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Retro Console Wars: N64 vs. PS1

N64-Super-Smash-Bros

In another article I discussed the relative merits of the two main fifth-gen consoles—the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation (One)—during their first holiday seasons after launch. 

I’ve left out the Sega Saturn and other also-rans because I don’t consider them serious contenders. I’ll start with the advantages of each system before announcing my verdict at the end. So without further ado, I give you Console Wars: The Fifth Generation—N64 vs. PS1.  For me, it's about which console left a better retro gaming legacy.

Perhaps the most obvious advantage of the PlayStation over its whole lifespan is the depth of its game library. While only about 387 games were released for the N64, the PS1 offered over 1,100 titles (in North America). To put this in context, the PS1’s library was impressively large for its era while the N64’s was small even by the standards of the previous generation. The fourth-gen SNES had featured 784 games, for instance, while its main competitor, the Sega Genesis, had more than 900 games. The sixth-gen consoles continued to show the Nintendo- Final Fantasy ViiPlayStation disparity, with the GameCube offering 646 games and the PS2 sporting easily over 2,000. The Xbox, meanwhile, had 986 and even the ill-fated Dreamcast had 720. Quantity isn’t everything, of course, but it is something, and the wider variety of good PS1 games gives it the edge in this category.

Speaking of variety, the PS1 also wins in third-party support. This has been a classic flaw for Nintendo systems ever since the great video gaming crash of 1983, when a glut of terrible third-party games helped wreck the console industry for years until the NES resuscitated it. Scared away from third-party licensing by that horrible time, Nintendo has been less friendly to third-party developing than its younger competitors (who didn’t live through ’83) ever since. Unfortunately, this became more of a weakness than a strength as the console gaming industry matured and quality third-party games became a major selling point for consoles—Nintendo certainly has third-party games (as the onslaught of crap titles for the Wii made quite clear) but they’re not as good as their competitors at working with the best developers to get the best third-party games, relying instead on terrific first-party titles like Mario and Zelda and, during the N64 era, on the incredible second-party work of Rare (GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64, Blast Corps, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day).

This list of Rare-developed N64 games points out what is perhaps the N64’s crowning glory: sheer number of classics. The last cartridge-based console had so many. Aside from Rare’s, named above, there are the defining first-party games Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, Mario Party, Star Fox 64, and of course Super Smash Bros. (I’ll put Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap on this list, as honorary first-party games, too). The PlayStation may have offered a wider variety of developers’ visions of what console gaming could become, but the N64 is a great example of what has kept Nintendo in the game longer than any other console developer: their premiere titles are timeless. I know a lot more people who sit down in 2014 to play an N64 game than who replay a PS1 game. Like great movies, the gameplay of Nintendo’s top-shelf first- and second-party titles stays fun even two decades on, because these games are just so. well. made.

On the other hand, as the fifth generation got deeper into its life cycle, the PS1 began to pull ahead by virtue of being an optical-disc-based system. Around 650MB of data could fit on a PS1 optical disc, as opposed to around 64MB on an N64 cartridge, and many later PS1 games even expanded on that by using multiple discs (oh the joy of opening Final Fantasy VIII and seeing FOUR discs there…). This allowed developers to make longer, deeper, and richer titles as they learned the ropes of PS1 game development, whereas later N64 titles had a much harsher storage wall restricting how far they could take their games. As a result, PS1 gets the nod in terms of graphics, too, because later PS1 games could blow later N64 games away, through the inclusion, for example, of legit full motion video. Discs over cartridges also gave the PS1 the ultimate price advantage, for while the PS1 was $100 more expensive (at $300), games cost on average $10 less than for the N64 because cartridges cost more to produce, so once you’ve bought your 11th game, the PS1 was the cheaper console to play on. This earlier foray into disc-based gaming also meant that the PS1 was paving the way of the future, making third-party developers more comfortable with their processes and giving them an edge moving into future console generations, too.

