This month marks the 20th anniversary of GoldenEye 007—a Nintendo 64 classic that revolutionized the entire gaming world. And to a certain generation, it’s still the greatest video game of all time. GoldenEye was one of the first titles to truly feel communal (who knows how many hours of the game’s groundbreaking multiplayer mode were logged in basements and game dens across the country during the late '90s), and its revolutionary first-person shooter controls paved the way for Halo, Call of Duty, and just about every other shooter franchise to come. GoldenEye has one of the most indelible legacies in video game history, and 20 years later, we’re still unpacking all of its secrets.
Every cultural phenomenon finds itself acquiring a narrative that can only ever tell a small portion of the real story. As a key innovative entity of its time and place, GoldenEye’s history is full of rare anecdotes and interesting tidbits, and its legendary status often leaves its most fascinating facts left unexplored. Whether you were a devoted player of GoldenEye in the '90s or a casual fan with fond memories of being along for the ride, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Goldeneye 007 to give you the full story of a legendary classic.
15 The Game Contains a Secret Chip with 10 '80s-Era Video Games
Video games have a long tradition of weird, sneaky Easter eggs. GoldenEye has a few unique Easter eggs of its own—the most mind blowing of which was only discovered a few years ago. Deep within the game’s code, a die-hard fan found a whole emulator for Rare’s ZX Spectrum system from the 1980s. The emulator offers ten playable games, including Sabre Wulf, Atic Atac, Lunar Jetman, and Alien 8.
The story behind this emulator chip is probably a lot less exciting than expected. It was a simple side-project for Rare to see if the N64 could host this type of emulator, and GoldenEye just happened to be the project on hand to test it out on. For most gamers, the real mystery is how to access the thing. Fortunately, there are plenty of experts out there to figure out the technical puzzle for the rest of us.
14 Weapon Reloading With The Rumble Pak?
There’s arguably nothing more important to the success of any first-person, third-person, or tactical shooter than fluidity of movement. GoldenEye 007 was a pioneer in offering fluid movement for first-person shooters, but one of the game’s early weapon reload concepts could have easily destroyed its gameplay--and the future of the shooter genre along with it.
In the early stages of development, the developers at Rare wanted GoldenEye players to have to physically unplug and re-insert the N64 Rumble Pak to reload a weapon. Fortunately, Nintendo ended up tabling the idea, as neither the Rumble Pak, nor the N64 controller, would have survived it. The physical reload also would have thrown a huge wrench in the player movement that made GoldenEye so successful and groundbreaking.
13 Super Mario 64 Was a Major Influence
It’s easy to forget just how mind-blowing it was when everyone's favorite 8 bit plumber entered a beautiful 64 bit world. Mario's first 3D rendering in Super Mario 64 was a big moment in video game history. It was quite literally a game-changer for everyone, including the team behind Goldeneye.
On the surface, Mario 64 and GoldenEye may have very little in common apart from their shared gaming system. But the GoldenEye crew implemented a number of game elements into their project as a direct result of seeing the new Mario game in action. GoldenEye designer Martin Hollis was particularly taken with Mario 64’s multiple-objectives-per-level setup, and applied the concept to his game pretty early on. Mario’s 3D collision detection algorithm—which prevents two 3D entities from overlapping—was also a huge help in building GoldenEye.
12 Donkey Kong Country Almost Completely Changed the Game
Goldeneye was worked through a number of incarnations before the Rare team turned it into a first-person shooter (there was even a racing game version in development for the Virtual Boy at one point). Due to the success of Donkey Kong Country, Goldeneye came very close to being a 2D sidescroller.
Had the Donkey Kong-esque sidescroller version of Goldeneye come to fruition, it would have likely been a pretty awesome game. The Bond-brand of action lends itself well to the type of gameplay that Donkey Kong Country brilliantly executed (a side scrolling version of the tank chase would’ve especially been a blast). But ultimately, there’s no way the DK version of Goldeneye would have been the groundbreaking social shoot-em-up that we know and love. We’ll just have to wait till the next Bond movie to see 007 shooting out of an explosive barrel flying across the jungle at sunset.
