010: It was banned in Germany

The game fell foul of Germany's index of 'Media Harmful To Young Persons' and was banned there in the name of child protection. The European country has a history of strict laws governing the distribution of media depicting violence, and this ban was in effect for many years until being overturned in 2021 at the request of... somebody.

Its removal from the list sparked a fresh round of rumours that a re-release was on the way, of course. In a world where The Last of Us has been remade and re-released twice in nine years, it's incredible that such a celebrated and influential game as GoldenEye is still only officially available for the console on which it launched 25 years ago.

Tangled rights issues or not, that is a rare thing indeed.

011: Not all 'GoldenEyes' are created equal

GoldenEye 007 Wii
Image: Activision

While the original Rare-developed game is still an N64 exclusive, that doesn't mean that companies haven't tried to cash in on the name. In fact, there are four other separate GoldenEye games that pinched the name:

These spin-offs range from the Eurocom 'remake' or 'reimagining', which switched out Brosnan for the then-current Bond, Daniel Craig, to the blatant cash-grab that is Rogue Agent, which saw EA creating an original story about an assassin nicknamed GoldenEye because — and you'll never guess this — he has a golden bionic eye.

Despite a few nice ideas involving legacy Bond characters, Rogue Agent felt a bit seedy. The Wii one (which launched on other platforms too as GoldenEye: Reloaded) wasn't a bad game at all, though. It shares almost nothing with the N64 game beyond plot points and characters, but it still delivered a decent slice of Bondian action, and at the time of writing it sits at number five on our reader-ranked list of the best James Bond games.

012: Dual analogue GoldenEye is the pro's way to play

Image: Damien McFerran

Going back to the single-stick GoldenEye experience after years of twin-stick FPS action can be difficult, but dual analogue controls were available from the very beginning — even if it seems the majority of players (according to our poll, at least) either didn't know or forgot about it.

Each control style available through the options menu is named after a 'Bond girl', with the default single pad layout called 'Honey' (after Honey Ryder, Ursula Andress' character from Dr. No), and the first dual pad option named 'Plenty' (after Lana Wood's Plenty O'Toole from Diamonds Are Forever).

So, if you struggle with the game's original controls, grab a second N64 pad and see how you get on with full analogue control. Alternatively, if you're after a real double-O challenge, why not crack out a steering wheel and turn Bond himself into an Aston, like our Managing Director, Ant, did below?

013: Realism was one of the main goals for the devs

Compared to other first-person shooters of the day, GoldenEye offered an unprecedented level of realism in its approach to environment design, animation, AI, weapons, and detail in the game world.

In a long 'Making Of' piece he wrote about its development, Martin Hollis detailed how the inexperienced team's unconventional approach to game design helped create a sense of realism in the game's environments:

"The level creators, or architects were working without much level design, by which I mean often they had no player start points or exits in mind. Certainly they didn’t think about enemy positions or object positions. Their job was simply to produce an interesting space. After the levels were made, Dave or sometimes Duncan would be faced with filling them with objectives, enemies, and stuff. The benefit of this sloppy unplanned approach was that many of the levels in the game have a realistic and non-linear feel. There are rooms with no direct relevance to the level. There are multiple routes across the level. This is an anti-game design approach, frankly. It is inefficient because much of the level is unnecessary to the gameplay. But it contributes to a greater sense of freedom, and also realism. And in turn this sense of freedom and realism contributed enormously to the success of the game."

Realism wasn't the be-all-and-end-all, though. Hollis goes on to describe an example of realism taking a backseat to satisfying gameplay:

"Enemies in GoldenEye can’t see through many windows in the game. The player can see through, and shoot through, but the enemies just won’t see through. The window is opaque to them. This might seem like a bug. It is certainly unrealistic. It is an example of unrealistic gameplay. And, as it happens, it is pretty good gameplay. It means you can spy on people more easily. Which makes sense for a Bond game. And that is fun. Realism isn’t relevant to good gameplay. Only verisimilitude matters."

