Knowledge for the World

How to fix sticky Game Boy buttons

You can't play anything like this. Let's fix it!
  • by Ash (47)
  • 20 minutes

The Nintendo Game Boy is almost 30 years old. As such, it’s common to find these devices with a bit of wear and tear. A small scuff may be no big deal, but when you can’t even play the Game Boy properly—we have a problem.

Sticky buttons are one of the most common issues for a modern Game Boy owner. Thankfully, it’s one of the easiest repairs to address.

In this guide, I’m opening up my custom Game Boy to make sure the buttons are clean, smooth, and reliably responsive.

1

Examine the Game Boy

It’s important to start by examining the Game Boy.

Look for any missing screws that are used to hold the shell together. There should be six total. Improper storage may lead to battery acid damage. Be extra cautious when removing the battery cover.

If you’ve found battery acid has possibly impacted your device, check out our article on cleaning this type of damage to see if your Gameboy can still be saved!

2

Open the Game Boy

Most Game Boys are opened using a tri-wing screwdriver—a proprietary tool developed specifically for Nintendo products. However, some early Game Boys were created using Phillips screws. Look closely to see what screwdriver is necessary to open your device and remove all six screws.

The Game Boy is comprised of two halves that are connected by a delicate ribbon cable. This ribbon cable is crucial for handling display information and its mishandling can cause irreparable damage.

Exercise extreme caution when handling this cable. Gently unplug the ribbon cable from the back motherboard.

3

Remove the front components

The front motherboard is attached to the shell using 10 screws. Using a Phillips Screwdriver Number 1, remove all of the screws.

Pull the motherboard from the from of the shell. The motherboard holds several components in place.

You will need to account for:

  • 1 Front motherboard
  • 2 A/B buttons
  • 1 D-Pad
  • 1 Start/Select Button
  • 1 A/B silicone pad
  • 1 D-Pad silicone pad
4

Inspect the damage

Look closely for the source of the sticky buttons. In many cases, you’ll need to remove dirt and debris buildup from years of on-the-go adventures. It’s usually best to clean all of the components involved while you have the opportunity.

5

Clean the button components
  • Silicone pads Use an alcohol soaked cotton swab to remove debris from the silicone pads. A pencil eraser can be used to clean to clean the dark, circle shaped contacts.

  • Motherboard Using an alcohol soaked cotton swab, clean the motherboard of any dirt or debris that may be affecting the button controls. A pencil eraser can be used to clean to clean the button contacts.

  • Buttons The plastic buttons can be cleaned using dish soap and warm—not hot—water. Be sure to thoroughly dry the buttons before proceeding.

6

Install the front components

Once everything is clear of debris, it’s time to place the front components back into the shell. Place the buttons, silicone pads, speaker, and motherboard into the front half of the shell. Each component will be guided into place with a small notch.

The motherboard will need to be screwed back into place. The front motherboard is attached using 10 screws. Using a Phillips screwdriver number 1, attach the front motherboard to the shell.

Before closing the Game Boy, you can press the buttons to see if the sticking problem has been resolved. If not, remove the front components and investigate the issue again.

7

Close the Game Boy

While exercising extreme caution, gently plug the ribbon cable into the back motherboard port. Using an appropriate screwdriver, screw the shell back together. There will be 6 screws used during this step.

8

Time for a test!

We know the buttons feel right, but do they play right? It’s time to pop in a fresh set of batteries and turn it on.

You should have smooth, working buttons to navigate your adventures with accuracy!