N64 won’t connect to your HD TV? Check out this guide

by Martin Watts, 16 March 2021

An N64 connected to a modern HDTV.

Dug your N64 out of the cupboard and set it up only to find it won’t connect to your TV? Don’t panic! Chances are your console still works — it just may not be compatible with your newer TV.

That’s why I’ve come up with this guide to help you get your N64 working with your HDTV.

There are two parts to the guide:

Part 1 covers how to connect your N64 to a modern TV using the composite AV cable that originally came with the console.

This may work, so long as your TV has the right connection ports and supports the N64’s video output signal. Even if it does work, you will likely experience poor picture quality and potential input lag.

Part 2 covers scalers — devices that convert the signal from your N64 to a format that modern TVs can display (while improving picture quality in the process). You will need to use one of these if your TV doesn’t have the right connection ports or if it can’t detect the N64’s video signal.

The scalers I have mentioned offer a far superior experience than the standard composite AV cable can on a modern flatscreen TV. I would recommend using one of these, regardless of whether the original cable works or not.

Disclaimer

Please note: I cannot provide any technical support beyond what has already been stated in this guide.

Before purchasing any cables or scalers, check your TV and N64 console are compatible (I accept no responsibility for purchases made in error). I have only linked to scalers for informational purposes, and do not receive any remuneration or incentive in exchange.

For technical support with any scalers and cables, contact the original seller or manufacturer.

Nintendo 64 console, power cable, video cable and RCA-to-SCART adapter

Part 1: connecting your N64 using the original composite AV cable

Before getting started, make sure you have the following:

  • N64 console
  • N64 power supply lead
  • N64 composite AV cable (preferred)
  • (Optional) AV to SCART adapter (only if your TV has a SCART input)
  • an N64 game – the N64 doesn’t have an operating system, so it won’t show a picture without a game cartridge inserted
  • an N64 controller (for testing)

Many PAL N64 consoles shipped with an RF adapter rather than a composite AV cable. This method requires tuning the N64 into the TV through the antenna port. I’ve never had any success with getting this to work on a modern digital TV, so I wouldn’t recommend trying it.

Instead, get an N64 composite AV cable. You can find these cheap on Amazon or eBay.

Reminder: even if it does work, the composite AV cable won’t result in the best picture quality or experience on a modern TV.

Step 1: Check your TV for composite AV or SCART inputs

Find the connection ports on the back or side of your TV. Can you see a composite or SCART input?

The composite connection is three circular ports — red, yellow and white. (AV IN 2 in photo.) Just insert the corresponding cable plug into each one.

Alternatively, look for a SCART port. This is a plastic port about an inch and a half wide that has 21 small slots in it. (AV 1 in photo.) You will need an AV-to-SCART adapter to use this port.

AV connections on a modern HDTV.

If you only have one of these ports then use that one. If you don’t have any of these ports on your TV then go to step 2.

One your N64 is plugged in, power-up your N64 (with game inserted) and switch the TV over to the corresponding source/input.

Now check the following:

  • Can you see a picture? If so, are the colours correct?
  • Can you hear the game’s audio?
  • If you have both video and audio, then play the game to see if there is any input lag. Is there a delay between you pressing the joystick/buttons and the resulting action happening on screen? (If supported, activate Game Mode on your TV for best results.)

Did it work?

If everything works as expected, then congratulations! If your N64 still can’t connect to your TV or doesn’t work properly, go to step 2.

Step 2: try the component port (if you have one!)

Check the connection ports on the back or side of your TV for a component input.

This connection has 5 ports: green, blue, red, and red and white ports for audio.

The component port on your TV may be one of the ways you can connect your N64.

If your TV does not have a component connection port, then you will need to use a scaler.

For this connection you need to use the composite cable without a SCART adapter. Put the yellow cable plug into the green port. Put the red and white cables into the corresponding red and white audio ports.

One your N64 is plugged in, power-up your N64 (with game inserted) and switch the TV over to the component source/input.

Now check the following:

  • Can you see a picture? If so, are the colours correct?
  • Can you hear the game’s audio?
  • If you have both video and audio, then play the game to see if there is any input lag. Is there a delay between you pressing the joystick/buttons and the resulting action happening on screen? (If supported, activate Game Mode on your TV for best results.)

Did it work?

If everything works as expected, then congratulations! If your N64 still can’t connect to your TV or doesn’t work properly, then you will need to use a scaler.

Part 2: scalers

If you’ve reached this point in the guide then either your TV doesn’t have the right connection port(s) for the standard cables or it doesn’t support the N64’s output signal.

If this is the case then you should consider buying a scaler. These devices can convert the signal from your N64 to a format that modern TVs can display.

