GoldenEye is a word that rings out to every type of consumer during Pierce Brosnan’s era as 007. His debut as the long-time British spy had taken on a refined, yet awesome tone which kept the most exciting parts of a franchise bogged in other quirky weirdness. Audiences lucky enough to see GoldenEye might remember the sound of Tina Turner, uttering the catchy lyric of “You’ll never know, how I watched you from the shadows as a child.” Players lucky enough to see and play GoldenEye 007 might remember the silenced pew of a PPK as soldiers grunt and spring off their feet. Bathroom and dinner breaks also started with the beep of a green watch (and a pause theme filled with soothing Bond-badassery).
Another smile might ring from friends screaming profanities in their dorm rooms while their screen flushes red, under a twisted version of Bond’s jingle. Nonetheless, Turner’s lyrics ring true for fans of a benchmark spy film and its equally-unforgettable experience as a movie tie-in. Arguably, GoldenEye 007 didn’t just become the greatest film-licensed game of all time – it even pioneered the modern first person shooter in ways that kept us wanting more as we aged.
Developed by Rare Limited, the team started from scratch in 1995 – just nine months before Brosnan would make his big screen debut as 007 in the GoldenEye movie. With only three people, a big purple development box and some film assets, Rare was on their way to creating GoldenEye 007 as an on-rails shooter for the N64. But its level design was later changed spontaneously to walk around a map. In fact, much of the game’s original ideas were scrapped to the point of GoldenEye 007 not existing at all. For Rare’s first-time game developers, this became a surprising benefit in toying with random mechanics – including optional objectives and zooming in with weapons.
According to DidYouKnowGaming, Nintendo even gave up on GoldenEye 007 as funding was cut off from Rare across a three-month period. But the studio continued to use its own funds to finish its development while including the iconic multiplayer mode just six weeksbefore release. Through trial, errors and near development-hell, GoldenEye 007 was released to the world on August 25, 1997; just two years after the original film was released to a renewed James Bond mania.
As a Nintendo 64 exclusive, the game would reach older and newer audiences over its 23-year existence. GoldenEye 007‘s addicts even included CGMagazine’s writers, long before their first bylines were published. Meet some of the team as they share their teenage retrospectives for the game’s birthday.
Also, we collectively hate Oddjob-mains.
I have a lot of great memories from playing GoldenEye with my friends back in high school. Even with the arguments over who got to be Dr. Doak (based on Rare developer David Doak), because that was a thing for some reason. Anyway, we played the game together so much that we eventually started making up our own match types. I don’t know what we called it, but it involved setting one player’s health to 1000% percent, while all of the rest of us had half health and fought with Klobbs and other trash guns. The person with the max health could only chop. The resulting match was something out of a horror movie, typically, where you’d have Jaws coming at you, frantically chopping the air with one hand while you sprayed bullets at him, praying he would go down in time. There was just so much room to play around with that game that it will always stick out in my mind when I think of good times with my best friends.
GoldenEye came to me as the game my older brother played through, telling me about the varying modes and increasing difficulty. But the real fun was multiplayer, shouting “no Oddjob” because “that’s cheap” and that full body shriek when you finally found the best weapons, or actually executed a timed mine properly. Years later, as we were packing for university, my brother would make a critical error; letting me trade him all my systems for his N64. He got Sega Dreamcast, Game Cube and a Gameboy Color. I got a fully loaded 64 with GoldenEye. I made out like a bandit. The quickest way to make friends in university res was quite simply “I have GoldenEye and four controllers.” A banger. I know we all have our own household rules for popular games, but to Mike, the dude in 206 who insisted “Licence to Kill Mode” was the only way to play, GTFOH. Ba da da daaauuuhhhhhh.
– Lindsay Traves, Comics Writer and Film Reviewer (@smashtraves)
While GoldenEye was not my first experience in multiplayer gaming, it was definitely the most impactful. My brother and I used to be ecstatic when my mom announced we were going to visit my cousins, who lived an hour from us. Why? Because they had a copy of GoldenEye. We would pack our own N64 controllers, drive all the way down and Weapon sets and rules varied but the most consistent were: DK Mode, Infinite ammo, Paintball mode on, No Oddjob allowed, everything can be dual-wielded. A personal favourite was whenever we picked explosives, since we just bombarded every inch of every hallway with proximity mines. These matches were absolute chaos. But from that chaos, it forged and solidified a bond between the four of us that’s maintained to this day. A lot of games claim to have “the ultimate multiplayer experience” or something like that, but almost none of them have ever come close to replicating the perfectly distilled experience of a 23-year-old game.
It was 2000. I was four years old when my tiny hands were blasting away at General Ourumov’s goons with a pencil-looking AK-47. GoldenEye had been an incentive waiting for me whenever my aunt welcomed me through the door, complete with the smell of rice and pork chops cooking across the afternoon. Like a long-lost friend, I knew exactly where my aunt’s son kept his N64 (jackpot). Of course, my aunt’s dinner calls would be drowned out with the crackling of a CRTV and Bond’s rocking theme before the real fun began. Since I barely knew how to move and turn with the N64 stick, it was GoldenEye‘s revolutionary auto-aim which made me feel like I was doing something right for the first time (hey, I was four). My childish giggles only got bigger as I acted like Pierce Brosnan and mowed enemies down, as if I was making the world a better place.
Dr. “It’s Time to Go” Doak was also the unfortunate witness to my gleeful rampage across the Facility, where he saw me waste remote mines and replenish pencil ammo to my heart’s content. Obviously, four-year-old me was fulfilled in this highly important mission (and quite frankly my mom was proud of me every time she came down to hug-attack me). Instead of beating the game (and I still never have), I’d spend most of my power fantasy replaying the Dam. Activating the alarms meant spawning unlimited soldiers to continually wreck with my lethal pencil – something that made me forget about my dad waiting outside my aunt’s door with my coat. I thank GoldenEye 007 for being my first real gateway with video games, decades after it gave me some of the best simple memories. I’ll always miss being with my aunt to tell her about that important Dam mission.