The Nintendo 64, or “N64,” wasn’t the best-selling console that Nintendo ever made, but it was one of the most important. With the exception of a couple of Super Nintendo games, the Nintendo 64 was the first console from Nintendo to provide true 3D graphics. It’s also home to some of the highest rated video games of all time, including The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Unfortunately for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of owning a Nintendo 64, the console is quite difficult to emulate reliably. However, it is possible to do some pretty amazing modes, such as this N64 SP portable built by GmanModz.
The N64 SP gets its name from the Nintendo Game Boy Advance SP, which had a great clamshell design that kept it nice and compact. The N64 SP is quite a bit larger, but still very impressive when you consider that it has a real Nintendo 64 motherboard inside. That’s right, there is no emulation going on here. The motherboard isn’t even being recreated on an FPGA — though an FPGA is used to convert the video signal to VGA. Instead, GmanModz took an actual Nintendo 64 motherboard and trimmed it down to just a fraction of its original size.
That trimmed motherboard was then placed in a 3D-printed clamshell enclosure. A custom PCB handles battery and power management, with power coming from a 20700 4250mAh LiPo battery. An N64+ controller emulator board makes it possible to use a custom button setup. The buttons themselves were printed on an SLA 3D printer for quality. That custom PCB also has an audio amplifier which receives the audio data digitally via I2S. The screen is a 5” VGA LCD that looks absolutely fantastic, and receives the video signal from the FPGA-based converter. Best of all, real Nintendo 64 cartridges can be inserted and play flawlessly, because they’re running on real hardware. The N64 SP is likely the best way to play video games like Ocarina of Time on the go, since it isn’t subject to any of the issues that come along with emulation.