Donkey Kong - Arcade (1981)


Released: 1981

Published by: Nintendo

The version that started it all!

Donkey Kong was initially released in arcades in 1981. The game, designed by (the now legendary) Shigeru Miyamoto, took the world by storm. Famously, the game was designed to run on the same hardware as the less-than-successful Radar Scope, which was a commercial failure outside of Japan. This turned out to be a great decision, as the game became a cultural phenomenon and a major breakthrough for both Nintendo and the games industry as a whole.

Over the next 16 days, we will be shining a spotlight on each of the many different ports of this version of Donkey Kong! This will culminate in the launch of our brand new exhibit: Platform 16: Donkey Kong!

So what is Platform 16: Donkey Kong ?

Platform 16: Donkey Kong is an exhibit that explores the phenomenon of converting - or 'porting' - videogames. It allows visitors to look at what is lost and what is gained as ‘the same game’ is converted and remade for a new platform. Each platform - a console, computer or handheld device - has its own distinctive capabilities and limitations and these affect the way characters are drawn, the range of colours that can be used, the sophistication of animation, the number of objects on screen and even the number of levels that can be included... The DK16 exhibit shines a light on the relationship between the platform and the game.

By choosing one game and looking at a variety of different home computer, console and handheld conversions, we allow visitors to get a clear sense of how much variation there is - and how difficult it is to talk confidently about ‘a videogame’. Because different people will have owned, played on or seen different versions, when we say ‘Donkey Kong’, what do we actually mean?

DK16 is the first in a series of exhibits that will explore how one game is converted and altered as it crosses different platforms. There is a lot of scope for future ‘Platform 16’ exhibits exploring: sound, localisation (language translation and cultural references), controllers...

We have chosen Donkey Kong for the first ‘Platform 16’ exhibit because it is an iconic game with a long history. It is the first appearance of Mario (sort of), it’s a game that made the leap from the arcade to the home, and was so popular that it was converted to numerous different systems each with different capabilities. Donkey Kong dates from a time when Nintendo licensed their games for other people’s hardware systems, and it speaks to a time when there were dozens of different computers and consoles on the market. It’s also a fairly visually simple game which makes the variations between versions extremely apparent which is important for our first exhibit of this kind.

We look forward to showing you all when the exhibit launches on the 24th May!

Conor Clarke