Although most people think of Mario and Luigi when they think of Nintendo characters, Donkey Kong came before Mario, and the 1981 arcade game actually launched Mario’s career (although at the time he was called Mr. Video or Ossan, which means middle-aged man). So for once, let’s put the plumbing brothers aside and look at things you may not have known about everyone’s favorite 8-bit monkey.
Donkey Kong is known to gaming nerds as the game that established “platform” as a game genre; allowing players to progress upwards in a game by jumping in one direction. This is something that is popular, even in games now, although it has come a long way from early Donkey Kong!
There was a lawsuit between Universal City Studios, Inc and Nintendo Co. Ltd about whether Donkey Kong and King Kong were the same ape. The court ruled in favor of Nintendo and felt that Universal had no right to the character. Interestingly, however, as of 2013, Nintendo officially owns “It’s on like Donkey Kong” as a trademarked phrase.
The origin story of Donkey Kong’s name has long been speculated on; however Miyamoto has said that he was under the impression that ‘Kong’ meant gorilla and he wanted ‘something’ Kong as a name. He chose Donkey after learning that it can mean ‘stupid’ in English.
That said, Miyamoto has publically slated the Donkey Kong Country series and claimed that “”Donkey Kong Country proves that players will put up with mediocre gameplay as the art is good.” He apologized after the game and its various sequels sold over a million copies. Each!
Nintendo loves Easter Eggs, and in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy Kong’s Quest, players are ranked alongside Mario, Yoshi, and Link, three of the biggest Nintendo characters. If you look on the bottom right of the screen, there is a sign that says “No Hopers” next to sneakers that look suspiciously like Sonic the Hedgehog’s, and a ray gun that seems to belong to Earthworm Jim. Clearly, this is a sneaky dig at some non-Nintendo characters!
Although we always think of Mario and Princess Peach as an ultimate OTP, there was actually another lady in Mario’s life before Peach! She was called Pauline (or, imaginatively “The Lady”) and was the damsel in distress for Mario in Donkey Kong!
As a fun, but silly, promotion, in 2010, both Game and Gamestation gave out copies of Donkey Kong Country Returns in exchange for a bunch of bananas, for the first 20 customers.
So grab that old school Super Nintendo, and fire up Donkey Kong Country (but be sure to blow in the cartridge first of course!)