Many people look at Mario as the oldest Mascot in gaming. However, even Mario was pre-empted by another well-known Nintendo icon: Donkey Kong, which is why we're doing a list of the 10 Best Donkey Kong Games. Before Mario even had a name, Donkey Kong was rampaging through construction sites and kidnapping beautiful women. Who would have thought that a small time action game based on King Kong would eventually blow up to be one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises? These are the 10 Best Donkey Kong Games!
Donkey Kong 3 basically did away with the entire Donkey Kong arcade formula. Instead of having Mario climbing a construction site, the game featured an exterminator, Stanley, spraying bug spray up Donkey Kong’s ass in order to save a greenhouse full of flowers. No… we aren’t kidding. The game was incredibly addicting, and was well regarded for its time, but poorly remembered today. Still, the bizarre premise is enough to get it on our list of the 10 Best Donkey Kong Games.
Most people wouldn’t put Donkey Kong Jungle Beat on this list, but it deserves a spot due to its innovation alone. After the Donkey Kong Konga peripherals came out for the Gamecube, Nintendo tried their hardest to make sure that they weren’t only used for just one rhythm game. As a result, we got Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which was a side scrolling platformer that was controlled completely via the bongo controller.
When the N64 was released, many of Nintendo’s franchises had to make the jump to 3D. Usually this came with a reworking of the game formula. Some of these were huge successes like Mario 64. Some, however, were underappreciated gems like Donkey Kong 64. The levels in the game were absolutely massive, and the game was entirely open world, allowing you to choose where to go. There were multiple characters to play as, multiple weapons to use, and, most importantly, this was the game that the horrendously awful, but fun, DK Rap came from!
Donkey Kong for the original Gameboy might have actually been the pinnacle of the original Donkey Kong formula. The concept was the same as the original arcade game. Mario had to make it to the top of multiple stages in order to save Pauline. However, there were nine worlds with multiple stages in each world, and even a world map to connect them all complete with bonus levels. We have never seen more classic Donkey Kong in one place! It was also one of the first Gameboy games to have special extras included in it for the Super Gameboy peripheral.
Mario vs Donkey Kong was part Donkey Kong, part The Lemmings, and part Super Mario Bros. 2. It was this three-type gameplay that made it so interesting. Every stage started with having Mario traditionally platform to the top of a Donkey Kong like structure that continued with Mario guiding mini-Mario toys to a stage exit, and ended with a Donkey Kong boss battle which usually involved throwing things at him. Granted, this could be looked at as more of a “Mario” game than a Donkey Kong game, but wouldn’t that also make the original Donkey Kong more of a Mario game as well?
#5 on our list of 10 Best Donkey Kong Games is Donkey Kong Jr., one of the first games that actually allowed you to play as a member of Donkey Kong’s family. Here, Mario was the bad guy and it was up to Jr. to climb on vines and rescue. In Jr.'s way were ravenous birds, rampaging crocodiles, and balls of fire. If you manage to save Donkey Kong at the end you actually kill Mario! No, really! Go back and play this game and look at the little arrow on Mario’s head after the last stage.
Donkey Konga was a rhythm game that used a specially made bongo peripheral (or conga drum peripheral, it’s kind of hard to tell when they are small and plastic like that). The cool thing about this peripheral was that it had a sound sensor that could tell when you clapped independently of the drums, and this was a major gameplay mechanic. Donkey Konga would let you bang and clap to songs like Rock Lobster, Whip It, and of course, everyone’s favorite, DK Rap!
Donkey Kong Country Returns
When the Wii came out, there was a bit of a dearth of Donkey Kong games. This was odd considering there were tons of (mostly drum based), Donkey Kong games for the Gamecube. Thankfully, we did get one game, Donkey Kong Country Returns, a return to the classic Donkey Kong Country formula. Once again Donkey and Diddy traveled through multiple stages, jumping on enemy’s heads, shooting out of barrel cannons, and riding on mine carts. It was awesome!
Speaking of the original Donkey Kong Country formula, Donkey Kong Country started it all, changing Donkey Kong from a Mario villain to a hero in his own right. This was the first game to feature barrel cannons, DK barrels, and Diddy Kong. Many people say Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest was better, but for our money this is the best Donkey Kong Country experience you can have on the SNES.
How could we wrap up a list of the 10 Best Donkey Kong Games without mentioning the original Donkey Kong arcade cabinet? The original is not only fun, it’s important to gaming history. It was the game that created both Mario and Donkey Kong. It brought Nintendo out of their small time playing card business and into the world of gaming as we know it. It also cemented Nintendo as a common name in both households and arcades. It was all because one man named Shigeru Miyamoto had a vision, and that vision was a carpenter jumping over barrels to save his girlfriend from a rampaging monkey.
next: 10 Best Mario Games Ever