Donkey Kong may move slow, and he can’t jump high, but this Kong’s one heck of… an icon and one of Nintendo’s top tier franchises almost since his inception (specifically, the wildly popular arcade cabinets that proudly carried his name.)
Although decades have passed, and DK himself has gone through a variety of evolutions, he’s still a beloved icon with legions of hardcore, supportive fans in his corner.
Still… there’s a lot skeletons hidden in this ape’s closet, and we’re uncovering them for one and all with these 19 Donkey Kong Facts That’ll Ruin Your Childhood.
Whether they’re about the games, the people behind them, the character himself, his in-game universe, Nintendo, or even the mind-bogglingly terrifying animated series, we’ve left no barrels un-smashed.
C’mon Cranky, take us to the fridge!
19 The Real Reason DK64 Needed The Expansion Pak
Anyone who was on the hype train for DK64 recalls the developers saying things like “this game is so big the Expansion Pak is REQUIRED!”… which only served to hype up rabid DK fans even more.
In truth, though, the size of the game wasn’t the reason the Expansion Pak was required. It turns out that, for whatever, DK64 had a game-breaking bug that only disappeared when the Expansion Pak was plugged in.
Kind of deflates the whole thing, eh?
18 The “Banana Republic” Theory
Is it possible that the Donkey Kong series is secretly an anti-American allegory, steeped in dense symbolism and hidden meaning?
We personally don’t think so, but there’s a popular fan theory that holds that belief dearly… and makes a compelling argument, too.
In short, the theory implies that DKC is an argument against the “Banana Republics” of the Spanish-American War, with the pirate-styled Kremlings taking on the role of aggressive American forces.
There’s far more to it, and it’s definitely worth reading… just be sure to take things with a grain of salt.
17 The Terrifying TV Show Contains Critical Lore
The Donkey Kong Country TV show is remembered (or intentionally blocked out) for a variety of reasons: the unsettling animations, ear-bleeding “musical numbers,” and general amounts of pure horror.
Despite this, the show introduced important lore into the DKC universe, including the concept of crystal coconuts and where the countless barrels throughout the series actually came from.
16 Donkey Kong Jr. Tosses Mario To His Doom
Donkey Kong Jr. is one of the few (if only) instances of Mario serving as a villain.
In this case, the carpenter-turned-plumber-turned-ringmaster has captured Donkey Kong, and it’s up to Donkey Kong Jr. to rescue his father.
At the end of the game, Donkey Kong Jr. frees DK senior, and the floor disappears beneath them.
The apes land safely, but Mario falls to his demise, even going as far as to have a halo over his head.
15 Nintendo Owns A DK-Related Phrase
Over the years, quite a few video game companies have soured their reputations by engaging in seemingly arbitrary or selfish legal battles, and Nintendo is no exception.
Their most known bridge-burning technique is to shutdown fan games. While this annoys a certain subset of fans, we can see the reasoning behind the move.
However, we have no such understanding for Nintendo fighting to own a phrase, specifically “it’s on like Donkey Kong.”
That’s just petty.
14 Donkey Kong Jr.’s Fate Is… Ambiguous
When you hear the name “Donkey Kong,” the image that pops into your head is very likely Rare’s interpretation of the character from the DKC games, who has basically remained the one-and-only Donkey Kong for decades now.
This Donkey Kong is not the original Donkey Kong, though. That’d be Cranky Kong. He’s also not Donkey Kong Jr., as he’s Cranky Kong’s grandson.
So… what ever happened to Donkey Kong Jr.? There doesn’t seem to be an answer anywhere, which is a rather ominous sign.
13 DKC’s Soundtrack Rips Off A Song
The Donkey Kong Country series has some of the best video game soundtracks in the history of the medium, and few will argue against it.
However, in the first DKC game, Funky’s theme contains an arguably illegal sampling of The System’s song “The Pleasure Seekers,” specifically the vocal moment.
This kind of leaves a mark on the otherwise perfect reputation of DKC’s soundtrack, but it’s definitely a small one.
12 The Arcade Game’s Secret Voice-Acting
As a truly classic arcade game, there are few people who are unaware of the original Donkey Kong. The jumping over barrels, the smashing things with a hammer, the big, stomping ape, and the…. voice acting?
Yep, believe it or not, the arcade game has unused voice samples in its data, which few people have actually heard. Both lines are delivered by Pauline, and they are “help!” and “nice!”
11 Earthworm Jim Desecrated DK’s Image
For quite awhile, Donkey Kong was the undisputed king of excellent and gorgeous 2D platformers, but Earthworm Jim did his best to usurp the king, even resorting to mean spirited jokes.
