Donkey Kong (game)

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Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong
Developer(s) Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Platforms Arcade, Intellivision, Game & Watch, ColecoVision, Atari 2600, Atari 8-bit Computers, Famicom/NES, TI-99/4a, IBM PC Booter, Commodore 64 & VIC-20, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Famicom Disk System, Atari 7800, Game Boy Advance e-Reader, Wii Virtual Console, TRS-80 CoCo, Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console.
Release date: Arcade
Japan July 17, 1983
Europe October 15, 1986
USA June, 1987

Game Boy Advance
Japan February 14, 2004
USA June 7, 2004
Europe July 10, 2004

Virtual Console (Wii)
USA November 19, 2006
Japan December 2, 2006
Australia December 7, 2006
Europe December 8, 2006

Virtual Console (Nintendo 3DS)
Japan October 17, 2012
USA August 15, 2013
Europe November 21, 2013
Australia November 21, 2013

Virtual Console (Wii U)
Japan July 15, 2013
USA July 15, 2013
Europe July 15, 2013
Australia July 15, 2013
Genre Platforming
Modes Single Player, Two player
Walkthrough on Strategy Wiki Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong is the first game that Donkey Kong and Mario (then known as "Jumpman") appeared in. The game was released for the arcades in 1981 and became successful, being Nintendo's first major hit.


Jumpman, a carpenter, is the keeper an unhappy ape named Donkey Kong, who eventually breaks out of his cage and out of rage kidnaps Pauline, Jumpman's girlfriend. Jumpman pursues Donkey Kong, and is led into a construction site during the chase. DK climbs up on different sections of the site to guard Pauline from Jumpman, usually tossing projectiles from above to delay him. Eventually they reach the top of the site where Jumpman makes DK fall to his doom and is reunited with his girlfriend.


Donkey Kong is among the first few "platforming" genre games ever made, preceded by Space Panic and Apple Panic. The player controls Jumpman, who can walk left and right, jump, and climb ladders. In each level, the player must avoid obstacles and projectiles in order to reach the top of the area of the construction site and go up to Pauline. Unfortunately, Donkey Kong will notice and carry Pauline away to a higher level of the site, leading to the next level. The game is divided into four different one-screen stages. Each represents 25 meters of the structure Donkey Kong has climbed, one stage being 25 meters higher than the previous. The final screen occurs at 100 m. Later ports of the game omit or change the sequence of the screens.

Compared to other games in arcades at the time, the game was difficult. The player needs to properly time Jumpman's leaps over barrels perfectly or lose a life. In addition, the player cannot take to long a leap between platforms on later levels, or Jumpman will also lose a life. The famous "death" sequence involves Jumpman crouching and circling in mid air, and then falling down, with a halo appearing over his head while different, "losing" style music plays.

There are various ways of scoring points in the game. In addition to presenting the goal of saving the Lady/Pauline, the game also gives the player a score. Points are awarded for finishing screens; leaping over obstacles; destroying objects with a hammer power-up; collecting items such as hats, parasols, and purses (presumably belonging to Pauline); and completing other tasks. Winning the game requires patience and the ability to accurately time Jumpman's ascent. The player receives three lives with a 1-up awarded for the first 7,000 points. There has been competition, even in modern society, over the highest score achieved in the game. The current highest offical score was set by Robbie Lakeman on December 1, 2014; he achieved 1,138,600 points. More recently, he has topped this with a score of 1,172,100 points, but it has not been registered yet.


The game is divided into four different one-screen stages. Each represents 25 meters of the structure Donkey Kong has climbed, one stage being 25 meters higher than the previous. The final screen occurs at 100 m. Later ports of the game omit or change the sequence of the screens; the original arcade version includes:

  • 25m: A seven-story construction site. Donkey Kong bends many of the girders there and as a result they are all crooked, and in addition some ladders break. To make matters worse, at the top there is a large quantity of barrels that Donkey Kong tosses down. Jumpman needs to get to the top by climbing the ladders and avoiding the projectiles. The hero must also avoid fireballs, which generate when an oil barrel collides with an oil drum. Players routinely call this screen "Barrels".
  • 50m: Jumpman must climb a five-story structure of conveyor belts, each of which transports pans of cement. The fireballs also make another appearance. This screen is sometimes referred to as the "Factory" or "Pie Factory" due to the resemblance of the cement pans to pies.
  • 75m: Jumpman rides up and down elevators while avoiding fireballs and bouncing objects, presumably spring-weights. The bouncing weights (the hero's greatest danger in this screen) emerge on the top level and drop near the rightmost elevator. The screen's common name is "Elevators".
  • 100m: Jumpman must remove eight rivets, which support Donkey Kong. The fireballs remain the primary obstacle. Removing the final rivet causes Donkey Kong to fall and the hero to be reunited with the Lady/Pauline. This is the final screen of each level. Players refer to this screen as "Rivets".

These screens combine to form levels, which become progressively harder. As the player progresses, Donkey Kong begins to hurl barrels more rapidly and sometimes diagonally, and fireballs get quicker. The victory music alternates between levels 1 and 2. The 22nd level is unofficially known as the kill screen due to an error in the game's internal timer that kills Jumpman after a few seconds, effectively ending the game. This bug is because of integer overflow, which occurs as the result of the multiplication the game makes to calculate the timer. With its four unique levels, Donkey Kong was the most complex video game at the time of its release, and one of the first games to feature multiple levels.


