Donkey Kong


Game Name: Donkey Kong

Manufacturer: Nintendo R&D1

Year of development: 1981

Category: Platforms

Hardware Platform Info:

  • Zilog Z80 main CPU (3.072 MHz)
  • I8035 Sound CPU (400 kHz)
  • Sound chip: DAC (400 kHz), Samples (400 kHz)

Main developers: Shigeru Miyamoto, Gunpei Yokoi

Music Composer: Shigeru Miyamoto


History of development:

In the late 1970s, Nintendo's attempt to successfully penetrate the North American video game market after the failure of Radar Scope in 1979. In order for the company to have a chance of success in the market, its president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, decides to turn Radar Scope into something completely new. So he asked Shigeru Miyamoto-san, a young designer who had worked for the company since 1977, to make a new arcade game. He accepts, and Yamauchi asked his chief engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, to oversee the project.

Yamauchi had the U.S. market as its primary target, so he wanted an appropriate title for the to attract the American public. "For the first name of the game, I was trying to convey the idea of a stupid monkey," said Miyamoto-san in an interview with Wired portal.

"Donkey', of course, refers to the animal, but in the dictionary I was consulting, it was said that it could also mean 'idiot'. Nintendo America told me it wasn't like that and that Donkey couldn't be translated as an idiot, even though he was in the dictionary this way. I liked the sound of Donkey Kong and decided to stick to the idea. Within a year, everyone was saying Donkey Kong without hesitation”.

The game was sent to Nintendo America to be tried by testers. They didn't like it very much, because it was very different from the landscape offered by the video game industry, as puzzle and fixed shooter games were plentiful at the time. American executives asked Yamauchi to change the name of the game, as it was confusing to them. So it was decided to name the characters that appeared in the game. They named the girl Pauline and the Jumpam character was named Mario, because of his resemblance to Mario Segale, the ownwe of the company that was renting a warehouse to Nintendo. These names were painted on the arcade cabin and used in promotional items. Donkey Kong was ready to be launched onto the market.

Game Overview:

Donkey Kong is a primitive platform game (said to be the first). The game is divided into four zones. Each one represents 25 meters of the building Donkey climbed. The last zone is therefore 100 meters away. It takes skill and patience to calculate Jumpman's rise times.

The game has Pauline as its goal. When the player reaches her, he receives a score based on destroying objects, avoiding them, completing the zone, collecting objects, etc. For every 7,000 points earned, the player gets three more opportunities. The zones are as follows:

  • Zone 1 (25 m) Jumpman must climb a seven-story structure made of twisted beams and ladders, while dodging by jumping barrels thrown by Donkey Kong, fireballs, etc.
  • Zone 2 (50 m) Jumpman must climb a five-story building. There are fireballs again. This zone does not appear in some versions that were made from the game, such as NES.
  • Zone 3 (75 m) Jumpman can go up and down in elevators while avoiding more fireballs and various jumping objects. The weights that appear (the greatest danger of the hero during this zone) emerge in the upper level, and stop near the elevator on the right.
  • Zone 4 (100 m) Jumpman must remove eight rivets that are on the ground, as that is the way to overcome the level. Donkey Kong falls and Jumpman can finally meet Pauline.

These zones are combined to make phases of increasing difficulty. An example is the speed at which Donkey Kong throws barrels or fireballs. Level 22 is popularly known as the "kill screen" because a programming error prevents you from getting past that phase (the time given to pass the level is less than necessary).

With only four types of screens, Donkey Kong became a success.


It was tested in two bars in Seattle where they put two Donkey Kong machines. At first the owners didn't think they were profitable, but when they saw the amount of money raised and the queues formed, they asked for more units. Then, the company in Redmond (near Seattle) set up a team of workers to decompose 2,000 surplus Radar Scope machines into Donkey Kong machines to meet the demands of the Japanese market. The game was officially released in July 1981.

The first 2,000 units that were launched were sold quickly, and more units were sent. It was decided to create the electronic components in the American company itself, as it took a long time to receive the orders coming from Japan. In October, Donkey Kong sold 4,000 units, and in June 1982, Nintendo had managed to bring 60,000 units to market, making a profit of 140 million euros. The engineers who worked on this game became millionaires. In the second year of its release, Nintendo earned another 78 million euros. In the third year after its release, it was still Nintendo's best-selling product. In Japan, it was also selling at a good pace.

Curiously, the famous Billy Mitchell, known as the best player of the 20th century, has recently been stripped of all his existing marks and records on the Intergalactic Record Board of Twin Galaxies. It has been proven that he rigged the game in the recorded video where he reached the record of points. So Steve Wiebe will now appear on the Twin Galaxies and Guinness World Records charts as the first player to break the million point barrier at Donkey Kong.



Information about the location and purchase by Arcade Vintage:

The machine was acquired by José Mª Litarte from an amateur in Madison, Alabama (USA). He travelled 4,500 km until he reached the port of New York, where he boarded a ship along, with dozens of other machines, in the first container that José Mª freighted in May 2018.

Information about the restoration process or repairs carried out:

Ricardo Fernández-Vega was in charge of repairing the plate and the power supply.

Links to other related websites: