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Hardware Platform Nintendo 64 Vs. PlayStation: Which console was more innovative?

Jubenhimer

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The 5th generation of video games was perhaps one of the most important in gaming history. The transition to 3D. While a lot of games from earlier in the gen are hard to go back to these days, there's no denying the impact it had on gaming as a whole. Leading the revolution were the two main consoles that gen. Nintendo 64, from Nintendo Co., Ltd., and industry newcomer PlayStation, from Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. In fact the PlayStation itself was the result of a sour deal between Nintendo and Sony regarding a CD-based add-on for the Super Nintendo, leading to Sony to take on the gaming market themselves. Both consoles were perhaps the most innovative platforms for their time, helping to define the way 3D games should look, feel, and play.



The Nintendo 64 was rather forward thinking with its odd, but interesting controller design, featuring an analog thumb-stick in the center to allow for 360 movement at various speeds depending on how far its moved, as well as 4 C-Buttons designed for Camera control. Features that were demonstrated in its flagship title, Super Mario 64. As it was the most powerful home console that generation, the N64 allowed for high quality 3D graphics to accommodate its unique control interface. The system innovated in other ways too, such as having 4-controller ports built into the system, encouraging more multiplayer-oriented titles such as Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., and Mario Party.

The system also hosted a ton of accessories, including the Rumble Pak, which allowed for force feedback vibration in games, put to good use in its pack-in title, Star Fox 64. If that wasn't enough, the console also featured a bay for expandable RAM, IE the Expansion Pak. For as unique and innovative as the N64 was, it's biggest flaw was and will always be, its cartridge format. Only being able to hold a meager 64 MB AT MOST, cartridge size was the biggest limitation developers would have to go through if they wanted to make the most out of the Nintendo 64.



That's where Sony's PlayStation comes in. While CD-based platforms weren't a new thing at the time of the PlayStation's launch, the PlayStation was not only one of the first consoles that used CDs as standard rather than as an add-on, but it's arguably the first console that was actually powerful enough to do the format justice. While not quite as strong as the N64, the PlayStation's specs were pretty impressive for its time, allowing for high quality 3D models and environments. With its combination of cutting-edge 3D graphics and CD format, the PlayStation fundamentally changed how games could be presented. A standard CD could hold 700 MB, which meant characters could be fully voiced, pre-rendered videos could be played, high-quality music could be streamed, and game worlds could be bigger and seemingly limitless.

The PlayStation could finally allow for games to be as cinematic and lengthy as any good book or movie, and the use of the format combined with the console's power, made it appealing to a hip young casual audience who would've otherwise never touched a game controller. Unlike the N64, the PlayStation was able to create interactive Musicals (Parappa The Rapper, Bust a Move), Sprawling, text-heavy adventures (Final Fantasy VII), Lengthy story driven experiences (Metal Gear Solid), and easily implement popular songs in-game (Tony Hawk's Pro Skater).

The PlayStation also featured other innovations. The Memory Card, while more a necessary evil than a forward thinking feature, was the first time a console allowed for save data back up independently from the game itself, allowing game data to be easily transferred from console to console. After the Nintendo 64 showed what analog inputs can do for 3D gaming, Sony introduced the dual analog and later the dualshock controller for the system. Sony expanded upon Nintendo's design by adding a second analog stick, baking the rumble feature right into the controller, and having each stick also act as another button. While hardly any games on the original PlayStation used the second stick, the addition of a second analog input allowed for a more intuitive means of camera control than Nintendo's clunky C-button solution.

So between these features and how the games utilized them, which console was more innovative for its time?
 

FingerBang

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From a hardware perspective, Nintendo made analog sticks, triggers and rumble mainstream. We're still using those nowadays. This is a win for the N64.

But I think PlayStation really made games mainstream and was able to kill the idea they were for kids.

Overall, I would say they were both important in shaping today's gaming landscape, though I'd give PS the edge considering how many series still alive today were born there
 

UnNamed

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N64 had some really groundbraking games, like Zelda with Z-target and Tod, SM64 as a 3d platform, Perfect Dark, the rumble (ok it's not a game).

But overall PS1 was better with dome risky games.
 
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Hunnybun

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N64 and it's not even close.

The analogue stick alone was more revolutionary than anything the PlayStation introduced. It basically determined how games would be designed for 3d graphics for decades to come.

The z trigger was also basically the forebear of the modern sticks and triggers primary control scheme, so that was another huge advance.

The rumble pak was another nice little bonus on top.

All these things were genuine innovations. Yes, the move to CDs and similar storage changed games fundamentally, but it wasn't even PlayStation's innovation. That's like saying the PS5 introduced SSDs.
 

Tschumi

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PS!

