Controversy alert! Yes, that’s right I – a mere single mortal – am putting myself on the line and taking on one of the most classical battles of video game history. As classic as Megadrive vs. Super Nintendo, Simon Belmont vs. Dracula and Sonic the Hedgehog vs. His own slowly dying career. I will openly admit to all who read this that I can only write this from my personal perspective, so if there are things I have missed or things you disagree with – drop me a comment below and get involved! Or just shout abuse at your monitor and hope that I hear it. Your call. I will, however, try my best to research the facts and be as impartial as I can, I’m going to break the clash in to 6 different sections and award points to the winner of each. Design, Controller, Games Library, Graphics & Gameplay, Accessories and Soundtrack.
Let’s start at the beginning – how do they look? It seems like a small point, and I suppose ultimately it is, but the way something looks can really be a factor in a stack up like this. In the interest of fairness I’m only going to look at the original versions of each console, fresh off the press from their manufacturers.
Above: The 2 Consoles Side by Side
I always liked the design of the Nintendo 64, it was curved and shapely. It looked intentional and it had the discreet logo on the front which stared you in the face from your TV stand. The stock console came in a dark grey, but colour variations were available too ranging from fire orange to jungle green. The console had 4 controller ports as standard and opted for the classic top-loader format with cartridge games. There were two buttons on either side, a switch for power and a button for resetting should things get ropey. There was also a slot in situated at the front of the top of the console, this would be where an Expansion Pak would be inserted to upgrade the consoles RAM. All in all, a sleek console and simple to use.
The more modern and grown-up looking of the two, the PlayStation looks a bit more like a DVD player than a console – not that that’s a bad thing. The way the console looks like it’s built up of panels that slot together was cool and the round centre panel that housed the disc drive was a great touch. As if to say “top loader? Pffft, so last gen.” Sony’s console only came in a grey colour and out of the box only had ports for 2 controllers instead of 4 (although a multi-tap could be purchased to allow for 5 player gameplay, or 8 player if you used two simultaneously). The layout of the buttons of the console was very similar to Nintendo’s, but with the addition of a button to open the disc drive.
I think it’s fair to say that this decision is entirely preference based. For me, the Nintendo 64 is the winner. The boxy design of the PS1 just wasn’t to my taste and the lack of controller ports was a bummer. The top loader style of the N64 meant that the console was quieter and smoother with less moving parts that could fail – but what that meant for the games and functionality is a different story altogether…
Nintendo 64 wins
The most vital component to any games console – the way you interact with the games and experience them. Without a good controller none of the other points would matter, fact. So, how do the two console giants stack up, let’s take a look;
Left: The N64 Controller.
Right Top: The Original PS1 Controller.
Right Bottom: The Redesigned Dualshock 2 PS1 Controller
For most people, their first impression of the N64 controller is something like this: “What is this? How do I even…?” – and for good reason. The controller had 3 prongs in an “M” type design, which is strange. Really strange. The concept behind the design was that one of the prongs was for analogue control and the other for a Directional Pad and, for a first-go at a dual control gamepad, it wasn’t actually that bad. Just confusing. Once you wrapped your head around that concept the next obstacle was the “C” buttons, which were a cluster of directional buttons placed above the conventional A and B buttons. They weren’t the easiest things to use, but once you got used to them it was handy to have the extra buttons to give you more control over the game. More buttons = more control. But in a lot of games the C buttons were just sort of there and were often used for peripheral and occasional use since they were a bit more difficult to use. Tucked behind the central prong was a trigger button which was great for shooting games and was often a primary button in the game, as most opted for the analogue control so the trigger was convenient for use. In additional to all these other buttons there were also 2 “bumper” buttons on the top shoulders of the controller – making 9 buttons in total (including “start”). Big and awkward on first use, but they did the job once you got used to them. Part of the sizing issue was because the controllers had built in memory slots (which could be used for rumble packs and other things too) rather than having memory slots on the console like on the PlayStation 1.
Now this is more like it! When you pick up a PlayStation 1 controller it feels natural – you know how to hold it without even being told, unlike the N64 which required a short tutorial video and a map of the buttons. The original controller only had Directional Pad control, but the later models incorporated dual analogue stick controllers – rendering the N64’s “C” buttons redundant. The lack of plug-in peripheral slots made the controllers neat, smaller and overall easier to handle. The triangular button layout was brilliant and required little learning-curve to get used to. So much so that it’s still being used on current-gen consoles. Same applies for the dual analogue input as well, making the PlayStation 1 controller future proof and, I suppose, ahead of its time.