Buy a specialist scaler designed for N64 and other retro video game consoles

There are many, many generic composite-to-HDMI converters available on the market. However, I would strongly recommend against buying one of these.

Why? Because these cheap converters rarely work properly with the N64 — if at all. Even when they do work, the picture quality and input lag are usually dreadful.

NEET composite to HDMI video converter

A generic composite/S-video to HDMI converter (Image credit: James Doughty)

Instead, consider buying one of the specialist scalers that have been designed with the N64 and other retro game consoles in mind. They correctly process and convert the N64’s original video signal to a supported format with zero (or barely any) lag.

Super Nintendo/N64/GameCube RAD2X cable

The RAD2X is a straightforward plug-and-play cable for connecting your N64 to a modern TV. It also works with the SNES/Super Famicom and GameCube.

The cable detects the N64’s 240p output signal, processes it into a progressive scan image, and then line doubles this to 480p. It has a mini-HDMI output, so you can connect it to a modern TV using a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable.

It is 100% compatible with every Nintendo console that uses a MultiAV socket, and supports both PAL and NTSC N64 consoles. Also, it works with RGB-modified N64 consoles, resulting in an even better picture quality.

For more information and to see the RAD2X in action, check out this video by RetroRGB:

RetroTink 2X-MINI

RetroTINK offer a range of devices, but the 2X-MINI is the ideal choice for unmodded N64 consoles. It’s straightforward and simple to set up too!

This scaler has S-video and composite connections, and an S-video cable is included to offer the best possible image quality.

The 2X-MINI works with both NTSC and PAL N64s. However, many PAL systems do not support S-video (so you’ll need to use composite).

A micro-USB cord comes with the 2X-MINI, which you use to power the device and make firmware upgrades. You can power the device using a USB port on your TV, which is pretty handy.

To top it all off, the 2X-MINI comes in five different transparent colours. They go well with certain Funtastic N64 models.

For more information and to see the RetroTink 2X-MINI in action, check out this video by RetroRGB:

Super EON 64

The Super EON 64 is expensive for what it is, but it’s also incredibly simple to use.

Plug the device into the back of your N64 and then connect it to your TV using an HDMI cable. The device then outputs an S-video signal scaled to 480p resolution with zero lag.

Because it plugs directly into the console, it doesn’t require a separate power supply.

The EON Super 64 inserted into an N64's video output slot

It also has a built-in “slick” mode, which when activated gives a smoother, less-jagged picture. Whether you use it or not is a matter of preference, and the results vary from game to game.

There are two different versions of the Super EON 64 — one for NTSC and NTSC-J consoles and one for PAL. Unfortunately, they are not cross-compatible across console regions.

UltraHDMI N64

This luxury mod is no longer available, but you might get lucky scoring a pre-modded console off eBay.

The UltraHDMI mod upscales your N64’s video output to HD resolutions (up to 1080p). It’s a circuit board that goes inside your N64 and adds a mini-HDMI output port.

It’s an incredibly neat and tidy mod that doesn’t require any extra devices or power supplies.

UltraHDMI N64 mini-HDMI connection port

Using built-in firmware (accessed via a control pad button input), you can change the output resolution and choose from a range of video-processing options (such as scanlines). These extra features only add the slightest amount of input lag, and it’s not noticeable.

It’s a fabulous mod, but incredibly expensive and difficult to find nowadays.

Is there a cheaper alternative to a scaler?

If your N64 can’t connect to your TV and the scalers above are out of your price range then consider getting a CRT TV.

While heavy and bulky, CRT TVs are still the best way to play N64. Often you can find decent CRT models in charity/thrift stores at affordable prices.

An N64 hooked up to a CRT TV.

While it may be tempting to go large, I’d advise finding a smaller CRT TV (14 to 21 inch screen size). It’ll be much easier to lift and carry, and the N64’s video output will look much sharper on a smaller screen.

Connecting an N64 to an HDTV — summary

Your N64 may work with your modern TV using the original composite cable. Check to see if your TV has the right connections supports the N64’s 240p video output signal. Just be wary that even if it does work, the quality may be noticeably poor.

For the best results, use a specialist retro gaming scaler. Not only will it work, but it’ll make your N64 look a lot better at the same time.

Failing that, there’s nothing wrong with going back to an old CRT TV — space permitting. After all, they still offer the best experience in terms of picture quality and zero input lag.

Martin Watts

Martin has been running N64 Today since it began in 2017. He previously wrote for Nintendo Life and works as a content professional by day. He got the Nintendo 64 as a Christmas present back in 1997 and it's been his favourite console ever since. His favourite N64 game is Goemon's Great Adventure.