I'm 28 years old, and in the years I spent in my parents' house we had three game consoles. They were, in sequence, a Super Nintendo, an original PlayStation, and an original Xbox. We never had a Nintendo 64, which I guess wasn't hugely unusual as the PlayStation outsold it three to one in their respective lifetimes. Nonetheless, the game I maybe played most in my childhood was an N64 game. GoldenEye 007 was a moment all to itself in the history of video games. It wasn't the top selling game for the N64, and it was hardly the finest example of the still-young first-person shooter genre that we'd seen, but it ended up mattering more than any game on the console.

Actually, at the time GoldenEye 007 was a pretty odd thing to be published by Nintendo, a brand that was and is still mostly associated with the cartoonish mascot characters like Mario and Donkey Kong. In Japan the company's first two consoles, the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo, were known as the Famicom and the Super Famicom—both short for "Family Computer."

A game about shooting guns at digital humans really didn't neatly fit that bit of branding. However, the game’s director, Martin Hollis, insisted to me that there was no real pushback from the overlords on GoldenEye, short of some notes from Nintendo stalwart Shigeru Miyamoto near the end of production that only had a “subtle effect.” One of those notes, amusingly, was the suggestion that at the end of the story Bond might shake hands with his enemies.

GoldenEye was fun. It was really fun. It was a party in a cartridge, and a textbook example of "it's great when you play with your friends"—a common cliche game journalists love to drag out to describe games that are maybe mechanically subpar but really come alive when you gather a posse of bros (in the gender-neutral sense) and have at it. And that's what we—and a lot of other people—did. We invaded the home of the friend who had an N64, and we played four-player split-screen deathmatch with "slappers only" on a 20-inch TV. For hours. And we loved it.

It was never serious business. The greatest stakes we could ever conjure up involved our pride, thanks to some friendly wagers. Yeah, it had a story mode where you could play through the events of the movie, but that wasn’t the part of GoldenEye 007 people remember now. Messing around with your friends in multiplayer was. What was happening outside the screen was just as important as what was on the screen.

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