When you think of Nintendo, you likely think the following: Mario. Maybe Luigi. Link (the guy with the sword). Zelda (the princess). Zelda (the guy with the sword who you’ve incorrectly identified). Also Pokemon, perhaps.
You likely don’t immediately think of Donkey Kong, the simian in the shadows that once dominated Nintendo’s image. Originally introduced as a foe to an early Mario — then called Jumpman — Donkey Kong has been many iterations. In fact, the current incarnation of Donkey Kong isn’t even the original one. He’s Donkey Kong the Third, designed by the now-Microsoft-owned studio Rare and a more mellow sort of monkey. He likes hanging out with the rest of the Kongs and has a serious banana problem.
Donkey Kong has his own series of video games but has been absent in recent years. His last big solo adventure was Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze in 2015, a game for the not-loved Wii U that received a lot of good praise. Other than that, his only other major outing in recent years has been as an ensemble character in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars and of course, Mario Kart 8.
Nintendo is semi-predictable in that if it announces a remaster or remake of an older game in one of its series, it’s safe to say a brand new title isn’t far behind. In just the first few weeks of 2018, Nintendo has announced that Donkey Kong will appear in two games: as a DLC character in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle and in a Switch port of Tropical Freeze.
Donkey Kong’s appearance in Mario + Rabbids is slated for this spring, while Tropical Freeze launches on May 4. Both of these debuts for the Kong are slated for the beginning of the year — which means more could be coming in the latter half of 2018.
If Nintendo does dedicate 2018 to Donkey Kong, this wouldn’t be the first time the company has dedicated an entire year to games surrounding one character. 2013 was the infamous Year of Luigi, celebrating 30 years since the lankiest Mario brother’s debut. That year, Nintendo released four Luigi-centric games: Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon; New Super Luigi U; Mario and Luigi: Dream Team (in which Luigi was the main focus); and Dr. Luigi. Additional, a Luigi-themed 3DS handheld was sold and Nintendo released a number of supporting media around the idea (see the view below).
So it’s not farfetched to think this may be Donkey Kong’s year. Donkey Kong first appeared in arcades in 1981, making his legacy 37 years old. But the current iteration of Donkey Kong, designed by Rare, debuted in 1994 in Donkey Kong Country — just 24 years ago. Perhaps Nintendo is gearing up to celebrate the quarter-century milestone for Donkey Kong.
Maybe a new Donkey Kong is the way, in addition to some extra Kong content — maybe something like the amazing New Donk City level in Super Mario Odyssey. Perhaps Nintendo will reveal more at E3 this year, and this long-loved and often sidelined character will once again get the spotlight.