July 9th, 1981. That’s the date the first Donkey Kong arcade cabinets officially went on sale by Nintendo. Granted, the machines had been tested and teased earlier than that, but the official date is the best one to stick with on this occasion.
Thirty five years (and a few days change) later, the King of Kong has gone on to star in a number of sequels and spin-offs, most notably the Donkey Kong Country series (originally created by Rareware) and the Mario vs Donkey Kong series of puzzle games. There hasn’t been a main Donkey Kong sequel specifically since an updated edition that appeared on the Game Boy many moons ago now, which is a shame really. When you consider how big indie games and puzzle games have become over the last few years, a modern take on the arcade/platformer would be a perfect fit for Nintendo’s new mobile direction.
We do owe a lot to the little … uh, big guy. Without him, the arcade scene wouldn’t have been the same, Nintendo may never have created Mario, so many memorable moments we could have lost if it wasn’t for barrel loving gorilla and a young-ish man trying to save a princess in his eyes.
Fun fact: I never got the chance to play DK at the arcades (the first arcade machine I remember playing was Spy Hunter). It wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally got my hands on a trusted machine during the Game Masters exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne. It was bliss.
Anyway, happy birthday DK. Thanks for the memories and hey, you make me feel one year younger. Because … yeah … I’m actually one year younger than you.
(Images Courtesy of MobyGames)
Mark Isaacson is a freelance journalist and editor of PN2. Go say hi @Mark_D_Isaacson