Donkey Kong

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Classic 1980s arcade game from Nintendo. Introduced both Donkey Kong and Mario as characters.

One of the ancestors, if not the originator, of Platform Games. Didn't scroll at all, but involved a lot of jumping and climbing, and one level had moving platforms.

The storyline involved Mario (then known as Jumpman) saving a lady named Pauline from Donkey Kong, in an obvious reference to King Kong. Donkey Kong's main weapon seemed to be an endless supply of barrels, which Mario/Jumpman could, well...jump over.

The game's sequel, Donkey Kong Junior, inverted the villain/hero roles; Junior had to rescue his father from Mario's clutches, and Donkey Kong 3 had a gardener named Stanley trying to chase Donkey Kong away from his greenhouse with a bug sprayer.

In 1994, a new Donkey Kong game came out for the Game Boy, using the four levels of the original as a starting point for 97 action-puzzle hybrid levels. The same year, the Donkey Kong Country series began, bringing Donkey Kong back into the hero role.

More recently, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games have brought back the spirit of the original but focused the gameplay on rescuing wind-up toys, and the Donkey Konga games have made him the host of a Rhythm Game.

DK and friends have appeared in other Nintendo games as well, including the Mario Kart series and the Super Smash Bros.. series.

In 1983, it became a segment of Saturday Supercade on CBS, with the voices of Soupy Sales and Peter Cullen. Pauline became Mario's niece, and the titular ape an escaped zoo animal.

The game is more-or-less single-handedly successful for saving the then-fledgling Nintendo of America. After having numerous arcade games tank, the then-president of Nintendo of Japan sent over circuit boards containing Donkey Kong. The NOA team set on translating the game. Pauline was named after an employee's wife, and Mario was named after their then-landlord, Mario Segale. They installed the game in an old arcade cabinet and set it up at a nearby bar, the Spot Tavern. The first day in, it made $30. The next day, it broke down — too many quarters had caused a short circuit. Soon after that, Nintendo of America was assembling and shipping Donkey Kong machines all over the country, and the company was saved by this single game from Shigeru Miyamoto.

The Donkey Kong character's resemblance to King Kong led to Universal Studios filing suit against Nintendo, claiming trademark infringement. In an ironic twist, Nintendo's counsel, John Kirby, countered that Universal had itself argued in a previous case that King Kong's scenario and characters were in the public domain and the court agreed.[1][2]

The name itself resulted from Miyamoto's minimal knowledge of English at the time. He wanted to call the game "Stubborn Gorilla", to convey that the villain was not acting out of malice or with premeditation. With a pocket-sized Japanese/English dictionary, he latched on to "donkey" as a euphemism for "stubborn", and assumed from King Kong that "kong" meant gorilla. The name did give rise to a number of theories which attempted to explain its origin. One, which appeared on some of the cabinet labels, stated that Jumpman was in fact the titular Donkey.

Games[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Donkey Kong Land series:
    • Donkey Kong Land
    • Donkey Kong Land 2
    • Donkey Kong Land 3
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong series:
    • Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
    • Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis
    • Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again
    • Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem

Tropes used in Donkey Kong include:
  • Alternate Company Equivalent: The Sega arcade game Congo Bongo (aka Tip Top) is often considered to be a rip-off of Donkey Kong. In reality, the programming for Donkey Kong was outsourced to a company called Ikegami Tsushinki, who sued Nintendo when they felt they were not properly compensated for their work. Ikegami ended developing a Donkey Kong-like game for Sega, foreshadowing the future rivalry between the two companies.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: We all know DK, right? Well, I bet you've never seen him like THIS.
  • Animated Adaptation: The Saturday Supercade show.
  • Antagonist Title
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Donkey Kong as a Final Boss in the 1994 version.
  • Big Bad: The title character in Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong 3, and Mario in Donkey Kong Junior
  • Breakout Character: Donkey Kong and Jumpman, who later became Mario. Paulina, not so much.
  • Character Title
  • Damsel in Distress: Pauline.
  • Drop the Hammer
  • Expy: Initially conceived as a Popeye game until Nintendo was unable to secure the rights from Kings Features, the three central characters were instead made into new ones, Popeye becoming Jumpman, Bluto becoming Donkey Kong, and Olive Oyl becoming Pauline.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness / It's All Upstairs From Here: World 9 (the Tower) in the Game Boy game.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys
  • Fireballs: Some of the first Mario enemies!
  • Face Heel Turn: Mario in Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Invincibility Power-Up: The hammer, which lets you smash oncoming barrels and fireballs.
  • Just Friends: Mario and Pauline in the second Mario vs. Donkey Kong game.
  • Kill Screen: Level 22. Interestingly, the devteam did think to Cap the level counter at 99, so how did that oversight make it into the game?
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: According to the manual, Donkey only went on his rampage after being mistreated by Mario.
  • No OSHA Compliance: It's understandable that a giant ape could cause a few collapsed walkways and broken ladders in a construction site, but who's responsible for letting him get up there in the first place?
  • Nostalgia Level: The 1994 game featured all of the levels of both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. (consecutive for the former, intermittently for the latter).
  • Palette Swap
  • Puzzle Game: Some elements of the 1994 Game Boy update.
  • Puzzle Boss: Defeating Donkey Kong isn't as straightforward as jumping into him (of course, the Goomba Stomp hadn't been formulated quite yet anyway).
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: Mario had a hat for two reasons. One, Miyamoto claimed that he was terrible at drawing hairstyles, but the major reason was that when Mario fell, the engineers would not be able to show his hair sticking up.
    • His mustache, large nose, and overalls also came into being because they would be visible and recognizable at that resolution.
  • Sphere Eyes
  • Throw a Barrel At It
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The 1994 version presents itself as a remake of the original, up until the 4th level, where the regular ending is subverted and a new type of gameplay begins.
  • Urban Legend of Zelda: Theories about what the name meant. Another example, from a review in Acorn User magazine, was that the name was supposed to be Monkey Kong, but someone made a typo. In actuality, Shigeru Miyamoto thought that "donkey" means "stupid", so he intentionally named the character Donkey Kong.
  • Video Game Remake: The 1994 Game Boy puzzle platformer, which added 97 new levels, along with a bevy of new moves for Mario. Many of these said moves would make their way into Super Mario 64.
  1. Guess how Nintendo thanked John.
  2. They also bought him a big sailboat, named Donkey Kong, with exclusive worldwide rights to use the name for sailboats.
  3. Note that the game's official name is Donkey Kong; the Fan Nickname (which was actually the Working Title) is often used to distinguish it from the original arcade game and said arcade game's various ports, which is why it is used that way here as well.