This oral history of Goldeneye for N64 is really excellent if you’re a fan of the original.
Multiplayer is what most Goldeneye fans remember when they think about what stuck them to the game for such a long time, but for me it was all the little challenges that added replayability to every level along the way.
Here’s one of the ways to unlock cheats in the game:
Clark: Finishing the level faster than the target time unlocked a cheat. The harder the target time, the more awesome the cheat mode: Turbo mode, Bond invisible, invincibility, unlimited ammo — essentially keys to enter God Mode, a means to explore the game in unimaginable ways. Personally, the challenge itself got me addicted: It was a very dynamic game for speedrunning, and the target times were a clear invitation to prove yourself. Facility 00 Agent’s target of 2:05 was the legendary measuring stick.
“Cheats” were something you couldn’t use to actually make progress in the game, but they were both a point of pride – you beat the level under this very short time! – and a way to have fun or add extra challenge around levels you’d already played a hundred times before.
My memories of the game are mostly around being able to get this extra fun or unique content from a game that doesn’t take all that long to beat the first time around. Though to be perfectly honest, it was more difficult than most especially when it came to finding objectives on what was then a set of very large maps. Nowadays, games with objectives that you have to find are usually circled on a map or have an arrow pointing at them (get off my lawn, I guess).
This sort of difficulty only appeals to a certain type of person, of course, but as a teenager with far too much time on my hands when I picked up Goldeneye, I definitely fit the mold perfectly.