How To Mod The N64 To Play Imports (Region Mod)

N64 Region Mod

Presented by Fastbilly1
Check out his previous retro gaming hacks like how to throw a Pac-Man Vs. Party Without a Gameboy Advance or a 5-TV Four Swords Zelda Party

This guide is for the ability to play Japanese games on a USA console, or vice versa, it will not work for PAL titles either way. So if you are in the UK and have your N64, sorry but you are out of luck and will have to buy a passthrough device.

Now the reasons for doing this mod are getting fairly low: most of the best Japanese N64 games have been ported or remade on other consoles. However Japanese N64s are fairly cheap and come in many of unique colors. As you will see the pictures, we are going to mod my Turquoise Japanese N64 to play USA games.

What You Need to Get Started

Lets start off with looking at what we have to work with:

  1. Two games from different regions – Sin and Punishment and Goldeneye
  2. Two systems from different regions – Turquoise N64 from Japan and a Launch N64 from the USA.
  3. A Philips head/Cross screwdriver
  4. A 4.5mm Gamebit (find one on eBay or on Amazon)  a Bic pin can be used aswell, but spending the premium of $10 to get a quality TEMPERED bit will save you a lot of headache in the long run.
  5. A cutting device – Dremel with cutting bit, pair of scissors, bolt cutter, etc.
  6. [Optional]  power screwdriver – Black and Decker’s Pivot Driver is my choice, really just used to get it unscrewed. I hand screw the consoles back together and tighten with the electric if I need it.

Really all you need is the gamebit, screwdriver, cutting device, and one console. But for the sake of the guide I have multiples for comparisons and explanation.

Before we get any further I have to put the disclaimer:
Anything you do to your console is by your own hand. We at Racketboy are not responsible for any damage to your property or person that you commit while following this guide. It is provided for informational use only.

Differences Between USA and Japanese N64 Consoles and Carts

The N64, like the SNES before it, has only minor differences in the hardware between the USA and Japan. Lets look at our two games:

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When we flip them over and you can see that there is one major difference, where the tabs are

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Close up (Japanese on the left, USA on the right)

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There are minor differences for the power aswell, but apart from that little enclave of plastic there is no difference between the console or games. So to play the games you have one of three options:
1. Swap the back of the cart
2. Modify the system
3. Use a pass through device such as a passport or gameshark
I guess you could technically just open the carts and play with the circuit boards, but I really suggest against that. We are obviously going to do the hardest of these and modify the system.

So here are our consoles:
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As you can see in the cartridge slot there is our little plastic fiend in the USA console:

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And in the Japanese one:

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Preparing Your N64 For the Region Mod

So if you want to do this the fast way you can just use pliers and try to break it off. This works a lot better on a Japanese console but can be risky. You could also try cutting it in the console, but we are going to do it the safest way and disassemble the console.

Clear your work space and flip over your N64:
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There are five screws and the two feet that will come off. Now you should be able to remove the top of the console from the bottom.
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Now if you want to make a custom console color set you could replace the top with one from another console:
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Performing The Mod

Now that it is loose, flip over the top of the console and you will see our culprit.
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He is held in with a screw on each side:
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Once those are undone, you will have the cartridge seat free.

Word of warning: under the cartridge slot are the two doors that are on springs:
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Do your best to not mess with these as they can be a pain to get back in the right places.

Now that we have the seat it is time to cut it:
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I made the mistake of using a vice to hold it, yeah don’t do that. Just hold it in your hand. Now the plastic has a lot of play in it so you may want to tape on some wood or card board, or use a dremel, and be careful. If you are an idiot like I am and use the vice and scissors well this happens:
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The good part about this is that it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to be functional. So once you have cut both sides, screw the seat back into the top of the console:
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And put the whole thing back together. If everything went right, your games should just slide right in:
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This is a really easy modification to do, very little of what you do can really mess up the console. One thing that may get you is that the ram cart is inside of the top of the console, so you may have to reseat it once you get it all back together.

Feedback?

If you have any questions please post them in the Hacks and Mods forum.  As always if you have any suggestion on how to make this guide better or simply to make it more user friendly, please tell us. We can proof guides dozens of times, but we believe that they are never perfect. But with help from the community we can make them better. And if you found this guide useful, or have suggestions for new guides, please tell us.

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17 Comments

  1. nick says:

    Pretty cool mod, it’s worth taking the 5 minutes to do it incase you happen to come across a jap game

  2. Jman says:

    Hmm, I remember renting some japanese baseball game, and also renting japanese starfox 64 from blockbuster years ago. They played just fine without doing anything to the console.

  3. Great post didnt even think to do this, I just use a import adaptor like game shark or this other one I got. Great Read for sure
    @Jman I have a couple import games I got from a video store and the files the carts down so they would play and thats funny because it was also a baseball game. Great post didnt even this

  4. Great guide! I’ve got a green NTSC N64 that I keep looking at and trying to figure out if I want to mod or not. I hate to say it but I hardly play N64 and haven’t really found any lists of good import games (aside from Sin and Punishment) to make me want to mod it. Do you think we could start doing some import guides for each console with recommendations?

  5. racketboy says:

    Yeah, we’ll have to put together an N64 import guide sometime. I suppose it wouldn’t have to be especially long…

  6. steve says:

    Why exactly would I make this mod when it requires that I buy a Japanese N64?

    I have a much easier mod kit for you. You take the Japanese N64 and plug it into your tv, then holy shit it plays imports. Who would have known?

  7. Newt says:

    I’ve heard of people swapping the backside of the cartridge with that of an american game (crappy sports games that not many people care about.) But I guess this would be good for those with lots of imports.

    The only N64 imports that I can think of people wanting are Sin & Punishment and Airboarder 64.

  8. Charles says:

    Do exactly what Newt suggested and what I’ve personally done as well. Buy a shit US N64 game and swap out the back of the cartridge. Problem solved.

    I’ve seen loads of other guides that suggest stuff like burning off the tabs with a soldering gun and opening up the system and cutting them off.

    It takes aprox 1 minute to swap out the back of the cartridge.

  9. droid_party says:

    Will this work for playing ntsc games on a pal console? Or vice versa?

  10. droid_party says:

    Oh, nevermind. I read the opening paragraph properly. Wow, don’t I look stupid.

  11. MLink96 says:

    Hey! I did this, and it dusn’t work to play a ntsc game on a PAL console.. its sad 🙁

  12. eSPy says:

    to MLink96, you might wana read the first line of this guide.

  13. Cubey says:

    I’d love to know why this doesn’t work for PAL consoles.

    I’m guessing it’s the video standard stuff?

  14. Chester says:

    Early in the guide you mentioned using a gameshark. Will a US gameshark allow you to play US games on a Japanese N64?

  15. Evilstridd says:

    The only game that don’t work on USA and Brazilian consoles that i’ve ever seen is Super Mario 64 Special Rumble Edition, i’ve tried it with the adapter and with moded console and the image is somehow disturbed, color are wrong and image flicking, the rest i’ve tried all work fine.

  16. Jack says:

    It took me 4 hours to unlock my N64 because of my crappy tools. All I had was a glass cutter, a scraper blade, a pair of needle-nose pliers, and a small strip of sandpaper. I completely destroyed the cartridge locks on both sides so now there’s just holes where they used to be. There were some bits of the cartridge lock left over, so I sanded them down to mere imprints and reinstalled the dust guard back into my N64. It still works and I’m yet to find an import game to test.

  17. daniel says:

    why do you need 2 n64’s.