Last fall, it was announced that the 1997 classic N64 first-person shooter, GoldenEye 007, would arrive on both Xbox and Switch in 2023. Today is that long-awaited day, as one of the most beloved and influential games from its era is available now on both platforms. While these versions are both largely faithful recreations of the seminal console FPS, key differences exist in ways that don’t immediately surface one as the clearly superior version. I played a decent chunk of both versions to see which one I prefer to play in 2023.
When GoldenEye 007 launched in the late 1990s, I played it obsessively both solo and with friends for months upon months. During that time, I accomplished all the missions on 00 Agent difficulty, unlocked all the cheats, and played through hundreds (if not thousands) of multiplayer matches with friends. As with all my favorite games, I eventually fell off and moved on to newer releases, but my fondness and nostalgia for GoldenEye 007 have always remained.
Years later, when I was in college, I distinctly remember going to a friend’s room and firing up the N64 for matches of my favorite games like Super Smash Bros., Star Fox 64, and, of course, GoldenEye 007. GoldenEye stuck out to me as the game that aged the poorest of that lot, thanks mainly to how much the shooter genre had progressed with newer franchises like Halo, Call of Duty, and the then-recently released Black. At that moment, I wrote GoldenEye 007 off as a massively influential game that will never feel as good as it once did due to the enormous advancements within its genre since its release. That’s the mindset with which I entered my play sessions with these new releases of GoldenEye 007.
When these ports of GoldenEye 007 were announced, we learned that the Nintendo Switch Online version would be more of a straight port from the Nintendo 64 original. In contrast, the Xbox version received a little bit of modernization in the form of 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 through the Nintendo Switch Online feature set, you can play online multiplayer and utilize save states (if you so choose) to help with those pesky failable missions.
As advertised, the Xbox version does bring several advancements to make GoldenEye 007 play better than ever before. The game runs smoothly for the most part and looks terrific at full widescreen resolution (though I did notice a few frame rate drops from time to time). The most significant selling point for me is how well the Xbox version plays, thanks to the modern control scheme that utilizes both analog sticks, much like nearly every modern shooter.
It’s impossible to overstate just how far being able to aim and turn with the right stick while moving with the left stick goes into making this 25-year-old title feel much less aged. I’m honestly shocked at how good GoldenEye feels on Xbox. Using the modernized control scheme, I was able to blast through the first few levels on 00 Agent, even unlocking my first cheat (interestingly enough, the Xbox version retains the name “DK Mode,” despite the not-so-subtle reference to the Nintendo-owned Donkey Kong). The Xbox version is the version I will fire up when I’m looking to dig into the single-player of GoldenEye 007.
Jumping over the Switch version, I immediately felt the strain of using the classic single-stick controls and full-screen controls (thankfully, there is a widescreen option in the in-game menu on Bond’s watch). To get full impressions, I started by using a standard Switch Pro Controller, which does not 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 triggers/shoulder buttons feel backward from how they should. Thankfully, a Reddit user named Cuesport77 has given instructions to custom-remap the buttons to achieve a more modern control scheme on Switch.
Short of doing that remap, your best bet for playing the Nintendo Switch Online version of GoldenEye 007 (or, really, any N64 game in the catalog) is to acquire one of the hard-to-get Nintendo 64 controllers for the Switch. I was lucky enough to grab one in a rare back-in-stock window last year, and after spending some time using it in GoldenEye 007, I’m even gladder I did. Yes, the game still feels extremely aged, but it’s the definitive way to experience this version if you don’t want to remap all the controls. Even playing on the N64 Switch controller, I still had awkward moments of imprecision, like the video below.
Of course, the biggest selling point for the Switch version is that you can enjoy the game’s legendary splitscreen multiplayer through Nintendo Switch Online’s online functionality. This feature isn’t specific to GoldenEye 007, but it is perhaps the best use case. After playing a few missions on the Switch, I jumped into an online multiplayer match. Multiplayer is still as hectic and fun as it was in 1997, and the Nintendo Switch Online’s multiplayer capabilities handle the remote action nicely. While playing 1v1 online, I didn’t experience any noticeable latency, allowing the mode that truly made GoldenEye 007 such a legendary late-’90s title to shine to the fullest extent. I’m beyond excited to have an easy way to play GoldenEye 007 online.
Ultimately, deciding which version you spend your time with should come down to what is more important to you. If you’re like me, the dual-analog-stick controls alone make the Xbox version the superior release, but it’s impossible to overlook the online multiplayer capabilities of the Nintendo Switch Online – especially if your friends you used to play with now live on opposite ends of the country. Thankfully, both versions are included in each platform’s respective subscription service at no additional charge, so depending on your situation, you may not need to worry about choosing.
GoldenEye 007 is available today on both Xbox (available through Rare Replay and Xbox Game Pass) and Switch (available through Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack).
For more from Brian on GoldenEye 007, listen to this week’s episode of All Things Nintendo, where he does a deep dive into the history and legacy of GoldenEye 007.
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