The best James Bond games you need to play that aren’t ‘GoldenEye 007’

Yes, we know Goldeneye is the best, we know

With long delays between the releases of James Bond movies and games these days, it may be hard to imagine a time when we were swamped with 007. From 1997 to the early 2010s, almost-yearly video games helped fill the (much shorter) gaps between movies featuring capitalism’s favourite secret agent.

And yes, we know 1997’s GoldenEye on N64 is the best James Bond game of all time. With its varied objectives, enemy guards filled with character, and legendary multiplayer, there is no topping GoldenEye. But what about the rest? Reload your Wolfram P2K, set your remote mines, and join us on a journey through the Golden era of Bond games.

GoldenEye 007 (Daniel Craig Remake)

  • Developer: Eurocom
  • Playable on: Wii, PS3, Xbox 360

The takeover of the Bond game licence by Activision from Electronic Arts was the beginning of the end. The games devolved from varied gameplay in exotic locales to Call of Duty rip-offs about shooting and blowing things up in generic locations.

And yet, given these limitations (and the pressure of living up to the original game), the GoldenEye remake is not entirely bad. The story is nicely updated (though the characters are shorn of much that makes them memorable in their original incarnations), the gunplay is solid, and a late-game stealth mission through the villain’s base recalls Eurocom’s best work on Nightfire.

But perhaps its greatest lesson is that 007 needs his gadgets, his martinis, his “Bond, James Bond” lines, and his vehicle missions to be memorable. Bond cannot live on shooting alone.

 

James Bond 007: Blood Stone

Similar to the GoldenEye remake, Blood Stone lacks most of the things that make 007 unique. A third-person shooter with a plot based around diamonds, Blood Stone is more Splinter Cell than Goldfinger, but gains a place in this list by including multiple vehicle sections, though they are linear and the vehicles lack any gadgets.

Like all the Craig-fronted games, Blood Stone suffers from the more serious tone and ends up unmemorable, almost as if ashamed of the past antics of 007. Less hollow volcano bases, more shoot-men-in-the-faces.

The World is Not Enough (PS1 Version)

Compared to the N64 version, the PS1’s The World is Not Enough is shorter and its stiff gameplay, small levels, and lack of multiplayer mean it is not, even by the standards of 2000, a good game. (Medal of Honor: Underground is a great example of what this game could have been.)

TWINE nonetheless contains some interesting ideas. The “cell phone stunner” from Tomorrow Never Dies can be used to stun enemies, a camcorder rocket launcher is a unique gadget, and a casino level is, inexplicably, one of the few Bond game levels where 007 can actually gamble.

From Russia with Love

From Russia with Love is a unique James Bond game. Not only does it feature the likenesses of many classic actors (Bernard Lee’s M; Lois Maxwell’s Moneypenny; Desmond Llewelyn’s Q), it sees Bond himself voiced by Sean Connery, the original 007. With Goldfinger’s gadget-laden Aston Martin and Thunderball’s jetpack both controllable in-game, FRWL should have been a classic.

Unfortunately, its levels are not very memorable and many of the translations from the 1963 movie to a video game are laughable. Remember in the movie when a chain-gun wielding seven-foot-tall henchmen interrupts Bond’s fight with Red Grant on the Orient Express? No? Indeed.

The World is Not Enough (Nintendo 64 Version)

  • Developer: Eurocom
  • Playable on: N64

Far more of a successor to GoldenEye than the PS1-only (and third-person) Tomorrow Never Dies, the Nintendo version of The World is Not Enough feels in many ways like a prototype of Eurocom’s later game, Nightfire. Expanding on the movie, TWINE features 14 levels and a suite of multiplayer options.

With some great levels (the standouts being an attack on MI6 and a tense, timed mission in the London Underground), full voice acting, varied objectives, and beautifully animated enemies, TWINE is let down by difficulty spikes, long reload times, and unmemorable gadgets (they all seem to be in his watch).

GoldenEye: Source (fan game)

This multiplayer only game, created by fans using Half-Life 2’s Source engine, shows GoldenEye’s multiplayer is truly timeless. Though its last update was over four years ago, GE:S updates the graphics and mechanics of the N64 classic while keeping the quick pace and general “bounciness” of the original.