On the other hand, the N64 had built-in four-player capability. In an era of local-only console gaming, this was huge. The PS1 simply could. not. compete. with something like GoldenEye 007 multiplayer. I know people who still play 007 multiplayer on a weekly basis today. In this and in Zelda Majoras Maskthe gaming library, the N64 was (and is) more attractive to casual and social gaming. I know a lot of people who are a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of today’s (non-Nintendo) game consoles, but most of them are comfortable with an ready to play an N64 (or a Wii, for that matter) in an instant. This is Nintendo’s bread and butter, and the N64 did (and does) a great job inviting people who don’t consider themselves gamers to sit down and play (as did the lower up-front investment in hardware, at only $200). Also in the N64’s favor are the faster load times that came with cartridge (rather than disc) gaming. And finally, as mentioned above, the N64’s enduring value is in replay, which is still fun to this day, in a way fewer PS1 games are.

So in the end, which wins—PS1 or N64? For me, it depends when you’re deciding. If you were only going to own one console during the fifth generation, from the mid-90s into the early 2000s, I’d tell you to get a PS1. The variety of great games, the depth, the cutting-edge tech made it a system of the future and the system that taught me that video games could be more than just entertainment—they could be as meaningful and moving as movies or books (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy VII).

But if the question is which system to pick up now, in 2014, to give some retro gaming a go, I’d tell you to get an N64. More N64 games have stood the test of time and remain fun decades after their release, in large part because they rely less on cutting-edge tech and focus more on rock-solid gameplay focused on fun rather than tech-savvy progress. This may also be because N64 games tend to be shorter, and when I retro game today, I tend to want a pick-up-and-play experience or short missions rather than a hundred-hour odyssey whose gameplay and tech specs feel dated. I can laugh at the blocky graphics of GoldenEye while still having a blast more than I can the lack of analog-stick movement during a 70-hour playthrough of Final Fantasy VII.

So that’s my verdict: the PS1 as the system of its time, but the N64 as having eroded less since. What do you think?

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Comments 7

Guest - Cabin Boi 24 on Saturday, 11 August 2018 19:22

PlayStation is better. Because it is the first major console to use optical discs instead of cartridges. And N64 is not backwards compatible. I know that the PlayStation is the first console in the PlayStation line, but because it uses optical discs, it can play audio CDs, so you can listen to music on your PlayStation! And the selection of games on PS1 is better. Crash Bandicoot Trilogy. Alien Resurrection. Treasure Planet. Shrek Treasure Hunt. The only PS1 game I have I know is on N64 is Tigger's Honey Hunt. Besides, nearly half of N64's game selection is Nintendo license things. (They are not bad or anything, just poor selection of games) and the controller of the PS1 is more comfortable to hold than that of the N64. So this concludes that the N64 is a trash console and PlayStation beats it by all standards.

PlayStation is better. Because it is the first major console to use optical discs instead of cartridges. And N64 is not backwards compatible. I know that the PlayStation is the first console in the PlayStation line, but because it uses optical discs, it can play audio CDs, so you can listen to music on your PlayStation! And the selection of games on PS1 is better. Crash Bandicoot Trilogy. Alien Resurrection. Treasure Planet. Shrek Treasure Hunt. The only PS1 game I have I know is on N64 is Tigger's Honey Hunt. Besides, nearly half of N64's game selection is Nintendo license things. (They are not bad or anything, just poor selection of games) and the controller of the PS1 is more comfortable to hold than that of the N64. So this concludes that the N64 is a trash console and PlayStation beats it by all standards.
Guest - JoeMcPants on Tuesday, 04 September 2018 18:54

Guest - Cabin Boi 24 Holy crap, you're extremely biased and ignorant.

Guest - Cabin Boi 24 Holy crap, you're extremely biased and ignorant.
Guest - aoeu on Wednesday, 20 March 2019 13:21

First console to use CDs? What about Turbo CD, Sega CD, Jaguar, Sega Saturn?

