James Bond has been the star of several excellent films, novels, and other forms of media over the years. But the debonair spy also made several appearances in a number of video games in the past couple of decades as well, with classic text adventures and games dating back to even the Atari 2600. The actors portraying Bond may come and go, but his classic style is forever. That's part of what made the video game iterations of Bond's storied (fictional) career so amazing. Arguably, however, the James Bond video game legacy didn't really blossom until the 1997 cult classic GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64. This shooter kicked off a glowing, modern age for the James Bond video game connoisseur, and a plethora of action-packed riffs on the Bond legacy followed.
In honor of the Bond flick Dr. No's 55th anniversary this week, we've ranked the best modern Bond video games in terms of overall quality, "Bond factor" (what makes them feel special), and replayability. For this list, we've excluded handheld and classic Bond titles, since those weren't nearly as engrossing or entertaining as the "modern" era of Bond games. These are the games you'll want to pick up if you ever want a virtual tour through James' dalliances with the digital medium. There's one for every taste, so make sure you check out some from every part of the list, not just the top.
007 Racing (2000)
Originally released in 2000, this Eutechnyx-developed racer was largely considered a spinoff from the main Bond games. It featured several of Bond's famous vehicles, such as his Aston Martin BD5 from Goldfinger, the BMW Z8 in The World is Not Enough, and Bond's likeness, of course.
Each car came equipped with its own set of tech from MI6, just like Bond would normally have at his disposal in the movies. Looking back now it's clear the game didn't even look that great when it was first released, and it's even muddier-looking now. But it's an intriguing curiosity you can explore if you ever feel the need to go driving around in some of the most important cars from the Bond films.
Bond Factor: This is a James Bond racing game. Let that sink in for a moment.
Replayability: You could go back to this racer again and again unless you've moved on to bigger, better things.
Overall: No vroom-vroom for this Bond ride.
007 Legends (2012)
Way back in 2012, 007 Legends released in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. To commemorate the occasion Eurocom and Activision teamed up to make a title that would span across one story from each of the six Bond actors, finishing with a mission from the then upcoming film Skyfall. Sounds cool, doesn't it? I mean who doesn't want to relive the the crotch-endangering laser scene from Goldfinger, or visit our old friend Jaws from Moonraker? Well, somehow the developers took that awesome concept and executed it in the poorest way possible.
Instead of tripping back in time with Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan, the whole game is treated as a flashback Bond #6, Daniel Craig, is having while he's mortally wounded. Instead of the iconic venues we're used to, Goldfinger, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Moonraker, License to Kill, and Die Another Day have been adapted into stories that are supposed to have taken place between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall. As such, they've been modified in such ways as to they're almost unrecognizable.
If the presentation wasn't so bad, maybe the game could have flourished, but it's basically Call of Duty: James Bond. You mostly just kill baddies and maybe take some photos or fingerprints with a mini-game or driving sequence here and there. The core of the James Bond DNA just isn't there. It's not a terrible shooter itself, but it's a terrible James Bond game.
Bond Factor: Ramirez! I need you to pretend you're James Bond.
Replayability: If you somehow play through it once, you won't ever want to again.
Overall: 5 James Bond fanfics out of 10.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1999)
GoldenEye 007 provided the formula that a James Bond game needed to be successful upon its release in 1997. EA acquired the license after that game's release and set about making an adaptation of the latest Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies. I'm not sure what the thought process was behind the development of this game. GoldenEye was one of the most successful games on the N64, and people went crazy over it, but EA took one look at the gift horse they had acquired, shot it in the head and sent it to the glue factory.
Instead of copying GoldenEye's successful formula, EA decided to make a game that was the complete opposite of Rare's classic. Tomorrow Never Dies is a third-person shooter with no multiplayer, and has nowhere near the polish, fun, content, or quality that GoldenEye does.
It was harmed even further by coming out two years after the movie it's based on did. GoldenEye got away with that because it was one of the greatest games of its times. Tomorrow Never Dies couldn't even ride the coattails of its movie license, and like the movie of the same title, people were ambivalent about it and thought it didn't stand up to its predecessor.
Bond Factor: Tomorrow Never Dies channels the movie's feel. Too bad the movie it channels is one of Bond's weakest outings.
Replayability: The game only has 10 missions, which is a blessing in disguise. This won't be one you'll fondly remember.
Overall: 5 weird trapezoid ships out of 10.
