Last fall, it was announced that the classic N64 first-person shooter from 1997, GoldenEye 007, would be coming to both Xbox and Switch in 2023. Today is the long awaited day because one of the most popular and influential games of its time is now available on both platforms. While these versions are both largely faithful recreations of the groundbreaking console FPS, there are key differences in ways that don’t immediately emerge as the clearly superior version. I played a decent chunk of both versions to see which I prefer to play in 2023.
When GoldenEye 007 came out in the late 1990s, I played it obsessively for months, both solo and with friends. During that time, I’ve completed all missions on 00 agent difficulty, unlocked all cheats, and played through hundreds (if not thousands) of multiplayer matches with friends. As with all my favorite games, I eventually crashed and progressed to newer releases, but my fondness and nostalgia for GoldenEye 007 always lingered.
Years later when I was in college I distinctly remember going into a friend’s room and starting the N64 for playing my favorite games like Super Smash Bros., Star Fox 64 and of course GoldenEye 007. GoldenEye has stuck with me as the game that’s aged poorest, thanks largely to the advancements of the shooter genre with newer franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and the then-recently released Black. That’s when I wrote GoldenEye 007 off as a hugely influential game that will never feel as good as it once did due to the tremendous advances in its genre since its release. That’s the mindset I started my gaming sessions with these new GoldenEye 007 releases.
When these ports of GoldenEye 007 were announced, we learned that the Nintendo Switch Online version would be more of a direct port of the Nintendo 64 original. In contrast, the Xbox version received a bit of modernization in the form of a native 4K 16:9 resolution, a consistent refresh rate, achievement support, and most importantly, dual analog stick controls. Meanwhile, the Switch version doesn’t bring any inherent improvements to the FPS title, but Nintendo Switch Online’s feature set lets you play online multiplayer and use save states (if you so choose) to help out on those pesky failed missions to help.
As announced, the Xbox version brings several improvements to make GoldenEye 007 play better than ever. The game runs smoothly for the most part and looks great at full widescreen (although I did notice a few framerate drops from time to time). The main selling point for me is how well the Xbox version plays, thanks to the modern control scheme that uses both analog sticks, similar to almost every modern shooter.
It’s impossible to overstate how much the ability to aim with the right stick and rotate while moving with the left stick helps make this 25-year-old title feel a lot less aged. I’m honestly shocked at how good GoldenEye feels on Xbox. With the modernized control scheme, I was able to play through the first few levels of 00 Agent and even unlock my first cheat (interestingly, the Xbox version keeps the “DK Mode” name, despite the not-so-subtle reference to Nintendo’s own Donkey Kong). The Xbox version is the version I will launch when I want to get into GoldenEye 007 single player.
When I jumped over to the Switch version, I immediately felt the strain of using classic single-stick controls and full-screen controls (thankfully there’s a widescreen option in the in-game menu on Bond’s watch). To get a full feel, I started with a standard Switch Pro controller, which doesn’t translate well for any Nintendo 64 game. GoldenEye 007 is no different. Playing this game on a standard Switch controller feels downright awful thanks to the default button mapping – aiming and moving with the left stick feels counterintuitive, and the trigger/shoulder buttons feel different than they should. Luckily, a Reddit user named Cuesport77 has provided instructions to individually remap buttons to achieve a more modern control scheme on Switch.
That remapping aside, your best bet is to play the Nintendo Switch Online version of GoldenEye 007 (or really any N64 game in the catalogue). Get one of the hard-to-find Nintendo 64 controllers for the Switch. I was lucky enough to snag one in a rare back stock window last year and after spending some time using it in GoldenEye 007 I’m even more glad I did. Yes, the game still feels extremely dated, but it’s the definitive way to experience this release if you don’t want to remap all the controls. Even playing on the N64 Switch controller, I still had awkward moments of inaccuracy, like in the video below.
Of course, the biggest selling point for the Switch version is that you can enjoy the game’s legendary split-screen multiplayer via Nintendo Switch Online’s online functionality. This feature isn’t specific to GoldenEye 007, but it’s perhaps the best use case. After playing a few missions on the Switch, I jumped into an online multiplayer match. Multiplayer is still as frantic and fun as it was in 1997, and Nintendo Switch Online’s multiplayer capabilities handle the remote action well. While playing 1v1 online I didn’t experience any noticeable latency, allowing the mode that truly made GoldenEye 007 such an iconic late ’90s title to shine in its fullest. I am beyond thrilled to have an easy way to play GoldenEye 007 online.
Ultimately, deciding which version to spend your time with should boil down to what’s more important to you. If you’re like me, the dual analog stick controls alone make the Xbox version the superior version, but it’s impossible to overlook Nintendo Switch Online’s online multiplayer capabilities – especially when your friends you’re with used to play, now live opposite ends of the country. Luckily, both versions are included with each platform’s respective subscription service at no additional cost, so you may not have to worry about which to choose depending on your situation.
GoldenEye 007 is available today for both Xbox (available via Rare Replay and Xbox Game Pass) and Switch (available via Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack).
To hear more from Brian about GoldenEye 007, listen to this week’s episode of All Things Nintendo as he delves deep into the history and legacy of GoldenEye 007.
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