Donkey Kong is not only a Nintendo mascot, but he's also a character that's seen a jarring physical and narrative transformation from game to game. He's a character that's gone from simply throwing red barrels down a building, to being a household name and a mark of quality in the video game world.
D.K.'s games have had their share of missteps, but also some profound and interesting decisions to compliment their design. Nintendo has delivered high-quality experiences that have captivated audiences for generations. Donkey Kong has received countless awards and sales accomplishments and introduced families and friends alike to a cast of jolly and likable characters. He's extended these characters into numerous genres.
Donkey Kong has even had cameos in numerous Nintendo games, and has staying power that few other icons can fall back on. Shigeru Miyamoto created the character to simply be an adversary to a very brave plumber. Who would have known that the gorilla would go on to be the face of his own empire, that fans would be clamoring for new entries in his iconic series year after year? He may not be as popular as Mario, but that doesn't mean he isn't amongst the greats.
Fans are anticipating some type of d announcement at E3, so here's hoping Nintendo delivers. There's plenty of journeys and adventures ahead for Donkey Kong, but in the meantime, let's go back and talk about his storied past. It's time to run through a ton of facts you probably don't know about our favorite necktie wearing gorilla.
15 Punch Me!
Originally, Donkey Kong Country was pitched as a boxing game. This is interesting considering the first incarnation of the character is seen throwing barrels at an unsuspecting carpenter. Imagine how different the franchise would be if Donkey Kong Country was made to be a boxing game instead of a platformer. Would Donkey Kong be the mascot he is today? Most things have a way of beautifully coming full circle. Donkey Kong eventually found his way into the ring when Punch-Out!! released for the Nintendo Wii in 2009. The famous gorilla was an unlockable character that happened to be a physically imposing force in the ring. Miyamoto has never really explained if he had any involvement in this cameo, but it's great to think that maybe he wanted to see a historic what-if scenario brought into an actual video game.
14 High Score Problems
The original Donkey Kong was more than the origin of two iconic video game characters. It was an arcade phenomenon and the stage of many high-profile competitions. One of the largest arcade game feuds which happened to take place in Donkey Kong was the subject an amazing documentary titled 'The King of Kong,' The film detailed one man's journey to break the highest score ever achieved in Donkey Kong.
Funny enough, the largest score ever recorded, which was set in 2016, didn't even fit on the high score table. Wes Copeland managed to obtain a score of 1,218,000 and break a record that was once thought of as untouchable. Imagine recording a score so high that it can't properly be displayed in the game. This is obviously a shortcoming of arcade gaming, but who would have thought a score that high was obtainable?
13 Kong Plays Games
Now, not only is this next fact surprising, it's reality-breaking and next level meta. No, we're not talking about wearing a Nintendo Switch shirt in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which is weird in its own right.
If you happen to sit idle in Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D you'll be treated to DK playing what looks to be a Nintendo 3DS. He simply rests himself down, pulls out the handheld, and begins playing a random game. If you listen closely, this game actually isn't that random. Keen observers can hear sound effects hearkening back to the original Donkey Kong. How narcissistic do you have to be to play a 20-year-old game about yourself? Maybe he wanted to remember what it's like to be a bad guy? Or maybe he isn't necessarily the gorilla in the original game. We'll talk about that a little later.
12 That's Bananas
As a kid we always thought about clever and inventive ways to get our hands on toys and games, right? Well, in 2010 two different game stores thought it would be interesting to accept a different type of currency. The stores, GAME, and Gamestation offered a promotion for the first 20 customers at the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns. The promotion stated that these customers would have the opportunity to trade in a bunch of bananas for the game. This has to be one of the most entertaining and hilarious promotional stunts a store's ever pulled. Do you think GameStop would ever accept a bucket of paint for Splatoon 2? What about some cow manure for Rockstar's upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2? I guess we'll just have to wait for the next outlandish promotional event to obtain our dream trade.
11 A Pretty Penny
We've all had that dream. You know which one, right? The one where you're at your local yard sale, and you come across the holy grail of video games. The cartridge that earns you a few thousand dollars. A legendary keepsake to be passed down through generations. Donkey Kong is a franchise in which such a cartridge exists. Apparently, there were 2500 copies of Donkey Kong Country that were specifically made for competitive use. This version of the game features a boosted scoring mechanic as well as a 5-minute time limit. These cartridges were used in competitions to accurate test player skills and track the scores that were obtained in a specific time. Make sure to keep an eye out for these elusive cartridges at your neighbor's yard sale or the sketchy thrift shop down the block.
10 Happy Accident
The Kremlings, the main antagonist of Donkey Kong Country, were originally supposed to star in their own game. The anthropomorphic crocodiles were never originally intended to be the often appearing nuisance of Donkey Kong. What this game exactly was, and who was the protagonist has never really surfaced, but it's odd to think of a franchise entirely focused on the Kremling. Imagine if the likes of Donkey Kong, Mario, and Link, were grouped with a Kremling hero that stood the test of time. Would this crocodile based universe be a booming success for Nintendo? Who knows. It's safe to say that their decision to insert them as the main enemy faction in Donkey Kong Country was a smart and fruitful decision. Canceling the Kremlins game that never was, was a domino that Nintendo is thankful dropped in the right direction.
9 Diddy Delight
Am I the only one that dreams of the world in which Nintendo gives us a brand new Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo Switch? I can't be, right? It's great to see such a fanbase for a game that was actually headed in an entirely different direction during its conception. Nintendo was supposedly working on a sequel to their classic title R.C. Pro-AM when Shigeru Miyamoto stepped in and took the game in a slightly different direction. When approached with the idea, Miyamoto felt that Diddy Kong should be the mascot of the game, he felt that it would give the game a better identity and help it connect with players. Diddy Kong Racing was spawned directly from that input and was eventually released in 1997 and was the beneficiary of excellent critical reception.