First console to use CDs? What about Turbo CD, Sega CD, Jaguar, Sega Saturn?
Guest - Lol on Sunday, 21 October 2018 11:59

N64 should win
It has more addictive games

N64 should win It has more addictive games
Guest - Yesica on Monday, 09 March 2020 10:18

I think you gave a fair analysis and hit the nail on the head. Both systems are amazing but at the time, ps1 was better, especially for the technology it helped mainstream made modern gaming what it is today. But n64 has really fun games that, as you say, have stood the test of time. I also 100% agree with the, ready to play, note. I feel like that applies to Nintendo in general. You can jump in and play and not feel overly inferior for not being a gamer. And I have always personally felt that Nintendo is a good family console because of that, and their multi player games are fun in general and not as focused on being overly competitive.
On personal note, there are a lot of games from both consoles that had a special place in my heart and both consoles are amazing in their own perspective.
Great article

I think you gave a fair analysis and hit the nail on the head. Both systems are amazing but at the time, ps1 was better, especially for the technology it helped mainstream made modern gaming what it is today. But n64 has really fun games that, as you say, have stood the test of time. I also 100% agree with the, ready to play, note. I feel like that applies to Nintendo in general. You can jump in and play and not feel overly inferior for not being a gamer. And I have always personally felt that Nintendo is a good family console because of that, and their multi player games are fun in general and not as focused on being overly competitive. On personal note, there are a lot of games from both consoles that had a special place in my heart and both consoles are amazing in their own perspective. Great article
Guest - Tommi Saintula on Thursday, 22 October 2020 22:14

Multiplayer games ! N64 vs. PS1 !
(There is a list in the end)

Does anybody else thinks, that Playstation's multiplayer library is criminally underrated, when comparing to Nintendo 64 ? (In this case multiplayer means at least three players)

Back in the day It was harder to find four players games to PS1, because there are so much games overall and about 50 multiplayer games if we do not count simulation based sport games. On N64 there are over 100 multiplayer games, but overall much less games, so it was easier to come by those games.

Nintendo did great move by combining multiplayer aspect with their most well known character Mario. Even today If you ask good multiplayer games for N64, first ones you will hear are Mario kart, Mario party, Super smash bros. Etc. PS1 got the same thing eventually with Crash bandicoot (Crash team racing, Crash bash), but most of it's multiplayer games burried into masses and some good ones were not released world wide (for example "Blaze and blade" was released on PAL and Japan)

And of course overall Nintendo marketed N64 as a multiplayer machine. For example four controllers build in, N64 game boxes show on front cover how many players a game supports, when on PS1 games that information is a little picture on back cover, overall, Nintendo wanted us to know that N64 is multiplayer machine. But Sony did not go without effort either. There were games like CTR and Speed freaks that got bundle packaging with multitap. However PS1's the biggest advantage against N64 is possibility to use two multitaps, which allows up to 8 players.

Now let's come to this day, when we have internet and all information easily accessible. it is no more problem to find out and get games. So If we compare the two consoles's multiplayer experiences , and how those games play today, both have many great multiplayer titles.

Considering how big the retro game scene has come, and how much people discuss and spread information,
I find it strange, that when talking/listing about N64's multiplayer games, people mention easily many four player games, but when talking about PS1, still many of the games are two players only. One example is watchmojo's videos about best multiplayer games for N64 and PS1, where all N64 games are four player, but with PS1 there are only two four player games mentioned ("Crash team racing" and "Smackdown"). This of course gives people opportunity to praise N64 as a ultimate party console, leaving PS1 mostly just a single player machine.

When PS1 mini was announced, I saw lot of wishes and predictions for it, but also for N64 mini (which looked likely back then). For N64 many feeled, that four controller support would be crucial for success. For PS1 I did not see even a single one comment about multi-tap (in the end I think there is only one game on the final list of games in the japanese PS1 mini that would support more than two players and that is "XI" also known "Devil's dice" on the west.)

Internet is full on debates about PS1 vs N64 and which one is the better console. That is why, I am surprised, that I have not seen people talking consoles's multiplayer experiences side by side. Usually a final verdict (based on memories from 20 years ago) is that N64 is a party machine and PS1 has it's RPGs. But like I said earlier, PS1 also has it's share of party games.