Now don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adore the Nintendo 64 controller. Like a lot of Nintendo’s video game ventures, it was unique and bold. They tried something new and broke new ground. But I don’t think anyone can deny that Sony really nailed it with the PlayStation 1 controller, for starters it’s the basis of design for the current gen console controllers! Apart from Nintendo’s that is (ironic, no?). It was comfortable to use and became second nature to gamers worldwide, no one could complain.
PlayStation 1 wins
Without a game to play, a games console is just an expensive door stop. The thing that most people hold dearest in their heart about their consoles is the games they played on them, in particular the flagship games and mascots. The NES would be nothing without Super Mario, the Megadrive forgettable without Sonic the Hedgehog. So which one of these technological powerhouses had the best games? Bear in mind that I can only really base this on the games I owned/played, so please proceed with at your own risk.
Above: Cover art for Super Mario 64 and Metal Gear Solid. Epic exclusives from each console
As regular viewers of the QFG YouTube channel will know – my Nintendo 64 was my pride and joy as a young lad and I still own a lot of the games from back then. Nintendo had somewhat of a head start in this category having franchises like Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Starfox and The Legend of Zelda in their arsenal. Nintendo also had revolutionary game developers Rare (or at least, they were revolutionary…) in their corner. Rare’s games roster from 1996-2001 can barely by described by mere words alone. It was Godlike – Conkers Bad fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Killer Instinct, Donkey Kong 64. JESUS! I’m having a nerdgasm just thinking about it. In addition to Rare’s games, Nintendo fans were also treated with plentiful games from Nintendo’s exclusive brands like Pokémon Snap & Stadium, Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Starfox’s Lylat Wars and of course – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time and Majora’s Mask. As awesome as these games are, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Nintendo 64’s games library was dwarfed by Sony’s Playstation 1’s library.
As a kid with a Nintendo 64 growing up I always looked on in envy at my friends with a PlayStation 1, and for good reason. One of the most popular gaming franchises of all time made it’s smash hit on this console and blew us all away: Metal Gear Solid. This game really showcased what the PlayStations CD technology what capable of, with awesome voice acting, incredible cut scenes and dazzling graphics. The game was epic. Other games that boasted the technological strengths of the console included the top selling PlayStation 1 game of all time: Final Fantasy VII. I don’t think anyone anywhere was not totally flawed by this game… unless you’re not in to that kind of game, that is. Fans of action adventure were also treated to the Tomb Raider games, which were genre-defining, dawning film adaptations starring Angelina Jolie and are still running to this day. The games on the PlayStation felt more like interactive films and no, I don’t mean like the God-awful Sega CD and Phillips CD-i games did. More because they were large in scale and always felt a bit more “grown up” – hence a lot of the stick Nintendo got for being a kiddy console. Lest we not forget Crash Bandicoot, a household name during the late 90’s and early 00’s. The games were fun, well made and proved a well earned tipping-point for Naughty Dog studios. As a huge Resident Evil fan I was also extremely annoyed that Resident Evil 2 barely made it on to the N64 – about a year after it’s PS1 release! Not to mention that Capcom’s later survival horror entries wouldn’t even appear on Nintendo’s 64-bit console. I remember hearing the PlayStation kids at school talking about Dino Crisis and I was just sat there like “God-fucking-dammit!”.
See, now look what I’ve done. I’ve put myself at an impasse. My gut is telling me to go with Nintendo on this one, but I can’t help but shake the fact that it’s all down to my own personal bias. I owned a Nintendo 64 back then so games like Ocarina of Time and Starfox Lylat Wars really strike emotional chords for me. If this blog was purely emotional and personal, I would side with my old buddy the N64 day-in and day-out. I mean Conkers Bad Fur Day! That’s gotta be worth at least 4 Crash Bandicoot games surely? No? Okay… There’s no doubt that the PlayStations CD technology made the games smoother and sound better and I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the PS1 games library is much larger than that of the N64, which actually has a very small collection compared to most consoles. The waning sales of the console and the difficult-to-program-for and near obsolete games format meant that Nintendo were fighting a losing battle against Sony. The Playstation 1 was one of the most popular games consoles of all time, sales wise, and as a result it made more sense to make games for it and to pour more time and effort in to the games themselves. It seemed to me that Rare, Nintendo and arguably Lucas Arts were the only developers that really gave 100% to their Nintendo 64 titles. It also used to be grind my gears how most titles on the N64 had “64” at the end of them. Like, yeah we get it Nintendo, STOP!
