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When it comes to speedrunning Mario 64, you have three viable controller options. The original N64 controller, which is widely considered the best controller. There’s the N64 Hori Pad Mini in a close second, and then there’s the original GameCube controller as the third viable option.
The Xbox, Switch, and PlayStation controllers are not desirable because the joystick gates don’t have notches. Only use these if you have to or if you’re a masochist.
N64 Controllers and Adapter
Original N64 Controller (eBay)
Let’s start with the best option. When it comes to the original N64 controller, you want to buy first-party (made by Nintendo) because all the third-party controllers (made by other companies) are absolute trash. Third-party controllers suffer from control stick angle issues as well as an extreme lack of build quality.
However, the first party N64 controllers aren’t perfect. The one downside is that the control sticks wear out quite easily and get loose. This makes buying one a bit of a risk, but you can minimize that risk by looking closely at the listing pictures. If the stick is tilted in any direction other than straight up, then you can safely guess that the stick is loose.
There are a decent amount of Mario 64 runners who will switch to another controller during Bowser throws. This is to help prevent their control stick from getting worn out as quickly. Some use a worn-out N64 controller, while others use the Hori Pad Mini.
There are a couple of things to look for while shopping for a first-party controller. First, look for a Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) of NUS-005. Secondly, look for the Nintendo logo, as shown in the image below.
N64 Hori Pad Mini (eBay)
There are some tradeoffs with the Hori Pad Mini. On the positive side, the control sticks are more durable, but on the negative side, the controller is quite pricy, the stick is more sensitive, and the controller has some minor dead zone issues. The issues are minor enough that it really just comes down to personal preference if you want to use it.
Expect to pay between $70 to $110 for one of these in good condition.
This is a USB to N64 adapter that allows you to connect your controller to your computer. This is the only good option. All the other adapters create input delay.
Gamecube Controller and Adapters
New GameCube controller (Amazon)
Used GameCube controllers (eBay)
The GameCube controller doesn’t come hugely recommended by the Mario 64 speedrunning community, but it’s still a very playable option. The controller’s main downsides are the shoulder buttons aren’t ideal, and the controller comes equipped with a c-stick instead of c-buttons, which can make the camera work a bit less precise.
Just like with the N64 controllers, the first party GameCube controllers are really the only worthwhile option. The third-party controllers are cheaply made and do not function very well, nor do they last very long.
There are two things to look for when verifying a controller is first-party. The first thing is to look for a Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) of DOL-003, and the second thing is to look for the Nintendo logo on the front and back of the controller. Refer to the image below.
First Party GameCube to USB adapter (eBay)
These adapters are out of production and are very expensive. Only buy this if you REALLY want to have the Nintendo branded adapter; otherwise, look at the Mayflash adapter below.
Mayflash GameCube to USB adapter (Amazon)
This is the rare instance where it’s better to buy the third-party gaming peripheral over the first-party one. It’s $40+ cheaper and performs on the same level as the Nintendo made adapter.
It’s not recommended to use these controllers for speedrunning Mario 64. The lack of notches in the joystick gate makes some tricks very had to pull off, and you’ll be stuck with a joystick for camera controls. Really, the only reason to use one of these controllers is if you already own one and can’t buy an N64/GameCube controller.