As the James Bond books reach their 70th anniversary, the team at having been looking back at the famous spy's many iconic outings. But in the gaming world, there's one adaptation that stands above all others: of course, it's the legendary GoldenEye 007 game from the N64 era.


It was made by the British studio Rare and published in 1997, but why is GoldenEye 007 still the best Bond game? We've answered that question in the handy little video above, which is chock-full of gameplay footage that will flood your mind with nice warm feelings of nostalgia.

We'll also roll out our thoughts in written form below in a bit more detail, so have a read once you've watched the video. And don't forget to check out all the other Bond at 70 articles across our website.

The legendary multiplayer

Why is GoldenEye 007 the best Bond game? Well, for some people, there will be one main reason, so let's address the tuxedo-wearing elephant in the room before we go any further. It's worth stating right off the bat that the game's four-player multiplayer mode remains the stuff of game night legend.

Duking it out with your pals has always been so much fun, and now you can do it online (with a Nintendo Switch Online subscription). Back in the day, you'd be huddled around a chunky TV at a friend's house, trying not to blow yourself up with a rocket launcher as you snuck around several memorable maps in search of a buddy to murder in cold blood.

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Nothing sends the endorphins into overdrive quite like hiding in a toilet as you detonate a remote mine and kill one of your bitter rivals. And on the flipside of that, there's nothing quite as frustrating as being killed out of nowhere, seeing the blood drip down your quadrant of the screen as the sombre 'you died' music plays.

You could easily lose a whole evening to GoldenEye multiplayer, and it would probably get heated at some point. There would always be someone that wanted to boycott the powerful Oddjob character, while others would prefer to get silly by choosing rules like ‘Slappers Only’.

Certainly, if you didn't have an N64 at home, you were likely to get absolutely mullered by the people that knew all the tips, tricks and hiding places in each level. That was all part of the fun, though, as this game put friendships to the test in a major way. For England, James!

The underrated campaign

The spitting image of Sean Bean in GoldenEye 007.
The spitting image of Sean Bean in GoldenEye 007. Rare

As much as the multiplayer was fun, though, there's another element of the game that also deserves recognition. The GoldenEye 007 single-player campaign was great, too, literally putting you in Bond's head (with those memorable level-starting scenes).

More than just a way to learn the controls before heading into multiplayer (as many shooter campaigns are these days), the story mode in GoldenEye 007 still holds up as an excellent game in its own right.

If the multiplayer didn't exist, we wager that this solo spy simulator would be a lot less underrated. And one thing's for sure: away from the chaos of shouting at your friends, the game's brilliant musical score really shines through in the campaign. The ominous environments and instantly recognisable graphics now look better than ever, too, especially in Rare's remastered version on Xbox Game Pass.

The gunplay was always enjoyable, whichever difficulty you chose to play on. The game would give you extra objectives on the harder difficulties, too, which remains a really cool feature.

Some missions required stealth and smarts, while others involved brute force and blowing stuff up. And with the game giving you a score card at the end of each run, remembering the minutes and seconds it took you to beat the level, there was always a reason to try it all again and see if you could beat your time.

Adding to authenticity

GoldenEye 007 also had a great approach to authenticity, adapting the source material and adding to it, rather than slavishly copying the film script. Compared to some movie tie-in games, GoldenEye 007 goes the extra mile to give you something more.

As much as it allowed you to replay the events of the GoldenEye film, and Pierce Brosnan's likeness was relatively accurate-looking for the time, the game also added a lot of elements that you won't have seen on the big screen.

Sure, you'd bump into Sean Bean's character and be reminded of a specific moment of the film, and the use of those iconic melodies on the soundtrack also supported that official and worthwhile feeling from a movie-fan perspective. But on top of that, you'd hear new tunes and play out new missions that added to the tapestry without tarnishing it.

The developers came up with lots of new ideas, adding in the Severnaya, Kirghizstan, Egpyt and Aztec missions to expand Bond's adventure beyond what could fit on the cinema screen.

And with all the bonus characters to unlock in multiplayer (including the aforementioned Oddjob from Goldfinger), the game managed to hint at the wider Bond mythos as well. Rights issues stopped the developers from including other Bond actors, though, which would've been a cool touch in multiplayer.

The fun factor

DK Mode in action in GoldenEye 007.
DK Mode in action in GoldenEye 007. Rare

And finally, let's not forget that GoldenEye 007 is an absurdly fun game. If there's a secret sauce to be found here, it's probably the child-like sense of glee that the developers brought to the project, clearly thrilled to be working on the Bond licence (to kill).

One of first indications of this joyously silly undercurrent, were the little messages that M, Q and Moneypenny would send you before each mission. If you took the time to read these instead of skipping ahead, you will have found wry little jokes from all senders, including some light flirtation from Moneypenny (which absolutely nails Bond's tongue-in-cheek tone).

And then, if you beat the early Runway mission in under five minutes on the easiest setting (not exactly a challenging task), you will have unlocked your first actual cheat in the game. DK Mode, it's called, and it gives all of the characters a massive bobble head.

You may have only learned later, perhaps while watching the enjoyable GoldenEra documentary last year, that many of those massive heads had a hidden meaning. Most of the enemies you face in GoldenEye 007 are modelled on the game's actual development team, which is a nice little Easter egg with harrowing implications (the developers are literally trapped forever in their own creation).

If you dug a little deeper, perhaps reading a guide in a magazine or hearing about it from a friend (remember that this was the 1990s), you could have discovered loads of other wacky cheats including Tiny Bond, Turbo Mode, Paintball Mode and Enemies With Rockets.

Seeming to feed off the obvious enthusiasm of the developers, fans have built a community around the game that has lasted the test of time, uniting en masse to make fan films and mod GoldenEye onto modern systems (long before the recent remasters came out). Fans have also found ways to keep on challenging themselves. For example, why not try to do a 'Slappers Only' run of the entire campaign?

All these elements combine to make GoldenEye 007 the greatest Bond game to date. Its multiplayer was the stuff of legend, its campaign was brilliantly varied, its approach to authenticity was awesome and open-minded, the fun factor was off the charts, and the fans kept the GoldenEye 007 train going even throughout the lengthy legal hoo-ha that prevented it from being re-released for so long.

Other Bond games, including the ill-judged Daniel Craig take on GoldenEye, haven't even come close. Coming up, the makers of the recent Hitman games are being given a shot with the Bond licence, which is certainly one we'll be keeping an eye on.

They'll have to do a hell of a job to make a game as good as GoldenEye 007. Bond has been going for 70 years, and none of the other games have matched up to this one. If you haven't already tried out the versions that were recently ported to Switch Online and Xbox Game Pass, don't hesitate to jump in!

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