90s Throwback: N64 Controller Teardown

Two Saturdays ago, I wandered over to the Gowanus E-Waste Warehouse. It was awesome looking through their prop library of old gadgets; there were so many things in there that I wanted to take apart! Unfortunately, those items there were just for borrowing 🙁

But! I ended up picking up an N64 controller instead for this teardown project. Here, you’ll find a photo of the controller (with a few friends from Super Smash Bros. Such nostalgia, hehe). Below is a quick tutorial of the tools and steps needed to take this device apart.


My Toolkit


Prior to teardown, I gathered up a few of my tools. There are the ones that I thought I would need, though it turns out I actually only needed two of these tiny screwdrivers to take apart the controller. Pictured here are Phillips Head Screwdrivers (2), Needle Nose Pliers (1) and a Box Cutter (1).

Step 1: Take the Shell Apart


The first step here was to take the shell apart by using two different size precision screwdrivers. There were seven screws on the backside of the shell and two in the top. When the shell is taken apart, the Left/Right buttons will automatically come out.

Step 2: Remove the Joystick Portion


Once the shell is open, use a precision Phillips Head Screwdriver to remove the 3 screws from the joystick portion of the controller. I had some trouble with the bottom screw, as the head was a bit busted, so I ended up unscrewing the ones on the left and the right and pulling it off, which came apart easily.

Step 3: Detach the Circuit Board, Joystick Portion, and Buttons

Once the circuit board and joystick are removed, you’ll see various little rubber padding strips that look like legos. Remove these and you’ll have a shell with some of the button still attached. They’ll be easy to pop out one by one.

Step 4: Take Apart the Joystick

The joystick is easily the most complicated part of this controller. There are several moving pieces to it, including a spring and little wheels that enhance movement. It was surprising how many components were needed to create this joystick motion; you can see that there are 7 parts to that one capability.

Here are all the parts removed:


And another photo without parts labeled…


Timelapse Recap Video of Teardown:

**edit** Sept 27 2017 @ 9:43am

Adding in information on the technical parts inside the N64 controller – apologies for not doing it before!

Circuitboard CFS8120-200010-02 – It looks like this printed circuit board may be specific to Nintendo and this controller.

MX1720FC C9721 MD67470 – specific Nintendo chip for this controller, made in Taiwan

YG-H2 – There are several of these chips in there, one for the left button, one for the right, and one for the Z directional button on the back of the controller. I couldn’t find too much information on them, but I am guessing they are for directional changes on the controller.

CFP8109-110010-01 – I unfortunately couldn’t find any information on this specific chip through several Google searches, but judging from its attachment location to the circuitboard, I think it may have had to do something with the joystick movement.

Author: Evie

A freelance photographer / writer working to inspire curiosity and world travel.