Within his own game, Earthworm Jim can don Donkey Kong’s head instead of his own, and it’ll have an arrow going through it.
Of course, this was the type of "‘tude" that Earthworm Jim is known for, but it’s still pretty childish.
10 DKC’s Water Levels Were Misunderstood “Rewards”
Donkey Kong Country’s water levels are basically known for two things: the absolutely incredible song, “Aquatic Ambience,” and how frustratingly maze-like and imprecise they are.
Turns out that everyone who raged against these levels were simply misunderstanding and misinterpreting what the developers were intending.
These levels were meant to act as “rewards” after particularly difficult levels, and we’ve been tossing this gift back in their faces for years.
9 You Can’t Actually “Win”
When it comes to the original Donkey Kong arcade game, there’s no true “end.”
Yeah, you play through four levels, defeat the great ape and reunite with Pauline, but the game starts over immediately after meaning that, in terms of in-game canon, you never TRULY defeat Donkey Kong.
Coupled with the infamous “kill screen” upon reaching level 22, the lack of true victory can be a haunting feeling.
8 The TV Series Regularly Mocks A Serious Legal Battle
Nintendo and Universal found themselves in a heated legal battle over Donkey Kong and King Kong. This was a major problem for both companies, and the courtroom war was a bitter affair.
Bizarrely, on the nightmarish Donkey Kong Country TV series, the characters would constantly reference King Kong.
Of course, the legal battle had long since ended, but the repeated references almost seem like taunts or intentionally playing with fire.
7 DK Is A Thinly-Veiled “Popeye” Reskin
The arcade game, Donkey Kong, was first envisioned as a Popeye game, and Shigeru Miyamoto was dead-set on producing on it.
Unfortunately for him, a deal could not be reached and plans had to change: Bluto would become Donkey Kong, Olive Oyl would transform into Pauline, and Popeye would give up sailing to become a carpenter named Jumpman.
6 DK Isn’t Actually A Gorilla… Or Even An Ape
Donkey Kong is very clearly an ape, and specifically a gorilla. Right? That’s obvious to anyone with eyes… except for the fact that your eyes are deceiving you.
During DKC’s development, the team at Rare visited the zoo in order to study gorilla movements so they could implement these traits into Donkey Kong’s character.
Turns out that gorillas had boring movement, so they ended up incorporating the movement traits of a horse.
5 Mario Is An Abusive Monster
We often think of Mario as the bouncy, acrobatic, wide-eyed, happy-go-lucky hero, but he has an incredibly cruel side to him.
Look no further than the oft-forgotten Donkey Kong Jr., where Mario enslaves Donkey Kong, abuses him, and then threatens to exterminate the captive ape’s only child.
… yeah, this is one heck of a heel-turn for a universally beloved character.
4 Billy Mitchell’s Influence Reaches DK Island
There’s a fantastic indie documentary about two men battling for Donkey Kong’s high score called King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
The documentary’s “antagonist” is Billy Mitchell, a cocky but impressively skilled arcade player who is a genuinely eccentric character. He's also seen constantly wearing an American flag necktie.
Well, that necktie actually made it into to Donkey Kong Country Returns, likely because Billy Mitchell was the world champ… keyword being “was,” because it was recently discovered that he faked his high score run.
3 Multiple DK Suit-Actors Have Sued Nintendo
During the DK series’ history, Nintendo has hired actors to portray the main ape himself, Donkey Kong, for a few events.
As you might expect, the actors were confined to mascot-like suits, which aren’t exactly comfortable. In fact, things were so bad within the suits that Nintendo has been sued over it.
In both cases, actors were ordered to not remove their extremely hot costumes until their jobs were done, resulting in injuries, with one of them actually needing heart surgery to correct.
2 The DKC TV Show Was Actually Popular
Anytime someone brings up the Donkey Kong Country animated series, it’s almost guaranteed to be met with horror, disgust, revulsion and snide remarks… but that’s only in the United States.
In France and Japan, the series was a gigantic hit.
In fact, it was so popular in Japan that it spawned an expansive line of merchandise, including its own collectible card game and a manga.
1 DK64 Was Once Linked To Stop ‘N’ Swop
Ask a hardcore Nintendo 64 or Rare fan what the most captivating and frustrating secret of all time is, and they’ll probably say “Stop ‘n’ Swop.”
This highly classified and mysterious secret involved transferring data between Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie by means of swapping cartridges. The concept was cancelled, but all of the secret Stop ‘n’ Swop items and clues were left in BK upon release.
Intriguingly, DK64’s data suggests that it, too, was going to play a role in the Stop ‘n’ Swop mystery… but we doubt we’ll ever fully know the truth.