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Donkey Kong 3 finally available outside Japan… but you can’t play as Mario

Contributed by
Feb 26, 2018

It only took 33 years, but people who don’t mind firing up some emulation software for a trip down memory lane can at last hop and bop with abandon through one of Nintendo’s most cloistered early Donkey Kong games, which until recently had been confined only to 1980s-era Japanese personal computers.

Unless you’ve had access to a very specific type of computer sold in Japan back in the day — as well as a Nintendo-licensed, Japan-only copy of Hudson Soft’s Donkey Kong 3: Dai Gyakushuu — you’d definitely be forgiven for not knowing that original series protagonist Mario, who debuted with the original arcade game in 1981, is nowhere to be found here. 

But, thanks to the efforts of a fan group who won an auction for a Donkey Kong 3 diskette late in 2017, you can now install the required emulation software and step into the platforming shoes of... Stanley the Bugman? 

Yes, Stanley is DK3’s main man for the PC-licensed installment. Just don’t confuse it with the more familiar Donkey Kong 3 arcade game, even though the quarter-gobbling version also featured Stanley. Unlike the arcade game, the home version of DK3 has swaths of gameplay that feel a whole lot more like Space Invaders or Galaga than a platforming game with jump physics and multidirectional controls.

Nintendo Era on YouTube

As for the earlier (and later) games’ broadly-told plot of princesses and castles, well, you’ll need to fill in the blanks here. According to one of the game diskette’s buyers, who uses the handle “famicomical,” the story that ties the game’s 20 stages together is intentionally not well defined, because “Hudson was interested in hearing the players’ interpretations about the progression of the stages, and wanted them to send in their own stories.” 

Kind of like an early RPG in reverse gear, then? Judging from the footage, that's probably an ambitious way to look at it — but hey, we can’t be totally sure until we’ve played it, right?

If you’re interested in the super-detailed account of how this all came together, head over to famicomical’s post and learn more than you may ever care to know about what it took to convert this rare Nintendo artifact into a game that’s playable, in 2018, on a PC you probably own.