After multiple delays, No Time to Die is finally hitting theaters in the UK and U.S., marking Daniel Craig’s final appearance as super spy James Bond, the end of an era for one of the more beloved 007s. It’s still too early to say in which direction the storied franchise will go next, but now is the perfect time to look back at the history of 007 in video games, especially as Hitman studio IO Interactive prepares to bring James Bond back to gaming!
Just like the films, some Bond video games are much better than others. There are a couple of stinkers out there, but also some all-time classics. If you’re looking to get an extra fix of 007 ahead of No Time to Die, these are the secret agent’s very best adventures on consoles and PC:
15. 007 Legends
2012 | Eurocom | PC, PS3, X360, Wii U
While 007 Legends is the most recently released Bond game, it also has some serious issues that keep it from placing higher on this list. You play as the Daniel Craig version of Bond re-living his past adventures. That sounds fun in theory, but seeing the current Bond and modern gadgets in missions based on Goldfinger and Moonraker never quite feels right.
Worse, the entire campaign feels more like a generic Call of Duty clone than a true 007 experience. While stealth is an option in most scenarios, it doesn’t even work that well. In a spy game! There are worse ways to kill a few hours, but there are also much better Bond games out there. All that said, this installment does provide a great tour of Bond’s greatest cinematic hits for newcomers and longtime fans alike.
14. 007 Racing
2000 | Eutechnyx | PS1
There have been so many amazing chase sequences in the James Bond films that a 007 game focused solely on driving seems like the perfect fit. The results, however, were pretty mixed. There’s a good selection of cars from the movies here (including the iconic Ashton Martin DB5), and when missions focus on just driving as quickly as possible, it’s a pretty fun game. More problems arise if you find yourself in any sort of combat situation.
The biggest problem with 007 Racing is just that it tried to do too much in a PS1 game. The technology wasn’t there yet. Make a new 007 Racing with a decent budget and it could top a list like this in a few years. But if you love Bond’s cars, this is the best way to get in the driver’s seat.
13. GoldenEye: Rogue Agent
2004 | Electronic Arts | GCN, PS2, Xbox
The reason Rogue Agent is on this list is because it tried to do something new with the Bond franchise, even if it ultimately missed the mark. First, you don’t even play as 007. Instead, you’re an ex-MI6 agent with a cybernetic eye. That’s also why the game is called GoldenEye. It has nothing else to do with the movie, or the much better 1997 video game.
Putting aside the tenuous James Bond connections, Rogue Agent is a pretty typical first-person shooter from the era with a couple neat tricks up its sleeve. You can see through walls and deflect bullets with your magic “golden eye.” There was also a really solid multiplayer mode that was sadly taken offline years ago. If EA had just called it something else or not included the Bond connections, it would probably be much more fondly remembered today.
12. Tomorrow Never Dies
1999 | Black Ops Entertainment | PS1
The best thing that can be said about Tomorrow Never Dies is that it has a really great soundtrack. Of course it includes the classic Bond theme, and the movie theme by Sheryl Crow, but just minute-to-minute, the game has a lot of pumping tracks that would feel right at home in any film in the franchise.
As for the gameplay…it’s fine. Tomorrow Never Dies is heavily inspired by the shooting and stealth gameplay of Syphon Filter, but not quite as good. And Syphon Filter hasn’t exactly aged gracefully. At least the skiing and driving levels are pretty fun though.
11. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded
2011 | Eurocom | PS3, X360, Wii
Never say never again, but due to the complicated rights issues, GoldenEye 007 will probably never see an official re-release, even if it would certainly be welcomed by millions of gamers who grew up in the ’90s. Instead of dealing with legalities, Activision decided to just make its own version of GoldenEye with a modified story and Daniel Crag in the Bond role instead of Pierce Brosnan.
And Goldeneye Reloaded is pretty good, with lots of varied objectives and high production value. It actually feels like an authentic James Bond experience. There’s even a respectable multiplayer mode that channels a lot of what made the original game great. Still, the level design never quite reaches the heights of the N64 classic, and the AI is pretty bad in the single player campaign, which keeps this from being an all-time great Bond game.
10. James Bond 007: The Duel
1992 | The Kremlin | Sega Genesis
The Duel is a really ridiculous game, but also way more enjoyable than it has any right to be. Timothy Dalton lends his “likeness” to Bond for the last time as the secret agent infiltrates enemy bases with only his trusty pistol so that he can plant bombs and rescue identical damsels in distress. There are plenty of generic henchmen to shoot, but Oddjob and Jaws (apparently borrowing one of Dr. Eggman’s leftover boss machines) also make appearances.
Even though it feels a little by the numbers at times, the controls are tight and the 16-bit soundtrack is surprisingly strong. You could do much worse with a licensed platformer from the early ‘90s.
9. James Bond 007
1998 | Saffire | Game Boy
While everyone remembers Rare’s N64 Bond offering from the year before, gamers overlooked this gem for the original Game Boy. James Bond 007 is played from a top-down perspective and it was never even released in color, but Saffire still managed to pack a truer Bond experience into this tiny cartridge than many more technically advanced games have.
There’s an original story with plenty of humor and innuendo, the option to sneak around or use karate moves, and the studio even managed to include baccarat and the classic James Bond theme. This one is still well worth tracking down.
8. Blood Stone
2010 | Bizarre Creations | PC, PS3, X360
Blood Stone received a lot of hate from critics upon its release, but looking back now, it’s hard to understand why. The combination of cover-based shooting, melee combat, and focus kills that let you quickly dispatch enemies hold up really well. And Bizarre Creations, best known for the excellent Project Gotham Racing series, even threw in a few very fun (though short) driving sections.
