It’s time to don your tux and grab a shaken (not stirred) cocktail – as we take a look at the Best 007 Games!
Since writer and ex-Naval Intelligence Officer Ian Fleming created the character of James Bond in 1953 (the first novel being Casino Royale), the character has very rarely been away from cinema screens.
Able to withstand – and even thrive despite – numerous changes in the actor portraying the character, as well as variations in style and tone that go from serious (if far-fetched) spy capers to campy, innuendo-filled daftness, right the way up to the gritty realism of the present day Bond movies, Agent 007 has always managed to find an audience of eager moviegoers to lap up his adventures.
Having been around for so long, it’s no surprise that the character has quite the history of video games behind him too – with a number of them being extremely well received critically as well as commercially.
Which are the best though? Let’s take a look and find out which 007 Games are worth playing – and which are best left to slowly perish in a villain’s secret volcano lair!
Though perhaps the least well-received of the Daniel Craig Bond movies, Quantum of Solace was the first and best of the Activision 007 games, following EA losing the rights.
A first person shooter – which was fairly common for Bond games, following the startling success of Goldeneye on N64 in 1997 – Quantum of Solace covers not only the events of the film it’s based on, but also flashes back to include playable stages based on the prior film, Craig’s Bond debut, Casino Royale.
Quantum of Solace was the last 007 game to be directly based on a current Bond film – and was a different game entirely on the PS2 and DS (being a third person shooter, albeit very different ones, on each of those two consoles).
A large suite of excellent multiplayer options added to the game’s appeal beyond the single player mode too.
9. Sly Spy (Arcade, 1989)
A better game than the number 9 placing might suggest, this is a bit of a sneaky entry – because it’s not strictly a James Bond game at all. However, upon starting the game, players can enter their three digit agent code number – and if you do this without entering 0-0-7, you’re a tougher nut to crack than me!
Data East’s late 80s arcade title is notable for being such a varied and thrilling experience that throws you into a genuinely impressive number of set pieces right from the start.
You’ll begin the game skydiving and shooting enemies out of the air as you hurtle towards the ground, before engaging in a more familiar run-and-gun esque 2D side scroller and then jump on a motorbike for a thrilling, explosive vehicle combat section. Further Rolling Thunder-esque side scrolling sequences are peppered throughout the rest of the game and there are even underwater sections too.
It’s a great game that really gets the James Bond action beats right – with plenty of cheeky, copyright-baiting nods to the character including a Golden Gun. It’s reasonably easy to get your hands on the arcade version these days too, with it being available as a digital download on Switch and even on the Data East Arcade 1 cartridge for the Evercade. Though not officially a James Bond game, it’s still one of the best 007 games there’s ever been.
This was a bit of a cheeky bait-and-switch at the time of release: seeking to cash in on the phenomenal success of the N64’s beloved Goldeneye game, EA developed and published GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, which had nothing at all to do with the original Goldeneye and instead, justified its name by starring an evil agent with a…golden eye.
Despite this clear attempt to fool consumers into thinking this was a Goldeneye sequel, Rogue Agent is actually a really interesting first person shooter – as it casts players in the role of a bad guy, working for the infamous villain Auric Goldfinger.
The cybernetic, gold-coloured eye gives your character special abilities such as x-ray vision, the ability to hack machinery, a bullet proof shield and a magnetic field that allows the player to fling enemies to their doom.
It’s these gadgets and the villainous angle – along with cameos from other famous Bond villains – that make GoldenEye: Rogue Agent such a joy to play.
Naturally, taking further inspiration from Rare’s Goldeneye, there’s a robust suite of multiplayer options too. From an audio perspective, this game had it all – with performances from heavyweights such as Judi Dench and even the late, great, peerless Christopher Lee.
Not only that, but superstar DJ Paul Oakenfold also provided a superb soundtrack – which all goes to show that EA really didn’t skimp on the budget when it came to their Bond games!
Another side-scroller – again taking some inspiration from Rolling Thunder, much like Sly Spy, this Sega console title was actually the last time that Timothy Dalton appeared as James Bond.
Though the run and gun action feels a little like Rolling Thunder, the level design is a lot more varied – and Bond can even take to the water for a swim, though this is risky considering the presence of sharks!
It’s a nicely playable, surprisingly colourful game that gave James Bond his first ever video game that was entirely original and not based on a previous book or film.
Starting life as an adaptation of 1999 Bond film The World is Not Enough, this 2001 Bond game ended up being significantly delayed – with development switching focus to create an entirely new story.
You’ll see from the cover that there’s actually no Bond likeness used either; though Pierce Brosnan was 007 at the time, with this being an original story EA simply didn’t use his image at all, opting instead for a silhouette that suggests Bond, rather than fully depicting him.
This title was a first person shooter that ran on id Tech 3, the same game engine that was used to create Quake III: Arena.
