Donkey Kong 40th Anniversary – A Barrel of Memories

July 9, 2021 marks the 40th anniversary of Donkey Kong swinging his way into Japanese arcades in 1981. The game immediately became a massive success and put Nintendo on the gaming map. I’ve known Donkey Kong as a video game character as long as anyone and obviously, this includes Mario, known simply as “Jumpman” in the original arcade game. Donkey Kong has seen many phases and evolutions throughout his history, so, for today’s exercise in actually writing something, I’ve included a few various examples of DK memories from my own 3 decades of playing video games.

Pull up a barrel and let’s take a trip down memory lane…


Nearly any successful game back in the 80’s had multiple iterations attempting to cash in on the newest video game craze. My family actually had two of these Coleco mini arcade games – Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. I remember lying on the living room floor at some very young age and attempting to play this, which seemed to always involve me looking around the house for the 4 C-batteries needed to power the miniature arcade cabinet. I don’t recall the game functioning all that well(when it did have batteries), but it was my first experience with Nintendo’s barrel-throwing primate. After this, it could very possibly be Donkey Kong Jr. for the NES…


By the time we reached the early-90’s, Donkey Kong was already fading from the memories of many gamers. He was seen as a grandfather of gaming and certainly wasn’t expected to be thrust back into relevance, but that’s exactly what happened when Rare released Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo in 1994.

I can still remember seeing DKC for the first time at my neighbor’s and couldn’t believe how incredible the game looked(especially for the time). DKC was one of those games I played as a kid, that I was immediately hooked upon playing and I can recall plenty of times I spent nearly all night trying to beat the game. I’ve mentioned…several times in past blog posts about how much I love Donkey Kong Country and attempting to accurately convey just what the game meant to me growing up.

Most Recent

Donkey Kong Country wasn’t the only game released in 1994 to star Nintendo’s simian mascot. Donkey Kong, commonly referred to as “DK ’94” was released on the Game Boy and very much flew under the radar for most gamers at the time – slightly understandable given it was released only a matter of months before Donkey Kong Country changed the course of history for game gorillas. Perhaps the strangest thing about the game is the fact it begins as essentially a port of the arcade version of the game, but then shifts into a puzzle-platformer spanning another 8 levels and 101 stages.

I bought the game sometime last year(?) and played it a little bit, but found out I hadn’t properly saved the game, requiring me to start from the beginning all over again. I mentioned DK ’94 in a blog post earlier this year listing some games from various Nintendo franchises celebrating milestone anniversaries this year, with the intent of seeing the game to completion sometime before the year is through…5 months and counting now. I (re)started the game a few days ago and have made it about halfway through the game. I’m really enjoying it and feel a bit ashamed of how I mistakenly saw it as just another version of the arcade game shortly after it was released, like most others it seems…


Yes, this existed and yes I remember watching this before leaving for school in the morning…

I still like the DK Rap….I’m just not sure if it’s unironically or not?

The Return

While Rare made three Donkey Kong Country games and Donkey Kong 64(see: DK Rap), it felt like the series had begun to lose a little steam. In 2010, the series returned on the Nintendo Wii with the aptly titled, Donkey Kong Country Returns. This time, the game(s) were developed by Retro Studios, best known for the Metroid Prime games. DKC Returns was a wonderful return to form for DK and Co. with DKC: Tropical Freeze being released a few years later for the Wii U, and then re-released a couple years ago for the Nintendo Switch. Tropical Freeze perfectly encapsulates what made the games so great back in the 90’s, with many holding up the title as the series’ best entry. It took me a little bit of adjusting to the slightly heavier-feeling physics of the game, but after playing through both of the Retro DKC games, I have no issue with anyone regarding these as highly as the Rare ones and Tropical Freeze would likely be on my list of favorite Switch games.

That’s all I have for now. What are your favorite Donkey Kong games, or some of your favorite DK memories? Let me know.

Thanks for reading!

2021 Nintendo Anniversary Challenge

Nintendo as a company has existed since 1889 and has celebrated a number of milestones on its way to becoming the richest company in Japan. This past year marked the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. which made the portly plumber Mario the most significant character in video game history. Nintendo, for whatever the reason, chose to commemorate the occasion by releasing Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which contained HD ports of Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy, as well as the free-to-play battle royale game – Mario 35 as timed exclusives on the Nintendo Switch, which will only be available until the end of March.

Another notable Nintendo series celebrated its 30th anniversary this past year – Fire Emblem. The very first Fire Emblem game, which until then had only been available in Japan, was released as yet another timed exclusive for the Switch.

