The Nintendo 64 is a great, well built console, probably one of the best systems, especially from the 1990s, why wouldn't you want to make a portable system out of it so you can take and play all the great classics everywhere you go.
To make a portable N64, it requires determination, creativity, and some electronics understanding. and with this tutorial it should guide you to create and make your very own portable video game system designed and put together by you.
(picture above) This is my first portable.
Step 1: Required Parts and Tools
These are the main components needed to make a portable N64
- Nintendo 64 (obviously)
- at least one controller
- voltage regulator (PTH08080)
- lcd screen or other display with composite input
- tactile or other switches as needed
- speaker and amp circuit (not needed if using ps-one screen)
Some tools and other material
- solder and soldering iron
- dremel tool (as needed)
- wire (multi stranded works best)
- mounting ware
- various case making material such as apoxie (depends on case your using or making)
And that's about it for materials!
Step 2: The Case
When making a portable N64 you can choose to either make the case first or prepare the case after the wiring.
You might want to make the case first to set for yourself a guideline to think and later find a way for your N64 and all its finished wiring to fit to your desired case, including the speaker, cartridge slot, controller buttons, etc. If you decide to make the case after the wiring you'll have to choose or make a case that will work for your finished electronic setup, its up to you.
There are a couple of case options to choose from:
- You can order a case from polycase.com. Some popular cases for making a portable video gaming system are the zn-40, zn-45, and theres been a couple made out of the ag-85.
- You can make your own case from various everyday items, idealy plastic cases such as tupperware, and then find other material such as parts of any console controller and apoxie them together and sand over, for better style and comfort.
- And you could design your own case, as i have, you can design a mock up in CAD software, or make a drawing with dimensions of the finished case to find some material to later make the case out of, and if you have the utilities you could even 3D print a case to the exact contour of your CAD design.
With my portable i simply drew up a template with the cutouts for the L,R, and Z buttons and controller ports (for multiplayer) and with that i drew it again with accurate real dimensions on a sheet of polycarbonate plastic, heated the plastic along the fold lines and then of course folded and formed the case, and after made a panel to fit over that for the top, consisting of the analog, c buttons, a,b, etc. and also a cartridge and expansion pak slot with thir designated cutouts.
Step 3: Main Electronic Wiring and Setup - Voltage Regulation
While the wiring for the N64 isnt particularly difficult, it does take time and effort, this is the step where the portable setup starts coming together.
The wiring for this mainly includes : an audio output, and if your using a ps-one screen than its included with the screen, however if not then your going to need some type of amplifier circuit to boost the signal given from the N64 board and a speaker or speakers if you want stereo sound ; a screen, any type of screen that has composite input will work fine (yellow video wire off a AV/RCA cable is an example of composite) ; and a voltage regulator as the N64 requires 2 voltages as seen from the ac adapter (12v and 3.3v), however instead of 12v you can use anything from a 7.2-12v battery should work fine as long as it has enough amperes per hour, as an example 2000 mah should power the N64 board, screen and other components for about 1 hour, and 4000 mah about 2 hours and so on, the PTH08080 voltage regulator works great for this.
Battery/voltage regulator: You can order the PTH08080 from the web and sometimes you can get a free one through a free samples offer. I included the wiring diagram for the voltage regulator above and the output of the voltage regulator goes to pin 3 on the back of the N64 board. Put the wires from the battery (power and ground/- and +) going to the N64 and the wires going to the voltage regulator in parallel to share the initial voltage from the battery.
When soldering wires to the power supply (battery) you could either open up the battery case and find the ground and power wires and solder them directly to those and solder a dc in jack for the charger in parallel with all the other components or you could make a battery connector, as i have, out of plastic, or other material, and jumper pins that fit your battery ground and power terminals so you can solder all wires in parallel to the jumper pins and when you charge the battery you simply remove it from the connector to the charger. This really depends on the type and style of your battery and how you want the battery to charge. You can also connect two of the same model battery in parallel to double the mah and time until the batteries need to be charged.
Step 4: Wiring - the Screen
The screen is obviously the display, which is normally your TV, however since were making a portable we need to find a more compact screen.
If your using a ps-one screen you can look for a guide on how to wire it for the n64 portable on the web. This step shows you how to wire any other composite input screen such as the one i used, a 4.3" tft lcd screen, there quite commonly found and used for this project. Screens like these require there own power and can commonly run off 7.2v, check the voltage input for your screen to make sure your not overvolting (you could damage your screen like this). so were going to connect the power input of our screen to the battery in parallel with the N64 and voltage regulator from the previous step (check the wiring diagram above). Then you take the video input wire from the screen and remove the sleeve and there should be a barrel of stranded wire (this is ground) surrounding a middle wire (this is the video signal), depending on your screen there could just be two wires or pins that correspond to ground and signal (they should be labeled), take the middle signal wire and solder it to the v (video) pin on the back of the av out port and take ground and solder it to one of the G (Ground) pins, or another ground pin on the board. This is all in the wiring diagram above.
