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Video Game / Mario vs. Donkey Kong

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It's a new way to play an old arcade classic.

"Hey! Come back here, you big monkey!"

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a series of platform-puzzle video games created by Nintendo Software Technology for Nintendo's portable systems, as well as the Wii U. The series started out as a Creator-Driven Successor to the original Donkey Kong arcade game, where Mario was out to catch the titular gorilla and keep him from causing trouble, but the gameplay soon went in a slightly different direction.

Games in the series:

  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong (2004, Game Boy Advance): Originally planned to be a Video Game Remake of the Game Boy Donkey Kong (itself presented as a remake of the original arcade game for its first four levels), though it ended up being an entirely new game. In short, Mario has had Mini-Mario toys made in his image, but Donkey Kong, unable to buy them in stores due to them being sold out, has stolen them from the factory.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (2006, Nintendo DS): The first title to have the gameplay that the rest of the series is known for; featuring Mini Mario toys that move around the levels on their own and that the player must keep safe by manipulating the environmentnote . Mario is opening a "Super Mini Mario World" amusement park, and Pauline (from the original arcade game) is a guest of honor at the opening ceremonies. DK is instantly smitten with her, but when she shuns his Mini Donkey Kong gift in favor of a Mini Mario, he doesn't take it well and abducts her. This game also introduces a level editor, which would become a major series feature.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! (2009, Nintendo DS digital-only): DK's in line for the amusement park again, but when tickets sell out he grabs Pauline once again.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (2010, Nintendo DS). Mario has made Mini Pauline toys and is giving them away to the first hundred visitors — but DK is number 101. You should probably already know what happens next.
  • Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (2013, Nintendo 3DS, digital-only): In a change to the usual formula, the game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D environment instead of from the side. The lack of a Versus Title is also intentional, as the plot this time is that Mario is hosting a Mini Toy Carnival, and DK and Pauline are running one of the game stalls together.
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars (2015, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, digital-only): DK has kidnapped Pauline again, with no reason given this time (until the ending, anyway). While the gameplay is the same as in earlier games, the title comes from the fact that players can hand out stars to other players as tips for their user-created levels... at least until the shutdown of Miiverse in November 2017.
  • Mini Mario and Friends: amiibo Challenge (2016, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, digital-only): A free-to-start game used to promote Nintendo's amiibo toyline. Scanning an amiibo of a Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, DK, Diddy Kong, Rosalina, or Bowser Jr unlocks that character's Mini-toy and some levels themed around him/her, and each of the ten characters have a unique special ability. (Scanning any other amiibo instead activates a generic Mini-toy with no ability.)

Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors have access to the original game as one of ten free Game Boy Advance games; incidentally, this means they can play every game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series on one system.

The series is notable for being designed by Americans, with its developer being Nintendo Software Technology Corporation (AKA NST), which is based in Redmond, Washington, like Nintendo's main American division.

Tropes found in Mario Vs Donkey Kong include:

