In earlier games, like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3, after the player loses all their extra lives, a message with "Game Over" will appear on the screen and the game will quickly return to the title screen. In Donkey Kong '94 for Game Boy, after the player has lost all their extra lives, the game will show a screen with some artwork and "Game Over" written over it. In this game and some later ones, the Game Over screen will prompt the player to choose continuing their game or exiting back to the main title screen. In other games, the Game Over screen will wait for any input from the player to return to the main title screen. When returning to the title screen, the player will have to restart their game from a saved game file, if there is one. In multiplayer mode, Game Over screens can only be closed by the player who expend the last life.
In later games, the Game Over screens would become more elaborated, featuring more than just artwork and, sometimes, interesting cutscenes. In Donkey Kong 64 for Nintendo 64, a cutscene occurs if the player decides to quit the game to the title screen or fails to stop King K. Rool's Blast-O-Matic machine in the level Hideout Helm after the countdown timer runs out. During the cutscene, King K. Rool, sitting on his chair inside the Mobile Island Fortress, will start laughing maniacally and press some buttons. "Game Over" will flash on the screen, while a laser activates outside and aims at the DK Island. The screen will fade in to black, leaving the fate of the DK Island unknown (see Videos section below). This cutscene can be considered an alternative bad ending for Donkey Kong 64. The cutscene can be triggered even after releasing K. Lumsy from his cage, and it can be unlocked to watch in the DK Theatre in the Mystery menu of the game after collecting two Banana Fairies.
- Banjo-Kazooie and Conker's Bad Fur Day, both games developed by Rare, the developer of Donkey Kong 64, also use similar concepts of Game Over cutscenes.
- In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for Nintendo Switch, King K. Rool's Final Smash move supposed to show the outcome of the Game Over cutscene in Donkey Kong 64 before it fades in to black, showing the Blast-O-Matic machine blowing the DK Island.