Donkey Kong (universe)
The Donkey Kong universe (ドンキーコング, Donkey Kong) refers to the Super Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that originate from the subset of Nintendo's Mario franchise that is focused on the character Donkey Kong. In this case, it is a series that was initially established by developer Rareware, then a second-party developer for Nintendo, to feature Donkey Kong alongside an extended simian cast, crocodilian enemies, and a setting separate from the primary Super Mario games. The Super Smash Bros. series therefore saw fit to categorize Donkey Kong and these related properties with its own series symbol, rather than the iconic image of a Super Mushroom assigned to the "main" Mario series - much like the other Mario sub-characters, Wario and Yoshi. The first two Smash Bros. games featured Donkey Kong as the series' only playable fighter, but then would include Diddy Kong in Super Smash Bros. Brawl and subsequent Smash games, while King K. Rool would debut in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The character Donkey Kong was introduced to the fledgling video game industry at the same time as Mario, in the hugely successful 1981 coin-op arcade game named after him that defined Nintendo's future business as a video game company. The game was named after the de facto villain, a gorilla (which was named after the classic 1933 movie monster King Kong), instead of the player-character Mario (or "Jumpman", as he was named at the time), because designer Shigeru Miyamoto felt Donkey Kong had to be the strongest character in the love triangle displayed on-screen. The game used then-innovative techniques to tell the on-screen story of how the stubborn pet gorilla of "Jumpman" the carpenter steals away his girlfriend, Pauline, and it is up to the hero to save the damsel in distress. The success of the game prompted Nintendo to release two arcade follow-ups. The first, Donkey Kong Jr. in 1982, involves the gorilla's son Donkey Kong Jr. embarking on a similar quest to free his father from the cage that Mario (in his only truly "villainous" appearance) keeps him trapped inside. Donkey Kong 3, in 1983, sees Donkey Kong invade a greenhouse to eat vegetables and stir up flower-devouring insects in the process; a one-time protagonist, Stanley the Bugman, must shoot bug spray both at the bugs and Donkey Kong to protect the flowers and vegetables.
While Donkey Kong rivals Mario relatively closely as one of Nintendo's most popular characters today, what was essentially an eleven-year hiatus awaited the character following the release of Donkey Kong 3, as he never made a new "official" appearance in a release during that time period that was not some kind of port or compilation of the original games. Evidently, this was due to Nintendo's newfound focus on nurturing Mario's new NES-based franchise that exploded onto the public spotlight as a result of the world-famous, industry-defining Super Mario Bros. for the NES in 1985. Given that the seminal side-scrolling platformer had singlehandedly defined Nintendo's future styles and practices as a video game company more strongly and specifically than Donkey Kong had four years earlier, Donkey Kong was, for a time, treated as a relic of Nintendo's past; in fact, Super Mario Kart, a 1992 release for the SNES, features Donkey Kong Jr. as one of the eight playable racers rather than his father. The hiatus was only partially alleviated in June 1994 when a Game Boy game titled Donkey Kong was released; while technically a remake of the original coin-op, it retooled the gameplay and provided an enormous increase in stage count (from 4 to 100), making it a standalone title that is considered to be one of the best Game Boy games of all time.
The hiatus for Donkey Kong was definitively ended later that year, however, thanks to the efforts of the British game developer Rareware. Rare sought out a partnership with Nintendo as a second-party developer and appealed to them with their work at Silicon Graphics using pre-rendered three-dimensional sprites. Nintendo acquired 25% of Rare's stake (which gradually grew to 49%) and commissioned Rare to develop a new game centered on Donkey Kong using this technology. Rare adopted the trade name "Rareware" and released Donkey Kong Country for the SNES in November 1994. This game was a bold reinvention of the Donkey Kong universe; a 2D sidescrolling platformer that received widespread critical acclaim and became the third best-selling SNES game in the system's lifespan. It was also groundbreaking for being one of the first games on a home console to utilize pre-rendered 3D graphics, in addition to a widely praised score by British composer David Wise. Rare debuted the familiar modern-day incarnation of Donkey Kong with this game, which included his trademark red necktie (which was actually introduced in the aforementioned Game Boy Donkey Kong), and introduced a full supporting cast of expressive side-characters, animal buddies, and enemies all created by Rare during their affiliation with Nintendo. The most well-known of these new side characters is Diddy Kong, Donkey Kong's "little buddy" and partner. Originally intended to be a redesign of Donkey Kong Jr., the character came into his own after Nintendo expressed concern with how drastically different his design had become. Together, the Kongs must traverse their new homeland, Donkey Kong Island, and retrieve their stolen banana board from the clutches of the Kremling leader, King K. Rool.
Some retrospectives express doubt on whether the success of Donkey Kong Country necessarily reflected the actual quality of the gameplay itself, but regardless Rare developed and released two sequels on the SNES: Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, starring Diddy Kong and his newly introduced girlfriend Dixie Kong, and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!, starring Dixie Kong and a gorilla toddler named Kiddy Kong, both of which were reviewed as improvements. All three Country games were each accompanied by their respective Game Boy counterparts, the Donkey Kong Land games. This was a subseries of interquels translating the pre-rendered visuals of the SNES titles onto the original Game Boy. Rare then created the highly acclaimed and successful Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo 64 in 1997; the game was retooled from an N64 reboot of the R.C. Pro-Am series and featured a host of original characters starring alongside Diddy Kong, some of which would later headline their own video game series. Following this, Rare released the first fully-3D Donkey Kong title, Donkey Kong 64 in 1999, a game cut from a similar cloth to their previous work on Banjo-Kazooie. Meanwhile, Donkey Kong's thoroughly established resurgence in the Nintendo lineup guaranteed he would forever appear in either starring or side-roles not only in future Mario spinoffs, but in the Nintendo crossover series Super Smash Bros.. However, in September of 2002, Microsoft bought out 100% of Rare's shares and left the Donkey Kong Country brand and characters under Nintendo's full ownership.
