It was the little game that could; one designed out of necessity to save the company by reconfiguring the machines for its flop space shooter, Radar Scope. Nintendo was hoping it would just keep the company from falling apart, but it turned out to become something much bigger. Donkey Kong became a cultural phenomenon across the world, charming people with its unique physics-based gameplay. Its fairy tale-style set-up with a contemporary construction theme was a breath of fresh air amongst the endless Space Invader clones and Pac-Man wannabes.
And really, who doesn’t love a good game of Donkey Kong? It wasn’t just a landmark game for Nintendo, but one for the video game industry at large. While Super Mario Bros. is often credited for the creation of the platformer genre, you can see its roots stem directly from Donkey Kong. It’s a universal title, and as a result, even today you can see its influence in modern games. So if you’re looking for some games like Donkey Kong, look no further!
Similar Games to Donkey Kong
1. Space Hunted
- System: Wii U
- Publisher: Ultra Dolphin Revolution
- Developer: Ultra Dolphin Revolution
- Release Date: July 6th, 2017
Despite being released in 2017, Space Hunted feels like it wouldn’t be out of place being released close to the launch of the NES. Like many old games, it doesn’t spend any time setting up any context or story. You’ll simply take control of a purple haired girl, apparently lost in space. In order to progress, you’ll first need to collect what is clearly a type of game controller, then after doing so, make your way to the portal! Just be careful once the portal opens up, as the level might change!
While Donkey Kong might be more focused on fast-paced, twitch-based gameplay, Space Hunted is more puzzle-focused in design. You’ll have enemies firing at you from all directions, but as opposed to Donkey Kong, where avoiding obstacles is more moment-to-moment, you’ll need to plan out your movements ahead of time to lead shots away from you. Much like Donkey Kong as well, each level takes place on a single screen that you’ll need to figure out how to maneuver through to progress.
- System: Arcade, Intellivision, Apple II, Colecovision, NES, Playstation, Wii
- Publisher: Data East, Bally Midway
- Developer: Data East
- Release Date: August 31, 1982
You’ve got one goal in BurgerTime: make burgers. How? By walking on top of oversized patties and buns in order to drop them down onto a grill, of course! Be careful though, as sentient sausages and eggs are persistent in chasing you down and putting an end to your gourmet dreams. If you find yourself cornered, just toss some pepper in their face to stun them and walk right on past. Crushing them with your patties and buns will net you some extra points too!
It’s hard not to see the Donkey Kong influence in BurgerTime. It’s effectively an entire game built around the last level of Donkey Kong where you have to run over the bolts holding the tower to knock down the giant ape while his minions chase you down. BurgerTime expands on this by giving you some combat options so it doesn’t feel quite so unfair when you get cornered. It’s a tough game though; one of the toughest in its field. If you wanted a bit more challenge in your arcade runs, check out BurgerTime.
- System: Arcade, GameBoy, Xbox, Playstation 2, GameCube, DS, Wii
- Publisher: Namco
- Developer: Namco
- Release Date: March 25th, 1983
You may not recognize this cute little mouse cop, but there was a brief period of time when he was considered something of a secondary mascot for industry titan Namco in Japan. You’ll play as the titular character, chasing down stolen loot strewn about the level. Be careful, as “cat” burglars will be chasing you down to keep you from snagging up their scores! If you play your cards right however, you can lure them onto unstable trampolines and bounce right off them before they break, sending your enemies right into a pit!
Mappy came out at an odd time in gaming history, right in between the infamous video game crash of 1983 and Nintendo revitalizing the home console business in 1985. Arcades were still a big deal, but they generally leaned more towards the bar scene, and Mappy’s cutesy mascot aesthetic didn’t really appeal to the more adult crowd like the more age-neutral Donkey Kong and Galaga did. However, Mappy feels like a hybrid of Donkey Kong’s platforming mechanics and Pac-Man’s hunted-turned-hunter power-up mechanic. It’s a unique blend of two very popular types of games of the era, so don’t discount it!
Any Games Like Donkey Kong ?
4. Kid Icarus
- System: NES, Wii, 3DS, Wii U
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo R&D 1, TOSE
- Release Date: July 1st, 1987 (US)
The goddess Palutena has been captured by the wicked Medusa, and it’s up to Pit to rescue her! To do so, he’ll collect the three sacred treasures, arm himself, and then fly out to take her down once and for all! However, he’ll need to climb his way back up from the underworld and make it back to Skyworld! He’ll have to take on some dangerous, mythical beasts that guard the treasures first, and free the trapped centurions, if he wants any shot at actually taking on Medusa.
While Donkey Kong is mostly known for its diverse level structure (for the time), a lot of people tend to forget about how it was also one of the very first story driven games out on the market. Each level was tied together by a sense of visual progression, as if you were climbing up different sections of this tower before quite literally yanking the ground out from underneath Donkey Kong. Kid Icarus slyly uses several of the same narrative tricks, starting as a vertical platformer as you rise from the underworld then shifting to a more traditional side-scrolling method once you reach the land. It’s very much a complete story told through the level design.
Nintendo eShop 3D Classics – Kid Icarus Trailer:
5. Ice Climber
- System: Arcade, NES, NEC PC 8801, Gameboy Advance, Wii, 3DS, Wii U
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo R&D1
- Release Date: October 18th, 1985 (US)
You probably recognize the title characters, Nana and Popo, more from Smash Bros. than the game they’re actually from. If you’ve never checked it out over the course of its many re-releases, it’s effectively Donkey Kong if it were spread out over the course of multiple screens rather than simply limiting the player to a single screen. You’ll climb up the mountain and then hitch a ride with an unhelpful bird to escape the peak.
But the real appeal of Ice Climber comes from the co-op play. The levels aren’t quite as intricately designed as Donkey Kong, but that’s in order to accommodate space for a second player! You and your friend will need to coordinate to not shift screens too fast, lest you leave your pal behind and inadvertently lose a life for them. You jerk.
Nintendo eShop – Ice Climber Wii U Virtual Console Trailer:
6. Bubble Bobble
- System: Arcade, NES, Commodore 64, Apple II, Amiga, Master System, MSX2, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Playstation, Game Gear, Mobile
- Publisher: Taito
- Developer: Taito
- Release Date: November 1st, 1986
The concept is simple: you’ll play as Bub, one of the happy little dragons you see on the cover. Rather than breathing fire, though, you’ll breathe bubbles! Trap enemies in a bubble, and then run into them to knock them out. Doing so will allow you to move onto the next level. Do this for 100 levels to save your girlfriend from the nefarious Baron Von Blubba! You don’t have to do it alone, though. If you’ve got someone to play with, they can pick up a controller and play as Bob, the other happy little dragon you see on the cover!
Believe it or not, Bubble Bobble was another breakthrough game for storytelling in gaming, much like Donkey Kong. However, while Donkey Kong simply presented a plot, Bubble Bobble actually gave the player the option of multiple endings. It’s an industry standard now, but at the time, it was a shocking development and added to the replayability of the game beyond just achieving a high score. You just need to play the game with a friend, and you’ll be able to get a more satisfying ending than if you played by yourself, or beat it on the secret hard mode to learn about the true origins of Baron Von Blubba!
Donkey Kong remains an all-time classic for a reason: it still holds up! We did our best to highlight some standout titles, but there are still plenty more out there that have shown great influence from the ol’ giant ape. Please let us know what your favorites are in the comments below!