3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Final

Part One can be found here… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part One

and part two… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Two

and part three… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Three

This took a lot longer than I was hoping. I’ve been procrastinating some. I think anyone that had to rewire the cartridge connector on the NES would feel the same. Soldering the wires to the connector and mainboard isn’t that bad really once you get a rhythm going. The worst part is prepping the 72 wires, one for each pin. Cut to size, strip both ends, twist the bare wires, and finally tin the wires so they’re ready to solder. Wonder if I could buy pre-tinned wires…?

cheesy stock photo

MFW I look under the lid

When rewiring the 72-pin there are a few things to note. With this mod the cartridge connector is flipped. Also, there are 36 pins on each side and the inner pins require a long soldering tip to get in there without making a mess. You will need 24 AWG wire or smaller. Single core kynar wire would probably be best, but I only had some cut up ethernet cables on hand. I soldered the wire to the inside pins and pushed them through to the back between the pins alternating a solid and white color to make it easier when soldering to the main board. This part is relatively simple if you’re newish to soldering: just a tedious process due to the sheer volume of connections that have to be made. Pre-tin all of your pins on the connector and main board and it will make the wiring a breeze (relatively…).

painted nes top load

Here it is all dolled up

It is done! I’m happy with the overall strength of the structure. I’ve had good success even printing at a thin two-wall thickness. At three or four walls this thing could survive a grenade blast. The design is a throwback to the original with a little modern twist, but nothing too gaudy (I hope).

painted nes top load on shelf

Looks good on a shelf too…

The most important part, the reliability of booting a game, has seemed to improve. I’m not a scientist, so you’ll just have to take my anecdote in lieu of an essay. I had a stack of 10 games I tried and only three didn’t want to boot. Out of the other seven, the most trouble I had was having to reinsert the cartridge a couple of times. Keep in mind that I source a lot of my collection from trades, thrifting, flea markets, etc. I cleaned the stubborn cartridges with the back end of a toothbrush that has a soft silicone grip. You can use anything similar, including pencil erasers, to friction scrub the contacts with no need for solvents. After a quick clean, two of the three booted up on the first go (the third had to be reinserted once to get it to work).

rude little guy

No more indecent acts will need to be performed anymore just to play your games

I’m confident that this mod provides an increase to the reliability over the standard front-load design. No more having to cram a game on top to get the perfect angle to get rid of that damn blinking screen. Even with the same stock 72-pin connector that came with this 1987 model NES, I’m seeing good results. Games work first time 49 times out of 50 (make sure to clean your carts) and the hardest I had to work to get a stubborn game to load was to re-insert the cart once. You can even take it a step further and refurb the stock connector, replace it with a modern connector (not guaranteed to fit my design!), and/or disable the region lock chip for even better results.

If you’re a more experienced maker who’s ready to take on a new project, check out my STL files for this project in the shop: gotta keep plastic on the spool so I can continue to prototype new designs!

If you’re still looking into trying this yourself and have a soldering iron – but lack the 3D printer – you can get the STL files and take them to your preferred print shop, or have me print it for you.

If you don’t have time for any of that, I am offering a modding service. I can source an NES or you can send your machine to me (pay postage one way to me, return will be included in checkout). I aim to keep prices reasonable so this mod can be enjoyed by as many nerds as possible.

The Problem with the GameCube and Tiny DVDs

Ever wondered why Nintendo decided to use the Mini-DVD format for the GameCube? I sure as hell have. I could understand if the system were smaller than a DVD, but that isn’t the case. They didn’t even use the opportunity to package their games in a smaller case that fits better on a shelf. They limited the system’s potential along multiple lines for (to me, at least) seemingly unknowable reasons. One such example is losing out on larger, more complex games and CD and DVD playback. I know people that still use their PS2 as a DVD player.

mini dvds

They are kinda cute…

We can’t regain long lost features, but there are other benefits to having the ability to spin full size discs. Mini DVDs are comparatively expensive and the GameCube can be picky about the types of disc it will read. So if you want to run homebrew or backup your ever-increasingly expensive GCN games, you’ll be peeling your lid off or trying to source a lid replacement on eBay. I know other options exist that read from SD cards, but there’s something visceral about popping in a disc, hitting the power button, and grabbing your controller. My goal is to create a fully printable lid replacement for the GameCube that is easy to install and allows for the play of full size DVDs.

gamebox 3000

This is what I’m trying to save us from.

