Donkey Kong (NES)

Game Review

Donkey Kong Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

Klassic Kong

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the initial Japanese launch of the Nintendo Family Computer, more popularly known around the world as the Famicom. Among the landmark console’s launch titles was Donkey Kong, a port of the arcade hit that began Nintendo’s launch into video game history. Now, just in time for the anniversary of both the console and the game, the classic title finally lands squarely on the Wii U Virtual Console.

It’s probably safe to assume that most Nintendo gamers have played some iteration or incarnation of this game by now, but that doesn’t discount it as a game not worth talking about. As is the case with many arcade-games-turned-home-console, Donkey Kong is a sort of relic, and very telling of its time. The gameplay is kept simple, divided into only three stages that continuously repeat themselves ad nauseam. Though the stages themselves are not a chore to work through, the repetition of the short junctures is easily noticeable, making for an experience that grows tedious sooner rather than later. Such is the curse of many arcade-to-console ports.

Unlike the arcade game, this NES release only hosts three different stages rather than four. Of the three levels, two involve steering Mario – your character – towards the top of the screen where Donkey Kong holds Pauline – Mario’s pre-princess damsel in distress – captive, all while avoiding enemies and bottomless pits. The third stage is similar to the others in structure, but your goal is instead to remove eight rivets that hold the stage together simply by walking or jumping over them. Once all rivets are removed, Donkey Kong will plummet to the bottom of the stage, bumping his noggin and receiving what looks like a nasty concussion. After this, the four stages are then repeated at a slightly higher difficulty, continuing the process. It’s far from a bad gaming experience, but it also does little to keep players drawn in beyond those who are adamant about obtaining their next high score. Beyond the missing fourth stage, the other noticeable difference with this NES port is the improved collision detection. While many leaps of faith in the arcade lead to Mario’s untimely demise, judging distances and spanning gaps is done with greater ease and accuracy in this version.

From the title screen you have the option of choosing “Game A” or Game B” modes for both 1 or 2 players. The difference between games A and B is an amplified difficulty, with Game B playing host to an increased number of enemies on screen. Unlike modern Nintendo games starring the plumber or gorilla, 2 player mode is not cooperative, but instead requires players to trade off the controller after each death to compete for a higher score.

While it may not be entirely fair to mention the outdated pixel graphics as they are, after all, from 30 years ago, it is worth mentioning that Donkey Kong features many iconic sound effects. From Mario’s walking and jumping sounds to the tune that plays as he wields his wily hammer, many gamers are bound to recognize the now legendary blips that give Pac-Man’s unmistakable “waka waka waka” a run for its money.

As with any of the previously released Wii U virtual console games, this one has remained entirely untouched, excluding the ability to use save states and play off-screen in the GamePad’s touchscreen. This is yet another faithful port of a game that has made it’s way into so many homes before, meaning that anyone hoping for something new will be sorely disappointed. To fans of the classics, however: this one’s for you.


Donkey Kong may have legacy on its side, but the reality is that it's a somewhat shallow gaming experience. As is the case with many early NES titles, this one was ported from an arcade cabinet, repetitive gameplay and all. That being said, if played in short bursts, this is definitely a game worth having on hand, available to share with younger generations of Nintendo gamers who may not yet have had the opportunity to experience it.

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User Comments (36)



Galactus said:

I couldn't find this in the e-shop. Did it only come to europe or something?



SkywardCrowbar said:

I got it yesterday for $0.30. Solid stuff. Similar to Yoshi, worth it for the sale price, but I don't think worth it for $4.99.

@ Galactus: I'm in NA, and I found it on the front page.



Mario-Man-Child said:

I'm going to show my age, I used to play this in the arcades in the early 80s. At the time Nintendo were nobody. It was quiet popular and you could get a good run for 10p It was the first platform game of the time or at least the first I'd seen, it was fun, but by today's standards its quiet weak.



TromaDogg said:

I don't understand why they keep putting this version out. Remember a few years back when they released the limited edition red Mario Anniversary Wiis and they had Donkey Kong built in? That one had the missing second stage. So why do we keep getting the gimped version on VC?



Mario500 said:

The version released with Donkey Kong 64 for Nintendo 64 systems is closer to the arcade versions than the other console versions released by Nintendo.



