The biggest reason for control stick failure is a design flaw whereby the joystick physically wears on the thumbstick assembly. As you can see in the attached photo, this plastic-on-plastic action literally grinds the thumbstick into a powder, widening its original channels and rendering it irreparable. Also, Mario Party.
Before GoldenEye 007 was released in 1997, developers for the game wanted to add a cool feature that would allow you to reload your gun by removing the Rumble Pak from your controller and re-inserting it. This would essentially be like reloading the magazine on a gun. However, Nintendo shot this idea down, afraid that it would wear down or otherwise break the controller.
Somewhat ironically, Nintendo then released Mario Party: the destroyer of controllers. Mario Party's minigames required you to spin or toggle the thumbstick repeatedly, potentially for hours on end. This was such an issue that Nintendo offered protective gloves to Mario Party players as part of a settlement with the New York Attorney General after children reportedly injured their hands.
Anyways, my [unscientific] theory is that Mario Party ultimately contributed to the demise of your controller. Here's some napkin math to back this theory up:
Sold in North America:
- Mario Party 1-3 games: 3.22M
- Nintendo 64 consoles: 20.63M
Probability your controller played Mario Party based on total games played in:
- Single-player mode: 15.6%
- 2-player mode: 31.2%
- 3-player mode: 46.8%
- 4-player mode: 62.4%
So there you have it: slightly scientific proof that Mario Party might have destroyed your controller. But I digress..
Let's move on with the replacement thumbstick assembly.
Using a small Phillips-head screwdriver, remove the 9 screws from the back of the controller.
This step is optional: while your controller is open, you might as well clean out the years of Cheeto crumbs and skin flakes that have accumulated around the edges and on the shoulder buttons. Rubbing alcohol and a Q-tips go a long way here!
There's a small circuit board connected to the joystick assembly that is used for the Z-button (the one on the bottom of the controller). Carefully pull one of the plastic clips to the side and remove the circuit board.
Disconnect the joystick's 6-pin connector and remove the 3 screws holding it in place. A small flathead screwdriver works nicely to remove the connector, but is not necessary.
Put the new assembly into place, replace the 3 screws, reinsert the Z-button circuit board, and connect the 6-pin connector.
Replace the 9 screws on the controller and you're good to go! Now your friend can't blame the controller for repeatedly losing at Super Smash Bros., and then buy you a replacement joystick for Channukah. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, NATE.
Do you have a friend who sucks at N64 and blames their skills on a limp joystick? Share this with them, get those sticks fixed, and then find out who the true champion is.