James Bond has had a long and sordid history in the video game sphere. His Atari 2600 title is fondly remembered, as are the text adventures based on Goldfinger and A View to a Kill, among others.
For this list, however, we're going to rank 007's video game adventures in the modern age, from 1997's Goldeneye 007 through to 2012's 007 Legends, the legendary super-spy's most recent outing. For expediency's sake, we're going to skip over handheld titles like James Bond 007 for Game Boy and handheld ports of other titles. Which entry will come out on top? Read on and find out!
Here are All Of The James Bond Video Games, Ranked.
007 Legends is, to date, the spy icon's final virtual adventure, and for good reason. What was supposed to be a celebration of the 50th anniversary of James Bond in film wound up being the death blow to his video game reputation. The title is set over events from six different films: Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill, Die Another Day, and Skyfall.
Unfortunately, there's no overarching story to connect the disparate pieces, so the whole game just feels like a thrown-together mix tape of "007's Greatest Hits." Despite running on the same engine as the decent Goldeneye Reloaded, the graphics in 007 Legends are noticeably worse than its predecessor, particularly with regard to the choppy framerate. The cookie-cutter FPS missions also suck all personality out of the admittedly well-realized environments, pulled straight from the films.
The worst part, though, has to be the fact that, despite featuring some of the original cast of the movies, such as Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax and Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier, Daniel Craig doesn't voice James Bond, making the whole gimmick of the modern version of the character in scenes from the old films a completely moot point. 007 Legends is the weakest entry in the series, by a wide margin.
007 Racing was an interesting experiment, but was met with mixed reviews back in 2000, and the ensuing sixteen years of videogame progress have not been kind to the title. The graphics weren't much to look at back then, and they're even worse now, and the controls are sluggish compared to its contemporaries like Need for Speed and Gran Turismo.
Still, the core concept, of exploring the world of James Bond via his marvelous selection of vehicles, remains a solid and viable premise, and there are some fun and innovative features. One mission, in particular, has Bond driving his BMW 750 (from Tomorrow Never Dies) via remote control, using surveillance cameras to guide him along to his destination. A novel concept, though its imprecise controls can frustrate the more impatient among us.
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent was a shameless attempt by publisher EA to capitalize on the legendary Nintendo 64 title, Rare's Goldeneye 007. The lead character in this game is a disgraced MI6 agent, codenamed Goldeneye (seriously?) who joins Goldfinger's forces in battle against those of Dr. No. Like 007 Legends before it, Rogue Agent revels in fanservice, and is actually quite successful in wringing nostalgia out of familiar settings and characters.
The shooting, as well, is solid enough, with fun dual-wielding mechanics and a clever "human shield" hook. Though the settings are numerous and varied, the actual moment-to-moment shootouts eventually become a repetitive grind, and the story mode quickly reveals itself to be a drab shooting gallery with poor graphics and an irritatingly slow movement speed. Perhaps with a few more months of development and a better story, Rogue Agent could have reached the lofty heights of its predecessor, but alas, 'twas not to be.
After EA picked up the James Bond license from Nintendo and Rare, the first game they released was the Playstation-exclusive Tomorrow Never Dies, developed by Black Ops Entertainment, which was met with a large "meh" by most audiences. Featuring a sparse ten levels, the game could be completed in a lazy afternoon. Unlike the first-person shooting of Goldeneye 007, Tomorrow Never Dies was a third-person action adventure title, with clunky mechanics and awkward boss battles.
The game followed the plot of the film, with clips from the movie punctuating the finales of certain levels. Despite its rocky foundation, Tomorrow Never Dies featured a lot of variety, with missions ranging from on-foot shooting to downhill skiing and car combat, a design philosophy which would inspire much better titles yet to come.
EA's next effort following the decent-but-underwhelming Tomorrow Never Dies was based on Pierce Brosnan's next 007 film, The World is Not Enough. The Playstation version was developed by TND developer Black Ops Entertainment and was met with a similarly lukewarm reception, but the N64 version, by Eurocom (who would go on to crash and burn after the aforementioned disaster, 007 Legends), fared much better.
Both versions followed the basic plot of the film while returning to Goldeneye 007's first-person perspective. While the PS1 version had poor graphics and dull gunplay, the N64 version, while not as smooth as Goldeneye, had some impressively large-scale firefights and a wide variety of weapons to play with. Too bad the stealth sections and tacked-on multiplayer kept it from fulfilling its full potential. Still, Mission 12: Fallen Angel, is one of the best levels in any 007 game to this day.
Following Activision's acquisition of the James Bond license, their first 007 story was Quantum of Solace. Despite the title, it also follows the events of Daniel Craig's first (and best) Bond film, Casino Royale. Developed by Treyarch (Call of Duty: Black Ops, Spider-Man 2) using the Call of Duty 4 engine, the game was a pretty standard CoD-style shooter, with a novel third-person cover mechanic. The single-player campaign could be completed in an afternoon and was a fun, if unspectacular, shooting gallery with some unobtrusive and thankfully optional stealth segments.
However, the game had unexpected legs in its wonderful online multiplayer mode, which presented itself as a great alternative for players who had burned out on Call of Duty. While fairly divorced from the James Bond aesthetic, the cover mechanic and more limited weapons selection made Quantum of Solace's multiplayer suite stand out among its contemporaries. One of its maps, "Chemical Plant," is actually a fairly faithful recreation of the legendary "Facility" from the original Goldeneye 007. And that's awesome.
Like EA's Rogue Agent before it, Activision attempted to capitalize on the enduring legacy of Goldeneye 007 with their ostensible "reimagining" of the film the original game was based upon. Goldeneye Reloaded swapped out Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig, but also strangely ditched the entire original cast of the film, leaving the actual plot and acting of the game feeling like a second-rate remake.
