Lost In Translation/Donkey Kong

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This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
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Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong marquee.
Donkey Kong title screen.
Donkey Kong control panel.
Manufacturer Nintendo of America
Released 1981
4-way Joystick
1 Button(s)
Main CPU Z80 (@ 3.072 MHz)
I8035 (@ 400.000 kHz)
Sound CPU Mono
Raster (Vertical)
256 x 224 pixels
60.61 Hz
521 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 15 ROMs
33,536 bytes (32.75 KiB)
MAME ID dkong · dkongjo · dkongjo1 · dkongjp · dkongo

About The Game

Donkey Kong is a platform arcade video game in which the player takes on the role of Mario - who makes his debut in this game, and would go on to become a gaming legend - and must battle his way to the top of each level to rescue his beloved Pauline; who has been kidnapped by the evil giant ape, Donkey Kong.

Mario is controlled with a the joystick and the JUMP button and must jump over and avoid rolling barrels thrown by Donkey Kong; jumping over fireballs and cement tubs and avoiding bouncing rivets as he traverses the levels; moving along ramps and conveyor belts and utilizing ladders and elevators. For additional points, Mario can collect umbrellas, hats, purses and other bonus items that Pauline has dropped on her way to the top of the building. Mario can also grab a hammer (by jumping up to it) to smash barrels, beams, fireballs, cement tubs, and firefoxes which earn the player additional bonus points. The hammer can only be used for a limited amount of time, however.

On the Ramp, Elevator and Conveyor Belt stages, whenever Mario reaches Pauline, Donkey Kong will grab her and carry her off to the next higher level. But on the Rivet stage, Mario must remove all the rivets on each and every floor by running or jumping over them. After all the rivets are removed, Donkey Kong will fall head first onto a stack of girders and be knocked out and then Mario and Pauline will be together again for good. The game then starts over again with an increased difficulty level.

Cast Of Characters

  • Mario - This is the one and only Mario who will go on to become one of the biggest video game stars of all time. This is the game that started it all for him. In this game, he is thought to be a carpenter instead of a plumber.
  • Pauline - Mario's girlfriend and damsel in distress. She is stuck at the top of each screen awaiting rescue from the clutches of Donkey Kong.
  • Donkey Kong - The most well-known video game monkey. Donkey Kong has kidnapped Pauline and carried her up to the top of the construction site that Mario is working at.
  • Hammer - Except for the Elevator stage, 2 hammers can be found on each stage. Jump to grab the hammer and use it to smash nearby dangers for points. It only lasts for a short time and Mario cannot climb ladders while he is holding the hammer.
  • Barrel - Donkey Kong throws these at Mario on the Ramp stage. Many of them roll down the ramps and randomly drop down ladders that they pass. Sometimes Kong throws them directly down the building.
  • Beam - These are the blue Barrels that Kong throws. The only difference between them and the Barrels is the Beams will turn in to Fireballs when they reach the burning can of oil at the bottom.
  • Fireball - These appear on every stage except the Rivet stage. They move about randomly and can be jumped, but it's dangerous to try because they change directions frequently.
  • Firefox - The fire enemies that roam around the Rivet stage. They are even harder to jump over and they seem to track Mario a little more closely.
  • Spring - These bounce along the roof of the Elevator stage before falling down to the bottom of the screen creating a dangerous but predictable obstacle to avoid.
  • Cement Tub - The tubs passively travel along the conveyor belt and are harmful to touch. The only danger they pose is when the conveyor belt suddenly changes directions.
  • Prizes - Some of Pauline's (purse, hat, and umbrella) items litter the construction site and can be retrieved by Mario for bonus points.


Released in July 1981.

The game was originally going to be called 'Monkey Kong' but, as with "Continental Circus", a mistake during the translation process from Japanese to English resulted in the now legendary name. The game's creator, the equally-legendary Shigeru Miyamoto denies this story to this day - claiming that the naming is deliberate as he wanted an animal name that would capture the 'stubborn' nature of the Kong character (as in 'stubborn as a mule'). Few within the industry believe this explanation, however.

