Donkey Kong is one of the most iconic characters in all of gaming and has been in a variety of different titles and spin-offs. From his famed introduction in 1981 to the revolutionary platforming series, Donkey Kong has helped shape the gaming landscape that we know today. However, with well over a dozen different games, some of clearly been better than others. When rating these various games we decided to look not only at the gameplay itself, but the sound design, art direction, and what the title brought to the table that was new and refreshing. Now not all games made it onto our list, as Donkey Kong has had a few Japanese only titles that we are not going to include. There are also some titles we are going to just group up into one such as Donkey Kong Land and the Donkey Kong Game & Watch titles. Yet, if we had to judge which Kong games were the best, these are the ones we’d spend all our hard-earned bananas on.
Donkey Kong Barrel Blast
DK Barrel Blast stands as an example of what happens when you try to cash in on a previously successful idea. There is no doubt this title was trying ride off the heels of the far superior Diddy Kong Racing, however, this is nothing more than a boring, shallow version of that game.
Donkey Kong Game & Watch (Series)
All three of these Game & Watch games are a landmark for mobile gaming, however, they were hardly as entertaining as their full arcade cabinet doppler gangers. While there is no doubting the Game & Watches importance, their Donkey Kong versions just felt lackluster.
Mario vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
I’m sure by the end of this list you’ll be sick of seeing this mini-series, however Tipping Stars is the worst. Offering nothing new or interesting, the game simply recycles the same mechanics from the previous games.
Donkey Kong Land (Series)
Speaking of underwhelming, these mobile iterations of the classing Donkey Kong Country series are not exactly great. Due to the Game Boy’s capabilities, these are severely lacking those vibrant and gorgeous colors that the SNES versions have. Not to mention they are simple ports and offer really nothing particularly special to the esteemed franchise or the brand it created.
DK King of Swing
While this game has the charm and look of a Donkey Kong game, the simplistic mechanics and underwhelming level of difficulty make this a mostly forgettable title. Thankfully, it has great sound design for a mobile platform and the level design is fun and classic Donkey Kong.
Donkey Kong 3
This arcade only game was an interesting concept, but really lacked the charm of the previous two Donkey Kong games. Perhaps it was the fact that we were playing a less than interesting hero or that the spraying mechanics were not nearly as fun as the platforming. It felt like Nintendo wanted to try something different with DK 3, sadly it wasn’t as good or memorable.
Donkey Kong (Game Boy)
Much like the DK Land series, this is another mobile port of the original 1981 arcade version. Yet, what pushes it above the previous ports is that this one actually builds upon the basic formula with a robust selection of levels. This is a fun game that shows what the first game could have been if it was not simply restricted to an arcade cabinet.
Donkey Konga 2
Hey you know all that memorable music that Nintendo is famous for that has helped build entire franchises? Yeah, apparently they forgot about all that when selecting the musical choices for Donkey Konga 2. The game in a technical manner is solid and easy to play, but the choice to go for more rock and rap focused songs seemed contrary to the entire game itself.
Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis
The second title in the “Minis” series is a fairly mixed bag of components. While it has the same charm and personality as any Mario/Donkey Kong game, the puzzles are fairly hit or miss. Some are really entertaining and offer sufficient challenge, while others are laughably easy and require little thinking to solve.
Donkey Kong Jr
Donkey Kong Jr is an interesting follow up to the original arcade game, that cast you in the role of DK’s child. While it swapped the roles of Mario and his nemesis, the platforming is as solid as ever. We haven’t returned to this type of Donkey Kong game recently, but this title is always a reminder of how much fun a solid platformer can be.
Mario vs Donkey Kong
This puzzle game was a brightly colored, unique title that saw these famed characters do battle once more. While you play as Mario, the powerful apes presence can hardly be ignored. In a sea of mixed Game Boy Advanced titles, the unique and fresh mechanics helped it truly standout.
Donkey Konga is an entertaining music based game that offers not only some classic Nintendo hits but some fun new ones as well. Even though the game first appeared to be a novelty, it won us over with the solid gameplay and that classic DK aesthetic. Though once you go through it, there’s really no reason to go back unless you have friends over.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
Okay, this will probably be one of our more controversial choices, but Jungle Beat is a fantastic idea. The music-based platformer was almost ahead of its time and it’s a shame that we haven’t seen a sequel. Obviously, the market for drum based platformers is not high in demand, but come on, this is such a fun game!
Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
The best of the “Minis” series, this title is a great showcase of what a clever puzzle game can look like. While the other versions of this game failed to innovate, Mini-Land Mayhem had enough unique puzzles and levels to keep one engaged until the end.
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble!
The last of the SNES Donkey Kong Country games, this title sees us take the roles of both Dixie and Kiddy Kong. While it may be the biggest let down of the five Country games, this fun, inventive, and challenging platformer is hardly forgettable. Though we do wish you could skip that Snowman boss battle…
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Tropical Freeze shows us that solid platforming, challenging levels and jaw-dropping level design can still exist in modern gaming. Even though we haven’t seen another DK game since this one, Tropical Freeze was a game to remember and makes us pine for more DK Country goodness.
Diddy Kong Racing
At first glance, this can seem like a simple Mario Kart clone, but once you actually dig deeper you can see that comparison is not exactly true. Not only does Diddy Kong Racing offer a flushed out story mode, but a variety of unique vehicles and tracks to decimate your foes in. It’s just a shame we haven’t seen another Diddy Kong racing game of this caliber on any next gen console.
Donkey Kong Country
One of the most famous platformers of all time, DK Country helped showcase not only what platformers could be but the power of the SNES. Full of vibrant levels, fun enemy designs, and great music, this is a classic game that should be played by everyone at least once.
Donkey Kong 64
This 3D platformer was genuinely entertaining to play, despite the many bugs and glitches that can be found while playing. With five unique characters to play as, this DK game was anything but boring. Not to mention it had stellar puzzles, cool secrets, and fun worlds to explore. Also, the DK rap is fantastic and it’s a shame we haven’t seen another version in any other recent Donkey Kong game.
Donkey Kong Country Returns
This may surprise a few people, but the importance of this game should not be understated. For a long time we had not seen a solid 2D platformer and when this game released it felt like a breath of fresh air. This is also thanks to the amazing worlds, characters, and controls that just felt incredibly natural when translated to a next generation console. Against a sea of drab, gray and brown military shooters, this was a welcomed return.
One of the most important arcade games to have ever been created, Donkey Kong’s impact on gaming is still felt today. Not only did it introduce us to Mario and Donkey Kong, but helped put Nintendo on the video game map. Just try to not kick the machine too much after its eaten your 30th quarter.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
Not only is this the best DK Country game ever made, but one of the greatest platformers of all time. Not only did it have beautiful art direction, fun enemies, solid controls, but one of the best video game soundtracks of all time. Everyone should play this game at least once as it’s a staple of not only Nintendo games, but the platforming genre itself.