GoldenEye: Rogue Agent (2004)
Ironically, EA would attempt to cash in on the GoldenEye name five years after the release of Tomorrow Never Dies with GoldenEye: Rogue Agent. The first mistake the game makes is having no connection to the classic N64 title besides the name and the fact it takes place in an alternate version of the James Bond universe. The concept had a lot of promise. You play as a former MI6 agent that was booted from the agency because M saw them as overly brutal and violent. At one point in your MI6 career, Dr. No shot their right eye out, and now they just want to kill Dr. No all the time. Auric Goldfinger recruits them and gives them the titular GoldenEye device (which is also used as the agent's codename) which can do all sorts of neat tricks like MRI scans.
The rest of the game has to do with taking down Dr. No and stopping his plots. It's interesting to be the bad guy, but the execution is so drab that it makes the whole thing feel like a slog. It's mired with the same issues that 007 Legends faced on a smaller scale. We've got all these iconic characters hanging about, but the campaign ends up following the lines of a typical first-person shooter rather than doing anything significant or innovative with the Bond license. Also, regardless of the fact you're the "bad guy" there's nothing that really drives that home. You spend the whole game killing other bad guys and there's never really any consequence. You might as well just be working for MI6, or the CIA, or whoever. The end of the game set the stage for a sequel, but no one wanted more of this so thankfully they let this spin-off rest in peace.
Bond Factor: This game is about a "Golden Eye" not "GoldenEye," and only a few minutes in you'll realize how big of a difference that makes.
Replayability: If you're a big first-person shooter fan this might be worth playing more than once. There is multiplayer so it's possible to get some extended fun out of the game.
Overall: 6 needlessly gold-colored cybernetic eyes out of 10.
GoldenEye 007: Reloaded (2011)
Eurocom's first attempt to adapt an older James Bond story to the modern world was a lot more successful than 007 Legends. GoldenEye 007: Reloaded originally released on the Wii as just plain old GoldenEye 007, but Reloaded set out to be the definitive edition. The major issue with GoldenEye 007: Reloaded is that it's a remake. In fact, it could be judged less harshly if it had just went its own way as an original James Bond story.
There's enough changes from the original GoldenEye to make the resemblance between the two very blurred. Daniel Craig replaces Pierce Brosnan, other characters like Boris are omitted entirely, and the characters that do survive have had alterations to their personality and looks. Reloaded plays well enough, though the graphics have some quality issues at times, but it doesn't have the same spark as Rare's GoldenEye 007 did. If this had been a scene-by-scene remake it could have had a lot more entertainment just for the nostalgia factor of visiting the familiar stages the original took place in with a modernized look. However, Eurocom's retelling is simple worse than the original in the context of the time it was released.
Bond Factor: GoldenEye 007: Reloaded has a lot more going for it gameplay-wise than previous entries on the list, but it still feels more imitative of the Bond franchise than anything.
Replayability: There is a fairly robust multiplayer mode, but you'll likely be playing the original GoldenEye 007's multiplayer long after your forget about this game.
Overall: 6 needless remakes out of 10.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
This Treyarch developed game doesn't actually follow the events of Quantum of Solace at all, so disregard the name. Instead, it's firmly rooted in the plot of Casino Royale, with only a few references near the end concerning Quantum of Solace. That's not necessarily a bad thing, terrible marketing aside, because most people would agree Casino Royale is the superior Bond flick.
This is another Call of Duty: James Bond edition, but unlike 007 Legends the plot isn't a godawful deranged mess. To give Treyarch props, it did try to divorce the gameplay from the run-and-gun action of Call of Duty as much as it could while still using the IW 3 engine. There's a cover system which allows a slower pace at the expense of level design. Unfortunately, each level is set up in a manner that makes the designated cover objects obvious, which takes away a lot of player agency in the end. Most of the game has you running to cover, shooting a few bad guys, running to the next bit you can hide behind, rinse and repeat.
Bond Factor: The faithfulness to Casino Royale definitely gives Quantum of Solace a more on-brand feel than the previous games, but the gameplay is a bit too much like Call of Duty to pin down that Bond vibe.
Replayability: This is where the game really fails. The campaign is four or five hours long and unless you can find someone to play against in the decent online mode (hint, you can't) it's only worth playing through once.
Overall: 6.5 misleading game titles out of 10.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2003)
Everything or Nothing was an incredible game for the time. In 2004, having big name stars attached to a video game was a rarity, but EA went all-out to make this feel like a genuine Bond story. Pierce Brosnan, Judi Dench, John Cleese, Richard Kiel, Willem Dafoe, Heidi Klum, Shannon Elizabeth, and others lent their voices and likenesses to the game, and the theme song by Mýa, who also played a character in the game, was even performed on The Tonight Show.
