GoldenEye 007 was a console defining game for the Nintendo 64 back in the late 1990s and is still regarded as one of the system's best, constantly being included in lists of the best N64 games ever. Interestingly, there are several game for the Nintendo 64 like Star Fox 64 that began their life as a Super Nintendo project, and it turns out GoldenEye might have something in common with these titles.
The way it turned out, GoldenEye 007 was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997, almost two full years from the release of the James Bond film of the same name. Even in the 1990s, tie-in games for movies were typically released close to the film's theatrical run, however, the Nintendo 64 wasn't even out yet when GoldenEye was in theatres in the winter of 1995.
Nintendo had acquired the rights to produce the game while the film was in development, however. The Big N put Rare in charge of the project after being impressed with the team's work on Donkey Kong Country for the then-current Super Nintendo. According to a Nintendo Power article from the '90s that was re-discovered in 2016, Rare co-founder Tim Stamper went to the set of GoldenEye during the film's production in order to research the locations, props, gadgets, and fancy cars to be featured in Pierce Brosnan's first outing as Bond. The article states, "[Stamper's] interest is in making the Super NES version of Goldeneye as realistic and true-to-the-movie as possible." At the time Stamper visited the set, GoldenEye was going to be a 2D platformer much like Rare's Donkey Kong Country.
To make the game look as realistic as '90s standards would allow, the initial intent was to pre-render the graphics for the SNES. The Nintendo Power article mentions this near the end when it says, "Goldeneye, like Donkey Kong Country, will be a fully rendered game that uses the same ACM (Advanced Computer Modelling) techniques." However, the GoldenEye project director at Rare, Martin Hollis, suggested the team pivot and turn the game into a 3D shooter for the upcoming N64. Work on making GoldenEye an N64 title began so far ahead of the console's release Rare didn't even have a Nintendo 64 development kit to work with at the start.
Instead, the team used an SGI Onyx workstation and throttled certain performance aspects of the Onyx computer in an attempt to estimate the capabilities of the N64. Once the team got their hands on a proper dev kit, they made some final tweaks, added in the multiplayer mode in a matter of months, and shipped the game. Today, GoldenEye is considered not only one of the tightest and most influential games of its generation, but also one of the best looking N64 games. However, before its release, expectations were low.
It had been a long time since the film had come out, after all, and Hollis was an inexperienced director. But once the game was released, it exploded in popularity, becoming the third best selling Nintendo 64 game ever, outselling even Ocarina of Time. The game's legacy continues to this day, and many of its strengths are thanks to the then-powerful hardware of the Nintendo 64 compared to the SNES. While dated by today's standards, there have been recent rumors of a GoldenEye remake, something fans have wanted for years and something that could help the popularity of GoldenEye 007 endure for further decades to come.