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Donkey Kong (franchise)

This article is about the video game franchise. For the character himself, see Donkey Kong. For the series that began with the Donkey Kong arcade games, see Donkey Kong (series).
Donkey Kong
The franchise wordmark for Donkey Kong, as introduced in promotional material related to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
First installment Donkey Kong (1981)
Latest installment Mario vs. Donkey Kong (Nintendo Switch) (2024)
Number of installments 30+
Series Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Konga, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, DK

The Donkey Kong franchise is a video game franchise that follows the adventures of the apelike Donkey Kong and his various friends. Created in 1981 by famed Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, it mainly consists of platform games and action puzzle games, but it has branched out into other genres, including rhythm games, racing games, and edutainment.

The games of the first generation are single-screen platform/action-puzzle games, where Donkey Kong features as the opponent in an industrial construction setting. The first game in the franchise, the 1981 arcade machine Donkey Kong, not only introduced the title character but also his rival Mario. After four years of success with game releases in arcades and the Game & Watch handheld line, the franchise entered a hiatus as Mario went on to star in Super Mario Bros., for which he is much better known, and he became Nintendo's flagship character. Donkey Kong's hiatus ended in 1994, when Rare Ltd. revived the property with its side-scrolling platform game Donkey Kong Country. This game and its follow-ups focus on the adventures of Donkey Kong and the various members of his clan as they work to defend their native jungle setting from a variety of other anthropomorphic animal characters who serve as villains. They are most frequently antagonized by the Kremlings, a race of crocodiles, and their leader King K. Rool. A hallmark of this franchise is the barrels used by the Kongs as weapons, vehicles, furniture, and lodging.

The Donkey Kong character is highly recognizable and popular, and the games have sold over 65 million units worldwide as of March 2021.[1] Donkey Kong media and merchandise is occasionally promoted as part of the Super Mario brand, as is the case with the Nintendo Switch version of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is listed under the "Super Mario" banner on the European My Nintendo Store[2][3] and has been discounted as part of Mario Day sales.[4][5]


The main character Donkey Kong and his friend Diddy in promotional artwork for Donkey Kong Country Returns.

The main character Donkey Kong, a muscular and somewhat dim-witted Kong, first appeared in the eponymous arcade game in 1981 as the antagonist. In the later generations of the franchise, he became the main protagonist, and the defender of his carefree jungle home and his various primate friends. In the arcade game Donkey Kong Jr., he was given a son, also named Donkey Kong Jr., who had to save his father from Mario in that character's only appearance as a villain.

When the Donkey Kong property was revived for Donkey Kong Country, the original Donkey Kong character was reworked into a new character named Cranky Kong, an elder who constantly rambles and berates the younger generation of heroes. Cranky has been called the modern DK's grandfather by some sources and his father by others.[6] In his debut appearances, Cranky gave out randomly selected advice to the heroes on items and locations found within the game. In later games, he appeared as a potion-making chemist who granted special abilities to the heroes, and eventually as a fully playable character.

Diddy Kong is the modern DK's travel companion and best friend (though has been occasionally called a nephew or like a nephew in older sources), nicknamed by him as his "little buddy." At the time of his creation, Diddy Kong was intended to be a new design for Donkey Kong Jr., but Nintendo felt that the redesign was too drastic and wanted to either include Junior with his original design or make this redesign a new character. Diddy was first introduced in Donkey Kong Country and then reappeared in its sequel. In many of his appearances, Diddy helps DK keep his island safe from whatever villain threatens to destroy it. In the Donkey Kong Country sequels, he gained a girlfriend, Dixie Kong, who is capable of flying in the air with her hair. Donkey Kong Country 3 gave Dixie a sidekick, Kiddy Kong, her cousin, who despite being a toddler has amazing strength that rivals even Donkey Kong himself.