8 Copyright Kong
King Kong, a property decades older than our friendly gorilla, is more than likely the inspiration for the look and name of Donkey Kong. Upon the game's success in 1982, Universal City Studios set out to take Nintendo to court. Universal felt that the game's plot and name were too closely related to their own property, King Kong, for it to be more than mere coincidence. Unfortunately for Universal, King Kong suffered what so many ancient properties succumb to. It was stated by the court that King Kong was public domain and Nintendo was in the right to continue with Donkey Kong as they see fit. If the court felt differently and Nintendo lost the case it seems that the landscape would be drastically different, but how different? It seems that the major change that would have taken place was a name change.
7 Donkey! Stop Horsing Around
Now, one would assume that an animated gorilla would have its movements modeled after the animal it's portraying, right? This actually wasn't the case for Donkey Kong. Apparently, designers weren't satisfied with the way that realistic gorilla movements translated into the digital world. After countless hours of studying their movements and applying them to the in-game models, it was determined that Donkey Kong's movements would be based on a different animal. It turns out that horses had a movement that translated better, at least in the minds of the developers, and thus were implemented straight way. This is an interesting fact about how, even though it sounds good in theory, creating video game movements and characters solely based on their real-life counterparts may not necessarily result in the best product.
6 Spinoff Apology
Everyone knows and understands that Shigeru Miyamoto takes a lot of pride in the creations he brings to light. It seems that, for the most part, Miyamoto understands and appreciates all of the different genres and risks Nintendo takes with their franchises. This wasn't always the case, however. Apparently, Miyamoto really disliked the Donkey Kong spinoffs, he stated that if people liked Donkey Kong Country it merely showed you could have great art and sub-par gameplay and still impress fans. Donkey Kong Country, as well as its sequels, went on to sell millions of copies. It seems that Miyamoto's opinions over the years have changed considering the success of something he didn't entirely agree with. Miyamoto even went as far as to offer a public apology on the matter.
5 What's In A Name?
Many people grew up believing a rumor that spread like wildfire stating the name Donkey Kong was simply an error in translation. The rumor stated that the game was originally called Monkey Kong but was changed to Donkey Kong through a simple error during localization. According to Miyamoto, the name Donkey Kong was actually a well-thought out name for the antagonist. He felt that the word "donkey" would translate to show the character's lack of intelligence. He also felt that donkeys were associated with stubbornness, which he believed was one of the defining factors of the gorilla. Little did he know that the dumb barrel-throwing gorilla would turn into one of Nintendo's largest mascots. Hey Miyamoto, how's that for stubborn?
4 Coming In Clutch
The original Donkey Kong game was actually made to replace a Popeye game in Nintendo's roster that fell through at the last minute. Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Donkey Kong, felt that the love triangle created a strong game dynamic. This was directly inspired from the love triangle that takes place in the Popeye comic strip. Now, it's safe to say that the Popeye game not coming to fruition for Nintendo was a tremendous blessing in disguise. That series of events directly led to the creation of not only an iconic character but one of the most successful and longest running Nintendo franchises. It's crazy to see how a lot of the early video game concepts and designs were spawned simply through imagination and correlation. There weren't as many gatekeepers stifling the creative process.
3 Nothing Like A Catchphrase!
Donkey Kong is a character and franchise so popular, it's even made its way into the English language. Have you broken into a spontaneous competition with a friend or family member and uttered the phrase 'It's on like Donkey Kong?' Well, Nintendo actually owns the rights to that catchphrase, so don't look at adding it to any E-Sports tournament promo materials anytime soon. It makes sense that Nintendo would make such a huge push to obtain the rights to something that not only includes one of their largest IPs, but is a phrase synonymous with almost every competitive trash-talking session. Now, there's no problem with Nintendo owning the commercial rights to such an awesome phrase. The problem is with their poor implementation. Where's all of the 'It's on like Donkey Kong' merch, Nintendo?
2 Is He A ... Junior?
Many people associate Donkey Kong with the original portrayal in which the character simply hurled red barrels, but it turns out that's actually not the same Donkey Kong we've followed since. Do you remember everyone's annoyed grandfather gorilla, Cranky Kong? According to Nintendo, he's actually supposed to be the same gorilla who originally faced off with Mario for the princess' love and affection. Maybe this is why he's so cranky? This revelation raises a lot more questions than it happened to answer. Does this mean that the Donkey Kong we're all familiar with is Donkey Kong Jr.? We know that DK Jr. isn't Diddy Kong considering he's referred to as a chimp and DK's wannabe nephew. Guess we'll have to wait for another knowledge bomb by way of Nintendo.
1 DK Is A King
Donkey Kong has made a seamless transition from being a simplistic and brutish villain to one of Nintendo's strongest franchises and cash cows. In 1994, when the original Donkey Kong Country shipped, the game quickly became the best selling game on the Super Nintendo that wasn't bundled with the console. The game has consistently shown tremendous sales numbers and is a beneficiary of amazing attachment rates. People absolutely love the gorilla with a necktie. The last mainline Donkey Kong game to release was 2014's Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which released to fairly great critical reception. It sold extremely well considering it released on the worst selling Nintendo console of all-time. Here's hoping it makes its way to Nintendo Switch via Virtual Console or a deluxe edition port.