Donkey Kong (SSBU)
Donkey Kong retains his realistic gorilla grunts and roars from Super Smash Bros. 4, instead of using his voice actor, Takashi Nagasako.
Donkey Kong is unsurprisingly a large super heavyweight, having the same weight value as King Dedede, and is the third-heaviest character in the game behind Bowser and King K. Rool. Despite this, he's one of the fastest heavy characters in the game, both in terms of general mobility and attack speed. He has the 9th fastest walking speed, the 28th fastest dashing speed, the 15th highest traction, above average falling speed and jumping force, and is tied with Mario, Sonic, Little Mac, and Inkling for the 12th fastest air speed. In contrast, he has below average gravity and moderately slow air acceleration.
A typical heavyweight is expected to possess moves with high power, and Donkey Kong is no exception to this - it is possibly his greatest attribute. Donkey Kong has no problem with setting up into KOs with moves that have both high power and decent range: his sweetspotted up tilt, smash attacks, aerials, back throw, Giant Punch, and grounded Spinning Kong are all prime examples. His ability to take stocks with his powerful attacks is made easier with his decent approach. His mobility and size work together to give him an effective grounded approach and longer range, respectively. All of these attributes combined allow him to have an easier time fighting in close quarters and landing attacks on his opponents. He also has very strong survivability thanks to his aforementioned high weight and above average falling speed, which is also common for his archetype. In total, Donkey Kong's attributes give him some of the best overall endurance in the game, with only Bowser and King K. Rool surpassing him horizontally.
Donkey Kong works well with his grounded moveset. His neutral attack has decent damage and startup. Forward tilt's long range makes it one of his main spacing tools and works better with its intangibility. Up tilt is a safe move to interrupt his opponents, with the move covering Donkey Kong's entire body, acting as an anti-air, and hitting through low platforms such as the ones on Battlefield. Down tilt gives him a long range crouching option and has a chance to trip opponents. His dash attack works as a combo starter and a situational KO option at low and very high percentages, respectively. All of his smash attacks are notoriously strong and relatively fast, making them his go-to options for hard reads and scoring KOs. His aerial options also have considerable utility. His forward and down aerials are some of his best edgeguarding tools due to both of them being meteor smashes. His neutral aerial is his fastest aerial, hard to interrupt, helps him break out of combos, and is one of the strongest of its type in the game when hit clean. His up aerial serves as an effective vertical KO option (if the situation he's in allows for it) thanks to its high knockback, and it is also safe, as his head is intangible during it and it has modest end lag. His back aerial is debatably an even better spacing tool than his forward tilt, being fast, long-ranged, and having a sex kick-like hitbox, with a long duration and high knockback when hit clean. His air speed allows his aerial moves to be used at their fullest potential and, with the exception of forward aerial, they’re all decently fast.
A well-known part of his playstyle is his grab game, as he has a long grab that allows for setups into the rest of his moves. Although his down throw has little to no use, every other option does to some extent. His pummel is slower compared to many others in the cast, but deals decent damage. Up throw has combo potential into his aerials and back throw is his primary kill throw, but his forward throw is easily his most useful one and possibly the most unique part of his character. During his forward throw, Donkey Kong can move, jump, and walk off the stage while having the opponent in his hands, acting like he usually would outside of a typical grab (aside from being unable to use his other moves and having only one jump). Forward throw also gives Donkey Kong different types of throws based on what direction is pressed, basically giving him eight throws; these are commonly known as the "cargo throws." Cargo forward and down throw both work as niche edgeguarding options, with cargo down throw even being a semi-spike. Cargo back throw does good damage and is a very solid kill throw. It also has utility as a stage spike unless his opponent is able to properly tech it. Finally, cargo up throw has more combo potential than his vanilla up throw, being able to combo into his aerials at low percents. Cargo up throw also possesses fairly good kill power, since Donkey Kong can jump and then heave his opponents for additional height.
Donkey Kong's special moves are also helpful for his gameplan. Giant Punch is his surprise KO and punish move, can be used to pressure the opponent, and has super armor if fully charged. Headbutt can bury opponents, which can allow him to setup into KOs, and spikes in the air. It has super armor during the move's startup and deals very high shield damage while also having deceptively long range, giving him a shield pressure option and the ability to call out poor shield positioning. Grounded Hand Slap has very long range and allows for stage control, but has no usage for aerial opponents, as it leaves Donkey Kong immobile and its hitbox only deals damage to grounded opponents. The aerial Hand Slap is his last move which can meteor smash and is fast, making it effective and easy to land. His final special move, Spinning Kong, acts similarly to Bowser's Whirling Fortress as his primary out of shield option. It is hard to disrupt and is a multi-hit move with high damage. In the air, it works as an incredibly fast horizontal recovery option and deals a lot of damage if all the hits connect.