Nintendo was sued by Universal Studios who said the Donkey Kong character infringed on the King Kong copyright. Nintendo's legal counsel, John Kirby of Latham & Watkins LLP, recalled an old case were the RKO Pictures sued Universal Studio for the same reason. At this time, Universal Studio had argued that King Kong was in the public domain. So, Universal Studio lost and had to pay Nintendo $1.8 million in damages. To thanks John Kirby, Nintendo created a personage with the name of Kirby (originally called Popopo).

Donkey Kong was to be Nintendo's first big breakthrough into the western - and particularly American - arcade scene. Before Donkey Kong, Nintendo was having difficulty establishing itself in these markets. After the game's massive success Nintendo quickly established their headquarters of Nintendo of America to ensure that the game was being distributed properly.

Donkey Kong introduced a number of wholly original game-play ideas to the platform genre. It was the first ever game to feature multiple play-fields, for example. It was also the first game that allowed players to jump over objects. Its creation came about due to the commercial failure of another game called "Radarscope". A consequence of which was an excess of redundant arcade cabinets. In an attempt to limit their losses, Nintendo commissioned Donkey Kong and history was made.

Mario was named after Mario Segali, the landlord of Nintendo of America's first warehouse location in Seattle (thought it was debated whether this occurred before or well after the game was released). Mario was originally called 'Jumpman'; only the arcade version of Donkey Kong has ever called the hero Jumpman; home ports proceeded to call the hero Mario. Accounts differ as to how Nintendo of America felt about the game before its release. Many sources claim that they all felt sure it would be an absolute disaster while others say they were more optimistic. Although Mario is a plumber in later games, his career in Donkey Kong is that of a carpenter. Mario's appearance (and consequently his career) was dictated by the primitive graphics hardware of the time - the only way to have his arms appear 'separate' to his torso was to have them as a different color - hence he wears 'dungarees'. The mustache is present merely to indicate where Mario's mouth is, again due to the low graphics resolution imposed by hardware limitations. Mario wears a hat so his head is distinguishable from the game's black backgrounds.

About 60,000 units were sold in the U.S. Oddly, despite it being one of the ten best selling games of the golden age of video games, it never reached #1 on Replay's popularity charts. Instead, it was stuck at #2 behind mega hits "Pac-Man" and "Ms. Pac-Man" - the two best selling games ever.

The 75m Stage (a.k.a. the elevator stage), is used as an unlockable stage in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Nintendo Wii.

Steve Wiebe holds the official record for this game with 947,200 points on March 2, 2002.

Donkey Kong inspired a catchy hit song by Buckner and Garcia called 'Do The Donkey Kong' released on the 'Pac-Man Fever' album.

A Donkey Kong unit appears in the 1983 movie 'WarGames', in the 1984 movie 'Gremlins' and in the 1985 movie 'The Heavenly Kid'.

MB (Milton Bradley) released a board game based on this video game (same name) in 1982. Save the girl and avoid the barrels and fireballs as in the video game. The game-board is laid out like the video game's ramp stage. 'Can You Battle Donkey Kong And Save the Fair Maiden?'.

Donkey Kong also spawned a cartoon series of the same name : Ruby-Spears Productions. Produced by Joe Ruby, Ken Spears. Originally aired September 17, 1983 as part of 'Saturday Supercade' on CBS. Donkey Kong's voice was provided by actor/comedian Soupy Sales.


Originally both the US and Japanese versions asked us 'How high can you try?'. This was quickly grammatically corrected to ask the familiar 'How high can you get?'.

The game does end, as it has a 'kill screen'!. The timer in level 22 expires so quickly, that the first stage cannot be completed.

A 'speed-up' kit was released disallowing barrels coming down the ladder if you were at the top of it (SEE TIP BELOW).

The Japanese version has all 4 screens displayed in their original, logical order 1-2-3-4.

For the US version they changed it to match the 'How high can you try/get?' theme. With the screen order as follows :

  • L1 1-4
  • L2 1-3-4
  • L3 1-2-3-4.
  • L4 1-2-1-3-4
  • L5 1-2-1-3-1-4
  • L6 through L21 all remain the same as L5
  • L22 1 (Kill screen).

