The Nintendo 64 is a favorite console for many, and has been since it was originally released back in 1996. The console was not perfect, and it was certainly a hard sell when compared to the likes of the PlayStation, but the Nintendo and Rare games were enough for many to justify owning it. The Nintendo 64 controller itself represented a departure from Nintendo’s typical controller layout. The SNES and NES controllers only had one way to reasonably hold them, but the N64 controller is not so simple. Today, we are going to discuss how to hold an N64 controller.
You can either hold an N64 controller like you would any other controller, with your left hand on the left side and your right hand on the right. However, another method is to hold it by the middle partition with your left hand, and hold it normally with your right hand.
But is there one way that is considered official by Nintendo? Are there any other ways to hold the N64 controller? And can you control all games with both of these holding styles?
How to Hold N64 Controller:
There are many ways one could theoretically hold an N64 controller, but the debate over the “proper” way to hold the controller comes down to two methods.
Hold it like you would a normal controller
This is a method that is often used simply because people are used to holding controllers like this, and is referred to as the home position. Basically, the left hand is resting on the left side, with their thumb resting on the d-pad, and their index finger resting on the L button.
Meanwhile, your right hand grips the right side of the controller, your index finger resting on the R button and the thumb controlling the A, B, and C buttons. Finally, the Z button on the back is controlled using the right middle finger. Alternatively, you may rest your thumb on the joystick.
This method of keeping your thumb on the joystick is not the most comfortable, which has led to a lot of criticism of the controller itself.
It becomes all the more uncomfortable if you have small hands, as making your thumb reach is not as easy for everyone. However, people who say that this is the incorrect way to handle an N64 controller argue that the d-pad is rarely used, or if it is, it is used for the same function as the joystick. Yet, games like Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards benefit from using the d-pad, so doing any other method is
Use your left hand to hold the middle partition on the controller
This is a pretty nontraditional way of holding a controller, but to be fair, the N64 does not have a traditional controller. The face buttons, d-pad, and shoulder buttons are all located in pretty standard locations, but the joystick being in the middle is strange when compared to the PlayStation’s joysticks located on the bottom left and bottom right of the controller.
This method is referred to as the right position. To hold it in this way, your left hand holds the middle partition, with your thumb resting on the joystick, and the right hand holds the right partition of the controller. This is an ideal way to hold the controller for 3D platformers such as Super Mario 64, since the left side of the controller is not commonly used for anything, and if it is, it is only sparingly.
Do the opposite of the above holding method
This method of holding an N64 controller is basically the reversed version of the above method. This method is referred to as the left position. So, basically, use your right hand to hold the middle partition, and use your left hand to hold the left partition.
This method is extremely rare, and not advisable for most games. Games are not commonly designed to be playable using only this method of control, with one of the only examples being first-person shooters like Turok: Dinosaur Hunter using its alternative controller style. Here, the joystick is used to control the camera instead of the C buttons like normal, while the d-pad is used for moving forward and strafing.
Is there an official way to hold an N64 controller?
Whether one holding method or the other is a better method is fairly subjective, even whether it is better to play a certain game with one style or the other.
But what is not subjective is whether there is an official method. Thankfully, the N64 user manual shows the three methods, meaning that all three of them are official.
Whether Nintendo affirms any of these methods as official or not should make no difference, of course, but it’s nice to be able to refer to the user manual if someone says that your method of holding the N64 controller is “wrong,” somehow.
The only thing that the user manual does not cover is using the joystick while holding it in the home position.
This is regarded by many as a poor way to hold the N64 controller, if only because, for some people, it is uncomfortable at best, impossible at worst. Not only does it require you to stretch your left thumb over to the joystick, but this method may also make it more uncomfortable to push the Z button on the back.
In addition to the N64 user manual, many manuals for individual games will advise you as to what the best way to hold the N64 controller is for its individual game.
Again, this is not a mandatory style, so pick whichever method suits you best. However, some methods are straight up impossible to play certain games unless you switch your hands around a lot. Say what you will about the “poor” way of holding the N64 controller, using the joystick while executing the home position is the easiest way to reach all inputs on the N64 controller without switching your grip around.