PlayStation 1 wins… However,
Here’s a worthy Sidenote: according to Wikipedia’s “List of Video Games Considered to be the Best” – which contains 25 titles in total – the Nintendo 64 has 3 games which appear in the top 10. These are The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (no. 1), Super Mario 64 (no. 3) and Goldeneye (no. 9). Whereas the PlayStation 1 only has Final Finatasy VII (no. 6). However of the total 25 games listed there are 6 N64 games in total and 8 from the PS1. So you could argue the quality-over-quantity argument here and award the point to Nintendo, especially considering the difference in the amount of games available for each console. Just sayin’ Sony fans.
Graphics & Gameplay
I am a big believer that better graphics don’t always make a better game, but it’s an on ongoing quest for game developers worldwide to make the most realistic looking experience possible. As for arcade games, where realism wasn’t a primary goal, it was all about harnessing the technology to make the most engaging and streamlined games. In this instance the word “graphics” isn’t exclusively for the realism factor but also the colours, shades, lines and all that stuff that we gamers take for granted. The interesting difference here with the PlayStation 1 and the Nintendo 64 is the format of the games themselves – with the N64 utilising the top loader cartridge system and the PlayStation 1 using the now popular CD drive technology. However the N64, as a later console, boasted higher technical specifications. An interesting match indeed!
Above: Screenshots from Conker’s Bad Fur Day (N64, Left) And Tomb Raider the Last Revelation (Ps1, Right)
As I mentioned, the Nintendo 64 was released in 1997 in Europe after the PlayStation 1 which was launched in 1995. If we were to look at technical specs alone the Nintendo outweighs the PlayStation by quite a bit – the obvious example is in the title. Nintendo’s console was a 64-bit console whereas Sony’s was only 32-bit. The complications all lie with the game formats, the cartridges that N64 games came on were restrictive and difficult to program. The result was that most multi-platform games didn’t utilise the full potential of the consoles spec and, as I mentioned, it was only the exclusive developers like Rare who really seemed to put the full effort in. If you want a true showcase of what the Nintendo was capable of you NEED to check out Conkers Bad Fur Day. Seriously. Although the Nintendo 64 was a 64-bit console a lot of developers opted for the easier 32-bit build due to programming and size restraints. The console had 4mb of RAM and an expansion pack was released for the console upgrading it to 8mb, as opposed to PlayStations 2mb of RAM. The extra power meant that 3D graphics looked smoother and had less pixilation and the colour pallet was also broader on the N64.
Although the PlayStation 1 may lack some of the technical capabilities of the Nintendo 64 a lot of ground was made up on the physical game format. The CD-ROM technology used by Sony was easier to program for and less restrictive that the 64’s cartridges. This meant that more games used the full power of the console and, in addition, meant that the sounds were crisper and the animation more fluid – thanks to the faster reading CD technology. Frickin’ laser beams! *insert Dr. Evil pinky finger to mouth here* The games, although more pixelated in nature, usually had more content and utilised more FMV’s due to the extra space on the CD’s. The 3D textures on the PlayStation 1 were more pixelated due to the older tech inside the console, although it certainly wasn’t to a degree that really affected the overall experience. Interestingly enough a lot of the multi-platform titles of the time generally looked very similar and, depending on which of the two consoles the devs favoured, would usually have one clear winner. Often it was the PlayStation because, as I’ve mentioned, the CD-ROM format was easier to program for. I’ll never forget the first time I played a WWE game on the PS1 – the difference was like night and day! It was way better on the PlayStation 1 and that pissed me off!
