We’ve done practically every other Nintendo franchise with at least 10 entries at this point (actually probably not even close, but whatever), it’s time for Donkey Kong! One of Nintendo’s oldest living franchises, Donkey Kong is still cranking out the hits. Sure, the franchise spawned the Super Mario games, which went on to become much more successful than the Donkey Kong games ever did, but don’t write off the big ape! There are many great Donkey Kong games in the Nintendo library to check out, maybe even more than you realize!
Exactly like last time you will see a few numbers in the header for each game in the list. The first is the average score (out of 10) for that game calculated from all member ratings, and the number in parenthesis is the amount of members who have scored this game (IE the amount of ratings that went into the calculation.) I only included games with 10 or more user ratings.
The original Donkey Kong barely slipped onto our list, but it made it, and that just feels right. Where would we be without Donkey Kong? I was but a wee toddler when this one came out, but I remember playing it pretty soon after I got into video games, and enjoying it. Of course, I never made it past the first stage until I was much, much older.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! (DSiWare) - 8.26 (15)
Minis March Again! was the third of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong games, and the second after a switch to a more “Lemmings”-like style of manipulating several walking toys to help them reach their goal. Whether the gameplay switch is a good or bad thing is up for debate, but this is probably the best of the new style Mario vs. Donkey Kong games.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA) - 8.52 (17)
Of course, the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong game makes our list as well! Loosely based off of the much loved Game Boy game Donkey Kong (’94), Mario vs. Donkey Kong expands upon that game in some ways while sticking to the roots of the original Donkey Kong. Did you know that the original Donkey Kong was still getting spiritual successors?!
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES) - 8.58 (28)
The third game in the Rareware Super Nintendo Donkey Kong Country trilogy is (spoiler!) not quite as beloved as the original two, but it still holds a place in our hearts. Sure, Kiddy Kong wasn’t exactly the most inspired character, and neither Donkey or Diddy were playable, but it was still a pretty good last romp for the Rareware games.
Donkey Kong Country (SNES) - 8.89 (60)
The original Donkey Kong Country introduced us to a world that was stunning both visually and auditorily (it’s a word, LOOK IT UP) thanks to the graphical prowess of Rareware and the musical stylings of master composer David Wise. The gameplay was pretty sweet too, a Mario style platformer that gave Donkey Kong his own sense of weight and movement.
Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GC) - 8.9 (30)
It’s very possible that you have never played Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, one of the oddest of the DK platformers. You see, it was controlled entirely using the bongo controller that was originally created for the Donkey Konga rhythm game series. That could have been a trainwreck, but Nintendo’s new Tokyo studio (who would go on to create the amazing Super Mario Galaxy soon after) packed so much creativity into this game that it just worked.
Donkey Kong ('94) (GB) - 9.1 (37)
I was completely obviously to handhelds during the original run of the Game Boy, and never played much on them outside of Tetris. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered this gem on the virtual console, and let me tell you… it aged very well. Donkey Kong ’94 could be viewed as a spiritual successor to the original Donkey Kong game, but knocked up about 10 notches, packing in over 100 creative puzzle-based platformer levels into a tight package.
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii) - 9.23 (64)
The year was 2002, and Nintendo’s new Texas based studio had just wowed everyone with their brilliant Metroid Prime game, which was followed up with two more excellent games in the series over the subsequent years. But what next? The reaction to a Retro Studios developed Donkey Kong Country game was mixed, but the result was undeniably good. Retro tapped into what made the original Rareware series great and expanded upon it in many key ways, creating one of the best DK games to date. A shame about the waggle though.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES) - 9.29 (57)
The apex of the Rareware SNES trilogy took everything good about the original game and added in more and better, including what may be one of the best soundtracks in video gaming, period. Some were saddened by the lack of Donkey Kong as a playable character (replaced by newcomer Dixie Kong and her wild hair), but the amount of fun and polish was undeniable. Donkey Kong Country 2 is generally considered one of the best Super Nintendo games, and I can’t argue with that.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U) - 9.38 (22)
I have a feeling that those without a Wii U are reading this thinking “What? No way is Tropical Freeze better than Donkey Kong Country 2!” Well, we're here to tell you that it is. In fact, I’d make the argument that Tropical Freeze is one of the best 2D platformers ever made. Retro Studios upped the ante in every level (and threw out the needless waggle), creating a game that is packed with so much fun and entertainment. And they even brought back David Wise to create another classic soundtrack! Tropical Freeze is the real deal!
That's a solid top ten. I got Jungle Beat from the bargain bin years later but didn't give it much of a chance before...selling it? I don't own it anymore, that's all I know. Kinda wish I'd given that another shot.
Retro did something pretty special with DKC Returns and Tropical Freeze, for sure. Actually, the team's success at making a great 2D platformer makes me want to see what they'd do with a 2D Metroid...
This is a good list. I'd rank Donkey Kong Jungle Beat a bit higher, but the top 5 looks good as it is. Donkey Kong '94 is surprisingly robust. I haven't beaten it, but it's a very fun game. I love how it opens up with the classic Donkey Kong levels and then pulls back the curtains revealing a much bigger game. It's a clever opening, and the levels are clever, too.