To proving my point, I made a list, where I took the most talked about N64 four player games (and some other good ones) and add them good PS1 alternatives. All games must have at least three players support and must have been released NTSC or PAL (so no Japan exclusives here). Also mentioned if over 4 players supported.

N64: Mario kart, Diddy kong racing, Snowboard kids 1-2
PS1: Crash team racing, Speed freaks, Street racer (8 players split screen)

N64: Mario party 1-3
PS1: Crash bash, Bishi bashi special, Board game top shop (6 players)

N64: Super smash brothers
PS1: Poy poy 1-2, Blood lines, Pitball

N64: Mario tennis
PS1: Klonoa beach volleyball

N64: Mario golf
PS1: Everybody's golf 1-2

N64: Conker's bad fur day, Star fox 64, Jet force gemini,
PS1: Team buddies

N64: Goldeneye, Future perfect, Turok rage wars, etc.
PS1: Quake II

N64: Banjo tooie, Pokemon stadium 1-2, Donkey kong 64, Kirby 64
PS1: Pong, Rampage through time, Warlords, Lords of lunar (8 players)

N64: Beetle adventure racing
PS1: Destruction derby raw

N64: Excite bike 64
PS1: Sled storm

N64: Gauntlet legends
PS1: Blaze and blade: Eternal quest,
Syndicate wars

N64: Vigilante 8/Second offence, Battle tanx/global assault
PS1: Twisted metal 3/4/brawl

N64: Dr. Mario 64
PS1: Devil's dice (5 players)

N64: Micro machines 64 (8 players via split controllers)
PS1: Micro machines V3 (8 players), Micro maniacs (8 players), Circuit breakers

N64: Bomberman 64, Bomberman: second attack
PS1: Bomberman party edition(5 players), Bomberman world (5 players)

N64: F-zero X, Wipeout 64, Rush 2049
PS1: Wipeout XL/3 special edition (I know this is quite streching , but via system link these games support 4 players)

So at FPS genre PS1 can't really fight back against all those classics and while Poy poy games are fun, Smash is just amazing. On the other hand PS1 compensates those losses for having games like Micro machines, Street racer and Lords of lunar for big parties.

There are not too many sites, that focus to the multiplayer aspects of the games for the different consoles, but "Snackbar- games" is the best I have found. Allthough it seems not to open anymore.http://www.snackbar-games.com/

So any thoughts ? What are/were your favourites ?

