Best DK Games
Image: Nintendo Life

The list below is governed by each game's User Rating in our database and is subject to real-time change even after publication. Read on to find out more and see if Tropical Freeze, our original pick for number one, is still top banana...

While Mario is the undisputed man when it comes to all things Nintendo, let it never be forgotten that it was Donkey Kong who gave the plumber a leg-up in the world of video games. The ape's original game not only conquered the arcade and introduced the world to the character who would become Nintendo's mascot, it also saved the company and put it on the path to becoming the huge global concern and cultural icon it is today.

It's easy to forget just how many games Mario's erstwhile nemesis has to his name. From 1981's original Donkey Kong up to the present day, the ape and his clan have consistently featured in Nintendo games for more than four decades now. But what's the best Donkey Kong game?

Below you'll find every Donkey Kong game ranked from bad to brilliant. The ranking is based on each game's User Rating and is subject to real-time change — simply click on the star to rate any game on the list from 1-10 to have your say and influence the order.

We've included only games on Nintendo consoles, so you won't find obscurities like Donkey Kong 3 Dai Gyakushuu. We've also limited it to full games where the ape has a starring role — we'd be here all day if we included all of the karting and tennis games featuring the DK clan. We've also ejected the Game & Watch titles (which can be found digitally spread across various Game & Watch Gallery collections or DSiWare) and consolidated ports for the sake of brevity. DK and his crew have been in a whole bunch of games!

Enough monkey business. Let's take a look at the best DK games ever. Here w—, here w—, here we go!

28. Donkey Kong Jr. Math (NES)

Donkey Kong Jr. Math adds some arithmetic to the basic vine-swinging and platforming of Donkey Kong Jr. in a title that sucks all the fun out of both gaming and mathematics. It combines 'education' and 'entertainment' to make — you guessed it! — a terrible game. Think of the poor kid who got a launch NES console and this. There must have been at least one.

Don't feel too sorry, though. Boxed versions of Donkey Kong Jr. Math are worth a pretty penny these days, so silver linings and all that. The title makes the game sound dreary, and it very much is, but at least it delivers on the promise of its name, and a unique, surprisingly fun two-player experience is this retro curio's saving grace.

Previously available via Virtual Console, it's technically playable on GameCube, too, as it's one of the NES games included in the original Animal Crossing.

27. Donkey Kong Barrel Blast (Wii)

This DK racer really is bottom of the barrel. Originally a DK Bongo tie-in planned for GameCube, it got moved to its motion-controlled successor with the barmy bongo peripheral swapped for Wii Remote waggle. 'Bongo Blast' became 'Barrel Blast' and you shook your Wiimote and Nunchuk to accelerate.

Unfortunately, the racing is sluggish, the controls are hideous, and the visuals looked ropey even at the time. The fact that DK and Diddy featured in the excellent Mario Kart Wii only highlighted what a mess Donkey Kong Barrel Blast was. Developer Paon DP would do better with these characters in other games (King of Swing, Jungle Climber), but this was plain bad. The cover makes it look like the game could be fun. Trust us, it isn't.

26. Arcade Archives Donkey Kong 3 (Switch eShop)

If push came to shove, we'd personally prefer to sit down with Donkey Kong 3 over Donkey Kong Jr. purely for how it diverges from its predecessors in intriguing ways. Taking control of that most famous of Nintendo icons, er... Stanley the Bugman, you use bug spray to deflect the advances of flower fanatic Donkey Kong through your greenhouse. DK has enlisted an army of bugs and bees to keep you occupied while he makes off with your prize petunias.

Despite lacking the iconic gameplay and sound effects that have passed into video game lore, there's something oddly compelling about Stanley's battle against the headlining ape, and something a little sad in the knowledge that Stanley would vanish into obscurity afterwards. Well, that's not quite right; Stanley has had a handful of cameos over the years in games like Smash Bros. and the WarioWare series, but you rarely hear Nintendo fans clamouring for his return. Poor Stanley.

25. Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS eShop)

The first 3D entry in what to this point had been an exclusively side-scrolling affair, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move translates the series' gameplay well to the third dimension, even if it doesn't really add anything to the basic formula. As you might have spotted from the title, the plumber and the ape have settled their differences this time around and are simply MC-ing things alongside Pauline here, thus diminishing Donkey Kong's presence somewhat. While the gameplay can sometimes become infuriating and feel a little unfair, MADMOTM (or 'mad-mottom', as nobody has ever called it but should) is still a fun time if you've got the patience for it.

24. DK: King of Swing (GBA)

With a lovely, pastel colouring to its art, DK: King of Swing takes the essence of Clu Clu Land and makes a decent game out of it. Using the shoulder buttons to swing around and grasp onto pegs throughout the jungle, this twist on DK gameplay is quite refreshing after so many standard 2D platformers and Mini-marching games. It's nice to see him doing something outside his usual wheelhouse which doesn't involve driving karts, smashing tennis balls, or swinging a golf club with one hand. It's not an absolute stone-cold classic, but DK: King of Swing is a fun little portable game and a breath of fresh air in amongst all his 2D platforming monkey business.

23. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (Wii U eShop)

Putting in an appearance on both Wii U and 3DS (the latter of which also received Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge which drew heavily on this series), Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars reverted back to 2D gameplay and gave us a taste of the enjoyable action-puzzler series in glorious HD for the first time. It's more of the same, although the Miiverse integration made sharing your workshopped levels a breeze, and when the base gameplay is this fun, it's easier to forgive how frequently Nintendo has gone back to its box of DK and Mario-shaped mechanical Minis.

22. Donkey Konga 3 (GCN)

The final, Japan-only entry in the trilogy, Donkey Konga 3 brought another bunch of banana-banging tracks a mere eight months after its predecessor debuted on Japanese store shelves. It's more Donkey Konga, which is never a bad thing. Trilogy remaster when?

21. Mario vs. Donkey Kong (Switch)

Mario vs Donkey Kong serves up a slick return to the 2004 GBA adventure that finds fresh fun in cooperative play. Yep, the new co-op mode really is the star of the show this time out and, alongside two new worlds, 'Plus' versions of each level, a Time Attack mode, and fancy new looks and sounds, there's plenty to dig into and enjoy with a core puzzle/platforming setup that has aged quite well. Just be aware that, if you're a more seasoned player looking for platforming challenges, this game finds its strengths as an experience for younger gamers or as a co-op title to enjoy with your kids. Taken as such, it absolutely earns a recommendation.

20. Arcade Archives Donkey Kong Jr. (Switch eShop)

The tables turned in this sequel to the arcade original, with Mario having kidnapped Donkey Kong this time, so it's up to Junior to rescue Kong Senior. We've had ports a-plenty over the years, but this Hamster's version of Donkey Kong Jr. enables you to flip your Switch into vertical mode for the most authentic experience you'll get outside an arcade. It's hard to argue that the base gameplay here hasn't aged, and you'll probably need a healthy dose of nostalgia and/or academic interest to get maximum enjoyment from it nowadays. There's definitely some retro fun to be had, but we can think of dozens of '80s classics we'd play before getting down with DKJ.

19. Donkey Konga 2: Hit Song Parade (GCN)

Following on less than a year after its predecessor, Donkey Konga 2: Hit Song Parade delivered more of the bongo-bashing same and essentially functions as a second song pack. It's still worth investigating if you're a rhythm-game gamer who didn't perish under a mountain of peripherals all those years ago.