Donkey Kong

donkey kong box art nes game
10 Overall Score
Graphics: 8/10
Sound: 10/10
Controls: 7/10

Classic gaming at its best

Notoriously difficult

Game Info

Game Name:  Donkey Kong

Developer(s): Nintendo R&D1

Publisher(s): Nintendo

Platform(s): Arcade

Genre(s): Platformer/Retro

Release Date(s): Release Dates

ESRB Rating: Not Rated

donkey kong first level mario gameplay graphics

To hammer or not to hammer…the classic D.K. question

An escaped gorilla is causing problems at a local construction site.  When Donkey Kong kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend Pauline, Mario finds himself climbing the girders, dodging barrels, and jumping cement pans, hopping girders, and avoiding springs.  Donkey Kong is climbing higher and higher, and Mario must make his move before it is too late!

Developed by Nintendo, Donkey Kong is a platformer arcade game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto.  The arcade game was released on July 9, 1981 in Japan and later that month in America.  The video game was released to critical acclaim and spawned sequels and a series of games continuing to this day.  The game has been released on multiple platforms including a Switch release of the original game and an expanded release for GameBoy Color.

Donkey Kong was one of “my games” growing up.  I always wanted to play Donkey Kong when I went to the arcade and remember watching people play the game since it was so difficult.  The music, sounds, and movement of Donkey Kong is so intrinsic in my video game playing that it is always a rush of nostalgia to play.

donkey kong graphics pie level mario


Donkey Kong is really, really hard.  I can go through the game about once and then hit big problems.  The skill of Donkey Kong players is legendary (check out The King of Kong:  A Fistful of Quarters if you don’t believe me on the competitive nature of the game).  The timing and the algorithm for the game has been studied to be mastered…and even then, increasing speed and character location and movement can change all of that.

The game is noted not only for being an early platformer, but it also introduced the platformer “king” Mario.  Originally called “Mr. Video” and “Jumpman”, Mario became the breakout star of Donkey Kong.  Not a plumber, he also had simple and little jumps (he really had to get “Super” before he gained his speed and big jumping ability).  In fact Mario is a bit frustrating when you play Donkey Kong…he gets stuck on ladders and often falls just shy of clearing ledges and enemies…it adds to the frustration of the game.

donkey kong end screen graphics mario pauline

Donkey Kong’s tragic love story is struck down by the evil Mario

Generally, I’m not a big sound guy, but the sound effects of Donkey Kong are the sounds of childhood.  The little jingles, the jumping sounds, the sound of a hammer pounding are all part of a “classic arcade” for me.  Just like Pac-Man’s sounds, Donkey Kong is probably second in nature to me.

Donkey Kong helped create one of my favorite game genres in the platformer and the hours I’ve spent playing Donkey Kong and Mario themed spin-offs probably could account for much of my gaming time.  I can vividly recall wanting to see the “pies” level (aka cement pans) since it often was included on home consoles.  While I loved Donkey Kong, I also really liked the Donkey Kong clone Kangaroo (1982) which took Donkey Kong and added some other elements to it…but Donkey Kong is the still the king!  Donkey Kong was followed by the sequel Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982.

Related Links:

Donkey Kong Jr.

Donkey Kong 3

Donkey Kong Country Returns

The King of Kong:  A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

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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