Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

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Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by SHaines » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:13 pm

Donkey Kong is undoubtedly near the top of any list of the most widely known characters in the history of video games. This incredible arcade classic was released in Japan on July 9, 1981 and just a few weeks later in the United States.

Check out our RetroGamer post on this arcade classic here:


Story: Jumpman (later to be known as everyone’s favorite plumber, Mario) is on a mission to save his girlfriend (her name, Pauline, was given to the character some time after release) from a big ape that drew some inspiration from the classic film, King Kong.

The ape takes her to the top of a construction site and throws barrels that roll across girders and down ladders as Mario tries to dodge or destroy them, while making his way to the top. While this may not seem like a revolutionary concept today, it was among the first of what later came to be known as “platformer” games.

Gameplay: Use the joystick to move Mario left to right over metal girders. Push the joystick up or down to move up or down ladders between girders.

Use the jump button to evade rolling obstacles, or to grab various helpful items, such as hammers, that can be used to destroy them. Each level mixes up the formula a bit, while the overall objective of saving Pauline is the ultimate goal throughout.

Play: Donkey Kong’s staggering success means there were ports to every conceivable platform. Pretty much every retrogamer would have had access to some version of this game back during the 80s.

Future iterations of the game, including an expansive catalog of sequels and spin-offs may very well make this game the most important and influential in history.

A browser version can be played here:

Legacy: Here’s a list of just some games that were sequels or spin-offs of Donkey Kong:
  • Donkey Kong Jr. (1982)
  • Mario Brothers (1983)
  • Donkey Kong Country (1994)
  • Diddy Kong Racing (1997)
With the character of Mario being introduced here, you can also draw a straight line from Donkey Kong to the full suite of Mario titles that followed.

Pro Tip: Picking up the hammer will let you destroy barrels, but it also prevents you from climbing ladders, so there are costs/benefits to consider when moving through levels.

Did you get a chance to play Donkey Kong in the arcade back in the day? What is your favorite spin off or sequel and why is it Donkey Kong Country?

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by NorthWay » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:25 pm

Stellar game. And I think DK Jr is even better. A mainstay of travelling tivolis and burger joints all over. Played it a fair bit, and even rented a Colecovision with it.
What I find fascinating it the number of home versions, those trying to be exact, official and (more or less) exact, and those trying not to get slapped on the wrist. I have a soft spot for "Crazy Kong" by Interceptor Software on the C= 64 - level 2 - which I think would work well if (re-)made for the original arcade. (Much like the modern rom sets.)

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by NickThorpe » Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:24 am

The Atari 2600 conversion of Donkey Kong would have been one of the very first games I ever played, and I've always had a bit of a soft spot for it. But man, Donkey Kong is hard - when we covered the high score scene for an issue a couple of years ago, we had a competition on the magazine team. Our scores were all utterly dreadful.

If you've never played it, check out the Game Boy version - it starts off as a straight recreation of the arcade game before quickly turning into an awesome little platform puzzle game.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by Crusty Starfish » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:37 am

Was just looking to see if it was on Antstream.... it's not :(

Will have to load up MAME

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by Bluce_Ree » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:54 pm

I love it. It’s a brutal game but very rewarding. My high score isn’t going to bother the top players but I keep coming back to it.

It is one of two games I have installed on my Switch.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by Matt_B » Thu Jul 11, 2019 5:59 am

I first saw it in the local squash club where it replaced a much loved Galaga machine. Yes it was brutally hard but back then you could say that you'd finished it without scoring a million points and getting to the kill screen.

So far as home versions go, I had Ocean's Kong which was a bit rubbish and the rather better Killer Gorilla from Micro Power. I only finally got around to the NES version when the classic console came out and was surprised at how poor it was. The Arcade Classics version on the Switch is excellent though.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by kiwimike » Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:15 pm

DK and DKJ just masterclasses in superb retro gaming. And look so simple, but pretty tough challenge for sure. I certainly aren't going to feature on King of Kong sequels but keep going back to beat personal bests!

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by jpishgar » Fri Jul 12, 2019 11:43 am

I've fantastic memories of this game and exhausting so many quarters.
I never realized that Jumpman was also Mario!

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by h00zf1sh » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:38 am

I still have my beautiful, bright orange Donkey Kong Game & Watch from 1982. Couldn't put it down.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by ncf1 » Wed Oct 09, 2019 12:06 pm

DK is a fascinating game - to me, the most rewarding of them all if you persist with it. I, like many others, found it too difficult, could never get off the first screen, couldn't get even near the 7500 'high score' the game initially starts out with and quite frankly, hated it for most of my life.

Then the movie King of Kong comes along and inspires me to give it another try, some 30-odd years later. With a little persistence it gets easier.. more enjoyable.. and the more you learn, more and more rewarding. I couldn't believe I hadn't given this treasure more of a look-in over the years. A game I probably would have listed in my Top 10 most hated games has now become my favourite arcade game ever, such a turnaround! Just persist with it... learn a trick or two... and it just becomes more and more fun as you play. I've now cracked 380,000 which although wont be giving the champs any heart murmurs has given me the most surprise out of any other arcade game.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by ulrich7ad » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:59 am

I've never managed to play the arcade day. My mate had the NES version and I played that a bit but the version I played most was the one hidden in DK64. I don't know, or care, how accurate the port is but i put many hours into it. Got up to around 600k points on that and was pleased. Jetpac got hammered on that cart as well.

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Re: Retrogaming Spotlight: Donkey Kong

Post by Mario500 » Thu Jun 04, 2020 3:00 pm

SHaines wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:13 pm
Donkey Kong is undoubtedly near the top of any list of the most widely known characters in the history of video games. This incredible arcade classic was released in Japan on July 9, 1981 and just a few weeks later in the United States.
I had believed at least one public copy of the game was made available for beings such as my self to play earlier in the calendar year 1981 in the United States (specifically the second day of June for that year).

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