Donkey Kong – Ready Player One Video Game Replay

Donkey Kong is one of the legendary ancient video games. It gave us the first appearance of the plucky plumber Mario and his nemesis (frenemy?) Donkey Kong. The two went on to star in very different franchises (Mario taking on the princess-stealing Bowser in various surreal mushroom-powered kingdoms, while Donkey Kong became the patriarch of a growing family of digital apes).

Nintendo released Donkey Kong in 1981 as an arcade game, though it went on to be featured on a variety of home consoles, including the Nintendo Entertainment System.


The shop was divided into two halves, the game room and the dining room. The dining room had videogames in it as well — all of the glass-top tables were actually sit-down arcade games known as “cocktail cabinets.” You could sit and play Donkey Kong on the table while you ate your pizza.

Game Play

Donkey Kong is a standard platformer (though heh, it pretty much set the standard). Donkey Kong stands atop a massive structure of steel girders, while Pauline – the damsel in distress – is tied up to a pillar nearby. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the structure is our hero Mario, who needs to ascend the structure, dodging the various barrels (some on fire) that the giant ape throws his way.

Once Mario reaches Kong, the ape snags Pauline and climbs to the next level, and the whole process repeats with a new set of girders. This continues until you get to Level 22 (the game is way more than 22 screens, because of how it repeats, but never mind that for now) where a glitch kills Mario.

A complex of girders and ladders representing the 2nd level of Donkey Kong.
The second level of Donkey Kong. Yeah, I died a lot here too.


Donkey Kong is iconic … but I’m not very good at it. I’ve gotten past the opening boards a few times, but revisiting it for the replay demonstrates just how bad I am at this game. Still, playing it brings to mind memories of middle school Fridays at the roller rink or bowling, where Donkey Kong was a staple (but Ms. Pac-man or Galaga were preferred).

For this review, I was able to play it on my Nintendo Switch, where it is one of the games available through the original 8-Bit NES emulator. The emulator plays great, and I enjoyed being able to embrace the nostalgia of battling Donkey Kong from the comfort of my sofa.

The Ready Player One Replay is an ongoing exploration of the games that inspired the novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Love it or hate it, there’s value in revisiting our geeky roots.

High Scores

  • My High Score: 6,900


Where to Play


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