Why Do PS1 Game Graphics Wobble?

Sony made its entry into the video game console market with the PlayStation, a proper next-gen alternative to the old SNES and Genesis. At the time, no other console could even come close to replicating the PS1’s full 3D graphical prowess. However, when you look at PS1 gameplay footage there is a lot of noise and the animation appears wonky.

Why do PS1 game graphics wobble? The jittery images on a PS1 are a result of its technological limitations, and they are most noticeable when you play on an old-school CRT. Dithering was used to increase the amount of perceived color depth, along with affine texture mapping which warps and bends whenever you shift the camera perspective.

The PS1 has a unique look that can’t be replicated properly on emulators. You need an actual PS1 console, connected to a CRT television (along with 3D games such as Metal Gear Solid and Time Crisis). Nintendo’s N64 mitigated this issue by using full-perspective texturing in addition to bilinear filtering.

Why Do PS1 Game Graphics Wobble?

Most of the wobbly graphics on a PS1 are caused by its primitive texture mapping technique. And due to memory limitations, the size of the texture files was usually under 256 x 256 pixels. The PS1 uses a coprocessor called the Geometry Transform Engine to do maths operations for generating 3D graphics.

However, the GTE is incapable of floating-point calculations and can only do fixed-point arithmetic. Plus, there is no subpixel rasterization so vertices would snap to the pixel grid. This results in lots of polygon jitter.

Texture mapping is used to project a 2D texture image onto a 3D space, by assigning coordinates to vertices. Coordinates for the spaces between the vertices require some form of interpolation. Affine texture mapping utilizes barycentric coordinates, interpolating within a 2D space.

While the calculations are very simple for this type of texture mapping, it appears warped as soon as you start moving the camera. Textures begin to look distorted, which is part of the reason why PS1 games have that “wobble” effect. While the X and Y coordinates are being linearly interpolated, the Z coordinate is disregarded and this throws off depth perception.

Did PS1 Have Good Graphics?

For its time, yes- but by modern standards, the visuals are very dated. In contrast, certain NES and SNES games have aged extremely well despite their 2D graphics. That’s because they look “cleaner” and more aesthetically pleasing than early 3D games.

If you play a PS1 game on original hardware, you will notice a few issues. Straight edges appear to warp and change angles, as you rotate the camera. This is less of an issue in games that use prerendered backgrounds and fixed camera angles.

But when you play something fast-paced with a movable camera, the jittering becomes very noticeable. Plus, early 3D games weren’t easy on the eyes. This is due to low poly counts, simplistic animations, and ugly textures.

Back in 1995, developers were still new to the whole 3D thing. They had decades of experience with 2D artwork, but most of them had never worked on a full 3D game. Thus, there was a lot of trial and error to find out what worked and what didn’t.

Some games that were praised during launch for looking next-gen might be ridiculed today for being outdated. Graphical detail will always get surpassed over generations, but good art design and visual themes are timeless. That’s why Nintendo games from the 1980s and 1990s hold up even today.

Did The PS1 Have Texture Filtering?

Due to the limitations of its graphics coprocessor, the PS1 didn’t have any texture filtering. This is something that Nintendo included within its N64 console, along with perspective correction for texture mapping. If you play your PS1 games via emulation, you can select from a multitude of texture filtering options.

What Is PSX Dithering?

The PSX or PlayStation 1 has a built-in effect called dithering that adds lines and dots to each frame. This creates an illusion of added color depth on a console that has limited shading capabilities. The lines and dots become blurred when encoded into analog signals for a CRT TV.

By adding some carefully controlled noise to the video output, PS1 games generate an illusion of detail. Modern emulators fail to recreate this effect because you can see the lines and dots clearly, thanks to modern video encoding and output standards. So you either turn off dithering entirely or use a specially designed dithering shader that blends it into the image.

Did PS1 Have A Depth Buffer?

For those of you who don’t know, a depth buffer is an internal grayscale blueprint of the image being displayed on your screen. You can’t see it, but it basically tells the console how far each pixel is away from the camera. And the PS1 doesn’t have a depth buffer, so developers had to draw primitive shapes from back to front, in the correct order.

What Was The Best Looking PS1 Game?

If we’re talking about the most technically impressive PS1 game, there are quite a few contenders. In terms of the sheer scale and innovation, few can top Metal Gear Solid. But towards the later half of the PS1’s life cycle, some very graphically impressive titles were released that look even better than MGS or FF VII.

Chief among these are Tekken 3, Soul Reaver, and Final Fantasy IX. Despite being made for hardware from the mid-1990s, Final Fantasy IX almost looks like a PS2 JRPG o. You got plenty of time to savor each intricately crafted detail of FF IX, as it had four separate discs (owing to the massive world size).


Even though it was revolutionary in the mid-1990s, the PlayStation wasn’t without its flaws. Nintendo struck back hard with the N64, which was more powerful and had features such as texture filtering. It also did away with loading times by using cartridges, rather than CDs.Yet, we all know how that console war ended- with a definitive Sony victory and Nintendo getting 2nd place on the podium. That’s because the PS1 offered a more “complete” experience, with a wide range of 3rd party games that pushed the limits of 3D technology. While the PS1’s graphics were wobbly, its games were rock solid.


As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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