Like most of the categories here it’s a close one and PlayStations saving grace really is the game format. The fairest comparison I can make it between what I believe are the consoles best performing titles, I’ll look at Conkers Bad Fur Day on the N64 and Final Fantasy IX on the PS1. Both games look incredible for their time, truly some of the best showcase of graphics for each console. For me, conkers bad fur day takes it – the graphics are smoother, colours more vibrant and the more power N64 has great facial animations and textures. I’ll also do a multiplatform comparison, just so there’s no hard feelings. I’ll pick two games which made it on to both consoles – Resident Evil 2 and Army Men Sarge’s Hero’s. I loved both games and played both of them on both consoles, hence why I picked them! The key differences in the graphics of the games lies mainly with the textures – with Resident Evil 2 the PS1 textures were more detailed arguably, but more pixelated and “jagged” to look at. The N64 had smooth lines but almost blurred details on some of the textures, but it did make the animations nice and smooth. The FMV’s on the other hand are where the PlayStation pulls away. Thanks to the CD-ROM technology the video’s are smooth with good textures, colours and crisp sounds. On the Nintendo the same custscene looked bland and jumpy with lacking sound effects by comparison. I’m aware that the N64 version was really just a port from the Playstation 1, but with it being a year in the making I would hope they at least tried to tap in to the N64’s hardware capabilities! With Sarge’s Hero’s the design of the game suited the N64’s graphical capabilities a bit more I think, and the extended versatility of the colours of the N64 really shone through. With FMV’s playing a much lesser role in this game I think the Nintendo 64 takes the cake. Given that the PlayStation 1 is an older console I think it put up one hell of a fight against the N64 but ultimately the newer tech in Nintendo’s console made the difference.
Nintendo 64 Wins
For me, accessories have never really been a key part of gaming although I do appreciate their place in the industry. It’s always nice to see gaming companies introducing new ways for their fans to interact with and play their games, and some of the best party games involve a peripheral of some kind. I am a sucker for a good Guitar Hero session and I recently revisiting the EyeToy on the PlayStation 2 on the channel for Christmas was great fun. They make for a fresh experience and give gamers a break from the monotony of controller based gameplay. To keep this fair and short I’ll only be looking at the key licenced accessories for both consoles which made an appearance in Europe. I’m also going to ignore memory cards which I touched on briefly in the console design section.
Above: The PlayStation GunCon (Left) and the N64 Rumble Pak and Transfer Pak (Right)
Let’s get this out of the way first – no gun?? What the hell Nintendo? Almost every major console had their own version of a gun for arcade style shooters, but Nintendo never released one for the 64. I know it was around the time FPS’s were taking off and a gun accessory wouldn’t have worked there but come one! Topping off the list for the Nintendo was the Rumble Pak – a chunky bit of kit which plugged in to any N64 controller to provide haptic feedback by way of vibration. Only downside was it needed 2 AAA batteries and this beast ate through them quick. Still it was a nice feature and way to introduce controller vibration which wasn’t available in the PlayStations stock controller at the time, but it would be introduced shortly after the Rumble Packs release in the new DualShock controller. Next up the N64’s most crucial bit of optional extra kit was the Expansion Pak, which slotted directly in to the console and provided an extra 4mb of RAM. Not all games utilised it, so it wasn’t essential, but most made use of the Pak if it was installed – offering better graphics, resolution or features. Some of the larger scale games like Donkey Kong 64 and Perfect Dark required an Expansion Pak to run, so you had no choice but to buy one if you wanted to play these games. The only other accessory worth mentioning for the N64 is the Transfer Pak which allowed gamers to connect their Gameboy games to the console and transfer information from one to the other, or even play their Gameboy games on the big screen. It was a nice idea, but outside of Japan the main games that took advantage of this were the Pokémon Stadium games, which worked alongside the Gameboy Pokémon games of the time. That’s about it, really. On an interesting side note – did you know Nintendo actually released an add-on disc drive for the N64 in Japan called the 64DD? It was announced in 1995 but didn’t make it to the public until 1999 after a number of delays and issues. There were loads of games pegged for realise and it and even had a mouse to play games like Sim City and Mario Artist. After poor sales and only 10 game releases it was scrapped and named a commercial failure for the gaming giant. Ouch.