Multiplayer games ! N64 vs. PS1 ! (There is a list in the end) Does anybody else thinks, that Playstation's multiplayer library is criminally underrated, when comparing to Nintendo 64 ? (In this case multiplayer means at least three players) Back in the day It was harder to find four players games to PS1, because there are so much games overall and about 50 multiplayer games if we do not count simulation based sport games. On N64 there are over 100 multiplayer games, but overall much less games, so it was easier to come by those games. Nintendo did great move by combining multiplayer aspect with their most well known character Mario. Even today If you ask good multiplayer games for N64, first ones you will hear are Mario kart, Mario party, Super smash bros. Etc. PS1 got the same thing eventually with Crash bandicoot (Crash team racing, Crash bash), but most of it's multiplayer games burried into masses and some good ones were not released world wide (for example "Blaze and blade" was released on PAL and Japan) And of course overall Nintendo marketed N64 as a multiplayer machine. For example four controllers build in, N64 game boxes show on front cover how many players a game supports, when on PS1 games that information is a little picture on back cover, overall, Nintendo wanted us to know that N64 is multiplayer machine. But Sony did not go without effort either. There were games like CTR and Speed freaks that got bundle packaging with multitap. However PS1's the biggest advantage against N64 is possibility to use two multitaps, which allows up to 8 players. Now let's come to this day, when we have internet and all information easily accessible. it is no more problem to find out and get games. So If we compare the two consoles's multiplayer experiences , and how those games play today, both have many great multiplayer titles. Considering how big the retro game scene has come, and how much people discuss and spread information, I find it strange, that when talking/listing about N64's multiplayer games, people mention easily many four player games, but when talking about PS1, still many of the games are two players only. One example is watchmojo's videos about best multiplayer games for N64 and PS1, where all N64 games are four player, but with PS1 there are only two four player games mentioned ("Crash team racing" and "Smackdown"). This of course gives people opportunity to praise N64 as a ultimate party console, leaving PS1 mostly just a single player machine. When PS1 mini was announced, I saw lot of wishes and predictions for it, but also for N64 mini (which looked likely back then). For N64 many feeled, that four controller support would be crucial for success. For PS1 I did not see even a single one comment about multi-tap (in the end I think there is only one game on the final list of games in the japanese PS1 mini that would support more than two players and that is "XI" also known "Devil's dice" on the west.) Internet is full on debates about PS1 vs N64 and which one is the better console. That is why, I am surprised, that I have not seen people talking consoles's multiplayer experiences side by side. Usually a final verdict (based on memories from 20 years ago) is that N64 is a party machine and PS1 has it's RPGs. But like I said earlier, PS1 also has it's share of party games. To proving my point, I made a list, where I took the most talked about N64 four player games (and some other good ones) and add them good PS1 alternatives. All games must have at least three players support and must have been released NTSC or PAL (so no Japan exclusives here). Also mentioned if over 4 players supported. N64: Mario kart, Diddy kong racing, Snowboard kids 1-2 PS1: Crash team racing, Speed freaks, Street racer (8 players split screen) N64: Mario party 1-3 PS1: Crash bash, Bishi bashi special, Board game top shop (6 players) N64: Super smash brothers PS1: Poy poy 1-2, Blood lines, Pitball N64: Mario tennis PS1: Klonoa beach volleyball N64: Mario golf PS1: Everybody's golf 1-2 N64: Conker's bad fur day, Star fox 64, Jet force gemini, PS1: Team buddies N64: Goldeneye, Future perfect, Turok rage wars, etc. PS1: Quake II N64: Banjo tooie, Pokemon stadium 1-2, Donkey kong 64, Kirby 64 PS1: Pong, Rampage through time, Warlords, Lords of lunar (8 players) N64: Beetle adventure racing PS1: Destruction derby raw N64: Excite bike 64 PS1: Sled storm N64: Gauntlet legends PS1: Blaze and blade: Eternal quest, Syndicate wars N64: Vigilante 8/Second offence, Battle tanx/global assault PS1: Twisted metal 3/4/brawl N64: Dr. Mario 64 PS1: Devil's dice (5 players) N64: Micro machines 64 (8 players via split controllers) PS1: Micro machines V3 (8 players), Micro maniacs (8 players), Circuit breakers N64: Bomberman 64, Bomberman: second attack PS1: Bomberman party edition(5 players), Bomberman world (5 players) N64: F-zero X, Wipeout 64, Rush 2049 PS1: Wipeout XL/3 special edition (I know this is quite streching , but via system link these games support 4 players) So at FPS genre PS1 can't really fight back against all those classics and while Poy poy games are fun, Smash is just amazing. On the other hand PS1 compensates those losses for having games like Micro machines, Street racer and Lords of lunar for big parties. There are not too many sites, that focus to the multiplayer aspects of the games for the different consoles, but "Snackbar- games" is the best I have found. Allthough it seems not to open anymore.http://www.snackbar-games.com/ So any thoughts ? What are/were your favourites ?
Guest - Tommi Saintula on Thursday, 22 October 2020 22:18

Updated list with "Japan only" games + Saturn games

N64: Mario kart, Diddy kong racing, Snowboard kids 1-2
PS1: Crash team racing, Speed freaks, Street racer (8 players split screen)
SATURN: Street racer (8 players split screen)

N64: Mario party 1-3
PS1: Crash bash, Bishi bashi special, Board game top shop (6 players)

N64: Super smash brothers
PS1: Poy poy 1-2, Blood lines, Pitball, Rakugaki showtime (Japan only)
SATURN: Guardian heroes (6 players), Keriotosse! (Japan only)