Donkey Kong Country Returns is fantastic, but Retro went above and beyond with Tropical Freeze. I think the leap Rareware made from Donkey Kong Country to Donkey Kong Country 2 is similar.
The top 6 are my top 6, slightly out of order. Would probably bump Returns in front of DKC 2. Jungle Beat versus DKC is a tough fight, depends on what mood I'm in.
The rest are pretty close too, though I'd take out Mario vs Donkey Kong and add in Minis on the Move. Probably replace DKC 3 with DK Jr. as well, love playing that in the arcades while I don't have much of a connection to DKC 3.
DKC is such an important game to the Donkey Kong franchise that I would put it in the first half of my top 10. It's a great game, but I think it has been bested by Rareware themselves and Retro. I'd put Jungle Beat above it because it can hang with the best Donkey Kong Country games with its own style of gameplay.
I recently played DK: King of Swing and thought it was enjoyable. It's got a little Donkey Kong Country in it, but it comes up with its own fun take on the franchise. I'd put that game somewhere on the bottom half of my top 10 list.
Nintendo's embarrassing lack of a modern port of the original DK arcade game skews this Top 10. The NES version of Donkey Kong is not the same as the original arcade game. I suspect the original game would be a bit higher, if it was possible for anyone to actually put it in their collection and rate it.
Nice top ten! The top 4 in particular are all magnificent, while 5 and 6 are great too. IMO it sort of falls off a bit after that, but all in all, that tie has been a part of some memorable adventures. My rankings:
10. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble 9. Donkey Konga 8. Diddy Kong Racing (EDIT: Looks like the top ten deliberately left this one out! Eh, I guess you could argue it's not a DK game) 7. Donkey Kong 6. Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat 5. Donkey Kong Country 4. Donkey Kong Country Returns 3. Donkey Kong ('94) 2. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest 1. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Retro deserves special credit for keeping DK relevant and impressive in the modern day. Tropical Freeze is my number 1 Wii U title.
I wonder if we'll even get another 2D DK any time in the future. I mean I'd be totally surprised if we had a third, and even a bit disappointed if Retro was "stuck" on that, but I also wouldn't wanna wait an entire generation or so for the next game.
Many years is too long, and any time soon is too soon :p
Trying for another hit like the Metroid list I see. ;)
Donkey Kong Jr above Donkey Kong 64 is a travesty. Heck, DK Jr above anything is a travesty. I'm glad I live in a much better age of gaming.
I don't think I could decide which is better between DKC2 and Tropical Freeze. Both are great games, but I feel they have different approaches to their level design that makes it tough to compare which is better. They also both have good music, but seem a bit different in style there as well. I don't see a point in deciding though, as it isn't like I can't have 'em both.
I own Jungle Beat but I don't have the bongos. I played some of the game and it seemed interesting, but, I felt like it was missing a little something using a regular controller. I stopped playing in the hopes I'd get a bongo controller sometime, but I still have not.
DK Jr. is very good. It's similar in design to DK (arcade) but the levels feel more dynamic and intricate. I genuinely like it quite a bit!
Now DK Jr. Math, that's just nonsense.
I still think DK64 is pretty good, even though I made a Top Ten list of its problems. It's one of those rare (Nopon intended) games where it'd be noticeably improved simply by cutting more stuff. Because there're a fair amount of Golden Bananas that are good fun to get!
DK64 was one of the most disappointing games of all time for me, and there was no way I could admit it as a kid. I just couldn't do with the awful atmosphere and music, especially compared to not only their previous games like Banjo, but the earlier DK games. Drastic step down.
Not to mention I always found the art and graphics pretty gross. Gameplay wise it was good I guess, but it felt wayyyy too fetch questy. I actually never played Banjo Tooie for basically all the same reasons. I forget if I even finished the game or not, I found it pretty forgettable.
Maybe if I gave it a chance today and ignored those expectations I'd enjoy it more.
DKC2 is amazing but I feel like it's a little too annoyingly hard. I kinda got stuck when I got it on Wii VC long ago, somewhere in one of the swamp levels. It's got a wonderful atmosphere and for better or worse, is quite drab. I think DKC had a better palette overall. DKC2 kinda feels like a brown shooter in comparison lol.
And I have barely played DKC3. Rented it one time when it came out and I didn't play much of it. Something felt very off when I played it. It seemed very generic compared to the two games before it.
@Super_Conzo Whoa, wow! You haven't played DKC2??? Oh man, get on that ASAP! That's an uber classic with an amazing soundtrack!
The version of Donkey Kong included in Donkey Kong 64 is actually the first time I ever played the game. I had some fun with it, and it's certainly one of the better arcade games around, but I'm just not a fan of "high score" type games.
@carlosrox Banjo-Tooie toned down the collecting quite a bit, it's my fave platformer from Rare and that's part of why. I'd suggest giving it a try sometime, if you have the opportunity.