USB-enabled NES controllers will turn you into a bigger pirate and open your eyes to great homebrew games

Computer emulators and ROM games are fun for about 10 seconds. After that, you realize how sucky they are without official controllers.

Enter Infinite NES Lives, a one man shop that hacks console controllers to work with USB and/or Wii. Other DIY methods and USB vendors exist, but Paul Molloy from Infinite NES prides himself on only using original controllers.

The result? So good, you’ll likely start downloading a bunch of bootleg roms (for real this time, ‘cuz you’ll actually want to play them). I know I did. 

Before I move on, keep in mind I haven’t played a ROM in years. Again, they never appealed to me because I missed the original controller so much. With a reto-fitted USB controller, however’ in my case, an NES Dogbone with 4GB to carry around games’I ended up playing old school, new releases (D-Pad Hero, anyone?), and bootlegs for two hours straight on Saturday. I’ve never played roms continuously for that amount of time.

For my emulator, I used FCEUX, but I’m told you can use any comptable Mac, PC, or Linux emulators. Setup takes about 10 seconds’syncing the four direction press and four buttons with the emulator. Prices range from $33-75 depending on the controller.

The verdict? I’m a believer. Definitely worth the entry level price for playing computer ROMs. Not sure I’d pay $25 extra for internal memory or $75 total for an SNES Wiimote tether, but the option is available. Better yet, since custom hacks are available upon request, I’m anxious to see if Paul can build me a stand-alone GBA Player for my TV (he thinks he might).

To learn more, here’s a quick Q&A I conducted with Paul via email:

Where did you come up with the idea for usb nes controllers?

One winter break I wanted to spend some time playing my favorite games from my childhood but was having difficulty getting my NES to work. I realized I could now play games on my computer instead but it’s pretty much impossible to get your Contra on with a keyboard. Looking on the internet for a solution I realized there wasn’t anything that really satisfied me so I decided to convert a controller for myself. Now instead of playing those games like I planned I spend the majority of what free time I have building them for others.

What other controllers do you hack?

I don’t really set up any limits to what I’ll do, I’ve done something for nearly every console out there. Nearly every controller I offer started as a special request by my customers because I wouldn’t have expected people buy them. Mainly I stick with Nintendo though everything from the NES to Wii.

What are some of your favorite games? In your opinion, what’s the greatest gaming era ever?

My favorite console is the NES but its “era” was delayed for since how we share the same year of birth. I played it all through the 90’s and have many fond memories of saving up money to take my chance on a game from the pawn shop. I think that’s why my favorite games are what I would consider “buried treasure,” their games that I love but I rarely find people who’ve heard or played them. But you can be the judge of that here are a couple: Darkman, Rolling Thunder, Dig Dug II, Power Blade, and Tag Team Wrestling. Aside from that I like to play games like Super Mario Bros. Wii and Rockband with the family.

How do you price your products?

Honestly it all boils down to supply and demand. My prices started lower, but I quickly became overloaded trying to juggle the bushiness with School, another job, and  the wife and kids. In the end I had to raise my prices to where they are now to make it worth my time and effort. I do get complaints from time to time, but you have to realize there’s hardly anyone out there providing the services that I do. Because of that I get a lot of thanks from my customers and it makes it rewarding for both parties.

Anything else our readers might like to know?

First off I’m always open to ideas and requests via email ( I’m also more than willing to work with people and help where I can. To do this I like to  offer discounts on large orders, and credit for sending me a controller to be converted. I’ll also be offering free shipping to anyone who mentions this article till the end of August.