Thinking about espionage RPGs, I get the feeling that (a) they used to be much more popular, and (b) they seem to be making a bit of a comeback. And that my trajectory in the RPG hobby sort of fell between those two poles. Ergo, not a whole of spy-gaming in my history.
I missed out on the "golden age" of spy RPGs like James Bond 007 and Top Secret. I'm sorry that I did. I've read enough fond remembrances and retrospectives to make me want to play those games. (This Grognardia retrospective on James Bond 007 had me particularly intrigued.)
However, I did play quite a bit of another espionage game, Palladium's Ninjas & Superspies. Being a total Palladium fanboy at the start of my involvement in RPGs, coupled with the too-nice price tag of $14.95, pretty much guaranteed I'd pick up the game, even if it hadn't featured an infamously badass cover. The fact that it was one Eric Wujcik's designs meant it was a pretty solid entry in Palladium's line of games at the time.
It should be said, however, that we focused almost exclusively on the "Ninjas" portion of the title, paying very little mind to the "Superspies" part. For us, it was our go-to game for martial arts action, and our N&S games tended to resemble a sub-par American Ninja direct-to-video sequel more than Remo Williams or what-have-you.
Of course, that didn't stop us from giving our Dedicated Martial Artists their own custom spy vehicles, obsessively statted-up using the system in the back of the book.
Later, after I bothered to take a look at the spy-focused classes and realized they were just as cool as the martial artists, we did make an effort to mix in some more overt espionage elements. I have a dim memory of a shootout in some backwater bar between Yakuza thugs and our heroes: a pair of two-fisted, gun-toting Agents and...a Ninja chucking throwing stars from behind the bar. So those latter-day games tended to resemble a sub-par, direct-to-video American Ninja sequel directed by John Woo. Progress, I guess?
At any rate, as I mentioned at the top of the post, spy games seem to be enjoying something of a resurgence these days. (Indeed, they never really went away.) Despite my general reservations regarding the Gumshoe system, I'm particularly keen to try out Ken Hite's Night's Black Agents - if there's anything Hite knows as well as Fortean weirdness, it seems, it's the spy genre. And I keep mulling over doing a TMNT & Other Strangeness/Ninjas & Superspies crossover campaign one of these days. The tropes of pulpy espionage call out to me still. . .