Donkey Kong (DK)
Donkey Kong, Mario, and Super Smash Bros. series
Donkey Kong, as seen in Donkey Kong Country Returns
First appearance Donkey Kong (1981)
Created by Shigeru Miyamoto
Voiced by (English) Soupy Sales (Saturday Supercade)
Gary Chalk (Captain N: The Game Master)
Richard Yearwood (TV series)
Kevin Bayliss (1994 - 1996 [1])
Grant Kirkhope (1999-2004)
Takashi Nagasako (2004–present
Fred Tatasciore (MAD)
Voiced by (Japanese) Kōichi Yamadera (TV series)
Takashi Nagasako (2004–present)

Donkey Kong (ドンキーコング Donkī Kongu?) (DK) is a fictional gorilla appearing in the Donkey Kong and Mario video game franchises. A simple minded character of great size and strength, he has appeared both as a protagonist and antagonist. Donkey Kong first appeared in Nintendo's popular 1981 video game of the same name. Since then he has appeared in over 20 games in his own series, as well as in some games in the Mario series. DK debuted at the same time as Mario, and he still spars with Mario on occasion, appearing as a playable character in the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. series, and is the primary antagonist in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games.[2]

Concept and creation

In 1981, Nintendo was pursuing a license to make a game based on the Popeye comic strip. When this fell through, Nintendo decided that it would take the opportunity to create new characters that could then be marketed and used in later games.[3] Miyamoto came up with many characters and plot concepts, but he eventually settled on a gorilla/carpenter/girlfriend love triangle that mirrored the rivalry between Bluto and Popeye for Olive Oyl.[4] Bluto was replaced by an ape, which Miyamoto said was "nothing too evil or repulsive", and the pet of the main character.[5] Miyamoto has also named "Beauty and the Beast" and the 1933 film King Kong as influences for the character.[6]

Miyamoto believed "donkey" meant "stupid" in English, and assumed the name Donkey Kong would convey the sense "stupid ape" to an American audience.[7][8][9] When he suggested this name to Nintendo of America, he was laughed at, but the name stuck.[7]


The Donkey Kong Country series introduced the setting, Donkey Kong Island, and backstory for the character. The series introduced Diddy Kong as Donkey's sidekick, and King K. Rool, king of the Kremlings, as his nemesis who steals the banana hoard. While retaining the red necktie, he also donned a distinct physical appearance featuring heavy brows and a peaked lock of hair on top of his head. This would become the standard look for Donkey Kong still used over a decade later. The modern Donkey Kong is portrayed as a powerful yet lazy and laid-back ape, who is interested mainly in his banana hoard.

The new Donkey Kong introduced in "Donkey Kong Country" was initially characterized as the grandson of the original Donkey Kong,[10] who appears in the game as an elderly ape named Cranky Kong,[11][12] however later sources following the release of Donkey Kong 64 states that the current Donkey Kong was actually meant to be Cranky Kong's son,[13][14] with one source implying that he is a grown-up version of Donkey Kong Jr.[15] However, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Donkey Kong Country Returns, the current Donkey Kong is referred to as Cranky's grandson.[16] The story designs of the present DK series, which began with Donkey Kong Country, is clearly different, which Nintendo uses alteration of generations to explain.


Donkey Kong NES Screenshot

The Original Donkey Kong game (NES version)

Early history

The original Donkey Kong (later established to be a younger version of Cranky Kong from the Donkey Kong Country series) made his first appearance as the titular character of the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong alongside protagonist Mario (then known as "Jumpman") and damsel in distress, the Lady (later renamed Pauline). As Jumpman, the player must reach Donkey Kong at the top of each stage, where he is holding the Lady captive. Donkey Kong attempts to hinder the player's progress by throwing barrels, springs, and other objects towards Jumpman. The ape reappeared the following year in the sequel Donkey Kong Junior, where Donkey Kong is taken captive and locked in a cage by the re-named Mario, while Donkey Kong Junior sets out to rescue him. Donkey Kong resumed his antagonistic role in Donkey Kong 3, this time the character Stanley The Bugman taking Mario's place as the protagonist. Stanley fights Donkey Kong's attempts to invade a greenhouse along with a horde of killer bees.

After Donkey Kong, Mario went on to become Nintendo's primary mascot, while Donkey Kong and his son were relegated to supporting roles and cameos. The 1994 Game Boy version of Donkey Kong marked his re-emergence as a major character. He was redesigned, appearing with a red necktie, which sometimes bears his initials, "DK".

Donkey Kong Country Shot 2

A screenshot from the game, Donkey Kong Country. Donkey Kong is at the far left, following Diddy Kong as the player controls him.

