The name’s Bond, but which Bond? The concept of 007 spans 50 years, with various books and films painting a classic tale of espionage, gadgets and shaken martinis. We’ve seen various versions of the iconic spy across heaps of different media.
In fact, from the beloved series of books to the long-running cinema favourite, the work of Ian Fleming has been graced with an enviable amount of high-profile adaptations. Amongst this legacy is a whole host of video games, all maintaining a style, substance and tone that resonates with the diverse nature of each Bond interpretation.
While most of us will have experienced the multiplayer chaos of GoldenEye (more on that later), there are many more titles that continued to keep 007 relevant within the gaming scene. So, in honour of the smooth-talking spy himself, here are seven James Bond games that brought 007 to life…
James Bond 007: The Stealth Affair (1990)
The first game on this list is a bit of an oddity as if you don’t live in the USA, this isn’t even a Bond title. Known also as Operation Stealth, this is one of the earliest video games based on 007. Sure, you’ll need to look past the fact that Bond, or John Glames as he’s known in the unlicensed version, works for the CIA instead of MI5, but other than that, this is a solid espionage adventure title.
Lovers of point and click adventure titles are going to know what to expect here; picking up items, puzzles and clicking on various pixelated objects in hopes of progressing. The main thing that makes this a great Bond game is how dedicated it is to the tropes of the series, with every environment and situation resonating with exactly the kind of predicament 007 would get himself into. From being thrown into the ocean by soviets to escaping an exploding volcanic lair, this feels like a classic Bond experience.
Action sequences in between the point and click charade help keep things fresh, even if they’re not completely immersive. These include stealth maze sections and shootouts on jet skis, which keep things in line with the espionage theme. Despite this game’s primitive nature, its presentation is certainly memorable, making it a staple part of any ‘80s computer game collection.
James Bond 007: The Duel (1993)
The 16-bit era of gaming was home to a lot of ‘80s franchises; Alien, Terminator, Robocop and Rambo to name a few. It’s no surprise that Bond managed to make its way onto the MegaDrive, with Timothy Dalton as the game’s protagonist. 007: The Duel was released in 1993, 4 years after Dalton’s last mission in Licence To Kill, which makes this game his very last appearance as Bond. For those familiar with the Rolling Thunder series, you’re going to recognise the side-scrolling run and gun mechanics of The Duel.
Our mission in this 16-bit escapade is based around a mad professor called Gravemar, who, after hijacking a satellite control centre, creates clones of all of Bond’s previous enemies, in anticipation of the government agent thwarting his plans. Sounds a bit farfetched? Well, they had to include Jaws and Oddjob somehow. If anything, making full use of the Bond licence in this way helped provide a much-needed edge in a sea of 2D action games.
Each level in The Duel stays true to the usual Bond locations, such as boats, hidden facilities and tropical climates. The graphics themselves aren’t the most extraordinary for the time, but they’re good enough to make out that Bond is wearing his signature tux. As for the gameplay, it’s your standard run and gun affair, mixed with some amusing acrobatic platforming that seems slightly out of place. If you’re a fan of 16-bit music, you’ll also find the soundtrack to this title quite catchy. Providing you’ve got access to a Mega Drive/Genesis, the experience of 16-bit Bond is definitely worth your time.
GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Developed by Rare and released on Nintendo 64 in 1996, GoldenEye is still widely regarded as the definitive James Bond game. It’s also considered a vital entry in the first-person shooter genre, with Bond’s exploits from the 1995 movie providing a stark contrast to the more fantastical fare (such as the demon-demolishing action of Doom) that had previously dominated this genre.
The game featured an enjoyable solo campaign, which pitted Pierce Brosnan’s Bond against a criminal syndicate that wanted to kick off a worldwide financial crisis. However, as you likely already know, GoldenEye is mostly remembered for its utterly iconic 4-player local deathmatch mode.
This mode (which was added to the game at the last minute) brought fun and originality into the world of Bond-based gaming, allowing you lob grenades at your mates and lark around with quirky features like ‘Slappers Only’. The game won heaps of awards, plus all of our hearts, and we’d love to see a re-release on Nintendo Switch someday.
007: Tomorrow Never Dies (1999)
Tomorrow Never Dies is impressive as both a Bond title and a movie tie-in game, providing enough substance to thrive as both. Assuming the role of a polygonal Brosnan, the player re-enacts some of the 1997 film’s most iconic scenes, such as infiltrating corporate parties and taking part in high-speed skiing pursuits. The variances in gameplay help keep things fresh, with driving segments giving players something to look forward to in-between rest of the spy shenanigans.
The gameplay is very typical of a third-person shooter, with an automatic reticle keeping things from being finicky and an optional first person aim. As well as utilising your licence to kill, players can deploy various Bond gadgets to get out of predicaments, enhancing the immersive experience on offer. If there’s one thing that makes this game shine, it’s the way it makes you feel like a secret agent, with generously sized levels to infiltrate, which feel similar to the likes of the Hitman series.