A good variety of gadgets and multiple ways to complete missions – including a mixture of stealth and combat, along with the inclusion of driving stages – gave Agent Under Fire a nicely varied feel, with an excellent storyline too.
Local multiplayer options – which were pretty much a necessity after the success of Goldeneye – were also included.
Another original story, but this time featuring EA dug into their deep pockets to pay for the likeness of Pierce Brosnan (who, bizarrely, doesn’t voice the character).
Nightfire is another example of a 007 first person shooter game; the production values are spectacular – as you’d expect from EA – and this really does feel like a ‘lost’ movie, albeit an interactive one.
It even has its own original theme song – which was a first for 007 video games!
As with many other 007 titles, inventive gadgets feature prominently, as do driving stages – and of course, the expected multiplayer options are all present and correct, making this an excellent title to play alone or with friends.
Once more an original story – EA really did well to bring something unique to their Bond games, rather than relying on whatever was current at the time – Everything or Nothing not only featured Pierce Brosnan’s likeness, but also his voice for the first time (though it also marked his final performance as James Bond).
Other iconic Bond actors also made appearances, including Judi Dench (as M), John Cleese (as Q) and even Richard Kiel as Bond’s old metal-toothed nemesis, Jaws.
The genuinely amazing cast didn’t stop there though: Supermodel Heidi Klum plays a duplicitous scientist and American Pie’s Shannon Elizabeth takes on the role of a geologist who assists Bond on his mission.
Not only that, but the Green Goblin himself, Willem Dafoe, even appears as the main villain, which is quite an impressive piece of casting for a video game – especially for its time.
Rather than being another first person shooter, this time the action is third person – with a focus on cover-shooting and hand-to-hand combat. Driving stages make an appearance (it’s Bond, right? You can’t have 007 without car chases!), as well as an excellent two player co-operative mode.
Just as Nightfire felt like a video game version of a non-existent movie, Everything or Nothing went the extra mile in using its clearly huge budget to create a brilliantly cinematic experience, making it one of the very best 007 games ever.
Though older films in the Bond series had been adapted into video game form before – with 1990 home computer title The Spy Who Loved Me getting there first – From Russia with Love was special for a number of reasons, not least the fact that it marked the return of Sean Connery to the role of 007 for one last hurrah; with many fans still considering Connery to be the best Bond of all time, this was quite a coup.
A third person action adventure set during the swinging sixties – the film version having originally been released in 1963 – with driving levels, period appropriate gadgets and even the jetpack that Bond used in Thunderball, From Russia With Love is a real love letter to Bond fans.
It may seem strange to look back with fondness at a time when EA held the Bond rights, given how they don’t always do great things with licensed properties, but they really did make some creative use of the 007 licence that it’d be great to see more of even if it wasn’t one of the best selling Gamecube games of all time.
This oft-forgotten, hidden gem is perhaps a surprise entry near the top of the Best 007 Games list, but it more than deserves its place here.
A top-down, Zelda-esque RPG filled with gadgets, cameos from lots of famous Bond villains, a compelling, wittily written story and even gambling games to play in the Casino, this is a 007 game that – despite its simple, monochrome looks – really gets the character right and does so in a way that feels original to this day.
Why haven’t there been any more Bond RPGs?
If you’ve never played this one, it’s well worth tracking down if you can; James Bond 007 is a clever, fun game that kept us occupied for weeks on end back in the late 90s, despite appearing on the then-aging original Game Boy!
Though it hasn’t aged gracefully in terms of its visuals (and its control setup, thanks to the N64’s still-unique controller, haven’t stood the test of time either), Rare’s phenomenal Nintendo 64 title didn’t just break the rules for licensed games – which had mostly been an excuse to churn out any old rubbish at that point – but also made first person shooters an entirely viable proposition on consoles; at the time, they were almost entirely the preserve of PC players.
That all changed with Goldeneye, which not only gave players a phenomenal first person shooter, but also brought an incredible number of innovative gameplay elements to the party too.
Stealth and silenced weapons were a viable option throughout, with the disabling of alarms and security cameras also a vital element to ensure success on the harder difficulty levels.
Speaking of which, the higher the difficulty level, the more tasks each mission had – making the game feel completely different when played through at a more challenging difficulty.
Enemy AI was incredibly smart and believable for its time, especially when playing on those aforementioned higher difficulty levels too.
The star of the show was undoubtedly the 4-player splitscreen multiplayer, however – with a huge number of unlockables and options to personalise and vary the experience as much or as little as players wanted, in order to keep the experience as fresh, frantic and hilarious as it was when they first played.
As long as no one played as the diminutive Oddjob, of course – banning the small, hat-throwing villain from being chosen as a player character was a common house rule in many a gaming group, I’m sure!
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.