Concept art for Jumpman/Mario.
  • Jumpman, also known as "Mr. Video Game" in Japan, is the main protagonist of the game. He is the controlled character throughout the entire game. His skill is to jump, as implied by the name. He uses this skill to avoid rolling barrels, jump over enemies, and to go to other platforms. Interestingly, according to Miyamoto himself, he originally could not jump.[1]
  • Donkey Kong is the main antagonist of the game. Donkey Kong appears perched on top of each section of the construction site, carrying Pauline away each time Jumpman gets too close. Donkey Kong's main (and most famous) way of attack is to throw Barrels among other objects. He is eventually defeated on top of the construction site. The character was given the name "Donkey Kong" to imply "Stupid Ape", since the developers figured "Donkey" would mean "Stupid" in America and "Kong" would relate to the character "King Kong", who was from a popular movie in America.
  • Pauline, also known as "Lady", is Jumpman's girlfriend. She is guarded by Donkey Kong in each level, and Jumpman gallantly tries to rescue her each level. At the end, the two reunite and kiss.
  • Trouble Bugs are recurring enemies in the game. The "bugs" are actually living, walking fireballs that are ignited when a barrel goes into an oil barrel. Trouble Bugs usually walk around aimlessly and can climb up and down ladders. Contact by Jumpman results in a life lost.



Donkey Kong was created when Shigeru Miyamoto was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope arcade cabinets, a poorly selling arcade game in the U.S., into a game that would have more appeal to Americans. He was limited to a joystick and a lone button. Initially, Donkey Kong was a maze-based game where Jumpman would have to navigate a maze and get away from barrels tossed by Donkey Kong. However, in this alpha phase of the game, Jumpman could not even jump, leading to unfair deaths and high difficulty. The developers instead took advantage of the extra button to give the character the ability to jump over barrels, and the game was reworked into a platforming style.[1]

The result was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and for the video game industry. Sales of the machine were brisk, with the game becoming the best-selling arcade machine of all time in its era. The gameplay itself was the first of its time. With the growing base of arcades to sell to, the game was able to gain huge distribution. A little well-known fact is that Donkey Kong was the first appearance of Nintendo's world famous Mario character - known as Jumpman in this game. The machine was Nintendo's first worldwide success.

In 1982, Universal Studios sued Nintendo, claiming that Donkey Kong infringed on Universal Studios' intellectual property rights to the film King Kong. Howard Lincoln, attorney and future president of Nintendo of America, decided to fight the case, and hired seasoned attorney John Kirby to represent Nintendo. When Kirby showed that not only was Nintendo not in violation of any copyrights, but also that Universal Studios themselves had sued RKO Pictures in 1975 to prove that the plot of King Kong was in fact in the public domain, Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled in Nintendo's favor, ordering Universal to pay Nintendo $1.8 million in legal fees. In an ironic twist, Judge Sweet also ruled that Tiger's King Kong video game, licensed by Universal, infringed on Donkey Kong. After the victory, Nintendo awarded John Kirby with a $30,000 sailboat, christened the Donkey Kong, and gave him exclusive worldwide rights to use the name for sailboats.

Due to the huge success of Donkey Kong, Nintendo of America was able to grow and release many more games in succeeding years and had the resources necessary to release the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Other appearances[edit]

In the Frantic Factory stage in Donkey Kong 64, Donkey Kong can activate an Arcade machine of the original arcade game. The game is fully playable, and includes all 4 screens, unlike most other ports. After clearing all 4 screens once, Donkey receives a Golden Banana, and can spend 2 Banana Coins to play through the game again to receive a Nintendo Coin. After that, it can be played in full as if you were playing it on an actual arcade machine.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl also has the game Donkey Kong (The NES version) as an unlockable masterpiece. Instead of starting from the beginning stage, players will start at the second stage. To unlock it, the player must play the game for ten hours. There is also an unlockable stage, 75m that is based on the second level of the game.

Donkey Kong is also available as a masterpiece in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.


Atari 2600[edit]

Donkey Kong was also released on the Atari 2600. It had down-graded graphics and sound, though still had the same gameplay mechanic.

Nintendo Entertainment System[edit]

The game is relatively similar to the original arcade game, but it does not include the Factory level.

Classic NES Series: Donkey Kong[edit]

Animal Crossing[edit]

Donkey Kong appeared as a mini-game.

It was re-released on the Game Boy Advance as a part of Nintendo's "Classic NES Series" remakes of popular NES games. It is relatively unchanged.

amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits[edit]

The NES version is an unlockable game in amiibo tap: Nintendo's Greatest Bits.

NES Classic Edition[edit]

A port of the NES version was included in the NES Classic Edition.


  • In Lego City Undercover, the first level of Donkey Kong is referenced in a level design and a line from Chase McCain, "I hope there isn't a giant ape at the top of this thing."[2]
  • Even though Jumpman wears his signature red and blue clothing in the game, he wears blue and white clothing on the box art for the NES port.


For this game's full gallery, see Donkey Kong (game)/gallery.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Gameinformer