There is this text in one of the roms of the Japanese version :



Jumping over Barrels, Beams, Fireballs, Cement Tubs, or Firefoxes :

  • 1 item jumped : 100 points
  • 2 items jumped : 300 points
  • 3 or more items jumped : 500 points
  • Due to a bug in the program, jumping 3 or more items displays onscreen 800 points but actually awards only 500 points.
  • Sometimes jumping over one or more objects scores no points.
  • Sometimes scoring can occur when objects are next to or behind the player when jumping (especially the Springs on the Elevator stage).

Destroying objects with the hammer :

  • Barrels : 300 points
  • Beams, Fireballs, Cement Tubs, and Firefoxes : 300, 500 or 800 points

Picking up the purse, hat, or umbrella :

  • Level 1 : 300 points
  • Level 2 : 500 points
  • Level 3 and above : 800 points

Running over a rivet : 100 points

Jumping close to Kong on Rivet stage : 100 points

When each level is completed, the player receives the points shown in the bonus box.

Starting bonus points :

  • Level 1 : 5000 points
  • Level 2 : 6000 points
  • Level 3 : 7000 points
  • Levels 4 through 21 : 8000 points
  • Level 22 (kill screen) : 4000 points (shown)
  • The timer on level 22 behaves strangely. When the stage first comes onscreen, the timer reads 100. Then it changes to 4000 when Mario appears. It then counts down to 3700 and stays there for a few seconds, then Mario dies for no apparent reason, presumably due to a bug in the game’s timer code.

Tips and tricks

When you start the game, Mario will start at the oil can on the bottom level of the Ramp stage. Your job is to navigate him to the top so that he can progress to the next levels. Here are some strategies for each level...

Ramp Stage

This is the first stage of each level.

  1. On Level 01, the Ramp stage pretty easy. Donkey Kong will start the show by dropping a Beam into the oil can, igniting it. After a couple of seconds, a Fireball will jump out and dance about. Afterward, every eighth Barrel released by Donkey Kong will be a Beam. In the later levels, Donkey Kong will throw the first Beam diagonally toward the lower right corner. If you are running toward that ladder, you and the Beam may have an unexpected encounter. On the later levels, it's better to hesitate briefly, then start running so you can jump the Beam.
  2. Donkey Kong releases a Barrel about every 2 seconds. This does not mean, however, that the Barrels will all come at you at a uniform rate. Some Barrels will fall down the ladders, whether they are broken or not, before reaching the end of a platform. This can cause the Barrels to bunch up in 2's, 3's, and even 4's. Be wary when attempting to jump too many Barrels since you don't have the horizontal range to jump too many.
  3. Also remember to have enough overhead clearance when jumping Barrels. If Mario's head goes above the platform above, he may hit a Barrel rolling down that platform. This problem is especially true at the ends of the platforms.
  4. In the later levels, the Barrels seem to go for Mario. To offset this a bit, go just a little past a ladder. The Barrel may drop giving you an opening at a ladder farther down the platform.
  5. The Hammer can be either your greatest friend or your worst hindrance. It lasts anywhere from 5-7 seconds. Here are some hammering tips :
    1. Remember, you cannot jump or climb ladders when you have the Hammer.
    2. Be wary of trying to hammer Barrels that are close together. You will take out the first Barrel, but the second Barrel will get you when Mario is swinging the Hammer up. It's better to do a quick back and forth jog so that you can get the second Barrel.
    3. If Mario stands at the end of a platform so the one above is right above his head, he can destroy Barrels before they drop to his level. Again, watch out for how much hammering time you have or a Barrel may drop on you right when your hammer goes away.
  6. If there is a Barrel coming down the platform above and you are about ready to climb a ladder, wait for a moment. If you are on the ladder, the Barrel may decide to take a short cut and land on your head. This becomes more prevalent in the higher levels. (On the Japanese version, a Barrel cannot drop down a ladder while Mario is on it.)
  7. As you proceed into the higher levels, Donkey Kong does not always play fair. He has a tendency to throw Barrels diagonally or even to drop them to the next platform. Be ready to expect the unexpected at the later levels.
  8. Although the Fireballs on this stage are rather sedate, they still can pose a danger. If you take too long on the level, the Fireballs will eventually climb the ladders to higher platforms so it is important to move up quickly and safely.
  9. On this and all stages, Mario can only survive falls at a distance no greater than his height..

