'GoldenEye' Is A Historic Game (That We Almost Didn't Get)

Bigwigs at Rare asked their team to whip up a game that played to their strengths: a 2d side-scrolling platformer for the Super Nintendo. Wait...what?
'GoldenEye' Is A Historic Game (That We Almost Didn't Get)

It's impossible to imagine gaming in the late 90s without GoldenEye, the secret agent smash hit was at every party, from elementary school sleepovers to frat houses, and we were days away from a national law banning Oddjob. GoldenEye boosted ticket sales for James Bond movies, finally made sense of the C buttons on the three-handed N64 controller, and proved that first-person shooters could be played on consoles. Considering how humongous the game got, it's shocking how close we came to not having it at all.

Short, but never a short king

Nowadays, Rare is a term reserved for steaks and blue drops in WoW, but in the '90s, Rare was the hottest game development studio around. They'd released Battletoads, the Donkey Kong Country franchise, and Killer Instinct, which is why it's no surprise that they were tapped to make a game for the newest James Bond film, GoldenEye. The bigwigs at Rare were delighted and asked their team to whip up a game that played to their strengths: a 2d side-scrolling platformer for the Super Nintendo.

The name’s Kong. James Kong.

Can you imagine? Instead of killing people on the toilet and checking their watches to see how much health they had, players would have to stealthily bounce their way towards a showdown with Trevelyan … bunny hopping exactly the way Brosnan didn't. Luckily, Martin Hollis, the lead developer of GoldenEye, fought hard for a different kind of experience. Hollis convinced the executives to let him make his game a 3d shooter for the Nintendo 64, inspired heavily by his favorite arcade game, Virtua Cop. That's right- Bond would be on the newest console, gliding on rails through a predetermined course, killing his way to–

I'm sorry, on rails? Yes- Hollis loved coin-op games and had even worked on the arcade version of Killer Instinct, and he was initially pretty set on making the shooter on rails. The first level that was demoed internally was Facility, and originally it was made so the player would glide through and enemies would pop out at predetermined points. But while Hollis brought some ideas from his previous games, the rest of the team was completely green- they'd never launched a title. Which means they weren't bogged down by the baggage of their past projects. After modeling Facility, the team convinced Hollis to remove the rails and let Bond roam free. Finally, we had the game we know. A 3d first-person shooter, free-roaming on the N64. A perfect single-player experience that we all remember as--

Wait, single-player? Only single player? Yeah. Just six months before the game was released, there was no multiplayer mode at all. No DK heads, no slappers only- nothing. But the team had been stewing on the idea of a multiplayer mode ever since they received their N64 and saw that it had four controller ports-- double what the SNES could support. When development was wrapping up, two devs were tasked with getting as close as they could to a good multiplayer mode, and if they got it in the final version, then so much the better. The demo mode was so fun that the rest of the team pivoted to flesh it out with unique levels, modes, and scoreboards, and the GoldenEye we know and love was finally born.

Top Image: Rare


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