As we begin a new year in 2021, there’s a number of long-time Nintendo franchises that will have significant anniversaries, starting with the 40th anniversary of the original Donkey Kong. It will also be 35 years since the arrival of The Legend of Zelda and Metroid series, two games which have gone on to influence countless other video games in many ways. Along with the aforementioned franchises, 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of Pokémon Red & Green being first released in Japan, resulting in a cultural phenomenon simply called, Poké-mania at the time.

Over the course of the past week, I came up with yet another quest to complete before the year is over – to finish at least one entry from each of the big Nintendo franchises celebrating anniversaries this year – Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon. Of course, there are many more game series with significant dates in 2021 such as Castlevania or Street Fighter, but for the impact that Nintendo games have had on my own life, as well as to keep this list relatively short, I will focus on a select few for the time being. Here’s just a few of the Nintendo games I have never finished that I WILL see to completion over the course of the year…

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong made his gaming debut on July 9, 1981 in Japanese arcades(with North America a few weeks later) and this July will mark the 40th anniversary of Nintendo’s gargantuan ape mascot. DK was considered one of the grandfathers of gaming, and had faded from prominence before being rejuvenated by Rare in 1994 with the SNES classic – Donkey Kong Country. Another DK game released the same year that went very much under the radar was the Game Boy game simply titled Donkey Kong. I had always been under the assumption the game was simply another port of the arcade version of Donkey Kong. This is not completely inaccurate as the first few levels of the game replicate the arcade classic, but following the completion of the initial levels the game features a number of puzzle-platforming levels one would understandably have no awareness of. One of the other few DK games I have not played is Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, though I do not currently own the Gamecube or Wii version of the game(Bongos either) and decided to throw an original Game Boy game into the mix…

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda was first released on February 21 1986 for the Famicom Disk System in Japan, before being released the following year in North America and Europe. I’ve known of the Zelda games my entire life – being born only two months prior to its initial release, but had played the two NES releases only a few times. For the longest time I was a little intimidated by the franchise and it’s legion of rabid fans and it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time was released on the Nintendo 64 that I felt like I truly “got” what made the games beloved by so many. I have played every mainline Zelda game ever since that time(not including the infamous CD-i releases – The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon), but have only completed about half of them.

I got Skyward Sword back when it was released in 2011and have only ever made it about three or so hours into the game. I enjoyed it well enough, but I got to the first dungeon(I think?) and then just…kinda…wound up playing something else. I’ve always heard how good some of the later dungeons and areas are, but like myself, many others have stated how the pacing of the game is pretty slow, especially in the beginning of the game, which starts with an extended tutorial. I fully intend to play through Skyward Sword in its entirety by the time November rolls around, which will mark ten years since its release.


The 35th anniversary of Samus Aran’s first appearance on the Famicom Disk System will be August 6, 1986. I’ve loved the Metroid games ever since first playing them as a kid, with Super Metroid and Metroid Prime being two of my all-time favorites. Being arguably my favorite of Nintendo’s main franchises, I plan on playing through every Metroid game over the course of the year, yes I’m even gonna play Metroid Prime Pinball…

One of the more…divisive games in the series is Metroid: Other M – Nintendo and Team Ninja’s 2010 release for the Wii. The prospect of Tecmo’s Team Ninja developing a third-person Metroid game sounded intriguing, but it has since gone on to be considered one of Samus’ lesser outings due to the inconsistent gameplay as well as her characterization. Similar to Skyward Sword, I’ve played the game a few times, but have never finished it. I’m curious to see if the disdain towards Other M is justified once I finally finish the game; I’ve played it enough to know not to expect anything close to the experience of playing the Metroid Prime games, but surely there’s something to appreciate about it…right?


February 27 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the very first Pokémon games – Red & Green, being released in Japan in 1996(North America was not until 1998), thus beginning Poké-mania. I can still vividly remember getting my copy of Red as a kid and playing on my Game Boy Color and spent endless hours after that collecting, battling, and evolving Pokémon. I played Pokémon Red and Gold, but after that ended up missing a generation or two, playing only Diamond and then Y before playing Pokémon Shield after it was released on the Nintendo Switch. I still have not played any of the Gen 3(Ruby/Sapphire), 5(Black/White), or 7(Sun/Moon) releases. I do, however have a copy of Omega Ruby for my 3DS that I will be working on in my spare time. With as many mainline releases and spin-offs as there are for the Pokémon games, I wouldn’t have to look too far for something I haven’t played yet. I’d still like to eventually give Pokémon Black a try, as well as checking out New Pokémon Snap when it’s released for the Switch on April 30.

I will also take this opportunity to mention that a special Pokémon retrospective event organized by fellow blogger NekoJonez is set to go live on February 27 to commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary. I will be taking part in the collaboration as well as a number of other trainers bloggers, so keep an eye out for that within the next month.