Nintendo's famous simian mascot celebrates 30 years of barrel tossing and going "ook ook ook!" We take a look at his legacy.
30 years ago, an arcade machine called Donkey Kong made its debut in a Seattle bar called The Spot Tavern. It pioneered the platform game, put Nintendo on the map and gave birth to one of gaming’s most enduring characters – the titular Donkey Kong.
The original Donkey Kong arcade game.
The exact date of Donkey Kong’s public debut is somewhat disputed, but it is generally agreed to have occurred sometime this week in 1981. (In other words, feel free to hold off the festivities until Friday - when you can really celebrate with some banana daiquiris.)
The original game was a gruelling test of gamer reflexes that saw the player traverse a dangerous 2D landscape reigned over by an angry ape. Gameplay focused on making it to the top of each screen while Donkey Kong lobbed assorted barrels in an (often successful) attempt to stop you.
Over the years, Donkey Kong has featured in a veritable menagerie of classic Nintendo games, including the Mario Kart series, Donkey Kong Country, Super Smash Bros., Donkey Kong 64 and Donkey Konga – hands down the finest game ever to feature a bongo drum peripheral.
He has also morphed from villain to hero, and is now one of Nintendo's cuddliest mascots.
It's on like Diddy Kong, apparently.
According to Wikipedia, apes have a lifespan of up to 50 years, so the old silverback should still have a few games left in him yet.
To celebrate Donkey Kong's 30th anniversary, we've assembled some Kong trivia:
- Donkey Kong was originally set to star the comic book character Popeye, before the licensing fell through. The hero/girlfriend/ape love triangle strongly mirrors that of Popeye, Olive Oil and Bluto.
- Donkey Kong was the first game created by Shigeru Miyamoto; one of the biggest legends in the games industry and the brain behind Mario, Zelda and Star-Fox, among others.
- The word 'Donkey' was chosen for the character to reflect his stubborn, belligerent personality. (We thought that was supposed to be mules?)
- In addition to gaming's most famous gorilla, Mario also made his first appearance in Donkey Kong. However, the character was a carpenter called ‘Jumpman’ and bore little resemblance to the Mario we know today.
- In 1982, Universal City Studios successfully sued Nintendo for trademark infringement. The suite argued that the game's name and plot borrowed heavily from the 1933 film King Kong.
- Donkey Kong spawned two arcade sequels: Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3, along with more ports, clones and console spin-offs than we could possibly count.
- The Donkey Kong universe has expanded over the years to include over 13 family members. In addition to Donkey, the most popular characters are Diddy Kong (Donkey's side-kick), Donkey Kong Jr. (Donkey's son) and Candy (Donkey's girlfriend)
- In 2008, Donkey Kong formed the basis for Seth Gordon's fascinating documentary King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters. In this epic David vs Goliath story, an out-of-luck family man takes on the might and fury of the world's best Donkey Kong player: the dastardly Billy Mitchel. Check out our review of the film here.
- Donkey Kong sits at Number Three in our Top 10 Arcade Machines of All Time (bested only by Space Invaders and Pac-Man at 2 and 1, respectively).
There are countless websites offering playable Flash versions of Donkey Kong. Click here to try out this arcade classic for yourself.