Rare era

The 1994 Super Nintendo Entertainment System game Donkey Kong Country, developed by British game developer Rare was the beginning of a series. Despite his name being in the titles of both games, DK only makes guest appearances (non-playable) in the sequels Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!. Where he is captured by K. Rool, while the player controls different Kongs who have set out to rescue him. The Donkey Kong Country series also inspired the Donkey Kong Land trilogy and a television series. In Donkey Kong 64, King K. Rool has driven a mechanical island in front of DK island. He steals all of Donkey Kong's bananas and his friends. [citation needed]

Post-Rare era

Following Rare's departure from the series, Nintendo co-produced a trilogy of rhythm games with Namco for the Nintendo GameCube known as the Donkey Konga series, which were based on Namco's own Taiko: Drum Master, though only two of the series' games made it to America. Donkey Kong Jungle Beat was released on March 14, 2005 in North America for the GameCube. It depicted DK as being more violent than his original image and also used the bongo controllers. In October 2007, Donkey Kong: Barrel Blast was released in North America for the Wii.

On handheld consoles, Donkey Kong was reunited with his former rival Mario in the 2004 Game Boy Advance game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong. A throwback to the Donkey Kong game for the Game Boy, Donkey Kong resumed his antagonist role from his earlier games by taking over the Mario Toy Company, upset over the lack of Mini-Mario toys available for purchase. The game was followed by a 2006 sequel titled Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis, where Donkey Kong, who is infatuated with Pauline, kidnaps her and takes her to the roof of the Super Mini-Mario World amusement park when she ignores a Mini Donkey Kong toy in favor of a Mini-Mario. He also once again appeared as the antagonist in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini Land Mayhem. Aside from those, Donkey Kong appeared in DK King of Swing on the GBA around the time of Jungle Beat, and in its sequel, DK Jungle Climber, for the Nintendo DS. In the 2010 Wii game, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong get rid of the Tiki Tak Tribe, who appears on Donkey Kong Island and hypnotizes various creatures.

Other appearances

Every Mario Kart game has featured a version of Donkey Kong as a playable character. Super Mario Kart featured Donkey Kong Junior as a playable character. Donkey Kong made an appearance in Mario Kart 64, (with the model made by Rare). Mario Kart: Super Circuit also features the character. He is also featured in Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, which introduced Diddy Kong to the Mario universe. He was featured again in Mario Kart DS. He also appears in Mario Kart Wii, where he is once again a heavyweight character. He appears once again in Mario Kart 7.

In the Mario Party series, he was a playable character in all three titles released for the N64 (also Mario Party 4 for the GameCube), but he eventually became an "event character" in the later games. He made his last playable appearance in the Mario Party series in Mario Party 4 before being relegated to an incidental character on the game board. He made an appearance within Mario Party 8, once again as an incidental character on the game board. Donkey Kong also appears in Mario Party DS.

Donkey Kong and his son have had supporting roles in various Mario sports games. He appeared in the Virtual Boy game Mario's Tennis. Donkey Kong was also a selectable character in the original Mario Tennis, Mario Power Tennis and Mario Tennis: Power Tour. Donkey Kong is playable in Mario Golf and Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour but not Mario Golf: Advance Tour. Donkey Kong featured in Super Mario Strikers for the GameCube and made his first appearance on the Wii within the title Mario Strikers Charged as a playable soccer captain. In Mario Super Sluggers, he appears as a captain again. Donkey Kong also appears in Mario Superstar Baseball. He made a playable appearance in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. He also appears in Mario Hoops 3-on-3.

He is also playable in each Super Smash Bros. game. Donkey Kong appeared in Super Smash Bros. as the first character from the Donkey Kong series. He had a stage called "Kongo Jungle" which was based on Donkey Kong Country. In the second game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, he returned with his stage. In this game he had two new stages called "Jungle Japes" and "Kongo Jungle", a version of the "DK Rap" from Donkey Kong 64 serves as stage music for Kongo Jungle (the one difference in the lyrics being the word "heck" substituted from the word "hell"). He appeared once more in Super Smash Bros. Brawl along with his sidekick Diddy Kong, and three stages – "Jungle Japes" from Melee, "Rumble Falls" from Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat,[17] and "75m" from the original Donkey Kong game from 1981.

The character has also made more incidental appearances. Two minor enemies in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars bear a striking resemblance to Donkey Kong. One of the enemies, named "Guerrilla", says "Don't confuse me with someone else," referring to DK. Both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong, Jr. appear as minor antagonists in the Super Mario Bros.-based adventure book Doors to Doom. Donkey Kong was also featured on the Game & Watch Gallery handheld series and Tetris DS. In Yoshi's Island DS, Donkey Kong appears as "Baby DK", a younger version of himself, similar to Baby Mario. First appearing in World 2–1, most of his gameplay reflects Donkey Kong Jr., even featuring the Snapjaw enemies from the game. He has been seen in the audience of some games in the Punch-Out!! series. He also serves as the hidden opponent in 2009's Punch-Out!! on the Wii. During Rare's time, references were seen throughout Rare's games. In Banjo-Tooie, Bottle's daughter Goggles is seen holding a Donkey Kong plush doll. Also in worker's quarters in Grunty's Industries on the fridge is seen the DK logo.


