A Brief History Of James Bond Video Games
James Bond has been a mainstay of cinema for over 60 years, but author Ian Fleming’s suave spy has also been in his element when it comes to video games. A charismatic hero foiling world domination plots concocted by diabolical villains made for a perfect video game recipe, and once you factored in Bond’s talent for witty one-liners and his unmatched skill in getting rid of colorful henchmen, Britain’s finest export found his place in the interactive entertainment scene–to varying degrees of success. Not every Bond video game has been good, but that’s the case with almost all licensed video game franchises. The spy has gone on a number of successful missions in the world of games, though.
Bond has been kicking around since 1982 on a variety of platforms, and to celebrate four decades of shaken martinis, we’re taking a trip back in time to see how Her Majesty’s secret agent has evolved over the years. We imagine you’ve played at least a few James Bond games, but you’ve also probably never heard of some of these titles.
Shaken But Not Stirred (1982)
Shaken But Not Stirred
The first outing of MI6’s top operative stuck closely to its literary origins, as this text-based adventure saw Bond tangle with Dr. Death. Words were exchanged, Dr. Death’s henchman was the steel-fisted Paws, and a nuclear warhead was disarmed in this dialogue-heavy debut.
James Bond 007 (1983)
James Bond 007
A year later, the next Bond game was more visual in design and featured missions pulled from Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, and The Spy Who Loved Me for this Atari 2600 game.
A View to a Kill (1985)
A View to a Kill
Moving to the twilight of Roger Moore’s Bond era, 1985 saw two games released to tie into A View to a Kill. The first game was another text-based adventure game, while the more appealing title on offer was an action-packed jaunt across the world. And it was released on cassette, if you grabbed the ZX Spectrum version. What a time to be alive.
Back to the text-based adventures of Bond, Goldfinger was heavy on prose and dry British humor when it arrived in 1986. Fun fact: This game featured input in the plot and design departments by Raymond Benson, who would later go on to pen a number of Bond novels.
The Living Daylights (1987)
The Living Daylights
Run-and-gun action based on the first Timothy Dalton Bond film, The Living Daylights had a neat parallax effect in its design, high-pitched shootouts, and a garage full of gadgets to choose from between stages.
James Bond: Live and Let Die (1988)
James Bond: Live and Let Die
Live and Let Die’s video game adaptation was a solid highlight reel of the film’s terrific boat chase scene, which infamously destroyed 17 of the 23 vessels used in that action-packed sequence. Plus, it had a catchy intro tune on the Commodore 64 that even Sheriff JW Pepper would approve of.
007: License to Kill (1989)
007: License to Kill
Shifting to a birds eye view, this Bond game saw 007 chasing down drug baron Franz Sanchez across various levels and in a number of different vehicles.
James Bond 007 Action Pack (1990)
James Bond 007: Action Pack
An ambitious compilation of three James Bond video games developed and published by Amstrad, this package came with the ZX Spectrum home PC and a Magnum Light Phaser gun. Q actor Desmond Llewelyn reprised his role as well, giving you a mission briefing while urging you to pay close attention.
The Spy Who Loved Me (1990)
The Spy Who Loved Me
Another nod to the past, The Spy Who Loved Me was a solid action game at the time but shoddy ports and by-the-books gameplay made for a forgettable experience.
007 James Bond: The Stealth Affair (1990)
007: James Bond: The Stealth Affair
With point-and-click adventure games taking off, the format was perfect for Bond to work some espionage magic inside of. Great art design, plenty of action, and an original plot made for a thrilling Bond game. Another Bond fact: The main character was originally a generic Bond-style character named John Glames and only had the 007 license added for its US release.
James Bond Jr. (1991)
James Bond Jr.
Like any successful movie product of the 1980s and 90s, it wasn’t long before James Bond got an animated series that most of us would like to forget about. The same goes for this tie-in game starring the nephew of Bond, which played like an action-platformer game if it was designed by a committee.
James Bond: The Duel (1993)
James Bond: The Duel
Nothing too out of the ordinary in this action game, Bond was once again foiling the schemes of yet another mad scientist aiming to dominate the globe, tangling with clones of infamous villains from his past, and saving hostages along the way.
Goldeneye 007 (1997)
Arriving four years after the last Bond game, Goldeneye became the stuff of legend that helped elevate first-person shooters at the time. The N64 title was a terrific adaptation of Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond film, but it was the legendary multiplayer designed by a skeleton staff at the eleventh hour that made Goldeneye one of the best games of the decade.
James Bond: 007 (1998)
James Bond: 007
Sticking with Nintendo but switching to the Game Boy, this top-down action-adventure had plenty of fisticuffs, bullets, and even some gambling mini-games if you were in the mood for some Blackjack or Baccarat. It’s one of the best Bond games ever made, and it surprisingly holds up pretty well all these years later.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1999)
Tomorrow Never Dies
Moving to the original PlayStation, this adaptation of Tomorrow Never Dies adopted a third-person shooter format that was decent for the time but unfavorably compared to Goldeneye by critics. A solid Bond outing but one that wouldn’t leave you shaken or stirred by the end credits.