King K. Rool, a major antagonist in the Donkey Kong franchise

A number of other members have been added to the Kong clan as the franchise has progressed, taking on both playable and non-playable roles. Funky Kong, one of DK's longest-standing friends and allies, often aids the Kongs through such means as selling and operating flight services. DK's love interest, Candy Kong, also helps him through various means, including running a music shop. In Donkey Kong Country 2, Cranky gained a wife, Wrinkly Kong, who managed her own school; by Donkey Kong 64, she was revealed to be deceased, and all her appearances after that game portray her as a ghost. Donkey Kong 64 introduced three new playable Kongs: Tiny Kong, a nimble and fast girl who is believed to be Dixie's younger sister, but in her later appearances has been redesigned to be taller than she; Lanky Kong, the joker of the clan, who despite his bizarre appearance and personality proves to be a capable fighter with his abnormal physique and lengthy arms; and Chunky Kong, Kiddy's older brother, who is physically the strongest and largest Kong in the family. Not all friendly characters in the franchise are Kongs, however; DK and his friends are sometimes helped by other animal characters, the most recurring being Rambi the Rhino and Squawks the Parrot.

The main antagonist of the Donkey Kong franchise is King K. Rool, the malevolent ruler of a race of crocodiles called the Kremlings, who has repeatedly attempted to disrupt the peace of Donkey Kong Island by means ranging from stealing the island's banana hoard to kidnapping some of the Kongs themselves. He, however, is not the only villain in the franchise. In Diddy Kong Racing, Diddy and his friends must confront Wizpig, a gigantic alien pig who loves to race those who challenge him, causing all sorts of chaos in the process. In Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, DK has to face a few evil Kong characters exclusive to the game, and their leader, Ghastly King. Donkey Kong Country Returns puts the Kongs up against the Tiki Tak Tribe, a race of floating wooden tiki masks which make music that has the power to hypnotize. In Tropical Freeze, DK and his clan face the Snowmads, an army of stereotypical Viking-themed arctic and antarctic animals, who seize the territory they invade by summoning a massive wind that throws the affected area into a state of perpetual winter.

Basic gameplay

The arcade games have simple gameplay where the player moves along the playfield, avoiding obstacles and enemies. In the original Donkey Kong, the playfield is a series of girders on a construction site, and the obstacles are barrels thrown by Donkey Kong.

In the side-scrolling games of the Donkey Kong Country series, players venture through uniquely themed levels and undertake varying tasks such as swimming, riding in mine carts, launching out of barrel cannons, or swinging from vine to vine. Most enemies can be defeated by a roll, jump, or ground slam which can also reveal secret items. However, some enemies that are more difficult to defeat will require the use of a barrel or the help of an animal friend. Throughout the levels are scattered several types of items that can be helpful to players and grant them additional lives, such as bananas which award an extra life if 100 are collected in a single play; Extra Life Balloons; and four golden letters that spell out K–O–N–G, which depending on the game can add to the player's life count or unlock a bonus or hidden level.


Original series

Main article: Donkey Kong (series)
The original Donkey Kong arcade cabinet.

The original Donkey Kong arcade game was created when Shigeru Miyamoto was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope, a game that had been released to test audiences with poor results, into a game that would appeal more to Americans. The machine was a major breakthrough for Nintendo and for the video game industry and became one of the best-selling arcade machines of the early 1980s. The gameplay was a huge improvement over other games of its time and had Mario ascend a construction site while avoiding obstacles such as barrels and fireballs to rescue his girlfriend, Lady (later renamed Pauline), from Donkey Kong. Miyamoto created a greatly simplified version for the Game & Watch multiscreen. The game was also ported to many other systems, namely the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Apple II, Atari 7800, Intellivision, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, IBM PC, the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MSX, and the Atari 8-bit family. The appearance of single games like this and Pac-Man on many different platforms, with large variations in general quality among all the ports, was a primary factor in the over-saturation of the video game market that caused it to crash in 1983. Donkey Kong also appeared on the Family Computer, its Disk System add-on, and its North American equivalent, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). The original arcade version reappeared in Donkey Kong 64 for the Nintendo 64, and the NES port was re-released as an unlockable game in Doubutsu no Mori, Animal Crossing, and Doubutsu no Mori e+ for the Nintendo 64 and the GameCube and as an item for purchase on the Wii's Virtual Console. In the early 2000s, Nintendo released the NES version on the Game Boy Advance via the e-Reader and the Classic NES Series.

