10) Donkey Kong (Multi)
Let's start things off with the original, shall we? This was the game that ate up quarters in arcades back in the day with players controlling Jumpman (who would go on to have somewhat of a career as Mario...) as he hopped over barrels, scaled ladders, grabbed hammers, and rescued Pauline from Donkey Kong's furry grip. The big ape may have been the titular character, but he took on the role of the villain. Donkey Kong would go on to be ported to home consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System, Colecovision, and the Atari 2600, to name a few. The above picture comes from the arcade original.
9) Donkey Konga (GCN)
Rhythm is gonna getcha', and boy, is it infectious! This rhythm game came with something Nintendo absolutely adores-- the peripheral. In this case, the peripheral was a bongo-shaped controller with two bongos connected together. Players chose from one of over twenty covers of classic and pop songs such as "Bingo", "We Will Rock You", "Wild Thing", "Louie, Louie", "Rock This Town", "All the Small Things", and many more. The gameplay consisted of banging the left and right bongos as well as clapping (or hitting the rim of the controller) with the various beats the game presented along a timeline. Score high points by hitting beats in succession without fouling up. With a better song selection than its sequel (and because the third game never left Japan), Donkey Konga nabs the ninth spot.
8) DK: Jungle Climber (DS)
Following the climbing clamber of the Game Boy Advance's DK: King of Swing was DK: Jungle Climber for Nintendo DS. Besides the obvious inclusion of the gameplay taking place on both screens, now both DK and Diddy were together. No longer was health determined by how many banana bunches the player possessed. Instead the game used the health system of the Donkey Kong Country series. If DK or Diddy gets hits, they drop out. If DK or Diddy are alone and they get hit, the player loses a life. With one incredibly difficult final boss battle, multiple hidden levels, mini-games, and secrets to uncover, DK: Jungle Climber is one underrated vertical adventure.
7) Donkey Kong '94 (GB)
Putting Donkey Kong once again as the villain, 1994's version of Donkey Kong for the original Game Boy was an all-new adventure. Mario was back, and he ventured through eight worlds of nearly one hundred levels total to save the day from the hairy, overgrown ape. The first four levels were taken straight from the arcade game of DK's roots. Everything else was entirely fresh. Donkey Kong '94 was more puzzle-oriented with a platforming focus. Mario's objective was to run and jump through labyrinth-like levels, taking a key from one point of a level to the locked door. Too bad there's an armada of enemies awaiting him! Donkey Kong '94 is the ultimate in classic Donkey Kong action. You can now purchase it for less than four dollars on the Nintendo 3DS's eShop.
6) DK: King of Swing (GBA)
A shift in play styles for Donkey Kong. Instead of stealing Mario's girlfriends and rolling and jumping through Kremling-infested levels, DK now climbed and leaped off of pegs. Players controlled DK through pressing and holding the shoulder buttons on the Game Boy Advance. One button controlled his left hand while the other controlled his right. K. Rool returned with an army of Kremlings and other familiar characters like Zingers in this intriguing Clu Clu Land-like game. The cartoon art style lent well to the colorful worlds and setting while the music was delightfully chipper and memorable. Look into DK: King of Swing and you'll be surprised at what an overlooked gem this game really is.
5) Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES)
My least favorite of the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, the final installment of the Super Nintendo trilogy doesn't even have Donkey Kong in the game. Nonetheless, it sports Dixie Kong and newcomer Kiddie Kong in his only appearance. The overworld maps were fully explorable with secret passages housing Simon Says-like mini-games for Banana Birds. These were key in fully completing the game. It seems that a mechanical tyrant named Kaos is behind the "k"arnage this time around, but savvy players know better... I find DKC3 as the most challenging game of the trilogy which makes for some potentially problematic precision platforming action. Fun times ahead for sure!
4) Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
When Rare got hold of the Donkey Kong license after having worked on a title like Battletoads under the Tradewest moniker, they gave the SNES a graphical beast of a game. All the bells and whistles in the world meant nothing if the gameplay wasn't up to par. Thankfully it was with Donkey Kong being joined by pal Diddy and a cast of crazy, kooky Kongs and villainous Kremlings. The seven unique worlds offered loads of variety such as frenetic factories full of oil drums and flickering lights, icy glaciers with slippery surfaces, and vine-covered valleys infested with vultures. Hidden bonus rooms added to the surplus of secrets Donkey Kong Country had. A true classic in every sense of the word, Donkey Kong Country is a top tier title.
3) Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN)
Using Donkey Konga's bongo controller as the mandatory means of playing the game, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat was a unique game. Some called it a gimmick, but these people only looked skin deep at this entertaining romp. Tapping the left bongo to move left, tapping the right bongo to move right, tapping both to jump, and clapping to attack, Donkey Kong had a full arsenal of moves at his disposal. Not only was getting through fruit-themed levels the goal, but doing so with enough bananas was a side challenge. Creating one continuous combo from start to finish in a level was a task that beginners needed not apply. With intense boss battles against rival Kongs, countless hidden goodies to uncover, and high scores to attain, Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat is one of the most original and great games in the grand gorilla's collection. A Wii port in the New Play Control line of software was released utilizing the Wii remote and nunchuk. It's terrific if you don't want to make a sound while playing, and you like bonus content such as a boss rush mode.
2) Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
After Rare was purchased and then subsequently killed off essentially by Microsoft, it seemed like a game in the vein of Donkey Kong Country was doomed to never happen. Then E3 2010 occurred and Retro Studios was listed as the developer. Dreams of that day danced in the heads of many a-gamer. To think it was finally true made many people very happy, myself included. The end result was one of the most impressive Donkey Kong games ever-- much less one of the most impressive Donkey Kong Country games. Filled to the brim with content, challenge, and gorgeous and creative levels, Donkey Kong Country Returns proved that Retro Studios was without a doubt a brilliant developer and an invaluable asset to Nintendo. Taking on Tikis, testing one's reaction time on the mine cart and booster barrel levels, and bashing down bosses were just three of the many wonderful parts of DKC Returns. Donkey Kong was back and almost better than ever...
1) Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
...But not quite better than ever. Even though advanced and ultra-talented treasure hunters can plow through the game in about two hours with a 102% completion. No easy take indeed! What makes Diddy's Kong Quest (for the longest time I thought it was Diddy Kong's Quest) so engaging apart from the brilliant ambiance that oozes from every orifice of the game is the ingenious level design full of hidden secrets, well-placed enemies, traps, and obstacles, and one of the greatest 16-bit soundtracks in gaming history. This is a classic I can return to (hint for part 3 maybe?). The addition of Dixie Kong and her hair-twirling ability made pesky jumps all the more manageable. Both Kongs were lightweight, so that made larger enemies more troublesome to tackle. Even though Donkey Kong doesn't show up until near the end of the game (he was captured by Kaptain K. Rool), this game still is my favorite Donkey Kong game in the franchise's thirty year history.
That concludes this top ten. You know what comes next. What are your favorite Donkey Kong games? Are you doing anything special to commemorate the main monkey's 30th anniversary? Sound off in the comments section.