Introducing a Solution for Using the Infamous NES Controller on N64

Power Glove
(Image credit: Nintendo)

If you’ve ever found yourself playing an N64 game and thinking “gee, I sure wish I could use an even worse controller with this console,” I have excellent news: a modder has made the NES’s infamous Power Glove compatible with Nintendo’s 64-bit machine.

That modder is James Lambert, who you might remember as the developer behind Portal 64, the fabulous-looking demake whose development sadly ended upon request from Valve. Lambert’s not done working on N64 projects, however, and his latest is a controller adapter that lets you play with various NES input devices.

This adapter lets you use just about any NES controller with the N64, including the classic original pad, which Lambert said he wanted to use for homebrew emulators on the platform. The other reason for this project, Lambert said, “is so that I can use a Power Glove with the N64. Having never used the Power Glove, I hear it’s actually quite awful to use, so this might be a terrible idea. But it’ll make the thumbnail look better.”

The Power Glove was a controller that fit over your hand and track your finger position while you were wearing it, mapping the movement of your digits to in-game actions. At least, in theory. The reality was that the thing barely worked, and while it was technically a third-party device it became particularly infamous thanks to a massive marketing campaign that included a spot in the 1989 video game-themed film, The Wizard. A character in the movie declared that the Power Glove was “so bad,” but while that was meant to be some hip-with-the-kids late ’80s slang, it turned out to be a literal statement on the quality of the product.

So it might not be too surprising that Lambert ended up having a pretty miserable time with the Power Glove when it was hooked up to the N64. The controller wouldn’t register any upward movements, leaving Lambert forced to try some wild alternate control schemes. In the end, Mario Kart 64 sort of worked, but everything else was basically a nightmare. The one bright spot was a single input in GoldenEye: “I did wanna see what it would feel like to play a first-person shooter where squeezing your finger would shoot the gun, and that aspect actually worked.”

The adapter itself basically consists of an NES controller extension cut in half and an N64 controller extension cut in half, with an open-source hardware device called an Arduino to translate between the two. That part works like a charm, and with a standard NES controller, many games are plenty playable. It turns out that a D-pad is better at replicating the functions of an analog stick in a game like Super Mario 64 than a Power Glove. It’s so bad, man.

This adapter seems to just be a hobby project for Lambert, so don’t expect to buy one for whatever wildly practical purposes you might have in mind. Of course, if you studio the full video closely and apply some electrical engineering knowledge, you might just be able to build your own. It can’t turn out any worse than the Power Glove, after all. 

Look, the actual N64 controller might not be great either, but at least it’ll let you reliably play the best N64 games.



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