Getting Started

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As more newcomers have come into the Donkey Kong Community, it has become increasingly important to demonstrate how to get involved with competitive Donkey Kong.

Join the Donkey Kong Community

  • Donkey Kong Forum
The Donkey Kong Forum is the online conversation/discussion component of the Donkey Kong Community. Here the players speak to one another and share bits of content. The Shoutbox is valuable for members because it allows for real time conversations in instant message format. The threads are worth investigating and learning more about Donkey Kong. You can participate in online tournaments and submit your scores to the High Score List, the most reliable and accurate list in existence. Do yourself a favor and register at the Donkey Kong Forum.
  • Donkey Blog
The Donkey Blog is the best place for news and investigative reporting on the world of Donkey Kong. Be sure to investigate its content and familiarize yourself how to find information. Spend some time reading and enjoying these blog posts.
  • Donkey Kong Wiki
The Donkey Kong Wiki is an informational resource that attempts to build an encyclopedia type archive of Donkey Kong data on players, tournaments, events, etc. View the Wiki Features page to learn more about what is offered on the Wiki. Be sure to also read the How to Contribute page as well.

Participate in the Donkey Kong League and various Tournaments

  • Donkey Kong League
The Donkey Kong League, which starts at the beginning of the 2015 season, will track player participation, achievements, and scores utilizing a point system. View the Donkey Kong League page for the most up to date information.
  • Donkey Kong Open
During the 2014 season, leading to the Kong Off 4, there were a total of 6 online tournaments hosted by Eric Tessler and John Salter. Each of these tournaments have skill bounties for various accomplishments such as longest first man, highest 1-1 score, etc, as well as other cash prizes for placing in the top three overall. There are mystery bounties as well which means that if you simply participate and submit your best score you could be picked for a cash prize. These tournaments are fun and exciting and usually take place once every two months.
  • Donkey Kong Genius Cups
Starting in the 2015 season the Donkey Kong Genius team will host a couple tournaments that will focus on different skills and styles of play such as speed running or challenges such as best score after level two. These cups will complement the high score tournaments by testing the players skills in a different way. All of these cups are another opportunity for players to earn League points.
  • Donkey Kong Forum No-Hammer Competition
Once a year the Donkey Kong Forum hosts a No-Hammer Competition that plays towards high scores but disallows the use of the hammer. This challenge is particularly difficult on the Conveyor and Rivet Boards because you have to navigate the board successfully without the assistance and protection of a hammer.

The Competitive World of Donkey Kong

What is it that makes a classic arcade game such as Donkey Kong so competitive in an age of modern games? This question has a lot of answers, but typically they center around a few points.