N64: Mario tennis
PS1: Klonoa beach volleyball

N64: Mario golf
PS1: Everybody's golf 1-2

N64: Conker's bad fur day, Star fox 64, Jet force gemini
PS1: Team buddies

N64: Goldeneye, Future perfect, Turok rage wars, etc
PS1: Quake II

N64: Banjo tooie, Pokemon stadium 1-2, Donkey kong 64
PS1: Pong, Rampage through time, Warlords, Lords of lunar (8 players)
SATURN: Death tank/Zwei (6/7 players)

N64: Beetle adventure racing
PS1: Destruction derby raw

N64: Excite bike 64
PS1: Sled storm

N64: Gauntlet legends
PS1: Blaze and blade: Eternal quest, Syndicate wars
SATURN: Three dirty dwarves

N64: Vigilante 8/Second offence, Battle tanx/global assault
PS1: Twisted metal 3/4/brawl
SATURN: Vatlva (6 players, Japan only)

N64: Dr. Mario 64, The New tetris, Bust-a-move 3 DX, Puyo puyo~n party (Japan only)
PS1: Devil's dice (5 players), Tetris X (Japan only), Puyo puyo box (Japan only)
SATURN: Noon (Japan only)

N64: International track and field 2000
PS1: International track and field 1/2
SATURN: Winter heat

N64: Micro machines 64 (8 players via split controllers)
PS1: Micro machines V3 (8 players), Micro maniacs (8 players), Circuit breakers

N64: Bomberman 64, Bomberman: second attack
PS1: Bomberman party edition(5 players), Bomberman world (5 players)
SATURN: Saturn bomberman (10 players), Bomberman fight!! (Japan only), Hansa de spark (Japan only)

N64: F-zero X, Wipeout 64, Rush 2049
PS1: Wipeout XL/3 special edition (I know this is quite streching , but via system link these games support 4 players

Updated list with "Japan only" games + Saturn games N64: Mario kart, Diddy kong racing, Snowboard kids 1-2 PS1: Crash team racing, Speed freaks, Street racer (8 players split screen) SATURN: Street racer (8 players split screen) N64: Mario party 1-3 PS1: Crash bash, Bishi bashi special, Board game top shop (6 players) N64: Super smash brothers PS1: Poy poy 1-2, Blood lines, Pitball, Rakugaki showtime (Japan only) SATURN: Guardian heroes (6 players), Keriotosse! (Japan only) N64: Mario tennis PS1: Klonoa beach volleyball N64: Mario golf PS1: Everybody's golf 1-2 N64: Conker's bad fur day, Star fox 64, Jet force gemini PS1: Team buddies N64: Goldeneye, Future perfect, Turok rage wars, etc PS1: Quake II N64: Banjo tooie, Pokemon stadium 1-2, Donkey kong 64 PS1: Pong, Rampage through time, Warlords, Lords of lunar (8 players) SATURN: Death tank/Zwei (6/7 players) N64: Beetle adventure racing PS1: Destruction derby raw N64: Excite bike 64 PS1: Sled storm N64: Gauntlet legends PS1: Blaze and blade: Eternal quest, Syndicate wars SATURN: Three dirty dwarves N64: Vigilante 8/Second offence, Battle tanx/global assault PS1: Twisted metal 3/4/brawl SATURN: Vatlva (6 players, Japan only) N64: Dr. Mario 64, The New tetris, Bust-a-move 3 DX, Puyo puyo~n party (Japan only) PS1: Devil's dice (5 players), Tetris X (Japan only), Puyo puyo box (Japan only) SATURN: Noon (Japan only) N64: International track and field 2000 PS1: International track and field 1/2 SATURN: Winter heat N64: Micro machines 64 (8 players via split controllers) PS1: Micro machines V3 (8 players), Micro maniacs (8 players), Circuit breakers N64: Bomberman 64, Bomberman: second attack PS1: Bomberman party edition(5 players), Bomberman world (5 players) SATURN: Saturn bomberman (10 players), Bomberman fight!! (Japan only), Hansa de spark (Japan only) N64: F-zero X, Wipeout 64, Rush 2049 PS1: Wipeout XL/3 special edition (I know this is quite streching , but via system link these games support 4 players
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