Donkey Kong (game)

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This article is about the original 1981 arcade game. For information about the 1994 Game Boy game, see Donkey Kong (Game Boy). For the character, see Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong NES Cover.PNG
Boxart for the NES version of the game.
Developer(s) Nintendo Research & Development 1
Intelligent Systems (NES port)
Nintendo Research & Development 2 (NES port)[1]
Ikegami Tsushinki [2][3]
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Release date Arcade
Japan July 9, 1981
USA 1981
March 3, 1982
December 31, 1982
Atari 2600
Atari 8-bit Computers
IBM PC Booter
Commodore 64 & VIC-20
NES port
Japan July 15, 1983
USA June, 1986
Europe October 15, 1986
ZX Spectrum
Amstrad CPC
Famicom Disk System:
Japan April 8, 1988 [4]
Atari 7800
USA September 16, 2002 [5]
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 (3DS)
Japan October 17, 2012
USA August 15, 2013
Europe November 21, 2013
Australia November 21, 2013[6]
Europe September 18, 2014 (Original Edition)
Virtual Console (Wii U)
Japan July 15, 2013
USA July 15, 2013
Europe July 15, 2013
Australia July 15, 2013
Genre Platform
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Standard, mini and cocktail
Monitor Raster, standard resolution 224 x 256 (Vertical) 256 Colors
Control pad
Wiimote Sideways.png Wii Remote (Sideways)
Wii U:
Game Boy Advance:
Nintendo 3DS:

Donkey Kong is an arcade game that was Nintendo's first big hit in North America. It marked the beginning of the Mario series games, and introduced several of the earliest characters, including Mario himself (originally known as "Jumpman"[7], a carpenter rather than a plumber), the original Donkey Kong (who, in later games, would become Cranky Kong, the current Donkey Kong's grandfather[8]), and Pauline (originally known as the Lady), who now frequently appears in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. A version of the game was also created later for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo's first home console. The game sold very well in the United States, becoming one of four games to be inducted into the Nintendo Hall of Fame. The original arcade version had four screen levels, but the Nintendo Entertainment System version only has three, with the stage 50m cut from this version. This game was also the first title to be released on Virtual Console.


Donkey Kong has kidnapped the beautiful Lady (Pauline in the NES conversion) to a dangerous construction site. Jumpman (Mario in home ports and promotional materials) must climb to the top of this construction site and rescue the Lady from the giant ape.

Official story quoted from Nintendo of America[edit]

The flier for the game, which was handed out in arcades, toy stores and such.
"HELP! HELP!" cries the beautiful maiden as she is dragged up a labyrinth of structural beams by the ominous Donkey Kong. "SNORT. SNORT." Foreboding music warns of the eventual doom that awaits the poor girl, lest she somehow be miraculously rescued. "But wait! Fear not, fair maiden. Little Mario, the carpenter, is in hot pursuit of you this very moment."

Throwing fate to the wind, risking life and limb, or worse, little Mario tries desperately to climb the mighty fortress of steel, to save the lovely lady from the evil Mr. Kong. Little Mario must dodge all manner of obstacles- fireballs, plummeting beams and a barrage of exploding barrels fired at him by Donkey Kong. Amidst the beautiful girl's constant pleas for help, your challenge is to maneuver little Mario up the steel structure, while helping him to avoid the rapid-fire succession of hazards that come his way.

As little Mario gallantly battles his way up the barriers, he is taunted and teased by Donkey Kong, who brazenly struts back and forth, beating his chest in joyful exuberance at the prospect of having the beautiful girl all to himself. It is your job to get little Mario to the top. For it is there, and only there, that he can send the mighty Donkey Kong to his mortal doom. Leaving Little Mario and the beautiful girl to live happily ever after. "SIGH. SIGH."

So, if you want the most exciting, most fun-filled, most talked about family video game on the market, don't monkey around with anything but the original Donkey Kong.