11 The “All Bonds” Cheat Was a Hoax (Partially)
The N64 era is full of mythical tales of cheats that became the stuff of legend before we figured out how to quickly debunk them on the Internet. One popular GoldenEye rumor cheat that few players could confirm or debunk for a long time was the “All Bonds” cheat, which was supposed to give players the option to play as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, or Timothy Dalton as Bond in addition to Pierce Brosnan.
The "All Bonds" cheat was purportedly accessed through a simple cheat menu button-combination. An April Fool’s article in Electronic Gaming Monthly Magazine gave further credence to the notion that everyone could play as their favorite Bond. The cheat has been long since debunked, but Rare has also confirmed that the option to play as any Bond was written into the game, but pulled at the last minute.
Good news, though: if you’re really feeling adventurous, all you have to do is dig into the game’s code to activate the "All Bonds" option and engage in the ultimate 007 showdown.
10 You Can Find the Movie in the Game
Wouldn’t it be cool to watch an entire 64 bit version of the Goldeneye movie? YES, but unfortunately, that’s not what “finding the movie in the game” refers to here. But you can find a “copy” of the film laying around somewhere sneaky in the world of the game. As is the case with all good easter eggs, all you have to do is know where to look.
A VHS tape of the movie can be found on a CCTV in Bunker 2 of the inventory menu. It isn't the most elaborate video game Easter egg out there, but in retrospect, it serves as a fun reminder that GoldenEye not only exceeded the quality of most movie tie-in games, but the popularity of the movie it was based on as well. The Bond brand is certainly responsible for much of the game's aesthetic appeal (as evidenced by the lesser success of the GoldenEye design team's non-Bond follow-up, Perfect Dark), but it doesn't account for the cultural phenomenon that the game created on its own merit.
9 Dr. Doak was a Real Guy
Dr. Doak is a GoldenEye character exclusive to the game, added to the story’s chemical weapons facility intro for extra gameplay. He was also a real guy, although not actually a double-agent chemical weapons professor that also competes in free-for-all shooting matches from time to time.
The real David Doak was actually one of the game designers who worked on GoldenEye before moving on to other notable titles like Perfect Dark, Time Splitters, and Time Splitters 2. While working on GoldenEye, his facial likeness and name were used for a double-agent character who helps Bond through a shootout in the chemical weapons facility at the beginning of the game’s single player campaign. The player always has the option to kill Dr. Doak at the end of the sequence, and we're sure the real David Doak would be disturbed by the number of players who have chosen to ruthlessly eliminate his 64 bit likeness over the years.
8 It Was Never Meant to Be Released with the Movie
In today’s ultra-curated entertainment market, it’s downright bizarre to think that a movie tie-in video game would ever be released two whole years after the film hit theaters, but that’s just how long Goldeneye 007 took to hit shelves. Surprisingly, the late release was no accident.
We should all be thanking our lucky stars that the Goldeneye development team was given ample time to create their groundbreaking game. Rushed development schedules always end badly for gaming properties, and GoldenEye would have been no exception. Instead, the game was given the time and care it needed to slowly mold into a classic. Unfortunately, time would not be as kind to the PlayStation adaptation of Pierce Brosnan’s 2nd Bond adventure, Tomorrow Never Dies—a lackluster third-person shooter that proves just how unforgiving a speedy development schedule can be.
7 How to Survive the Golden Gun
Playing “The Man with the Golden Gun” mode on multiplayer was always cutthroat as hell. The Golden Gun was a brutal weapon that guaranteed a kill with one bullet, so if any of your friends got it before you did, you were royally screwed.
What most players didn’t know was that there was a way (albeit a challenging one) to survive a shot from the Golden Gun. All you had to do was make sure your character was set to 10+ health in the multiplayer setup menu, have full body armor, and make sure you were only shot in the limbs instead of the torso or head. Pretty simple right? If not, there’s always running around frantically or trying to fight off your opponent up close with slappers.
6 Remnants of Scrapped Objectives Can Be Found in the Game
GoldenEye was a key early player in developing maps with multiple objectives on the N64. If you explore certain levels thoroughly enough, you can find some fascinating remnants of scrapped objectives. For example, the Dam level originally had an objective to retrieve Bond’s bungee equipment for the dam jump. If you use the full zoom sight of the sniper rifle, you can look across the reservoir and see a faraway building where the bungee equipment was hidden.