Fortunately, the engaging first-person stealth and shooting easily made up for the underwhelming production values. Most missions depend on stealth, but can break into full-fledged firefights with little consequence, giving the player some freedom on whether to play as a sneaky agent or a straight-up commando. The multiplayer suite wasn't up the par of its predecessor, however. Despite the multitude of options, it lacked the charm of the James Bond license and the strong foundation of Quantum of Solace, and was simply too lacking in substance for its own good.
After a couple of FPS adventures, EA entrusted their Redwood Shores development studio (which would eventually be known as Visceral Games) with a wild new reinterpretation of what a James Bond videogame could be. 2004's Everything or Nothing had the production values of a feature film, with Pierce Brosnan lending his likeness to the character, as well as his voice talent, for the first and only time in a game. In addition, Willem Dafoe played an original villain, and the supporting cast was filled out by regulars from the films (John Cleese, Judi Dench) and newcomers like Shannon Elizabeth and Heidi Klum, all wrapped in a story which went absolutely bonkers in the most delicious way, making the plot of Die Another Day look downright restrained in comparison.
The action was exclusively third-person for the first time since 1999's Tomorrow Never Dies game, and featured a mix of cookie-cutter shooting, visually engaging melee combat, and a handful of unique vehicle chases. It also featured an excellent two-player co-op mode, featuring a side-story which complemented the main plot. Everything or Nothing was a whole lot of game, and, while the core shooting hasn't aged very well (too much auto aim), it still stands tall as a monument to the creative power of the James Bond license.
For their next game after Everything or Nothing, developer EA Redwood Shores looked to the past, and settled upon making a video game adaptation of what is perhaps the greatest Bond film of all time, 1963's From Russia With Love. In a surprise coup, EA managed to get Sean Connery to reprise his role as James Bond. Hearing Sean Connery's 75-year-old voice coming from his 33-year-old likeness can be a little bit jarring, but it's such a excellent example of video game magic, we don't even mind, and From Russia With Love just wouldn't be the same without Connery's rugged Scottish drawl.
Fun Fact: Although the criminal organization SPECTRE plays a key role in the film of FRWL, legal issues at the time prevented EA from using the organization in the game, and so it is renamed to The Octopus.
Many gamers have fond memories of Nightfire's four-player multiplayer mode, as well as its entertaining single-player campaign, which blended driving sequences, first person shooting, and on-rails segments. Developed by Eurocom (Goldeneye Reloaded), Nightfire's campaign is more polished, if less novel, than EA's previous effort, Agent Under Fire, but we believe its multiplayer falls short of its lesser-known cousin (more on Agent Under Fire in a bit). Nightfire's multiplayer features levels ripped straight out of the film series, such as Atlantis from The Spy Who Loved Me and Fort Knox from Goldfinger, and let players commandeer remote-controlled vehicles which were powerful and agile, but left their user vulnerable.
Gearbox Software developed the PC version of the game, but most fans agree that the console versions are superior to their PC counterpart, which lacks driving levels and is considerably shorter in length.
2010's Blood Stone is a criminally underrated title which sold poorly and never got the love it deserved. It's commonly accepted that Blood Stone's failure to find an audience directly led to Activision shutting down developer Bizarre Creations, who were beginning work on a sequel, which, alas, never came to be.
Much like Everything or Nothing, Blood Stone is a third-person shooter with melee combat and several driving sequences, featuring the voice and likeness of the current 007 actor, in this case Daniel Craig. Unlike Pierce Brosnan's excellent performance in EoN, however, Daniel Craig seems downright bored in this game and sounds like he'd rather be doing anything else instead of recording his lines. Fortunately, the moment-to-moment action is riveting, with tight shooting controls and awesome melee takedowns punctuating the excitement. The theme song, as well, performed by Joss Stone (who also plays the female lead in the game), is pretty cool, and was composed by Stone and Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics.
The legend goes that Agent Under Fire, by EA Redwood Shores, started life as two games; a PS2 version of The World Is Not Enough, and a PS2 sequel to 007 Racing. Eventually, the two projects were combined into an original game, Agent Under Fire. The single-player campaign, like its sequel, Nightfire, combined levels focused on first-person shooting, on-rails shooting, and driving classic Bond cars. The level "Streets of Bucharest" is our favorite stage, placing bond behind the wheel of the iconic Aston Martin DB5. It's full of sweet Bond moves to pull off, capped by an on-rails segment behind the guns of a giant tank. A classic 007 moment.
Where Agent Under Fire really shines, however, is in its four-player split-screen mode. AUF's multiplayer allows for unprecedented customization of nearly every aspect of the match, from starting health to movement speed and beyond. With a variety of game modes and a wide assortment of stages, Agent Under Fire's multiplayer is the greatest local Deathmatch this side of the original Goldeneye 007. Speaking of which...
Be honest, were you really expecting anything else? This legendary N64 title by Rare was a genuine game-changer, adding sophistication to the FPS genre and bringing split-screen Deathmatch to the masses. Goldeneye's graphics were outstanding for the time, though the framerate admittedly slows to a crawl during multiplayer matches. Rare went on to make Perfect Dark, a spiritual successor to Goldeneye, and then, as Free Radical Design, they made the equally beloved Timesplitters trilogy. But none of those games are as iconic as this, the original console FPS masterpiece.
To this day, Goldeneye is a staple in dorms and living rooms around the world, where friends make up bizarre "house rules" matchups, like arming one player with the Golden Gun while the other three have to resort to "slappers only," or laying out an obstacle course of proximity mines which other players must attempt to navigate. Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 is pure, primal, unadulterated fun. Say it with me: "Pistols only, Facility, License to Kill Mode, No Oddjob!"
What's your favorite 007 video game? Sound off in the comments!