The game was successful enough to spawn a sequel, Donkey Kong Jr. In this game, Donkey Kong Jr. is trying to rescue his father, who has been imprisoned by Mario in the first of his few appearances as a villain. Donkey Kong Jr. has to touch a key to move it to the top screen, and he must then climb while avoiding hazards such as electrical wires. When he gets to the top screen, Junior will have to touch the key again and make it move to the keyhole of one of the chains by climbing up the rope below it while avoiding birds. When he gets to the top of the rope, one of the chains will unlock; after this is done four times, Donkey Kong is saved. Like the original Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. was released as part of the Game & Watch "Multi Screen" series, featuring two LCD screens; this line also featured an indirect sequel to the game, known as Donkey Kong II.

Donkey Kong 3, released in 1983, featured a different protagonist than Mario: an exterminator named Stanley. Donkey Kong has taken refuge in his greenhouse, and now Stanley must stop the Kong from stirring up any more insects that would destroy his flowers. Stanley saves the flowers by spraying bug spray on Donkey Kong.

In 1994, a homonymous remake of the Donkey Kong arcade game was released on the Game Boy. It begins with the premise of a straight remake of the original, as it initially comprises the four classic stages, but beyond the first world, Donkey Kong '94 also features ninety-seven additional levels, and Mario also gets several new moves that later carried over into his 3D games, such as Super Mario 64. This was also the first Game Boy game to be released with special enhancements on the SNES's Super Game Boy peripheral, such as colored palettes and a cartoon border modeled after the original game's arcade cabinet. The gameplay style in this release was later revamped into the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series.

Donkey Kong Country series

Main article: Donkey Kong Country (series)
Donkey Kong Country was the first game to use pre-rendered sprites, creating a 3D effect throughout.

Donkey Kong Country (known as Super Donkey Kong in Japan) was released in 1994 as the game that made DK its own franchise, taking the premise thereof in an entirely new direction. Directed by British game designer Tim Stamper for his company Rare Ltd., the games are platformers where levels are shown in a sidescrolling perspective, similar to the Super Mario series, and the heroes must jump and avoid obstacles in order to clear levels. The original Donkey Kong Country for SNES was a technological innovator, designed to showcase the then-revolutionary use of computer-generated imagery to create pre-rendered 3D graphics. The modern Donkey Kong (portrayed as the grandson of the original DK character, reworked into Cranky Kong) was the hero who, along with his sidekick Diddy, had to save his banana hoard from the thieving King K. Rool and his Kremling Krew. The sequel, Diddy's Kong Quest, is a less cheery and more darkly-themed follow-up where DK is kidnapped by K. Rool, now donning the alias "Kaptain K. Rool" and Diddy must save him with help from his girlfriend Dixie. The third game in the series, Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, has both Donkey and Diddy Kong getting kidnapped by K. Rool, now called Baron K. Roolenstein, and having to be saved by Dixie and her cousin Kiddy. All three of these games received good reviews and greatly impacted DK's future. The original Donkey Kong Country was ported to Game Boy Color in 2000, and the entire trilogy was later ported to Game Boy Advance and made available on the Wii's Virtual Console.

Donkey Kong 64, a successful follow-up to the original Donkey Kong Country series, was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. DK once again has the starring role and he joins forces with Diddy, Tiny, Lanky, and Chunky Kong to save their homeland, Donkey Kong Island, from destruction at the hands of K. Rool and the Kremling Krew in a fully 3D adventure. The player can choose from the five members of the DK Crew, each of whom has their own set of unique powers and abilities. There are also multiplayer battle-arena modes. Encased in a unique yellow cartridge, the game is only playable with the included Expansion Pak.

Several years after Rare was sold to Microsoft, Retro Studios re-inaugurated the Donkey Kong Country series with Donkey Kong Country Returns, released in 2010 for the Wii. In this adventure, Donkey and Diddy Kong must retrieve the banana hoard and save the island from the Tiki Tak Tribe, culminating in a decisive battle against its leader, Tiki Tong. The 3DS edition of the game was released on May 24, 2013, under the name Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, developed by Monster Games and featuring extra items and new stages. Another edition of the game, titled Donkey Kong Country Returns HD, is scheduled for release on the Nintendo Switch on January 25, 2025. Yet another title, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, was released for the Wii U in February 2014 and was re-released for the Nintendo Switch in 2018.

