It’s Bond, James Bond Week here at For The Win, where we’ve shaken (not stirred) five days’ worth of content to celebrate the premiere of the iconic franchise’s 25th movie, No Time to Die.
So I wanted to start this story off by taking you to the exact moment in time when I first played James Bond’s GoldenEye 007 on the Nintendo 64.
But the truth is I don’t know when it happened for the first time. I don’t even know if I was actually playing the game myself — I was just 4 years old in 1997 when the game first came out.
Reminiscing, it feels like one of those situations where, as the baby in the family, someone just hands you a controller and acts like you’re playing the game with them but you’re probably not. I’m not sure.
All I know is that, at the time, that was the most incredible game I’d seen in my life. And I knew it.
I mean, to that point, all I’d ever seen was the Super Nintendo. And most of it was that insane Lion King game that I’m 70 percent sure no one in the world has ever beaten. The N64 might as well have been a Playstation 5, and GoldenEye might as well have been Ghost of Tsushima. It just looked so real in my young, inexperienced eyes.
But that’s the thing — I was 4 years old. I didn’t know anything about, well, anything. I couldn’t tell you what the best games are — I could only tell you what I liked. And that was generally some mix of Sonic the Hedgehog, Megaman, Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z. And that’s what I played for such a long time across various systems for years.
Let’s fast forward a bit to 2009. It’s 12 years after my first taste of James Bond.
At that point, I’m on the Playstation 3 playing Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, God of War and Uncharted. There’s still lots Pokémon being played, too. Some Sonic the Hedgehog and even Megaman sprinkled in there occasionally. But clearly, my interests have shifted quite a bit.
We’re quite a long way away from the GoldenEye days. But, for whatever reason, I got an itching feeling to play it.
So I go to my grandma’s house and into her shed. I find the N64 sitting in an old box from the basement. The GoldenEye is in a dusty box next to it. So I clean them off, hook them up and get it popping.
I sat there prepared to laugh about how bad the game actually was. It came out in 1997. There’s no way this thing is as good as I thought it was, right?
Wrong. So wrong.
This game still held up 12 years later. The 4-year-old me was right — this is incredible. The story was enthralling. The gameplay was way ahead of its time. The graphics? Well, they’re not that good. But who cares? The experience was still so enjoyable.
It took just shy of three hours to play through the entire story, but it was totally worth it. The game was just a gem. The levels were set up brilliantly. There was action awaiting around every single corner. And, despite it being a game that was made in 1997, it felt like the controls were still so natural.
As I played I wondered, Why? How could this game that was made so long ago still feel so natural to me? I know I wasn’t that good at it growing up.
But that’s when it hit me: It was because this game was a blueprint.
This was the game that made it possible for all other games like it to exist. It was a modern first-person shooter before modern first-person shooters ever existed.
You could move around freely in the game — backwards, forward, side-to-side. You could look in any direction you wanted. You could crouch and take cover. Hide. All of those things seem so natural now in gaming but they weren’t at all back then.
For a long time, first-person shooters were limited to arcade-style rail shooters like Time Crisis. There was no freedom of movement — just shoot what’s in front of you.
GoldenEye changed that and the games that succeeded it followed suit from early adopters like Perfect Dark to current ones like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Those games don’t exist in the way they do if GoldenEye doesn’t.
And that’s why, while it isn’t necessarily advanced any more, it will always be one of the best games ever created. At least in my eyes, anyway.