There’s a niche arms race among hardware hackers to create ultra compact versions of video game consoles, and YouTube’s GmanModz appears to have successfully miniaturized an entire Nintendo 64 into a portable that’s not much bigger than an N64 game cart — making it possibly the world’s smallest to date.
The last time we featured one of GmanModz creations they had turned an N64 into a super-sized GBA SP complete with a folding screen, but as impressive as it was, the hacked console was still a bit on the chunky side as far as portable gaming systems go. Trying to squeeze it into a pocket would have been an uncomfortable endeavour.
If you’re asking yourself, “what’s the big deal? you can now just buy tiny handheld emulators that can play most N64 games,” you’re missing the point of GmanModz’ accomplishment. The world’s smallest portable N64 actually features the original guts of a stock Nintendo 64 console that’s been expertly trimmed down, re-organised, re-wired, and re-soldered. (Yes, a lot of N64s have to die for this pursuit.) The resulting miniaturized console doesn’t rely on emulation or ROMs to play N64 games, the goal is to play these titles right off the original carts.
Not every part of the world’s smallest Nintendo 64 portable uses parts from the original console, however. A battery’s been added, as well as a 3.5-inch 320×240 screen, a speaker and a custom PCB to drive it, and a new cartridge slot that allows games to be securely held in place without a locking mechanism. The housing is a custom 3D-printed creation using heat-resistant plastics that won’t melt and warp as the hardware inside gets warm during gameplay, and instead of cannibalising an original N64 controller, this portable features custom buttons and a pair of Switch Joy-Con joysticks that have a much smaller footprint.
Is the tiny N64 ideal for playing on the go? Not really. The battery life tops out at around an hour and a half, the ergonomics are far from optimised, and both the N64’s D-pad and left shoulder button have been replaced with custom button and joystick combinations to replicate their behaviours. (In reality, very few N64 games used the D-pad or the left shoulder button, so it’s a minor sacrifice.) There’s a good reason Nintendo didn’t prioritise pocket-ability with the Switch, but that doesn’t make GmanModz’ accomplishment here any less impressive.