Getting a decent picture from the Nintendo 64 when playing it on HDMI is a real pain. It is the most challenging of the whole gang of mainstream retro consoles to do it with. Since the way the N64 was made, you’ll either have to roll with a blurry picture for a while or mod it to clear it up.
You will be shown below the best way to play Nintendo 64 games on modern HDTVs. We’ll also tell you why it’s so difficult to get really sharp pictures out of them.
Why does my n64 look bad on HDTV
If you have the right equipment, most retro consoles from the fourth generation on can be connected to a modern TV. In most cases, all you need is the right cable and an OSSC or Framemeister, and you’re ready to go. However, considering the limitations of at least a stock N64, it is not optimal to convert to HDMI from either composite or S-Video.
Nintendo 64 degrades picture quality on HDTVs by having a bunch of wacky features, including a color wheel that’s a pain to use. blur filter applied to games that is intended to help soften the jagged edges of polygons. When you’re playing on a CRT, this was beneficial, but is terrible in an upscaled HDMI environment. Also, almost every game had anti-aliasing, which rendered the image even more distorted than it already was.
The internal filters and anti-aliasing on a Nintendo 64 may be workaroundable, but they might not work perfectly. Fortunately, Retro community has worked on an anti-aliasing software that’s referred to as GameShark. While the picture quality is improved a bit as a result of this, the hardware horizontal blur is the primary source of the problem.
There are three ways you can get rid of the system-level filter: UltraHDMI mods, which are no longer made, the N64RGB boards, made by Tim Worthington and Borti4938, as well as the N64 RGB Advanced boards. Both of these mods eliminate internal blurring on the N64, but only the N64 RGB Advanced does so anonimously. A company specializing in home theater solutions is working on updating the UltraHDMI, but there’s still no release date known.
Cheapest Way to Play N64 on HDTV | Low-end Composite-to-HDMI or S-Video-to-HDMI converter
From Amazon, you can easily find cheap Composite-to-HDMI and S-Video-to-HDMI converters for under $20. A TV that accepts a RF signal is likely to give the highest picture quality (aside from RF to HDMI).
Those cheap adapters deliver poor video quality with input lag and color bleeding. They’re convenient, but weak quality will take the fun out of playing. I recommend this only to someone who does not see much wrong with watching standard definition video in widescreen 16:9 ratio.
Most cost-effective way to play N64 on HDTV | RGB Mod and HD Retrovision Cables and GameShark (optional)
This solution works best on older or lower-mid-tier HDTVs with component inputs, as newer, higher-end TVs are typically HDMI-only.
There are multiple ways to modify an N64 to output RGB video. If you have an early model N64 (the US version has a serial number beginning with “NS1”), you can save some money by using a cheaper mod. You can construct your own RGB amplifier if you have a basic understanding of electronics by purchasing a SOIC-8 to DIP-8 PCB board and mounting a THS7316 3-Ch video amplifier to it (any variant is fine). You can find the full DIY amp installation instructions on RetroRGB (which is an excellent resource for all things RGB). The components for this mod will run you around $10 if you shop around.
I have personally used Voultar’s THS7314 RGB amp on my early N64.
You can either get Tim Worthington’s N64RGB board or Borti4938’s N64 Advanced RGB mod if you want more features or if you have a newer N64. This mod requires advanced soldering skills and is not recommended for beginners. However, it comes with an FPGA that lets you do features like on-screen menus, de-blur, and even line doubling.
If you’re trying to connect the Nintendo 64 to an HDTV in the US, or hook it up directly to one there, the system needs component cables since SCART has never been released here. With an RGB modded N64 it should work fine with HD Retrovision SNES cables, and you should be able to get good picture quality on a TV with component inputs.
You get a cleaner image with de-blurring effects when using the N64RGB or N64 Advanced boards. No matter which way you connect the N64, the picture quality will be even better if you use an N64 GameShark and input the codes to turn off anti-aliasing. It’s important to enter these codes per game so that you get the best quality of image possible.
- Buy HD Retrovision SNES YPbPr Component Cable
- Buy N64 RGB Kit on Voultar’s Mod Shop
- Buy N64 Advanced RGB Mod on RetroGamerStuff
The easiest way to play N64 on HDTV | Eon Super 64 HDMI Adapter
A recently released product is perfect if you just want a decent picture on your TV from its N64, but don’t want to mound it. It converts the N64’s S-Video output to HDMI via the Super 64’s HDMI Adapter. The Super 64 connects to the video output of the N64 and does not require external mods or setup. It provides lagless conversion to 480p, unlike cheaper S-Video to HDMI adapters.
With a basic RGB mod over SCART, the Eon Super 64 gives you a similar image to an N64. The soupy blur, color bleeding, and other visible artifacts that plague the analog system will be absent. On the other hand, the Super 64 delivers the best picture you’ll get from an unmodded N64.
Compared to the original Nintendo 64, the Super 64 adapter costs $150 and you don’t get any picture quality.
With an inexpensive RGB mod and HD Retrovision cables, you can get a similar or slightly better picture for around $70-80 than you would get from a Super 64, but the Super 64 makes it easy to use.
Best value way to play N64 on HDTV | RGB, high-end converter, and GameShark (optional)
Buying a high-end video converter works well with multiple systems if you are a retro gamer. The OSSC converter is the go-to converter for retro gamers right now, as it works with all input types. Hence, you can RGB mod your N64, connect it to your HDTV via component or SCART, and the result will look wonderful.
The output of OSSC can be improved even more by de-blurring it from the N64RGB or N64 RGB Advanced and removing aliasing. It is a good idea to note, though, that the OSSC doesn’t always play nice with HDTVs. You should be sure to set the OSSC to go at a standard resolution so that your TV can see what you want.
Best way to play N64 on HDTV | UltraHDMI mod
Unfortunately, the developer has not yet made any progress with UltraHDMI for N64, and it may be some time before he or she releases the revision that was currently being designed. Video captured from the original N64 is upscaled to high definition and runs without lag.
Modifying a console in this fashion requires fine pitch soldering work that is not what many people have experience doing. In stock, the mod alone cost $165, with professional installation running about $100. Neither the shipment nor the N64 console themselves are included in the UltraHDMI price. For huge Nintendo 64 fans, though, the mod is definitely worth it since it would give you the most impressive picture available from a console.