A look at some of the best espionage-themed video games
Video games are meant to give you experiences most of us wouldn’t otherwise have in real life. You can play as a loot-raiding pirate one moment and a sharpshooting cowboy the next. But what’s more fun than being a spy? There have been a multitude of games that have placed the players in the shoes of an intelligence agent, but only a handful that are beloved to this day. Here are some of the best espionage video games of all time.
Of course we start with a game that has James Bond at the center of it. Rare Ltd.’s GoldenEye 007 (1997), based on the 1995 film GoldenEye, puts you in the shoes of the famous British secret agent as he tries to stop a satellite weapon known as “GoldenEye” from being used by criminals, which would cause global catastrophe. The first-person shooter allows you to move freely in a 3D world and try to complete objectives while also trying to avoid alerting guards of your presence. The Nintendo 64 game is well known as a significant turning point in the first-person shooting genre as it showed that type of game could work on video game consoles, even introducing realistic elements like the stealth mechanics. There is also a multiplayer mode that is a split-screen deathmatch, where players must rack up the most kills against each other in order to win. Another well-received spy game, Perfect Dark, was seen as the spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007.
The brilliant Hideo Kojima is one of the best cinematic video game designers out there and is currently about to release his first independent game, Death Stranding. Before that, however, he got his start creating the Metal Gear series at Konami in 1987. A stealth game at its core, the series has you play as a special forces operative completing espionage missions to find a superweapon that has the ability to shoot nuclear weapons. There are a total of nine mainline video games, as well as 13 other spin-offs.
The 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter, developed by Bally Midway, was initially going to carry the James Bond license. But without it, the game was still beloved. The vertical scrolling game puts you in the role of a spy trying to stop enemy vehicles with weapons installed in your own car. In arcade versions, you must use your steering wheel to stay on the road while using various buttons to shoot at enemies as well as keeping your foot on the pedal to keep up with them. The game has been re-released as recently as 2012 on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 in Midway Arcade Origins.
The Operative: No One Lives Forever
Monolith Productions is not a major name in the gaming industry, but it is best known for creating The Operative: No One Lives Forever, which takes elements from 1960s spy-themed films, novels and TV shows. The action-packed, first-person shooting game has you play as Cate Archer, a Scottish operative of UNITY who is tasked to maintain the world peace. Throughout the games, you are sent on missions throughout the world, fighting armed enemies. What made this game so influential was the ability to complete missions in different ways depending on how you wanted to complete it, from sneaking around to going out guns-blazing. All the while, the game is rich in its character and, at times, incredibly funny.
In terms of newer spy games, none has conjured up a cult following like SpyParty, a game that hasn’t even been fully released yet. The indie game by Chris Hecker has one player assume the role of a spy who must complete tasks while blending into a cocktail party. These missions include switching out statues, flirting with guests or communicating a secret code to an ambassador. At the same time, a second player is a sniper who must take out the spy before their mission is done but only has one bullet to do it. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen in a video game.