The iconicism of Donkey Kong

The conception of Nintendo’s most iconic character Mario made his debut in the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong. Originally released in Japan in early that year, Donkey Kong ‘s booming success granted the impetus for Nintendo to emerge in the North American market, making it one of the biggest video game developers even till this day. It was brought to the United States by July of that year where it quickly gained massive popularity all over the country.

Donkey Kong was one of the first video games with a storyline that progresses along with the game. The game’s story features the protagonist Mario, then called “Jumpman”, who is trying to save the princess from her kidnapper the dreaded Donkey Kong. Speaking in terms of gameplay, it is one of the earliest examples of the genre of platform games; the aim is to control Mario and navigate him across platforms and up ladders while avoiding and destroying obstacles thrown by Donkey Kong. In comparison to arcade games, gamers have categorized the Donkey Kong as a highly challenging one. The game also provides an end score based on the obstacles passed and the distance covered by Mario who has a total of three lives per turn. A life is lost when Mario is hit by an object thrown by Donkey Kong, if he falls over the edge or comes into contact with Donkey Kong. A bonus life can be gained when the player gains 7,000 points.

The characters in Donkey Kong would later be featured in Nintendo titles for decades to follow- the most popular being the Mario series, which remains to be Nintendo’s primary cash crop selling over 570 million units (Web, Vgsales). In its first year, the Donkey Kong game sold 60 thousand units, earning them a whopping 180 million dollars. Designer Shigeru Miyamoto, in collaboration with engineer Gunpei Yokoi transcended numerous boundaries by employing graphics as a method of characterization. They introduced event scenes in order to develop the plot with various stages, putting it amongst the most complicated games of its time.

Clearly, Donkey Kong greatly transformed the face of the gaming world in many ways. With over 48 million games sold, the game became one of the highest sold video game franchises worldwide (Web, GameplayFAQ). Nintendo Entertainment System’s 1988 compilation encompass Donkey Kong and its successor Donkey Kong Junior. Mario vs. Donkey Kong was Nintendo’s initial name for the first Game Boy Advance version of the game. Following the release of the first ever Donkey Kong game, Nintendo was sued by Universal Studios who claimed that the game was based off of the film King Kong. The court ruled in favor for Nintendo, which acted as a huge win, propelling it even further. The game collected many accolades, amongst which are the 7 world records by Guinness World Records. From the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games, Donkey Kong is amongst the most influential of all time. Not only did it change the face of arcade games but it also introduced the most iconic characters of the gaming world.



“Mario.” Video Game Sales Wiki. Fandom, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

“Donkey Kong.” Video Game Sales Wiki. Fandom, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.

Nintendo, Retro Studios /. “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze.” My Games Statistics for Wii U – Collections, Tracking and Ratings – GameFAQs. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2017.




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