  • Jumpman (Mario) (Hero, Playable)
  • Lady (Pauline) (Heroine, Unplayable)
  • Donkey Kong (Cranky Kong) (Villain, Unplayable)





The cabinet
Concept art for Jumpman.

Donkey Kong was created when Shigeru Miyamoto, under the supervision of the late Gunpei Yokoi, was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope, a poorly selling arcade game in North America, into a game that would have more appeal to more gamers. Shigeru Miyamoto later admitted that he did not focus on the story of the game, instead creating a basic plot with colourful characters and music that he himself penned[9]. He said that Jumpman (later to be renamed Mario) and the Lady were not intended to have a relationship, and he did not know where the connection idea came from, but he thought that it did not matter much. Regardless, the resulting game was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and for the video game industry, becoming one of the best selling arcade machines of its time. Its platforming gameplay also distinguished it from most other arcade games at the time.



In 1982, around a year after the game's release, 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."[10]

Ikegami Tsushinki[edit]

As Nintendo's newly established video game division lacked programming manpower, the arcade version of Donkey Kong was programmed by Ikegami Tsushinki, a contractor that had worked for Nintendo for several of its arcade releases[2][3]. For Donkey Kong's development, the two companies signed a contract which gave Ikegami Tsushinki exclusive rights to the manufacturing of Donkey Kong arcade boards[2][3].

In 1983, Ikegami Tsushinki sued Nintendo on the ground that the company had violated the contract and produced around 80,000 arcade boards on its own[2][3]. Ikegami Tsushinki also sought compensation for the use of reverse-engineered Donkey Kong code in Donkey Kong Jr.[2][3] and claimed it owned the copyright on Donkey Kong's code (while the contract did not specify ownership of the code, a judgment relating to Space Invaders Part II set a precedent establishing computer code can be copyrighted[3]). In response, Nintendo claimed it owned Donkey Kong's code as Ikegami was hired as a sub-contractor[2][3].

The case went to the Tokyo District Court until March 26, 1990, at which point the two companies settled out of court[2][3]. The lawsuit has often been stated to be the reason behind the lack of rereleases of the arcade version of Donkey Kong and the existence of Donkey Kong: Original Edition, although Donkey Kong 64 nevertheless features a full port of the arcade version, albeit with slight differences as it closely imitates the source code.


Main article: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

In 2007, a documentary film directed by Seth Gordon based off Donkey Kong was released. The film centers around high school teacher Steve Wiebe as he tries to achieve a world record for obtaining the highest score in the game, which is held by Billy Mitchell at the time.

Sequels and ports[edit]

Jumpman about to jump over a barrel.


Donkey Kong has four sequels to date.


In addition to the arcade version, Donkey Kong was ported into several other gaming systems and computers:

  • NES
  • Game & Watch
  • GBA as Classic NES Series: Donkey Kong. This version, as the title implies, is not based on the arcade version, but rather the NES version, meaning 50m is also omitted.
  • e-Reader for the GBA
  • Famicom Disk System
  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 7800
  • Atari 8-bit computers
  • ColecoVision
  • Intellivision
  • Commodore VIC-20
  • Commodore 64 (Two official ports exist, one released in 1983 in North America by Atarisoft, and another released in 1986 in Europe by Ocean.)
  • Texas Instruments TI-99/4A
  • Amstrad CPC
  • ZX Spectrum
  • MSX
  • Coleco Adam
  • Amiga (Port is not official but rather a homebrew ported directly from the Commodore 64 version)
  • Coleco Tabletop
  • Apple II
  • MS-DOS
  • In Game & Watch Gallery 2 and Game & Watch Gallery 4, Donkey Kong was one of the minigames. It could be played in both modern and classic modes.
  • Two different ports of Donkey Kong have appeared on Virtual Console. The first, released in 2006, is essentially a direct port of the NES version, while the second, entitled Donkey Kong Original Edition (ドンキーコング オリジナルエディション), attempted to adhere to the arcade version, and was pre-installed for the European release of the Mario 25th Anniversary limited edition red Wii in 2010. This version restored some missing animations and the level 50m, which was cut from the NES version, although Donkey Kong mistakenly stands still in this level, and while the port's graphics are an improvement to the NES port, it is still inferior to the true arcade version, which remains unavailable on Virtual Console. The latter port was made available on the Nintendo eShop in Japan when a Club Nintendo member purchased the download version of one of two games, one of which was New Super Mario Bros. 2[11], from July 28, 2012 to September 2, 2012.[12] A similar promotion took place in the US between October 1, 2012 and January 6, 2013, exclusively to members of Club Nintendo who have, within the aforementioned time frame, linked their systems to their Club Nintendo accounts and have purchased the downloadable version of one of five select 3DS titles (one of which was Paper Mario: Sticker Star). There are currently no plans for a wide release of this version in the U.S., although it was released in Europe for the 3DS eShop on September 18, 2014.