N64
  • Analog stick paired WITH gameplay mechanics
  • Texture filtering
  • Anti Aliasing
  • Rumble Pak
PS
  • CD

N64 was waymore advanced BUT the Risc Processor of the PS was way cheaper and easier to develop
i dunno if that's totally accurate and straightup but it does rather cause me to doff my cap to N64 regardless of my opinions on the OP
 
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Shut0wen

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Hard one for me, like others have mentioned the n64 innovatived and incorporated alot of ideas which to this day are used by sony and microsoft, id go with n64 as the only thing new sony brought in was cds a memory cards (i think) if were tslking about games nintendo had some of the best games of its genre on the console, OOT sm64, f zero, sin and punishment star fox, golden eye and perfect dark but at the same time playstation had way more games that were enjoyable ( imo n64 has alot more bad games then good games) so yeah n64 as a console and having the best games of all time but playstation for having way more enjoyable games then the duds on n64
 

skit_data

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The fact that the N64 went with storage limited cartridges really held it back.

PS changed the playing field entirely in so many ways.

I’m a little biased because the PS was my first console and only years later I got a N64 and despite its better graphics I never had that ”wow”-feeling. I had already experienced 3D games and really great audio through my PS.

Gamecube on the other hand, I still regard as a better console than PS2.
 

sncvsrtoip

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Psx, its not even comparison imo, psx arrive 94 and in some way started 3d game era, n64 debut in 96 bring better graphics tough with some constraint due lack of cd
 
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i dunno if that's totally accurate and straightup but it does rather cause me to doff my cap to N64 regardless of my opinions on the OP
Just from a technical viewpoint N64 was a downscaled cgi computer used for movies like Terminator 2 and other blockbusters it was high tech stuff at the time. The hardware design philosophy of the PS was pushing and manipulating polygones as cheap and easy as possible. For example the typical texture warping of the PS was a direct result using hardware without calculating decimal numbers. It looks "funny" but saves a lot of rendering time and is way cheaper to produce.

Edit: found a complimentary vid for this thread
 
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Trimesh

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If you're using pure innovation as the criterion, I think it has to be the N64 - it used a lot of stuff that was genuinely bleeding edge at the time for a consumer product like unified memory and a fully programmable microcoded graphics subsystem. The biggest problem was that the core logic was so complex and expensive that everything else had to be stripped down to keep the cost at an acceptable level. This led to things like tiny RAM buffers in the RCP (which is why the textures are all so simple), very limited caching and a narrow memory interconnect. Couple this with the extreme pattern sensitivity of the old 9-bit Rambus memory they were using and you end up with an architecture that can choke really easily and needs very careful tuning. The slower than predicted decrease in the costs of the gate arrays it was designed using also resulted in a time to market penalty.

So IMO it was a great system from an innovation point of view - but that didn't translate to any great advantages as a product.

The PSX took almost exactly the opposite approach - it was based around mostly mature tech with a couple of reasonable extrapolations (like that a 1m gate equivalent chip would be mainstream by the time it hit production) and mostly correctly predicted what was going to be mainstream by that point (like the use of EDO/HyperPage memory) - they did have a miss on the use of dual-ported VRAM since that never really became mainstream (and Sony ended up redesigning the system to use SGRAM) - it also used a much more traditional partitioned design (I.E. it had separate memory pools for the CPU, the GPU and audio), so it didn't suffer from the "performance suddenly drops off a cliff" problem that plagued N64 developers.

IMO, the N64 certainly had innovation on it's side - but the PSX was arguably a better design for a consumer product in the mid 90's.
 

AV

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Quality over quantity.

N64 had better games IMO. It was just missing Xenogears.

Also, N64 games load faster than PS5 games.

PS1 had both, for my money. The top games on N64 were absolutely outstanding but there was only about a dozen of them, and a lot of ports like THPS weren't worth the plastic they were printed on on N64.
 
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alienator

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Playstations innnovation was bringing its competitors down on their knees and taking them years to recover from it!! (Nintendo, Sega)

Yeah it has copied everything from them like analogue sticks and rumble but it brought gaming innto a huge mainstream area with wipeout, tekkens and arguably the best software lineup ever. Its shear number of hits produced then, are still running series today
 

YCoCg

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Considering to this day the main consoles use a variant of the controller layout of the Dual Shock, I'd say the PS1. I'd also say the PS1 for a lot of the audio stuff it had over the N64 but sadly no one really cares about audio, just graphics.

edit: And Nintendo didn't invent the Analog sticks, they get falsely credited it for it.
 
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VideoMan

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Having good games doesn't make a console innovative. N64 easily had the more forward thinking design. It's not even close.
 

FingerBang

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Always that cravat, copy someone else and claim the win.

Let's look at what they copied and failed with *radio static*.
My point is, they didn't invent them. They added them to their console and showed us how to use them with games. They made them popular.

Did Nintendo invent motion controls? Nope. And yet, no one gave a crap about them before the Wii. Same with Apple and touch screens on phones.
 
