Gamers have been breaking their controllers over the Donkey Kong Country series ever since 1994. Fans were happy to put up with the intense difficulty and challenge due to the amazing graphics (at the time) and the enjoyable 2D platforming. With the release of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Nintendo Switch, the series is still going strong 20 years later. That's an impressive feat, even if the series took an extended hiatus during the 2000s.
While none of the games in the series have been truly bad, Donkey Kong Country has definitely had its fair share of ups and downs with regards to quality. Some titles in the catalog have aged quite poorly and some of the early portable offerings weren't that good to begin with. Retro Studios' recent releases have been balancing that out, thanks to them taking over the series that was originally created by Rare. Both of their recent Donkey Kong Country titles have been truly excellent and have given the series a rebirth in popularity. And to celebrate Nintendo Switch's latest release, here are all the Donkey Kong Country games ranked, from worst to best.
7. Donkey Kong Land Series
If you're unfamiliar with the Donkey Kong Land series, it was essentially ports of the three Super Nintendo DKC games for the Game Boy. It's a true technical marvel, but the games were hampered by some terrible design choices. (For example, players had to collect the KONG letters in order to save the game in the original.) They're definitely neat, but none of them were better than their console counterparts, and they don't do anything unique enough to warrant any additional discussion. Considering all three SNES games got excellently ported to Game Boy Advance a few years later, there's really no reason to ever look at these titles.
6. Donkey Kong Country
It might be shocking to see the original Donkey Kong Country game ranked so low, but it hasn't aged all too well. It was impressive back in 1994 due to its impressive 3D sprites and graphical style, but that doesn't exactly play all that well in 2018. When you strip away the nostalgia, all that's left is an admittedly great soundtrack and some mediocre platforming.
Most of the levels are built around gimmickry that is more of a test of patience than skill. It also features the least polish of the three SNES titles. That said, it did establish a solid formula, and introduced series' mainstays like the mine-cart levels. It definitely had its time in the spotlight, but those days are well over.
5. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie's Kong's Double Trouble!
By the third installment, the Donkey Kong Country series was reaching the point of diminishing returns. Dixie Kong's Double Trouble plays much better than the original game, but it certainly didn't feel fresh when it came out. It simply felt like more of the same, even if Rare tried to add in a few new gimmicks. Plus, Kiddy Kong is by far the worst character to ever be playable in a Donkey Kong Country game.
4. Donkey Kong 64
Despite popular opinion, Donkey Kong 64 actually isn't a bad game. While it's certainly not the best 3D platformer on Nintendo 64, Donkey Kong 64 doesn't deserve the awful rap it seems to have picked up over time. The game definitely has issues in terms of taking "collectathon" gameplay to the extreme, but it still features solid fundamentals and some truly great moments later on. Those that stuck out Donkey Kong 64's slow start were rewarded with one of the N64's most graphically impressive titles. That doesn't sound like a game that receives so much hatred.
3. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Get it? Kong Quest. Conquest. It's a pretty good pun, but that's not why Donkey Kong Country 2 ranks the highest of the original trilogy of Super Nintendo titles. It's a considerable step up from the original game. Not only does it feature much better level design, but it also has improved collision detection that vastly improves the core gameplay. Rare clearly learned lessons from the first title and they implemented all of them here.
The only real knock against DKC2 is that it's ultimately a Donkey Kong Country game without Donkey Kong as a playable character. That said, it's nice to see Diddy Kong get some time to shine, and it allows for the platforming to be slightly faster paced as a result. Change isn't always a bad thing.
2. Donkey Kong Country Returns
People were surprised when Metroid Prime developer Retro Studios revived the DKC series, but they certainly didn't disappoint. Donkey Kong Country Returns brought back the classic 2D platforming, the genuine challenge of mine-cart and rocket levels, and delivered it in an incredibly polished package. It also looks incredible despite being a Nintendo Wii title, and has some fantastic art direction that really hides any technical shortcomings.
Those that prefer playing games on the go were treated to a Nintendo 3DS port a few years later called Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. Not only did this remove the motion-control aspects that bogged down the Wii version, but it also added a whole new world filled with additional levels. There's a graphical quality decline, but other than that, it's the definitive edition.
1. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Retro Studios can basically do no wrong at this point, and Tropical Freeze iterated on what players loved about DKC Returns. There were more characters, including the one and only Cranky Kong, a fantastic soundtrack, and even more level variation. It's flat out one of the best 2D platformers in years and a true joy to play.
The newly released Nintendo Switch version is even better. It adds in a new character, Funky Kong, has faster load times, and runs at a higher resolution. Nintendo has taken the best Donkey Kong Country title and improved upon it, so who can be upset about that?