However, despite his versatile moveset and high power, Donkey Kong falls into a plethora of problems. His defensive game is very poor, a common issue for characters of his size. While his massive weight gives him very high endurance and his large frame is the reason his range is better than characters like Mario and Squirtle, it becomes a problem when having to dodge attacks which is hard for him because he is a very large target. His tie hurtbox is also extremely large, further exacerbating the issue. Coincidentally, just like those two previously mentioned fighters, he has frequent trouble dealing with characters that have disjoints due to his lack of projectiles, primarily against swordfighters such as Shulk and Ike, hitboxes on moves such as Mewtwo's up and back aerials, or fast multi-hits such as Palutena's neutral air. Donkey Kong's size also makes him vulnerable to combos and juggling, which is worsened by his lack of combo breakers (outside of neutral aerial). The reintroduction of directional air dodges makes his aerial defense even more linear, and the new air dodge's increased ending lag hurts all characters, it debatably hurts a character such as Donkey Kong the most. Moreover, his otherwise great forward throw (cargo throw) also has certain drawbacks - notably, the risk of trying to slam the opponent into the ledge with a backward cargo throw. Due to Donkey Kong's horrid vertical recovery, if the opponent either DIs fast enough, squat jumps on him or simply has better air reach, this attempt for an easy KO may backfire. The trajectory of both forward and back cargo throw also possess a minor challenge. Unlike traditional forward and back throws, Donkey Kong sends the opponent at a high vertical angle instead of horizontal. This makes it more situational if they will KO or not, especially cargo forward throw. Cargo back throw ironically has more vertical range than his cargo up throw and therefore has more usage KOing at the top of the screen than the side. Thus, the player may find more reliability in a normal back throw near the edge.
Despite many of his moves having fast startup, Donkey Kong's moveset is made much slower by its ending lag, and most of his moves are not safe on hit at low percents. This forces him to be more careful with the moves he uses, as he can be heavily punished just for putting out one attack (a situation that can rapidly snowball due to his poor defensive options). Unlike the all-around heavyweight Bowser, perhaps Donkey Kong's most glaring weakness is his lack of out-of-shield options. Neither his neutral attack nor his tilts are enough to distance himself from an aggressive opponent if the player forces him to remain in shield. His forward tilt has good range, but lacks the power or perks of other super heavyweights, like Bowser's Tough Guy or King K. Rool's Belly Armour. A lot of his moves are also limited in some way despite their strengths: his smash attacks are slow and have very linear hitboxes; a chunk of his throws, despite their variety, don't have much utility; Giant Punch forces Donkey Kong to get up-close to the opponent to land the attack and needs to be charged for it to be effective; Headbutt and Hand Slap are both slow, causing them to be difficult to use for their intended purposes; and Spinning Kong, while it has decently long horizontal recovery distance, offers almost no vertical recovery and is prone to edgeguarding against meteor smashes, like Captain Falcon and Falco's down aerials.
All in all, Donkey Kong's mixture of fast mobility, fairly long range, high weight, decent combo potential, and excellent kill power make him adept and flexible in many different situations, but killing and pressuring opponents stand out as his biggest strengths. Despite this, DK's high weight, large hurtbox, and lack of good escape tools make him vulnerable to many combos. In addition, his recovery is extremely poor, and his moveset is frequently punishable due to the end lag on many of his moves. As such, Donkey Kong has to capitalize on his power and range to limit opponents' approaches in order to win matches.
Changes from Super Smash Bros. 4
Donkey Kong received a mix of buffs and nerfs in his transition from SSB4 to Ultimate. Though he received more buffs than nerfs, the latter are more prominent than the former, as they either weakened or removed some of his best traits from SSB4. Because of this, Donkey Kong has been nerfed overall.
Donkey Kong has received several useful buffs, with those to his special moves being among the most notable. Giant Punch no longer leaves him helpless when used in the air, giving him a new edgeguarding option. Headbutt now grants him super armor before the hit comes, and moves deal their full damage when opponents are buried, which improves the moves' versatility. It also alleviates some of his difficulty with landing safely, as he can now opt to directly contest a powerful move while he's being juggled. Grounded Spinning Kong has less difficulty linking its multi-hits and has faster super armor, while the aerial Spinning Kong is now a proper multi-hitting move with a finishing hit, making it safer. Hand Slap is generally faster and the aerial version has reduced landing lag, which gives Donkey Kong a useful combo starter and allows it to confirm into KOs at high percentages.
