It’s time to settle which of Nintendo’s simian superstars is truly top banana.
With Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze coming to Switch next week, it seems like a great time to rank every Kong who ever graced a TV screen or handheld device. Ok, not actually every Kong. There were a few qualifying credentials for apes and monkeys hoping to make it on to the official list, and they are as follows:
- They need to have “Kong” in their name
- They need to be from a game with “Donkey Kong” in the title
This negates characters such a Rabbid Kong from Mario + Rabbids and the Chained Kongs from Super Mario RPG, as well as any of the standalone weirdos from that godawful Donkey Kong Country cartoon series.
Let’s get rolling.
You may not know the Manky Kongs by name, but these orangutans were featured in the very first Donkey Kong Country as disgruntled low-level enemies. According to Nintendo’s official literature, this rough looking bunch was excommunicated from the Kong family long ago for reasons unknown. They likely played a part in the theoretical Great Ape War, which is a whole other branch of crazy.
After the great success of Diddy’s Kong Quest for the SNES, Rare decided to keep swapping out Kongs to keep things fresh. Unfortunately, they decided to introduce Kiddy Kong for their third SNES outing, who is basically a large stupid toddler. Diddy was fast, Dixie could glide, and Kiddy could... roll on water? A surprising ability considering he’s one of the heaviest Kongs on record. Kiddy’s childish demeanor and lack of personality led to a collective shrug from platforming fans the world over. In Japan Kiddy is known as Dinky Kong, which, despite his size, seems much more fitting.
Candy Kong was introduced to players as DK’s scantily clad love interest in the original Donkey Kong Country. She certainly stands out as the tallest and most human-like of the extended Kong family. As children many of us couldn’t stop looking at her and as adults doing so makes us feel slightly uncomfortable, and some other emotions that are strange and confusing. Let’s just keep moving
Though he stormed the arcade scene in 1982 with his own game, Donkey Kong Jr. hasn’t been a playable character since the launch of Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64. Rumor has it Rare debated adding him to the original Donkey Kong Country as DK’s sidekick, but he was scrapped in favor of the more agile Diddy Kong. Good move, Rare. Chances are folks wouldn’t have been drawn to Jr’s smelly unitard and rotund appearance. He’s also the only Kong who’s ever tried to teach us math, and that’s just unacceptable.
When DK made the jump to 3D with 1999’s Donkey Kong 64, he brought some new primate pals along for the ride. Most of these new additions were great, and some were very slow, and awkward, and named Chunky Kong. In the official Kong family tree, Chunky is Kiddy’s older brother, and it’s not hard to see the resemblance. At least Chunky has some decently interesting special moves like punching really hard, becoming even bigger, and turning invisible. That last one makes absolutely zero sense, but it adds a layer of mystery to his frat boy appearance.
Chances are you haven’t heard of these big fellas, and for good reason. All four are stationed as bosses in the often overlooked GameCube classic Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. You play it with the Donkey Konga bongo controller and it’s absolutely amazing. Dread, Karate, Ninja, and Sumo all rule over their respective kingdoms, and represent the only member of the current Kong family who have gone to the dark side. They’re all pretty badass, and it’s always a pleasure to pummel their faces with the frantic drumming of a bongo.
Tiny Kong was the only playable female character introduced in Donkey Kong 64. Like her older sister Dixie, she is known for her small stature and hair-raising hover abilities. What most folks don’t know is that Tiny grew up after her Nintendo 64 debut, and I don’t mean in some weird fan fiction way. She actually replaced Banjo (of Banjo-Kazooie fame) in the 2007 Diddy Kong Racing remake for the Nintendo DS, appearing in her gangly teenage form. Her spin-off momentum didn’t stop there, as she went on to be featured in Donkey Kong Barrel Blast and Mario Super Sluggers for the Wii. What have you been doing with your life since 1999?
Believed to be the OG Donkey Kong from the arcade glory days, Cranky is the perfect embodiment of his cantankerous moniker. Cranky has been present to share advice, ridicule his relatives, and break the fourth wall in just about every Donkey Kong adventure since 1994. His years of experience gave him the wherewithal to produce some truly spectacular special moves for the Kongs in Donkey Kong 64, and he finally got to come along for the journey in Tropical Freeze. He’s a mean spirited jerk, but he’s also a hoot, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
When any other Kong falls off a cliff or runs headlong into a reptilian enemy they can always call on extra lives to survive. This was sadly not the case with Wrinkly Kong, who was officially killed off some time between Donkey Kong Country 3 and Donkey Kong 64. Before this tragic happening Wrinkly was head educator of Kong Kollege, wore super hip jogging gear, and even got her mitts on one of those new-fangled Nintendo 64 systems before most players. She was one radical old gal. Even in death she couldn’t be stopped from helping the Kongs with hints and annoying her widowed husband, Cranky. RIP Wrinkly. We love you, you ghostly old ape.