The plot, involving nanobots, revenge, and double agents, is very Bond-like, and is miles ahead of the previous entries on this list. The only reason Everything or Nothing didn't rank higher is because the gameplay just doesn't quite hold up. The third-person action isn't nearly as tight as its contemporaries, and something about the characters having the look of real actors in a game that's so low-fidelity makes it feel more aged than it should.
Bond Factor: With the actual likenesses and voice-acting of the actors from the movies, Everything or Nothing has the Bond feel on looks alone. This is aided by the plot, which would be right at home on the silver screen carrying the James Bond name.
Replayability: There's not much to do after beating the main campaign, but if you have someone to join you there is a great co-op sidestory that adds to the plot.
Overall: 7 digitized Judi Denchs out of 10.
007: The World is Not Enough (2000)
After 007: Tomorrow Never Dies was met with lackluster fanfare, EA went back to the drawing board and decided to go back to the formula that made GoldenEye 007 a success. In a practice that was common at the time, but rarely seen in this console generation, two studios worked on two different versions of The World is Not Enough. Our old friend Eurocom worked on the N64 version, which is the one we're ranking here, and Black Ops Entertainment developed the game for PS1.
The Nintendo 64 version of The World is Not Enough is among the most complex and hardware intensive games for the system. It closely follows the movie, with enough new material thrown in to make for interesting gameplay. From a completely objective viewpoint, it's superior to GoldenEye in every way. However, it doesn't have a certain something that gives a game lasting appeal. It's among the best first-person shooters on Nintendo 64 technically, but without any endearing qualities it's been somewhat forgotten over time.
The PS1 version was just an also-ran FPS. It looked and played a lot rougher than the N64 version, didn't have multiplayer, and lacked a good bit of content in the campaign comparatively. It's not really worth playing since the much better N64 version exists.
Bond Factor: The N64 version of The World is Not Enough captures the feel of the cinematic Bond adventure better than any other Bond game of its generation. However, it feels a bit sterile in comparison to GoldenEye 007.
Replayability: There's three levels of difficulty, each with additional objectives on each mission. The multiplayer is highly underrated as well, but neither the campaign or multiplayer stands up to its most direct rival, Perfect Dark.
Overall: 7.5 weird business decisions by EA out of 10.
James Bond 007: Nightfire (2002)
Nightfire might be the first James Bond game to successfully deliver the full feel of a Bond film through the medium of gaming. The original story unfolds just as good, if not better, than a lot of the entries in the movie franchise, and even goes as far to have its own theme song and a digitized version of Pierce Brosnan. Unfortunately, some compromises are made to get this cinematic feel, and 15 years later, Nightfire doesn't hold the allure it did when it was released.
The game is heavily scripted, to the point where even though it's ostensibly a first-person shooter, the whole thing feels like it's on rails. There's also some weird variations between the versions of the game, with each console having slight differences, and the PC version missing whole chunks entirely. It's worth a play, if only for the excellent writing and the stellar multiplayer, but it just misses being a true classic.
Bond Factor: Nightfire has a great plot that would have made an amazing Bond film (definitely better than Die Another Day).
Replayability: The campaign can be completed in about 10 hours and since it's got such a narrow focus, there's not a lot to do after finishing it. The multiplayer is great, but doesn't have what it takes to dethrone GoldenEye 007.
Overall: 8 terrible PC ports out of 10.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone (2010)
Blood Stone is basically the newest original James Bond title (007 Legends doesn't count because it's just a crappy retelling of older Bond stories), and as such it feels the freshest out of any title on the list. The third-person shooter might be seven years old, but it's new enough to still feel like a modern title. The plot isn't quite as tight as Everything or Nothing, but it does add some exposition to what Bond was up to between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, and adds some interesting tidbits to the saga that fans will find interesting.
Unlike Activision's Quantum of Solace, Blood Stone feels like a wholly James Bond experience instead of Call of Duty with Bond pasted on top. The shooting and melee fighting controls excellently, and the driving sequences interspersed through the game feel exhilarating instead of frustrating. Unfortunately, Blood Stone didn't sell well, and Bizarre Creations, the studio who developed the game, ended up being shut down by Activision before they could develop another 007 title. Since then there's been a drought of James Bond games, but despite the lukewarm reception, there could be much worse titles to go out on than Blood Stone.
Bond Factor: Action-wise, this is as close to cinema as you can get with a James Bond licensed game. The story is a bit weaker than other Bond games, but the overall feel makes up for it.