Donkey Kong Land series

Main article: Donkey Kong Land (series)

The Donkey Kong Land series is a smaller handheld companion series to Donkey Kong Country. The installments of that series are generally considered pseudo-sequels to the Country games, running on similar engines but featuring different storylines, stages, level layouts, etc., and many aspects of the original SNES adventures are removed or altered to fit the limitations of the Game Boy system. The games in this series, presented in yellow cartridges instead of the typical gray ones, were released over a three-year period between 1995 and 1997.

Racing games

The first game to spin-off from the Donkey Kong Country series was Diddy Kong Racing, a 1997 racing game developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64, which became the sixth best-selling game for that system. It was a racing game like Mario Kart 64, but incorporated a distinct adventure mode. An enhanced remake, Diddy Kong Racing DS, was released for the Nintendo DS in February 2007.

Another Donkey Kong racing game, Donkey Kong Barrel Blast, which uses rocket-powered bongos instead of cars, was originally planned for the GameCube, but became DK's first title role on the Wii.

Bongo-driven games

Main article: Donkey Konga (series)
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, the first platforming game after the purchase of Rare by Microsoft.

The first game in the Donkey Konga series was released for the GameCube in 2004. Developed by Namco and based on the Taiko no Tatsujin series of arcade rhythm games, this musical rhythm action game relies upon the use of the DK Bongos accessory (purchasable separately or included, depending on the package) to hit a beat in time with the tune. While the exact song selection varies depending on region, the tunes generally include pop songs and themes from some previous Nintendo games. Two sequels were later released, one of which was exclusive to Japan.

Released in Japan in December 2004 and elsewhere in 2005, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat is a platform game that also uses the aforementioned DK Bongos as a controller; tapping one drum repeatedly makes Donkey Kong run, tapping both at the same time makes him jump, tapping both alternately made him attack, and clapping or blowing into the microphone uses the Sound Wave Attack, which can be used to attract bananas or clear obstacles to progress. In 2008, a port of the game was released for the Wii under the New Play Control! series, with updated controls based around the Wii's motion capabilities.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong series

Main article: Mario vs. Donkey Kong (series)

Nintendo's first Donkey Kong title for the Game Boy Advance after Rare left was Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a return to the arcade-style games that incorporated many elements from the Game Boy version. Although it retained the gameplay style of the earlier releases, Donkey Kong now used his Rare design. The character returns to his original role as a villain; wanting a Mini Mario clockwork toy, he finds that they are sold out at a local toy store, and furiously terrifies the Toads at the factory and steals the toys. This prompts Mario to chase Donkey Kong around and eventually take the Mini-Marios back from him. The game was followed up by March of the Minis and later Mini-Land Mayhem! for the Nintendo DS, Minis March Again! on DSiWare, Minis on the Move! for Nintendo 3DS, and Tipping Stars and Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. The later installments of the series reintroduced Pauline, Mario's first damsel-in-distress, now no longer described as his love interest; and featured the Mini Marios as the playable characters instead of Mario himself, with gameplay revolving around manipulating elements of each stage to guide the Mini Marios (and in later games, miniature toy versions of other Super Mario characters) to the goal while avoiding hazards.

DK series

Main article: DK (series)

Developed by Paon, this spin-off series features gameplay similar to Clu Clu Land. The first entry in the series, King of Swing, requires players to navigate levels using only   and  . A sequel, Jungle Climber, was Donkey Kong's first title role on the Nintendo DS and featured improved visuals, better play control, and dual-screen gameplay.

