Arguably the two most popular Nintendo characters, Mario and Donkey Kong have a long history of sharing the stage in some key Nintendo games. Going all the way back to the original Donkey Kong, released in 1981, the two characters have long been connected to one another. So in this edition of List O’ Games, we’re taking a look at the top five games to feature both characters. Unsurprisingly, the Nintendo 64 largely dominates this list.
5. Super Smash Bros. (1999) – Platform: Nintendo 64
The first entry in the Super Smash Bros. franchise almost instantly became a classic due to its crossover ties to various franchises and the sheer replay value. Crossover Nintendo games have always been strongest when they focus on addictive multiplayer aspects, and Super Smash Bros. is no exception to this rule. There are few things in life much more fun than getting that instant K.O. with the Home Run Bat in this game.
Mario and Donkey Kong are both as fun as ever to play in this game, with very different styles required to play as each character. Donkey Kong is a heavy power-hitter, while Mario is a little quicker and probably easier for beginners. Neither character could stand up very well to the homerun king Ness, however, but seeing a little kid take on a giant ape and win is part of the fun here.
4. Mario Party (1999) – Platform: Nintendo 64
At first this game seemed almost silly to be very much fun – a Mario board game as a video game? Sounds kind of boring, right? By any logic, Mario Party probably should have actually been boring – but it wasn’t. The mini-games were surprisingly addictive and intense – people legitimately hurt themselves from rubbing the analog stick too hard. There are so many jokes to make here that it’s not even really worth it, but this was actually a result of the game and not other activities that could theoretically have a similar effect. Mario Party is ultimately an addictive and surprisingly competitive game.
The major fault here is that, between the two of them, Mario and Donkey Kong make up a third of the character roster. It would have been nice to see a few other characters make their way onto the board here, but I’m nitpicking. At the end of the day, Mario Party is still fun as hell to play.
3. Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) – Platform: Nintendo GameCube
Generally regarded as the best entry in the Super Smash Bros. franchise, Melee is quite possibly one of the best games of all time. The characters in Melee are arguably more balanced than in the first entry and definitely more so than they were in the next entry, Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Mario even gets two appearances in this entry – one as himself and one as Dr. Mario from the famous puzzle game. To my knowledge, this makes Melee the only game where Dr. Mario and Donkey Kong have both appeared since Dr. Mario did not make it into Brawl.
This entry in the franchise features a lot of additions not present in the first game – there’s an adventure mode, significantly more characters, and retro stages to fight on. Pretty much everything you could want in a fighter game is here and Melee somehow manages to be even better than the already excellent first entry.
2. Mario Kart 64 (1996) – Platform: Nintendo 64
Let me be as clear as possible: Mario Kart 64 is one of the most fun games of all time. I remember playing this as a kid with my dad and just yelling and screaming each time we raced. Of all of my favorite moments in video games, I don’t know if any can top getting a lightning bolt and knocking someone off of the big hill on the Wario map – if you’ve played this game even one time, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Depending on your style, any character in Mario Kart 64 is a potential candidate to get first place – the course actually matters for the characters and some are better than others. Jump-dashing on Rainbow Road, or taking turns between cars quickly on Toad’s Turnpike requires a different character for optimal results – in this sense, Mario and Donkey Kong truly are both worthwhile competitors.
1. Donkey Kong (1981) – Platforms: Arcade, NES, others
Is Donkey Kong truly more fun than Mario Kart 64 or Super Smash Bros. Melee? Well, I think you have to give it credit for breaking new ground – without this game, Mario Kart 64 probably wouldn’t even exist. One can waste hours playing Donkey Kong and can do so on a variety of platforms – you can actually go into a regular arcade and you’ll nearly always find a Donkey Kong unit, but you can also probably find an old copy for NES if you’d rather stay at home.
There’s a reason that they made a movie about people who are obsessed with this game (The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) and that reason is because the game is still one of the greatest games ever made, even over thirty years after its first release. Given that this game is where both Mario and Donkey Kong made their first appearances, it’s tough to make an argument for any other crossover game taking the number one spot on this List O’ Games.
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