July 9 marked the 35th anniversary of one of the true milestones in video gaming history. On that fateful date in 1981, the original cabinet version of Nintendo’s seminal Donkey Kong arrived in American video arcades, ready to deprive the nation’s youth of its free time and pocket change. Prior to that, as difficult as it may be to believe now, Nintendo had found North America to be a tough nut to crack. Even the company’s successful Radar Scope, a hit in Japan, flopped in the U.S. Maybe, Nintendo thought, a game based on familiar cartoon characters might work. So the company tried to license a Popeye game with the classic Popeye-Olive-Bluto love triangle at the center. When that plan initially went belly-up, too, developer Shigeru Miyamoto took the project in a different direction. His game would be a sort of pixelated, playable version of King Kong. Instead of Popeye, there was a character known only as Jumpman, a squat, mustachioed fellow in overalls. (His name, Mario, would not be revealed for a couple more years.) Olive Oyl became a damsel in distress called Pauline. And Bluto? He was replaced by a lovesick gorilla. Sorry, Bluto.
The resulting game, Donkey Kong, was not only an enduring smash in its own right but the starting point for multiple gaming franchises, securing Nintendo’s place in the video game industry. To celebrate this achievement, The Daily Dot has commissioned a 35th-anniversary infographic from artist Max Fleishman, summarizing the last three and a half decades of Donkey Kong. Appropriately, since Kong is the granddaddy of the video games known as platformers, Fleishman’s history is told via a series of platforms as well. Here, the history of Kong boils down to the releases of 11 specific, pivotal games in the franchise. The story of this particular series is, in a broad sense, a history of video games in general. Note how the character transitions from arcade games to home consoles, for instance. Whenever there’s an upgrade in hardware or software, Kong is there.