Thankfully, the GameCube has only 4 screws attaching the top lid. These screws are Nintendo’s famous security screw – larger size (keep that in mind if you’re looking to open your ‘Cube). That gave me some confidence taking on this project. The inside of this thing has a lot of strange angles that had to be replicated as closely as possible to ensure a good fit. This was a lot more complicated than I thought. At 14 hours per print on draft settings, you can see how just a few iterations on the design can add up to days or weeks. I take for granted how well the stuff we use every day is designed.

Gamecube DVD mod

Uhh… What did you do with the handle?

After many revisions and updates, I finally have something that I’m okay with using. Everything seems to be in the right place and there’s no rattling when shaken, which I consider to be a major win. I have tested this design and found absolutely nothing wrong with the operation. As you may have noticed from the image, however, we’re missing our hat. The cover to conceal the drive cavity was a bit of an afterthought for me: I was just so excited to have something that fit. A cover solution is incoming. Coming up with something elegant that doesn’t require screws, bolts, or springs has been fruitless. It’s been suggested to use a kettle-like lid.

gcn lid model

More to come

I will be looking for inspiration to solve my little dilemma. It may be something as simple as a flip-top lid. Just enough to stop the ingress of dust, which will keep the spinny-parts and laser in good condition. The options for full size DVD fans on the GameCube are bad right now and only getting worse the further it is from the present. I expect to make this model available soon for people like me that need a low-cost solution to getting their backup library started. So we can all preserve our beloved copies of Smash Bros Melee.

3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Three

Part One can be found here… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part One

and part two… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Two

I don’t think I’ve ever had something fit as closely as this has on the first try.

Slicker than an oiled up whore at fishin’ derby

I’m fairly confident in the structural integrity of the 3D printed lid. It’s not MILSPEC (so it’s probably not going to stand up to a bomb blast) but after some bashing, I can say this should stand up to years of play. And if it doesn’t you can print another with more infill or thicker walls.


This is the prototype used for quicker printing, the finished design is much nicer

Printed using Inland PLA Peak Green 1.75 mm color (also called “Neon Green” online, but this is closer to mint than neon). With the following settings:

NES Top Load Mod 
Nozzle Diam..40 mm
Nozzle Temp.210° c
Bed Temp.65° c
Layer Height.2
Print Speed55 mm/s
Wall Thickness.8
Top / Bottom Thickness.6
Infill25 %
SupportsYes, set "Everywhere" with angle set to 85°
Support Density15 %
Using my Tevo Tarantula type 3D printer with a glass pane attached to the bed. Sugar water is used for adhesion. As with any 3D printed parts, your mileage may vary using my settings. You know your machine best, adjust accordingly.
nes lid color mod up

Quick color “mockup” thrown together for funsies

With the way this is going, I don’t have much excuse to delay the long process of soldering the connector to the edge of the printed circuit board. For prototyping purposes I think this will be fine; I’m not the first to do it for sure. I hope to be able to come up with a solution other than directly soldering to the board, but it may be an inevitability for the 72-pin connector. The great thing though is that this mod is designed to be reversible. It was very important to me to be able to undo any changes made to the system if absolutely necessary. I don’t want to be the guy that encouraged people to destroy a precious NES.

I will be printing version one-point-oh soon and dolling it up a bit to display potential. I’ll have plenty of time to solder up the 72-pin and do some actual game testing while I wait for the final prints to finish. I hope to have a final update with good results soon. I think I’ll take the going-in-dry approach and not do any maintenance on the 72-pin before testing this out. I want to see if immediate results can be gained just by installing this modification.

On the final post all necessary STLs will be made available on my shop. A lot of love (and time) has been put into this project and many others that I hope to distribute soon. I know the 3D printing community is used to hitting up Thingiverse or MyMiniFactory and downloading piles of STLs up to their eyeballs. I’m certainly guilty myself and very thankful to all the artists out there that contribute. But a man’s gotta eat. I will be charging a small amount for the download of STL files for my projects. I want this to be a reasonable low cost option to add value to an already great system. I plan to continue support for projects like this incorporating all feedback from anyone kind enough to pass it along. All bug fixes and updates will be made available at no cost to people who have already purchased a prior version. I hope to get this out into the hands of as many nerds as possible. I can’t wait to see what comes of it!

