A Chronicle Of The Cut-Throat World Of Competitive 'Donkey Kong'

The history of competitive Donkey Kong is a deep, dark, and littered with the corpses of virtual Italian plumbers. It's been the subject of documentaries like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and given rise to numerous Donkey Kong fan theories. The race for the highest score is pretty cutthroat, and considering intense competition often gives rise to toxic gaming communities, there's a fair amount of deceit and betrayal to be found among DK players. The most well-respected personalities in competitive Donkey Kong have been known to exhibit some shady behavior, to which the gaming community is no stranger (when it comes to televised gaming).

King of Kong barely scratches the surface when it comes to the true story behind one of gaming's oldest and fiercest competitions. With all the in-fighting, cheating, and celebrity status, the battle to reach the highest score possible on Donkey Kong is far from over. 

Photo: walknboston / Flickr

  • In 2018, Robbie Lakeman Ran A Near Perfect Game With A Score Of 1,247,700

    In 2018, Robbie Lakeman Ran A Near Perfect Game With A Score Of 1,247,700
    Video: YouTube

    The advent of live streaming has opened up the Donkey Kong world competition to a whole new generation of gamers. One of them is Robbie Lakeman, who achieved what press have called a near-perfect game on the arcade cabinet. He streamed three hours and 49 minutes of footage on Twitch, where he achieved a 1,247,700 point score - besting his previous record of 1,230,100. It's been suggested there's not much more room for another high score, though the random aspects of any Donkey Kong game mean anything is possible.

  • Former Record Holder, - And 'King Of Kong' Star - Billy Mitchell, Had His High Scores Stripped Away

    Former Record Holder, - And 'King Of Kong' Star - Billy Mitchell, Had His High Scores Stripped Away
    Photo: daveynin / Flickr

    Twin Galaxies, a highly respected arbiter of gaming high scores, recently stripped Billy Mitchell of his records for multiple games, including Donkey Kong. Mitchell was once recognized as the first person to ever reach one million points in Donkey Kong, and set the first official high score for the game.

    The decision to strip his records came down when it was revealed he used an emulator to achieve at least four of his scores. An emulator allows users to change the way the game runs in ways not intended by developers, most notably including saving and reloading at a moments notice to achieve the best score possible.

  • Steve Wiebe Is Now The First Person To Ever Score A Million Points

    Billy Mitchell was once famously recognized as the first person to achieve over one million points in Donkey Kong. It was even part of the startling conclusion to the 2007 documentary, King of Kong. Since the movie's production, however, Mitchell has had all of his scores stripped, officially transferring the record over to Steve Wiebe. Wiebe was Mitchell's rival in the cult documentary, and the film itself was integral to the arbitration over Mitchell's scores.

  • Eminem Nearly Broke Into The Top 30 'Donkey Kong' Players Worldwide

    Eminem has been famous for almost as long as Donkey Kong has. He's certainly the right age to have spent time in arcades as a kid, mashing high scores as the barrel-dodging Jumpman. In fact, it's reported he has a fixation with classic arcade games, as his studio is filled with a number of machines, including FroggerSpace Invaders, and Donkey Kong.

    After watching the documentary King of Kong, he made it his mission to break the world record. In 2010 he tweeted a picture of his 465,800 point high score, putting him close to the top 30 rankings at the time.

  • It Is Impossible To Play 'Donkey Kong' Past Level 22, Limiting The High Scores Achievable In The Game

    It Is Impossible To Play 'Donkey Kong' Past Level 22, Limiting The High Scores Achievable In The Game
    Video: YouTube

    Due to hardware limitations of the time, most classic arcade games have an upper limit, called a kill screen. The kill screen automatically kills the player when reached. In the case of Donkey Kong, this is because of a glitch in time limit calculation that gives the player four seconds to complete the 117th screen, or level 23.

    It is actually because of errors like this that high score competitions can be so popular. It limits players from just playing indefinitely to rack up the score, and makes the competition, instead, about how many points one can accrue in a limited amount of time.

  • The Record Has Been Topped 17 Times Between 2010 And 2016

    Donkey Kong has always had a dedicated fan base of record breakers. The first record was set in 1982, only one year after the game's release. Between then and 2009, the title only switched hands 11 times.

    In 2007, however, the King of Kong documentary was released to cult success, and after a few years of players training and competing, things reached a fever pitch. Between 2010 and 2016, a total of 17 records were set, bringing the high score up to 1,218,000, which was thought to be impossible to beat at the time. After 2016, things slowed down because the scores were so challenging to top. Only one man was able to do it between 2017 and 2018, finishing with 1,247,700 points.