Quick, name your favorite Nintendo video game! We’re pretty sure that you will mention Super Mario Bros; but what about the game that introduced the world to the character of Mario? Donkey Kong is still one of the most popular videos games out there, and the namesake character is beloved by Nintendo lovers all around the world. Yet there is probably quite a bit that will surprise you about this ape. Just take a look at our list of 10 Facts About Donkey Kong You Might Not Know. For instance, Donkey Kong was originally going to be a game centered around Popeye. Yes, the American cartoon character. And Mario was going to go by a very different and very weird name.
Want even more crunchy nuggets about Donkey Kong? Then you need to keep reading because this list will absolutely blow your mind! There is so much more to this iconic video game than meets the eye. Who would have thought that this game was originally intended to be similar to PacMan? We are certainly glad that it wasn’t, because Donkey Kong is a unique and exhilarating game that has really progressed past the concept of simply jumping over rolling barrels to rescue a damsel in distress. Thanks to this wonderful game, we have Super Mario Bros. and those fun characters like Diddy Kong, Mario, and Princess Peach. And we can relive the action again and again because of Donkey Kong reboots and Donkey Kong’s appearance in other Nintendo games. Read on to learn more!
10 It Was a Mixture of Arcade Rejects
Donkey Kong was Shigeru Miyamoto’s very first video game success, but the game itself was actually the result of combining a bunch of arcade game rejects into one playable attraction. After trying very hard to market the Radar Scope arcade machines, Nintendo wasn’t quite sure of what to do. It wasn’t until Miyamoto himself was paired up with one of Nintendo’s engineers, Gunpei Yokoi, that they started to do something with all of this excess garbage. Within a few years, Miyamoto’s wit and ingenuity was able to shine through with Donkey Kong. The rest, as they say, is history.
9 Donkey Kong was Going to be…Popeye?
Yes, believe it or not, that iconic ape almost never materialized. In the very beginning, Nintendo was in possession of the licensing rights to Popeye (an American cartoon,) and the Donkey Kong game was going to be about Popeye rescuing a damsel in distress. Even in the final design, players may be able to draw parallels between the characters in Donkey Kong and Olive Oyl and Bluto. So why did they ditch Popeye? They ended up losing the rights to the character, so they were forced to come up with their own. Donkey Kong was one of Miyamoto’s first video game characters.
8 The Game Went Through Various Layouts
While in the brainstorming and pre-production stages, Donkey Kong went through a number of changes to its layout and design. At first, it was going to be a call to the PacMan games, complete with mazes to go through. Then it was going to be a scrolling platformer game, as Miyamoto added the element of having moving barrels rolling in the player’s way. Yet all of those elements made a scrolling platformer too complex for the times, so Miyamoto ditched that idea and instead made Donkey Kong on a static screen with scrolling elements. This paved the way for Super Mario Bros.
7 Donkey Kong Introduced Mario
While most hardcore gamers will know this, they may not have all the details. Mario was featured in the original Donkey Kong game, but he wasn’t Mario back then. He was Jumpman, also referred to as Mr. Video in very early stages of the game’s development. Jumpman was sort of Miyamoto’s homage to Alfred Hitchcock, and the Nintendo wunderkind planned to have Jumpman make cameo appearances in other Nintendo games. Well, forget that! Jumpman became Mario, and then he got his very own massive empire of Nintendo games. Years later, Miyamoto said he was glad he didn’t call the character Mr. Video, or else the character may have died out.
6 Nintendo Was Sued Over Donkey Kong’s Name
Universal Studios had a serious bone to pick with Nintendo when they released the first Donkey Kong game. Universal’s President Sid Sheinberg sued Nintendo for copyright infringement, since the character’s name was Donkey Kong (you know, like King Kong?) The court trial happened in 1982, and Universal Studios even went so far as to sue other companies and businesses that sold the Donkey Kong game to consumers. The court trial went on for quite a while, but Universal Studios ended up losing the case and the studio was forced to pay Nintendo $1.8 million. You see nobody messes with Nintendo.
5 Was the Name a Mistake?
There is some lore in the video game world that Donkey Kong was supposed to be called Monkey Kong, but the name was lost in translation when it was spread to the United States from Japan. Other people say it was all because of some smudged ink on a fax that Nintendo sent over to the U.S. Miyamoto himself has spoken out about this issue and said that the name of the game was supposed to evoke an image of a “big, stupid ape.” They chose the word “donkey” to imply that the character was dumb and extremely stubborn.
4 The Secret Donkey Kong Easter Egg
Video games are filled with “easter eggs,” or hidden objects or characters that show up periodically. They would only be noticed by people who played the game on a regular basis. In the original Atari 400 version of Donkey Kong, the lead programmer, Landon Dyer, made it so that if the player died under specific circumstances and waited for the title screen to appear again, his initials would show up on the screen. Dyer didn’t tell anyone this until 26 years after he did it. Plus, he can’t even remember what those “specific circumstances” are, so we probably won’t ever see this easter egg.
3 People Can Take Donkey Kong Pretty Seriously
Back when Donkey Kong Country Returns hit store shelves, people were super excited for a reboot of the classic Nintendo video game. Of course there were people who went totally bananas for the game, but two game retailers took the pun a bit further. Retailers Gamestation and GAME told customers that if they showed up to the store with a bunch of bananas, they could get Donkey Kong Country Returns for free! This was back in 2010, and it was only for the first 20 customers to show up with a bunch of bananas. Sounds like a sweet deal to us.
2 There’s an Extremely Rare Donkey Kong Country
A super-duper rare version of the game was released for competitive gamers only, and it is said that there are only 2,500 copies of it worldwide. They were mostly used in video game competitions in 1994 and 1995 (Powerfest and Blockbuster World Video Game Championships 2, respectively.) This version of Donkey Kong Country features an altered scoring system and a time limit of 5 minutes for players. In competition, the players would have to get as many points as possible by going through eight levels within a specified time limit. If the game were to be sold, it could fetch up to $2,800.
1 Donkey Kong’s Family Tree is Twisted
So, first we get to the basics. Cranky Kong was the elder Kong, and Diddy Kong was adopted into the family. In 1994, Rare took over the rights to the game, and they altered things a bit, making Cranky the original Donkey Kong. In 1982, they used Donkey Kong Jr. as the main character in Donkey Kong Country. In 2002, Microsoft bought the rights from Rare and they made Cranky the grandfather of Donkey Kong. Diddy Kong’s parents are still unknown, but we do know that he’s the brother of Dixie and Tiny. At this point, who cares? We just want to play the games.