  • All There in the Manual: The plot of the fifth game is spelled out exclusively on the first page of the digital manual included with it.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: The Star World levels in amiibo Challenge combine aspects of the various character-specific levels, such as including both Toad's bouncing mushrooms and DK's barrels.
  • Antepiece: In the first game, while the cutscene preceding level 6-1 shows how lasers work, the beginning of the level also showcases them in a simple area - a short corridor with a red laser, a blue laser, and a yellow laser with gaps between them. This shows both the order they activate in, and how long they remain active, before forcing the player to contend with more complicated setups involving the hazard.
  • Bootstrapped Leitmotif: The music that was exclusive to Mini Mario levels in the first Mario vs. Donkey Kong would become their World 1 theme starting with March of the Minis.
  • Bonus Stage:
    • The GBA original has two, accessed by collecting all three presents in the level and completing it. After the score screen, you get taken to a screen that shows you three presents and things entering them: a Donkey Kong head worth a 0-Up, a green 1-Up, and another mushroom of varying colors and extra life counts (a pink 2-Up, a blue 3-Up, and a gold 5-Up). The one with a pink background is a roulette where you press A to make an arrow begin slowing down, and the present it stops on is what you get. The one with a blue background is a minigame where Donkey Kong will smash two of the presents from offscreen, but he'll also try to fake you out by pulling his punches. You control Mario, who can swap the positions of two adjacent presents in an attempt to keep the one with the best prize safe - the last present standing is the one you'll take home.
    • March of the Minis has Shy Guy Smash!, a minigame awarded for collecting all of the Mini Mario Cards on the floor. In this minigame, toy Shy Guys pop out of pipes and you have to tap them with the Stylus - but be careful of Bob-ombs, who debut in the second-floor version of the minigame and will take away five points if tapped. Completing these awards bonus Construction Kits for the Level Editor.
  • Boss-Only Level:
    • Played with in the first game. While clearing the Mini-Mario Levels always leads players to facing Donkey Kong, after the first battle in any given world the Boss Battle itself is freely accessible afterwards, although not going through the MM levels first "punishes" the player with four Hit Points instead of the "usual" six, as they would have if all six Mini Marios are rescued.
    • Played straight in the sequels, which have boss levels entirely separate from the puzzle stages.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the true ending of Mario vs Donkey Kong, you can hear Mario speaking throughout the credits.
    Mario: Well, that was sure fun! I had a great time, hee hee!
    • He thanks the engineers...
      Mario: Oh, the engineering. Mamma mia.
    • He thanks the people who help create the game...
      Mario: And thanks to all the artists, the music people, everybody!
    • He also make sure the player to give a special thanks to his creator...
      Mario: (whispering) Oh yeah, don't forget to thank Mr. Miyamoto!
    • And finally, he make funny comment about his own Voice Creator:
      Mario: Ah, that Charles Martinet! Nice Italian boy.
  • Brutal Bonus Level: These can range from Nintendo Hard to Platform Hell. Many of the Kaizo-type "expert mode levels" look like they were inspired by ROM hacks.
  • The Bus Came Back: Pauline, who was last seen in Donkey Kong '94.
  • Character Select Forcing: This is much of the point of amiibo Challenge. Particular characters are required to both collect tokens in the main levels and access alternate exits leading to the character's specific levels.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Mini Pauline didn't appear in Mini Mario and Friends: amiibo Challenge, as the only mini toy in the series to not have its respective Pauline amiibo.
    • As the name of Mini Mario and Friends suggests, the Minis take the spotlight in the game while Mario, Donkey Kong and Pauline are Out of Focus.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Throughout the series, many stage elements are colored either red, blue, or yellow. These course elements will react to switches of the three colors being pressed, typically activating when their color is pressed and deactivating when one of the other two is pressed.
  • Continuity Nod: Whenever Pauline gets kidnapped by Donkey Kong, Mario grabs for her but only catches the hem of her dress, tearing it in the same way as the original Donkey Kong.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: Mario and the minis can survive in lava-filled rooms, and even stand on platforms that are actively being lifted by lava.
  • Cranium Ride: Can be done in the first three games.
  • Cute Machines: The mini-toys. No wonder Donkey Kong stole them in the first game!
  • Darker and Edgier: In the first game, they managed to make Donkey Kong creepy, as seen in the boxart. Then you get to see him in-game, and yes, he's a menacing villain: he growls, he uses a Shadow Discretion Shot to show his ambush on the poor Toads, and so on. Then it got worse since the game itself, as a whole, is pretty darker than your usual Mario game. In the real final battle, after you destroy his mecha, he shows his pain by screaming at the top of his lungs, resulting in an inhumanly painful-sounding death cry...only to jump back up and succumb to childish sobbing afterwards.
