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SYFY WIRE Nintendo 64

Banjo-Kazooie to go? This fan-made portable Nintendo 64 is smaller than a game controller

By Benjamin Bullard
Pocket Sized Nintendo 64 Portable Mod

Gamers from different generations carry the torch for their favorite consoles long after the latest, greatest thing has come along to replace them, and Nintendo’s first foray into 3D-camera gaming rates as one of gaming’s most revered nostalgia triggers.

Fans of the venerable Nintendo 64 still rue the relative dearth of N64 games to be found on the Big N’s current Switch console, leaving players longing for the days when the Wii could at least play The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox, or F-Zero X through the Wii’s now-defunct Virtual Console.

Even in the Wii’s heyday, though, tons of games from the N64's deeper back catalog remained off limits. If you wanted to play classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark, GoldenEye 007, or pretty much any game that wasn’t among the Wii’s limited offerings, you inevitably had to pull your old Nintendo 64 out of cold storage, dust it off, blow on the game cartridge (for luck!) — and then hope all the parts still worked.

That’s where the modding community comes in. With a little (okay…a lot) of technical know-how and some initiative, geeky devotees to Nintendo’s retro hardware have been soldering, sculpting, and plugging their way back to the past for years. But a new homemade N64 mod from YouTuber GmanModz has taken things to the tiniest extreme, with the tinkerer claiming he’s constructed “the world’s smallest N64 portable.”

More importantly for any old school Nintendo fan, though, GmanModz’ downsized device just looks all kinds of factory-fresh cool. Check out the super-techy details in the clip below:

Unlike some previous attempts at replicating the N64’s gaming magic, this one doesn’t rely on emulators. “This is 100 percent a real N64 that plays real game cartridges,” GmanModz explains in the clip, noting that all the vital bits were simply whittled down from original N64 components. What he couldn’t salvage from the N64 itself, GmanModz sourced in the open tech marketplace from widely-available silicon. He used computer modeling software to render the cool yellow case, and then sent the design to a 3D printer.

The result is a polished, precise-looking device that steers clear of some of the rough-edged appearance of previous modders’ homemade downsizing efforts. It’s functional, too, capable of running any N64 cartridge with full controller support that adopts some clever ways of duplicating the N64’s unique winged controller setup. GmanModz even figured out a way to make the left swivel joystick emulate the N64 controller’s D pad while preserving the original controller’s clickable joystick functionality, and R and Z shoulder buttons are there, too — recessed into the upper left and right corners of the svelte portable’s main body.

While the whole contraption looks amazing and weighs in at a form factor even smaller than the N64’s original controller, it does have a couple of drawbacks. You can’t go big on screen real estate on a device this size, so a 3.5-inch LCD display at 320x240 pixel resolution has to suffice. And battery life’s not the greatest — it only gets about 90 minutes of playtime on a single charge.

“The battery life sucks, it’s uncomfortable to hold, but hey — it fits in my pocket,” GmanModz says in the clip. “Does your N64?”