For a lot of people, and even Nintendo themselves (at times), the question “how many Donkey Kongs are there?” may seem a bit silly. “Of course there’s only one Donkey Kong!” I hear you saying. Those a little more familiar with the Donkey Kong lore may subscribe to the more common understanding of there being two DKs, but, actually, there is evidence for the existence of more incarnations of our favourite gorilla.
Donkey Kong I
He’s the one who started it all. He kidnapped Pauline, Mario went off to save her and the rest is history. You can see Donkey Kong I in the original Donkey Kong arcade trilogy, as well as the Game & Watch titles which tie into it, the Game & Watch Gallery series, Donkey Kong Jr. Math and his cameos in games like WarioWare, NES Remix, Tetris DS and Nintendo Land. Games like Donkey Konga and Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, rather contradictorily, imply that he is the one and only, but things don’t seem to be that simple.
Donkey Kong II and Donkey Kong III
In Donkey Kong Jr. we find out that Donkey Kong I actually has a son (the titular Donkey Kong Jr.) and Donkey Kong Country revealed to us that he would eventually grow up to work alongside Diddy Kong as the heroic defenders of DK Isle, with Donkey Kong I now the aged Cranky Kong… Or does it? While this seems to be the intended interpretation in these games Cranky Kong is Donkey Kong’s grandfather. Donkey Kong I was supposed to be the father of Donkey Kong Jr. which leads to the possibility of a Donkey Kong who existed between the pair of them whose life is undocumented. But then, in Donkey Kong 64, Cranky Kong is said to be Donkey Kong’s father. Perhaps something happed to DK Jr.’s father and so DK, his grandfather, raised him as a son? So, he is both his grandfather and father (in a sense). Do you follow so far? This the the DK who appears in most Mario spin-offs, DK: King of Swing, Donkey Kong: Jungle Climber, Donkey Kong: Jet Race and most of the other recent games that feature the character.
Donkey Kong IV
This one’s a little simpler to understand. As you probably know, Donkey Kong is a regular fighter in the Super Smash Bros. series. But the nature of these games is a little unclear; are our favourite characters being plucked from their respective universes and made to fight one another by Master Hand? Or is there another explanation? Well, the Nintendo 64 Smash Bros. and Super Smash Bros. Brawl seems to suggest that we are actually seeing dolls or trophies brought to life simply to fight. In which case, we might be seeing a fourth DK who is wholly distinct from the other three.
Donkey Kong V
Pretty much every aspect of the Donkey Kong series that we are familiar with comes from Rare Ltd.’s fantastic contributions. But, when Rare were bought out by Microsoft in 2002 and was therefore unable to continue working on the Donkey Kong series, it seems that Nintendo wanted a completely new start. So we got the bongo controlled game Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat where everything but Donkey Kong himself was completely new. It’s not hard to imagine that Nintendo were trying to reboot the series, meaning this would be a new, distinct incarnation of DK. Notably, he does act quite different when compared to his earlier appearances. Other than a few small references in Super Smash Bros. Brawl this game has never been acknowledged again, so, it could well be a separate continuity. Some fans like to argue that he is the son of the DK from the Country series onward.
Donkey Kong VI
For fourteen years Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble was the final game in the Donkey Kong Country series, but in 2010 the fans were made very happy by the release of a fourth game: Donkey Kong Country Returns. However, while it did revive the classic formula, several elements from the past games were missing: all Kongs other than Cranky and Diddy were gone, all Animal Buddies but Rambi and Squawks were gone, all of the Kremlings were gone and DK Isle itself even had a different design! Things certainly had changed since the days of the original trilogy. Of course, that’s no reason to believe that this is a different Donkey Kong! What is however is the fact that Cranky Kong, in the instruction manual, makes references to his past adventures, and his past adventures aren’t the arcade games, but he is instead talking about what sounds like the original Country games! So, it seems like Retro wanted to do the same thing as Rare did when they got a hold of the Donkey Kong series. Interestingly there is, of course, no reference to Jungle Beat. Also, any idea that this may be the next generation of Kongs seems to have been forgotten starting with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze which saw the return of both Dixie and Funky Kong.
So, six Donkey Kongs! How confusing. I guess The Legend of Zelda isn’t the only Nintendo series with a convoluted timeline, although sadly I don’t think a DK Isle Historia is in the works. I prefer to look at it as two DKs (the old villainous one and the new heroic one) but that doesn’t mean that this over-analysing of games that aren’t story driven can’t be fun!
Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth comes out tomorrow! We’ve got a super nice bundle for the game that comes with a Chie’s Badge Set and a Double Teddie Keyring. You can get it right here!
Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Fan Edition is also still available in our store, which come with a set of limited edition tarot cards, and our Rice Digital exclusive Junes t-shirt! Pick it up here.
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