  • The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
The documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters inspires and challenges viewers to try their hand out on Donkey Kong. Many players will tell you that their first goal was to beat Brian Kuh's high score, reach beyond Billy Mitchell's original high score from back in 1982, or to simply reach the killscreen on level 22. The story of Steve Weibe often inspires players seeking an outlet to express themselves.
  • Killscreen
Once a player achieves these goals they begin to point press and see how many points they can obtain prior to the kill screen. Since the game ends at level 22 there is a finite set of boards in order to earn points in the game, which means it can not be marathoned, or played forever. The point pressing on Donkey Kong allows the player another way of advancing and improving their skills to obtain higher scores by the time they reach the killscreen.
  • Skill Development
The skill ceiling is ridiculously high, to the extent that you could watch two kill screeners play against each other and it would be glaringly obvious which player is better. One can develop new skills and become more efficient and improve their average per barrel board or average per level. The competition between the top players in the world continue to challenge and push scores higher and higher. The game is very challenging and tests a wide array of skills including: reflexes, multitasking, decision making, critical thinking, patience, and endurance. Lacking in any of these is a barrier to becoming a top-tier player.
  • Levels of play
    • Board Runner - When a player begins to play Donkey Kong the goal is to reach the killscreen by learning how to survive to the end. In the 1980s the holy grail of Donkey Kong play was to reach the final screen of the game at L22, the kill screen. To do this a player must survive a little under 120 boards with only four men. In the 1980s and 1990s, the game was not as studied as it is today The average kill screen was typically around 850k to 890k, and this is usually the range in which a new player's first kill screen falls. For a long time a score of 900k to 1m was believed to be impossible.
    • Million Point Player - The difference between 900k and one million is significant. Much more risk is involved because gameplay will utilize the bottom hammer on the Barrel Board. Once a player gets to the end of the game the goal is to learn how to get more points before they reach the end. The goal is no longer simply to survive but to get to the end with more points than you had before. While it generally takes about one hour and 45 minutes to reach a killscreen by simply running boards, the bottom hammer will add an additional 45 minutes to the length of your game for a total of two hours and 30 minutes.
    • 1.1 Million Point Player - The difference between one million and 1.1 million is a further exponential increase in risk which includes grouping techniques under Kong on the fifth girder. This technique adds 30 to 45 minutes to the game for a total of three hours and fifteen minutes.
    • 1.2 Million Point Player - The difference between 1.1m and 1.2m mainly involves taking all the risks possible in order to earn points. It also involves more efficiency since even Dean Saglio's 1,206,800 point game took three hours and fifteen minutes to complete. The Understanding Pace article on the Donkey Blog will help better understand the differences.[1]
  • Tournaments
An online open tournament with cash prizes usually occurs once every two months. The Kong Off, a big tournament with a relatively large prize pool, occurs usually once a year (give or take a few months). This is the equivalent to an MLG, GSL, IEM, Invitational, or Proleague.

Arcade Cabinet/MAME

Do I have to own a cabinet to play? How do I set up MAME and start playing? While owning a cabinet used to be a huge barrier to entry, with emulators like MAME this is no longer the case. MAME is a program you can install that will run Donkey Kong, as well as other various arcade games on your computer. Scores from MAME can be submitted to the Donkey Kong Forum High Score List and are considered legitimate scores. Whether your score was done on Arcade or on MAME, the game is emulated relatively the same. The High Score List does well to differentiate how a score was achieved.

How to Submit Scores to the Donkey Kong Forum High Score List?

The Donkey Kong Forum High Score List is the most relevant and accurate scoreboard for Donkey Kong. It was created during the time that Twin Galaxies was charging for submissions and it was fitting for the Donkey Kong Community to track and verify its own scores. Please read the Submission Rules in their entirety and be sure to start with a small score to post to ensure that you completely understand the process. You will post your full description and evidence in the Score Submission thread. There are also other High Score Lists for No-Hammer, No-Killscreen, Wild Barrel, Start, and 1-1.

  • Versions of MAME
There are many versions of MAME floating around the internet. An official score must be submitted using some edition of WolfMAME. This is a tournament version of MAME that disables any feature which could be used for cheating such as pausing. This ensures all MAME players are on a fair playing field and that all scores are legitimate. The two most popular versions of WolfMAME are WolfMAME .106 and WolfMAME .153. Versoin .106 is the "Twin Galaxies standard". The strength of this version is that it creates a .wlf and .inp file that can be verified to be genuine. Additionally, an inp can be played back on another computer by another player to ensure that the proper roms were used and that no cheats were enabled. This fact makes MAME scores more verifiable than Arcade scores.

How to setup WolfMAME .106 Guide?

MAME, Roms, Files, and other Downloads

  • Pugsy's MAME Cheats: Download for WolfMAME .106
    • Place the cheat.dat file in the main WolfMAME folder, open MAME program and go to File: Properties dkong.c: Miscellaneous: check Enable game cheats.
    • Start game, hit tab, then go to Cheat, then Add/edit cheats. Enjoy! Note: Cheats affect the way the game emulates such that infinite bonus timer affects the way kong releases barrels.
  • Create a batch file to automatically start playing and record. (Alter the text to direct the cd path to your main MAME folder and then specify the specifics on the "mamep106-vc.exe" -rec line depending on the name of the execution file, file creation name preferences, and the path to the rom it will run.
    • Open a new notepad file, copy and paste text, alter text to work with your system, then save as dkong.bat
cd C:\Documents and Settings\Corey's\Desktop\Game Emulators\Wolf MAME\wolf\Wolf

mamep106-vc.exe -rec "DonkeyKong_%date:~-4,4%%date:~-10,2%%date:~-7,2%_%time:~0,2%%time:~3,2%%time:~6,2%" "C:\Documents and Settings\Corey's\Desktop\Game Emulators\Wolf MAME\wolf\Wolf\roms\"
  • Donkey Me - Donkey-Me is a collection of movie themes that play with a Donkey Kong arcade game look.

