of a Bluetooth controller adapter for a Nintendo 64, you'll probably be okay following some straightforward instructions and navigating some basic menus via a browser.
Overall, we're impressed with this little device and how it makes the N64 just that little bit more approachable and easier to play in the modern age. With so much choice when it comes to retro gaming, it's incredible how the smallest inconvenience (like having to dig out a controller extension cable to be able to play while sitting on your sofa across the room) can be enough of an impediment to simply not bother. For $29.99 / £29.99 / €29,99, this adapter totally removes that inconvenience and leaves you with no excuse but to rediscover the games library of this brilliant console. Ours came from the first production batch, but at the time of writing there's another in the works with a fetching 'Smoke Black' clear plastic casing. With great build quality and all the additional features you could reasonably want, this gets a thumbs up from us.
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