The World Is Not Enough (2000)
The World is Not Enough
We’re cheating slightly here, but there were three games of the same name published by EA on PlayStation, Game Boy Color, and N64. Very loose adaptations of the film, the PlayStation and N64 versions were first-person shooters that attempted to recapture the magic of Goldeneye. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Goldeneye, but it was still pretty good. The GBC version was a top-down action-adventure game that wasn’t as successful as its console counterpart.
007 Racing (2000)
Racing games based on popular IPs were all the rage in the 2000s–heck Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing would arrive a year later–and Bond was ready to put the pedal to the metal in a number of his iconic cars used throughout his cinematic missions. The Aston Martin DB5, the Lotus Esprit, and the BMW Z3, and several more made appearances, each one being equipped with trademark gadgets from Q Division.
James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire (2001)
James Bond 007: Agent Under Fire
Another Bond first-person shooter, Agent Under Fire went through a turbulent development process that saw it scrap its plan to function as a The World Is Not Enough tie-in, and eventually emerged as an original title. Look past the recycled assets, and you’ll find a surprisingly slick Bond game that felt like a true Goldeneye successor.
James Bond 007: Nightfire (2002)
James Bond 007: Nightfire
A multi-platform Bond game that stuck to the FPS gameplay that had been successful for other titles in the past, Nightfire felt like a proper big-budget 007 adventure that didn’t cut any corners. Plus, this was the first time in two years that Brosnan consented to having his likeness used in the game and in marketing, although a different voice actor was brought in to play Bond.
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (2003)
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing
Easily the best Bond game of the Brosnan era, nay, best overall, Everything or Nothing took the standard 007 plot formula and used it to craft an original tale pitting Britain’s favorite operative against Willem DeFoe and an army of henchmen. Adopting a third-person perspective, strategic shootouts and high-speed chase sequences made for a killer combination.
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent (2004)
Goldeneye: Rogue Agent
A Bond game without 007, Rogue Agent put you in the shoes of a Auric Goldfinger-sanctioned operative who was on a mission to assassinate Dr. No. Switching back to the FPS genre, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent was another solid attempt to recreate the success of 1997’s Goldeneye, but mediocre gameplay and a lack of innovation didn’t allow it to set a new… gold standard.
Read our Goldeneye: Rogue Agent review.
From Russia with Love (2005)
From Russia with Love
Most of EA’s Bond games had featured an original story, but From Russia With Love was a love letter to one of the classic films. A period-accurate adventure starring Sean Connery’s face and voice, From Russia with Love fleshed out the film with more action sequences and a fun multiplayer mode.
Read our From Russia with Love review.
007: Quantum of Solace (2008)
007: Quantum of Solace
For the first proper console and PC game to star Daniel Craig as the superspy, Activision decided to bundle Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace into a single package. The end result was average at best, although the game did feature the vocal talents of Craig, Judi Dench, and Mads Mikkelsen reprising their cinematic roles for this game.
Read our Quantum of Solace review.
James Bond 007: Blood Stone (2010)
James Bond 007: Blood Stone
A new Bond film would only arrive in 2012, and Activision was looking to make good use of the 007 license that it had recently acquired. An interquel set between Quantum of Solace and Skyfall was on the menu, with the end result being a surprisingly enjoyable action game that was heavy on style and substance.
Read our James Bond: Blood Stone review.
Goldeneye 007 (2010)
Goldeneye 007 for the Wii
Video game developers had long been aiming to duplicate the success of Goldeneye from the N64 days, but Nintendo decided that instead of creating a spiritual successor, a remake was the more obvious path to take. Updating the classic for the modern era of the Wii console, Goldeneye’s rebirth was a smooth reimagining that made great use of the Wii’s motion controls.
Read our Goldeneye 007 review.
007 Legends (2012)
If Blood Stone was a solid reminder of how good a Bond game could be in the right hands, then 007 Legends was its disappointing opposite. Lacking charm, polish, and playing like a relic of the Cold War, 007 Legends was a boring and uninspired slog through more than five decades of Bond history.
Read our 007 Legends review.
Project 007 (TBC)
Talk about a match made in heaven: Hitman series developer IO Interactive is currently working on an original James Bond experience, and with the World of Assassination trilogy proving to be an elegant collection of stealth, espionage, and dry humor that foreshadows horrible deaths for unlucky victims, this could be the definitive 007 simulator.
Various mobile games
While all of the games listed above were console/PC releases, Bond has unsurprisingly made the leap to mobile. Numerous adventures across multiple genres have released on mobile over the past two decades. Some of them were great! Most of them were terrible. But in case you need a list of games that you can play on your Ericsson JB988 when you’re not taking a BMW for a joyride, those mobile games include:
- 007: Ice Racer (2002)
- 007 Hover Chase (2003)
- SilverFin (2005)
- Casino Royale (2006)
- James Bond Trivia (2006)
- James Bond: Top Agent (2008)
- 007: Quantum of Solace Mobile (2008)
- 007: License to Drive (2011)
- James Bond: World of Espionage (2015)