Get the MAX Out of Your NES MAX Controller




Introduction: Get the MAX Out of Your NES MAX Controller

About: Brad Bateman is a programmer, electronics hobbyist and classic Nintendo fanboy. He is currently dabbling in NES programming in 6502 assembly. He is interested in ANYTHING Nintendo related. When not busy wor…

There are many licensed and unlicensed controllers for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  In the licensed category one could argue that the original brick style controller trumps all, followed closely by the dogbone controller.  However, neither of these controllers have the much desired "turbo" buttons that all of the unlicensed controllers had.

The NES MAX is one licensed controller that has turbo buttons.  It is small, lightweight, comfortable, MADE BY NINTENDO, and natural in the players hands.  It would be a very good controller if it wasn't for one thing.  The slider.  Instead of a D-Pad, it has a red disk that slides around to the different directions.  This seems like a good idea, but for precision gaming, it is pretty useless.

This instructable will show you how you can upgrade your NES MAX controller for under $5 in under 10 minutes, leaving you with one of the best controllers you will ever use.

Step 1: Tools and Resources

You will need:
  • NES MAX Controller
  • Small Phillips screwdriver
  • Small Flathead screwdriver
  • Metal file or sandpaper
  • Replacement thumbstick (I chose red to match the buttons)
The thumbsticks can be sacrificed from pretty much any controller.  It was easier for me to order brand new red xbox 360 thumbsticks from ebay for under $5 shipped. ( I used the ebay search terms "red 360 sticks" )

Step 2: Disassembly

  1. Using the philips screwdriver, remove the seven screws from the back of the controller.  
  2. Remove the back plate and remove the controller board.
  3. Remove the rubber from the slider area and remove the slider mechanism.
  4. Using the flathead screwdriver, pop the 4 tabs on the slider and disassemble.
Now would be a good time to clean out any dirt or grime that has made it's way into the controller.  You may also want to look at the button contacts and make sure they are good and clean as well.

Step 3: Modifying the Thumbstick

The xbox 360 thumbstick is the same circumference as the original slider, however since it is dome shaped and not flat, it will need to be modified.  This can be done by simply stroking the bottom side of the thumstick on your file or sandpaper.  I have included a picture of a modified and non-modified stick for reference.  Keep checking to see how the thumbstick fits as you are sanding.  If you sand too far, the thumbstick will be too loose and will not be as effective.

Once the slider mechanism snaps closed without resistance you know you have gone far enough with the sanding.  The thumbstick should be held firm but still be loose enough to move slightly and rotate around if twisted.

Step 4: Conclusion

Now reassemble the controller and enjoy your MAXimized officially licensed turbo controller.  The nice thing about this, is if you don't like the result in a matter of minutes you can have your original unmodified controller back.

I would like to thank marvelous10 from the forums for the discovery of this modification.

Game.Life 2 Challenge

Participated in the
Game.Life 2 Challenge

3 People Made This Project!


  • Tinkercad Student Design Contest

    Tinkercad Student Design Contest
  • Lamps and Lighting Contest

    Lamps and Lighting Contest
  • Retro Tech Challenge

    Retro Tech Challenge



6 years ago on Introduction

I just did this on two NES max controllers, will try them out tonight, anything has to be better than the original slider! Took like 5 minutes to sand both sticks in. More time to disassemble and reassemble.


8 years ago on Introduction

I did this mod recently to four controllers, it is fun. I wanted to point out a few things about putting the controller back together for anyone trying this, because I saw some complaints round the web about the controller not feeling the same. This is a combination of what I learned myself and read online.

After sanding down the stick, it should fit with just the tiniest amount of slack. If you only sand enough to have the stick fit in the cycloid tightly, it applies constant pressure to the snap tabs, and they will pop loose occasionally, and possibly wear out / break over time.

The cycloid, if you're not paying attention, can be inserted wrong. Look at the base and lid to the cycloid, they are both at an angle. You have to line it up right before you snap it back in place. If you look closely at the bottom of both pieces, there is a printed S (or 5 hard to tell), line those up directly on top of one another and it will be correct to snap. Then when you drop the cycloid back in the shell of the controller, that S should be pointing to the inside of the controller; in other words the S is underneath the Right directional button. If you don't get it right, no harm done, but the whole deal will feel a bit wrong, or a lot wrong if you have the pieces turned 180 to each other.

The rubber that lies underneath the Select Start and A B buttons should be flat. There are small posts that the outer edges of the rubber sits around to keep it in place, and if you push the rubber down too far on those, it will be at an angle where the buttons are. It won't make flat contact with the circuit board, and won't feel right.

The cord and the hole it passes through into the shell are shaped like a U. You can force it in any way you want, possibly without realizing it is shaped like that, so look at it before you cram.

9 out of 10 people would probably realize all this as they go, but there are definately some people posting in other threads who have made these mistakes and can't figure what went wrong.


8 years ago on Step 4

by how much did you have to sand/file down the thumbstick in order to get it to the perfect height measurement???i have a few nes max controls i would like to do this looks great.also how doe it hold up in regards to playing with compared to the original set up???


Reply 8 years ago on Step 4

For the filing/sanding it was trial and error. You can see it was a fair bit by the picture. Basically you want it a tiny bit loose once it snaps together. Some people have had problems with it popping apart because they didn't leave any slack and the constant pressure wore out the tabs.

I haven't had any problems playing with it. Keep in mind, the more you take it apart, the more worn the tabs will be. I only had to take it apart a few times so mine still pops together nice and tight. Also another nice thing is that if you don't like it, you can always switch back to the original MAX stick.


9 years ago on Step 4

so will this stop me having to push on the slider thing


Reply 9 years ago on Step 4

Yes, it is essentially now a regular D-Pad except with a thumbstick.


I tried this and it worked perfectly. Took me a while to sand down the joystick (I took it out of a knockoff original xbox controller), but I was surprised at how well it handled.


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

I used a file which probably made the process a bit quicker. Depending on the sandpaper grit it could take a lot longer.

Glad to hear the original xbox controller knob works. So far people have also tried ps3, xbox360, and Gamecube successfully.


9 years ago on Introduction

This is great! It's also very well documented. I used to have one of these controllers, but never liked the slider. This might make using this controller bearable.
I'll definitely try this out sometime. :) 4.5 Stars & Fav'd.