Mario Vs. Donkey Kong Review — A Battle Of The Ages

Mario vs Donkey Kong

Who does not love a bit of biff between two lovable characters in the Nintendo world? Well, that’s exactly what Mario Vs. Donkey Kong brings you.

This fierce rivalry started back in 2004 on the Game Boy Advance, which in itself was inspired by the 1994 classic Donkey Kong ‘94. It’s been 20 long years and out of the blue, Nintendo have pulled a shifty and remade it for the Switch. If I am being completely honest, I never thought this game would ever see a remake, but hey, it’s been done and is available now. So, has the long wait been worth it?

The game starts off with Donkey Kong in his humble abode, kicking back on his sofa, watching some TV and surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of bananas. A commercial appears on the TV and, to Kong’s excitement, it’s showing off the latest release – a windup Tiny Mario Toy. Donkey Kong heads on down to the local toy shop only to find out to his frustrating disappointment, that they have sold out. Kong then notices that just down the street is the Mario Toy Company, the manufacturer of the Tiny Mario Toys. How convenient! Busting his way through the front door, he is surrounded by Toads, aka Mushroom People, who quickly scatter to get out of the way of a very angry and super-energised Donkey Kong. Making his way to a pile of Tiny Mario Toys, he fills an oversized sack full of them. Quite happy with himself, he then makes his way out, only to encounter the flagship character of Nintendo, Mario. Mario doesn’t seem very happy with this prospect and begins to start chasing Kong while yelling cute little phrases, “Come Back, Come Back”, thus bringing us to the start of the game.

Mario Vs Donkey Kong
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong (2004) on Game Boy Advance

If you have not guessed it by now or are unfamiliar with the Mario gaming experience, you play as Mario in this puzzle-inspired platformer game. The game is spread over 8 worlds with a massive 130 levels in total. That’s up to two extra worlds in the form of Merry Mini Land and Slippery Summit, plus a stack of levels compared to the original 2004 game, which delivered 6 worlds and 102 levels. Nintendo didn’t just remake this game, they have added extra content too. Each world starts off with a bunch of short levels, with each of these containing areas. The first area’s goal is to collect a key to unlock the door to the next room that has the Tiny Mario Toy. Once collected, you will then be rewarded with the end of the level and a result on how you did. It may sound like a piece of cake or a walk in the park, but there are some little curve balls thrown at you in the form of different coloured block platforms, walls, etc., that will need to be moved around by pressing buttons in the correct order to get these 2 key items. That’s not to mention the toy-inspired-looking enemies that Mario will need to defeat or avoid.

Mario Vs Donkey Kong
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
Nothing will stop Mario from getting his Tiny Mario Toy

After completing these short-filled levels, you will move on to two main ones before finishing the world. The first level will have you guiding the Tiny Mario Toys throughout the level, having them move their little tiny legs, jumping up, falling down and moving wherever Mario goes, all to collect the 3 letter pieces that spell out the word – Toy. The second level is the main one of each world, where you battle the big banana basher himself, Donkey Kong. In this level, players will be tasked with picking up a throwable item and making their way up the ever-changing platforms where Kong rests himself. During the ascent, you will need to avoid falling debris from the sky before throwing the object at Kong, causing damage to his health bar. Once that health bar hits zero, Kong has been defeated from that world, sulking off until you meet him once again in the next one. You may also be granted with a green mushroom level, which randomly pops up throughout the world, allowing you to collect a whole bunch of lives, which comes in handy towards later worlds as the difficulty increases.

Mario Vs Donkey Kong
Mario Vs. Donkey Kong
Ahh Mr. Kong… this may hurt a bit

The actual gameplay itself suits this type of game. It felt like playing Super Mario Bros. 2. It has the floaty jump feel to it, and jumping on enemies does not kill them. You will need to jump on them and pick them up and toss them at another to be rid of them for good, so don’t go expecting the fast-paced Super Mario Bros. Wonder game with an assortment of items to use. In Mario Vs. Donkey, Mario’s basic jump isn’t big and lends itself to more of a traditional Super Mario Bros. 2, as mentioned. Having said this, there are other jumps available in Mario’s arsenal, from the Backflip and the Handstand Jump. These all have their own purpose to reach the end goal of certain levels. Mario can perform and move in a handstand, which will protect him from falling objects as they conveniently bounce off his feet. There are various items throughout the levels to assist with platforming, such as springs, vines, and swinging bars, which help keep the traversal refreshing.