Miscellaneous genres

Two single-screen Game & Watch games relevant to Donkey Kong were released. Donkey Kong Circus, a Panorama series game, had the player control Donkey Kong, who was placed on a barrel while juggling pineapples and avoiding flames. The premise of a game involving a character juggling while avoiding objects was later carried over into Mario the Juggler, the last original run Game & Watch game. Donkey Kong Hockey, released in 1985 as part of the Micro Vs. series, features one LCD screen and two attached control pads, and has Donkey Kong playing hockey against his then-rival, Mario.

An edutainment game called Donkey Kong Jr. Math was released for the NES and had players solve math problems in order to win. The game features one and two-player modes, both of which are single screen. In the first mode, the objective is to enter math answers in order to receive points. These questions include addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. In the two-player mode, two players control two characters as they race to create a math formula to reach the number shown by Donkey Kong, incorporating platform gameplay.

Canceled games

In 1983, Donkey Kong no Ongaku Asobi, a music-based edutainment game, was in development for the Family Computer but was canceled mainly due to copyright issues with the featured songs. A prototype cartridge was provided to Hudson Soft to help them develop the Family BASIC accessory. Only a handful of promotional photos published in Japanese game magazines showed what it looked like.

An NES game called Return of Donkey Kong was announced in the Official Nintendo Player's Guide in 1987. Nothing is known about this game; it was most likely canceled early in development for unknown reasons.

According to the LinkedIn profile of a retired video game programmer, a Donkey Kong branching side-scroller for the Philips CD-i system was developed by Riedel Software Productions between 1992 and 1993.[7] The game was canceled due to the limitations of the CD-i and issues with Philips before the start of the storyboarding phase.[8]

Donkey Kong was planned to have his own puzzle game, Donkey Kong Coconut Crackers, on the Game Boy Advance, as shown in E3 2001. However, due to Rare's sale to Microsoft on September 24, 2002 before the game was published, which caused the company to lose the rights to Donkey Kong characters, that game was canceled on August 13, 2002. Coconut Crackers was then reworked into It's Mr. Pants, which was first released in North America on December 7, 2004.

A remake of the Game Boy version of Donkey Kong, entitled Donkey Kong Plus was shown at E3 2002 as a proof-of-concept for connectivity between Game Boy Advance and Nintendo GameCube systems (though its intended system is unclear), but that game ended up being canceled in favor of an original game based on the classic Donkey Kong gameplay, under the name of Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

Diddy Kong Racing was going to have a full-fledged series based on it; two sequels were planned before eventually being canceled. The first, Diddy Kong Pilot for Game Boy Advance, had flying as the only means of transport; however, Nintendo found the game substandard because its levels were too flat (the GBA can only generate flat effects similar to the SNES's Mode 7 technology, not "true" 3D graphics). Some Rare employees believed the company was prejudiced since it occurred in a time period just before Nintendo sold their share of Rare to Microsoft on September 24, 2002.[9] None of the Rare Ltd. games except Star Fox Adventures were showcased at E3 2002. Around the same time between 2002 and 2003, Diddy Kong Pilot was being redeveloped into an entirely different game, which ended up being converted into the game Banjo-Pilot, which was first released in North America on January 11, 2005. Another sequel, called Donkey Kong Racing, was planned for the GameCube, but that game was canceled on August 13, 2002, a month before Microsoft bought Rare on September 24, 2002. Donkey Kong Racing was being reworked into Sabreman Stampede for the Xbox 360; this iteration of the title was canceled due to a lack of focus and Rare's unfamiliarity with the hardware, however.[10][11] Another potential sequel, Diddy Kong Racing Adventure, was pitched to Nintendo by Climax Group, but was rejected. Additionally, a version of Diddy Kong Racing for a model of the Game Boy was planned and supposed to be shown at E3 1998, but it was ultimately never revealed to the public.[12]

A pitch for a Nintendo Switch Donkey Kong platformer focused on movement and flow started development at Vicarious Visions in 2015 under the codename Freedom. Despite receiving interest from Nintendo, Vicarious Visions' parent company Activision canceled the game in spring 2016 to receive additional development for their major franchises.[13]


Donkey Kong was originally part of the Super Mario franchise, as Mario debuted with Donkey Kong in his original arcade games. Super Mario became its own brand starting in 1983 with Game & Watch games like Mario's Cement Factory and Mario Bros.; the popular arcade title to which the latter handheld lent its name subsequently spawned the Super Mario series, which elevated the character to a new status as Nintendo's mascot. Mario gained widespread recognition and fame through his numerous platform games, and spin-offs like Mario Kart and Mario Party.