P.S. all connections should be made with solder, and if you want you can cover the connections with glue or insulation to make sure there's no short circuits.
Step 5: Wiring - Audio
The audio is yet another important part of the system. Without the audio you cant listen to the classic music and sound of your favorite N64 titles.
Again if your using a ps-one screen the amplifier and speakers (stereo) are built in so look up a guide on how to wire this for the portable N64. if you just used a composite input screen it most likely doesn't have audio so were going to have to make our own setup with an amplifier and speaker, or speakers if you want stereo sound. you can take an amplifier circuit out of mostly any old electronics device that contains speakers or you could buy one for about $15 depending on the sound quality you want. If you dont want external speakers and just a headphone jack you can just solder the ground of the headphone jack to one of the G pins behind the AV out port of the N64 board and the two pins of the headphone jack to the L/R pins on the N64. one pin goes to L, and one goes to R, here it doesnt really matter which one goes to which. With the amplifier circuit (for external speakers) you can go ahead and solder the speaker you have to the output 1 label on the amp, the amp should be labeled with - and + and coordinate that with the ground and power wires of your speaker if you want 2 speakers (stereo) solder another speaker to ouput 2 on the amp, make sure you have enough wire for your speaker to reach where you want it on the case from where the amplifier will be, now solder the L pin on the N64 to one of the input pins on the amp and Solder R to the othe input pin, and again solder the G pin to a ground pin on the amp. The amplifier also needs its own power so again were going to connect the labeled Vcc or power input on the amp and ground to the battery in parallel with all the other components from the previous steps. Again all of this is in the diagram above. You could also add a potentiometer in series with the power in going to the amp for volume control.
Step 6: Wiring - Controller
The controller is necessary for a portable for completely being able to transport the system while playing you favorite N64 titles.
Although some portable N64's don't have a self contained built in controller and just the controller ports, it is definitely a nice feature to have the controller built into the same unit.
The N64 controller only has 3 pins that correspond to 3.3v, data, and ground. all we have to do for this is solder the 3 wires from the controller to the first controller port pins, and if you still want to use a external controller for port 1 sometimes, make a switch in series with the ground wire to shutoff the built in controller and it will activate the first controller port for use. You can divide the controller board into sections with the controller in the middle and the analog, c buttons + a,b etc. in separate sections to fit your case design better. With my design this want necessary so i just mounted the whole controller under the top panel of the portable with all the original buttons except L,R, and Z with which I extended the wires going to these buttons and soldered them to tact switches and mounted them on my case where they can be easily used. Note that L is not commonly used in N64 titles so you can make a switch to switch the Z to L button if the L is needed or just include it like i have, its nice to have all the buttons useful so you know that you can play your portable with all N64 titles.
And that's about it for the wiring now test the system to make sure it works and there's no shorts before its placed to the case.
Step 7: AV Out and AC Adaptor
Even though this project is to make a N64 portable you still might want to use it with a TV and run it off wall power so you can use it as a regular console if needed.
If you simply relocate the av out port of the N64 you can just attach your ordinary nintendo to av cable and it should work with your TV even though the signal is shared with the built in screen of your portable.You can also put a switch in series with the power wire going to your screen to shutoff the compact screen and just have the display on the TV.
You should also make a AC adapter port in parallel with the components going to your battery so you can run the unit off standard wall power while your battery is charging.
Step 8: Additional Thoughts, Ideas, and Adjustments
There are other features that some portables have than the steps mentioned here.
Cartridge relocation: Most portables have a relocation of the cartridge slot to make the case and overall design more compact and portable. This is achieved by soldering individual wires to the cartridge connector back to the board to lay the cartridge flat when placed. For my design this wasn't really necessary considering the hinge laptop styled case i have to flip the screen to play revealing the cartridge slot anyway from that it is easy enough to place the game and not affect the case. Also it might be necessary to take the jumper/expansion pak out of its case and find a way for it to not affect your design.
Board trimming: Some of the more compact portables also have a trimmed board. This is to add more space for other necessary components. When you trim the board you most likely also trim a connection of the board meaning that you'll have to rewire that connection and if not done correctly you could fry your whole N64 board and have to get a new one to finish your project.
Additional cases: There are more ways to make a case than the ones mentioned here, these can sometimes be more difficult to make for a first portable, however research all the case possibilities and find the best for how you want your portable to turn out.
Led mods: you can make the case of your portable look cooler say if you throw in some led lights. This can also be used to light up the controls when needed.
And of course there are many more possible modifications that you can use towards your portable so before trying to make this research and put together some criteria, and maybe even start the project in an engineering notebook, the more thought put into the system most likely the better it will appear.
Thanks for reading!