Donkey Kong was also re-released as part of two compilation games, Donkey Kong Classics and Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Jr./Mario Bros., and it is featured as a playable extra in the following titles:


Main article: List of Donkey Kong staff

The arcade version was produced by Gunpei Yokoi. Shigeru Miyamoto and Hiroshi Yamauchi directed the game while an uncredited Ikegami Tsushinki did programming duties, later leading to a lawsuit over which company owned the arcade code's rights. Intelligent Systems' own website claims credit for developing the NES port for Nintendo, though neither the cartridge nor title screen mentions the company and the Iwata Ask interview released for New Super Mario Bros. Wii states the game was developed by Nintendo Research & Development 2[13]. Landon Dyer programmed the DOS Version.


For this subject's image gallery, see Gallery:Donkey Kong (game).

References in later games[edit]


The arcade machine found in the Frantic Factory.
  • The twenty-second board is the final level of the game; Jumpman instantly dies within eight seconds of playing in the level, regardless of how many lives the player has left. This bug, known as a kill screen, happens due to a programming oversight in which the game does not have enough memory to continue. Games such as Pac-Man and Duck Hunt also have kill screens.
  • Donkey Kong was the second platformer ever made; the 1980 game Space Panic was the first.
  • Even though Jumpman wears his signature red and blue clothing in the game, he wears blue and white clothing on the boxart for the NES port.
  • Donkey Kong was originally conceived as a Popeye game, with Bluto being in the spot of Donkey Kong, Popeye being Jumpman/Mario, and Olive Oyl being Lady/Pauline. The game ended up being changed due to Nintendo being unable to secure the license for Popeye, but Nintendo would later make the Popeye arcade game (1982) due to being able to get the rights. [14]
  • All three major characters were renamed in later appearances, with Jumpman changed to Mario in Nintendo of America's promotions, Lady changed to Pauline in Saturday Supercade, and lastly this game's Donkey Kong becoming Cranky Kong by the release of Donkey Kong Country.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Iwata, Satoru et al. Iwata Asks: New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Nintendo. Retrieved May 01 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Fahs, Travis.The Secret History of Donkey Kong, Gamasutra
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Akagi, Masumi. Sore wa “Pong” kara Hajimatta, p. 305-307 (Translation available here)
  4. ^ Date info of Donkey Kong (FDS) from TMK, retrieved 11/25/2012
  5. ^ Date info of Donkey Kong (e-Reader) from TMK, retrieved 11/25/2012
  6. ^ - Donkey Kong - Game Info
  7. ^ Donkey Kong Operation Manual, pages 2 & 5
  8. ^ Donkey Kong Country instruction booklet, pages 6 & 27
  9. ^ A Discovery Channel documentary on video games reveals that Miyamoto wanted to make Donkey Kong tell a story, and also wrote the music for the game. YouTube. Referenced March 22, 2015
  10. ^ Sheff, David (1999). Game Over: Press Start to Continue: The Maturing of Mario. Wilton, Connecticut: Gamepress. Page 126.
  11. ^!/2012/07/new2dl.html
  12. ^
  13. ^ Iwata, Satoru et al. Iwata Asks: New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Nintendo. Retrieved May 01 2015
  14. ^