Mario has had a long history in gaming thus far, but one of his earliest appearances was in Donkey Kong, the arcade classic where he, known as Jump Man at the time, was on a mission to save his girlfriend Pauline from the treacherous monster. The finish to the game shows Mario dropping the gorilla and sweeping his first fling off her feet en route to enslaving the great ape moving forward.
Since then, Donkey Kong has been introduced as a much more likeable and personable character thanks to the Donkey Kong Country series and his inclusion in Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros (Although technically this is not the original Kong, but DK’s grandson). However, we have to talk about the period in between and the period before the original Donkey Kong game, because it is relevant. This is that time Donkey Kong was Mario’s pet.
The story for the original Donkey Kong game is simple, right? An angry gorilla kidnaps a woman and torments her and her boyfriend until Mario is finally able to take him down in the end. Sounds simple, no? Well, according to the owner’s manual, it is not that simple.
The villain of the series is painted very clearly, and it is not the disgruntled ape. No, no. It is actually the carpenter/plumber/doctor/kart driver/fighter… Mario himself.
You see, before the story of the original game, there was Donkey Kong Circus. In this game, you play as the original Kong, and you attempt to perform tricks like juggling pineapples while balancing on a barrel. If you touch the flames and fail (Yeah, fireballs being hurled at the poor gorilla), Mario will either jeer at you or whip you. It is even said clear as day that, “Donkey Kong is actually Mario’s pet who is mistreated.”
Even the name Donkey Kong has some dark roots, and Shigeru Miyamoto even admitted that the name is meant to mean “stubborn ape”, based on the use of “donkey” or “jackass” in the English language plus “kong” in Japanese to generally mean “large ape”. When Miyamoto shared this with Nintendo of America, they laughed at the name and its intended meaning, so it stuck.
Poor DK Senior was not only insulted and beaten by Mario in the game’s own storyline, but even his creator intended him to be an idiot.
It is no wonder that Kong desired revenge after escaping Mario and the circus, so his kidnapping of Pauline makes sense and his use of barrels and fireballs against Mario is a direct connection to what Mario put him through in the circus.
Unfortunately, the pain for Kong does not end there, because Mario does triumph and ultimately captures the gorilla again.
In Donkey Kong Jr, we see immediately that Mario is back to his whipping and abusive ways, as he is properly equipped with his whip again and Kong is trapped within a cage this time around.
Enter Junior, the son of the real victim in this series. This poor adolescent gorilla is desperate to save his father, and yet Mario is adamant about letting the Papa Kong go. Instead, Mario attempts to murder Junior at just about every turn right in front of his daddy. Not only is this attempted infanticide, but it is also absolute torture for the poor old Kong.
Thankfully, the game does conclude with Junior successfully saving his father from further enslavement, but unfortunately things do not end well for little Junior. The last time we saw the child was in Super Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo, and then after that, Junior is non-existent. We know that the original DK is the new DK’s grandfather, which would imply that Junior is the new DK’s dad. However, Junior is nowhere to be found in any of the Donkey Kong Country games or any game after Super Mario Kart.
It looks like Mario got his revenge against the poor guy, and that is why the original DK is renamed Cranky in the DKC universe. He’s cranky because most of his life was torture and his son was taken away from him by that evil Mario.
It is really sad to think about all of this and even fill in the gaps on details we aren’t quite sure of, like the disappearance of Junior, but I think it is quite clear that the real villain in the original Donkey Kong series is definitely not the titular character.
It is that two-timin’, high jumpin’, pervy carpenter-turned-plumber. He kidnapped Kong, tormented him and made him do parlor tricks, blamed him for going berserk, kidnapped him again, and tried to murder his son.
Mario is the real villain.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link and enjoying this “That Time” article. What do you think about Mario this time around? Who do you think is the real villain of the DK series? Let us know what you think in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.