Donkey Kong 3DS review

  • Rock-solid platforming
  • Great puzzle, level design
  • Catchy soundtrack
  • A few random difficulty spikes
  • Super Game Boy version is MIA
  • That it's not 102 levels

Price: $3.99
Size: 38 blocks
First released: June 1994

When we first heard the 3DS would offer downloadable Game Boy titles, the first thing that came to mind was this exceptional remake/sequel to the original Donkey Kong. While the first few minutes are a straight up recreation of the iconic opening DK levels, the game quickly escalates into a full-on puzzle platformer. By the end, you’ll have solved 101 levels filled with moving platforms, treacherous pitfalls, vicious enemies and, of course, a tie-wearing, barrel-tossing ape.

Gameplay is a mix of classic Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr and, of all things, Super Mario Bros 2. Each level is cleared by carrying a large key to a locked door (a la Mario 2), but the process of getting to said door unfolds like a ramped-up Donkey Kong, with pulleys, platforms and one-hit kills. Now, if Mario were as feeble as he was in the original DK (where all he could do was hop, and a simple fall would end him), these challenges would be impossible; that’s why Mario’s abilities have been substantially enhanced, making him capable of backflips, handstands and other acrobatic feats that have since been made part of his usual repertoire. His deep well of moves, combined with the increasingly devious puzzle layout, make this one of the tightest, most direct and enjoyable Mario games of all time.

Above: As with most Nintendo-published Game Boy games, the music is worth listening to

The only real downside to this game is that it’s the black and white Game Boy version. As longtime gamers know, Donkey Kong helped launch the Super Game Boy, a Super NES cart that let you play GB games on your TV, and in doing so tossed a bit of color into the mix. However, certain games (like Donkey Kong) were developed to take specific advantage of the Super Game Boy, benefiting from even more color and occasionally better sound and graphics. From a pure gameplay perspective, the two versions are identical; it just would have been nice to have the option to choose between color or black and white.

For $4.00, this is an absolute must-buy. It may not look like much, but Nintendo squeezed every possible drop of gameplay from this basic idea and stretched it across hours of non-stop fun. Everything just feels right; the jumps, the speed of Mario’s fall, the satisfying crunch of smashing DK in the face… it’s all spot-on. If you love games like N+ and Super Meat Boy, but wish they weren’t so ball-bustlingly difficult, Donkey Kong could be the slower-paced, reasonably challenging answer for you.

Jul 13, 2011

More Info

Available Platforms: Game Boy, 3DS, GBA
Genre: Arcade


  • statutoryreparez - July 14, 2011 2:13 p.m.

    Ive never played this before to be honest and i kept thinking i should buy it but never did, with this review you convinced me to buy it and i love you for it
  • egregious - July 14, 2011 1:36 p.m.

    I have the desert music in my head now. Thanks, Brett! I've been playing this for the past two days. Having fun so far, a little on the easy side (so far...).
  • CitizenWolfie - July 14, 2011 8:40 a.m.

    Didn't this come out last month? This is pure gaming heaven for me. I loved this the first time round and I love it again on my 3DS
  • garnsr - July 14, 2011 4:06 a.m.

    Nintendo used to make nice, updated versions of their old games, like Mario All Stars. Now they just seem to push out the basicest versions. Too bad, especially when better versions already exist.
  • Tenfey - July 14, 2011 midnight

    The Game Boy could have been released with just this game permanently inside it and it would have been fine.
  • Kilburn474 - July 13, 2011 10:44 p.m.

    @MegatronD No. None of the Virtual Console games use 3D in the games..
  • MonocledYaoGuai - July 13, 2011 9:14 p.m.

    Probably the second best game to be released on the 3DS VC, behind Link's Awakening.
  • lilspooky - July 13, 2011 8:23 p.m.

    I played the shit out of this game on the original gameboy, glad to see it still holds up.
  • Triscuitable - July 13, 2011 8:07 p.m.

    My cousin and I played this game to death 10 years ago. I then revisited it five years later. And three years after that. Now there's not point in going back to it, because I'll have done it in less than a day. :(
  • Tangerine - July 13, 2011 7:27 p.m.

    Question, are all retro (for lack of a better word) games on the 3DS going to have '3DS' in the title or is that just GR's way of archiving these reviews on the site? re: the game, Haven't played it in so long. Will definitely pick this up when I eventually get a 3DS :)
  • EnigmaSpirit - July 13, 2011 6:54 p.m.

    I would say that the kirby game should be rated more than this, but meh, opinions and such.
  • GamesRadarChrisAntista - July 13, 2011 6:43 p.m.

    HEY! This was supposed to be a 10! Review FAIL, Brelston!
  • MegatronD - July 13, 2011 6 p.m.

    Does it use 3D? If so, does it add or detract from the experience?
  • Ultimadrago - July 13, 2011 5:57 p.m.

    FFFFFF, my mistake. "As good as Shadows of the Damned" Flat joke fell falt.
  • Ultimadrago - July 13, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    Better than Shadows of the Damned?! Sacre Bleu!

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