Best & Worst: James Bond Videogames

The games with a license to shill

Best: 005 (1981)

A craftily titled unlicensed tie-in that exploited Bond's popularity before the official games arrived.

And crafty was the keyword for the gameplay, too – 005 was an early stealth game and forerunner of the likes of Metal Gear Solid. The aim was for players to guide their not-Bonds through blocky sets of buildings and guard outposts to deliver a suitcase of secret documents to a waiting helicopter – simple, playable and addictive.

Worst: A View To A Kill (1985)

The first ever tie-in to a specific Bond movie came with Roger Moore's last raise of the eyebrow in A View To A Kill.

And it's mostly a total disaster. Bond crashes and sticks to walls for no reason during the Parisian driving sections , while the shooting levels have controls more complicated than a nuclear power station, and the climax in Max Zorin's silicon cave is just plain boring. Rubbish.

Best: James Bond 007 (1983)

The first official game, after Sega's craftily titled 005 was released in 1981. The Parker Brothers' 007 was a side-scrolling shooter featuring a simply-rendered hybrid aquatic car that fires lasers.

The four missions were each based on a film – Diamonds Are Forever, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me, which sadly doesn't end with Bond rubbing up against a Russian sort in a giant seaball.

The visuals have dated like hieroglyphics, but it was exciting at the time.


Worst: Live And Let Die (1988)

A rather shonky bit of opportunism, this one. Developer Elite Systems had been working on a straightforward speedboat action game called Aquablast (spiritual sequel to C64 hit Buggy Boy) .

Spotting the similarities between Aquablast and the river chases in Live And Let Die, publisher Domark re-branded the game as a Bond title and slapped on a boss encounter with drugs baron Mr Big. So while the game's solid, it's hard to see what icebergs and helicopters have to do with the film.

Best: The Living Daylights (1987)

Moving slowly into the dawn of actual graphics, this tie-in of the first Timothy Dalton Bond was a scrolling shooter packed with weapons and gadgets.

The game suffers a little in terms of repetition - it's basically you walking left to right shooting dudes over eight different levels - but it does end with you blowing arms-dealing cad Brad Whittaker to pieces with a whopping great bazooka. Progressive.

Worst: The Spy Who Loved Me (1990)

With no new Bond on the horizon for cash-milking purposes, publisher Domark flicked through the back catalogue and picked The Spy Who Loved Me as the film whose name they would randomly slap on this remarkably un-Bond-like racer.

The connection justifying the license is 007’s sub-aquatic Lotus Esprit, which turns up here alongside some jetskiing and speedboat action. Aside from the tenuousness of it all, the Spy Who Loved Me’s biggest problem is that the roads were filled with people you weren’t allowed to run down on pain of mission failure – which in light of GTA we now know is entirely the wrong way to go about things.

Best: 007: License To Kill (1989)

Timothy Dalton's furious Welsh Bond was seen off in style with this bar-raising action all-rounder.

Yes, by today’s graphical standards it looks like a chewed up set of yellow and black crayons. But this top-down vertical shooter set the template to which even very recent Bonds conform, handing the player control of boats, helicopters and jeeps as 007 dashes through six varied levels closely modelled on the film.

Worst: James Bond Jr. (1991)

The name James Bond Jr. first appeared in a 1967 novel titled – honestly – 003½, and later became the basis of a Saturday morning cartoon in the early ‘90s.

In turn that series birthed this rushed and ill-conceived spin-off, which mixes drab puzzles and platforming with after-thought vehicle sections to make a truly unlikeable game out of an already unlikeable offshoot of the Bond machine. Best forgotten forever.

Best: James Bond: The Duel (1993)

Still waiting for the next Bond film to arrive, Domark took matters into their own hands creatively with 1993’s Megadrive exclusive The Duel.

The result is a mix of solid gameplay and cosmically lazy plotting. Though retired as the big screen Bond Timothy Dalton and his terrifying pixellated chin return for a 2D platforming shooter, in which 007’s mission is to kill all his old enemies who have been recreated in a mad scientist’s cloning machine. Christ.

Worst: Tomorrow Never Dies (1999)

The tie-in to Pierce Brosnan’s second movie wasn’t bad , but it struggled with the problem all Bond games would face for the next decade and more: how the hell do we do better than Goldeneye (see our next entry)?

If you’re Tomorrow Never Dies, the first game made by Electronic Arts following its purchase of the license, the answer is to play it safe with an unspectacular third-person action shooter. Yes, you get to see Pierce in his handsome little suit, but what you don’t get is very excited, especially since the game feels like it was rushed t ensure a simultaneous release with the film. Yay corporate marketing strategies!