2021 has been a celebratory year for Nintendo, with many franchises reaching huge anniversary milestones, such as Pokémon’s 25th, The Legend of Zelda’s 35th, and Metroid’s 35th. But Donkey Kong’s 40th anniversary, when it is arguably a franchise that was significant to Nintendo’s place in the video game scene today, was criminally overlooked. Over the past four decades, the series has given us so many great moments, from his original arcade outing, all the way to Tropical Freeze (at the time of writing)!

There are simply too many great musical pieces from the series to list, but below, we have attempted to highlight a few of them.

Title Screen ~ Donkey Kong (Arcade) ~ 1981

Short and sweet, this is the theme that started it all. While we could have shared alternative arrangements of this theme, the origin of Donkey Kong could not be ignored on such a momentous occasion. I recall going hands on with Donkey Kong Arcade at an event almost a decade ago and, while I was pretty abysmal, I went home and practiced to become a bit better. This theme reminds me a lot of those times.

The Credits Concerto ~ Donkey Kong Country ~ 1994

It brings a tear to my eyes to hear this amazing piece of music. What a way to end such a significant game in Nintendo’s history? David Wise is an asset to the series, and it amazes me what he was able to do for the Super Nintendo. Probably my favourite theme from the entire game.

Stickerbrush Symphony ~ Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest ~ 1995

Let’s be honest, you saw this one coming, we all did, and for good reason! Stickerbrush Symphony is arguably one of the most popular themes from the entire Donkey Kong series, and this arrangement in particular is a ‘Studio Quality’ restoration of what the theme could have sounded like without the limitations of the Super Nintendo, very cool!

In a Snowbound Land ~ Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest ~ 1995

There is just something about this theme that makes me feel emotional and a little teary-eyed. It’s a very beautiful piece of music, and the Super Nintendo has no right to have music sound this good. I even did a vocal cover of this track once for a friend of mine, and during its creation, the image in my head was a traditional town during Christmas time at night with no one around, snow falling gently onto the cobbled pavements leading up a hill towards some bright colourful lights. I imagined taking a slow walk up to the top and taking everything in. 

In game, this was a much different experience, but it goes to show how much music can build a picture in your head to inspire fresh new ideas!

Nuts N’ Bolts ~ Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble! ~ 1996

I have never played DKC3 (Currently playing through the series on Nintendo Switch Online!) I couldn’t dismiss it from this list. Nuts N’Bolts really stood out to me with its heavy industrial feel, it makes everything feel sinister and dangerous, not to mention the guitar…wow! I can’t wait to play through the game and experience this music in game for myself.

Angry Aztec ~ Donkey Kong 64 ~ 1999

Of all the music in Donkey Kong 64, this one in particular really stands out. It perfectly captures that Nintendo 64 era for me. The one memory that seems to stand out for me in this area, is using Diddy’s jetpack to fly through the sun statue in the centre of the map to collect the bananas (Even though this particular theme doesn’t play during that moment). Credit to Grant Kirkhope for creating a very enjoyable soundtrack for a title that everyone should play. Can we get a remake or a new title in this style, please?

Gear Getaway ~ Donkey Kong Country Returns ~ 2010

Probably one of the most memorable themes from the return of Donkey Kong Country. It’s incredibly catchy and every time I listen to it, a party that I can’t help but snap my fingers and tap my foot to. It’s a really catchy theme, and for me, confirmed that Donkey Kong was well and truly back!

Mountaintop Tussle ~ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ~ 2014

WOW! When I first played Tropical Freeze on the Wii U, the music didn’t overly wow me for the first world, but as soon as I entered the second onwards, the whole mood changed, and things got SERIOUS! I was blown away by this battle, it was incredibly fun and if it wasn’t for this theme in particular, I probably would have stopped playing. What a shame that would have been, because Tropical Freeze is now my absolute favourite Donkey Kong Country game.

Homecoming Hijinx ~ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ~ 2014

Powerful, heroic, epic and everything that is great about the Donkey Kong Country series. I loved this theme from the moment I heard it in one of the early trailers prior to release. The track slaps HARD! My only critique is that we didn’t hear the whole track sooner. I will forever associate this theme with the Snowmads.

Seashore War ~ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ~ 2014

This piece is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! It served as a calm before the storm of a big battle to come. It was reflective of the adventure so far, and I absolutely loved it. Vocals, acoustic and drums really help to bring this piece to life. If I close my eyes I can imagine myself on an icy cliff edge looking out across a frozen ocean towards the horizon. Definitely a great track to ‘chill’ to!

Scorch N’ Torch ~ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze ~ 2014

YES! YES! YES! Scorch N’ Torch is absolutely my FAVOURITE piece of music from the entire Donkey Kong series, it was the perfect backdrop to the stage. A jungle on fire, danger and despair, and yet the music gives a sense of hopefulness and fills you with determination and inspiration to get through. It was only a theme that David Wise himself could bring to the table on his return to the franchise.

To end this feature, I just want to say a huge thank you to the many musicians that have contributed to the Donkey Kong series over the years, but especially to David Wise. I hope that he will return to score more Donkey Kong Country titles in the future, perhaps for Nintendo Switch in 2022? Who knows!

Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.