History of Donkey Kong

donkey kong arcade

Nintendo released Donkey Kong in 1981 when arcades were new and popular. Gas stations, fast food places and other resturants were sure to have one of the many one-quarter arcades that had been produced. Players controlled a construction worker (or carpenter) known as Jumpman who tried to get back his girlfriend Pauline from a huge gorilla known as Donkey Kong (which means "Stubborn Gorilla" ) by jumping over several obstacles and climbing up ladders. The single-screen game was a big hit and in 1982 Donkey Kong Jr was released. Mario (formally Jumpman) had trapped and caged the barrel-rolling babboon and it was up to DK Jr to save his dad. Instead of more barrel-jumping action, the game consisted of climbing vines and dropping fruit on psycho-traps.

In 1983, Nintendo released Donkey Kong 3, in which Stanley the Bugman (who was armed with unlimited bug-repellant), tried to keep the bugs from taking his flowers, while making sure the Giant Monkey didn't come down from the vines.

"When the Donkey Kong coin-op game was first released in 1981, it was a phenomenal sucess, selling over 65,000 units. Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3 brought the series' total sales to over 100,000 units. Compare the fact that the ultra hot Street Fighter II series sold nearly 50,000, and you can see how big of success Donkey Kong really was."

Nintendo Power, Vol.61 June 1994
donkey kong sketch Early sketch of Donkey Kong

Part of an Interview with Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto

Q: How and when did you get started in the video game business?
A: …At first I designed characters and art work for arcade games. But in 1980, I directed the design and art work for Donkey Kong…

Q: What were some of the things you thought about when you created Mario?
A: We had to work under technical constraints including the number of pixels and number of colors... There are many reasons why we drew him the way we did. We gave him a mustache rather than a mouth because that showed up better. We gave him a hat rather than hair because that looked better,too. Mario wears overalls because that shows the movement of his arms, and he's wearing white gloves because the white contrasts better with the colored backgrounds. These are the technical reasons we made him look the way he does.

The Nintendo Mario Mania Player's Guide, 1991