3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Two

Part One can be found here… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part One

and part tHREE… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Three

In the previous post, we left with just a teaser of our slot mechanism to combat the dreaded blinking red light problem for the NES. There are a few other options available to help with this problem, but this will be just another tool in our arsenal. I was feeling good about the slot, but filled with trepidation when thinking about the overall case and how it might fit once printed. Anyone who prints technical parts is probably familiar with this feeling, or they’re much better modelers and 3D printers(ists?) than I am (setting the bar pretty low here).

Like threading a needle if you had to wait 10 hours between attempts

After several very long prints, I’m happy to say that I’m having very little trouble with alignment. The parts appear to be lining up pretty well. I’ve had to make a few minor adjustments and definitely expect to make more. You can spin a model around a hundred times and still find something wrong with it on the 101st twirl.

print on bed

Ever sit and watch the layers stack up…

Iterations and improvements to the NES console mod will come as I have time to put it to use. Feedback and criticism is always welcome. So far, I’m pretty satisfied with how this is unfolding.

nes mod lid fit

Strange sight, but I like it

Not having to move screw-posts around by fractions of a millimeter for two hours left a lot of time to put into other improvements. The immediate thing I noticed was how boring this top load mod looked. The original NES has a flap and an 1980s-appropriate louver-like design along the top. There’s a lot going on up there. Perpendicular horizontal lines aren’t exactly interesting, so I decided to go in a slightly different direction. I wanted to keep the original stripe placement to match up with the bottom and to preserve some resemblance to the OG design. We threw out the stripes, though, and replaced it with a hexagonal pattern to make it look futuristic. Back in the 80s, the NES was the future (and any future was/is better than this one).

3d model of nes top load mod

Would it go any faster if we put flames on it?

I’m still in the process of printing and perfecting the final top load mod parts. Once the fit is good and locked in – and I’m confident in the supports – I can move on to the fun part of re-soldering the 72-pin connector. Unfortunately, I don’t have a robot for that. We’re moving at a good pace and should have the STL files for the NES console mod available soon.

3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part One

Part two can be found here… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Two

and part tHREE… 3D Printed Top Load NES Mod – Part Three

Anyone who knows me knows that I love my 3D printers. I have two Tevo Tarantula type kit printers that I purchased for around $200 each some time ago (good machines for the price, but that’s for another post). As with any cheap 3D printer kit, there can be a lot of bugs to work out, but that’s part of the fun.

two tevo tarantula type printers

My temporary printer set-up

I also have a deep rooted love for gaming, especially for the systems I grew up using the most. The NES has always had a special place… in hell. Of course I mean the “blinking light” issue, brought on by Nintendo’s attempt to appeal to the US market by transforming the NES into some sort of VCR-like abomination. Due to this design decision, we now have the front loading, spring-tension mess we all know and love. I know the region lockout chip isn’t entirely free from criticism, but a good solid connection to the cart is paramount.

NES glitch gif

This is definitely not how I remember it

After reading and hearing about the later remodeled top loading NES systems – touted for their reliability – I started thinking of a way to implement that into a standard NES. Top Loads are outrageously priced and hard to come by, especially when compared to their thrift store dime-a-dozen front load counterparts. My goal is to provide a lower cost implementation of that top loading design and reliability using a stock front load NES, a couple hundred grams of PLA filament, some wire and solder, and time.

wont fit

They don’t fit, I’ve already tried…

The top half of the NES case is easy enough to replicate. Under the hood there are just 6 screw posts to match up, and a lip along the edge to hold the two pieces in alignment. Since we’re eliminating the front load mechanism altogether we don’t have to model the front flappy bit. The lid is a little too large for most hobbyist 3D printer beds so we have to split it down the middle, easy enough right? Honestly, I haven’t even built that part of my model yet as I’ve been primarily concerned with the bigger issue of converting the edge connector from horizontal to vertical orientation.

nes slot open

Constituent parts of the design

After much measuring, sketching, head-scratching, and prototyping I have something I think will work. This slot design holds the 72-pin connector in a vertical orientation at a 90 degree angle to the lid. Originally this slot was canted to allow for the slight downward angle on insertion into a front load console. Even when printed at draft quality settings, this part is good and strong; I’m fairly confident in its ability to withstand even heavy-handed geeks.

nes slot joined

Joined together

I feel like getting the slot out of the way was the bulk of the work. I hope to make good progress on the rest of the lid now. Expect to see a continuation of this project soon and STLs made available as soon as I’m confident in this design.