Conveyor Belt Stage

A relatively easy stage. You just have to watch out for Fireballs and conveyor belts...

  1. The conveyer belts have a tendency to change direction very quickly. So if you are just under a ladder, you may find yourself being moved in the wrong direction. You may want to jump toward the ladder to reduce this chance.
  2. Watch out for the Cement Tubs. They come up randomly and Mario will lose the battle if a Cement Tub hits him. The same goes for the Fireballs that are born from the oil can.
  3. If Mario goes off the edge of the screen on a conveyer belt he will lose that battle.
  4. Any platforms that have circles on one or both of the ends are conveyer belts. That means the very bottom and third platforms are not conveyer belts. Plan your strategy accordingly.
  5. Once you get up to the fourth platform, depending on what side you are on, you must make it to the telescoping ladders. You can hang on the ladder when it is retracted to avoid the Cement Tubs. Just make sure there aren't any Fireballs around to harass you. Once the ladder extends to the next platform, climb it.
  6. On this level, you don't have to climb the ladder to the platform Pauline is on. All you have to do is make it to the platform that Donkey Kong is on.

Elevator Stage

Probably the hardest stage in the game. It's the one that players have the most trouble with...

  1. Mario will start out on the bottom of the leftmost girder. This level has a few hazards you must negotiate :
    1. The gaps between the girders. A sure hand and jump at the right place will prevent tragedy.
    2. The elevators themselves can be hazardous if you don't jump off in time. Mario will be caught in the gears either in the uppermost or lowermost girders.
    3. The Springs themselves are a hazard. If your timing is off, be prepared to have Mario squashed by a wayward Spring.
  2. There are two routes you can travel to get to the top : The upper and lower routes. All veteran Donkey Kong players know that the upper route is the best route but it takes a little skill. The reasons for the upper route are :
    1. You don't have as many jumps to make.
    2. If you take the lower route, you will have to cross the path of the Springs twice. Once while traveling on the first set of girders and again when you cross over on the second set of girders.
    3. These factors create a higher risk for Mario not to make it.
  3. To navigate the top route, do the following :
    1. Get on the first elevator (it is going up). When you almost get even with the top of the next girder to the right, jump onto it. If a Fireball is in the way, jump back to the top of the girder on the left (and pick up the umbrella if you haven't done so yet).
    2. From the top of that girder, get ready to jump on the next elevator (it is going down). When the elevator is slightly higher then the girder Mario is standing on, jump onto it. Without breaking stride (in other words, keep running), jump again to the third set of girders. Mario will have a pretty good arc since you ran him constantly. You should land on the top or second level of that girder.
  4. Climb the ladder onto the girder that Donkey Kong is standing on and don't move. Mario will be right on the edge of that girder. The Springs will get very close to Mario (basically shaving his nose) but they won't hit him.
  5. When a Spring basically scrapes Mario's nose, take off running toward the ladder to the platform with Pauline. This trick will require some timing. Run a little past that ladder then immediately turn around and go up the ladder. If this trick is done correctly, Mario will follow the Spring that just bounced over him and beat the Spring right behind it. This trick works on the later levels even when the Springs are 'double-jumping'.
  6. This stage requires practice to perfect your techniques. Fortunately, in the American version, there is only one elevator screen per level after the 03 level. Remember, Mario cannot survive long falls.

Rivet Stage

This is final stage of each level. However, it is probably one of the easiest stages to go through...

