My Top-5 Donkey Kong Games

I’ve been playing a lot of DK64 on the WiiU recently and its made me think about my favourite Donkey Kong games as of late. So naturally, I decided to make a Top-5 of my favourite games starring the tie-wearing gorilla.

I’ve mentioned my love for the original Donkey Kong arcade as well as its sequel before. But this time they’ll only get an honourable mention. Same goes for the original Donkey Kong Country, Diddy Kong Racing and Donkey Kong Land 2 for the Game Boy.

But let’s gets on with the list…

DK645. Donkey Kong 64

DK64 was a game I had very mixed feelings about when it first came out but I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it was one of my favourite Nintendo 64 games. DK64 might have been a smidge clunky in execution when compared to Rareware’s Banjo-Kazooie and sadly left out several previously established DK characters (Dixie, Kiddy, Swanky etc.) but I feel as a game it’s one of the more enjoyable Rareware titles for the system.

The game includes vast worlds which are all very interesting and fun to explore. Indeed, it makes me a little sad that there was never another true-3D Donkey Kong title released. The cast of Kongs was also excellent with a lot of variety between them. I especially loved Lanky Kong, the goofball with his stretchy arms, balloon inflation ability and mad trombone skills. Heck, I even thought Tiny and Chunky Kong were cute and fun to play as.

What I like most about DK64 is that, despite appearing like a huge collect-a-thon on the offset, I feel the game is actually very manageable and straight-forward. This I feel is what actually makes it more fun for me than Banjo-Kazooie, where you have some freedom in how many of the game’s numerous items you want to collect in order to progress. I admit that the game feels a little cluttered (especially with the interface), but it’s actually pretty easy to get a feel for. Also, I don’t mind the backtracking that much or even the fact that you have to beat the original Donkey Kong twice in order to complete the game.

In all, DK64 definitely has its flaws. It’s a bit rough around the edges, the soundtrack is perhaps a smidge generic and a few of the levels (Gloomy Galleon) are definitely a bit annoying. However, I would really want to see another game like this from the DK franchise since the potential is clearly there for a great game.

dkcr4. Donkey Kong Country Returns

You can imagine that I was pretty excited about the DKC-series coming back on the Wii. Indeed, DKC Returns was one of my favourite games for the system. Made by Retro-Studios, the company that brought the Metroid series back from the dead, this game returned to the fun but challenging roots of the game series with DK and Diddy again trying to save their island from malicious forces, this time a band of cursed masks.

DKC Returns had all the challenge of the old school DKC games (albeit, with an option to skip levels), the same iconic locales and an awesome remixed soundtrack from David Wise. In fact, the game’s biggest problem might have been that it recycled a little too much from the original DKC. Although the nostalgia factor was very high, it admittedly makes the game feel a smidge unoriginal, even with the wholly new cast of enemies (Kremlins being owned by Rareware).

However, in far better comparison to the original DKC, I think this game is much more refined and, as a result, far more enjoyable. You feel like you’re more in control and the challenge still walks the graceful line between invigorating and frustrating. While there was definitely a lot to improve, the presentation of the game was excellent and I had a lot of fun with it.

DKC3Dixie3. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie’s Double Trouble

The third DKC title on the SNES tends to get overlooked by most which is a shame because it was probably one of the most refined games for said system. Having been introduced in the second game, Dixie Kong takes centre stage in this title, going out to save DK and Diddy from the clutches of the Kremlins. She’s helped by the hulking baby ape, Kiddy, and ventures to a number of colourful locations.

DKC3 included a lot of novel design choices as well as a mostly original cast of villains. Plus, the music was just as top-notch as before and I felt the gameplay variety was quite high. Also, for those who wanted secrets to unlock, this game offered plenty with an open world map and an ability to speed around on a boat or a hovercraft. The game may had been a smidge easier than most DKC-titles. There were still a handful of sadistically hard levels to keep the challenge high.

DKC3 is a game that even I tend to dismiss often, even though it’s a clear gem of a title. It’s fun and challenging with a lot of depth in design. The boss-fights are excellent and I especially enjoyed the levels where your controls become all wonky due to some special trick with the levels. This one is just a whole lot of fun.

DKCRTF2. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze

As mentioned above, DKC Returns did leave room for improvement and Tropical Freeze definitely seized the opportunity. With far more memorable character designs, more original level design and the comeback of Dixie and Cranky in full swing, this game just improved on the first title massively. The levels had a new level of polish with animations and cool details. And also, there were now glorious water levels.

The game did recycle a lot from the old DKC titles once again (especially DKC2) but I feel Tropical Freeze’s original elements were far better realised and as a result it was just a way more fun game. I also loved using Diddy, Dixie and Cranky as alternate partners, but truthfully, it would have been more fun to get to actually play as them in the game.

The game also retained that fun DKC challenge and luckily did it this time without a compromising “play the level for me” feature. Over-all, this was just a hugely fun game that I spent a lot of time on. Even at its most frustrating (and yes, it did get quite frustrating) I always had fun and felt accomplished by the end.

DKC2poster1. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest

DKC2 is just one of my favourite games of all time. In the sequel to the title which revamped DK originally, Diddy and Dixie must travel to the Kremlins’ home island to rescue the lovable gorilla. They face off against a colourful menagerie of pirate-themed baddies and go through some insane levels. The pirate theme and solid gameplay have always appealed to me and over-all, there’s only one other game on the SNES that I love even more.

DKC2 isn’t my favourite Donkey Kong game because it’s flawless. On the contrary, this game definitely has a lot of flaws: the save system is a bit inconvenient, the boss fights are admittedly generic and many of the levels lead you to die instantly if you don’t know how to beat them. The grueling challenge may be a little too much for some but for me, it’s never prevented me from loving the game.

Every single world is iconic from the pirate ship, to the swamps, the volcano, carnival and finally K. Rool’s fortress itself. This game has easily one of the greatest game soundtracks of all time. This was probably the first game where I would actually pause the game just to listen to the music. And of course, it introduced Dixie Kong, one of my favourite playable characters in any video-game.

DKC2 is just a blast and true testament to platforming excellence.