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The PlayStation also featured other innovations. The Memory Card, while more a necessary evil than a forward thinking feature, was the first time a console allowed for save data back up independently from the game itself, allowing game data to be easily transferred from console to console.

So between these features and how the games utilized them, which console was more innovative for its time?


Sorry to crush a dream. CDi and hell even Saturn had better FMV playback with their movie cards. The Neo Geo did memory cards long before SONY and Atari beat everyone to 4 player ports as standard
I think the N64 was true 1st for voice commands though
 
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Matsuchezz

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I had a N64 back in the day and no PS. And after playing all the good titles from Rare and nintendo and some games from acclaim like turok and shadowman. I was dying to get a PSX. The kind of content available and the quality of it was leaps and bounds of anything n64 could handle when i got One borrowed from a neighbor. Nintendo is ancient on the kind of content they produce. After playing Metal Gear Solid and Vagrant story there was no way back. Nintendo innovates on hardware but they keep redoing the same kind of games and reuse the same characters i got tired of many many years ago. I got a blast from many n64 games. But i really was impressed by psx games and when i got a ps2 with backwards compatibility i played tons of great games from previous gen. So PSX. I play games not consoles.
 

nkarafo

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The popular belief is that the Wii brought gaming to the "non-gaming casuals". But the PS1 did it first.

The N64 had more innovations though.
 
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zombrex

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The ps1 using CD's resulted in games being cheap to print and thus highly profitable. It also massively expanded the variety of genres and wide appeal of gaming to new audiences. The number of developers and series that would not exist today if the ps1 did not exist can not be understated. The PS1 dual shock has also become the default controller design and layout across all systems even decades later.
 
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ReBurn

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It's funny seeing N64 propped up with the analog stick and trigger accolades when Sega's 3D control pad released for Saturn had both and released a month before the N64. And even that was somewhat similar to the XE-1_AP analog controller released for the Mega Drice in Japan in 1989 for games like After Burner and Space Harrier. It even had shoulder buttons before SNES.

The thing Nintendo did that really stood out was the Z-buffer that smoothed out 3D motion. N64 games weren't nearly as janky in motion as PS1 or Saturn games.
 
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But I think PlayStation really made games mainstream and was able to kill the idea they were for kids.
PlayStation invented the modern dual stick configuration.

But I think that was Sony being pushed to do this as a response to the n64's analog stick.

However, as someone who had both consoles back in the days I can assess that Nintendo killed their console by not including a CD drive (they were too conservative at that level)... There were so few notable release that if you had access to a psx you would almost forget you had the N64, for every Zelda there were 5 or more JRPGs, for every F-Zero there was 3 Wipeout, etc. The libraries just can't be compared in some ways. They also are very different, there is nothing like Mario 64 and it's Rare made clones on the PlayStation, the PSX has many 2D games that are unthinkable on the N64 as well, a lot of games that are just too big, etc.
 

NeoIkaruGAF

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They were both innovative for different reasons.

At launch, PS1 was still relying on the SNES controller, with two added shoulder buttons. The actual gameplay of most games was still based on digital movement, even in 3 dimensions. While Tomb Raider was revolutionary in its design, its control scheme feels rudimentary compared to SM64 - even if the gameplay was perfectly built around it. Analogue movement for the masses is without a doubt the N64’s greatest contribution, even if analogue controls existed before 1996.

BUT. The PS1 pulled console gaming out of the closet. No more a silly pastime for nerdy kids, gaming became a thing for adults, too. Europe pretty much literally acknowledged the existence of console gaming there and then, in 1996. While the N64 in its first 3 years was arguably the most innovative machine for hardware and game design, the video games market as we know it today was created single-handedly by PlayStation. Even with CD storage and better textures, the N64 could never sway the everyday man like the PS did. N64 was innovation for gamers; non-gamers and casuals had a hard time understanding the product, if they ever did. Playstation was easy to understand and cleverly catered to non-gamers. It was never a contest.
 

Kimahri

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Are we really suggesting the CD was a PlayStation innovation?

Forgetting the Saturn released days before? Not to mention other more niche consoles with CD-ROM released years before?

PS was an amazing console what great games is concerned, but come on.
 
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Trimesh

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The ps1 using CD's resulted in games being cheap to print and thus highly profitable. It also massively expanded the variety of genres and wide appeal of gaming to new audiences. The number of developers and series that would not exist today if the ps1 did not exist can not be understated. The PS1 dual shock has also become the default controller design and layout across all systems even decades later.

You do understand there were multiple consoles before the PSX that used CDs, right? And that it didn't launch with the Dual Shock - the original PSX pad was digital only and borrowed very heavily from the Super Famicom/SNES controller except that the buttons had symbols on them and it had secondary L + R triggers.
 
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