In Super Mario Kart and Mario Kart Tour, Donkey Kong Jr. was featured as a playable character. The current Donkey Kong, however, has been playable in every game in the Mario Kart series since Mario Kart 64. He appears racing alongside characters from the Super Mario, Wario, and Yoshi franchises. Diddy Kong appears as a playable character in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Wii, Tour and 8 Deluxe through the Booster Course Pass, with Funky Kong also appearing as a playable character in the later three titles, and Dixie Kong bring playable solely in Tour. Additionally, the Mario Kart series features several DK-themed tracks, most notably DK Jungle from Mario Kart 7 and Mario Kart 8, which is based on the world of Donkey Kong Country Returns.

Donkey Kong was a main playable character in the first four games in the Mario Party series. From the fifth game onward, he was given a space on the board maps as a foil to Bowser; however, Mario Party 5 would also feature him as a playable character in Super Duel Mode. However, he has since returned as a playable character in Mario Party 10 for the Wii U, Mario Party: Star Rush for the Nintendo 3DS, and Super Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch. Diddy Kong appears as a secondary character in Mario Party DS and Mario Party 9, and is playable himself in Star Rush and Super Mario Party.

Donkey Kong has appeared as a playable character in every Super Mario sports series since the Nintendo 64 era, including Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Strikers, and Mario Baseball. Diddy Kong is also featured as a playable character in many titles, while additional characters from the Donkey Kong Country series, such as Dixie Kong, Funky Kong, and King K. Rool have made rare appearances. Additionally, Donkey Kong appears as a playable character in every game in the Mario & Sonic series except for the original, with Diddy joining the series starting in Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Donkey Kong was one of eight default characters in Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, and was the first heavy fighter in the series it spawned, featuring many slow but powerful attacks. Diddy Kong becomes playable in Super Smash Bros. Brawl as an agile fighter. King K. Rool joined the roster in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as a heavy but fast fighter. There have been many stages based on games in the Donkey Kong franchise, including Congo Jungle in Super Smash Bros., Kongo Jungle and Jungle Japes in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Rumble Falls and 75m in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Jungle Hijinx in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Other characters, like Dixie Kong, have appeared in trophy form throughout the series.

Outside of Nintendo's franchises, Donkey Kong appears alongside Bowser as a playable character in Activision's Skylanders: SuperChargers, exclusive to the Nintendo versions of the game. Both characters were given special Skylanders figures used as amiibo, which are also compatible with the Nintendo versions of Skylanders: Imaginators. Donkey and Diddy Kong are also included as platform-exclusive character skins in the Super Mario Mash-up in Minecraft.

Games not manufactured by Nintendo

In 1981, Nintendo granted a license to the developer Falcon to manufacture Crazy Kong, an authorized clone of Donkey Kong. The contract allowing Falcon to manufacture the game was exclusive to Japan, and was terminated in 1982 after Nintendo learned Falcon had breached the terms of the contract and sold Crazy Kong boards to an American arcade hardware distributor.[14]

In 1984, Hudson Soft published Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushū (subtitle meaning "The Counterstrike") for the NEC PC-6001, NEC PC-6001mkII, NEC PC-8801, and Sharp X1 home computer platform. In a manner similar to Hudson Soft's Punch Ball Mario Bros. and Mario Bros. Special, Dai Gyakushū is modeled after Donkey Kong 3, but features new graphics, levels, and simplified gameplay mechanics to account for the limitations of the Japanese home computer platforms it was released on.

Other media

Television and film

Main articles: Saturday Supercade, Captain N: The Game Master, Donkey Kong Country (television series), Donkey Kong Planet
Donkey Kong and other Kongs in the versions used for the Donkey Kong Country television series, which ran in North America from 1998 to 2000.