Tomorrow Never Dies is a must-have for your PlayStation collection, with its sequel The World Is Not Enough acting as a continuation of this style of Bond game. Of course, we can’t deny that Goldeneye legitimised the 3D Bond game, but Tomorrow Never Dies helped build towards a future of even more immersive and creative 007 experiences.
Agent Under Fire (2001)
After spending some time within the third-person genre, EA made the decision to return the Bond franchise to first-person mechanics. Agent Under Fire adheres to a more modern take on first-person controls while inheriting a lot of quirks that made the previous games so great. There’s a certain magic to first-person Bond games, something that Agent Under Fire embraces wholeheartedly.
Agent Under Fire ditches the movie tie-in theme that EA previously used with previous titles, instead using its own story and characters. This version of Bond was originally intended to be reprised by the late Sir Roger Moore, which is evident in how the character’s mannerisms are portrayed. In the end, the likeness of actor Andrew Bicknell was used, making this a unique Bond to this title. Despite a lack of movie tie in or associated actors, Agent Under Fire is full to the brim of Bond goodness, with EA really getting to grips with what makes these spy thrillers so enjoyable. Ridiculous car journeys? Check. Cheesy encounters? Check. Full abuse of your licence to kill? Double Check.
Changes to the mechanics make things feel a lot more up close and personal. Stealth is something that feels more important in Agent Under Fire, as alerting the guards can make a simple mission feel like a war zone. That’s not to say that causing complete carnage isn’t a viable option, although it’s probably best to make sure you’re armed with something other than a tranquillizer beforehand. The gadgets are also particularly enjoyable to use.
Agent Under Fire, along with its sequel NightFire, serve as a great representation of what can be done with the Bond franchise. Their interpretation of Bond feels almost like it belongs in the ‘70s, with its big band music score and humorous take on dialogue. It’s really fun stuff.
007: Everything Or Nothing (2003)
Next is another 007 title that has completely original in story, yet features Brosnan’s depiction of Bond. The impressive thing about this title is its presentation; it has original actors such as Judi Dench and John Cleese, and new ones such as Willem Defoe. Plus, movie scribe Bruce Feirstein (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough) contributed to the game’s story. Everything Or Nothing has as much substance as its film tie-in predecessors, yet this time it can only be enjoyed in video game form.
Everything Or Nothing has everything you’d want from a Bond game: intense shootouts, car chases and gadgets, all with enhanced graphics for the then-new generation of consoles. There’s something of a “not broke don’t fix it” approach taken with Everything Or Nothing, yet everything feels more responsive, punchier and refined.
Everything Or Nothing has more going on under the hood than Hollywood voice actors, with EA going all-out to make sure that the technology used for this game was at its best. The core gameplay, while third person, uses an enhanced version of the Agent Under Fire engine, combined with the same engine used for the Need For Speed games during the driving segments. While this could be construed as just lazily reusing assets, it’s more likely that EA wanted this game to be as polished as it could be, especially considering it was presented in the same way that a new Bond flick would be.
Even if you’re not particularly interested in the Bond franchise, this game is just as fun as those that have come before it, with all the bells and whistles of a good action game. As a matter of fact, Everything Or Nothing could hold its own against games of a similar genre today, even though it’s now considered retro by some.
GoldenEye 007 (2010)
It’s worth mentioning this interesting experiment, as well. We’d previously seen Bond games that tried their best to accurately represent the films, and we’d even seen some titles that told their own unique stories. By this point, we’d even seen Sean Connery making a belated return to Bond with the 2005 game version of From Russia With Love. But we’d never seen something that felt quite this much like a ‘what if?’ scenario.
This title remade GoldenEye, both the film and the tie-in game, but with Daniel Craig in the title role and the plot modernised to match the rebooted movie continuity. This is a bit surreal for a hardcore Bond fan to experience, even though we’d previously seen Thunderball and Never Say Never Again telling the same story with different Bonds on the big screen.
With Craig reprising his role and Judi Dench lending her voice to M, the game has serious star-power. And by adding in modern gaming elements like destructible environments and regenerating health, it justifies its existence as an update on a classic. Having that beloved multiplayer mode available for online play was the stuff of dreams, as well, even though some of the magic of the N64 is lost in translation. This remake isn’t nearly as beloved as its predecessor, but it is still a fun time, and it’s fondly remembered as one of the most grown-up games on the Wii.
Like all these lists, there are probably countless other Bond games that could have been mentioned. The above titles, however, are definitely staples of the franchise, demonstrating its diversity and ability to fit into different genres. Going forward, with Daniel Craig’s imminent departure from the big screen role, who knows what’s in store for the series? Perhaps we’ll see a game that disregards what’s going on in cinemas? Maybe we’ll finally get some sort of female Bond? Whatever happens, at least we know that it is possible to make a Bond game that does justice to the work of Ian Fleming…