Donkey Kong remained a regular in Mario games as always, and his contributions have included the full Mario vs. Donkey Kong series of puzzle games that pay homage to the original Donkey Kong coin-op's scenario. The characters and setting originally introduced by Rare and associated with the Donkey Kong Country brand have also made fairly regular appearances in games published by Nintendo, but are largely developed by a variety of second-party developers: Paon developed the Game Boy Advance puzzle game DK: King of Swing and its Nintendo DS sequel DK: Jungle Climber, as well as the Wii racer Donkey Kong Barrel Blast; Namco, meanwhile, developed all three titles in the Donkey Konga series of GameCube rhythm games that use a unique bongo drum-themed peripheral for input (a peripheral also used as a controller for the Nintendo-developed GameCube platformer Donkey Kong Jungle Beat).
Throughout the 2000's, the mainline Donkey Kong series has been on hiatus not unlike the buildup to Rare's SNES trilogy. This second hiatus for the Donkey Kong franchise came to an end when Texas developer Retro Studios was approached by Nintendo and Miyamoto to produce a new Donkey Kong Country game. Having concluded their saga with the original Metroid Prime trilogy, along with several core staff leaving the studio to pursue other interests, Retro jumped at the chance to revitalize another dormant Nintendo franchise. The result of these efforts was Donkey Kong Country Returns, a return to the sidescrolling gameplay style of the Donkey Kong Country games released for the Wii in 2010. Critical reception to this game was incredibly positive, with points of praise going to the level design and challenge while criticism was aimed at the sometimes disruptive motion controls. A port of Returns by Monster Games was released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 featuring an easier difficulty option and additional exclusive levels. Following the Wii version's success, Retro Studios felt there were many opportunities to seize on with a sequel on more powerful hardware. As such a direct sequel, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, was released for the Wii U in February 2014. Reception was far stronger to Tropical Freeze than it was to Returns, with points of praise going to the more ingenious level design, impressive visuals, and musical score by original series composer David Wise. The game was re-released for the Nintendo Switch in May 2018 with a new easier difficulty and featuring Funky Kong as a playable character. Since the Switch port's release, Retro Studios has had no plans for a third Donkey Kong Country game as the team has since shifted focus to developing Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch.
The modern-day Donkey Kong seen in all Mario and Donkey Kong games since Donkey Kong Country is said to be the grandson of the original "Donkey Kong" that was featured in the classic coin-op arcade games, who is currently depicted as an elderly curmudgeon named Cranky Kong. Donkey Kong's extended family and friends, all of them simians, are collectively referred to as the Kong Family, living on an island shaped like Donkey Kong's head named Donkey Kong Island. In many games focused around the Kong Family, they square off against a group of humanoid crocodilians known as the Kremling Krew. Under the leadership of their demented monarch, King K. Rool, the crew constantly plots to steal the Kong Family's enormous hoard of bananas for unspecified reasons, and to this end they have allies of different species, such as vultures and giant, spiked wasps. Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, and many other Kong Family members embark on quests to defeat the Kremling Krew and protect their bananas, and the Kongs sometimes call on animal allies of their own.
At the time, the Donkey Kong Country series was very popular. As such, the Super Smash Bros. series treats Donkey Kong and his series of games as its own universe, separate from the Mario universe. This includes the three Donkey Kong arcade games, where Mario played a large role. The Donkey Kong universe is represented with one playable character, one stage, and one item.
While Melee features an abundance of new content in general, the Donkey Kong franchise is still only represented by one returning character. However, what stands out about the franchise's representation is that it has a total of three stages, two brand new, and one ported from the previous game. The franchise also has two items, gaining a new one from Smash 64.
Bold italics denote an item new to the Smash Bros. series.
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Donkey Kong series)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl debuts the second playable character from the Donkey Kong series; these two characters occupy a column on the game's roster shared with the stars of the other two Mario subseries, Yoshi and Wario, which neighbors the column devoted to the core Mario series itself. Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong were originally planned to be a tag-team fighter that the player can swap between the two during battle like in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. However, this idea was scrapped due to technical issues and Diddy Kong was left as a solo fighter.
Bold italics denote an item new to the Smash Bros. series.
Main article: List of SSBB Music (Donkey Kong series)
Main article: List of SSBB trophies (Donkey Kong series)
Main article: List of stickers (Donkey Kong series)
Main article: Masterpieces
The Donkey Kong franchise continues to be well represented within Super Smash Bros. 4. While there are no new characters, other content within the games has been updated to reflect such recent titles like Donkey Kong Country Returns and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Both Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong return.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Smash Tour items
Main article: Alternate costume (SSB4)/Mii Fighter
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Donkey Kong series)
Nine of the nineteen tracks included are derivative of "DK Island Swing" from the original Donkey Kong Country, including three of the new music tracks.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Donkey Kong series)
Main article: Masterpieces
The Donkey Kong series has received a considerable boost in representation, with the Donkey Kong Country games receiving greater representation. In addition to the returning two veterans, King K. Rool makes his debut as a newcomer along with the first Assist Trophy in the series.
Main article: Alternate costume (SSBU)/Mii Fighter
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Donkey Kong series)
Main article: List of spirits (Donkey Kong series)
Games with elements from or in the Super Smash Bros. series
Main article: Donkey Kong (game)