His biggest buff, however, comes from a vastly improved forward throw (cargo throw), which now grants him much more options and turns it into his most versatile throw, and arguably the best throw in the game overall. His dash attack also has less ending lag, giving him another combo starter if the late hit is landed and making it much safer if shielded. Donkey Kong's already impressive KO power has been further increased as well, as most of his moves deal more knockback. Finally, Donkey Kong also benefits to some of the universal changes, as his already great mobility has improved from faster walking and dashing speeds, the universal 3-frame jumpsquat change improves his ground-to-air out of shield game and allows him for with combo opportunities, and the increased shieldstun and reduced landing lag on aerial attacks makes his attacks even safer on shield (despite the reduced shieldstun on aerials).
However, the few direct nerfs Donkey Kong received are severe enough to eclipse his buffs. Like Bowser, his biggest nerf is to his previously infamous combo throw, his cargo up throw - it now has more knockback, which severely hampers both its combo ability and its infamous "Ding Dong" KO confirm at high percentages. Although his grab game was overall buffed, Donkey Kong is one of the characters who suffers the most from the universal nerfing of grabs, making them less safe for him to use. His pummel was nerfed as well, making it less reliable for racking up damage. Thus, this makes it less feasible to rely on his grab as his main way to rack up damage, forcing Donkey Kong to use other methods to rack up damage. Other nerfs include his up aerial having shorter range, which hinders its versatility, and Spinning Kong gaining less horizontal distance and no longer granting intangibility on startup, worsening his already poor recovery. Many of his attacks, such as his tilts and his up aerial, no longer have disproportionately long intangibility, now only matching their hitbox duration.
Although he has gained some notable benefits from them, the universal changes to gameplay mechanics hamper Donkey Kong more than they help him. While the universal increase in mobility, faster jumpsquat, and reduced landing lag on aerials improve his own mobility and combo game, it also means opponents are more likely to close the distance on DK, giving them more combo opportunities. The increased shieldstun, reduced landing lag, and the universal nerfing of grabs also make it harder for Donkey Kong to react to a shielded attack; the universal nerfing of grabs is especially harmful, as it one of the key points to his gameplan. Altogether, this hinders Donkey Kong's grounded out-of-shield game, limiting him to directly contesting them by making use of his moves' super armor to muscle through them, which can be risky despite his large weight. Lastly, the changes to air dodging worsen Donkey Kong's recovery, as they give him less protection and make him easier to edgeguard. All of these changes worsen Donkey Kong's defensive game, which is further notable since the game's engine prioritizes more aggressive playstyles than defensive ones. This forces him not only to approach more, but to be more unpredictable at doing so.
In the end, Donkey Kong has potentially received many more options for racking up damage and being less predictable, but the neutering of his KO confirm and grabs means Donkey Kong can no longer close out stocks as reliably as before. While both Donkey Kong's strengths and weaknesses are more defined, the gameplay mechanics accentuate his weaknesses more when compared to his strengths, which has subsequently caused Donkey Kong's nerfs to overshadow his buffs. His overall perception in competitive play has been inconsistent; while he was initially believed to be improved from his already good standing from Smash 4 (doing exceptionally well in early tournaments), as the metagame has evolved, his tournament representation went down significantly to the point that it became rather poor. Many of his players have either dropped him or become inactive, with his most noticeable player, Konga, gathering average to somewhat lackluster placements in tournaments and temporarily quitting competitive play. Other prominent players, like HIKARU and Tweek, have simply dropped the character (though HIKARU would pick him back up as a co-main at the start of 2020). Currently, top players generally see Donkey Kong as a mid- or low-tier character; nevertheless, he has seen respectable success and representation from players such as DKwill, Konga, Runes, ShiNe, Sou and YMCA, which is further supplemented by the buffs he received in 6.0.0. As a result, Donkey Kong's tier placement remains debatable, but it is overall agreed he fares worse in Ultimate than he did in Smash 4.
Throws and other attacks
Donkey Kong has been buffed via game updates. Initially, his most noteworthy buffs were to inconsistencies of two moves: forward aerial now autocancels properly (an issue that had been present since Melee) and Giant Punch's hitbox no longer shifts into the Z-axis, which would result in it missing opponents at point-blank range. Donkey Kong also benefits from the universal nerf on projectiles dealing less shield damage in update 3.0.0.