Daniel Craig and Judi Dench are back to lend their voices to the game as James Bond and M respectively. With its excellent original plot, nonstop action, and high production values, Blood Stone is the closest thing you’ll get to an interactive Craig Bond movie.
7. From Russia with Love
2005 | Electronic Arts | GCN, PS2, Xbox
From Russia with Love is probably best known as the Bond game that brought Sean Connery back to the role for the final time. EA even got him to record some new dialogue, though Bond is still modeled off his classic ‘60s look. Between the presence of (arguably) the best Bond, a plot based on one of his most beloved films, and the use of the iconic jetpack from Thunderball (just because it’s awesome), From Russia with Love is pure fan service from start to finish.
The game isn’t completely true to the movie, though. Legal issues have plagued the Bond franchise for years and that meant some odd changes to the game’s story, with the villainous organization OCTOPUS replacing the movie’s SPECTRE. If the rights could be worked out now, From Russia with Love is begging for a modern remaster.
6. The World Is Not Enough
2000 | Eurocom | N64
Even N64 aficionados forget about the second Bond FPS released for the console. The World Is Not Enough takes a lot of obvious cues from GoldenEye, with similar missions and level layouts, plus a respectable multiplayer mode. But it also carves out its own identity with several new weapons and gadgets. The game also added voice acting — something that’s sorely missed when going back to GoldenEye now.
Does everything work here? Not quite. The AI is particularly weak, and it’s not the easiest game to go back to now, but at least it’s aged better than the movie it’s based on.
5. Agent Under Fire
2001 | Electronic Arts | GCN, PS2, Xbox
Agent Under Fire went through a really tortured development. It was first intended to be an improved port of The World Is Not Enough. Then, it was going to be more of a direct sequel to GoldenEye. Finally, it ended up as its own original project, and it still holds up pretty well, with some solid shooting mechanics and driving missions inspired by Need for Speed. It’s just unfortunate EA couldn’t secure the likeness of any past James Bond actors, so 007 ended up looking like Sterling Archer.
And while the multiplayer may not be the best a Bond game has ever seen, there are some great maps here, and thanks to the inclusion of bots, you can still fire it up today. There’s not much to dislike about Agent Under Fire, and EA only improved on the formula, the following year…
2002 | Eurocom | GCN, PS2, Xbox
Think of Nightfire as a much more refined version of Agent Under Fire. After taking a break from the last game, Pierce Brosnan provided his likeness for Nightfire (although someone else voices the superspy). The FPS levels are much more fun to navigate than its predecessor’s and require the use of tons of gadgets to complete. The AI puts up a real fight, too. The driving levels maybe aren’t quite as enjoyable as the ones in Agent Under Fire, but that can be forgiven when the shooting is this good.
The campaign is really short, but multiplayer has surprising legs, with eight excellently designed maps, a dozen different modes, customizable bots, and a handful of playable Bond villains from past movies. It could have been a huge hit if console gaming had online multiplayer at the time.
3. Quantum of Solace
2008 | Treyarch | PC, PS3, X360
Largely ignored at release, Quantum of Solace is probably the most underrated Bond game. It’s built on the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare engine, which had just been released the previous year, so the shooting is silky smooth. But it also tried to innovate with melee attacks and a cover system that switches to a third-person perspective. The moment-to-moment gameplay is filled with the explosions and big set pieces that Call of Duty is known for. You don’t do much sneaking either, but that fits the grittier tone of the Daniel Craig movies.
It’s unfortunate that Activision went in a different direction with the Bond license after Quantum of Solace. This was easily the best of their offerings, and a Treyarch-developed sequel could have been something really special.
2. Everything or Nothing
2004 | Electronic Arts | GCN, PS2, Xbox
Everything or Nothing is notable for being the first big budget Bond game that actually tried to move the series out of the shadow of GoldenEye. The switch to a third-person perspective wasn’t revolutionary, but it did allow for much better stealth gameplay, plus the addition of rappelling and a neat spider robot. Everything or Nothing actually makes you feel like a superspy with an arsenal of cool gadgets at your disposal.
Even the obligatory driving sections are firing on all cylinders here, with one Road Rash-inspired chase sequence featuring Bond on a motorcycle that’s quite possibly the best level in any Bond game ever. Everything or Nothing would be a fantastic template to follow for any developer looking to resurrect the Bond franchise in video games. (Talking to you, IO!)
1. GoldenEye 007
1997 | Rare | N64
Of course GoldenEye is still the best Bond game of all time. A half dozen developers have tried to outdo it over the last two decades and still GoldenEye reigns supreme. The funny thing is that nothing about GoldenEye should have worked. Licensed games were notorious for their poor quality in the ‘90s. Movie tie-ins released two years after a film has hit theaters are almost always shovelware. Plus, the legendary multiplayer mode was only added to the game just a few months before release. On paper, GoldenEye sounds like it should have been a massive disaster on par with E.T. for the Atari 2600.
And yet, the final product still stands out as one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time. Yes, it’s a little rough around the edges now, and the frame rate really chugs along at times, but it’s still incredibly fun to complete objectives in classic levels like Facility or Train. Or just watch a mission completely go to hell, as you try to survive against a horde of guards who’ve cornered you. The replay value, with tons of unlockables for completing missions quickly, still outshines many modern shooters.
Then there’s the multiplayer with its near-perfect maps and endless options. GoldenEye 007 was the peak of multiplayer shooters on consoles in the ’90s, with its fast-paced shooting and excellent maps. Sure, it would be easy to make a much better looking and sounding Bond game now, but it’s hard to imagine that any team could create something more innovative or more fun. GoldenEye 007 remains the undisputed king of Bond games.