  • Downloadable Content: Each of the games have DLC.
    • The first game has DLC in the form of e-Reader cards. Both the US and Japanese games have normally inaccessible pre-loaded levels and only 12 levels can be saved at any given time to the e World, which is strange since there are more than 12 pre-loaded levels in either version (13 in the U.S. version and 14 in the Japanese, although the United States' 13 is a dummy level which doesn't exist in the Japanese version). The levels between the U.S. and Japanese are mostly different, with a few only different in minor ways, most of the levels from the U.S. version being heavily altered in the Japanese version, and some levels from the US version being replaced completely. Only five very rare cards were ever released and only in Japan. The e-Reader feature was removed from the Europe version of the game.
    • In the sequels, the DLC came in the form of Construction Zone levels that can be shared between players either locally or via Wi-Fi. Nintendo itself released levels every once in a while (with levels in Mini-Land Mayhem! dropping once a month). In March of the Minis, limitations made it impossible to have more than 8 self-made stages and 24 stages from others, which may explain why Nintendo itself only had 8 levels up at a time despite having developed more. It was also impossible to download more than one level at a time; As soon as one level was downloaded, you'd be disconnected and would have to reconnect to download another. In Minis March Again! and Mini-Land Mayhem!, both of those were improved, allowing players to not only have far more levels saved at once (160 in Mini-Land Mayhem!, and self-made levels are no longer segregated from others'), but to also download multiple levels without disconnecting and even search for levels in various ways.
  • Drop the Hammer: Hammers appear as weapons in every installment.
  • Dual Wielding: Unlike the real Mario, the Mini Marios use two hammers at once.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The original game actually starred Mario himself over the Mini Marios, and neither Pauline nor the level editor were present. It was also far more action-based (not unlike Donkey Kong '94) than the Lemmings-type puzzles of the rest of the games, which also use the stylus instead of the buttons. This is owing to the fact that it was supposed to be an Updated Re-release of Donkey Kong '94.
    • In March of the Minis, you can directly control the Minis' actions with the Touch Screen, like making them turn around, stop in place, or Wall Jump. As early as the very next game, Minis March Again!, the only direct control you have over the toys is activating them; this coincided with the series changing focus from manipulating both the Minis and the objects in the level, to just the latter.
  • Easter Egg: In March of the Minis and Minis March Again!, closing the DS will make Mario speak a random sentence, and so will opening it again. Close it and open it back up repeatedly, and Mario may exclaim "Not again!".
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: In Mini-Land Mayhem, the Donkey Kong levels can be this, especially in world 5, world 8, and the final battle. Especialy in Plus Mode. This becomes inverted in Cosmic Adventure where the DK battle is one of the easiest in the game (and perhaps the most fun).
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: This series has Mario facing his old enemy from his debut into the gaming world, though this time Mario's name actually appears in the title.
  • Excuse Plot: The first game had a cutscenes via slideshow and were probably the most elaborate of plots for the entire series. Then once the series began opting for the Lemmings-style stylus-centric gameplay for which it's known now, the "excuseness" of the plots became more apparent. It culminated in 2015's Tipping Stars, where the introduction cutscene is composed of only one screen of "plot", showing DK carrying Pauline off with Mario in pursuit. The normal ending isn't any better, which is also one screen with sightly animated assets revealing the whole game being a setup for a surprise party for Mario.
  • Fake Longevity: In Minis March Again!, in order to unlock all the stages, you have to get every gold star in the game in order to unlock all of the basement stages (only one is available initially after finishing the game)note . To unlock the remaining roof stages (only a few are available after you complete the game), you need to complete the game all over again in "Plus" mode.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: In the end of some levels of the first game, like the second boss fight, the game might not consider your final score a new high score, but still records it. If the player can't get a better score, then it's time to delete the file and start over.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Donkey Kong's Humongous Mecha in the first game, which attacks very similarly to the Final Boss of the Game Boy Donkey Kong.
  • Good Versus Good: Mario is clearly the hero of these games and Donkey Kong is the antagonist, but Donkey Kong has no ill intentions either. He just wants some Mini-Mario toys. In Minis March Again!, his kidnapping of Pauline was all a ploy by him and her to test the Mini Mario toys, and in Tipping Stars, he deliberately kidnaps Pauline (who is also in on the gag) to order to lead Mario to a surprise party. The most villainous Donkey Kong has ever been was March of the Minis, where he's just a sympathetic Anti-Villain. And even then, when Mario reaches Pauline, she was surrounded by presents, food, and comfy furniture, and it looked like she didn't even mind getting kidnapped.