After only receiving minor buffs for the first few game patches, update 6.0.0 gave Donkey Kong more noticeable buffs. His forward tilt deals significantly more knockback to the point of becoming a viable KO move, his neutral aerial deals more damage and knockback and has more range, and his Giant Punch reaches the maximum charge even faster than before and deals slightly more knockback. Spinning Kong was also improved, as the move's super armor starts three frames faster, it connects more reliably against airborne opponents, and the last hit deals more knockback. Finally, Hand Slap on the ground has less startup and less ending lag.
After receiving some minor buffs, patch 13.0.1 buffed Donkey Kong yet again. The second hit of Donkey Kong’s neutral attack was given more active frames and had it’s ending lag reduced. Giant Punch was given more super armor on both the ground and in the air. Most notably, Donkey Kong’s down tilt was given 5 additional frames of hitstun, this allows him to follow up with another attack in certain situations.
Overall, Donkey Kong has improved by a decent margin compared to how he fared during Ultimate's initial release. However, in comparison to the buffs gained by other lukewarmly received characters, Donkey Kong's buffs are fairly minor, so how much he has benefited from these changes is debatable.
For a gallery of Donkey Kong's hitboxes, see here.
Note: All numbers are listed as base damage, without the 1v1 multiplier.
In competitive play
Donkey Kong was met in the E3 demo build with a degree of cautious optimism. Although players could no longer easily perform most of Donkey Kong's throw-based kill confirms from Smash 4, including his infamous "Ding-Dong" combo, Donkey Kong players were willing to do away with this in favor of better frame data, speed, damage, and hitboxes, most notably on his tilts and dash attack, and hoped that he would play differently from Bowser. Though DK was considered one of the worst heavyweights from the demo, thought to be only marginally better than Ridley, players were excited for Donkey Kong's opportunities in competitive play.
Upon the game's release, however, Donkey Kong fell out of favor very quickly, for a number of reasons. The biggest issue is his low-percent safety: many of Donkey Kong's moves are punishable on hit at early percents, making his neutral rather egregious in a meta favoring speed and punish games. His already poor disadvantage state was also made even worse due to his later hurtbox and his out of shield options remaining poor. Although Donkey Kong has been buffed in patches, none of Donkey Kong's biggest flaws were addressed. As a result, despite efforts from dedicated players such as LeSou and YMCA pre=pandemic, HIKARU briefly post-pandemic, and ChunkyKong online, Donkey Kong was mostly used as an occasional counterpick during the early metagame. As such, he is commonly ranked as a low tier, with some players such as Dabuz and ESAM ranking him as one of the absolute worst characters in the entire game.
Most historically significant players
Classic Mode: Journey to New Donk City
Donkey Kong's path chronicles Donkey Kong traveling from his home to New Donk City via plane. After defeating Diddy Kong, he becomes Donkey Kong's partner for the rest of the mode, referencing the original Donkey Kong Country.
Note: Every stage until Round 6 plays a track from the Donkey Kong universe, no matter what universe the stage originates from.
Character unlock tree
Donkey Kong's Classic Mode character unlock tree includes the following characters in order:
Each character can be unlocked by clearing Donkey Kong's Classic Mode, or the Classic Mode of any preceding character, if all preceding characters have been unlocked. Once all the above characters are unlocked, clearing Classic Mode with any of them will default to Mario's character unlock tree, starting with Sonic.
Role in World of Light
Donkey Kong was among the fighters that were summoned to fight against the army of Master Hands.
During the opening cutscene, Donkey Kong was present on the cliffside when Galeem unleashed his beams of light. Galeem's light beams vaporized Donkey Kong offscreen, placing him under Galeem's imprisonment along with the other fighters, excluding Kirby.
He can be rescued in a jungle segment of The Light Realm, on a space that looks like the treehouse where he lives on his series.
Donkey Kong's fighter spirit can be obtained by completing Classic Mode. It is also available periodically for purchase in the shop for 300 Gold. Unlocking Donkey Kong in World of Light allows the player to preview the first spirit below in the Spirit List under the name "???". As a fighter spirit, it cannot be used in Spirit Battles and is purely aesthetic. His fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces it with his artwork in Ultimate.
Additionally, Donkey Kong makes an appearance in a few primary (albeit in name only)and support spirits.
In Spirit Battles
As the main opponent
As a minion
Fighter Showcase video