N64 controller for Switch: everything you need to know

N64 controller
(Image credit: Future)

In the vast history of gaming controllers, the N64 sticks out like a sore thumb. Its oddball, three-pronged design was bizarre even for 1996, especially when stacked up against the relatively straightforward PlayStation controller. 

Still, the trident-like pad is thought back on fondly today, which is perhaps the reason Nintendo decided to re-release it as a wireless controller for use with the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack tier's roster of N64 games.

That's right, if you're a subscriber to the Nintendo Switch's online service, you can actually buy yourself (stock permitting) a wireless N64 controller that apes the design and feel of the original. And while it's not quite a perfect 1:1 recreation, it's a great way to experience loads of N64 classics on the controller they were intended to be played with.

N64 Controller for Switch: price and availability

The Nintendo 64 Controller for Nintendo Switch can be purchased exclusively from the My Nintendo Store for $49.99 / £39.99. The only prerequisite is that you must be signed in with your Nintendo Switch ID linked to your account. This is because purchasing the N64 controller for Switch requires you to be subscribed to the Nintendo Switch Online service.

That's just the first hurdle, however, as just like Nintendo's other retro offerings like the NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis / Mega Drive controllers, the wireless N64 pad is routinely out of stock. You are able to pre-order the controller to be delivered upon availability, but it's never clear when Nintendo's online store will have them back in stock.

N64 Controller for Switch: design

N64 wireless controller for Switch

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The N64 controller for Switch, unsurprisingly, bears a striking resemblance to the pad of old. The colored buttons juxtapose nicely against the slate grey controller, and its form factor, while certainly strange, has a unique charm to it.

There's no official info on the battery life, but users of the pad claim it lasts upwards of six hours on a single charge. That could be a very conservative estimate, however, as the Switch Pro Controller can easily last up to 40 hours before that battery is depleted.

If you're unfamiliar with the N64 pad, the new wireless controller is identical to the original model, featuring large A and B buttons, as well as four directional C buttons, the uses of which will vary from game to game. 

The big red "Start" button can't be missed, neither can the prominent analog stick that protrudes from the center of the controller, just above that weird middle prong that you'll actually hold in your left hand.

The top of the controller is flanked by L and R shoulder buttons, although most N64 games won't even use the L button by default, given that your hands will be holding the center and right handles for general gameplay. However, many games do support left-handed control options, which is where that three-pronged design shines, even if it's a bit underused.

Tucked away at the back of the controller is the Z button, which by default, your left index finger will rest on top of. Like the C buttons, the Z button's use will change from game to game, but standout uses of it include "Z-targeting" in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, as well as for firing weapons in GoldenEye 007 or Perfect Dark.

N64 controller for Switch: features

The N64 controller for Switch is wireless, meaning that just like the excellent Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, there are no cables to deal with. Besides the included USB A-C cable you'll need to charge the controller, of course.

The controller also has vibration support and, much like the N64's Rumble Pak add-on, will work for certain N64 titles on Switch like Starfox 64. The functionality is a step above what we'd normally expect from these controller re-releases, but we're happy Nintendo went above and beyond to include one of the N64 controller's most unique features for its time.

Another great feature is the ability to use the N64 controller for Switch as if it was a Pro Controller. That means that you'll be able to use the pad for games outside of the Expansion Pack's N64 collection. But do keep in mind that your mileage will vary here, given that the button layout and a number of buttons differ between the N64 and Pro Controllers.

The N64 is connected wirelessly to your Nintendo Switch console in the same way that the Pro and Joy-Con controllers are. That means that once the controller is paired, you can use it in both docked and handheld modes.

Do you need to buy the N64 controller for Switch?

The N64 controller for Switch is very much a novelty, and as a result is purely ancillary to the experience of playing N64 games on the console via Nintendo Switch Online's Expansion Pack tier.

Having the pad is nice, of course, for those looking for a more authentic N64 experience on the Switch. After all, button layouts between the N64 pad and Pro Controller differ significantly, which can make certain games a little awkward to play. That's especially so for any games that make liberal use of the C-buttons.

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.