How to setup WolfMAME .153 Guide?

  • Download WolfMAME 0.153
    • Note: This is a 7zip file. You will need 7zip or WinRAR to open it.
  • Extract the contents of the WolfMAME 7z archive to a folder on your PC, for example C:\WolfMAME.
  • Download the Donkey Kong (US Set 1) ROM. There are many places you can grab this zip file, see instructions for WolfMAME .106. Once downloaded, you don't need to extract this file.
  • Go to the folder you extracted WolfMAME into. Create a new folder called roms -- eg C:\WolfMAME\roms.
  • Place the file into this roms folder.
  • Open the command line by pressing the Start Button on your PC and typing "cmd".
  • Navigate to your WolfMAME folder. NOTE: "cd" is the command to change directory (see image below for example which is for 106, substitute 153).
  • Once in the WolfMAME directory, type "record dkong dkong". This will start a game of Donkey Kong. Options for controls (such as coin input and start game) can be accessed by pressing Tab on your keyboard.
  • To restart, hit escape to close MAME and start the game again.


Donkey Kong Arcade Machine Information

Donkey Kong machines are available for play in several locations. View the list on the Aurcade Website for documented locations of known Donkey Kong machines. You may want to go and play one before you decide to make a purchase of your own. You can also look on the internet for Donkey Kong machines for sale. A great place to search your surrounding area is Craig's List. Even if one is not available at this time be sure to check back frequently. Once you find a machine for sale and its photos and price look reasonable then contact the seller to schedule a time when you can go and review the machine and drop a few quarters. If the machine is in another state but you might be willing to make the trip to pick it up be sure to ask for additional photos so that you can get a good look at the various parts of the arcade cabinet. Viewing Hank Chien's Post-Game Verification in another section below is good way to get an idea of what the various parts of an arcade machine will look like. Learn All About DK ROM sets and PCBs by Chris Psaros.

Purchase Questions to Ask

  • Things to look for while examining the Arcade Cabinet. This list is just some items to think about and is in no way exhaustive.
    • Is the Monitor working correctly?
      • Are its colors correct and bright?
    • Is the joystick the original Nintendo version?
      • Does it have the 4-way restrictor plate?
      • If it is original, is the height of the stick and ball size comfortable?
        • If not, are you willing to replace the joystick?
    • Do all the wires plug directly into the board or does the wiring harness utilize the edge connector?
    • Is there anything plugged into the Z80 Processor location such as a high score kit?
      • If there is a high score kit, while the rom chip on the sister board may work well, the roms directly on the pcb can still be corrupted since these are bypassed in this hardware configuration.
    • How clean is the inside of the cabinet?
      • Is there water damage or other staining?
      • Are any of the wires exposed or corroded?
    • Is the sound clear and the sound level adjustable?
    • Is there any visible evidence of corrupted roms in the game play?
    • Are all the screws, bolts, clips fashioned well and in place?
    • Is it a two board set and say TKG-4? Does the title screen say: "(C) 1981 Nintendo of America Inc."?

Restoration & Repair Information

It may be necessary to make alterations and repairs to your arcade cabinet either once the purchase is made or if something might go wrong in the future. More often than not posting questions on the Donkey Kong Forum will be answered in a reasonable amount of time concerning repairs, etc.

  • You may also consult guides that can assist you during the process of restoration and repair. (Note: Clicking on an image once will take you to its file page. Clicking on the image on its file page will show full screen.)
Donkey Kong TKG-4 PCB Schematic
TKG-4 Operations Manual
Sanyo EZ20 Schematic

Build your own Arcade Cabinet

(Note: Clicking on an image once will take you to its file page. Clicking on the image on its file page will show full screen.)

