Famed designer Shigeru Miyamoto’s first game, Donkey Kong was Nintendo’s breakout hit, making its debut in the arcades in 1981. The game features the first appearance of Mario (originally called Jumpman) as well as the first appearance of the title character. A game of firsts, Donkey Kong was also the first title to incorporate a storyline and obstacles to jump over. Gameplay, which features multiple screens (a rarity at the time), has you, as Mario, scaling a series of four different structures consisting of ladders, ramps, conveyor belts, girders and/or elevators with the never-ending goal of rescuing a gorgeous blond held captive by a giant ape. Climbing ladders, grabbing prizes, and pulling up rivets while avoiding, jumping over or hammering fireballs and barrels are all part of the fun. Gorgeous animation (such as Kong stomping his feet), slick sounds (who could forget Mario’s squeaky shoes?) and enjoyable challenges helped make Donkey Kong one of the most fondly remembered arcade games of all time.
I discovered Donkey Kong in the arcades when it was first released, and I could barely believe what I was seeing. At time, it seemed like an interactive cartoon. I’ve enjoyed many of its sequels as well, including Donkey Kong Jr. and the underrated Donkey Kong 3. Over the years, I’ve amassed a pretty decent collection of Donkey Kong items, including a rare tips and tricks book by Steve Sanders (who was in The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters), a vintage jigsaw puzzle, and some truly great video games. In this video, I show you many of these items, plus reveal where I got them and the price I paid.
Donkey Kong remains relevant in part because of the annual Kong Off arcade competition hosted by esports competitor and arcade owner Richie Knucklez. It’s also simply a great game.