The Many Hacks of Donkey Kong

via - 22nd March, 2013

You’ve probably seen the news by now about Mike Mika’s Donkey Kong hack that swaps Mario and Pauline so that the girl can save the day.

It’s actually the latest in a long line of hacks changing characters and redesigning levels. Some are off the wall zany, while others make only minor adjustments—which nonetheless change the whole mood of the game. We’ve rounded up a bunch of them to show you here. Let us know in the comments if you know of any others.

Donkey Kong: Pauline Edition

The little mod that exploded across the Internet this month started with a simple question: “How can I play as the girl? I want to save Mario!” Mike Mika, a veteran designer at Other Ocean Interactive, and also an avid game collector, decided to put his skills to use modifying a Donkey Kong ROM to star Pauline as the savior of a helpless Mario. Mika wasn’t trying to make any kind of political statement; he just wanted his daughter to smile.

You can see a video below, and head over to Wired to get the full story from the man himself. The question now is whether someone will take it further and swap the handbags/purses for tools, or otherwise expand on the project.

Donkey Kong 2600: Pauline Edition

AtariAge forum member SalemFrost7800 did the same Mario/Pauline swaparoo to the Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong in the days following Mika’s hack hitting the media. I haven’t spotted an arcade version in the wild yet, but there’ll surely be one of those too.

Donkey Kong Vector

Sticking with the Atari 2600 for a moment, neotokeo2001 created this vector-style graphics hack back in 2004. Donkey Kong Vector swaps out the original sprites and playfield for cool line-based visuals. If you want to go really retro, you can choose black and white or green color palettes instead of the standard color scheme. This is my favorite of the bunch.

Donkey Kong Invisible

From the same year, and on the same version, Pixellated Ghost’s hack turns the barrels invisible. You’ll have to memorize the timing and paths of barrels to stand any chance of surviving to the end of each stage. It could be worse, though—at least Mario/Jumpman and the fireballs are still visible.

Donkey Kong II: Jumpman Returns

A major reworking of the arcade original, Jeff Kulczycki’s Jumpman Returns adds four challenging new levels and more intermissions. It’s available to buy from Arcade Shop as a chip upgrade or multi-game kit. There’s also a cool-looking Intellivision port called D2K Arcade.

Donkey Kong Foundry

From the creator of Jumpman Returns, Donkey Kong Foundry adds a freeplay mode (no need to insert coins) and a new level—called The Foundry, oddly enough—to the arcade original. If I understand things correctly, it was superseded by Jumpman Returns. You can check out a bit of background from hacker Jeff Kulczycki by clicking this link.


Worlds collide as Pac-Man tries valiantly to rescue Ms Pac-Man from her evil kidnapper. Barrels make way for floating eyes, as ghosts replace fireballs, in this graphical overhaul. Pac-Quest also replaces the “M” tile with a Pac-Man in order to fix the scoring box for our new hero.

Pink Floyd - The Wall

The most astonishing hack of the lot converts Donkey Kong into a video-game interpretation of Pink Floyd’s famous album The Wall. The tiles and sprites have been completely replaced by imagery loosely adapted from lyrics and album art. Floyd (Jumpman) turns into a bloody cross when he dies, while a disturbing dancing-asshole-and-legs-with-painted-on-face torments you with magical sliding hammers.

Q-Bert Kong

It makes even less sense than Pac-Quest, but Q-Bert Kong transplants everyone’s favorite hopping blob and his nemeses cubes and Coily into Donkey Kong. Perhaps poor old Q*Bert got lost on the way to the pyramid.

Cure for Cancer

I won’t pretend to understand what’s going on in Cure for Cancer, a garish retiling that turns both Jumpman and Donkey into flaky-skinned monsters while Pauline becomes some kind of robot. Anyone care to explain?

Clinton Kong

Made at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal surrounding former US President Bill Clinton, Clinton Kong turns its subject into a suit-wearing ape who has kidnapped Pauline. A political statement no doubt missed by most people around at the time, it’s even rarer now.

Donkey Claus

Bring a little Christmas cheer with Donkey Claus, the hack that sees you retrieving presents after the evil “perpetually-smiling” Ginger Bread Man stole them all. This one dates back to 2001, and comes courtesy of Philip R. Frey.

Donkey Kong Low Gravity

It seems the Atari 2600 version of Donkey Kong is ripe for hacking, as here we have another on the old VCS. Donkey Kong Low Gravity does exactly as its name implies and lengthens Mario’s jumping time and height. You might think that makes things easier, but the floatier controls and speedy movement pose a challenge all their own.

Save Sally

Stan Strong sweetheart Sweet Sally Saint is being held captive by One-Eye Jack, and only the square-jawed man of action himself can save her. Save Sally by OutofGas just changes the sprites for Mario into our muscular protagonist Stan, and turns enemy sprites more box-y.

I also found a few hacks for later installments of Donkey Kong. Just for the hell of it, here they are:

Battle Beasts (Donkey Kong 3)

You could be forgiven for thinking that Battle Beasts has nothing to do with Donkey Kong, but it’s actually a reskin of Donkey Kong 3 on the NES. All of the graphics have been replaced, transforming the game into some pseudo-futuristic man-versus-jungle-beasts that inexplicably reminds me of the film Predator.

Bloody Kong (Donkey Kong 3)

Identical to Donkey Kong 3 except that the big ape is covered in blood, adding an element of horror and gore that’s missing from the comparatively sterile original.

Optimus Minor (Donkey Kong Jr)

Donkey Kong Jr becomes a Transformers game with Optimus Minor, which brings the titular monkey-like robot into the spotlight.

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