Installing Vecter Lab Arcade 4 Game Switcher

How to Stream Donkey Kong Live?

Most to nearly all Donkey Kong Players stream their games live through sites such as Hitbox or Twitch. Most people have Twitch accounts which makes it easy for us to follow one another and to participate in chat. You will want to create an account either on Twitch and/or on Hitbox. Most people who have a Hitbox account also have a primary Twitch account. Depending on your operating system you will have more or less options on how to stream your gaming content to one of these sites.

  • Open Broadcaster Software
Open Broadcaster Software or OBS is perhaps the most flexible streaming software available and is completely free. Usually there are members of the Donkey Kong Community who would be more than willing to assist you in setting up the options in this program. You can find useful information on Open Broadcaster Software Guide on the Donkey Kong Forum. You can also find a few Youtube videos on the subject such as the following. (Note: Keep in mind that bit rate, resolution, and FPS frames per second will increase the quality of your stream, however, even if your internet can handle the upload, please keep in mind that other people may not have the download speed to see it without excessive lag. Usually 1200 bit rate with a resolution of 720 and 30 FPS is adequate. Be sure to check the box to Automatically Save Stream to File. If for some reason your internet drops or there are other complications you will want to have a file backing up your content.)

  • XSplit
Another commonly used streaming software is XSplit.
  • Hexchat
Hexchat is a useful IRC Client program that allows you to log into multiple streams at one time and keep a record of the chat. It can also be used as a light weight means of tracking the activity on your stream without having to have your web browser running particularly if you are attempted to lower your cpu usage to decrease the probability of experiencing system lag which could result in choppy emulation, or worse deaths due to lag. Be sure to use this Twitch IRC Guide if you are setting up Hexchat to access your Twitch chat information.
  • Preserving Streamed Content
You can use the OBS setting checked that allows the program to save a local copy on your computer every time you stream. That way you always have a backup. Also, if you see a good twitch video out there you can always download it so that if it is ever lost on Twitch, you will have your own personal copy.

Verify Your Arcade Cabinet by Hank Chien

How do I Improve my Skills?

Donkey Kong is a very challenging game. An important thing to remember is that while many deaths appear to be impossible to avoid, nearly every death in the game is caused by an avoidable circumstance. While there are a few notable exceptions, most players do not reach their first kill screen until after at least three months of practice. There is a lot to learn, but there are several resources that can help:

  • The Donkey Kong Introductory Walk-Through is a great place to start. Simple and easy to understand.
  • The Donkey Kong Manual - A great guide for beginners with a wealth of content on how to reach your first kill screen. Co-authored by several professionals such as Vince Lemay, Mitchell Elliott, Corey Chambers, and Jeremy Young.
  • Save States - Another great way to learn is to use save states in MAME to practice boards that give you trouble without having to start the game over and over again. This is akin to not having to play an entire game of basketball just to practice free throws.
    • You can create your own save states or you can find a few on this Donkey Kong Forum tread for Sharing MAME Save States.

Vintage Donkey Kong Manuals

(Note: Clicking on an image once will take you to its file page. Clicking on the image on its file page will show full screen.)

The Video Master's Guide to Donkey Kong
Playing Donkey Kong to Win
How to Win at Donkey Kong

Training Videos

Watch Donkey Kong Games

Donkey Kong Genius Streaming

There's almost always someone playing live on the Donkey Kong Genius Streaming Page. But if someone is not playing live you can always view great games on Youtube and Twitch.

Basic Killscreens for Beginners

  • Jeremy Young - 905,700 KS 02/23/14
  • Shame Mosher - 865,900 KS on 10/14/13

Advanced Donkey Kong Games

  • Vincent Lemay - 1,135,900 KS 01/11/13
  • Ross Benziger - 1,136,500 KS on 09/26/13

Other Resources to Learn about Donkey Kong


  1. Chris Psaros's Donkey Blog Article