  1. There is no real pattern to taking out the rivets holding the girders. What you must really be wary of are the Firefoxes. At the later levels, the Firefoxes move quite a bit faster and they become more aggressive.
  2. One tactic is to get on one side of the rivet. Right as a Firefox gets right next to Mario, jump backward over the rivet. You will gain 100 points and remove the rivet. Firefoxes cannot cross the gap created by the missing rivet.
  3. Make sure you don't accidentally jump into Donkey Kong when you are on the upper platform. This will lead to a premature end for Mario real quick.
  4. You can jump into the side walls away from the girders and they will bounce you back onto the girder you were on. This move is usually for if you are surrounded by Firefoxes and there is nowhere left to go.


  1. Donkey Kong (1981)
  2. Donkey Kong Junior (1982)
  3. Donkey Kong 3 (1983)


Designed By
Shigeru Miyamoto
Music By
Hirokazu Tanaka
Produced By
Gunpei Yokoi

Cabinet and Artwork


Colecovision (1982)
Mattel Intellivision (1982)
Atari 2600 (1983)
Atari XEGS
Atari 7800 (1988)
Nintendo Famicom (1986)
Nintendo Famicom (1988, "Donkey Kong Classics")
Nintendo Game Boy (1994)
Nintendo 64 (1999, "Donkey Kong 64")
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2002, e-Reader Series)
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2004, Famicom Mini Series)
Nintendo Famicom Disk
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Dunkey Munkey")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Donkey King")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "The King")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Monkey Kong")
PC [Booter] (1983)
PC [Booter] (1983, "Gorilla Gorilla", a part of the "Friendlyware PC Arcade" suite)
Commodore VIC-20 (1983)
Apple II (1983)
Atari 800 (1983)
Commodore C64 (1983)
TI99/4A (1983, "Donkey Kong", Atarisoft)
BBC B (1984, "Killer Gorilla" - Micropower)
Acorn Electorn (1984, "Killer Gorilla" - Micropower)
Amstrad CPC (1986)
Sinclair ZX Spectrum (1983, "Kong" - Ocean)
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1986, "Donkey Kong" - Ocean)
PC [MS-DOS] (1997, "ChampKong" - CHAMProgramming)
VFD handheld game (1982) released by Coleco.
LCD handheld game (Game&Watch) released by Nintendo (double screen)

Soundtrack Releases

Album Name Catalogue No. Released Publisher Comments
Famicom 20th Anniversary Original Sound Tracks Vol. 1 SCDC-00317[1] 2004-01-07 Scitron Discs CD version.
Game Sound Museum ~Famicom Edition~ 02 Donkey Kong SDEX-0011[2] 2004-04-28 Scitron Digital Contents CD version.
Donkey Kong Goes Home KSS-5037[3] 1983-01-01 Gabrielle-Amanda Music and Audio Illusions (BMI), Kid Stuff Records & Tapes Vinyl version.
Famicom Music 28XA-69[4] 1986-05-25 Alfa Records CD version.
Famicom Graffiti Nintendo Cartridge Edition CA-4473[5] 1990-01-01 Columbia CD version.
Famicom Music SCDC-00145[6] 2002-01-09 Scitron Digital Content, Inc. CD version.
Game Music Graffiti COCA-6969~70[7] 1990-12-01 Nippon Columbia Co., Ltd. 2 CD version.
Pac-Man Fever CBS A2055[8] 1982-01-01 CBS Inc. Vinyl version.
Pac-Man Fever N/A[9] 1999-06-01 bucknergarcia.com / K-tel CD version.
Arcade Ambiance 1981 N/A[10] 2002-01-01 Andy Hofle Digital download only.
Do The Donkey Kong (Single) 18-02867[11] 1982-01-01 Columbia / CBS Vinyl version.
Pac-Man Fever / Do The Donkey Kong 13-03865[12] 1982-04-01 Columbia / CBS Vinyl version.
Donkey Kong - Ashita ni Nattara... CODC-1849[13] 2000-03-18 Nippon Columbia CD version.
Famicom Music ALC-22901[14] 1986-05-25 G.M.O. Records Cassette version.
Famicom Music ALR-22901[15] 1986-05-25 G.M.O. Records Vinyl version.
Burning Stone FPCR-012[16] 2009-10-11 FMPSG CD version.

External Links


The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.