  • Helpful Mook: Some of the enemies throughout the series end up being helpful in some way.
    • Many enemies are immune to spikes, allowing Mario or the Minis to get a Cranium Ride along a path he otherwise couldn't get over.
    • Sir Shovalot can shove Mario through tight gaps he can't walk through.
    • Monchees and Robokikkis in the first game, and Cool Kongs in later ones, have grabbable segments that extend through platforms, allowing Mario or the Minis to hitch a ride on them.
    • Circus Kongs juggle Mini toys, making it impossible to control them - but if there's a Directionally Solid Platform or dotted-line block above them, then the Circus Kongs will essentially serve only to chuck the Minis to a higher area.
  • Here We Go Again!:
  • In Case of Boss Fight, Break Glass: The True Final Boss of the first game is a Humongous Mecha piloted by Donkey Kong, which you defeat by chucking barrels at the cockpit.
  • Just Friends: Mario and Pauline.
  • Large Ham: Pauline's voice in Mini-Land Mayhem sounds very exaggerated when she's being kidnapped.
  • Level Editor: A headlining feature in every game but the first.
    • They do have some limitations, however, as it's not possible to do create certain types of levels seen in the main game, such as any having a Multi-Door Magnet level a la Cosmic Adventure in Mini-Land Mayhem! or levels where all Minis are forced to start at once after a 3 second countdown (this limitation can be overcome by having the Minis start off in mid-air, although this doesn't allow players to survey the level beforehand within the level. Luckily, they can do so in the level select screen).
    • The first game does have a level editor, albeit incomplete and with some limitations of its own (such as not allowing the first level of any world to be edited). Like with the e-Reader levels, it was cut.
    • The level editor in Tipping Stars is given bigger focus, as when you rate a level, the person who made it gets stars, which they can use buy more things from the Workshop Store to build better levels. Of course, you can get stars by yourself, but getting them from other players is faster and more rewarding. Due to the shutdown of Miiverse this can no longer be done.
  • Marathon Level: There are only three Giant Jungle levels in Minis on the Move, but it's counteracted by the fact that they take around eight minutes to beat. Most levels take around 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Meaningless Lives:
    • The first game has a lives system, but if you Game Over, you'll just restart the level with five more lives and, if you were on the second section of a level, a reset score. Thing is, when you die normally, you lose the time you accumulated from the first section of the level if it was on the second, which defeats any ability to get a high score. Thus, getting a Game Over doesn't punish you any more than dying regularly would.
    • Minis March Again! has lives in it, but what happens when you run out? Well, you're given the option to retry or quit. Retrying gives you 5 lives and puts you back in the level you game overed in. Quitting lets you come back later with five lives. So, in short, nothing happens.
  • Megaton Punch: In the first game, making contact with Donkey Kong in any of the boss levels where it is possible to do so will result in DK decking Mario and sending the plumber across the level. If Mario still has any hit points, the action will just stun him rather than kill him instantly like in Donkey Kong '94.
  • Minigame: The first had a shell game, the second had a Whack-A-Mole type game, and Mini-Land Mayhem! had a sorting game.
  • Mission-Pack Sequel: The first two games and the 3D-based Minis on the Move are the only truly original titles - the others are, at their core, custom level arrangements of Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. Granted, there are a few incremental updates to the same formula; Minis March Again! simplified the gameplay with less control over the minis themselves and more focus on interacting with the levels themselves, Mini-Land Mayhem! changed the DK boss setup and included more minigames, and Tipping Stars exclusively has Mini Luigi and a Workshop store where you can buy features with your accumulated points, and there are a few minor enhancements to the enemy and obstacle types over time. Subverted with Minis on the Move, which tries to shake it up a bit with new 3D gameplay, only to return the old 2D formula with Tipping Stars.
  • Musical Nod: All tunes in Coaster Hills in Mini-Land Mayhem! are remixes of Super Mario Bros. 2 tunes.
  • Mythology Gag: When a Mini Peach grabs a Fire Flower, her dress turns white and her hair turns red — just like Peach's color palette in the original Super Mario Bros..
  • New Game Plus:
    • Subverted by the original; Although the worlds are the same, the individual levels are completely different and have different mechanics. The final battle of Plus Mode is also different.
    • Also subverted by Minis March Again!; the worlds use the same themes, but that's all they have in common. The Plus Mode levels also always start all your Minis at the same time.
    • Mini-Land Mayhem! plays this straight, for the most part; the only differences are that the order you get Minis to the goal is important, and bosses and minigames are harder.
