Why ‘GoldenEye’ on the N64 remains a Video Game Classic

Arcade fans

Yes, no matter what age having a arcade machine in the home is cool, and nothing is better than playing games that everyone loves from Mario Kart, Fifa, Sonic, Olympic Games, Pacman, to Street Figher.

This week our resident games expert who regularly plays GOLDENEYE, talks all things James Bond and reveals why the game is better than the movie of the same title.

’90s kids are all aware of the smash hit 1997 GoldenEye Nintendo 64 video game. It’s finally been announced to arrive on modern consoles for the game’s 25th and Bond’s 60th anniversary. While rights issues have prevented the game from releasing for decades, Microsoft and Nintendo have made a deal whereby it will come to Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack simultaneously.

Prior to the classic game’s release there was Martin Campbell’s 1995 film of the same name that, after a 6-year hiatus, updated Bond for the 1990s. Campbell also directed Casino Royale, updating Bond for the 2000s, taking Bond into a more gritty and realistic territory. For GoldenEye, he didn’t do that exactly and, intentionally or not, made the Bond film feel you’re watching a video game.

The Opening Mission

It’s a tradition for Bond openings to grab the audience’s attention and Goldeneye is no exception. Set a few years prior to the film’s main events in Soviet Russia, Bond and Alec Trevelyan (006) infiltrate a facility full of chemical weapons. However, Alec is killed, or so we think, and Bond must escape by shooting his way out.

The opening of GoldenEye is very much like a video game level with Bond entering the facility stealthily taking out enemies until everything goes wrong. At the time rail shooters like Virtua Cop and Time Crisis were popular in arcades and this feels like it could easily translate to those kinds of games. At one point Rare were even working on Goldeneye as a rail shooter but opted for a first-person shooter instead. While simply having action in a movie doesn’t automatically make it feel like a video game there are more things to consider.

The Storyline

GoldenEye is a deadly satellite system that can fire a nuclear warhead armed with an Electro Magenetic Pulses (EMP). When the weapon is used on a Russian facility the only survivor is Natalya. As Bond investigates the Janus crime syndicate he meets several players including Natalya, and soon discovers that the head of the syndicate was his former partner, Alec Trevelyan.

The story in GoldenEye is full of high stakes and comic book or video game like characters. The post-Cold War story contains an extreme threat that Bond must destroy which motivates Bond’s objectives throughout the movie much like it would to destroy something in a video game.

The Villains

Bond films have always had eccentric villains, but GoldenEye has more than a few stand-outs. There’s Alec Trevelyan who wants revenge after Bond shortened the detonation time for blowing up the chemical facility. There’s the evil Bond girl Xenia who takes pleasure in killing. And Boris played by Alan Cumming, who’s an eccentric Russian computer programmer.

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The film has even more villains, and they have unique, borderline cartoonish traits much like video game villains. Alec has a burn scar on the side of his face, Xenia can kill by squeezing men to their death, and Boris is an expert hacker who often uses cheeky passwords.

Boss Fights

One of the key aspects of action/adventure video games is fighting the main villains whereby you must use your video game skills to outsmart the boss. In GoldenEye many of the key villains are taken out by Bond in this very way.

Bond shoots a helicopter that Xenia is latched onto that pulls her back and squeezes her, much like a weak spot in a video game. Alec is dropped off the satellite and somehow survives the drop only to be later crushed. And as Boris shouts, “I am invincible!” he becomes frozen by liquid nitrogen.

The Electronic Score

Eric Serra had composed much of Luc Besson’s body of work, and he was also a good fit for Goldeneye. While there is some orchestral music much of the electronic score is highly unusual for Bond with possibly the closest before then being the disco Bond theme from The Spy Who Loved Me.

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In one scene after the opening we see Bond driving a psychiatrist around mountains near Monaco. When Bond is teased by Xenia to race the music goes into very campy territory and sounds very much like it’s from a ’90s video game. The score during the action scenes is also exaggerated especially during the boss fight sequences when Bond fights Xenia and Alec.


In GoldenEye, there are many vehicles Bond uses throughout the movie. He flies a plane to get out of the facility, and another time he is shot down in one by Xenia. He drives an Aston Martin DB5 when racing Xenia. There’s also the tank sequence which was later adapted in the GoldenEye video game.

When Bond uses these vehicles it’s often a device used for an action scene very much like how they are used for video game levels. Vehicles are used to get out of situations and other times a race.


Much like most Bond movies that preceded it, Bond had an array of gadgets. The gadgets in GoldenEye are very useful for infiltration purposes and as weapons. There’s the wristwatch laser that can cut through metal, the grapple gun, the exploding pen and not to mention Q’s silly ones like the rocket firing leg cast and the airbag in the phone booth.

Many of these gadgets are useful to the mission. Some of these were also appropriately adapted by Rare to be incorporated into the video game.

The Finale

All Bond movies have a great finale, and GoldenEye is no exception. Bond discovers a satellite that emerges from the ground reminiscent of the underwater facility from The Spy Who Loved Me.

The satellite is a great place to hold the finale, as it adds pressure for Bond needing to destroy the satellite before the Goldeneye weapon is used. This is very much like a final level in a video game, and of course this is also where Bond fights Trevelyan.

Alec’s Death

It’s a famous fact that Sean Bean has died in many films, but GoldenEye is one of his most famous and over the top. Alec cries for mercy”‘For England James?” and Bond coldly replies “No, for me,” dropping Trevelyan, and he dies, right? No, not quite. Alec somehow survives the drop barely scathed, but when the satellite blows up it falls on him as he screams in horror.

In previous Bond films, people who have fallen even lesser heights have not survived. Yet Alec suffers a different fate much like a Mortal Kombat fatality.

The Outlandish Tone

After License to Kill flopped in 1989, audiences weren’t ready for a serious Bond yet. Martin Campbell in GoldenEye balanced the campiness of Sean Connery and Roger Moore and some grit of Timothy Dalton’s Bond without getting too serious. GoldenEye is a unique Bond film, and stands out even among Pierce Bronson’s following films.

Whether intended or not, GoldenEye feels like watching someone play a video game which is probably why the game was such a hit. The stylized action, mid-’90s electronic score and exaggerated performances make it feel as if the game came before the movie, it wouldn’t change a thing.

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Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman
Mark Boardman is an established showbiz journalist and freelance copywriter whose work has been published in Business Insider, Daily Mail, Bloomberg, MTV, Buzzfeed and The New York Post amongst other press. Often spotted on the red carpet at celebrity events and film screenings, Mark is a regular guest on BBC Radio London and in-demand for his opinions for media outlets including Newsweek. His TV credits include This Morning, The One Show and T4. Email Mark@MarkMeets.com

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