GoldenEye: Source features both updated versions and recreations of classic levels like Bunker and Facility, as well as new levels based on other movies like Casino Royale. Though the servers tend to be empty, playing against bots is endless fun. Turn on rocket launchers only, and watch mayhem unfold!

Agent Under Fire

  • Developer: EA Redwood Shores
  • Playable on: PS2, Gamecube, Xbox

The very definition of a “great 7/10” game, Agent Under Fire came about from the melding of cancelled PS2 remakes of The World is Not Enough and 007 Racing. With a smarmy Bond played by Andrew Bicknell and a plot about replacing world leaders with clones, this is far from the gritty Bond of modern times. Though the shooting is lightweight and the campaign short, the gameplay variety and two wonderful vehicle levels featuring classic, gadget-laden Bond cars make this a template for future games.

The vehicle levels feature details even modern games lack. Shop alarms blare if your gunfire hits them, and skyscraper windows pour smoke if hit by an errant missile. Agent Under Fire also sees the introduction of “Bond moves”. Shoot some explosive barrels or find a hidden route and a “007” icon flashes on-screen with a burst of the famous theme and a bonus to your score. Corny? Definitely. But if you don’t like corny, you don’t like Bond.

Everything or Nothing

  • Developer: EA Redwood Shores
  • Playable on: PS2, Gamecube, Xbox

With 007 voiced by Pierce Brosnan, a villain played by Willem Dafoe, Bond girls played by Heidi Klum, Shannon Elizabeth and Mýa (who sings the theme song), a lengthy campaign (and co-op missions), and numerous well-developed vehicle missions, Everything or Nothing is the closest the games ever came to a real Bond movie.

The plot sees the supervillain using nanotechnology and platinum-coated tanks to try take over the world. With crazy gadgets (a reconnaissance spider bot, explosive coins, a suit that makes Bond invisible), and even the return of Jaws, this is pipped at the post only because Golden-era-Bond never feels quite right in third person.

Nightfire (Console Version)

  • Developer: Eurocom
  • Playable on: PS2, Gamecube, Xbox

Second only to Rare, Eurocom are the developer who most “got” Bond. It’s unfortunate that 2012’s terrible 007 Legends was their final game (and marked the definitive end of Golden era Bond), but the console version of Nightfire is the game they should be remembered for. The opening level, The Exchange, is the pinnacle of Golden era Bond game design, featuring multiple ways into the villain’s castle, opportunities to use your varied gadgets, the infiltration of a classy party, and ending with a helicopter boss battle. Pure, concentrated Bond.

The game is memorable even on the level of a pure shooter, with a stealth level with a tranquilliser gun (a level mandatory for every Golden-era game), shootouts in a skyscraper and a Japanese mansion, a climax with laser guns in space, a memorable sniper mission, and the infiltration of the villain’s lair, along with numerous vehicle levels, making Nightfire full of the variety that defines a classic Bond game.

The multiplayer lets you play as classic characters – Xenia Onatopp, Oddjob (with a throwable hat), May Day – on recreations of classic locations (Goldfinger’s Fort Knox, The Spy Who Loved Me’s Atlantis), alongside well-designed original maps like Skyrail, a snowy map with cable cars. It’s strange to think what games would be like if Ian Fleming hadn’t sat down one day in the 1950s to write his first Bond novel.

Honourable Mentions

Tomorrow Never Dies

  • Developer: Black Ops Entertainment
  • Playable on: PS1

Any follow-up to GoldenEye was going to pale in comparison, but even so, Tomorrow Never Dies is a bad game. A PS1 exclusive, third-person shooter, Tomorrow Never Dies nonetheless has two segments: a skiing section where you can attack your enemies with ski poles, and a vehicle section with Bond’s missile-laden BMW, that were prototypes for the variety that future games would embrace.

007 Racing

A poor game by any standards, with difficult levels, stiff controls, and very basic game design flaws (your own explosives consistently harm you, for example), 007 Racing is nonetheless the most developed representation of Q’s gadget-laden cars. It would take future games to get vehicles right, but 007 Racing was an important first step, even if it immediately tripped and landed on its face.

The latest James Bond movie, No Time To Die is in cinemas now.

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