Well let’s start with the obvious: The GunCon! Using the now out-dated light gun technology this was a great peripheral for games like Time Crisis, Resident Evil Survivor and Die Hard Trilogy 2. Classic. The console also went through its fair share of controller variances, starting with the standard PlayStation controller, then the Dual Analogue controller and finally the fan-favourite DualShock. Interestingly enough there is another which a lot of people forget about, the PlayStation Analogue Joystick, which served as a sort of precursor to the Dual Analogue controller. Another licensed controller which made an appearance, albeit for a very specific purpose, was the JogCon which was produced by Namco to be compatible with their racing title Ridge Racer R4. The controller featured a “dial” in the centre which was used as a sort of streering wheel to control the cars in the game. The dial provided force feedback to give gamers a feel for controlling the car – things like torque steer, collisions and turning could be felt through the dial. Pretty cool! It’s just a shame that it wasn’t really compatible with any other racing games. For gamers who looked on at the stock 4 controller port N64 there was the MultiTap, which plugged in to the second controller port and extended the maximum number of players to 5! Take that Nintendo! What’s more, you could plug another Multitap in to the first controller port and have up to 8 players. Wow! So, although the inclusion of only 2 controller ports was a point against Sony in console design it’s definitely a point earned in the accessory section. Granted there weren’t many games that took advantage of 5+ players in game at one time. Whilst we’re talking multiplayer, Sony also released the PlayStation Link Cable which allowed 2 consoles to be connected together. This allowed compatible multiplayer games to be played on 2 separate consoles at the same time, to the dismay of screen cheaters alike. The PlayStation even had an official mouse that was released for the console, which came packaged with a nice PlayStation branded mouse mat. It was mainly used for point & click adventure games but in the late stages of its life it was utilised by some first-person shooters to try an emulate the controls of a PC. Worth an honorary mention is the Japanese exclusive PocketStation, which was a peculiar item to say the least. It was kind of a cross between a memory card, a personal assistant and a gaming device to expand on the console games. Although it never made it out of Japan Sony reported nearly 5 million sales of the PocketStation before it’s discontinuation in July 2002.
I think this one is pretty cut-and-dry, with no gun to offer and a mere variety of controller “Pak’s” the N64 didn’t really have much to offer in terms of accessories. Sony’s console on the other hand had different controller variations, a mouse, a gun and all sorts of other accessories. I’m aware that both consoles had other big accessories available on the market, like the GameShark or Tilt Pak for N64 but I’m only counting those officially licensed by the respective console manufacturers. Like I said, peripherals aren’t really my thing when it comes to gaming but there’s no doubt that Sony dominates this area of the fight.
PlayStation 1 wins
A games effect on a player can be made or broken by the soundtrack, much like a movie. As a big music lover and wannabe musician I can say honestly that video game soundtracks played a huge part in moulding my tastes and character as I grew up and even continue to do so today. This is a tricky one to decide because, at the end of the day, all music is subjective. There really is no right or wrong, a song I love might be one you hate. So how can we possibly hope to settle this one? Well, fortunately Wikipedia user Maplestrip has compiled a list of the 18 most highly rated video game soundtracks according to licenced publications’ viewer polls. Admittedly the article is, as it states, slightly outdated now and is restricted to primarily English speaking regions amongst other limitations, but it will do for the purposes of this blog! According to the list, which features games like Super Mario Bros for the NES and Shadow of the Colossus for the PS2, there are a total of 4 games listed from the Playstation 1 library. From the highest ranking down these are; Casltevania: Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill. Whereas the Nintendo 64’s only entry on the list is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Although it is worth mentioning that the Ocarina of Time is highest ranking of all the titles listed above at Number 2, bested only by Chrono Trigger for the SNES. We must also factor in the fact that the audio quality was better on the PlayStation 1’s CD-ROM games, too.
PlayStation 1 wins
So after all that, the final scores are as follows:
PlayStation 1: 4 Points.
Nintendo 64: 2 Points.
And there you have it! Both of these consoles were great and definitely earned their place in gaming history. They proved essential stepping stones in the progression of gaming consoles and won our hearts, whether you owned a PlayStation 1 or a Nintendo 64 it’s fair to say you probably loved it. Holding dear countless memories of gaming with friends and family or by yourself embarking on epic journeys, heart-pounding races and gripping battles. This is one of the things I love about gaming; it unites us and gets people so passionate. Fighting over who’s is best like we were defending a little brother, I remember me and my friends arguing over the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 1 for weeks, no months! At the time, I would have backed Nintendo’s corner all day and night so it’s surprising to even me that I have crowned PlayStation the winner in my own blog. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my N64 and I’ll keep playing it on the channel until there are no more games left to play, but hats off to Sony – the Nintendo 64 never stood a chance.
Disagree? Think I’ve missed important points in my comparison? Drop me a comment below and get involved! Help me defend the N64 and win back ground against the PlayStation… Please! This blog took me what seems like an eternity to write, so don’t be surprised if my next few entries are a few sentences long, now I’m off to drink some whiskey and play N64!
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!