The Donkey Kong character’s first role in a television series was in the animated anthology Saturday Supercade, where his debut arcade game was one of the games adapted. In his segments, Donkey Kong (voiced by Soupy Sales) escaped from the circus and Mario (voiced by Peter Cullen) and Pauline (voiced by Judy Strangis) had to chase him across the world, with Donkey Kong often also being chased or manipulated by crooks. Another segment starred Donkey Kong Jr. (voiced by Frank Welker) and a clumsy biker named Bones (voiced by Bart Braverman) as they traveled in search of Junior's missing father.

Donkey Kong's next television role would be as a recurring character in the first two seasons of DiC Entertainment's Captain N: The Game Master. A crossover featuring many first-party and third-party franchises on the NES, Captain N focused on the adventures of a teenage boy named Kevin Keene (Matt Hill), a princess named Lana, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Mega Man, and Pit from Kid Icarus as they formed a team to protect the video game dimension Videoland from the evil forces of Metroid antagonist Mother Brain. The show portrayed Donkey Kong as a giant who would attack anyone intruding his home of Kongo Land, with some episodes showing him starring in a TV show parodying Indiana Jones. Two episodes of the series also featured enemies from Donkey Kong Jr.

The franchise’s first and only direct television adaptation was Donkey Kong Country, based on the SNES game of the same name. The Nelvana and Medialab-produced show, which debuted in France in 1996 and in the USA in 1997, lasted two seasons with 40 total episodes. The stories had Donkey Kong and friends protecting the wish-granting Crystal Coconut from King K. Rool and his two idiotic henchmen, Krusha and General Klump. Several original characters were introduced there, such as Candy's overbearing boss Bluster Kong, Eddie the Mean Old Yeti, and a pirate named Kaptain Skurvy. Like the game it was based on, the Donkey Kong Country animated series was technologically groundbreaking: in addition to being one of the first computer-animated television series, it was the first full-length program to be animated using motion capture. Parallel to this series, a programming block called Donkey Kong Planet aired on France 2 and was framed by segments starring Donkey, Diddy, Funky, and Candy Kong as the hosts of various musical and parodic skits, acclaimed for their irreverent postmodern humor.

The original arcade iteration of Donkey Kong appears as the main antagonist in the 2015 film Pixels.


As a spin-off of the Super Mario franchise, Donkey Kong has featured many of its characters and scenarios in the various manga series based on that property, including the Comic BomBom stories published under Kodansha's KC Deluxe banner, and Shogakukan's CoroCoro Comic magazine, which featured Donkey Kong characters in both its Super Mario-kun series and a short-lived 2000 manga based on the Donkey Kong Country animated show. Club Nintendo, Nintendo's official magazine in Germany, also published two comics directly centered around Donkey Kong: one adapted from the Donkey Kong Country video game and another called Donkey Kong in: Banana Day 24. In winter 2000, the children's entertainment magazine Disney Adventures featured a four-page comic called Donkey Kong in When the Banana Splits, loosely based on Donkey Kong 64. Also in 2000, the German magazine Nintendo Fun Vision published the comic Bumm-Badabumm im Urwald, which, despite being advertised as a tie-in to Donkey Kong 64 actually adapted the plot of Donkey Kong Country 2.

Michael Teitelbaum wrote a trilogy of Donkey Kong Country chapter books for publisher Troll Communications. The first of these was a loose adaptation of the game, featuring Donkey, Diddy, and Cranky Kong exploring their island to destroy the Kremlings’ polluting factory and recover their stolen banana hoard, meeting various enemies and Animal Friends along the way. Later Donkey Kong chapter books included Rumble in the Jungle (based on Donkey Kong Land) and Rescue on Crocodile Isle (based on Donkey Kong Country 2). A Donkey Kong entry was also published as part of the How to Draw series.

An one-off magazine issue titled the Donkey Kong Jungle Action Special was published in 1995 by Fleetway Publications. The book featured comic strips based on the two games released in 1994 - the original Donkey Kong Country and the Game Boy Donkey Kong - as well as character profiles, a retrospective of the original arcade game, and hints for Donkey Kong Country.