014: It's Rick Astley's favourite video game

Speaking to Metro in 2021, pop (and meme) legend Rick Astley confirmed that while it was Doom that got him into video games in the first place, it's GoldenEye that tops his all-time favourite games list:

My ultimate would have to be GoldenEye 007, the James Bond game for the N64. That game was just phenomenal. It’s probably primitive by today’s standards but when you used the telescopic sight with the sniper rifle — wow!

Thinking about it, Rick's signature hit wouldn't make a bad Bond title. Imagine it: Ian Fleming's Never Gonna Give You Up. It works, right!? Almost. Get 'die' in there somewhere and we're golden.

Strange as it may seem, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was also big fan, having been introduced to the game by her grandchildren. You can check out the GoldenEye mention on her official royal profile here.

015: Dr. Doak had to be snuck in

David Doak and Martin Hollis
Image: @drdoak

When developer David Doak added a double agent character into the Facility level — a scientist for Bond to meet and an important objective for the player — he gave the angular NPC his own name and likeness as a placeholder.

According to an interview with Boss Fight Books author Alyse Knorr, Rare boss Tim Stamper instructed that the character should be renamed, which rubbed lead designer Martin Hollis the wrong way. Consequently, Hollis waited until just before a build was sent off for localisation (thus becoming much more difficult to amend in the pre-patch era) and popped 'Doak' back in.

"I think they said we should call him Dr. Dust or something like that," said Duncan Botwood, "but we stuck to our guns because Dave was an actual doctor."

Time to leave, Dr. Dust... Nope, that's terrible.

016: Unsurprisingly, Nintendo wanted a sequel, but Rare said no

Once the game came out and proved to be a modest success at launch which snowballed to become an evergreen system seller for several years (it ended up selling over 8 million copies, putting it behind only Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64 in the worldwide N64 software sales chart).

Unsurprisingly, Nintendo asked the team at Rare if they fancied another go at the Bond IP. Weighing up the pros and cons, the team decided against it and went on to develop Perfect Dark instead.

While the added stress of the Bond licence may have been a factor, from Rare's business perspective it was more attractive to own the IP. "Even though it’s a great licence, all the money goes to Eon [Productions] who own everything Bond," Grant Kirkhope told Game Grumps, shedding some light on the financial factors of the polite decline. Perfect Dark may 'only' have sold just north of 2.5 million copies, but Rare owned the IP and self-published the game, meaning it took home a vastly improved percentage of the profits.

017: There's a ZX Spectrum emulator and 10 games buried in the code

Originally planned as an Easter Egg in the vein of the Donkey Kong arcade cabinet in Donkey Kong 64, every GoldenEye 007 cart contains a fully functioning ZX Spectrum emulator with ten Rare-developed games (well, Ultimate Play The Game-developed games), including Jetpac, Sabre Wulf, and Knight Lore.

In an interview with Retro Gamer, programmer Steve Ellis confirmed that he was responsible for adding the Speccy emulator. Unfortunately, the idea was ultimately abandoned due to time constraints.

As detailed in this archived Rare Witch Project post, it's not possible to access the emulator in-game without modifying the ROM with a patch, but the data is all there and playable once accessed.

018: Bond was going to use a motorbike on 'Runway', and it's still in the game

As noted by Alyse Knorr in her GoldenEye 007 book, the devs originally wanted Bond to ride a motorcycle. Specifically, they wanted him to ride it off the edge of the runway (in the level called ‘Runway’, of course — the team didn't overcomplicate matters when it came to naming missions) as he races to escape in the plummeting plane, just as he does in the movie.

While this was unfeasible for the team at the time, the motorcycle model is still in the game, sitting in miniature form on a desk in one of the huts in the first Surface level.

Other scrapped vehicles include a boat for the Dam level (which would have been used to get to the infamous distant island), General Ourumov's getaway car (which you would have chased through St. Petersberg), and Bond's BMW Z3 Roadster.