Why Are These N64 Controllers Special? (Updated)

*See the bottom of this article as I found the little note that came bundled with the gold controller.

After doing some closet cleaning, I stumbled upon a forgotten box of N64 stuff. Inside were some 3rd party memory cards, a couple of RF switches, and broken memory card plastic holders more fragile than Saturn cases. Pushing this junk aside, I found a few N64 controllers. After doing some research, I realize they are now rather rare, collectable, and pricey. One you might know is rare, but the other might look common but is only one of 1,000.

The DK64 banana controller was only available through a mail-in via Nintendo Power (if memory serves). Nintendo would often offer a Nintendo Power 12-month subscription bundled with goodies of other soon to be released games. While I might be wrong on these exact details, I believe this offer was to buy a year of Nintendo Power, get the DK64 strategy guide, and get this Donkey Kong 64 banana yellow controller for whatever price it was – a bundle.  At the time, I needed to renew my subscription, and who couldn’t use another N64 first-party controller, so I decided to take the bait. In time, a box showed up at my doorstep with this unique controller inside.

Today, this is one of the more rare and collectable controllers available on Nintendo 64.  Outside of the bright yellow color, the DK64 logo is marked at the top and the brown marks at the bottom of each prong makes it look like a bunch of three bananas. At the time of this article, a DK64 controller just recently sold for just shy of $400 with several bids. Thankfully, my controller has just been sitting in a box at the bottom of my closet and the condition is basically perfect. The analog stick feels great! There is something magical about holding a basically brand new N64 controller well over two decades later. The tension on the analog stick is something special.

Ok, now check out this gold N64 controller.

I know what you are thinking – this really is no big deal. Gold controllers and consoles were sold through ToysRus. And you would be correct. This gold controller, however, is 1/1000. But is it authentic? And how can you tell?

In issue 94 of Nintendo Power (Turok was on the cover), Nintendo held a contest via Mario Kart 64. If you beat 1:30 (one minute, thirty seconds) in time trial mode on Mario’s Raceway, took a picture of the TV screen, and mailed it to Nintendo Power, your drawing would be entered to win a gold controller. 

Here are the details of the promo.

Here is what I had to do to enter this contest:

At the time, being a young teen, I managed to beat the time trial time, used my Dad’s camera, took a few pictures of the screen, then used up the remaining pictures on that roll of film, rode my bike to Walgreen’s to drop off the film to be developed, paid the whatever cost it was to develop film back in the day, rode my bike home, waited a couple days, biked it back to the store, picked up the film and hoped one of the pictures turned our clear enough (luckily one was decent quality), biked back home, filled out an envelope, put a stamp on it, and inserted the picture of my fastest time, and mailed it to Nintendo Power – all this for a CHANCE to win a $30 controller. Phew!  This was a time before digital photos and Photoshop so everything had to be done by hand, the long way, and without any potential for forgery.

Later that summer a couple months after, I went away to a lake house with some friends for a week vacation. When I returned there was a plain cardboard box on my bed. Right then, I knew immediately what it was before I opened it. Excited, it was my gold controller inside. Bundled with it was a small piece of paper congratulating me on my win. I regret not saving this credit card sized, one fold, mini note but I can still see it in my mind today (*see the end of the article – I found this card after this article was originally posted). To a 13/14 year old kid, this was a big deal. Pretty darn cool.

Turok was on the cover of Nintendo Power Issue 94.

Now, the question is, how is this gold controller different from the stock ToysRus gold controllers? There is one very minor, easily missable detail.  Like all other N64 controllers, the words “made in China” are engraved at the top where the cord is.  You have to look closely to see it and chances are, you never even noticed it.

However, these gold Mario Kart 64 Nintendo Power winning gold controllers say “made in Japan” at the top.

Now I could be wrong, but this is the only way to tell the difference.  If anyone out there has a ToysRus gold controller, can you look and let me know in the comments below if it says “made in China” or does it say “made in Japan”?

There is also another gold controller variant specially made for the 100th issue of Nintendo Power but has a clear Nintendo Power 100 logo at the top. Apparently only 100 of this version were created, making it much more rare than the Mario Kart 64 edition.  This NP100 version usually sells for a few hundred dollars on eBay but it is difficult to gauge a price for the Mario Kart 64 model.

So what do you think? Do you have one of these controllers? Ever seen one out in the wild? Either way, I am telling you, a fresh analog stick on an N64 controller is a beautiful thing.


I found the card! This was the front.

And here is the back:

A simple note with a big surprise!

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief
Twitter: @ZackGaz

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