Donkey Kong, along with Bowser, stars in Skylanders: Unexpected Allies, a one-shot issue of IDW Publishing's Skylanders comic released as a pre-order bonus for the Nintendo versions of Skylanders: SuperChargers.


Donkey Kong has been merchandised into various products throughout its lifespan, including a tabletop card game produced by the Milton Bradley Company, a series of trading cards based on the Donkey Kong Country TV series (only released in Japan), and Donkey Kong Jenga, a Jenga game themed after the original arcade iteration. Additionally, various Donkey Kong pieces of merchandise have been released in Super Mario and Mario Kart-related lines.

During the seventh generation of video games, there were two arcade Donkey Kong titles released in Japan, loosely based on Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. The first was Donkey Kong: Jungle Fever, a medal game released in 2005, and the second was a sequel,[15] Donkey Kong: Banana Kingdom (released on November 16, 2006). Both games were developed by Capcom and published by Nintendo on the Triforce arcade system board. Neither title has been released outside Japan.

While the Donkey Kong series has not had a dedicated amiibo line, figures based on its characters have been released as part of other series. In the Super Smash Bros. line, Donkey Kong's figure was released as part of the first wave of figures in November 2014, while Diddy Kong was released in the second wave in December (in Japan, both figures were released in the first wave). Later, both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong would receive figures in the Super Mario line, released in November 2016 alongside Mario Party: Star Rush. For the release of Skylanders: SuperChargers, Donkey Kong would receive two "Turbo Charge Donkey Kong" figures based on his appearance in the game (a standard version and a "Dark" version), both of which can be used as amiibo by turning the base.


Critical response

Since his original arcade debut, Donkey Kong has been well received by various critics and has been described as one of the most iconic mascots for Nintendo.[16] For his antagonistic role in his early appearances, IGN ranked him fifth in its list of the 100 best video game villains of all time.[17] On GameRankings, individual games in the Donkey Kong franchise have received approval ratings ranging from to 90% (Donkey Kong Country 2) to 32% (Donkey Kong Jr. Math).

Impact and legacy

The Donkey Kong franchise has culturally impacted many people in numerous entertainment media, and is the inspiration for the pop-culture expression, "It's on like Donkey Kong," for which Nintendo requested a trademark in November 2010.[18] In 2007, a documentary film directed by Seth Gordon based on the original arcade game was released, titled The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. That same year, the USHRA Monster Jam racing series licensed Donkey Kong's image for use on a monster truck, which debuted at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota in December 2007, and was the fastest qualifier at Monster Jam World Finals 10. The success of the Donkey Kong franchise has also been acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records, which awarded it with several records in its 2008 Gamers Edition, including: "First Use of Visual Storytelling in a Video Game" for the rudimentary cutscenes featured in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, and "Most Collectible Items in a Platform Game" for Donkey Kong 64.

In 1982, around a year after the release of the first Donkey Kong, Universal Studios sued Nintendo, alleging that the video game was a trademark infringement of the film King Kong, the plot and characters of which Universal claimed for its own. In the case, Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd., Howard Lincoln, Nintendo of America's future president, decided to fight and hired seasoned attorney John Kirby to represent Nintendo at the local United States District Court. Kirby showed that not only was Nintendo not in violation of any copyrights, but also that Universal Studios itself had sued RKO Pictures in 1975 to prove that the plot of King Kong was in fact in the public domain. Thus, Judge Robert W. Sweet ruled that Universal had acted in bad faith and had no right over the King Kong name, characters, or story, and that there was no possibility for consumers to confuse Nintendo's game and characters with the King Kong film and its characters. Universal was promptly ordered to pay Nintendo $1.8 million in legal fees. In an ironic twist, Judge Sweet also ruled that Tiger Electronics' King Kong video game, licensed by Universal, infringed on Donkey Kong. The victory was enormous for Nintendo, which was still a newcomer to the U.S. market. The case established the company as a major player in the industry and arguably gave the company the confidence that it could compete with the giants of American media. 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."[19]


Names in other languages

Language Name Meaning
Japanese ドンキーコング
Donkī Kongu
Donkey Kong


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