Donkey Kong 3

donkey kong 3 box art nes review
6.0 Overall Score
Graphics: 6/10
Sound: 6/10
Controls: 6/10

Tries something different

Not very fun or inspired

Game Info

Game Name: Donkey Kong 3

Developer(s): Nintendo Research & Development 1

Publisher(s): Nintendo

Platform(s): NES/Switch

Genre(s): Action/Adventure

Release Date(s):  October 1983 (Japan)/January 1984 (US)

ESRB Rating: Not Rated

donkey kong 3 screenshots graphics gameplay review

Wait…where’s Mario?

Stanley’s usual job of killing bugs has gotten a whole lot harder. When Donkey Kong takes up residence in the greenhouse, Stanley finds not only does he have to deal with the bugs, but he also now has an angry ape refusing to leave. Stanley must stop the bugs and get Donkey Kong out of the greenhouse at all costs!

Donkey Kong 3 is an action-shooter that was produced by Nintendo and followed Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982. The arcade game was released in Japanese arcades in October in 1983 with a U.S. release in January of 1984. The game was met with mixed to average reviews in comparison to the positive reviews of the two previous games.  The game is often available as part of video game streaming services like the online Switch arcade.

Donkey Kong 3 was a real enigma. None of the arcades I went to had it, and I never got to play it until the NES release in 1986 (or probably even later since I didn’t know anyone who got it). I commend the makers of the game for trying something new with Donkey Kong, but it just isn’t in the same level of fun as Donkey Kong or Donkey Kong Jr.

donkey kong 3 gameplay screenshots retro gaming


The gameplay feels a lot like Galaga (it actually appropriated aspects of Nintendo’s Galaga clone Space Firebird from 1980 with the patterns of some of the bugs). You pretty much have to keep shooting as things fall and eventually start getting different falling patterns. The game gets pretty repetitive quickly since unlike Galaga, simply getting Donkey Kong to the top of the poles as fast as possible is the goal. Once you get the pesticide super can, it becomes a mad dash to shoot him as fast as possible (leading you to jump levels at a time). Unlike both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., there isn’t much level variety other than some differences in platforms.

I find the controls of this game a little irritating as well. Stanley’s shots don’t always seem to line up how you’d like them to and it feels like you should be hitting the bugs more often as they whip by you (and kill you). The missing platforms in certain levels leads forces you to actually move (instead of just moving up and down) but also leads to frustration when you feel like you should have landed on the platform.

donkey kong 3 screenshots worms graphics

The only thing that can stop Donkey Kong is…bees?

The graphics and sounds of Donkey Kong are iconic. Donkey Kong Jr.’s graphics are less iconic but still fun. Donkey Kong 3 feels like it is possibly even less descript than Donkey Kong simply because there is less variety to the levels. It just isn’t as well designed.

Donkey Kong 3 is a disappointment and feels like one of those last gasps of classic arcade games. I admire Donkey Kong for not just rehashing the original game over and over again, but playing Donkey Kong 3 leaves you wishing that they had. It doesn’t seem to have any spirit or fun.  It also feels like lazy game making that helped doom the first wave of video games until the NES created the resurgence.  Donkey Kong 3 was followed by a learning game Donkey Kong Jr. Math in 1983 but a new, original Donkey Kong game wasn’t released until Donkey Kong for the Gameboy and Donkey Kong Country both in 1994.

Related Links:

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong Country Returns

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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