The richest of the Kongs, Swanky usually just does whatever the heck he feels like. Usually that’s running a game show of sorts and flashing his loads of dosh. Dude has a cane, a fist full of flashy rings, and some gold teeth to boot. It’s a crime we haven’t seen him make an appearance in a Donkey Kong adventure for over 20 years. Just look at that stylin’ outfit. What a mac daddy.
Lanky Kong is such a terrible character that he’s somehow a great one. He’s like the Waluigi of the Donkey Kong mythos. His movements are hilarious and his exceedingly long arms are memorable. The guy can walk up steep surfaces on his hands, for Pete’s sake. As the DK Rap states, “He has no style. He has no grace. This Kong has a funny face.” All these assessments are accurate. We laugh at Lanky Kong’s poorly patched overalls, his shrieks of joy, and his clown nose, but deep in our hearts aren’t we all unfashionable, silly orangutans? Lanky Kong makes us all feel a bit better about the playful weirdo that we are. Think about it.
He’s the leader of the bunch. You know him well. I’m not going to type out the rest of that verse, but you get the idea. Donkey Kong is the classic Nintendo villain turned hero. He (or was it Cranky?) started out as a barrel-tossing kidnapper, but has grown to become the heavy-hitting hero of his own jungle shenanigans. Whether he’s shaking some Kremlin baddies with a ground slap, hitting the links with former rival Mario, or bodying other drivers off the road, DK has become a powerful and permanent fixture of the gaming world. He doesn’t have as much personality as some of the other Kongs, but he doesn’t really need to. Donkey Kong started it all. He’s the one who set the standard. The one who decided that ape’s don’t need clothes, but somehow managed to get his hands on a monogramed tie. May he swing forever through our hearts.
Funky Kong is like that cool uncle who’s never been married and lives near the beach. While he’s basically just Donkey Kong with loads of terrible ‘90s style and a surfboard, there’s just something about him that makes you want to high five the nearest gorilla. Funky’s bodacious dudebro attitude and ever expanding business ventures make him one hip and helpful Kong in just about every DK game to date. The Donkey Kong series is known for its critically acclaimed soundtracks, and Funky’s appearances are tied to some of the best themes and upbeat tunes in the franchises’ long history. Best of all, we can finally put his aggro surfing skills to the test in Tropical Freeze’s “New Funky Mode.”
As mentioned above, Diddy Kong was officially selected in as DK’s sidekick when Rare assessed that Donkey Kong Jr. just wouldn’t get the job done. Thank goodness. Diddy’s agile moveset and playful demeanor made him the go-to choice for players during the first Donkey Kong Country escapades who wanted to get the drop on faster enemies and hotfoot treacherous terrain with ease. Somehow Rare managed to make Diddy even more extreme with the addition of his own jetpack, pistols, and guitar in Donkey Kong 64. There’s a reason he’s the only only Kong aside from DK to make it onto the Super Smash Bros. roster. Diddy is dynamite.
First appearing in 1995's Donkey Kong Country 2, Dixie was introduced to players as Diddy Kong’s girlfriend and younger sister to the vivacious Candy Kong. She holds the prestigious honor of being the first playable lady primate in any Donkey Kong title. While Diddy gave us speed and accuracy, Dixie gave us the comforting power of precision gliding. With her signature helicopter hairdo leading the way every player could breathe easy during a daunting leap or perilous fall. Not to mention she could whip baddies and hoist heavy objects just using her luscious blonde locks. Nearly two decades after kicking Baron K. Roolenstein’s buns in the Northern Kremisphere, Dixie made her triumphant return as a playable character in Tropical Freeze for Wii U. She just edges out her long time chimp boyfriend by bringing some much needed confidence and girl power to the Kong universe.
Thus ends the most scientifically accurate virtual primate rankings known to mankind. Which Kong do you believe deserves to be number one? Shout out in the comments below, and feel free to beat your chest a few times while doing so.