GoldenEye wasn't the usual type of game that Nintendo got behind, but thankfully they did decide to move ahead with RARE on the game. It became one of the most beloved titles of all-time, but getting to that point wasn't smooth sailing. A pair of former RARE devs have opened up about Nintendo's original concern about the game, and how it lead to a few changes in the violent content.
Karl Hilton, lead environment artist
Yeah, Nintendo of Japan was concerned about the amount of killing that happened in the game, and made some suggestions about reminding people that James Bond was fictional, that this was based on a film. It certainly wasn’t a typical “Nintendo” game for that period on the N64 console. There was a definite realization that console gaming was getting more mature, and this was part of the growth of video games in this area for Nintendo. It certainly was a counterbalance to the Mario games!
Mark Edmonds, gameplay and engine programmer
In some of the original testing, there were huge gouts of rendered blood boiling out of enemies when you shot them. So this got toned down a lot to just brief flashes of red. There was some worry about leaving the red markings on enemies where you had shot them, but luckily that stayed in. There was also some attempt with the front-end sequences to impart a bit of a filmic feel — to show that all the characters in the game who you’re going round shooting aren’t actually real, and they aren’t actually dying, they’re just characters in a video game!”