Version tested: Retro
Videogames were still finding their way when this Japanese answer to American trends appeared, proving a success on many more levels than high volume coin guzzling.
Donkey Kong was a brilliant concept that provided genuine motivation alongside a feeling of well-earned achievement. Going up against swarms of nameless, faceless, alien invaders is all well and good, but the overwhelming odds leave players feeling as though the greatest achievement is simply a matter of staving off an inevitable death for as long as possible. Stubborn Gorilla (as the Japanese-only speaking Mr. Miyamoto originally intended his game to be titled) consummately pitted man against beast, brawn against brain, fury against composure, and strength against agility.
An ordinary man thrown into the role of relentless hero, armed only with his boundless courage, quick-footed cunning and an endless love for the distressed damsel, Mario’s debut appearance introduced the world to the wonder of Nintendo. Quite why the massive monkey chose Jumpman's gal to carry off to those vertiginous heights we've never been told, but luckily for her, the man who'd later be rechristened after a warehouse landlord (who Nintendo of America had been unable to pay) knew no fear, and was unrepentant in his commitment to reclaim Pauline from her simian assailant.
Despite becoming famous for the barrel hopping jaunt along precarious high steel, each of the three levels posed a wonderfully diverse challenge that, especially in 1981, could easily have been released as a coin-op in their own right; a rare bargain for the impoverished arcade creeper with a few fingers of proficient skill. Rescue turned quickly to vengeance, requiring the Italian champion to thwart the megalithic menace once and for all.
The repeated saviour of Nintendo, Donkey Kong was conceived from such refined, simplistic brilliance it's provided a wealth of videogaming material to this very day, and the original title can still hold its own against the best of the rest.
9 / 10