Replayability: Unfortunately, Blood Stone's multiplayer is pretty bare bones. However, even though there's not much to do once the campaign is over, this game is cheap enough now that there's almost no way you can't get your money's worth.
Overall: 8 unfortunate studio closures out of 10.
James Bond 007 in... Agent Under Fire (2001)
Agent Under Fire is significant in that it might be the James Bond game closest to capturing the feel of GoldenEye 007. It's incredibly approachable, and while it might not be the hardest or fastest-paced first-person shooter out there, it's easy for anyone to pick up and play. It adapts the same objective-style gameplay that fueled GoldenEye but ups the ante a bit with some very well-constructed driving levels and a plot that captures the spirit of the Bond franchise without being too convoluted.
Mutliplayer in Agent Under Fire might go as far as to surpass GoldenEye in options and gameplay. Up to four players can duke it out in split-screen and unlike a lot of games in the era it maintains 30fps with little to no chugging. You can choose from a host of weapons and items, and there's a lot of choice you can tweak and levels to fight on that will keep you playing for hours. In a day where local co-op is so rare, finding a new game to wage war against your friends on the couch is hard, so if you haven't tried Agent Under Fire I highly recommend it.
Bond Factor: It may not be as cinematic as previous entries on the list, but its campaign does a good job of adapting the life of an agent of Her Majesty's Secret Service to video game form.
Replayability: The campaign has multiple difficulty levels which add different objectives to complete, which makes beating them multiple times fun. However, the real draw here is the multiplayer which is absolutely excellent even to this day.
Overall: 8.2 multiplayers out of 10.
James Bond 007: From Russia with Love (2005)
From Russia with Love would occupy a lower spot on this list if not for one thing: Sean Connery. EA somehow convinced MGM that retelling Bond's second cinematic outing was a good move, and they were right. However, if they hadn't have gotten Sean Connery for the role it wouldn't be nearly the game. The newer Bond films, and by extension the games, have a lot more of a gritty feel, which gets a bit tiring. As great as Daniel Craig has been in the role, I miss the early days of Bond when there were stereotypical criminal organization and a bit of camp to the drama.
This game doesn't have the best graphics, story, or even gameplay of the games on this list, but it's the only game available where you can play as the original James Bond. If you're tired of the gloom and doom of modern Bond and you want to go back to the '60s when the series was a bit more tongue-in-cheek, From Russia with Love is your prime destination.
Bond Factor: It doesn't get more Bond than this. Sean Connery lends his voice and likeness to Bond in this game, and that alone blows every other game out of the water when it comes to Bond Factor.
Replayability: There's a lot of collectibles, time targets and to-do lists to complete in each level. Unfortunately, the multiplayer is a bit lacking, but the extra stuff to do in the campaign balances it out.
Overall: 8.5 ridiculous jetpacks out of 10.
GoldenEye 007 (2010)
This is the father of the modern Bond series, and it's not been topped. This bad boy is still going strong and Rare broke the mold when they developed it. Not only is it widely considered to be the best Bond game of all time, but for many gamers it's the best video game of all time. GoldenEye was simply revolutionary for its time. Its mission structure, gameplay, and multiplayer capabilities all combine to make it an endearing icon.
Before GoldenEye, console first-person shooters were a relative rarity, and those that were available were mostly run-and-gun affairs with a lot of action but little depth. Rare turned that formula on its head with a game that is a lot less about body count, and more about completing certain tasks as quickly as possible. In many single-player missions stealth is encouraged and that was a huge new concept for those who had grown up playing games like Doom and Wolfenstein.
This masterpiece captured the feeling of the cinematic version of GoldenEye without voiceovers or even that much dialog at all. More over, it added its own interpretations of the areas in the movie in a way that remained faithful to the source material while facilitating better gameplay. For a movie license-based game at the time GoldenEye 007 was released this was almost unheard of.
GoldenEye 007 remains the best and most accessible James Bond licensed game to date, and with the lull in development of Bond games, it might hold this throne forever. It's pretty much the Super Mario of first-person shooters. There were games who came before it and after it that technically did the job better, but there's something so endearing about GoldenEye that it will continue to be popular long after those other titles are forgotten.
Bond Factor: For the time it was released it was the definitive James Bond video game experience, and it still holds up very well in comparison to the source material.
Replayability: There are three difficulty levels to play through, each changing the path through each mission significantly. The multiplayer is almost perfect with its simplistic gameplay and wide array of choices.
Rating: 10 Natalyas walking in front of my gun out of 10.