It’s official: Nintendo’s arcade-exclusive version of Donkey Kong is now available on a console for the first time. Hamster’s Arcade Archives port of the 1981 quarter-muncher has just hit the Switch eShop for $8, with the more obscure 1981 arcade title Sky Skipper confirmed to follow in July.
As one of the earliest successes in the platform game genre, Donkey Kong saw a human hero — originally named Jumpman — attempting to get from the screen’s bottom to its top, where the titular gorilla held a distressed damsel hostage. Because of its vertical screen orientation, Donkey Kong was basically impossible to port perfectly to consoles for years, generally requiring developers to reformat the graphics for horizontal screens, but it still proved popular across multiple early platforms.
Donkey Kong was Nintendo’s first global hit, inspiring songs, T-shirts, multiple sequels — including the Donkey Kong Country series — and eventually the movie King of Kong, which focused on the ongoing battle over the world’s top score. It was also the first game to feature Mario, whose quest as “Jumpman” led several years later to the iconic Super Mario franchise. The New Donk City level in Super Mario Odyssey was the first core Mario game in years to celebrate their common ties.
Arcade Archives Donkey Kong for the Switch features three “original mode” versions of the arcade game: an “early version” with bugs, a “later version” that was fixed for Japan, and an “international version” with subtle tweaks that debuted everywhere outside of Japan. It also includes a single-credit high score mode and five-minute timed caravan mode. Additionally, you can view the original pixel-perfect graphics in landscape or portrait orientation.
In comparison, the upcoming release of Sky Skipper features only a single original mode along with high score and caravan modes. Sold only in Japan, the rare title features a biplane pilot seeking to rescue various animals that have been captured by gorillas. Nintendo famously converted most of the Sky Skipper arcade games into Popeye cabinets, and it never released a port of the title, which was largely lost to history until now.
Development house Hamster, which specializes in standalone ports of classic arcade games for modern systems, is handling both games. Headquartered in Tokyo, it has released a large number of SNK Neo-Geo games for the Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, as well as a number of other arcade titles across earlier handheld and console platforms. The titles will be available digitally through the eShop, and no physical versions are planned.