  • Oh, Crap!: In the first game, Mario audibly panics when the hands of Donkey Kong's mecha grab the last of the Mini Marios in the brief sequence directly proceeding the True Final Boss fight.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: In the first game, Mario will be defeated if hit by anything in the six main levels and the Mini Mario levels. The exceptions are the bosses - the amount of Mini Marios rescued in the preceding stage equals the amount of health Mario gets, with a minimum of one and a maximum of six. If you play just the boss from the level select, you'll be given four hits.
  • Promoted to Playable: Mini Donkey Kong, Mini Toad, and Mini Peach are all introduced in the opening of March of the Minis, but are only playable in levels made with Special Kit 3, 1 or 2 respectively. The next game, Minis March Again!, allows you to replace almost all the Mini Marios in the main game (only the ones in Key levels and boss levels remain Marios) with any of the above, or a combination of all three plus Mini Mario.
  • Pushy Mooks: The fittingly-named Sir Shovalot charges at Mario with its shield as soon as it sees him. While they can be useful to get through tight gaps, if they push Mario against a wall, he'll be Squashed Flat and lose a life.
  • Rearrange the Song: The music for some of the games' title screens is a combination of the Super Mario Bros. overworld theme and the Donkey Kong title screen theme.
  • Regional Bonus: Although there were no major gameplay enhancements, the European localization, as well as the Japanese translation of the first game added a few graphical tweaks. Unfortunately, Mario's dialogue during the credits were removed from these localizations.
  • Robot Me: The Mini Marios are basically Exactly What It Says on the Tin wind-up toys. Also, the True Final Boss of the first game is a Humongous Mecha shaped like and piloted by DK.
  • Rump Roast: Getting hit by fire or lava in the GBA game lights Mario's rear on fire. When he lands on solid ground, the butt-flames engulf and char him.
  • Sir Verb-a-Lot: Sir Shovalot, returning from Donkey Kong '94, is a tiny mecha with a shield that it can use to push Mario. This can end with Mario Squashed Flat against a wall, but he can also use them to get pushed through small gaps.
  • Space Zone: Cosmic Adventure in Miniland Mayhem has it in the name but it leans closer to Eternal Engine, however Rosalina's levels in Mini Mario & Friends Amiibo Challenge sticks straight to the theme.
  • Spelling Bonus: March of the Minis, Minis March Again!, and Mini-Land Mayhem! have Mini Mario Cards. There's one in each level of the world, and collecting them all spells out "MINIMARIO". In March of the Minis they unlock the floor's Shy Guy Smash! minigame, in Minis March Again! they unlock the world's extra stage, and in Mini-Land Mayhem! they unlock a pachinko-like minigame.
  • Squashed Flat: A few enemies and hazards, like Thwomps and Sir Shovalots, are capable of cramming Mario or the Minis into a paper-thin form.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Mario in the original game (one of the few canon examples of him saying full sentences as opposed to his usual one-liners; most apparent in the ending credits), and Pauline in Mini-Land Mayhem!
  • Temporary Online Content: Due to Miiverse shutting down in November 2017, players can no longer share their created levels and get extra Stars in Tipping Stars, meaning that the player cannot purchase every single item in the Workshop anymore due to there now being only a fixed number of Stars that can only be obtained in single player.
  • Throw a Barrel at It: Both Mario and Donkey Kong weaponize barrels chucked at each other at various points in the series. In the first game DK uses them in World 3 and World 3+'s boss battles, and several other games have them fall as debris that he causes to rain down. In both of the aforementioned boss battles, Mario defeats Donkey Kong by throwing the barrels back at him.
  • Toggling Setpiece Puzzle: In the levels, Mario (as well as the Mini-Marios in all games minus the first) can jump on color-coded switches (red, blue, and yellow) to activate objects (such as blocks, ladders, and bridges) of their corresponding colors. The catch? When you're pressing a switch to toggle on its associated setpieces, those of the other colors are toggled off (for example, pressing the red switch will enable the red objects but disable the blue and yellow ones), so you have to learn how to use each element in the right moment to make your way to the levels' exits.
  • Two Girls to a Team: While March of the Minis introduced Mini Peach as the first female Mini-toy, Mini-Land Mayhem! introduced Mini Pauline, the second female Mini-toy. They have been the two only female Minis in each installment since Mini-Land Mayhem!, but in amiibo Challenge, Mini Pauline is replaced with Mini Rosalina.
  • Versus Title: Averted only in Minis on the Move, which changes it to Mario and Donkey Kong due to the lack of rivalry.
  • Wind-Up Key: On the Mini Marios and the other toy characters.
  • Wingding Eyes: In the first game, Donkey Kong gets hearts in his eyes when watching the commercial for the Mini Mario toys.
  • A Winner Is You: Finishing the main campaign of Tipping Stars will reward you with a slightly animated cutscene of DK and Pauline revealing the whole rigmarole of saving her was a setup for a surprise party. Said cutscene only lasts for a few seconds.