On other levels, you can find items, rooms, and switches that don’t appear to be there for any reason at all. GoldenEye has plenty of exciting objectives to keep any player occupied, but who knows what kind of awesome mini-adventures we’ve been missing out on for all these years.
5 Expectations for the Game Were Initially Low
The video game industry is still young, and definitely still in its experimental phase, so you can really never see a huge hit coming. Nintendo was apparently lukewarm about GoldenEye’s development from the beginning—so much so that they came dangerously close to pulling the plug on the whole project midway through production.
Looking back, you can hardly blame Nintendo for their apprehensions. At the time, console first-person shooters didn’t really sell, and Nintendo was largely unimpressed with the demos they’d seen. But eventually they decided to stick it out with GoldenEye, and wound up with their third highest-selling game ever as a result. Weird that we came so close to living in a world where we couldn’t yell at our friends for playing as Odd Job, or spend an hour playing “Slappers Only” and not get a single kill.
4 It was Originally Conceived as a Rail Shooter
We’ve already covered GoldenEye’s 2D sidescrolling iteration, but the scrapped concept that arguably came closest to being a reality was the rail shooter version of the game. After plans to release it in 2D on Super Nintendo were canned, GoldenEye designer Martin Hollis became quite taken with Sega’s arcade hit Virtua Cop, a 3D rail-shooter that seemed like the perfect blueprint for a James Bond game on paper.
Thankfully, the revolutionary free-roaming gameplay of Super Mario 64 intervened. Hollis saw an early demo of Mario and realized that a console rail-shooter would soon be completely obsolete. A tightly conceived GoldenEye rail shooter would likely have been a decent time, but it wouldn’t have given birth to the glorious multiplayer mode that made the game so popular.
3 The Multiplayer was an Afterthought
GoldenEye 007 literally took years to make, but the game’s multiplayer mode—easily the most popular and influential part of the title—was thrown together in a month. Not only that, but it was never part of GoldenEye’s actual production schedule. According to Martin Hollis, the whole thing was put together by designer Steve Ellis, without any permission from Rare or Nintendo. Multiplayer may very well not have existed, had it been built any other way.
There’s an alternate universe out there where the afterthought of adding GoldenEye's multiplayer was never put into action, where couches all over the world were never occupied by eager players engrossed in GoldenEye deathmatches, and where none of us ever played Halo, Call of Duty, or even Overwatch. The effect that GoldenEye’s multiplayer had on the entire gaming industry can’t be overstated.
2 It was Developed by a Team of Newbies
Many of history’s most influential moments are occupied by secret geniuses who had no idea what they were doing. Of the 10 (yes, only 10) people who made up GoldenEye’s development team, only two had ever worked on a video game before. Untethered from the constraints that come with experience and indoctrination, the team was freed up to make GoldenEye’s production a truly creative experience.
They were given ample time to craft each element of the game according to the dictates of their own inspiration. It’s the kind of production climate that the industry would be wise to replicate as much as possible. Just think how many more GoldenEyes we would have if today’s indie game developers had the industry support and licensing that this beloved classic was given.
1 Pierce Brosnan is awful at it
Despite the overall mediocrity of his last three entries in the 007 film series, Pierce Brosnan was a great Bond. He even managed to turn in a top-notch performance in the otherwise disastrous Die Another Day. He was a especially great in GoldenEye, so it’s a bummer he couldn’t play the game to save his life.
In a 2014 appearance on The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon challenged Brosnan to a GoldenEye one-on-one multiplayer match. The actor played along like a good sport, but the game went south fast when he couldn’t manage to pick up a gun. Fighting off Fallon’s pistol fire with slappers didn’t pan out so well, and it wasn’t long before Brosnan’s side of the screen went red. Good thing Brosnan was a far more effective Bond in the movies.
What are your favorite memories of GoldenEye 007? Are there any obscure pieces of GoldenEye trivia out there that we missed? Let us know in the comments!