Since his appearance in the original Donkey Kong video game, Donkey Kong has been described as one of the most iconic mascots for Nintendo.[18][19] In their 250th issue in January 2010, Nintendo Power ranked him as their eighth favorite Nintendo hero, stating that while he is an unlikely hero, he is an entertaining one. They also ranked him as their eighth favorite Nintendo villain, joking that one should avoid him if he isn't wearing a tie.[20] IGN criticized his tie, stating "DK needs a fashion makeover". They said that while he "used to be a working icon", "his status is starting to show signs of rust".[21] listed him as the most "Gracelessly Aging Character", citing the fact that the original Donkey Kong from the arcade game eventually became Cranky Kong.[22] IGN ranked him 5th in their "Top 100 Videogames Villains" list for his earlier appearances.[23] listed Donkey Kong seventh on their list of "The 25 Awesomest Hidden Characters" for his cameo appearance in Punch-Out!!.[24]

See also


  1. Donkey Kong at the Internet Movie Database
  2. "Now You're Playing With Power: Top 25 Nintendo Characters of All Time". GameDaily. Retrieved 2009-08-09. [dead link]
  3. De Maria, Rusel; Johnny L. Wilson (2004). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2nd ed ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Osborne. p. 238. 
  4. Kohler, Chris (2005). Power-up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. Indianapolis, Indiana: BradyGAMES. p. 39. 
  5. Sheff, David (1999). Game Over: Press Start to Continue: The Maturing of Mario. Wilton, Connecticut: GamePress. p. 47. 
  6. Kohler, Chris (2005). Power-up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. Indianapolis, Indiana: BradyGAMES. p. 36. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Interview with Miyamoto". Miyamoto Shrine. 2001-05-16. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  8. "Miyamoto interview, E3 2001". Quarter To Three. 2001-05-16. Retrieved 2007-05-31. 
  9. Fact-checking website Snopes determines that "The bottom line is that no evidence backs up any of the explanations that the name 'Donkey Kong' came about because of a misread fax, mispronunciation, or mistranslation. Shigeru Miyamoto, the game's inventor and the one person who unquestionably knows the origins of the name he chose, has repeatedly affirmed that he used the word 'donkey' to convey a sense of stubbornness and the name 'Kong' to invoke the image of a gorilla." "Donkey Wrong". 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2008-04-22. 
  10. "One swift blow was all that was needed to leave him sprawled on the floor, face down! he groggily rolled over to see the familiar wrinkled, white-bearded, grouchy face of his old granddad 'punky Kong' peering down at him." - Donkey Kong Country instruction manual, pg. 5-6
  11. "In his heyday, Cranky was the original Donkey Kong who battled Mario in several of his own games." - Donkey Kong Country instruction manual, pg. 6
  12. "なかまたちのプロフィール大紹介 page1" (in Japanese). 
  13. "Well, if it isn't my lazy, good-for-nothing son." - Cranky Kong, to Donkey Kong; Donkey Kong 64 in-game dialogue
  14. "That darn Donkey has all the luck! His girl Candy waits around in her hut, always willing to offer musical help to that undeserving son of mine and his fancy polygonal friends. Pah!" - Donkey Kong 64 instruction manual (UK), pg. 8
  15. " Scribes - August 25, 1999 (Waybacked)". Archived from the original on 2002-08-05. "As far as I know, 'our' DK is the son of Cranky, which does indeed make him the original DK Jr. all grown up: so if you see Cranky referred to as DK's granddad anywhere, just cover your eyes and hum loudly until it goes away.)" 
  16. Nintendo. Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Level/area: Codec conversation between Snake and Otacon. "Otacon: "The Donkey Kong who fought that epic battle with Mario was this guy's grandfather.""
  17. "Rumble Falls". Smash Bros. DOJO!!. 2007-07-23. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  18. The 12 greatest arcade machines of all time | GamesRadar
  19. Complete Digital Illustration: A ... - Google Books
  20. (Magazine). 250. South San Francisco, California: Future US. January 2010. pp. 40, 41, 42. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  21. Jesse Schedeen (April 24, 2009). "Top 10 Most Overrated Videogame Characters - Stars Feature at IGN". IGN. Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  22. Scott Sharkey (2009-10-12). "Top 5 Gracelessly Aging Characters from". Retrieved 2010-04-25. 
  23. "Donkey Kong is number 5 - IGN". Retrieved 2010-12-05. 
  24. K. Thor Jensen (December 7, 2010). "The 25 Awesomest Hidden Characters -". Retrieved 2011-03-22. 

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