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 is one of the fastest heavyweights in the game: his ground speed, aerial movement and attack speed are all quite fast, as he has the 9th fastest walking speed, the 28th fastest dashing speed, the 15th highest traction, above average falling speed, and is tied with Mario, Sonic, Little Mac, and Inkling for the 12th fastest air speed, but in contrast has below average gravity and moderately slow air acceleration.
A typical heavyweight is expected to possess moves with much power and Donkey Kong is no exception to this and 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 at worst: his sweetspotted up tilt, smash attacks, aerials, back throw, Giant Punch, and grounded Spinning Kong are his primary examples. His ability to take stocks due to powerful attacks is made easier with his decent approach. His aforementioned mobility and large size gives him an effective grounded approach and allow longer range for a character of his size, combined allows him to have an easier time to fight in close range and land his attacks on opponents. He also has very solid survivability thanks to his aforementioned extremely high weight and above average falling speed, which is also common for his archetype. All in all, 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, act as an anti-air, and hits through low platforms such as the ones on Battlefield. Down tilt allows him to have 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 aren't all that slow, making them his go-to options for hard reads and scoring KOs. His grounded options having their own utility can also be said for his aerial game. 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 well as a vertical KO option (if the specific 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 the move itself doesn't have that much ending lag. His back aerial is up there with his forward tilt for his most effective spacing tool and is debatably even better, 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.
Another part of his playstyle, which is very well-known, is his grab game, allowing set-ups into his moveset and having above-average range. Although his down throw has little to no usage, everything else suffices: His pummel is slower compared to many others in the cast, but deals decent damage, up throw allows some combo potential into his moves, back throw is his primary throw to close out stocks, but his forward throw is easily his most useful one and possibly the most unique part of the 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 (with the exception of being able to use his other moves and having a double jump). Forward throw also gives Donkey Kong different types of throws for the certain direction basically giving him eight throws, these ones are commonly known as the "cargo throws". Cargo forward and down throw work as niche edgeguarding options, with cargo down throw even being a semi-spike. Cargo back throw has a large damage output and is a very solid kill throw. It also has its utility as a stage spike unless his opponent is able to properly tech the throw. Finally, cargo up throw allows more combo potential than his vanilla up throw being able to combo into his aerials at low percents. Cargo up throw also posses fairly good kill power as well, 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, be used to pressure the opponent, and if fully charged has super armor upon using it. 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 also does deceptively high shield damage, allowing him to have a shield pressure option or 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 on the ground and its hitbox only deals damage on the ground. The aerial Hand Slap is his last move which can meteor smash and is fast, making it an effective and easy one to land. His final special move, Spinning Kong, acts similar to Bowser's Whirling Fortress as his primary out of shield option, it's hard to disrupt and is a multi-hit 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 commonality for a character of his size. While his massive size and weight give him very high endurance and the reason his range is better when compared to other 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, exasperating the issue. Funnily enough, just like those two previously mentioned fighters, he commonly has trouble dealing with characters that have disjoints mainly due to his lack of projectiles, mainly 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 large size also causes him to be extremely vulnerable to combos and juggling, worsened by his lack of combo breakers (outside of neutral aerial) and the reintroduction of directional air dodges makes his aerial defence even more linear, having it made worse with its higher ending lag for all characters, but 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 DI's fast enough, squat jumps on him or simply have better air reach, the attempt for an easy KO may backfire. The trajectory of both forward and backward 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 forward cargo throw. Cargo back throw has ironically 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.
In spite of having a fast startup in many moves, Donkey Kong's moveset is made much slower by its ending lag, and most of his moves not safe to hit with at low percents. This forces him to be more careful with the moves he uses as he can be heavily punished for just putting out one attack, and this is made even harder to stop due to his aforementioned limited defense. Unlike the all-around heavyweight Bowser, perhaps Donkey Kong's most repetitive and apparent weakness is his lack of out-of-shield options. Neither his neutral punches nor tilts are enough to distance himself from an offensive opponent if the player forces him to remain shielded. His forward tilt has good range, however, it 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 rather limited 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 very hard moves to use for their initial purpose, and Spinning Kong, while having decently long horizontal recovery distance, gets almost no recovery distance vertically, and is prone to edgeguarding against moves like Captain Falcon and Falco's down aerials.
All in all, Donkey Kong's mixture of fast mobility, decently long range, high weight, decent combo potential, and excellent kill power make him somewhat 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 a good escape tool make him vulnerable to many combos; his recovery is extremely poor, and his moveset is moderately punishable due to its overall ending lag. As such, Donkey Kong has to capitalize upon his powerful and ranged moveset to limit opponents' approaches and 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 despite receiving more buffs than nerfs, the latter are more prominent than the former, as they either weakened or removed the traits that he had in the previous game. Because of this, Donkey Kong has been nerfed overall.
Donkey Kong received has several useful buffs, among the most notable ones being to his special moves. 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 and 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 at 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 more safe. Hand Slap is generally faster and the aerial version has reduced landing lag, which gives Donkey Kong a very 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, as well as one of the very best throws 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 (the latter despite the reduced shieldstun on aerials).
However, the fewn 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 (now mostly limiting it to up aerial) 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 also 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, overall worsening his already poor recovery. Many of his attacks no longer have disproportionately long intangibility, now only matching the hitbox duration of attacks such as his tilts and his up aerial.
Although he has gained some notable benefits from them, the universal changes to gameplay mechanics hamper Donkey Kong more than they help him overall. 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 in the distance on Donkey Kong, allowing them with more combo opportunities on him. 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 his 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. Overall, 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, and thus 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 be less predictable, but the worsening of his KO confirm and grabs means Donkey Kong can no longer close out stocks as early as before. While both his strengths and weaknesses are more defined than before, the gameplay mechanics accentuate more his weaknesses compared to his strengths, which has subsequently caused his nerfs to overshadow his buffs. As a result, Donkey Kong fares worse in Ultimate than in Smash 4, and is one of the characters to be nerfed the most in the transition. 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 in which it is 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, while others like HIKARU and Tweek have also dropped him (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, Doctor A Ness, Runes, ShiNe, Sou and YMCA, which is further supplemented by the buffs he received in 6.0.0. Until further notice, Donkey Kong's tier placement remains debatable.
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.
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 the "Ding Dong" combo (now requiring much more precise timing), along with similar throw-based kill confirms from Smash 4, 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 this new Donkey Kong's opportunities in competitive play.
Upon the game's release, however, DK 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. Although Donkey Kong has been buffed in patches, none of Donkey Kong's biggest flaws were addressed. As a result, in the current metagame, he sees use as an occasional counterpick, but not much beyond that; however, some players have been able to come to terms with his flaws and get impressive results nonetheless, namely YMCA, ShiNe, Sou, DKwill, and Doctor A Ness.
Any number following the Smasher name indicates placement on the Fall 2019 PGRU, which recognizes the official top 50 players in the world in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from July 13th, 2019 to December 15th, 2019.
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.
Credits roll after completing Classic Mode. Completing it as Donkey Kong has Donkey Kong Country Returns (Vocals) accompany the credits.
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 500 coins. 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. Each fighter spirit has an alternate version that replaces them with their 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
Character Showcase video