No time limit in Casual mode

I have never been a fan of games with time limits; they get you all flustered and make you do things you don’t normally do, like forgetting to jump when you need to or making other crazy time-infused decisions. This iteration of Mario Vs. Donkey Kong comes with a less-difficult, Casual mode. This mode tones down the difficulty by adding checkpoints and removing the timer. Checkpoints let Mario restart from this section if he gets hit by an obstacle or enemy via a bubble. If you have played the New Super Mario Bros. series, you will be familiar with this feature straight away. Removing the timer now lets Mario solve these puzzle-themed levels at his own pace rather than being pressured by the never-ending universal thing we all call time. So if you are concerned about this game being a tad bit hard for yourself or your child, the Casual mode should put your mind at ease. 

Local co-op is another new addition to this remake that allows one player to control Mario and the other to control Toad. This brand new feature not only brings the enjoyment of playing with others and adding that extra experience to an already fun-filled game, but it also helps in those tricky areas throughout the game’s worlds where having that extra person really does make a world of difference. I spent quality time with my partner playing co-op mode after a few Friday night drinks. It provided more entertainment than the single-player mode, which tends to be the case for most Mario games. While Nintendo implemented co-op mode mainly for adults helping their kids when they get stuck, it sure is fun for all ages, too. 

Once you have collected enough stars throughout Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, then you will be granted an additional 16 expert levels. These levels are meant to test the player’s skill level while adding to the overall gaming experience. Apart from the main extras I have listed above, the game also has some little features in the form of a cutscene gallery, so you can go back and watch the beautifully animated scenes the game offers. The other one is an audio and sound effects gallery. You can select all the different soundtracks and sound effects throughout the game and listen to them at leisure. This wasn’t really needed to be added by Nintendo but I am sure glad they did.

Two is always better than one

Playing this on my Switch OLED was a real highlight for me. The game’s visualisation was fun and toyish to look at, with the colours really popping. It’s one of those games that gives you a smile just by looking at it. That being said, it doesn’t really measure up to the same pop that Super Mario Bros. Wonder gave me, though it doesn’t really need to, as it’s not the same type of game. It also boasts a fun-filled soundtrack throughout the entire playtime. It’s not in your face but pleasantly in the background. To top things off, there are the quirky little one-liners that Mario says, which really puts the icing on the cake. 

I spent a total time 7+ hours playing it in classic mode in which I managed to fulfil Mario’s destiny and finish the game. I enjoyed my time; it was fun, vibrant, frustrating at times and cute. The old-school jump mechanics didn’t bother me as I have been playing different Mario games for many moons now, but, I can see it causing some frustration with new-age players. 

The boss battles were a treat, and I looked forward to these throughout each world. The puzzle-themed levels, while I did get flustered and annoyed at times, I don’t see it giving a big satisfaction for experienced veteran players with much more gaming skill than I have. Yes, the game was a bit on the short side and didn’t overdo its stay, but I wish it did.



Mario Vs. Donkey Kong is a brilliant remake of a beloved classic. The vibrant reimagined levels are short and nostalgic but still encapsulates the standard of Mario games we see today. The 5-8 hour game may not provide as much satisfaction to veteran gamers, but younger and casual gamers are sure to love this.


  • A top-notch remake with additional content
  • Vibrant and feel-good graphics
  • The addition of Casual mode is great for younger players
  • Gives nostalgia, even if you didn’t play the original
  • Soundtrack is fantastic


  • Too short
  • Can be a little frustrating at times
  • Experienced gamers will struggle to find any difficulty
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