Donkey Kong Wiki
Donkey Kong Wiki
For other uses, see Donkey Kong (disambiguation).
Donkey Kong
Promotional North American arcade flyer for the game Donkey Kong.
Developer(s) Nintendo
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Main Development Staff Director:
Shigeru Miyamoto
Gunpei Yokoi[1]
Shigeru Miyamoto
Gunpei Yokoi
Shigeru Miyamoto
Yukio Kaneoka
Platform(s) Arcade, Game & Watch[2], Atari 2600[3], ColecoVision[4], Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U
Release Date(s) Arcade
Japan July 9, 1981
USA July 31, 1981
Europe 1981

Japan July 15, 1983
USA June 1986
Europe October 15, 1986
Genre(s) Platformer
Ratings N/A
Mode(s) Single player, Multiplayer
Media(s) Arcade Board, NES ROM Cartridge[5]
Input(s) Arcade Controller, NES Controller

Donkey Kong is a platformer game developed and released by Nintendo for arcade machines in 1981. It marked the first appearances of the characters Mario (known as Jumpman, a carpenter), Pauline (known as Lady, Jumpman's girlfriend) and Donkey Kong. The game was Nintendo's first big hit in North America.

The game sold well in the United States. It is one of four games to be inducted into the Nintendo Hall of Fame. The original arcade version has four screen stages, but the Nintendo Entertainment System version only has three (50m was cut from this version). The Atari 2600 version is the home version to have all four stages in it.


Following the events of the game Donkey Kong Circus, Jumpman unintentionally laughs at a local circus animal, known as Donkey Kong (Sr.), who escapes and kidnaps Jumpman's girlfriend Lady for revenge, and runs to the top of a construction site. Jumpman must climb to the top, save Lady, and defeat Donkey Kong.


Donkey Kong is an early example of the platform genre (it is sometimes said to be the first platform game, although it was preceded by Space Panic[6] and Apple Panic[7]). Competitive video gamers and referees stress the game's high level of difficulty compared to other classic arcade games. Winning the game requires patience and the ability to accurately time Jumpman's ascent. In addition to presenting the goal of saving the Lady, 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 Lady), and completing other tasks. The player receives three lives with a 1-up awarded for the first 7,000 points. The highest recorded score was set by John McCurdy on May 25, 2019. He achieved 1,259,000 points.

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[8] of the game omit or change the sequence of the screens. The original arcade version includes:

  • Screen 1 (25m) - Jumpman must scale a seven-story construction site made of crooked girders and ladders while jumping over or hammering barrels and oil barrels tossed by Donkey Kong. The hero must also avoid flaming balls, which generate when an oil barrel collides with an oil drum. Players routinely call this screen "Barrels".
  • Screen 2 (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.
  • Screen 3 (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".
  • Screen 4 (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. This is the final screen of each level. Players refer to this screen as "Rivets".

These screens combine to form stages, which become progressively harder. For example, Donkey Kong begins to hurl barrels more rapidly and sometimes diagonally, and fireballs get quicker. The victory music alternates between stages 1 and 2. The 22nd level is unofficially known as the kill Screen due to an error in the game's programming that kills Jumpman after a few seconds, effectively ending the game. With its four unique stages, Donkey Kong was the most complex video game at the time of its release, and only the second game to feature multiple stages.


Development History and Impact

Donkey Kong was created when Shigeru Miyamoto was assigned by Nintendo to convert Radar Scope[9], a poorly selling arcade game in the U.S., into a game that would have more appeal to Americans. 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[10] sued Nintendo, claiming that Donkey Kong infringed on Universal Studios' intellectual property rights to the film King Kong[11]. Howard Lincoln[12], attorney and future president of Nintendo of America, decided to fight the case, and hired seasoned attorney John Kirby[13] 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[14] 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 Tigervision's King Kong video game[15], 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 in the USA.



Coleco did not offer the game cartridge stand-alone, instead they bundled it with their ColecoVision. The units went on sale in July 1982. Coleco's version was a more accurate port than earlier games that had been done.

Atari 2600

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

Donkey Kong for Game Boy

The game Donkey Kong for Game Boy, also known as Donkey Kong '94, is a sequel for the original Donkey Kong game, and also the latest game in the classic series. The game starts by Donkey Kong kidnapping Pauline again and taking her to a construction site. Mario goes to save his girlfriend by advancing throughout the four main stages of the original game. However, after these stages are cleared, Donkey Kong escapes again, and Mario pursues him by traversing nine worlds containing a total of ninety-seven new stages. The game also features Mario's new abilities, new enemies and Donkey Kong Jr.

Classic NES Series: Donkey Kong

The game Donkey Kong was re-released on the Game Boy Advance as a part of Nintendo's "Classic NES Series" remakes of popular NES games. It is a relatively unchanged, faithful port of the original.

Donkey Kong 64

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

Animal Crossing

Between about fifteen games for NES, including Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong Jr. Math and Donkey Kong 3, the game Donkey Kong can be unlocked in the game Animal Crossing for Nintendo GameCube. In the North American version, the player must visit the Tom Nook's store, speak to the owner, Tom Nook, pick the options "Other things" and "Say code", and input "2n5@N%8JUjE5fj ljcGr4%ync5EUp". By regular means, until three correct codes can be entered per day. A few in-game days later, the player will receive a letter from the character and a present attached to it. The present box contains a NES console and the game cartridge for Donkey Kong, and it can be played after the item is set on the ground.

Super Smash Bros. Brawl

The game Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Nintendo Wii also has the NES version of the game Donkey Kong 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 battle stage, 75m that is based on the third stage of the game.



  • In the game WarioWare Gold for Nintendo 3DS, one of the 9-Volt's microgames is called "Donkey Kong"[16]. During the minigame, the player must protect Mario from barrels thrown by Donkey Kong Sr. at the stage 25m by using the 3DS touching screen.

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