Tasuki said:

One of my favorite arcade ports still nothing beats the Colecovision version of this game. I agree this game is fun in small bursts and for 30 cents its not bad. However after getting Donkey Kong 94 on the 3DS with CN coins I have been craving the original DK. With that said people who are looking for a longer DK experience should pass this one up and get Donkey Kong 94 for the 3DS VC.

Anyway its on like Donkey Kong.

What? Someone had too.



pitchblack said:

Don't know why Nintendo keeps dishing out the stupidly stupid version of Donkey Kong. I remember playing the original arcade version with the cement factory level. I know for 30cents you can't ask for much.



Arminillo said:

If you don't want the game don't buy it :

Im sure you can find better things to spend 30 cents on...

oh wait.



Knux said:

This really is a no-brainer. In my opinion, Donkey Kong has this timeless appeal. I know it's the inferior NES port, but it's still a pretty awesome game. And sharing high scores on Miiverse is also pretty awesome.

I just wish that Nintendo would release the arcade versions of the classic Donkey Kong trilogy, because lots of people will buy it.



Gridatttack said:

Well, they should release the arcade version, that includes the pie/cement factory level. Since the NES version doesn't have it :/



GearsOfWarU said:

This is the game that started it all for Nintendo .... Quite frankly the beginning of all that is Nintendo July 9th 1981 .... Miyamoto's 1st game... Nintendo's 1st hit ... Mario's 1st Apperance .... so for $.30 its well worth it !!!!!!!!! gotta watch A fist full of Quarters ... cause "Its On Like Donkey Kong"



ajcismo said:

This game means a lot to me. 7 years old in 1981 and I had to stand on a chair to play Donkey Kong. It was the first game I can truly remember falling in love with, and make the quarters last longer than the other kids. My parents finally got a Colecovision with DK packed in, and I wore out those weird controllers. Obviously its aged horribly, but I'll never forget how it started my favorite hobby.



OdnetninAges said:

"the four stages are then repeated at a slightly higher difficulty"

Erm, don't you mean three?

Great review, by the way. This classic is totally worth 30 cents.



Captain_Gonru said:

As I tap this into the gamepad, it's downloading. I've purchased and repurchased this game every time they release it. I even downloaded Art Academy to my 3DS, just to get the free DK Original Version they were giving away. Adjusting for it's age, it's WAY better than a 6.



Relias said:

On sale now.. I bought it yesterday ion North America for 30 cents.. hell for that price it is well worth it... though I would have been PO'ed if I paid 4.99 for it.. it's no Mario.. it should not go past 1.99 tops..



StarDust4Ever said:

I have a Donkey Kong: Complete Edition reproduction cart for play in a real NES. It's awesome!

To bad most of us can't get the same experience on VC.



SparkOfSpirit said:

I only got it because it was 30 cents. I don't understand why Nintendo can't release their arcade games.



WinterWarm said:

@Ron DeVillano

Nice review. I like how you judge the game NOW, instead of when it came out, after all, we need/want to knos how the game plays today.



KeeperBvK said:


I think, if you're rating the game from today's point of view, though, a 6/10 would be way too high. I don't think that the review is based entirely on the game's quality, but rather on nostalgia as well.



Sceptic said:

Perfect at 40 cents, absolutely ridiculous for their $5 full price. Nintendo Dreamland.



zaxle said:

this game is well worth its price since this is the reason nintendo continued to make games



Nintendood said:

I think it's funny how the original box art for the European version makes DK look like an orangutan!



element187 said:

I bought the .30 versions strictly for nostaglia reasons... I remember it in the arcades when I was a kid, but only played it a few times... Super Mario Bros is where its at when it comes to classic arcade games.



atariman said:

My favorite version of Donkey Kong is for the Atari 800. But I also like Donkey Kong for the NES/Arcade



TylerBH said:

Wouldn't it be better if we got the REAL arcade version of Donkey Kong? In my opinion, it would sell more than porting the short NES version. Plus, it will bring back nostalgic memories for the old and new ones for this generation of kids.



Luffymcduck said:

Can somebody finally tell me why the NES version didn´t have that second level? This game is not very big anyways.

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