Donkey Kong original arcade game screen
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Credit: Nintendo

Guinness reinstates Billy Mitchell’s Donkey Kong & Pac-Man world records

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Jun 20, 2020

Who knew those old-school arcade classics could generate just as much drama away from their shiny screens as on them? In a turnaround that vindicates countless long hours spent reaching the top of the high score charts, Guinness World Records has reinstated four records set by gamer extraordinaire Billy Mitchell for high scores in the original Donkey Kong, as well as an additional record for the world's first perfect score in Pac-Man.

Mitchell, one of the subjects of 2007's deep-dive arcade gaming documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, saw all five of his records stripped in 2018, after Guinness assessed that it couldn't verify whether the records — set between 1982 and 2010 — had been achieved on an actual arcade gaming cabinet rather than an emulator. He adamantly defended his accomplishments in the wake of the decision, maintaining that he had done everything "according to the rules."

This week, Guinness cited "compelling new evidence" in agreeing with him. The organization decided to reinstate all five of Mitchell's records, with editor in chief Craig Glenday taking to YouTube to explain that a combination of eyewitness testimony, expert analysis of the gameplay, and hardware verification helped bring Mitchell's accomplishments back into the fold.

Guinness World Records on YouTube

"In the light of compelling new evidence received by Guinness World Records, the Records Management Team has unanimously decided to reverse decisions made in April 2018 in regards to videogame high scores achieved by Billy Mitchell between 1982 and 2010," the organization stated. "… In this case, a re-examination of the records in question and the emergence of key eyewitness and expert testimonials led to a reversal of earlier disqualifications and the reinstating of Mr Mitchell's original records."

As it stands, here are Mitchell's five newly sanctioned Guinness World Records:

  • July 3, 1999: First Perfect Score on Pac-Man — 3,333,360 Points
  • Nov. 7,1982: Highest score on Donkey Kong — 874,300 Points
  • June 4, 2005: Highest score on Donkey Kong — 1,047,200 Points
  • July 14, 2007: Highest score on Donkey Kong — 1,050,200 Points
  • July 31, 2010: Highest score on Donkey Kong — 1,062,800 Points

As part of the reinstatement, Mitchell once again is recognized by Guinness as the first player to reach Donkey' Kong's infamous "kill screen" (a glitch in the game's 117th screen that reduces the play timer to mere seconds, effectively ending the game). Mitchell also is once again recognized as the first player to score 1 million points in Donkey Kong, a feat he achieved in his June 2005 run.

Unlike most of today's more-forgiving console games, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man gobbled up zillions of precious quarters and game tokens with all-or-nothing skill challenges that would send you back to the start screen at the slightest errant twitch of the joystick. Hats off to Mitchell for doing far more than his part to rid the retro gaming world of gorillas and ghosts — and getting some long-awaited Guinness recognition in the process.

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