This section of the guide highlights the various replacement N64 module variations you may come across on the internet. It may seem daunting to choose one, or you might think that there’s no difference between a fat stick module and a thin stick module. However, spotting the differences is actually very easy!
OEM and OEM style N64 replacement module solutions
The link below gives an amazing overview of different replacement N64 stick types and their viability of use. Of course, I’m looking through the lens of competitive Goldeneye play where the best stick to use if OEM all the way so let’s take a look (BTW this is extremely abridged, and I urge everyone to look over this post as it’s super informative):
There are 3 main N64 module types:
OEM original (optical style sensor)
*Pictured, a european blister pack smoke grey OEM controller.
OEM style replacement N64 stick (optical style sensor)
*The optical style is characterised by the arch shaped chipboard and round encoder wheels.
OEM style potentiometer replacement N64 stick
*Pot (potentiometer) sticks are characterised by 2 4×4 grids on two of the sides of the enclosures, different sticks may have different formats to this (Image link: http://forums.modretro.com/index.php?threads/analog-stick-replacement-problem.9759/)
How do we rate how good an N64 module is?:
A normal N64 controller’s thumb stick in good condition has a range between 80 and 85 steps in each direction.
https://nfggames.com/forum2/index.php?topic=5803.40 great thread exploring this in relation to GC controllers, OG N64 and ultra 64 controllers.
Normally you would expect the thumb stick to increase its analogue value step by step. E.g., after 12 comes 13 and then 14 and so on. But some replacement sticks skip steps so that e.g., after 12 comes 16 and then 20.
Since the original thumbstick was made from plastic with no lubrication it did wear down with time and the controllers became useless.
Some replacement sticks use a microcontroller to translate the readings they get from the potentiometer into a N64 friendly format. If this process is too slow you will notice a delay in your actions.
The dead zone determines how far you have to move the thumbstick until the N64 actually noticed that you have moved the thumbstick.
If the dead zone is too small your character in a game will move on its own without you even touching the thumbstick. If it is too big you have to move your thumb very far before your character starts moving.
Define sensitivity as how much you have to move your thumb to change the analogue sticks output. If the sensitivity is too high aiming in shooters will become very tricky. A nice evenly distributed range feels best.
In short, the order of replacement N64 analog stick preference should be:
OEM original (optical style sensor) 10/10
N64 games are designed to be played using the set up found in these sticks. If you can always play with OEM!
*Credit to Repo for the 10/10 sensitivity display. The gold standard of what we look for in a great stick.
OEM style replacement (optical style sensor) 8/10 (But can vary)
I have achieved many notable times using an optical OEM-style replacement. However, wear can occur quickly, and the quality of the parts used for the gears and bowl may be subpar. If you are looking for a complete solution, they do serve as a great second choice to purchase.
*aftermarket stick sensitivity.
OEM style potentiometer replacement 2/10 – But maybe 10/10**
*This is a super pad 64 reading, I’m pretty sure it’s a pot controller based on this teardown video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQQn7RAFgCk
I owned one of these. Got a refund after playing train for 10 seconds. The dead zone is way WAY too big for any competitive Goldneye play. May be good for casual play but I would rather eat the stick than use it.
**There is actually a new N64 stick project currently on going that uses this technology, it is currently being beta tested and I will update accordingly.
Gamecube replacement stick 1/10 (but 10/10 for 2.x in Goldeneye and games which need a large range)
*great for 2.x……not for normal play. Ralphnet readings
Great for 2.x in Goldeneye as your just move left and right, this is where the sensitivity does really help for movement.
I strongly urge you to read this link (https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/nintendo_64_forever/n64-analog-stick-replacements-test-t6711.html) as it provides more in-depth information. It is a truly fascinating read and will give you valuable insights into the limitations of the various types of joysticks available out there!
Links and extra reading
- Also posting this link again as it gives great overview of different controllers and there sensitivity: https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/nintendo_64_forever/n64-thumbstick-test-program-t6684.html#p68534
- A YouTube video on stick sensitivity, covers 3rd party controllers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykIUqqoOc1g&ab_channel=Madlittlepixel
- Some more testing on various controllers: https://gbatemp.net/threads/nintendo-64-controller-testing.540529/
- how to run your own tests – Everdrive needed: https://github.com/sanni/controllertest/tree/master/N64-Port