Birthday Boy: Donkey Kong Turns 32!

Donkey Kong Birthday Boy July 9

Thirty-two years ago, Donkey Kong was born. The arcade-game-turned-revolution was released for the first time on July 9, 1981 as Nintendo’s attempt to break into the North American market. Well, it’s safe to say that they were successful: Donkey Kong’s popularity was relatively immediate, and it continued to rise over the years. Here we are 32 years later, and the famous ape — and much of his offspring — remains a staple around the word. Honestly, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone out there who doesn’t recognize Donkey Kong and company.

So, who do we have to thank for America’s addiction to a giant ape and a small Italian plumber? A man named Shigeru Miyamoto, who was an industrial designer for Nintendo back in 70s and who was given the responsibility of creating an arcade game that would make it big in the United States. We’re pretty sure that this Miyamoto guy deserves a very large pat on the back — and we’re also pretty sure he’s received much more than that — because, as the brains behind Donkey Kong, he’s also the brains behind 30 years worth of video games: Without the original Donkey Kong, we wouldn’t have Mario. If we didn’t have Mario, we wouldn’t have Luigi. If we didn’t have Luigi, we wouldn’t have the Mario Bros. franchise. And without the Mario Bros., there’s no way we’d have Super Mario Bros. Oh, and Miyamoto is also the brains behind The Legend of Zelda and Star Fox, so we also wouldn’t have Super Smash Bros., either. Long story short — well, that last paragraph was kind of a long story in and of itself — Miyamoto is a pretty outstanding guy.

Every generation has their own version of Donkey Kong. If you grew up in the 80s, for example, you’re probably familiar with the arcade-style game in which it’s your job as Mario — who was originally named Jumpman — to save a damsel in distress from the clutches of Donkey Kong. If you grew up in the 90s, however, you’re more likely to feel at home with the spawn of Donkey Kong in Nintendo 64’s Diddy Kong Racing. And if you’re the product of the 21st century, you’re probably a fan of Donkey Kong Barrel Blast for Nintendo Wii.

But that’s what’s great about Donkey Kong. You’re not too old or too young to play. You grew up playing the original arcade-version Donkey Kong, jumping over barrels and avoiding fireballs, and now your kids are playing the Wii version, still jumping over barrels and avoiding fireballs. So, honestly, 32 is nothing; this ape — or at least this ape’s legacy — is going to live for a long, long time.

Oh, and to show just how much times have changed, we’re including a video of the arcade Donkey Kong. Show this to your kids — it’ll be quite a shock for them when they discover that what they’re playing on their Nintendo 3DS was born out of something so graphically basic as this: