The evolution of the Donkey Kong Opening 'Theme'

We love video game music here at TGAM and although there's been a rise in acceptance that listening to video game soundtracks or going to see concerts of the greatest hits isn't a weird thing to do, it's still an under appreciated part of video games.

Nintendo have been knocking it out of the park recently with their sountracks, especially on collaborative projects. Pokken Tournament had a soundtrack far too good for it (Haunted HouseNeos City and the phenomenal Magikarp Festival are favourites). Kirby games just keep remixing and reworking the seriously strong themes, Kirby's Epic Yarn's Lava Landing is a particular highlight of recent titles. Fire Emblem's game is strong with the J-Pop earworms from Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE through to Fire Emblem Warriors (This Precious World stands out in particular blending Fire Emblem Awakening and Fire Emblem Fates' themes). The Splatoon series is deserving of a thesis or two on the storytelling through music alone and Super Smash Bros. has obviously, hands down, one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time, cheating somewhat, but delivering with remixes and remasterings that put even the best fan efforts to shame.

But today I want to draw attention to a particular 'song' from the Donkey Kong series. It doesn't even have a name, it's called Donkey Kong (Opening) in the Super Smash Bros. Brawl soundtrack but it's inconsistently labelled by the community. It can be found in almost every Donkey Kong title going back to Donkey Kong on the NES. Here's the song I'm talking about, unless you're visiting from 2019 in which case enjoy these broken links and IMAGINE what I'm talking about.

  
That's it. Just a tiny little tune and it's not even obvious to find. It plays if you sit on the title screen for a while and only again if you game over, wait for it to return to the title and cycle through again. It can hardly be called a theme and no doubt many players of Donkey Kong on the NES will have never have heard it. I find it a lovely little tune but what makes it even more special is that it's been carefully carried through the whole series by composers even though it could have easily been missed. Donkey Kong Country on the SNES makes a very obvious call back, with the game opening to Cranky Kong playing it on a cranked (geddit) gramophone before the very 90s young'uns appear with their new fangled themes and music and whatnot. The song ties together the DKU, and, yes, I want to punch myself in the face for calling it the DKU. 



Then there's the excellent remix for Super Smash Bros. Brawl which is the only track you should set for 75m really.

   

It's tucked away in both Donkey Kong Country Returns games with a really nice easter egg of the gramophone from Donkey Kong Country and the theme in Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze.

   
Surprisingly, there's a really nice version of the song, remixed with the Super Mario Brothers theme on the title screen of niche title Mini Mario & Friends Amiibo Challenge. I've not played any of the Mini Mario games so I wouldn't be surprised if it's in others. Here it's calling back to the long history between Mario and Donkey Kong and one of the original titles they appeared in together. It's also hella catchy.
 
So, with the announcement of Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle: Donkey Kong Adventure, my little face beamed when the tune was tucked away in the teaser trailer, seen and heard here at 1:38 coming from a massive series of organ tubes. Sweet.


I'm just amazed by the attention to detail from composers who have maintained this tiny little ditty throughout the series and you'd forgive many players for not noticing it even exists. It itches the brain aurally in the same way that crossovers, cameos and inside references do and I get that rare tingly spine feeling every time I find it in a game, hidden or not. I'm sure this tune is tucked away in a number of other Donkey Kong games but the fact that it doesn't have a proper name and that video games are still quite bad at promoting, curating (and selling) video game music means its not the easiest to hunt down. Drop us a line if you've found it somewhere unexpected! Although it is quite subtle there are other video game fans who have found and fallen for this little tune. There are a stack of some fantastic remixes out there but I'll leave you with one of my favourite versions, this choral and orchestral version from Games in Concert 3. Enjoy.

 

 (Opening) Cunzy 1 1

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