Classic Monkey Games: A look back at the best ape and monkey games of yesteryear

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Just as modern man shares a common ancestor with simian primates, modern video games also share common descent with games where apes, monkeys, and simians in general feature heavily. Don't believe this fairly tenuous link? Just look at Donkey Kong Country, one of the most iconic and incredible platform games to ever exist, still fiercely entertaining to this very day, and still as ferociously addictive as the best current-gen console game. While technology has come a very long way since the days of the original Donkey Kong, homage must be paid to the monkey games of year which kept a majority of gamers up at night with their simple-in-format yet challenging-in-nature levels, often swallowing up hours, days, and weeks of play time before they could finally be completed. There are many old-school monkey games in existence, but this page is all about taking you through a tour of the very best classic monkey games that still hold their own in the present day.

Donkey Kong Country Series

There's no way to mentioned Donkey Kong Country and not bring in its successors to revel in the praise as well. That's why there's no way to single out any one game in this series; they're all so god-damned entertaining. The original Donkey Kong Country was both a masterpiece and a huge success, selling around 9 million copies worldwide. At its heart is a simple platforming-format adventure, but the inclusion of the ability to switch between Donkey and Diddy Kong, a range of memorable enemies (jumping crocs, armadillos, buzzing wasps, and the aptly-named big-boss of the game, Captain K. Rool), some stunning changes in scenery (jungles, volcanoes, arctic tundra, and underwater stretches), incredible graphics, and what is quite frankly a gorgeous soundtrack makes Donkey Kong Country not only the best classic monkey game of all time, but also (for many people) the greatest video game of all time, period.

The two sequels could never quite capture the same impact as the original, but Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest and Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble introduced new enemies, characters, and also a variety of vehicles for exploring the series' ever-expanding maps. These games were so good that the modern-day offerings such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze fail to live up to the greatness of Nintendo's past.

Donkey Kong Arcade Game

Donkey Kong Arcade Game

The first conclusion that any true gamer should draw when one mentions classic games in the same sentence as the words "monkey", "primate", "gorilla", or "ape" is Donkey Kong. This loveable primate was the central hero of the original Donkey Kong Country (see below) way back in 1994, but the echoes of its origins can be traced back a whopping 13 years before that in 1981 where music was questionable but arcade gaming as rife. The intelligent ape character we all know and love today actually began life on the big and bulky medium of the Donkey Kong Arcade Game in the aforementioned year of 1981.

Far from the relatively revolutionary graphics of the 1994 Donkey Kong Country, Donkey Kong Arcade consisted of Donkey Kong kidnapping Mario's girlfriend and taking her to the top of a construction site, forcing you to control Mario as he ascends the different levels of the construction site whilst dodging enemies such as barrels, fireballs, and piles of sand. Extremely simplistic in terms of gameplay and graphics, this game was hugely enjoyable and spawned a number of arcade-based sequels including Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong II and Donkey Kong III.

Diddy Kong Racing for N64

Diddy Kong Racing for N64

Diddy Kong, the so-called wannabe nephew of Donkey Kong, takes the spotlight in Diddy Kong Racing for the N64. Another classic game remembered by many, DIddy Kong Racing had a good number of modes for players to enjoy including a story mode, multiplayer (taking advantage of the N64's ability to accommodate up to four controllers simultaneously). What makes DKR one of the most memorable karting games alongside the on-going Mario Kart franchise is not only the characters you get to choose (all less famous than Diddy Kong, obviously) but the fact that you get to make use of different vehicles such as hovercrafts and aeroplanes. Diddy Kong Racing is probably one of the most memorable titles on this list thanks to the fame afforded to the character through the Donkey Kong Country Series.

Toki - Going Ape Spit

Toki - Going Ape Spit

Going way back to the Sega Genesis now with the daringly-named (for the time, anyhow) Toki: Going Ape Spit. Though the game isn't universally known by all gamers, it is a title in the classic platforming game genre that cannot be overlooked due to the unusually significant handicap you are lumped with. It doesn't take much to kill Toki and he is remarkably slow to control, but the fun comes in the ability to shoot enemies with shots that emanate from Toki, destroying enemies and allowing you traverse levels and face the mini-boss at the end of them. Though the main character is a monkey, the game actually belongs to the run-and-gun genre of games since Toki has special powers that allow him to shoot the aforementioned projectiles and make his way to the evil wizard at the end of the game, a character who is responsible for the enchanting of Toki. The only downside of the game is that Toki moves painfully slowly, reducing the pace of the game to a literal crawl at times. You can still purchase Toki: Going Ape Spit at Amazon.

Super Monkey Ball Junior

Super Monkey Ball Junior

Probably the most modern game on the list (relatively speaking), Super Monkey Ball Junior made its way to the Gameboy Advance where it unique brand of ball-in-maze action made full use of the GBA's 3D capabilities. Its main character isn't particularly memorable, but its format can be described as unique in the otherwise platform-heavy styles of the other monkey games mentioned on this page.