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Donkey Kong (Nintendo)

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Donkey Kong is considered to be the earliest video game with a storyline that visually unfolds on screen. The eponymous Donkey Kong character is the game’s de facto villain. The hero is a carpenter originally named Jumpman, and would later be renamed Mario. The ape kidnaps Mario’s girlfriend, originally known as Lady, but later renamed Pauline. The player must take the role of Mario and rescue her. This is the first occurrence of the damsel in distress scenario that would provide the template for countless video games to come.
At the game’s end, Mario and Pauline are reunited.

The game uses graphics and animation as vehicles of characterization. Donkey Kong smirks upon Mario’s demise. Pauline has a pink dress and long hair, and a speech balloon crying “HELP!” appears frequently beside her. Mario, depicted in red overalls and cap, is an everyman character, a type common in Japan. Graphical limitations and the low pixel resolution of the small sprites prompted his design: drawing a mouth is infeasible, so the character was given a mustache;the programmers could not animate hair, so he got a cap; and to make his arm movements visible, he needed colored overalls. The artwork used for the cabinets and promotional materials make these cartoon-like character designs even more explicit. Pauline, for example, is depicted to be disheveled (like King Kong ’​s Fay Wray) in a torn dress and stiletto heels.

Donkey Kong is the first example of a complete narrative told in video game form, and like 1980’s Pac-Man, it employs cut scenes to advance its plot. The game opens with the gorilla climbing a pair of ladders to the top of a construction site. He sets Pauline down and stomps his feet, causing the steel beams to change shape. He then moves to his final perch and sneers. This brief animation sets the scene and adds background to the gameplay, a first for video games. Upon reaching the end of the stage, another cut scene begins. A heart appears between Mario and Pauline, but Donkey Kong grabs the woman and climbs higher, causing the heart to break. The narrative concludes when Mario reaches the end of the rivet stage. He and Pauline are reunited, and a short intermission plays.The gameplay then loops from the beginning at a higher level of difficulty, without any formal ending.

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Game Donkey Kong
MPN 910179910179
UPC 910179910179
Key Features
Platform Nintendo NES
Tech Details
Control Elements Gamepad/Joystick
Release Year 1986
Game Series Donkey Kong Series


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